- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

Pentagon officials are expressing disappointment in the drawn-out negotiations at the United Nations, fearing President Bush will sanction a watered-down resolution that commits the United States to months of unproductive weapons inspections in Iraq.
Officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say Secretary of State Colin L. Powell appears so determined to win approval of some type of Security Council resolution that the result could be a win for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The officials, some saying they are "pessimistic," paint this scenario: France and Russia get their way, and the council approves a weak resolution with flexible deadlines. Saddam Hussein remains in power. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix declares Iraq is disarmed, when in fact the regime has played a shell game with its weapons of mass destruction.
"The problem is with the criteria that has to be met," said one Pentagon official. "It gives [Saddam] the ability to bob and weave."
The casualty, they fear, will be President Bush's options for war in 2003.
After Mr. Bush's stern warning to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 12 to enforce 1991 cease-fire resolutions long ignored by Saddam, the White House pressed for a new resolution that authorized force if weapons inspections again failed.
But in the ensuing weeks, as France and Russia balked, Mr. Powell has acceded to water-downed language and backed off the administration's policy of "regime change."
The United States wanted the United Nations to demand that Saddam allow his weapons scientists to leave Iraq, with their families, for questioning by arms inspectors. The thinking was that Saddam would never allow the best eyewitnesses to his nuclear-bomb program to leave his control. His defiance would then trigger the use of force to remove him from power.
But that tough language now seems certain to be left out of any U.N. resolution.
Mr. Bush has spent much political capital urging the nation to support a war to oust Saddam and prevent the dictator from one day obtaining nuclear weapons. "If Bush does not follow through, his political future sinks," said one military officer.
Interviews with Pentagon officials revealed frustration with the pace and content of negotiations at the United Nations.
"This is getting deferred, and we're now going through a U.N. Kabuki dance," said one official. "What has caused the momentum for action to slow?"
There is a suspicion among some hard-liners at the Pentagon that in the private sanctum of the White House, Mr. Powell has convinced Mr. Bush that he must get a new resolution if he wants to ultimately use force.
Mr. Powell is on record, however, as saying the administration believes it does not need a new resolution. Its position is that a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions enacted after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and after Iraqi troops were forcibly evicted, provide sufficient authority to topple Saddam and disarm Iraq.
After its defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Baghdad agreed to unconditionally get rid of its nuclear-, chemical- and biological-weapons components something it has not done.
On the Iraq debate, the administration has two main camps. There are the Pentagon hard-liners, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and supported by Vice President Richard B. Cheney. And there are the State Department centrists, led by Mr. Powell. The Powell wing earlier this year succumbed to the hard-liner position that Saddam must go. But the timeline, and diplomatic and military method, are still being debated.
Officials say Mr. Bush has decided that the only way to disarm Saddam is to depose him. But he has not selected a final war plan.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld publicly declines to discuss the nuts and bolts of drafting a new U.N. resolution. This may stem from his doubts that any new round of inspections would work with a bellicose Baghdad.
"Inspections don't work, really, in a situation that's hostile," said Mr. Rumsfeld, an apparent reference to Iraq's blatant maneuvers to block the work of inspectors before they left in 1998.
"In terms of being able to disarm a country, unless that country is cooperative, it strikes me as a very, very difficult thing to accomplish," the defense chief said. "I can't quite imagine how that could happen, except through the cooperation of the country."

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