Friday, October 10, 2003

Bush backs sanctions against Syria: Damascus has failed to fight terrorism, Washington says

The Bush administration withdrew its opposition to a congressional measure toughening sanctions on Syria yesterday, saying its government has failed to meet promises to fight terrorism and restrain anti-Israel fighters.

"We have repeatedly said that Syria is on the wrong side of the war on terrorism and that Syria has got to stop harbouring terrorists," said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary.

As Mr. McClellan spoke, the House international relations committee voted 33-2 to approve the measure, known as the Syria Accountability Act. It threatens penalties that include prohibiting all U.S. exports to Syria except food and medicine, barring U.S. investments or business operations in Syria, and banning Syrian aircraft from U.S. air space.

The measure has had majority support in both parties in both the U.S. House and Senate. The Bush administration previously viewed it as interference in its diplomatic efforts to win allies in fighting terrorism.

The sanctions measure gained traction three days after Israeli jets bombed a target inside Syria that Israel said was a base used by Palestinian terrorists, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which have carried out suicide bombings against Israel.

The raid, Israel's first attack on Syrian territory since 1982, came in response to a suicide bombing Saturday in Haifa, in northern Israel, that killed 19 people. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

George W. Bush, the President, said Israel has the right to defend itself. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. has evidence showing the target was in "active use" as a terrorist base up to the time of the bombing. He declined to name a particular group or give other details.

During a visit to Damascus after the Iraq war, Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, presented Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a series of demands, including closing Syria-based offices run by Hezbollah and taking action against similar groups that the U.S. labels sponsors of terrorism.

Mr. Powell warned Syria that a failure to crack down on terrorist groups would lead to "consequences" that might include the sanctions being threatened by Congress. The sanctions include language allowing the president to waive their implementation if he deems it in the interest of national security.

Syria has made no meaningful progress toward meeting these demands, Mr. Boucher said today.

The international relations committee, before approving the Syria Accountability Act, voted to reject an amendment urging Mr. Bush not to appoint an ambassador to Syria.

Opponents said they supported the sentiment but felt the U.S. should take actions that signal an interest in talking with Syria about a compromise.

Syria said today it would respond militarily if Israel continued to attack its territory, Reuters reported, cited the country's ambassador to Spain.

"If Israel attacks Syria one, two and three times, of course the people of Syria and the government of Syria and the army will react to defend ourselves," said Ambassador Mohsen Bilal.

Asked if that meant responding militarily, he said: "By all means. If Israel continues to attack us and continues its aggression, of course we shall react to the attacks in spite of the fact that we are fighting for peace and wish to reopen the [1991] Madrid [peace] conference."

Israel said it has "no interest" in escalating tensions with Syria following Sunday's bombing, according to a statement issued after a Cabinet meeting yesterday. At the same time, the Israeli government "cannot allow external anti-Israel terrorism to enjoy immunity," the e-mailed statement said.

An analyst with Globalsecurity .org, a private military research institution in Washington, said satellite photos of Israel's target in Syria prior to the bombing showed no clear evidence of terrorist activity.

The site, which Israel identified as the Ain Saheb camp, is about 16 kilometres northwest of Damascus. The area appears to be a tourist destination, and the camp's location alongside a highway makes it an unlikely location for secretive activities, said the analyst, Tim Brown.

Streamlining Iraq new goal of White House

The White House insisted Monday that its decision to play a greater role in the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan was not an acknowledgment of problems with U.S.-led efforts.

Instead, administration officials portrayed the move as an attempt to streamline decision-making as Congress debates President Bush's request to spend $87 billion to stabilize the war-torn countries.

Members of Congress have been sharply critical of the administration's plan for postwar Iraq, and Taliban militias are feared to be reorganizing in Afghanistan. A confidential memo circulated last week said the Iraq Stabilization Group would be overseen by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"Condi's team is going to make sure that the efforts are continued to be coordinated so that we continue to make progress," Bush said during a news conference with President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya. "And listen, we're making good progress in Iraq. Sometimes it's hard to tell it when you listen to the filter (of critics)."

It remained unclear Monday how differently decisions would be made under the new stabilization group than under the current system. Administration officials described the group as an entity that would work with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to make more day-to-day decisions without having to consult with the deputies from the Pentagon or the State Department.

L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, would continue to report to the Defense Department.

"This group can work to help cut through some of the bureaucracy and red tape here in Washington, D.C., so that we can make sure, as our efforts accelerate in Iraq, that they're getting the full assistance from Washington, D.C.," said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary.

Several key members of Congress who have traveled to Iraq have returned with warnings about continued violence if basic services there are not restored.

They have said that the administration should have anticipated the violent resistance that has made rebuilding more difficult and that it should have better prepared American taxpayers for the length and the cost of the Iraqi operations.

"Almost two years after the fall of the Taliban and nearly six months after the fall of Baghdad, the White House finally is organizing itself to deal with the realities of postwar Afghanistan and Iraq," said Senator John Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat who is running for president. "It's about time President Bush tried to get his bureaucracy in order, but rearranging flow charts is no substitute for leadership."

Others who also have been critical of the administration's approach in Iraq praised Bush's decision.

A spokesman for Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that it "is a move in the direction of what he's been calling for": reassessment and re-evaluation of the postwar decisions.

John Pike is director of, a Virginia-based think tank that specializes in military issues. He said that the move to form a group to oversee day-to-day decisions is a good one.

"They're coming to grips with this being a high-visibility, long-term issue that they need some sort of structure to deal with,"

Report underlines scale of intelligence failure

The long-awaited report by the Iraq Survey Group headed by David Kay suggests Saddam Hussein had the know-how to produce chemical and biological weapons, and the intention to pursue a nuclear weapons programme. But it found no evidence of weapons themselves.

"It found everything but those weapons," a Ministry of Defence official said yesterday. The group of 1,200 scientists and technicians found a network of clandestine laboratories run by Saddam's intelligence and security services. They found evidence of secret procurement programmes involving foreign companies.

But virtually every part of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction programme could be explained by reference to other benign uses, they said last night. They found large amounts of documentary evidence, but, MoD officials admitted, "no shining weapons".

The conclusion is in marked contrast to the claim in last year's British government dossier on Iraq's weapons programme which implied that it was continuing to produce such weapons and could deploy some of them within 45 minutes. Sources close to the survey group said last night that to visit every possible banned weapons site in Iraq was impossible. Its mission, they said, would "only succeed if we are led to the truth by the Iraqis themselves".

They admitted, too, that most of the information it received was "single-sourced". It had interviewed 500 Iraqis potentially implicated in the country's WMD programme but suffered from a residual fear of Saddam's security apparatus, the sources said. "It is impossible to predict what will or won't be found," a defence source said.

Andy Oppenheimer, a weapons expert with Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor, said: "We have known for some time that the expertise was there for all three kinds of WMDs. Saddam tried - and succeeded - in getting equipment after 1998 but there hasn't been anything that could be said to be a culmination of that. A lot of hope was being put into the interviews with Iraqi scientists. But there still hasn't been anything tangible. Iraq had a very substantial body of expertise but the problem is finding anything that could have been an immediate threat, such as battlefield weapons. Iraq was trying to develop WMDs - trying, but there is nothing that represents an immediate threat."

Daniel Neep, head of the Middle East programme at the Royal United Services Institute, said: "It does underline the fact that there was a fundamental failure of intelligence, not just in what was presented to the public. The ramifications of that are going to take some time to unfold. A lot of credibility was placed on defectors without necessarily corroborating the information from other sources. Questions have to be raised about why we didn't have better information about what was going on in Iraq."


The Iraq Survey Group found no evidence of nuclear weapons under construction but said it had found evidence of Saddam gearing up to build one once international sanctions had been lifted.

Before the war, the consensus among specialists on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as within MI6 and the CIA, was that Saddam had no nuclear weapons and that it would take years to build them - yet the British and US governments insisted that Saddam had a covert programme. Two stories were circulated before the war that have since been largely discredited. The US said Iraq was illegally importing aluminium tubes for an alleged nuclear weapons programme and both the US and British governments claimed that Iraq had secretly tried to secure uranium from Niger.

The British government last night hailed the Iraq Survey Group as vindication of its concerns about Saddam: basically, that he was intent on securing nuclear weapons. An MoD official concluded: "No existing weapons but continuing intention [to develop] when the time was right and once sanctions were finished."

Support for this viewpoint came from Tim Trevan, a former British weapons inspector in Iraq and the author of Saddam's Secrets: The Hunt for Iraq's Hidden Weapons. He said last night: "I think it is reasonable to assume there was no active construction of any nuclear weapons. There was a longer-term desire for a nuclear programme that would be consistent with the psychology of Saddam." He added: "If [material] was hidden or destroyed, very few people would have been involved. It would not have been scientists but intelligence people. It is quite possible we might not ever find it."

Toby Dodge, an Iraq specialist at Warwick University, took a more sceptical view: "The whole case for war was based on allegations of active procurement. The Kay report kills the argument for nuclear procurement which by implication kills the whole case for WMD." John Pike, director of, agreed with the Kay assessment that there was intent, though not much was happening on the nuclear front. He added that nuclear material was easy to conceal: "The material to make one bomb a year would fit inside a grocery store."

Ewen MacAskill and Brian Whitaker


The Kay report describes a "clandestine network of laboratories and safe houses" run by Iraqi intelligence service. It said one had been housed in a prison lab complex. The report refers to "strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons". MoD sources said the seed stock of this unidentified organism could be turned into a "weaponisable biological weapon" within 48 hours. In one of the few specific examples, the report also refers to a single vial of "C.botulinum Okra B", which British sources claimed could be used in weapons within 48 hours.

Professor Harry Smith, emeritus professor of microbiology at Birmingham University and chairman of the Royal Society's working group on biological weapons, said: "What were these secret labs like? Did they have containment units? It looks as though the Iraqis were still thinking of these weapons but nothing concrete had been done. You need more detail to really know and the survey group won't get it, I think."

Dr Glen Rangwala, of Cambridge University, said the discovery of a vial of C Botulinum in the home of an Iraqi scientist, which the report says could have been used to produce a biological agent, was not conclusive. "It's not a strain which is most toxic. It can be used for the vaccination of cattle. The types which Iraq developed before 1991 were A and B Botulinum."

Jonathan Steele

Delivery systems

The report refers to hitherto unknown Iraqi plans to procure or develop long-range missiles and warheads to put on them. But, in common with its references to chemical and biological weapons, the message is that while the intention was there, the capability was not.

"There was warhead design but no evidence of actual warheads," a British defence source said last night. He was referring to the report's description of a claim by "one cooperative source" who said he suspected that a new missile system "was intended to have a CW[chemical]-filled warhead". The report adds: "But no detainee has admitted any actual knowledge of plans for unconventional warheads for any current or planned ballistic missile".

This contrasts with the claims and impression of the government's dossier published last September, which implied Saddam had chemical and biological warheads which could be fired at western targets within 45 minutes. That the reference was only to short-range battlefield weapons only became clear after evidence to the Hutton inquiry. Yesterday the survey group said it had found no evidence even of those.

The government's September dossier spoke of the deployment of Samoud missiles with a range of at least 125 miles, the retention of Hussein missiles with a range of 400 miles, and the production of Ababil missiles with a range of at least 125 miles. Dr Trevor Findlay, director of Vertic, an independent verification and inspection research body, said: "It's one thing to order the development of missiles. You have to test them in the open and we would have known from satellites if he had tried."

Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University's school of peace studies said: "No Scuds have been found. This runs counter to what the US and the British said before the war. They gave figures that they thought Iraq had between 12 and 20. As for orders to develop ballistic missiles with a range of up to 600 miles, this is not much more than what they did 12 years ago with the modified Scuds which were to go 400 miles. The new information is only significant in a minor way."

Richard Norton-Taylor

WMD aspirations

The report argues that "judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programmes, Saddam had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire WMD".

Prof Rogers said last night: "You could hardly expect anything else, given that he had them in 1991. But it's a long way from saying they were close to getting anything again. If the Unmovic inspection process had not been called off on the eve of the war, the Iraqis wouldn't have been able to develop anything."

Prof Rogers said he was surprised by two main aspects of the Kay report. First, its candour. "Given that Dr Kay said two months ago that he expected to find major stuff and he was pretty convinced the Iraqis had it, the report is really very candid. They don't seem to be egging the pudding." Second was the conclusion that no weapons had been found, not even Scud missiles. "In all honesty, I did think before the war that Iraq had some residual biological and chemical weapons capability for use in extremis as a deterrent. The fact that it doesn't exist demonstrates an incredible intelligence failure before the war. It's on a par with the failure to predict the Iranian revolution in 1979."

Jonathan Steele


The report admits it has "not yet found evidence to confirm prewar reporting that Iraqi military units were prepared to use CW against coalition forces". (This was the notorious 45-minute claim in the British government's September dossier).

Dr Findlay said: "In the absence of any weapons, the inspectors would have had to find military operational manuals about plans for use. No one before the war wanted to say there were no stored stocks of agents and precursors. They were always possible. It's a surprise the survey group hasn't found them. This confirms the good work which Unscom and Unmovic did, even though they were quite conservative in their conclusions." Commenting on the survey group's report that no detained Iraqi scientist or official admitted any knowledge of plans for unconventional warheads for any current or planned ballistic missile, Prof Rogers said: "It now seems pretty conclusive that the Iraqis took a decision to dismantle."

Navy has fewest ships since before World War I

When the last sailor walked off the amphibious ship Anchorage this week, ending the ship's 34 years of naval service, the Navy's fleet of warships shrank to its smallest size since before World War I. Above, the Anchorage pulls into the 32nd Street Naval Station in July.

When the last sailor walked off the amphibious ship Anchorage yesterday, ending the ship's 34 years of naval service, the Navy's fleet of warships shrank to its smallest size since before World War I.

The battle force – the Navy's fleet of front-line aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, amphibious ships and selected support vessels – now numbers 296 ships with the Anchorage's decommissioning.

The Navy has continued to shrink despite increasing demands on the maritime force since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

During the past two years, the Navy has been very busy. Dozens of warships fired cruise missiles, launched bombers and carried Marines during recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of those same ships deployed Marines to Liberia and the Horn of Africa. Others are watching developments on the Korean Peninsula.

"We've cut too deep," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "We need more ships."

However, Navy officials say it's necessary to decommission older, more costly ships such as the Anchorage to save enough money to buy new warships. At the same time, many defense analysts say the Navy can slim down even further without undue risk because today's warships are more technologically advanced and in larger numbers than any other navy.

More than two decades ago, President Reagan called for a 600-ship Navy to challenge the Soviet Union. The Navy got close, with a shipbuilding program that produced a fleet of 594 vessels.

But today the Navy has shrunk to its smallest size since dreadnoughts and Britain's Royal Navy ruled the waves supreme – and in coming years, it will continue shrinking.

During the past fiscal year, which ended Tuesday, 20 ships – from the carrier Constellation to the landing ship Frederick – were retired, while only four new vessels were added to the fleet.

Ten ships, starting with the Anchorage, will be decommissioned during the next 12 months. Six warships – four destroyers and two submarines – will be added to the fleet during the same period.

By 2006, the Navy's battle force will have only 291 ships, according to Pentagon budget plans.

Not until 2009 is the fleet scheduled to climb above 300 vessels again.

The fleet's smaller size has some naval advocates, including two powerful local congressmen, worried as the United States continues to fight a global war on terrorism that is likely to last for years.

"Our naval forces should be greater," Hunter said.

Fewer ships contribute to longer deployments for sailors and Marines, said Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Escondido. Long deployments will reduce personnel retention and increase ship repair costs, he added.

The numbers also worry some naval officers.

"It's significant because the Navy operates all over the world, and to be able to respond to any contingency, you have to have the numbers," said Rear Adm. Willie Marsh, who commands Amphibious Group 3, based in San Diego. He spoke yesterday after the Anchorage's decommissioning.

Top Navy officials and several outside naval analysts believe the Navy can survive with fewer ships for several years.

Navy leaders have projected a 375-ship fleet in 20 years or so, if Congress buys a new class of small, maneuverable high-tech ships. But current official plans project a fleet of 310 warships.

"Focusing on numbers alone is not the answer to building a fleet," said Lt. Elissa Smith, a Navy spokeswoman in Washington.

By decommissioning older, less-capable warships, the Navy expects to save money to offset the cost of building and maintaining more modern ships, including a new class of amphibious vessels joining the fleet in two years, new destroyers and dozens of "littoral combat" ships.

New San Antonio-class amphibious ships, which carry Marines and their weaponry, will be added to the fleet in coming years, Marsh said.

New missile-carrying destroyers are envisioned to replace older cruisers.

The littoral vessels would be small warships capable of operating near coastlines, with a modular design so different war-fighting capabilities could be added or removed to match each mission.

Hunter and Cunningham strongly favor building more new ships, but worry that the force is being cut too thin in the near term.

A strong Navy is needed for several reasons, Hunter said, including protection of the long sea lanes between the United States and possible trouble spots, guarding against potential terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Asia, the potential for conflict on the Korean Peninsula and the rising military strength of China.

"The world's oceans haven't shrunk," Hunter added.

But defense analyst John Pike said America's enemies have shrunk from Cold War days.

With no monolithic enemy like the Soviet Union, the Pentagon has trouble proving its need for a huge maritime force, he said.

"Do we have enough ships to do what?" Pike asked rhetorically.

While many conservatives worry about the growing Chinese threat, several analysts said China's navy is decades away from challenging the U.S. fleet.

"No one is going to challenge us at sea for the next 20 years," said analyst and naval historian Norman Polmar.

Having an adequate fleet to deal with adversaries on faraway shores is a paramount concern, said Cunningham, a Vietnam-era Navy fighter ace and member of the House Appropriations Committee.

"I think 360 is the magic number," he added. "At 300 ships, you turn into a pumpkin, and we're (still) going down."

But many analysts doubt there is a major concern in having a fleet smaller than 300 ships because the numbers game is less significant than in past decades.

"It's ludicrous to compare today's Navy with the ships of World War II," Polmar said.

A single aircraft carrier today has more firepower than all the U.S. carriers of World War II. A guided-missile cruiser that launched dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Baghdad six months ago is vastly more capable than a cruiser built in the 1960s.

Also, only the United States and allies such as Britain, Japan, Italy and Australia have state-of-the-art warships.

The military's needs also have changed.

Today's Navy, largely designed to fight a blue-water war against the Soviets, has transformed itself into a force that sits off the coast and strikes deep into enemy territory with cruise missiles, attack bombers and long-range assaults by Marines.

"The issue is not how many ships we have; the issue is how many ships we can put in harm's way at a time," Pike said.

The Navy's recently instituted surge plan, which keeps carriers and their escorts at heightened states of readiness and training, helps mitigate the smaller fleet size, said Robert Work, an analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

With no immediate naval threat, Work said, "I think the chief of naval operations (Adm. Vern Clark) did the right thing. Sacrificing numbers to build up the fleet in the long term is very prudent."

Bush gets first taste of scandal, Thrust ... , ... & parry

The scene at the White House on Tuesday was all too familiar -- reporters running through the hallways, frantic cell phone calls, urgent updates on the news wires and breaking news on the cable TV networks.

It was a scene played out repeatedly over the years, most recently during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals of the Clinton administration. Now it's unfolding for the first time in the Bush White House.

In this case, the Justice Department has launched a full-scale criminal investigation to determine who in the Bush administration might have leaked the identity of a CIA operative -- and why.

In Washington, scandals come and go like the four seasons. Some have blossomed into stories of historic proportions; others have withered quickly.

Just how this one might develop is still anyone's guess. But clearly in the short term, it's another headache for President Bush, who is heading into an election year facing increasingly tough questions about his rationale for war against Iraq and its troubled aftermath.

"It's just other pawn on the game board in this larger pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game about whether there was sufficient intelligence to justify war with Iraq," said John Pike of, a Washington-area think tank that examines intelligence and defense policy.

The White House's current discomfort can be traced to the July 14 disclosure by conservative columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a CIA operative.

The media largely ignored the Novak revelation, despite Wilson's oft-repeated claims that the White House was meting out punishment for the criticisms he had stirred over the quality of intelligence used to go to war. But his charges gained new steam last week, with word that the CIA had requested an investigation.

Wilson initially fingered White House senior adviser Karl Rove, Bush's longtime chief political strategist, as the leaker. But the White House has vehemently denied that Rove was involved, and Wilson has toned down his accusation.

Sensing an opening, Democrats on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail ratcheted up their criticisms and demanded that Attorney General John Ashcroft name a special counsel to handle the investigation.

Intent on keeping the controversy in the public eye, House Democrats invited Wilson to address their caucus today. Wilson, according to The Washington Post, makes no secret of being a left-leaning Democrat but says he has no political agenda.

Republicans respond that the Democrats are only playing politics, and political analysts predict the rhetoric will continue to flow along partisan lines.

"Both parties are guilty of selective outrage," said Washington analyst Charles Cook. "If you're a Democrat or a liberal, this just confirms all your worst suspicions. And if you're a conservative or a Republican, you will have selective outrage and just overlook it and move on."

So far, the White House has rejected the calls for a special counsel, though the Justice Department has not ruled one out.

The issue is a sensitive one, not only for the White House, but also for Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri who once retained Rove as a campaign consultant.

The attorney general was in no mood to elaborate during a news conference Tuesday, where he read a statement promising a full investigation by career Justice Department staff.

Ashcroft cut off questions after he was asked twice by reporters if he could assure the nation his investigation would be independent. "Apparently there aren't any other questions," he said as he stalked out of the room.

Later in Chicago, where he addressed a re-election fund-raiser and met with business leaders, Bush was more patient.

"I want to know the truth," he said, welcoming the Justice investigation, which he said would be carried out fairly.

From Washington to Chicago, the questions kept coming. Chief among them: Just where does this investigation go?

A veteran of the many Clinton scrapes predicts that ultimately there will be an independent investigation.

"The question is when," said Chris Lehane, a lawyer who worked in the Clinton White House and was Vice President Al Gore's press secretary during the 2000 campaign.

Unlike the Clinton scandals of Whitewater, which dealt with personal finances, and Monica Lewinsky, Lehane noted, the investigation of the Bush White House deals with national security issues. And he said they "directly implicate the broader policy decisions by the administration on Iraq."

NATO ministers meeting in Colo. are faced with hard tasks

NATO ministers met in Colorado Springs, Colo. two decades ago with a singular purpose: keeping the Eastern Bloc on its side of Europe.

They arrive Oct. 8 at The Broadmoor hotel facing a far more complex world and must fundamentally change the alliance, which includes a host of former enemies that switched sides when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

"When the Cold War was on, we were pretty set on who our enemy was and what we needed to do to keep him from taking any actions against NATO," said retired Army Col. Victor Fernandez of Colorado Springs, a Vietnam veteran who later helped develop NATO war plans. "Now that's no longer an issue."

Decisions awaiting the ministers include how to change the combined might of the alliance to a quicker, lighter force capable of global action and whether NATO will expand peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The end of the Cold War left the 54-year-old alliance with a new set of enemies, including international terrorists and war criminals in Kosovo.

Ministers of the 19 NATO countries and the seven nations invited to join the alliance are trying to change their military forces to fight terrorism and brushfire wars such as the ones America fought in Somalia and Panama.

"The threats to Europe will come from other places," said J.D. Crouch, assistant secretary for international security policy in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Many predict the Colorado Springs meeting will center on changing NATO from a defensive force to one that can dispatch troops and equipment quickly to any point on the globe.

That means a radical change in tactics and equipment.

"It is certainly an organization whose mission is in a state of flux," said John Pike, director of the defense think tank

NATO has seen enormous changes in the past year as German-led NATO troops have moved into Afghanistan and a Polish division took over peacekeeping duties in part of Iraq with NATO help, Crouch said.

Some of the more powerful members of the alliance broke with America about the war in Iraq. France and Germany led a group of four of the 19-voting members in opposing the war. Belgium and Luxembourg opposed the Iraq invasion.

The Iraq rift won't be an issue in Colorado Springs, Crouch said. "I would not characterize this as a fence-mending issue," he said.

Not everyone agrees.

Robert Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO for the Clinton administration who works for RAND, a think tank focusing on government and international policy, said rebuilding friendships will be a key to the Colorado Springs gathering.

"This will be the post-war, let's-make-nice-to-everyone meeting," Hunter said. "The war is over, and now you need everybody, and the allies will want to build those bridges."

Where nations stand since the Iraq invasion will be shown when ministers discuss whether the alliance should expand its peacekeeping duties there.

Now NATO is commanding more than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan, the first time the alliance has stretched its boundaries beyond Europe.

America wants the alliance to get ready for more action outside the alliance's traditional boundaries.

"We're not going to be fighting in Europe," Crouch said. "There's no Warsaw Pact."

NATO's decadelong move to modernize will cost billions and take time.

The alliance's biggest combat capabilities remain based on machines designed for the Cold War, including 62-ton American tanks. Those tanks can take weeks to hit the ground in a combat zone.

To fight in the invasion of Iraq, tanks were shipped by sea, and delivery of the vehicles took weeks.

The U.S. Army this year unveiled lighter units that can get to war in hours instead of weeks.

But experts say NATO allies must spend more money before they can boast similar capabilities.

"There will be pressure from the U.S. for them to spend more money," Hunter said.

Pike described the equipment held by NATO allies who were once part of the Soviet bloc as "basically a snapshot of the world in 1989."

Under discussion will be changing tactics and technology.

Communications abilities and plans must be ironed out for the countries to work together in war.

Some discussions in Colorado Springs will look at specialized combat skills that can be mined from smaller NATO members in time of war, Crouch said.

"Not every member of NATO can have a 360-degree military," Crouch said, explaining the cost of maintaining an American-style army, navy and air force would cripple smaller NATO contributors such as Hungary, Iceland and Luxembourg.

Those smaller alliance players will be asked to hone their best skills, from running field hospitals to disposing explosives, and bring them to NATO missions.

America is examining its commitment to keeping troops in Europe. Defense officials are looking at moving or pulling back troops housed in England, Germany and Italy.

That's an item that won't be up for discussion yet, Crouch said. "We're still in the pre-decision phase on that," he said.

I didn't know these guys were still around...

US seeks to speed Iraq security handoff

The Pentagon is accelerating its plans to replace US soldiers with Iraqi security forces, hoping to have 80,000 trained Iraqi police on the job within 18 to 24 months now that there is little chance of substantial help from foreign troops. More than 40,000 Iraqi soldiers are expected to be deployed by February.

Military officials say they are increasingly concerned about the morale and fighting ability of US Army soldiers in Iraq, who are confronting a guerrilla war that is threatening rebuilding efforts. In the short term, the Pentagon plans to call up thousands of additional National Guard troops and may have to consider tapping forces now assigned to other missions around the world. The lack of support from other nations, however, is forcing the United States to turn quickly to the Iraqis themselves for more assistance. Instead of having the full Iraqi police force trained in six years, as was originally planned, US officials hope to have it in place by early 2005. Most US soldiers in Iraq are involved in police activity, guarding against looters and assisting in reconstruction efforts.

"They have to find a substitute for US forces because the Iraqi operation is shaping up to be the perfect storm for the US Army, a commitment that cannot be sustained at current levels without walking away from all sorts of other global operations," said a senior Pentagon official, who said his comments reflected Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's thinking.

Pentagon officials worry that another victim of the war will be the Army's ability to recruit new soldiers or keep the ones it now has. But some retired generals and security specialists say that speeding up the handover is a gamble.

"Iraq cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of hostile interests. We cannot Vietnamize it and walk away," said John Pike, director of the think tank. "The dilemma in building up the Iraqi military is how do you develop forces that can simultaneously maintain order in Iraq and remain subservient to American orders?"

Hopes that Washington could recruit more nations to contribute troops dimmed this week at the UN, where President Bush failed to win Security Council support for a new Iraq resolution. Officials said it could be months before an agreement is reached, and even then Pentagon officials do not expect the kind of help they need. The United States now has an estimated 130,000 troops in Iraq, joined by another 30,000 from Britain, Poland, and other nations.

General John Abizaid, the head of US Central Command who is overseeing the Iraq operation, said yesterday that US plans currently do not anticipate the addition of a third international division. For planning purposes, Abizaid said, the deadline for such a division would be the start of October. "Since it doesn't look like we'll have a coalition brigade, we have to plan for American forces," he said.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, General John Keane, the Army's vice chief of staff, said that the lack of international support would affect both active and reserve soldiers.

Military officials, members of Congress, and specialists said that without foreign help, the Army, which numbers less than 500,000 members on active duty, cannot handle the Iraq mission for long without suffering serious, long-term effects. "The stresses that missions have on our forces are of great concern to myself and other members of Congress," said Representative Stephen Buyer, an Indiana Republican and Army Reserve officer. He scheduled a meeting with Pentagon officials next week to discuss reserve readiness, retention, and recruitment.

Others are blunter. Edward Atkenson, a retired major general and senior adviser to the Association of the US Army in Arlington, Va., an advocacy group, said the Army faces greater long-term harm from the Iraq operation than it suffered after the Vietnam War.

"We don't have the draft like we had back then to fall back on," he said. "The Army is about as stretched as it can be." He said there were few attractive options available to limit the kind of damage the service suffered in Vietnam. One is to use troops from the military's "strategic reserve" of about four Army divisions -- about 100,000 troops -- designed to deal with unpredictable national security threats that could arise at any time, he said.

Another possibility is to recruit more soldiers, but that is a long, difficult process. A third option is to rely more on part-time soldiers. "The army's numbers don't look bad now in recruiting and retention, but there is some anxiety, particularly in the Guard and Reserve," said's Pike. "You basically have a peacetime military that is fighting a war, and that is a problem. The National Guard has not recruited people to fight wars."

Given those options, military officials and specialists said, turning over control more quickly to the Iraqis seems more attractive.

Currently, there are 40,000 Iraqi police and 20,000 civil defense officials on the job. The soldiers expected to complete training by February will represent the first significant Iraqi military group constituted since the end of the war.

As recently as two months ago, the US planned to transfer most security-related military operations to Iraqi control by February, according to a "working document" dated July 23 titled "Vision to Restore Full Sovereignty to the Iraqi People."

But L. Paul Bremer III, the US administrator in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that the document was out of date and that in many cases goals had been sped up, for Iraq's military as well as police. Whereas previous US plans called for having a 7,000-member Iraqi army up and running by spring, plans now call for 40,000.

Abizaid underscored the necessity of the move: "The more Iraqis that are . . . doing the security work to defend their own country, the sooner we will be able to draw down our forces, and the sooner we will be able to turn over the country to the rightful owners, which are the Iraqis." Without foreign help, specialists said, the Army has no choice. But many agree that it is risky and that foreign troops would be better in the short term. Loren Thompson, chief executive officer of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank, said, "The only way to rectify things is train the Iraqis to do it or risk destroying the Guard and Reserve, not to mention the active-duty Army."

Iraq is biggest 21st century test of 20th century practice

The call for United Nations-backed multinational forces to join U.S. troops in Iraq is the 21st century's biggest test of a 20th century practice - the forging of alliances to achieve military, political or humanitarian goals.

From World War II through Korea, Gulf War I and Kosovo, success has been regularly achieved by like-minded nations acting in concert. Numerous brush-fire wars and civil conflicts also were ended by the intervention of forces from several countries under U.N. or other unified command.

"Global challenges also require global solutions, and few indeed are the situations in which the United States or any other country can act completely alone," says Sashi Tharoor, U.N. undersecretary-general for communications and public affairs.

"When American actions seem driven by U.S. national security imperatives alone, partners can prove hard to find - as became clear when, in marked contrast to the first Gulf War, only a small 'coalition of the willing' joined Washington the second time around," Tharoor wrote in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

While other analysts agree the United States can still act alone against unilateral threats, "it has to be something that poses a 'clear and present danger' to the United States," said retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led Desert Storm, the 34-nation coalition that drove Iraqi invaders from Kuwait in 1991.

In an interview, Schwarzkopf cited the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and al-Qaida terrorism as examples of such threats. "What al-Qaida did to the World Trade Center, and their rhetoric regarding the U.S., gives us the green light to go ahead with unilateral activities as required," he said.

Patrick Garrett, who studies multinational warfare at the think tank, said that "if the task is small, the United States can probably act on its own, but if the task is huge, it needs to have some extra support, as it now does in Iraq."

Korea and Gulf War I, where multinational forces were called on to restore a pre-conflict status quo, were "clear examples of aggression that could be identified by everyone," Garrett said.

Schwarzkopf recalled that Desert Storm had "no fewer than seven U.N. mandates to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait," but any further move against Saddam Hussein would have met resistance from coalition members, especially the Arabs.

Had the United States tried to go that alone, he said, "I'm certain that we would have run into the situation we ran into today. We would have been like the dinosaur in the tar pit."

Now, with a conquered Iraq proving more problematical than expected, the Bush administration seeks a U.N. peacekeeping mandate to strengthen the hand of the 138,000 American and 23,000 other foreign soldiers, and perhaps induce other nations to send forces.

The U.S.-led effort to establish a new order in Baghdad reflects a legacy of military intervention dating back to 1803, when Commodore Stephen Decatur was dispatched to quell the Barbary pirates preying on Mediterranean commerce.

Decatur became an overnight hero on the shores of Tripoli, and later coined a phrase that would guide Americans through two centuries of adventures abroad: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong."

Right or wrong, Americans later forced feudal Japan to open its doors, freed Cuba and the Philippines from Spain, and helped install some governments and depose others, chased border bandits and enforced stability from China to Mexico to Haiti to Grenada.

In some cases the United States acted alone, in others it had allies.

When communist North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, Washington called for the United Nations' first military intervention, then led the fight to restore the prewar dividing line at the 38th parallel.

In three years of war, U.N. forces from 18 countries suffered 16,000 dead - along with 415,000 South Koreans and 33,000 Americans. Fifty years later, the two Koreas remain technically at war and U.S. troops are still based there under a token U.N. flag.

Intervening a decade later in Vietnam with a handful of allies - South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand - but no U.N. sanction, the United States lost a war that seared the nation's conscience and left it wary of military adventures with unclear or shifting purpose.

That was manifested in President Reagan's decision to quit Lebanon in 1983 after a truck bomb killed 241 Marines, President Clinton's pullout from Somalia a decade later after 18 Army rangers died in an operation gone wrong, and Clinton's refusal to send ground troops or attack helicopters into Kosovo.

The U.S. humiliations in Lebanon and Somalia were not eased by the fact that France - now at odds with Washington over Iraq - was a key ally in Beirut and lost 58 soldiers in another bombing the same day, or that 24 Pakistani U.N. peacekeepers died in a Somalia ambush.

President Bush recently warned America's enemies not to assume from the examples of Beirut and Somalia "that if you inflict harm on Americans we will run from a challenge."

The truck bomb that killed the senior U.N. envoy in Iraq, Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 22 others last month prompted the United Nations to sharply reduce its Iraq staff, but also spurred U.S. officials to seek U.N. backing for an expanded multinational force.

As in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait and the former Yugoslavia, the United States would insist on overall command of any such force and be justified in doing so, experts say.

"The key is preponderance of forces - whoever has that, there is no question they should be in command," Schwarzkopf said. He recalled that in Desert Storm, the first President Bush flatly rejected a Saudi demand to command all forces based on its soil.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, a critic of the current president's decision to attack Iraq without full U.N. approval, agreed, saying on television shows Sept. 21 that the United States, with the largest armed component, is entitled to lead.

Being in charge, however, has its limitations, Garrett said.

"The United States is vested in Iraq, with no way to get out. It is there to occupy the country and push it in a certain direction," he said. "Other countries, like Poland, have said their purpose is security, to keep people from killing each other, and they aren't going to be involved with the political leadership."

Other complications could arise within the coalition from different ways of dealing with Iraq's civilians and fractious religious rivalries, differing tactical concepts, and incompatible equipment and communications, Garrett said.

A partitioning of Iraq into separate sectors, akin to post-World War II Germany, could lead to strains among allies and aggravate Iraq's already severe ethnic and religious tensions.

There also is the complication known as "mission creep" - a force sent to perform one role being forced to assume others for which it is ill-prepared.

A classic example was Somalia, where the original U.S. deployment to protect aid distribution segued into "national reconciliation" and "nation building," which in turn led to bloody clashes with Mogadishu's warlord-led street armies.

The War Game
David Hirst 's account of the Arab-Israeli conflict, The Gun and the Olive Branch, caused a storm 25 years ago. In this edited extract from his new and updated edition he offers a personal and highly controversial view of the current crisis in the Middle East
By the summer of 2002, George Bush had firmly set his new course: “regime change” and reform in the Muslim and Arab worlds, and, where necessary, American military intervention to achieve it. Hitherto, it had been assumed that the US could not go to war in one of the two great zones of Middle East crisis — Iraq and the Gulf — before it had at least calmed things down in the other, older and more explosive one, Palestine. But the American administration’s neoconservatives had a very simple answer to that. The road to war on Iraq no longer lay through peace in Palestine; peace in Palestine lay through war on Baghdad.

It was all set forth, in its most comprehensive, well-nigh megalomaniac form, by Norman Podhoretz, the neocons’ veteran intellectual luminary, in the September 2002 issue of his magazine, Commentary. Changes in regime, he proclaimed, were “the sine qua non throughout the region”. They might “clear a path to the long-overdue internal reform and modernization of Islam”.

This was a full and final elaboration of that project, “A Clean Break”, which some of his kindred spirits had first laid before Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu back in 1996. It was the apotheosis of the “strategic alliance”, at least as much an Israeli grand design as an American one.

Under the guise of forcibly divesting Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, the US now sought to “reshape” the entire Middle East, with this most richly endowed and pivotal of countries as the lynchpin of a whole new, pro-American geopolitical order. Witnessing such an overwhelming display of American will and power, other regimes, such as Syria in particular, would either have to bend to American purposes or suffer the same fate.

With the assault on Iraq, the US was not merely adopting Israel’s long-established methods — of initiative, offence and pre-emption — it was also adopting Israel’s adversaries as its own. Iraq had always ranked high among those; it was one of its so-called “faraway” enemies. These had come to be seen as more menacing than the “near” ones, and especially since they had begun developing weapons of mass destruction.

So excited was Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon about this whole new Middle East order in the making that he told the Times, “the day after” Iraq, the US and Britain should turn to that other “faraway” enemy — Iran. For Israel, the ayatollahs’ Iran had always seemed the greater menace of the two, by virtue of its intrinsic weight, its fundamentalist, theologically anti-Zionist leadership, its more serious, diversified and supposedly Russian-assisted nuclear armaments programe, its ideological affinity with, or direct sponsorship of, such Islamist organizations as Hamas or Hezbollah.

Nothing, in fact, better illustrated the ascendancy which Israel and the American “friends of Israel” have acquired over American policy-making than did Iran. Quite simply, said Iran expert James Bill, the “US views Iran through spectacles manufactured in Israel”. Impressing on the US the gravity of the Iranian threat has long been a foremost Israeli preoccupation.

By the early 1990s, the former Minister Moshe Sneh was warning that Israel “cannot possibly put up with a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands”. That could and should be collectively prevented, he said, “since Iran threatens the interests of all rational states in the Middle East”. However: “If the Western states don’t do their duty, Israel will find itself forced to act alone, and will accomplish its task by any (ie including nuclear) means.” The hint of anti-American blackmail in that remark was nothing exceptional; it has always been a leitmotif of Israeli discourse on the subject.

The showdown with Iraq has only encouraged this kind of thinking. “Within two years,” said John Pike, director of, “either the US or Israelis are going to attack Iran’s (nuclear sites) or acquiesce in Iran being a nuclear state.”

To where this Israeli-American, neoconservative blueprint for the Middle East will lead is impossible to forecast. What can be said for sure is that it could easily turn out to be as calamitous in its consequences, for the region, America and Israel, as it is preposterously partisan in motivation, fantastically ambitious in design and terribly risky in practice.

Even if, to begin with, it achieves what, by its authors’ estimate, is an outward, short-term measure of success, it will not end the violence in the Middle East. Far more likely is that, in the medium or the long term, it will make it very much worse. For the violence truly to end, its roots must be eradicated, too, and the noxious soil that feeds them cleansed.

It is late, but perhaps not too late, for that to happen. The historic — and historically generous — compromise offer which Yasser Arafat, back in 1988, first put forward for the sharing of Palestine between its indigenous people and the Zionists who drove most of them out still officially stands. It is completely obvious by now that, without external persuasion, Israel will never accept it; that the persuasion can only come from Israel’s last real friend in the world, the US; that, for the persuasion to work, there has to be “reform” or “regime change” in Israel quite as far-reaching as any to be wrought on the other side.

Given the partisanship, it is, admittedly, highly unlikely to happen any time soon. But if it doesn’t happen in the reasonably foreseeable future, there may come a time when it can no longer happen at all. The Palestinian leadership may withdraw its offer, having concluded, like many of its people already have, that, however conciliatory it becomes, whatever fresh concessions it makes, it will never be enough for an adversary that seems to want all. The Hamas rejectionists, and/or those, secular as well as religious, who think like them, may take over the leadership. The whole, broader, Arab-Israeli peace process which Anwar Sadat began, and which came to be seen as irreversible, may prove to be reversible after all. In which case, the time may also come when the cost to the US of continuing to support its infinitely importunate protégé in a never-ending conflict against an ever-widening circle of adversaries is greater than its will and resources to sustain it.

That would very likely be a time when Israel itself is already in dire peril. And if it were, then America would very likely discover something else: That the friend and ally it has succored all these years is not only a colonial state, not only extremist by temperament, racist in practice, and increasingly fundamentalist in the ideology that drives it, it is also eminently capable of becoming an “irrational” state at America’s expense as well as its own.

The threatening of wild, irrational violence, in response to political pressure, has been an Israeli impulse from the very earliest days. It was first authoritatively documented, in the 1950s, by Moshe Sharett, the dovish prime minister, who wrote of his Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon that he “constantly preached for acts of madness” or “going crazy” if ever Israel were crossed. Without a “just, comprehensive and lasting” peace which only America can bring to pass, Israel will remain at least as likely a candidate as Iran, and a far more enduring one, for the role of “nuclear-crazy” state.

Iran can never be threatened in its very existence. Israel can. Indeed, such a threat could even grow out of the current intifada. That, at least, is the pessimistic opinion of Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “If it went on much longer,” he said, “the Israeli government (would) lose control of the people. In campaigns like this, the anti-terror forces lose, because they don’t win, and the rebels win by not losing. I regard a total Israeli defeat as unavoidable. That will mean the collapse of the Israeli state and society. We’ll destroy ourselves.”

In this situation, he went on, more and more Israelis were coming to regard the “transfer” of the Palestinians as the only salvation; resort to it was growing “more probable” with each passing day. Sharon “wants to escalate the conflict and knows that nothing else will succeed”.

But would the world permit such ethnic cleansing?

“That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote Gen. Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”

Iraq war claims 16th Hoosier

A bomb blast during the weekend claimed the life of the 16th Hoosier to die this year while serving in the Iraq war.

Staff Sgt. Frederick L. Miller Jr., 27, was killed Saturday outside Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad, when a bomb exploded near his Humvee, the Defense Department announced Monday.

"I just wish it was a dream and that I'm gonna wake up and he'll be here," said his mother, Anne Miller, from her home in Hagerstown. He leaves behind a pregnant wife, two children and a grieving community.

"It's just a shame," said Russell Wampler, the president of the Hagerstown Town Council, population 1,832. "It's a loss that will be felt by the whole town. There's no doubt about that."

Miller commanded a Bradley Fighting Vehicle assigned to Troop K in the 3rd Squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Carson, Colo.

His death and that of two other troops in a mortar attack Saturday brought to 164 the number of U.S. soldiers killed since President Bush declared an end to major fighting in Iraq on May 1. During the heavy fighting before then, 138 soldiers died. The latest deaths brought to 302 the number of U.S. soldiers who have died since the U.S.-led coalition launched military operations in Iraq on March 20.

Miller joined the Army after high school and would have celebrated his eighth year of service next month.

He was discharged after his first tour of duty, but, his mother said, he re-enlisted after the Sept. 11 attacks. "It was his purpose to save our country," she said. "He had a job to do."

Miller had served in combat zones before, with tours in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, and Bosnia. In his last e-mail sent Sept. 11, Miller said things had been getting "pretty crazy" in Iraq, but he told his mother not to worry.

Anne and Frederick Miller last saw their son on Christmas, when he came home on leave with his wife, Jamie, and daughters, Haley, 8, and Sierra, 6. Jamie is pregnant with the couple's third child.

The baby, expected to be a boy, is due in December. Jamie and their children have been living with her parents in Florida.

Concerned that his parents had been spending a lot of money on long-distance phone calls, Miller decided to take action.

"He told me he had a big package for us, but it wasn't gonna fit in his car," she said. "He bought us a whole computer setup. He told us we had to get with the now generation."

Miller also has a sister, Jolene, 21, and two brothers, Justin, 17, and Randy, 16.

The family moved to eastern Indiana's Wayne County in 1991, and he played football at Richmond High School before graduating in 1994.

A steady stream of neighbors bringing condolences and food came to the Miller home on Lacy Road.

Miller's outfit includes more than 300 armored vehicles, including M-1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, according to The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment has more than 4,700 soldiers. At least 17 soldiers from the unit's base in Colorado have died in Iraq.

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who represents the area, phoned the family to tell them Miller was a hero.

"He died like every other American soldier throughout our nation's history, bringing hope and freedom to a people who have never known it before," Pence said in a statement released Monday. "I extend my deepest sympathies and fervent prayers to Staff Sgt. Miller's wife and family as they grieve the loss of this heroic American."

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