- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The U.S. military will deploy a new command post to the Persian Gulf for a war exercise that could be a tuneup for war against Iraq.

Gen. Tommy Franks, who leads U.S. Central Command, said yesterday the "Internal Look" exercise may last 10 days, and some personnel may remain in the Gulf once the test is done. Gen. Franks runs the war against terrorists in Afghanistan and would command a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The exercise will show whether Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Gulf and Central Asia from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., can replicate those communications capabilities from an air base in the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar.

Military sources view the full-scale exercise, which Gen. Franks will supervise, as one more sign President Bush is planning to authorize an invasion of Iraq this winter to topple Saddam Hussein.

Describing the nuts and bolts of the deployment, Gen. Franks said: "Over the last year, Central Command has built a deployable command-and-control capability. What that actually means is containers of communications gear, very large communications pipes that we're able to put in the back of an airplane, fly it a long ways, land it on the ground and then set up a command-and-control complex."

At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Franks, who has given Mr. Bush war options for Iraq, reiterated that no final decision has been made.

If there is war, however, the four-star general said the United States will not be acting alone.

Saying he just had returned from a tour of Gulf nations, Gen. Franks said, "My sense is that we have a great many friends, partners and allies who see the situation the same way we do."

Mr. Bush is justifying an attack on grounds that Iraq owns weapons of mass destruction and is seeking nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of terrorists who want to kill Americans.

Gen. Franks seemed to support that rationale. "Iraq is a state sponsor of terrorism," he said. "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The linkage between the government of Iraq and other transnational terrorist organizations like al Qaeda is not the issue with me.

"The issue is the potential of a state with weapons of mass destruction passing those weapons to proven terrorist capability. And I believe that risk exists."

While Gen. Franks was talking at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was in Nashville, Tenn., talking about Iraq.

He said rebel forces in Kurdish northern Iraq would play a lesser role than anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

"The situation is really different" in Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz said in remarks to the Association of Old Crows, a Pentagon support group. "In Afghanistan, there was a long-running war between two forces and the government forces were nowhere near as strong as Iraq."

It would be "foolish" to suggest they could play an equal role, he said, according to a United Press International dispatch.

He said that if an invasion is ordered, American forces will not do it alone.

"We are not a go-it-alone country, and this is not a go-it-alone president," he said, adding that a "very substantial" coalition will be assembled.

"[Saddams] only hope of survival is a complete change of course," Mr. Wolfowitz said.

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