- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2002

American forces will go into Iraq as liberators, not as conquerors, in the event of war against Saddam Hussein, a senior administration official said yesterday.
In remarks that were seen as foreshadowing an address to the nation by President Bush tomorrow, Bush adviser Zalmay Khalilzad offered the administration's most detailed description to date of its vision for a post-Saddam Iraq.
That vision provides for a broad-based democratic government, tolerance for religious minorities, respect for Iraq's territorial integrity and a major reconstruction project to be undertaken in cooperation with Iraq's people, said Mr. Khalilzad, the National Security Council director for the Near East, southwest Asia and North African affairs.
If war becomes necessary, "this will be a liberation, not a conquest or an occupation," Mr. Khalilzad said at a weekend conference sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The speech, to an audience that included policy analysts, diplomats and journalists, was arranged on 48 hours' notice and was seen as the opening salvo in a coordinated effort by the Bush administration to lay out its plans for Iraq after a war.
Mr. Khalilzad, who recently served as Mr. Bush's point man for postwar reconstruction in Afghanistan, made clear that his message was intended as much for the Iraqi people as for Americans.
Repeating recent administration statements, he said that Mr. Bush had not yet decided on war, but that the government "is determined to disarm Saddam one way or another. War is not inevitable, but action is."
If there is a war, "our mission will be to serve the interests and needs of the Iraqi people," he said. "They, like people everywhere, deserve freedom."
"Our objective is a broad-based and representative government [that will] give all religious and ethnic groups a voice," he said. Mr. Khalilzad called for a post-Saddam Iraq that adheres to the rule of law, is free of weapons of mass destruction and provides an example of peace.
A list of suspected Iraqi war criminals is being drawn up, and "there will be a judicial process to deal with those people," he said.
In a reference to the semiautonomous zone carved out by the Kurds in northern Iraq under the protection of U.S. and British jet fighters, he said, "We will reunify Iraq [and] preserve its territorial integrity."
He also called for a "major reconstruction program that will put Iraq on the path to prosperity" and will be financed in large part from the country's own oil wealth.
"The costs will be significant," he said. "We will work with the Iraqi people to develop plans. They will have a significant contribution."
Asked about the strains placed on those resources by Iraq's existing debts to Russia and other countries, he said that reconstruction was the first priority.
Mr. Khalilzad also was asked about the possibility of establishing a provisional Iraqi government before any war. He replied that there were "pros and cons" to that approach but said it was "more likely they would have to be liberated first. Then a government of Iraqis can be put together."
Speaking earlier at the same conference, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the recently retired Israeli armed forces chief, spelled out in some detail the circumstances under which Israel would respond to a retaliatory missile attack from Iraq during a new Gulf war.
"Israel has already set its policy," he said.
Echoing recent comments to The Washington Times by an unidentified senior Israeli official, Gen. Mofaz said the decision whether to respond would depend on whether Israel was attacked with conventional or nonconventional weapons.
"Retaliation will not be automatic," he said. But, "If we face an attack that will do damage to Israel, we have to retaliate in coordination with U.S. forces."
The general urged the United States to move quickly at the beginning of any campaign to secure Iraq's western desert, the only part of the country from which Saddam's missiles can reach Israel.
He suggested the best course was to surround Baghdad and first secure the rest of the country, dismantling Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, and leave a confrontation with the dictator for later.


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