- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

The Bush administration said yesterday that Turkey will forfeit $6 billion in U.S. aid if it continues to withhold staging rights from U.S. forces seeking to mount a northern front against Iraq.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that unless Ankara reverses a decision Saturday to block U.S. troops from using southeastern Turkey to mount an attack, a proposed aid package of $6 billion will be scuttled. The possibility of such a loss threw Turkey's markets into turmoil yesterday.
"As far as this particular package, most of it was predicated on helping Turkey meet the cost of involvement," Mr. Boucher told reporters. "Therefore, I'd have to say that much of that would not occur if there was no involvement."
On the diplomatic front yesterday, the United Nations said Iraq would submit a new report on VX nerve gas and anthrax stocks in a week. Top U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei will report to the Security Council on Friday, in what some U.S. officials consider the last such briefing before a war decision is made.
The United Nations also said Iraq yesterday scrapped six more of its banned al Samoud 2 missiles, whose range violates the 93-mile limit allowed by U.N. resolutions.
The White House expressed "surprise and disappointment" at Ankara's decision on U.S. use of its bases but said American forces would prevail against Iraq even if the Turkish parliament refuses to reconsider.
"There's a plan A and a plan B," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. "The preferable is plan A, for a variety of geographic reasons, but plan B is also a very militarily viable option.
"There's no question that the Turkish approach would have been the preferable approach, but other approaches are available," he added. "The president has every confidence that those options will be militarily successful, if he so exercises them."
Privately, administration officials expressed hope that Turkey would come around to the U.S. request.
The Turkish stock market plummeted yesterday, losing more than 12 percent of its value on the realization that parliament had closed the door on the $6 billion package that could have been leveraged into $30 billion in loans. Turkey's currency also fell about 3 percent against the dollar yesterday.
But Turkish market analysts said the losses were contained by a Central Bank announcement that it would protect the lira's value, and currency traders said the fall was cushioned by the hope among participants that parliament would approve the U.S. proposal.
"If we see any convincing positive statement from the government regarding the authorization and the United States continues to be patient, I think there's a chance that the market [will] recuperate," economist Tevfik Aksoy told the Associated Press in Istanbul.
Others in the U.S. administration said Turkey will regret having squandered the right to place its troops in northern Iraq after President Saddam Hussein's ouster, which was part of the deal that the Turkish parliament killed Saturday. Iraqi Kurds say such a deployment would threaten peace in a post-Saddam era.
Finally, the administration appealed to Turkey's national security needs by implying that Saddam could lob chemical or biological weapons across the Iraqi-Turkish border.
"This is a threat that if Turkey and others don't deal with today will only grow bigger, will grow worse and will have to be dealt with some other day," Mr. Fleischer said.
"Because Saddam Hussein is not disarming, he continues to have weapons of mass destruction, and it's only a matter of time as history has shown with Saddam Hussein between now and when he actually uses them."
Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul told a news conference that his government would wait to "see what happens in the next few days."
Even if the Turkish government changes course, the needed parliamentary maneuvers are likely to take up to two weeks, perhaps too long for the United States.
Unless Ankara reverses its decision, the United States will have to reroute ships that are laden with troops and supplies in the Mediterranean Sea. Instead of unloading in Turkey, the ships could be rerouted through the Suez Canal to open a western front against Iraq through Saudi Arabia or Jordan.
The entire military campaign could be delayed by at least a week if a northern front has to shift west. That would make it more difficult for U.S. forces, clad in jumpsuits to ward off biological weapons, to fight in the hot Iraqi spring and summer.
By asking the United Nations to pass a second resolution, the Bush administration has already delayed hostilities by several weeks past the optimum starting point, which Pentagon planners had established as Feb. 21 to 28.
There are also fears that without a strong U.S. presence in northern Iraq, oil fields could be seized by Kurds or set ablaze by Saddam's forces.
But a top U.S. military official made clear that the lack of a northern front would not prevent the Americans from decimating Iraq's military.
"I don't think it's absolutely a showstopper in terms of whether you have a northern front or not," said Gen. James L. Jones, the head of the U.S. European Command.
"We're going to be successful regardless of what we're limited to," he told reporters in Stuttgart, Germany. "But to have a presence in the northern part of Iraq, we would definitely have an advantage. And they would have to pay more attention to the north."
Meanwhile, the White House said Saddam will be ousted if the United States goes to war with Iraq, but left open the possibility that he could remain in power if he disarms completely.
"Nobody should think, not even for a second, that military action could be possibly taken to disarm Saddam Hussein that would leave Saddam Hussein at the helm to rearm up later," Mr. Fleischer said. "No, that's not an option."
Asked whether a full disarmament by Saddam would satisfy U.S. demands for a "regime change," he said, "Let's first see him completely, totally and immediately disarm, and see if that takes place."
The White House has articulated seemingly different goals since President Bush delivered a speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12. At first, Bush administration officials pushed the idea of regime change a policy adopted by Congress. Later, the White House seemed to equate regime change to a disarmed Saddam.
"If he were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations," Mr. Bush said on Oct. 21, "the conditions that I've described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal that the regime has changed."
But on Friday, Mr. Fleischer was asked whether Mr. Bush's standard for war exceeds U.N. expectations. Said Mr. Fleischer: "It's disarmament and regime change."
Yesterday, the spokesman said the policy on Saddam remains to wait to see whether he disarms.
"What we've always said is that if the regime were to have completely have done what the United Nations called on them to do in Resolution 1441 last November, it would, indeed, be a different type of regime," he said.
Joseph Curl and Nicholas Kralev contributed to this report.

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