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Profile: Carnegie Endowment Proposal to Back Weapons Inspectors in Iraq With a U.N. Military Troop of 50,000

All Things Considered: September 5, 2002

Iraq: Inspections



ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

And I'm Jacki Lyden.

President Bush is considering whether to seek a UN Security Council resolution that would set a deadline for Iraq to allow inspectors to search for weapons of mass destruction. But Bush administration officials have made clear these inspections must be far more effective than earlier efforts, which were thwarted by Iraq. A group of policy analysts has come up with a new proposal for a UN military force to back any weapons inspections. That idea has sparked some interest in Washington, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

If you listen to some of the hawks in Washington, the choice seems stark. Either the Bush administration goes it alone, mounting an all-out war to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, or it sits by as Iraq continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. Retired General Charles Boyd argues there is a way to force Saddam Hussein to make the choice, by sending in troops to back up weapons inspections.

General CHARLES BOYD (Retired): He can submit to effective, comprehensive inspections backed by military force or he can accept an inevitable invasion for the purpose of a regime change.

KELEMEN: Boyd and other analysts, ex-officials and former inspectors outlined their proposal in a report just released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. That organization's president, Jessica Mathews, says this third way or middle ground should appeal to those who want to focus on disarming Saddam Hussein but don't support unilateral US action to topple him.

Ms. JESSICA MATHEWS (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): This says, `Sorry, we're not negotiating. There are no off-limit sites. The inspectors will go where they want, when they want. They will have operational security, which they did not have before. The Iraqis bugged them all the time and knew where they were going. And they will have force to back them up.'

KELEMEN: A force of about 50,000 troops and airpower, according to authors of the Carnegie proposal. That would be smaller than an invasion force, but large enough to establish no-fly and no-drive zones in areas that are under inspection. Mathews see is as a largely American force.

Ms. MATHEWS: We would have air cavalry forces, which is armored helicopter mobile troops that could accompany the inspectors that would be strong enough to do whatever they chose to do--that is, whether they chose to simply protect the inspectors, to protect themselves, to engage if there were direct opposition or to disengage.

KELEMEN: When White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked about the possibility of such coercive inspections, he would only say the president is considering various options.

Mr. ARI FLEISCHER (White House Spokesman): The bottom line, though, is that Iraq needs to live up to its commitments to disarm, not simply allow inspectors in, not to resume a cat-and-mouse game, not to put people in there in harm's way where Saddam Hussein would again use the powers of the state police to rough up inspectors and make their job impossible to do.

KELEMEN: And Fleischer has repeatedly insisted that regime change is still the US policy. Mathews of the Carnegie Endowment says her proposal would only work and Saddam Hussein would only be persuaded to accept inspectors if that goal were pushed aside.

Ms. MATHEWS: The crucial part of this proposal is to recognize that the US has to make a give, and that give is to say for as long as inspections are working we forgo action on a regime change. We may still believe regime change is the best preferable outcome. We have felt that way about Cuba, for example, for 40 years without doing anything about it. But we would have to make that explicit commitment for this to work.

KELEMEN: That may be difficult for some in the Bush administration to accept. The UN Security Council would also have to approve a military operation to back weapons inspectors. Mathews believes that council members will be interested in this new proposal, if only to stop the US from acting alone. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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