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Bush opted for UN speech after exercises showed U.S. not ready
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
President George Bush decided to turn to the United Nations after being advised that the U.S. military was unprepared for a war with Iraq.
Related factors included a simulated defeat of U.S. naval forces by Iraq in the Millennium Challenge military exercises last month and an intelligence dispute between the CIA and the DIA.
Western diplomatic sources said Bush's surprise call for the return of UN weapons inspectors stemmed from a recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the United States required up to six more months to prepare for any war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The sources said U.S. Central Command was preoccupied with the the war in Afghanistan and possessed insufficient assets, logistics, and supplies in countries that neighbor Iraq.
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The shortcomings in the U.S. military were pointed out in the Millennium Challenge exercise launched last month, Middle East Newsline reported. The exercise sought to simulate a U.S. attack against a Middle East enemy that resembled Iraq.
Officials said in the simulation U.S. naval forces were decimated by an Iraqi missile and weapons of mass destruction strike. The Iraqi side in the exercise used cruise missiles to overwhelm the U.S. Navy's GS radar and sink the entire simulated Blue Armada fleet of 16 ships.
The military's recommendation to delay any conflict came amid disputes within the U.S. intelligence community over Iraq's nonconventional capability and the willingness and ability of Iraqi opposition forces to help bring down the Saddam regime. The sources said the intelligence dispute pitted the CIA against the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency.
The Joint Chiefs also maintained that the military did not have enough troops for the massive air attack promoted by the Pentagon. The sources said the military chiefs said the Special Operations Command, with an estimated 30,000 troops, would have to be bolstered from other commands.
Officials said nearly 100,000 people have been activated for any war with Iraq. But they said additional troops, including special operations forces, would be needed. The special operations forces are said to have been overstretched by such missions as the war in Afghanistan as well as counterinsurgency missions in the Philippines and Yemen.
Concerns about the Millennium Challenge exercise came up in congressional hearings last week.
"[T]echniques used by the [Iraqi] Red Force under the command of Lt. Gen. Van Ryper, a former Marine, might represent similar tactics used by Iraq on the war against our forces," Sen. Pat Roberts, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
"Despite a stark disparity in the technological sophistication between the two sides, the U.S. forces proved susceptible to the Somali's basic war-fighting tools, which included the use of smoke pots to disorient the American troops and the communication via word of mouth and drum beating. And that sort of hearkens back to Somalia."
Roberts said in a hearing last week that the Joint Forces Command has so far not analyzed the success of the simulated Iraqi side. He warned Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the war against Iraq would be neither an experiment nor an exercise.
The dispute within the intelligence community over Iraq prevented the drafting of the National Intelligence Estimate for Bush. The estimate is an analysis drafted mostly by the CIA, but which represents a consensus of opinion by the intelligence community.
Secretary of State Colin Powell determined that the international community was not ready to either support the toppling of Saddam or help rebuild Iraq after the fall of the regime. Powell had also warned that the United States needed more time to conclude agreements for the deployment of large numbers of U.S. troops and military assets in Turkey and Gulf Cooperation Council states.
"Faced with such opposition, Bush felt he needed time and so he took Powell's advice and returned to the Security Council," a diplomatic source with intimate knowledge of the administration said. "For Bush, this is a move that is fraught with uncertainty."
The only quarter that supported an imminent attack against Saddam, the sources said, was the civilian leadership of the Defense Department. Defense officials said defense officials such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle, argued that the United States did not need international support to crush the Saddam regime.
"We have a force-sizing construct and a strategy that enables the United States of America to engage in two major conflicts, near simultaneously, to win decisively in one and occupy the country, to swiftly defeat in the other case," Rumsfeld said. "The United States military will be prepared to do whatever the president orders, and do it well."
Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials were said to have opposed Powell's proposal to seek the return of UN inspectors to Iraq, arguing that this would buy up to a year for Saddam. The officials argued that the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission would require at least six months to arrange for a presence in Iraq.
But Powell and the chiefs, supported by former leading officials in the first Bush administration, were said to have presented a more convincing case, the sources said. They said many in Congress were urging that the Iraq issue be referred to the Security Council as the administration builds support within the United States and abroad.
A diplomatic source who has been monitoring U.S. troop deployment in the Middle East said Western intelligence agencies have been surprised by the slow pace of the military buildup. The source said the process of moving troops and commands to Turkey and the Persian Gulf region has not demonstrated Bush's intention for an imminent war.
"The idea of a November war was unrealistic as the United States is now only beginning the process of transferring commands to Kuwait and Qatar," the source said. "Moreover, the pace of the troop deployment suggests that there will not be a war against Iraq this year."
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