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Profile: United States' Plans For A Possible Invasion Of Iraq

Morning Edition: November 11, 2002

Iraqi Parliament to Debate U.N. Resolution

BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Bob Edwards.

Iraq's parliament meets today to consider the UN resolution on the resumption of weapons inspections. Under terms of the resolution that was approved unanimously by the Security Council, Iraq has until Friday to accept new, much more intrusive conditions for the inspections. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other Bush administration officials have warned that if Iraq fails to comply, military action will follow. Over the weekend, details emerged of the Pentagon's war plans. Eric Schmitt is The New York Times' Pentagon correspondent.

Good morning.

Mr. ERIC SCHMITT (New York Times): Good morning, Bob.

EDWARDS: So what's the plan?

Mr. SCHMITT: Well, the plan that President Bush has settled on is a departure from the plan that envisioned the 1991 Gulf War. If carried out, it would envision an air campaign shorter than the first Gulf War's. It would have swift ground actions to seize footholds within Iraq and it would include strikes to cut off Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership in Baghdad and other key cities.

EDWARDS: Thousands of troops and tons of military hardware already have been sent to the Gulf region, right?

Mr. SCHMITT: That's right. There is a fair number of--fair amount of equipment that's been pre-positioned in the Gulf and the plan itself calls for as many as 200,000 and 250,000 troops in the area. That's overall Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. Now the beginning of any offensive, they probably envision a rolling start of a much smaller amount of troops than that. But that's the total amount of force that the administration is looking at.

EDWARDS: How's this likely to be different from the last Gulf War?

Mr. SCHMITT: Well, again, you're looking at a force that's maybe half the size overall, total force of use in the 1991 Gulf War. And you're looking at an objective that's much different. Rather than having to kick the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, as was the case 1991, this war would have the objective of trying to topple Saddam Hussein, of trying to collapse his government with essentially as little destruction as possible so that Iraq could quickly become up and running again.

EDWARDS: There's obvious concern that a war against Iraq could provoke terrorist attacks against the United States. Is that included in the planning?

Mr. SCHMITT: You know, it is. In fact, there's a--it's part of the planning. The administration is looking at a call-up of reservists of as many or perhaps more than the 265,000 National Guard and reserves that were called up a decade ago. And many of these reservists would be called to active duty here in the United States to protect military bases, power plants and such from possible terrorist attacks.

EDWARDS: How important is cooperation from Saudi Arabia and other neighbors of Iraq in the war planning?

Mr. SCHMITT: Well, it's very important in the sense of staging bases for American troops, for bases for aircraft and for overflight. But the United States is less dependent on Saudi Arabia than it was last time around. They have made contingency plans to use other bases, and while they would very much like to use the air operations center, a big facility just outside of Riyadh, the one that was used during the war with Afghanistan, the US has made other contingency plans to operate if the Saudis do not agree to allow the Americans to operate from Saudi soil.

EDWARDS: So the US gets rid of Saddam Hussein, then what?

Mr. SCHMITT: Well, then the immediate plan seems to be looking at a military occupation of the country to try and help get the Iraqis' ministry on track. There will be obviously a long-time search for weapons of mass destruction, assuming the inspections do not accomplish that goal. But, again, the immediate goal is to try and to get in, topple Saddam Hussein, identify and destroy the weapons of mass destruction and then quickly try and restore the country of Iraq.

EDWARDS: Thank you very much.

Mr. SCHMITT: You're welcome, Bob.

EDWARDS: Eric Schmitt co-authored an article detailing plans for an invasion of Iraq in yesterday's New York Times. He is the paper's military correspondent.

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