- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

The United States should expand the war against terrorism to Iraq by using air power and local opposition forces to oust Saddam Hussein from control before he builds nuclear weapons, a senior Pentagon policy adviser said yesterday.
Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, said in a speech that Saddam's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and his aggressive program to build nuclear arms pose major threats to the United States. The board advises Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on policy issues.
Mr. Perle said yesterday that "a failure to go after Iraq would be viewed around the world as having drawn a threshold in the war against terrorism well below the level of Saddam Hussein's Iraq."
Terrorists and their supporters would calculate that the United States lacked the will to confront a "real challenge" like Iraq, preferring instead to focus on weaker threats like the Taliban and Somalia, he said in a speech sponsored by the Hoover Institution, a California-based think tank.
An Iraqi defector revealed that Saddam had spread his nuclear weapons development program to more than 400 covert locations around the country, Mr. Perle said.
He said Iraq is determined to build nuclear weapons. "It could be tomorrow, it could be a year from now," he said.
"The question is can we afford to wait, hoping that Saddam will not take actions for which he is perfectly capable, as we waited prior to September 11 until we came to grips with Osama bin Laden?" Mr. Perle asked.
Mr. Perle said the United States should "act pre-emptively" to remove Saddam from power and replace his regime with a government that will permit the dismantling of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
The strategy in Iraq should follow the Pentagon's recent successful model for Afghanistan, but would require more U.S. ground forces working with opposition groups in northern and southern Iraq, combined with precision bombing strikes, he said.
One option would be to set up an opposition government in northern Iraq that would force Saddam to mass his armored forces. Once the tanks are grouped, U.S. bombers could attack them and the loss would weaken Saddam's grip on power, Mr. Perle said.
"This is a case where an ounce of prevention seems to be called for," Mr. Perle said. "Apart from that, even before he crosses the nuclear threshhold … he has the potential today to distribute anthrax, which he has in quantities, to al Qaeda terrorists."
U.S. troops in the region right now might be enough for operations against Iraq, including a brigade of ground forces based in Kuwait and other U.S. troops on ships in the region, he said.
Frequent changes of Iraqi military leaders and arrests and executions of officers "suggests Saddam fears his own military establishment," Mr. Perle said.
"I don't believe we have to defeat Saddam's army," he said. "I think Saddam's army will defeat Saddam."
Mr. Perle also challenged a statement by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright that the Bush administration's anti-terrorist policy is an extension of the approach taken by the Clinton administration.
"That's rubbish," he said. "And it's not just that the preceding administration acted so weakly and ineffectively, it never adopted the view that we would go after the states supporting terrorists and harboring terrorists. And without that policy, there is little chance that an open society like this can diminish the threat to the point where we can cope with it effectively."
The September 11 attacks were "inevitable" because the Clinton administration failed to take effective action against numerous terrorist assaults, including the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia and the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
"We need to fight terrorists over there because it is so difficult to fight them over here," he said.

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