Bush Sets His Military Three Conditions for Late February Offensive

America’s UN ambassador John Negroponte responded angrily and immediately to the reports delivered to the UN Security Council Monday, January 27, by chief UN Inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency head, Mohamed ElBaradei.
Those reports said in effect: We can’t prove Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, but neither can we prove he does not. In some ways the Iraqis are cooperative; in some ways not. We have quadrupled our team and its resources and we need some months more to complete our mission.
Negroponte retorted: Nothing we have heard today gives us hope that Iraq has accepted the need to disarm in compliance with Security Council Resolution 1441, any more than it complied with 12 previous resolutions. Iraq must voluntarily disarm. The inspections are not an end in themselves.
More time for the inspections is now the prime issue before the Security Council members when they go into consultation on the inspectors’ reports this week.
However, this is the last commodity the Bush administration can afford to offer after so many declarations and delays.
Out of the blue, the British government found an unconventional means of announcing the disclosure on March 1 of a new dossier revealing the locations of Saddam Hussein’s hidden VX and Sarin stocks on the basis of “human intelligence”. The disclosure came in the middle of a Sky TV News panel program on Monday, January 27, just a few hours before the Blix-ElBaradei performance at the Security Council. It was made by Robert Fox, the British network’s senior political editor “on behalf of our government”.
Except for the American panelist, the other participants – from France, Russia and China – were unmoved and continued to urge that the inspectors be given more time.
According to debkafile‘s Washington and London correspondents, the British disclosure was the opening shot of the joint US-UK strategy of letting the Security Council and inspection team go their own way, while proceeding with military action against Iraq, without waiting for authorization from the world body. The inspectors might clamor for more intelligence from Security Council members to complete their search for Iraq’s concealed weapons of mass destruction; but the United State and Britain would keep their intelligence information up their sleeves and release it as suited their objectives, not those of the world body.
At best, clandestine data might be dealt out in dribs and drabs. As debkafile has reported before, the Americans suspect the inspection teams are penetrated by Iraqi double agents who make regular reports to Baghdad. This was as much as admitted by Hans Blix in his report to the Security Council. Last week, when the inspectors set out for an unannounced visit to a site suspected of containing engines for the prohibited long-range al-Hussein missiles, they met with unaccountable holdups. An American spy satellite discovered why when it photographed Iraqi military crews hurriedly loading engines from the site aboard giant trucks.
The most telling aspect of the British disclosure is the date: March 1.
The last DEBKA-Net-Weekly, published on January 24, reported from exclusive Washington sources that the White House has fixed on the last week of February for a final decision on military action against Iraq. That is the moment for President George W. Bush has set to determine if America goes to war with or without “a coalition of the willing” – whether or not the UN inspectors find weapons of mass destruction, with or without an amendment to Security Council Resolution 1441, and without considering a French, German or Chinese veto or domestic opinion polls.
Our sources in Washington report that the US President has set his team three provisos for launching military action in the last week of February-first week of March:
1. By February 23-25, the entire American invasion force for the first stage must be fully assembled and ready to go.
2. If the heads of the Pentagon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers and war commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, cannot assure the president that the military buildup is complete and everything is set to go, the offensive will be delayed for a new decision.
3. All three war chiefs must be absolutely certain that the military, logistical and intelligence resources at the disposal of America’s war effort are capable of waging and winning a short war of no more than 100 hours – 6 days at the outside. Failing this guarantee, Bush will allow more time for collecting reinforcements.
The promised British revelation of Saddam’s secret chemical weapons cache is therefore timed precisely to coincide with the still tentative timetable for launching war on Iraq, whether by a cruise missile blitz, heavy air bombardment, or paratroop landings at the concealed WMD sites and their destruction.
Because of the tight time factor, a competition has sprung up between the two opposing camps: the United States, Britain and their covert allies, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, versus the anti-war faction led by Russia, France, Germany, China and the United Nations. Members of the second camp may well switch sides once the offensive is in progress, but first they must show their own peoples and the Muslim world that they were ready to put up a fight to prevent it – even at the risk of an open breach with Washington.
The American-led camp is also taking a grave risk, that of mortally wounding the United Nations. Many observers wonder how long the world body will survive if the United States goes to war against Iraq in flat defiance of its institutions and majority will.
Aware of this hazard, President Bush last year warned the United Nations that inaction on Iraq would condemn it to the same fate as League of Nations. It was then that America and Britain maneuvered themselves into a blind alley, when they placed the onus of making Iraq disarm in UN hands.
However, Security Council members opposed to the war likewise drove the world body into a no-exit situation by their unanimous endorsement of Resolution 1441. Their failure to back the Bush administration now could put the world body’s survival in jeopardy. The United Nations itself, and not just Saddam Hussein, face existential danger over the whole unconventional weapons issue.
For the moment, the two camps are at a standoff. Russia, France, Germany and China, with help from the UN inspection team leaders, have managed to deny Washington a UN mandate for military action. However, Washington, declaring that time is running out, has set a provisional date for the war to begin, even if it has to go in solo.
The inspectors have been awarded one more month to wind up their investigations in Iraq, no real concession when the war dateline is one month hence anyway, the time needed for American war planners to complete their military buildup and meet the President’s conditions.
At the same time, the Bush administration has been making Herculean diplomatic efforts to bring the war opponents round; it was Colin Powell’s main mission at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. An Israeli emissary, Efraim Halevy, head of Sharon’s National Security Council, was asked to pay a visit to Moscow over the weekend. According to debkafile‘s sources, Halevy presented the Kremlin with documents and data exposing joint Iraqi-al Qaeda planning for mega-terror attacks in Europe and the Middle East, as well as Russia. The hope was that this would melt Vladimir Putin’s resistance to the US offensive and prepare the way for the telephone call British prime minister Tony Blair put through to President Putin Monday, January 27.
However, Putin stuck to his guns – notwithstanding Israeli intelligence evidence of a major terror threat to Moscow involving Iraq and Blair’s persuasiveness.

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