|Powell Privately Laying Out
to Allies That Saddam Is Threat
Monday, September 02, 2002 FOX-news
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell is the strong and silent type.
|Although Powell has been notably
quiet about an attack on Iraq, it doesn't mean he's against toppling Saddam
Hussein by force or that he's out of the loop,
close associates say.
Powell's restrained manner when it comes to the Iraq questions comes in sharp contrast to President Bush's other senior advisers. Powell is concentrating on privately laying out a case to European allies and Arab friends that Saddam poses a threat to the world, these intimates say.
Bush has said little and evidently has not yet made a decision on how to attempt to overthrow Saddam. Powell has given no public indication he disagrees with the administration's goal of ousting the Iraqi leader.
He's been telling foreign leaders, mainly by telephone, that even if Saddam reversed his refusal for 3 1/2 years to admit international inspectors to search for weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration would still have a beef with Baghdad, associates say. Powell wants Iraq to completely disarm,as it promised the U.N. Security Council at the end of the Persian Gulf war to liberate Kuwait in 1991.
In a BBC program marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Powell stressed the need to hold unfettered international inspections in Iraq.
"The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return," he said.
"Iraq has been in violation of these many U.N. resolutions for most of the last 11 years or so," Powell said . "And so, as a first step, let's see what the inspectors find."
Last week, when Britain appeared ready to propose a deadline for inspections, the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher suggested even if Iraq complied that would not be enough to satisfy the Bush administration.
He said Iraq had backtracked on commitments nine times since 1991 and that inspections were not an end in themselves.
Beyond that, whatever Powell thinks is for the president's ears only, say Powell's associates, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Powell's job is to achieve as much unity as possible on Iraq as a threat to stability in the Middle East, as well as elsewhere.
He's going to take his lobbying over the ocean as he attends an environmental and economic summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. Leaders from Africa, Europe and Asia will attend -- and be available for Powell to present the administration's case against Saddam. Powell flies there Monday night.
Most of the European allies and Arab governments have sought to dissuade Bush from launching an attack. And members of Congress are asking the administration to outline its position and provide an assessment of whether the U.S. military was ready to take on Iraq.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, a ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an early advocate of caution in Bush's approach to Iraq, agrees that Saddam's regime is a threat. But the Nebraskan says Bush needs to keep an eye on a political map filled with dangers.
Another senior member of the committee, Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., who joined Hagel weeks ago in counseling a go-slow approach to achieving Bush's oft-stated goal of "regime change" in Iraq, said the president should consult both the United Nations and Congress before acting.
Lugar said a U.N. resolution demanding return of weapons inspectors would give political cover.
"There's no question that Saddam
Hussein represents a threat to the region, ultimately a threat to the United
States and all peace-loving people," Hagel said Sunday on
ABC's This Week. "I think the question ... is the urgency of that
"Who would we go to war with on our side? ... When do we do that? Who would then replace Saddam Hussein? Would we further destabilize the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia? ... And, of course, one of the big questions is, how long would the United States need to stay in the Middle East? Are we talking about 250,000 troops? Do we want to be in Baghdad running that government, trying to find an alternative?" Hagel said.
"These are the questions that we need to think through and ask."
Lugar said the U.N. Security Council's action would be little more than symbolic, because Saddam would refuse to let the inspectors return, and it would be left to the Americans to enforce the resolution making the demand.
Powell's low profile is partly from taking some time for vacation. But it has been noted that he seems a lot less belligerent to Iraq compared to the strong public statements by Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, Bush's assistant for national security.
Cheney has been especially outspoken, accusing Iraq of avidly pursuing nuclear weapons. His remarks appeared to support a pre-emptive strike.
The former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the other hand, is known to be an advocate of restraint -- against Iraq after Kuwait was freed and against intervention in the Balkans against ethnic conflict in the first Clinton administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.