- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

President Bush assured the American people yesterday that he is not rushing into war with Iraq and promised to consult with Congress as he weighs a momentous decision to order a military attack to oust Saddam Hussein.
"I promise you that I will be patient and deliberate," Mr. Bush said in a speech at Madison Central High School in Mississippi. "We will continue to consult with Congress, and, of course, we'll consult with our friends and allies."
One of those allies, Saudi Arabia, remains opposed. In an interview with the Associated Press, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said U.S. planes may not use his soil as a base to attack. The royal family member also objected to any Bush decision to attack Baghdad, creating a schism between two of the strongest allies in the last war against Iraq in 1991.
"We have told them we don't [want] them to use Saudi grounds," the prince told AP. "The attack is not the right policy to take, especially since there is a possibility of implementing what the attack is purported to be used for, which is the return of the [U.N.] inspectors," he said.
Mr. Bush's assurance came after some Democratic and Republican lawmakers said the president should seek congressional approval before ordering an invasion. It also came two days after Gen. Tommy Franks, who heads U.S. Central Command and would command an invasion of Iraq, briefed the president and his national security advisers on options to depose Saddam.
At the Pentagon, the nation's two highest military officials, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, briefed reporters on the war against terrorism. The officials were again greeted by questions about a war with Iraq.
The Washington Times, quoting two administration officials, reported yesterday that the six-member Joint Chiefs will back military action to topple Saddam. CBS News reported earlier this week that the chiefs have said it will take 60 to 90 days to get an invasion force in place.
Gen. Myers said he would not comment specifically on the story in The Times. He said he would comment on the bevy of recent news articles on Iraq, some of which report that the chiefs are divided and some of which disclose various war plans.
"The way things are portrayed in these articles simply haven't occurred in front of me, OK," Gen. Myers said. "And I can't talk about our operational plans or what our advice is and so forth. But you can imagine if we were planning an operation against the moon, that we would have a lot of discussion about how best to do that and so forth."
He added, "The kind of advice that the military provides to Secretary Rumsfeld and the president and the rest of the National Security Council is certainly privileged communications, and I'm not going to share that with you here."
In Mississippi, Mr. Bush again said free nations cannot allow Saddam to obtain nuclear weapons that could be used against the United States to inflict hundreds of thousands of casualties.
"There are countries which harbor and develop weapons of mass destruction, countries run by people who poison their own people, countries whose leadership has got a terrible record when it comes to valuing life, particularly inside their own country," the president said. "And these are real threats, and we owe it to our children to deal with these threats."
On the use of military force, Mr. Bush said, "I will explore all options. But it's important for my fellow citizens to know that as we see threats evolving, we will deal with them."
Mr. Bush has authorized the CIA to try to engineer a coup inside Iraq, and Gen Franks' war planners are drawing up options, with feedback from senior Pentagon civilians. Administration sources say the final plan is likely to include a large land force, rapid air strikes against key command centers and weapons facilities, aid to indigenous rebels and a psychological-warfare campaign to turn the Iraqi military against Saddam, or, at least, to stop it from fighting.
With the exception of Britain, most NATO allies are cool toward the idea of invading Iraq. Among moderate Gulf nations, the United States can expect strong support from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, all of which host American forces.
But Saudi Arabia is problematic. Faced with the threat of Iraq invading through Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia gave the first Bush administration wide latitude to deploy forces and stage attacks in Operation Desert Storm.
The ruling Saudi family says there will be no repeat this time. The oil-rich nation has not allowed its air bases to be used to wage attacks on Iraq in several major bombing campaigns since the 1991 war. It does, however, allow U.S. Central Command to use a major air command facility at the Prince Sultan air base to direct the war in Afghanistan.
The United States uses Saudi air bases to enforce the southern no-fly zone. Allied jets often fire on Iraqi air-defense units, but the Saudis consider this self-defense, not attacks.
The prince did not say in the AP story whether U.S. support aircraft, such as Airborne Warning and Control System planes, may use Saudi airspace in a war against Baghdad.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he welcomed public debate on Iraq in Washington as well as overseas.
"And if one wants to say, well, at this particular moment in history, the stars and the moons are not all lined up behind one person's view or another person's view, that's fine," he said.

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