1. Washington’s Timeline

Although difficulties continue to pile up, President George W. Bush has lost patience with the delays in launching America’s full-scale war against Iraq.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources report he is determined to go forward, come what may – and soon – even if some allies drop out and war plans have to be revised.

Saturday, January 11, our sources report that the US President and Saudi crown prince Abdullah had a secret telephone conversation on Iraq and the situation in the Arab world in the light of the approaching war. At the end of the conversation, Abdullah made a personal request for a short period of grace for intense lobbying that might somehow obviate the need for war.

Bush said he was not optimistic but granted the Saudi crown prince the extra time, giving his word not to launch military action before February 15, the day after the Little Pilgrimage (Umrah) to Mecca. This is the reason for the postponement of the Blair visit to the White House to January 31.

That is the last extension Bush is prepared to allow – even though America’s two key allies threaten to drop out -Turkey is stalling and, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly discovered this week, Jordan has quietly developed cold feet.

Ankara allowed a 150-man Pentagon team to inspect bases this week, but is still withholding permission for the US invasion force to use Turkey as a staging base to invade Iraq from the north.

Jordan’s king Abdullah has not yet approved the large-scale landing of Marines to open the Western front of the war.

This means that the Northern and Western warfronts are in disarray. If the Americans are only able to invade from the south, the nature of the war will differ from the planning, and become a slower, staged and rolling operation.

The overriding concern of the Turks and Jordanian king, in addition to the wish for a better bargain, is the nuclear threat from al Qaeda which has assumed the role of Saddam’s proxy against the US and its allies. Nuclear references abound in Islamic fundamentalist publications and chatter of the last few days. No one knows what types of nuclear weapon are involved, but the allies want to hear from Washington what will happen to them in case of nuclear attack – be it dirty bomb or something more sophisticated.

Nonetheless, the White House intends adhering to its current timeline for opening the assault on Iraq. This timeline currently ranges from January 20 to February 15.

On January 27, chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix makes his report to the Security Council

On January 28, Bush addresses the nation. Israeli election takes place.

If the assault has not been launched by then, the President will use his speech to declare his intentions.

Alternatively, Tommy Franks will be told the attack must go forward by mid-February – no later.

Our sources stress that there is no guarantee that this time-span will not change again under the impact of far-reaching events. Say, if Saddam makes a direct move or the terrorists carry out a mega-hit.

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