- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that the United States is not seeking to oust the dictatorial regimes in Iran, North Korea and other states in the same way it wants to overthrow Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
"The policy of the government of the United States has been regime change for Iraq," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. "That's the Congress and the executive branch both. It has not been that for some other countries, and I guess life's just untidy."
Mr. Rumsfeld noted that the other countries identified by President Bush in his January State of the Union speech as members of a three-nation "axis of evil" Iran and North Korea share "similar characteristics," but the current effort focuses on Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld also said during a meeting with reporters that it is possible Saddam could be ousted by a barracks military coup.
The defense secretary said not all scenarios for ousting the Iraqi regime require sending U.S. ground troops or launching air strikes. "I already know of one instance: If the Iraqi military turned on them, it probably wouldn't require anything," he said.
Amid public speculation that the United States is preparing a military attack on Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld on Monday and yesterday said Iraq's government poses a clear danger to the United States because of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and its ties to terrorists.
Mr. Rumsfeld said nations like Iraq are "burrowing underground" to hide facilities related to weapons of mass destruction, making the task of finding and stopping the arms very difficult. Even when U.N. weapons inspectors worked in Iraq, they had a difficult time finding the arms and facilities, he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said Iraq has chemical and biological weapons and "an appetite" for building nuclear weapons and has been working on the arms for many years.
He noted that "there's an awful lot we don't know about their programs."
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he does not expect a military attack against Iraq before early next year.
Mr. Biden, who will lead hearings on Iraq that begin today, said he does not believe the Bush administration has decided how and when to overthrow Saddam.
"They may have made up their mind on regime change, but I'd be very, very surprised if the president has made a decision on how he intends to change the regime," Mr. Biden told reporters. "I'd be even more surprised if there's any such attempt in the near term, meaning between now and the first of the year."
Regarding "regime change" in Iran and North Korea, Mr. Rumsfeld said it would be a "good thing" if the people of Iran rose up and overthrow the radical Islamic government in Tehran.
"I have a feeling that the people of Iran know that," he said. "And I have a feeling that in my adult lifetime we may still see the people of Iran do something about that regime."
North Korea, which is run by a totalitarian communist dictatorship, presents more difficult challenges for changing the government, he said.
"If you think of the people that are starving in that country, the people that are fleeing that country, the people that are in prison camps in that country, one can't help but feel great empathy for the people of Korea," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "It's a terrible, terrible thing."
The defense secretary was asked whether the al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the September 11 attacks had "state assistance"; he said there is "no question" that Afghanistan provided that kind of support to the group.
As for other state support to al Qaeda, Mr. Rumsfeld said both Iran and Iraq have permitted al Qaeda members to reside in those countries, showing that the governments in Tehran and Baghdad "tolerate" their presence.
Asked whether Iraq has a relationship with al Qaeda, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "sure" but conceded that the evidence of the ties is not clear.
"Well, life's murky," he said. "I mean, we're not on the ground down there. But are there al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes. Are there al Qaeda in Iran? Yes. Are there al Qaeda in the United States? Yes."
Mr. Rumsfeld sought to dispel news reports about Pentagon planning for military operations in Iraq as the normal business of the military.
"One of the responsibilities of the Department of Defense is to see that we have thought through a host of different contingencies and possibilities," he said.
The Pentagon regularly draws up war plans for various scenarios, but Mr. Rumsfeld said he has never seen a plan implemented without being modified to conform to circumstances.


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