- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Lawmakers voiced renewed reluctance yesterday about sending U.S. troops to the Middle East as peacekeepers to enforce a negotiated settlement in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"This is a big, big problem, and we are nowhere near peace from what I can see," said Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. "To suggest any kind of troop deployment is ill-advised."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said he is concerned about a growing sense of inevitability in Congress that U.S. troops will be required in a peacekeeping role.
"It's not something I would like to see us doing," Mr. Armey said. "I have real reservations. But I do believe that Israel lives in a world where it must first depend upon the United States."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last weekend that calls for a multinational peacekeeping force were "premature," though he didn't rule out the eventual need for such a force.
The Washington Times reported in September that the Army School of Advanced Military Studies had devised a plan for enforcing a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord that would require about 20,000 well-armed troops stationed throughout Israel and a newly created Palestinian state.
At the time, however, there were no plans to put American soldiers in the Middle East to police such an agreement. U.S. troops are part of a multinational peacekeeping force that has patrolled the Sinai desert between Israel and Egypt since those nations signed a peace treaty in 1979.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who said last weekend it "may be the time to send in peacekeepers," yesterday said Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat first must publicly reject terrorism.
"He has to renounce the terror, renounce the suicide bombers and bring some tranquillity, some stability to the region," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "But I think there would be an interest on the part of the United States [to deploy peacekeepers], so long as both sides are in agreement."
Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said the United States should not commit troops "if it's a goal in which we're just putting our people in between the fusillade of bullets."
"There's a difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping," Mr. Graham said. "You have to know the context in which we're being asked to participate. But I'm certain in the future we're going to play a role, and that may include some U.S. personnel on the ground."
But Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has advocated only civilian observers.
"He's never suggested at all that there would be U.S. troops in there, and I think we should be very careful about that," Mr. Lott said. "I'm not sure I would support it anytime soon, anyway."
"We're not there yet," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Before we get to that point, there needs to be a peace to protect."
Mr. Hagel said the Bush administration has "considerable latitude" in sending U.S. troops to the region as peacekeepers but has not indicated to him that such action is imminent.
Many lawmakers say they would support the use of U.S. troops only as part of a NATO peacekeeping force.
"It seems to me that's the solution," said Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Warner said a NATO peacekeeping force composed of Americans and Europeans would be advantageous because the United States is viewed as favoring Israel and Europeans "are perceived as being leaning toward the Palestinian interests."
"The NATO force is the one that should be used, once both parties agree that an outside peacekeeping force must be constituted," he said.
Mr. Santorum said committing U.S. troops apart from a multinational force "would be just inadvisable."
"I'm not a fan of using U.S. troops very many places in a peacekeeping role," Mr. Santorum said. "I just don't think that's what we should be doing. That's what the United Nations can do. We have committed U.S. troops to do peacekeeping in that region in the past; there are some currently stationed there. But I don't think that is necessarily the best role for us in this conflict."
Mr. Warner said a NATO force could defuse a situation that threatens to spin further out of control.
"This conflict could spread beyond the borders now. There could be more tragic killing, and it's impairing, I think, the president's courageous efforts against worldwide terrorism," Mr. Warner said. "So I'm a strong advocate of NATO, in the event that both parties agree to it. NATO goes in, we go in. That's the only option at the moment I think I would support."


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