MIDDLE EAST: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Why Bush is unlikely to attack Iraq
, September 7, 2002
Last week, US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, upped the ante on Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, indicating that President Bush, as Commander-in-Chief of America's armed forces, could, if necessary, commence war on the Iraqi dictator, without Congressional approval, in light of his attempts to obtain chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.
While Washington's rhetoric against Saddam has reached its highest pitch, there is every reason to believe that it is just that: rhetoric, rather than part of a strategic plan.
The strongest reason to believe that the US Administration is talking, rather than planning a pre-emptive strike, is that America's allies in Western Europe and the Middle East have publicly declared their opposition to such an action, and without their support the United States would have limited access to air bases needed for both army and air operations.
There are, however, several other reasons. The United States faces continuing problems in nearby Afghanistan, where US forces are still on the ground.
Despite the overthrow of the Taliban regime, the newly-installed government has little authority outside Kabul, and the country is once again run by regional warlords.
Their power to undermine the new regime is a constant threat to the present government, as evident in the fact that US military personnel have been obliged to provide security to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, following the assassination of one of the country's Vice-Presidents in Kabul.
Last month, the State Department was reported to be planning to take over security for President Karzai, including training a local security force for the leader.
Under the plan, members of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service will replace US troops, who took over from Mr. Karzai's Afghan guards in July.
It is unlikely that Washington would assume responsibility for a new government in Iraq, when its attempts to establish a secure government in Afghanistan have not succeeded.
Additionally, the US could scarcely envisage a military assault on Saddam without deployment of massive ground forces which, in the urban areas of Iraq, including Baghdad, would probably kill many innocent civilians and many American soldiers.
A probable explanation for Washington's talk about attacking Iraq is that the US Administration is trying to force Saddam to accept a resumption of international inspections of Iraqi military installations unconditionally. In light of the dictator's contemptuous expulsion of UN inspectors several years ago, only the strongest possible pressure will bring him to accept such a presence now.
In the meantime, with Congressional elections due in Washington in November, tough talk against the Iraqi dictator will win support for an Administration which faces severe domestic pressure as a result of the economic slowdown, the decline of the stock market, and the multi-billion dollar collapse of a number of major US corporations which had indulged in fraudulent business practices.