- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

The Pentagon is expected to transfer the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command to the Persian Gulf, and Iraq is working on mobile-germ and poison-gas facilities the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said the Central Command, which would be the main group in charge of fighting a war against Iraq, will likely move out of its Tampa, Fla., location to Qatar as part of a November exercise, and may remain there.
Qatar is viewed by Pentagon planners as a potential headquarters for military operations against Iraq, if Saudi Arabia denies the use of its bases for U.S. and allied strikes.
"A decision hasn't been finally made, but my guess is the secretary [of defense] will make a decision to push a forward headquarters into the region.
"It just makes sense to have your headquarters in your area of responsibility, so, I think that's a likely outcome," he said.
He said the relocation is not a sign about "potential action in the region."
After a speech at the National Press Club, Gen. Myers also said there is evidence Iraq has mobile-production capability for chemical and biological weapons.
"It does not take a lot of space for some of this work to go on," he said. "It can be done in a very, very small location, and the fact that you can put it on wheels makes it a lot easier to hide from people that might be looking for it. And so, yes, we have evidence that's happening."
President Bush has said Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, and work on nuclear arms, are a key reasons the United States should take action to oust the government of Saddam Hussein.
Earlier at the Pentagon, a senior defense official said U.S. intelligence estimates that Iraq can deploy a missile within three years' time that could carry chemical, biological or nuclear warhead to Israel, Turkey and throughout the Persian Gulf.
Iraq has already tested a missile with a range greater than 93 miles, which is prohibited under United Nations sanctions, said the official who briefed reporters on efforts by state sponsors of terrorism to build chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them.
The senior defense officials said Iraq's chemical and biological weapons program are "fairly aggressive" and have been rebuilt since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
"We continue to see suspicious activities at sites that we believe are related to their CW and BW programs," the senior official said.
With outside support, Iraq could fire a home-made missile with a range of up to 930 miles by 2005, the official said.
The official disclosed how mobile biological weapons production could be carried out on four semi-tractor trailer trucks. "A small number of tractor-trailer-type trucks is sufficient to have a capability for producing biological weapons agents," he said.
The trucks would include a personnel support vehicle, a labor support area where agents are mixed; a truck that mixed biological agents and a biological weapons storage truck.
"What it shows is that a mobile biological weapons production capability is very viable and very difficult to detect and find," a second defense official said.
Iraq is believed to be increasing the range of its missiles by putting lighter warheads on them. "That means you can take a very powerful rocket, load it down with a lot of weight and it will only go 150 kilometers. But if you take the weight off, it will go a lot farther. And the suspicion is that that's exactly what the Iraqis are up to," said the senior official.
As for Iraq's nuclear program, U.S. intelligence estimates that Iraq could field a nuclear weapon in a year if it obtained fuel for the bomb, the official said.
The Pentagon quietly has been building up a major air base in Qatar known as Al Aidid, which has state-of-the-art aircraft storage bunkers and a 15,000-foot runway, which can accommodate the largest U.S. bombers.
"It's just that we've got to be ready for action and for activities, no matter what we're called upon to do," Gen. Myers said, noting that military activities there could range from humanitarian operations to "more serious activities, to real crisis."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide