Tags: Report: | U.S. | Readies | Tougher | Iraq | Strategy

Report: U.S. Readies Tougher Iraq Strategy

Sunday, 10 February 2002 12:00 AM

Administration officials told the newspaper that the policy review should be finished by the time Vice President Dick Cheney visits the Middle East next month and appears to lean toward increasing the threat of military action against Baghdad.

"There's an evolving consensus that a sizable U.S. military activity will be required," a well-placed source said.

Current U.S. policy is limited to aerial patrols of the so-called no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq, as well as naval patrols on the lookout for smugglers in the Persian Gulf. That containment policy, however, is not strong enough, in the opinion of U.S. planners, to stifle Iraq's efforts to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

President Bush in his State of the Union address denounced Iraq last month as being part of an "axis of evil," along with Iran and Korea, for developing weapons of mass destruction.

While the details of the new policy are still under development, the U.S. victory in Afghanistan has many senior officials now convinced that a military strike against Saddam's regime has a solid chance of succeeding.

"As we learned in Afghanistan, some regimes are not as solid as they pretend to be," a senior State Department official told the Times. "The trick is finding the pressure points that can break the structure."

Washington apparently is looking to the U.S.-funded opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, to develop into a viable fighting force that could topple Saddam in much the same way the Northern Alliance routed Afghanistan's ruling Taliban with the assistance of U.S. commandos and fierce air power. The scenario also apparently assumes that large numbers of Iraqi government troops will defect to the INC.

"The INC could still be a useful umbrella to bring other political forces together, but not as it is currently constituted. We need an INC that is more representative of all the forces in Iraq," a senior administration official suggested.

The Times said that unleashing the INC is a strategy largely favored by political appointees at the Pentagon while senior military officers and State Department officials are not convinced that the INC will be able to stand up to Saddam's well-established and ruthless military.

Other options being seriously considered include convincing Iraq's neighbors to tighten their political pressure on Baghdad, and a diplomatic offensive to allow United Nations arms inspectors back into Iraq. Some U.S. officials believe it will be difficult to convince nations such as Jordan, Iran, Syria and Turkey to clamp down on the smuggling of Iraqi oil through their territories.

Whatever its final form, the new policy proposal will have to be sold by Cheney during his nine-nation Middle East trip. According to the Times, Arab nations are already concerned that the Americans will once again underestimate Saddam's staying power, and haven't thought through a viable plan for a post-Saddam Iraq.

"Our problem is that we see much of it as wishful thinking or a leap of faith, particularly relying on (Iraqi military) defections," an anonymous Arab envoy told the newspaper. "This doesn't have the feel of a workable plan."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Administration officials told the newspaper that the policy review should be finished by the time Vice President Dick Cheney visits the Middle East next month and appears to lean toward increasing the threat of military action against Baghdad. There's an evolving...
Report:,U.S.,Readies,Tougher,Iraq,Strategy
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2002-00-10
Sunday, 10 February 2002 12:00 AM
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