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[] Guardian 14.2.02: US targets Saddam,

... "Meanwhile, CIA and special forces will launch a campaign of sabotage=
 and information warfare in the next few months.",2763,649917,00.html

US targets Saddam=20

Pentagon and CIA making plans for war against Iraq this year=20

Julian Borger in Washington and Ewen MacAskill
Thursday February 14, 2002

The Pentagon and the CIA have begun preparations for an assault on Iraq=
 involving up to 200,000 US troops that is likely to be launched later this=
 year with the aim of removing Saddam Hussein from power, US and diplomatic=
 sources told the Guardian yesterday.=20

President George Bush's war cabinet, known as the "principals committee",=
 agreed at a pivotal meeting in late January that the policy of containment=
 has failed and that active steps should be taken to topple the Iraqi=

But, according to a US intelligence source familiar with CIA preparations,=
 the plans for a parallel overt and covert war only landed on the=
 president's desk in the past few days.=20

"I will reserve whatever options I have. I'll keep them close to my vest.=
 Saddam Hussein needs to understand that I'm serious about defending our=
 country," Mr Bush said yesterday.=20

Since the principals committee decision, Colin Powell, the secretary of=
 state and the dove of the administration, has pointedly added his voice to=
 the calls for a "regime change".=20

"We are looking at a variety of options that would bring that about," he=
 told the Senate budget committee.=20

The blueprint for a campaign against Iraq has evolved from a contingency=
 plan drawn up by the joint chiefs of staff that envisaged the use of a=
 200,000-strong US force, the bulk of which would invade from Kuwait.=20

However, it may be that the actual force used will be less numerous, relying=
 more on covert and special forces operations.=20

Central Command has already set up forward headquarters in the Gulf from=
 which each of the component services will be able to coordinate the war.=20

The air force headquarters (Afcent) is at the Prince Sultan air base in=
 Saudi Arabia. The army headquarters (Arcent) is in Kuwait, while the navy=
 (Navcent) is in Bahrain.=20

Central Command's marine component (Marcent) is also expected to move to=
 Bahrain in the next few days, weeks after the main marine force left=

The US, Israel and Turkey were due to hold joint exercises codenamed=
 Anatolian Eagle this year, but in another sign of accelerated preparations=
 there will be three such exercises in the next few months, based at the=
 Turkish air force base at Konya. Once upgraded, Konya could be used=
 alongside Incirlik as a base for air strikes on northern Iraq.=20

The Pentagon's military planners are reported to have agonised over the Iraq=
 plan because of the significant risk that Saddam - aware that unlike during=
 the Gulf war his own life is at stake this time - would use chemical and=
 biological weapons against US troop concentrations and Israel.=20

The danger would be minimised by intensive bombing of missile launchers, but=
 the generals reportedly remain extremely concerned that the risks cannot be=
 eliminated entirely.=20

The CIA's covert war would involve arming and training Kurdish fighters in=
 northern Iraq and Shi'ite forces in Kuwait. CIA trainers and special forces=
 troops have already been dispatched to Kuwait for that purpose, and may=
 already have begun work.=20

Meanwhile, CIA and special forces will launch a campaign of sabotage and=
 information warfare in the next few months.=20

The CIA puts very little faith in the military capacity of the main=
 opposition movement, the Iraqi National Congress, but it has begun=
 intensive consultations with INC officials about the logistics of training=
 and arming the movement's supporters.=20

The trigger could be the expected row over weapons inspections in three=
 months' time. America's allies are clinging to the hope that US military=
 action will be forestalled by Baghdad's acceptance of unconditional and=
 unfettered weapons inspections when the international sanctions regime=
 comes up for review at the United Nations in May.=20

However, Iraq's vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, said yesterday there=
 was no need for "spies" from the UN weapons inspection teams to return to=
 the country.=20

A US state department official said he thought it very unlikely that the=
 Iraqi regime would be prepared to accept the stringent programme of=
 inspections the US will demand. As the American intelligence source put it,=
 the White House "will not take yes for an answer", suggesting that=
 Washington would provoke a crisis. He added that he expected the war to=
 begin soon after the May ultimatum.=20

US allies in the Middle East have been informed that a decision to attack=
 Iraq has already been taken, and diplomats from the region said yesterday=
 they were resigned to the inevitability of a war that may threaten the=
 stability of a string of Arab regimes.=20

"It is a nightmare situation for us," said one Arab diplomat in Washington.=
 "We feel the Americans will take very drastic action and we have to be=
 prepared for such a reality. But the public opinion in the street will not=
 see this as a benign attempt to restore order, but as American=

France, Germany and others in the European Union have been queuing up to=
 make clear to Mr Bush that they will not support him in military action=
 against Iraq.=20

The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, this week joined the French=
 foreign minister, Hubert V=E9drine, by expressing publicly his concern=
 about US policy towards Iraq.=20

But Tony Blair and the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, have refused to join=
 the public outcry. A Foreign Office official said yesterday that military=
 action was not imminent, but would be "a question of months".=20

A Foreign Office spokesman later said: "The prime minister has made it clear=
 from the outset that the campaign would have two phases: the first focusing=
 on Afghanistan and the second looking at different aspects of international=
 terrorism. In that context, we have to look at issues such as weapons of=
 mass destruction."=20

There are regular exchanges between the US state department and the Foreign=
 Office on strategy for tackling Iraq. The Foreign Office spokesman said:=
 "We will proceed in consultation with our allies and the precise methods of=
 action will be for consultation in due course."=20

In the months after September 11, the Foreign Office repeatedly ruled out=
 military action against Iraq, other than the regular bombing along its=
 border with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Its line at the time was that there=
 was no evidence linking Iraq to terrorist activity.=20

Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, all US allies neighbouring Iraq, expect to=
 sustain significant economic and political damage from a new conflict.=
 Jordan believes it stands to lose $800m (=A3500m) from the interruption of=
 deliveries of cheap Iraqi oil, and has already begun to hint at the need=
 for compensation.=20

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