HL Senior U.S. officials say Bush pondering ouster of Hussein
Credit: Washington Post
SO ST. PETERSBURG TIMES (STPT)
LP Frustrated by the inconclusive end of the Persian Gulf war and facing new criticism from congressional Democrats and presidential challengers, the Bush administration is reviewing proposals for a more aggressive U.S. campaign to force the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to senior U.S. officials. The proposals, some of which have been floated by Iraqi opposition groups and U.S. lawmakers, include providing Iraqi rebels with such overt or covert assistance as military training and spare parts or helping to protect a provisional, alternative government that some rebels want to establish in northern Iraq.
TX There are differing views among officials and participating departments about whether any plan to oust Hussein is worth the effort. Looming over the discussions is the belief of U.S. intelligence experts that the plans would fail, largely because they depend on some degree of U.S. leverage over internal Iraqi politics and some degree of cooperation among Iraqi rebel groups. Both are virtually non-existent. "There are a lot of ideas out there . . . (and) I would not rule out that we would move in more aggressive ways" to destabilize Hussein"s regime, said an official involved in the deliberations. "The (decision) process is very alive . . . and nothing has been rejected." The review is being conducted by an interagency committee under the direction of the White House. Less than a year away from what President Bush hopes will be his election to a second term, he is increasingly concerned that Democrats will use Hussein"s continued hold on power to tarnish the glow of the gulf victory, according to Republican sources. Two weeks ago, for example, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who opposed starting the war last January, said that "in the end, (Bush) . . . made the worse deal. He had a war, killed people - he didn"t, but the war did - and he fought it very well, except, in the end, he didn"t get the objective, which was Saddam Hussein. And you can take pictures of Saddam Hussein now reviewing the troops." Among those advocating a new U.S. policy is Rep. Stephen J. Solarz, D-N.Y., a Foreign Affairs subcommittee chairman, who has urged direct aid to a coalition of anti-Hussein groups. Solarz and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., said they would support U.S. diplomatic recognition and military protection for a provisional government established by Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni rebels in the part of northern Iraq now monitored by the United Nations. The principal aim of the plan - first promoted here during a recent visit by Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani - would be to induce Iraqi army troops to defect to the rebels. Some senior Defense Department officials - despite skepticism from the Joint Chiefs of Staff - also have pushed for a more active approach to the Iraqi problem than the current sanctions that sharply restrict Iraq"s trade with the rest of the world. "A lot of people here have been uncomfortable about the state of affairs inside Iraq," one official said. "The last thing you want is a kind of Rhodesia (outcome) . . . where sanctions took years to have any effect. There is a lot of interest in finding more active roles" to play in Iraq, including helping disaffected Iraqi military officers. Independent Western groups recently have complained that the sanctions are working against the wrong people, imposing grave hardship on Iraqi citizens, many of whom are reported suffering from food shortages and poor sanitary conditions. A group of 15 Democratic and two Republican senators cited these hardships in a letter to Bush last Monday seeking strong U.S. actions to force Hussein"s compliance with a U.N. plan for food distribution. Iraq refused to consent during negotiations in Baghdad * last week with a U.N. representative, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. British officials have said that as long as Iraq continues to comply with U.N. inspection and monitoring requirements, neither London nor other European capitals will support Western attempts to overthrow Hussein. And in Turkey, where permission for allied forces to operate from Turkish air bases in support of Kurdish rebels is due to lapse Jan. 1, there is little enthusiasm for actions that would embolden the Kurds in northern Iraq to press harder for an independent state that would threaten Turkish borders. ***
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