- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

Some military combat units are taking the first steps to prepare for war against Iraq by updating contingency plans, checking readiness levels and inventorying munition stocks.
Defense officials in interviews last week said no unit has received warning orders or deployment orders, the official authorizations that would send Air Force fighter wings and Army divisions to the Persian Gulf.
But war scenarios are being discussed at briefings and in private meetings among commanders, the sources said.
The impetus, they said, comes from the clear signals sent by President Bush, who says that war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is clearly an option. Just last week, in his latest threat, Mr. Bush declared that "I will not allow a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction. … He is a problem, and we're going to deal with him."
Secondly, commanders know the Bush administration is in the throes of an intense internal debate on how to oust Saddam as part of the president's war on terrorism. The United States for years has designated Iraq as a sponsor of international terrorism. It is also a regime that is seeking nuclear weapons.
Key Cabinet figures, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, have reached a consensus that Saddam must go. Now being debated is the how and when. Mr. Powell said recently that no war plan has been presented to the president.
"Iraq contingencies are being discussed," a senior defense official said.
The official likened the planning to the kind of contingency planning and replanning that went on during the Cold War, when the Army in Europe played "what ifs" on Soviet forces invading through the Fulda Gap.
But the source said there is one key difference. The commander in chief wants Saddam out, and administration sources say he would like the mission accomplished in his first term.
"What you have is typical Army leaning forward for this mission," said another senior administration official, who attended a meeting where a number of "what ifs" were discussed about Iraq. "No one knows for sure what's next. Everybody is leaning forward to be prepared for contingencies. The military as a whole is on a heightened state of alert and they are developing plans for scenarios that might unfold. They have to."
Another official said, "Bush's words are trickling through the Army." One contingency being studied, this source said, is what would happen if the United States went to war against Iraq and North Korea took advantage of the situation to invade the South.
"There are a variety of updates going on," said an official.
The U.S. military operates under a guiding mission that it must be able to block the advances of two major foes in overlapping times. It must be able to decisively defeat one of those adversaries and occupy its territory.
Senior officials say combat in the Persian Gulf is not imminent. Analysts believe it would take up to 200,000 troops to topple the Baghdad regime. Some Pentagon civilians are suggesting a smaller troop level could do the job.
Shifting that many personnel requires months of planning for such issues as port space and staging areas. Saudi Arabia has refused to let its bases be used as a lauching pad to attack Iraq except to enforce a southern no-fly zone. If Riyadh sticks to that prohibition, the Pentagon would have to find new bases.
The Army's V Corps headquartered in Germany would be in the front lines against Iraq. Its two active divisions, the 1st Infantry and 1st Armored, are assigned to Persian Gulf war contingencies.
A military source said V Corps planners have traveled to U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., to review Iraqi war plans.
Lt. Col. Joe Richard, a V Corps spokesman, said: "It's [Department of Defense] policy not to confirm or comment on future operations or contingency plans. … Let me emphasize that if V U.S. Army Corps' commander, Lt. Gen. William Wallace, is called upon by the president or secretary of defense, he can provide an effective and lethal combat option to execute any contingency operation or plan. … V Corps as a matter of operational readiness, as do other corps, updates its contingency plans as world events and national policy may require. Additionally, V Corps routinely conducts monthly readiness assessments."
The corps is conducting its yearly "war-fighting exercise" this month involving 9,000 troops. The scenario: war in the Persian Gulf.
One military source said, "If inspectors are not permitted in by a certain date, or if they're allowed in but then denied the opportunity to do their job, it's a done response."
The administration is debating options for ousting Saddam that range from a full-blown invasion and march to Baghdad, to a CIA-sponsored coup.
Officials say hard-line Pentagon civilian policy-makers, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, favor using some of the lessons of Afghanistan. That would mean a big role for Army Green Berets, who would organize and train Iraqi guerrillas, and a big role for an air campaign. The approach is also said to be favored by retired Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing, a special operations solider who is now the top anti-terrorism official on the White House National Security Council.
In the coming weeks, Washington may host a conference of 200 former Iraqi military officers who support the London-based Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization of groups opposed to Saddam.
Bureaucrats opposed to a new war against Iraq primarily reside at the State Department, where officials favor plans by the CIA to try to destabilize Saddam.
A senior intelligence official said CIA Director George J. Tenet believes he can develop agents who can penetrate the Baghdad regime.


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