Posted Feb. 18, 2003

Justice Looms for Saddam, Cronies

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Turkish General Sees Benefits from Iraq War (see below)

Insight on the News - World

Issue: 03/04/03

As Iraq concentrated its forces around Baghdad to protect the regime against a U.S.-led coalition, President George W. Bush revealed in his weekly radio address on Feb. 8 that Saddam Hussein "recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

The president's unusual revelation, coming on top of Secretary of State Colin Powell's intelligence-laden presentation to the U.N. Security Council three days earlier, confirmed that the Bush administration takes Saddam's threats with utmost seriousness. But the administration has been doing much more than issuing vague threats. Indeed, Insight has learned that it has warned Iraqi leaders they will be held personally responsible for ordering the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

"We have sent messages to them quietly. We have sent messages to them openly," a senior administration official tells this magazine. "Heaven help the Ba'ath Party officers who execute an order from Saddam Hussein to use weapons of mass destruction" either against Iraqi civilians, who are ill-equipped to defend themselves, or against coalition forces. "They will be hunted down, and they will be tried as war criminals -- most likely by the U.S. military [and] on the spot."

Related material:

* "Turkish General Sees Benefits of Iraq War"

The official, whose comments to Insight were offered as an authorized, on-the-record statement of U.S. policy, is involved in both the daily and long-range planning of the war. He provided a detailed portrait of the administration's plans for postwar Iraq. Although he asked not to be identified by name or by agency, his comments amplified and clarified official statements by the president and his war cabinet.

"Any prudent military planner has to take into consideration that Saddam Hussein will use his weapons of mass destruction either during a U.S. offensive or beforehand in a pre-emptive attack. But U.S. troops are capable and trained to deal with this. It will affect the battlefield but not the outcome," he says.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, who has advised the Iraqi opposition, agrees. "I do expect we will be attacked with WMDs. As long as they attack troops that are trained, that are moving fast, my concern is not great. What I am concerned about is if [Saddam] tries to attack those troops in urban areas and we have civilian casualties." McInerney adds: "This is going to be a very rapid war. ... The whole campaign will last no longer than two weeks, with fewer casualties than we had last time."

One reason for the low casualties, the senior official said, will be the rapid collapse of Saddam's regime thanks to "multifaceted" U.S. pressure on the leadership. "We see exit strategies being prepared by senior members of the regime," he tells Insight. "We see money being transferred out of the country. We see exit routes being planned. The extreme pressure we are bringing to bear is beginning to have a noticeable effect throughout the ranks of the senior leadership. But we will do everything in our power to go after them and apprehend them."

Kurdish opposition parties expressed fears that Turkey might take advantage of an Iraqi thrust into the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq by seizing the oil-rich regions of Kirkuk and Mosul. Those fears were exacerbated in early February when the Turkish daily Milliyet, citing military sources, laid out plans for a thrust by the Turkish 7th Army and its Gendarmerie law-enforcement corps into Kurdish areas in northern Iraq. "If Turkey moves into Kirkuk and Mosul in violation of Iraq's territorial integrity, this would create a tremendous national tendency among the Kurds," a well-placed Kurdish source tells Insight. "Kurds will say, 'If Turkey doesn't respect Iraq's territorial integrity, why should we?' This could lead to precisely the outcome the Turks say they want to prevent: an independent Kurdistan."

This also is the outcome the United States wants to prevent, according to the senior administration official. "We unequivocally told Turkey that unilateral military action by them in northern Iraq is an absolute red line for the U.S. We are serious about this. And we told the Kurds: It's in your interest to help us to maintain the status quo in Kirkuk and Mosul. This means no Kurdish move into those areas, either, just U.S. forces."

In a separate briefing a senior Pentagon official told a group of defense-policy experts recently, "We will coordinate with the Turks. If war comes, I am confident we will be working with the Turks, not at odds with them."

The U.S. war plan involves rapidly securing Iraqi oil fields so they can be exploited on behalf of the Iraqi people. "There has been a lot of mistaken reporting and accusations that this is a war for oil," the senior administration official says. "This is not a war for oil. Our intention is to fulfill our responsibilities to the Iraqi people and then we will leave."

As Bush and his Cabinet build an international "coalition of the willing" to liberate Iraq, countries such as Turkey, Germany and France face tough decisions. "It's crunch time," the official says. Turkey has balked so far at U.S. requests to station up to 80,000 U.S. troops at NATO bases near the Iraqi border. Negotiations with the Islamist government in Ankara "have clearly dragged on too long," the official adds. Turkey's parliament voted on Feb. 8 to allow the United States to upgrade several military bases and ports, but deferred a decision on an expanded U.S. troop presence until Feb. 18.

The choice for Turkey, as well as for France and Germany, will have far-reaching political and economic consequences for those countries, the official says. France and Germany, he believes, ultimately will contribute to the coalition war effort once they see that war was inevitable. "They'll make their decisions on how they help us according to their national interests and at their own time, but we're confident they will help us," he says.

In the meantime, a top Pentagon planner tells Insight, the United States is working with allies in Europe outside of the NATO framework to ensure that Turkey receives military assistance to defend itself against an Iraqi attack. "The Netherlands have agreed to station Patriot missile batteries in Turkey, outside of NATO," he says. "We intend for Turkey to get the help it needs to defend itself" regardless of the actions taken by France, Germany and Belgium to prevent NATO from playing a role in the war.

One of the key problems facing the United States and its allies has been the ease with which Iraq continues to purchase machinery and materials for its weapons programs from Europe and China [see "Eurobiz Is Caught Arming Saddam," Feb. 18-March 3]. "We have been tracking this very closely," the official says. "Those countries that supplied dual-use equipment and materials on a wide scale to Iraq clearly will be uncovered in a post-liberation Iraq. We're going to know who they are, and so will the new Iraqi government."

As an example, he mentioned the aluminum tubes the United States seized en route to Iraq last year. Powell told the U.N. Security Council that the tubes had been imported to make uranium-enrichment centrifuges. But the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, part of the U.N. arms-inspection effort, disputed this and claimed they matched an Iraqi artillery-rocket program.

"There was absolutely no mistake about the intended use of these aluminum tubes," the senior administration official tells Insight. "The CIA is adamant on this." U.S. technicians had been able to test them and found they could spin at very high rates of revolutions per minute -- a requirement not for artillery rockets but for enrichment centrifuges. "These are not artillery rockets or water pipes, as some have said. Those cost 60 cents per foot. These tubes cost $50 per foot, so the argument is silly."

Powell revealed that the United States had detected no fewer than 11 attempts by Iraq covertly to acquire these special tubes. The most recent, in December, occurred even after Iraq accepted U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 -- the 16th in a string of U.N. resolutions accepted by Iraq that require it totally to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. "Let me tell you what is not controversial about these tubes," Powell told the United Nations. "First, all the experts who have analyzed the tubes in our possession agree that they can be adapted for centrifuge use. Second, Iraq had no business buying them for any purpose. They are banned for Iraq."

And the tubes were just part of the story, he added. "We also have intelligence from multiple sources that Iraq is attempting to acquire magnets and high-speed balancing machines; both items can be used in a gas-centrifuge program to enrich uranium." Iraqi officials negotiated with Romania, India, Russia and Slovenia to purchase a magnet-production plant in 1999 and 2000, Powell said. "Intercepted communications from mid-2000 through last summer show that Iraqi front companies sought to buy machines that can be used to balance gas-centrifuge rotors," Powell said. "One of these companies also had been involved in a failed effort in 2001 to smuggle aluminum tubes into Iraq."

The pattern and purpose of these illicit Iraqi purchases "show that Saddam Hussein is very much focused on putting in place the key missing piece from his nuclear-weapons program: the ability to produce fissile material," Powell said.

As Insight first revealed last year, just before Resolution 1441 was adopted by the U.N. Security Council [see "How Saddam Got Weapons of Mass Destruction," Oct. 15, 2002], it was dramatic new progress in the Iraqi nuclear-weapons program that convinced the Bush administration to accelerate the confrontation with Saddam before it was too late. "If Saddam succeeds in this effort, it will change the entire dynamic of the Middle East," the senior administration official says. "Nuclear weapons are not chemical or biological weapons. Nuclear weapons give Saddam Hussein respect, they get him out of the international box; whereas BW [biological weapons] and CW [chemical weapons] are not respected weapons."

Tim Trevan, a former top U.N. arms inspector, said the evidence laid out by the United States and contained in Iraq's December declaration to the United Nations showed beyond a doubt that Iraq was in "material breach" of U.N. Security Council resolutions. "Only the blind and the unwilling" could fail to see this, he told a Washington seminar recently.

After a U.S.-led victory against Saddam, the American combat commander will establish a temporary military government in Baghdad that quickly will restore order. "For a short period after the liberation, there will be many military tasks to accomplish," the senior official says. "We must search and destroy Saddam's WMDs, guarantee internal security and security of the borders, we must hunt down terrorists and reform the Iraqi military. These are all military tasks. So for a period -- four days, four weeks, four months, we don't yet know how long -- the U.S. combatant commander will be in charge of the country."

At the same time, however, the Joint Task Force commander will be assisted by a civilian administration to help to administer the country and oversee Iraq's political transformation, he tells Insight. "A liberated Iraq in a region full of dictatorships and terror-invested regimes will send a message to every other supporter of terrorism: Clean up your act. We won't accept any more the killing of Americans and of Jews." But it will also send a message to Arab countries that democracy can come to a region that has grown accustomed to the despot's boot. "It is borderline racist to say that Arabs can't be free," the official says.

Bush believes in a "virtuous cycle" sweeping through the region, the senior official says. "The president has this same vision for the Palestinians. The president's message, this administration's message, is that freedom, democracy and human rights constitute the basis of prosperity. Democracy is way overdue in the Middle East. That's what this president is all about. That's what this campaign is about."

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine. email the author

Sidebar: Turkish General Sees Benefits of Iraq War

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Gen. Cevic Bir, former chief of staff of the Turkish army, believes Turkey will join the war in Iraq now that the Islamic government in Ankara understands that becoming a full alliance partner with the United States and Britain will serve Turkey's long-term strategic interests.

Prime Minister Abdullah Guls' Justice and Progress Party, which won election last November, until recently had balked at positioning U.S. forces in Turkey, and some party officials had portrayed war in Iraq as a war against Islam. "The vote in parliament on Feb. 8 made it clear that we won't be fighting Islam, but against international terrorism," Bir told the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in Washington last week. "I expect the deployment of U.S. troops in Turkey will be fully supported by the people."

The retired general, who came away from heading U.N. forces in Somalia in 1992-93 with contempt for U.N. war management, said that Turkey could be a major beneficiary from a successful war to oust Saddam Hussein so long as the United States maintains forces in the region and remains committed to a united Iraq.

"Turkey has learned many lessons from the first gulf war and has already taken measures to prevent most of the problems we faced then," he says. To prevent a mass exodus of Kurdish refugees and to contain terrorist groups such as the Kurdish Workers Party from spilling over into Turkey, as happened in 1991, Turkish forces already have taken position inside northern Iraq, he confirms.

Turkey's aim is not to occupy Iraqi territory, but "to provide support" for the U.S.-led coalition. No one is thinking of going to Kirkuk and Mosul.

U.S. contractor Brown and Root last week began to draw up plans for an $800 million upgrade of Turkish military ports and airports to handle the tens of thousands of U.S. troops that will "flow" through Turkey into bases that have been prepared in northern Iraq. After the war, said Bir, "Turkey will be a major base for the reconstruction of Iraqi institutions and for bringing the Iraqi military up to Western standards."

-- KRT