- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

A U.S. military operation against Iraq would be designed to end as quickly as possible by turning Iraqi military units against Saddam Hussein in the early stages.
Defense sources said in interviews that any attack would be preceded by covert programs to win the sympathy of some Iraqi military commanders. A war information campaign would make it clear to Iraqi forces that the U.S. intention is to dispose of Saddam, not to rule Iraq, the sources said.
The Bush administration, which months ago adopted a policy of seeking Saddam's removal to prevent him from developing nuclear weapons, has not yet settled on a war plan or timeline for invading Iraq.
The U.S. Central Command, which oversees allied military operations in the Persian Gulf, is looking at various contingency plans that would rely in part on psychological warfare to create dissension within the enemy's ranks.
Defense officials said a quick-as-possible victory would reduce civilian casualties and give Iraq little time to use chemical weapons.
"This war has got to be conducted lightning-fast," one official said.
The Washington Times reported in April that Gen. Tommy Franks, who heads the Central Command, had given top Pentagon officers his general outline of the forces needed for an attack. He put the number at 200,000 troops, including five ground-combat divisions. No final war plan has been presented to President Bush, who wants Saddam out of power before Mr. Bush's first term ends.
Some Pentagon policy-makers advocate fewer ground troops in favor of a massive air attack with precision-guided munitions. Some believe key elements of the Iraqi armed forces would quickly turn on Saddam's brutal regime. The Iraqi dictator has escaped several assassination attempts by members of his armed forces since the Gulf war ended in 1991.
The defense sources in interviews disputed recent media reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose an invasion because worldwide forces are stretched thin.
The sources said top military officers in the Pentagon are asking a lot of "what if" questions about how Iraq might respond. The sources described the debate as the normal dialogue that precedes any military campaign. Sources also rebutted reports that the White House is shying away from earlier talk of taking on Saddam.
"Iraq is still squarely in the cross hairs," said a senior administration official.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is said to maintain a "close hold" on expressing his views on war with Iraq, choosing to discuss it with a few aides, Gen. Franks and the White House.
Mr. Rumsfeld said last week any public discussion of attacking Iraq is a "sensitive subject."
Asked at NATO headquarters in Brussels if he had discussed an attack plan against Iraq with fellow ministers, the defense secretary said the only dialogue touched on Baghdad's weapons programs.
Bush administration officials point to the president's speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on June 1 as a major foreign policy address on the Iraq issue. In fact, when a reporter several days later asked Mr. Bush about attacking Saddam, the president referred him to the speech.
At West Point, Mr. Bush spoke of "unbalanced dictators" who with weapons of mass destruction "can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies."
In another reference to Saddam, he said, "We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties and then systematically break them."
The president then added an amendment to the Bush doctrine on terrorism, which holds that the United States will treat states that harbor terrorists as terrorists themselves.
He said, "Our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."
If Mr. Bush authorizes war against Iraq, the White House's main argument will be that Saddam has violated the Persian Gulf war's 1991 cease-fire deal, which required him to stop developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The administration will argue that without an attack, Saddam will one day acquire nuclear weapons. These weapons are likely to fall into the hands of terrorists and be unleashed on the United States, just as airliners were used as missiles in the September 11 attacks.
If Mr. Bush's West Point speech left any doubt that he still intends to pursue toppling Saddam, Vice President Richard B. Cheney underscored the theme on Thursday. He chose a speech before a national home-builders group to specifically threaten Baghdad.
Mr. Cheney referred to Saddam's pursuit of nuclear weapons as "this gathering danger [that] requires the most careful, deliberate and decisive response by America and our allies."
"A regime that has gassed thousands of its own citizens, a regime that hates America and everything we stand for, must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction," he said.

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