- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2002

President Bush agreed to let U.N. weapons inspectors return to Baghdad because he hoped Saddam Hussein would recognize that the "game is up" and that it would compel him to leave Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
In an interview broadcast on the new CNN news talk show "The Novak Zone," Mr. Rumsfeld also said Mr. Bush believes that if military action has to be brought against Saddam, broad-er international support would mean a swifter offensive and would "probably represent a lower level of loss of life."
The defense secretary made those comments when asked why Mr. Bush accepted more arms inspections in Iraq when so many top administration officials, including Mr. Rumsfeld, have questioned their effectiveness in the past.
Saddam has a record of noncompliance with U.N. sanctions and insists that he has no weapons of mass destruction.
"The reason the president decided to go into the United Nations and accept the reality that inspections might not work was that he concluded war is the last choice, not the first choice, and that Saddam Hussein might see the seriousness of purpose and resolution on the part of the international community as a sign that the game was up and that it was time for him to leave the country and go somewhere else with his family and friends," Mr. Rumsfeld told the show's host, syndicated columnist Robert Novak.
The defense secretary was interviewed in Prague late this week.
He was traveling with the president and attending a NATO summit.
Mr. Rumsfeld said some also thought Saddam might "change his mind and open his country up," deciding he would be willing to give up his weapons of mass destruction to stay in power.
Some in Congress, particularly Democrats, have said they foresee that scenario. Lawmakers such as Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have portrayed Saddam as a "survivalist," who has to realize he will not remain in power if the United States and other nations take military action against him.
The latest U.N. resolution on Iraq, passed unanimously Nov. 8 by the 15-member U.N. Security Council, sets tight deadlines for Saddam's compliance with weapons inspectors.
Iraq must declare all the weapons in its possession by Dec. 8. Inspectors would be required to report immediately to the Security Council any violation they discover at any stage of the inspections. The latest date they could report their findings to the Security Council would be Feb. 21.
Mr. Novak said comments Mr. Bush made the other day suggested he would begin attacking Iraq if Saddam again insists he has no weapons of mass destruction.
When asked whether Mr. Rumsfeld expects that to happen, he responded by saying, "My feeling is the president would accept such a declaration as an indication Saddam is unwilling to disarm and cooperate with the weapons inspectors.
"But precisely what he would do" or how or when he would do it "is a question for the president."
Mr. Rumsfeld conceded that he has little reason to be optimistic about Saddam.
"He spends all of his time trying to defeat inspectors and trying to prevent them" from doing their jobs, he told Mr. Novak.
The secretary said such inspections typically work only when a government volunteers to undergo them to prove it does not have weapons of mass destruction.
"But we know he [Saddam] has weapons of mass destruction and, thus far, he denies it. So that situation suggests he's not in a position of inviting in inspectors for the purpose of proving that he doesn't have those weapons," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Despite those drawbacks, he said the approach taken will enable other countries to see that Iraq poses a "very serious problem in the 21st century" and will give leaders of those nations time "to think through the change in our security environment."
"And in the event force has to be used, there would be a larger coalition with a broader community of support," Mr. Rumsfeld said, making it "very likely" a military assault on Iraq would be accomplished more quickly and with fewer casualties.


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