Troops massing on Iraqi border?
By Joe Baker
By Joe Baker
The Daily Telegraph in London reports 20,000 U.S. troops have been stationed in Qatar and Kuwait amid strong indications that Washington may be readying an attack on Iraq.
British defense sources confirmed the buildup near the Iraqi border and said, at the very least, it is designed to intimidate Saddam Hussein and is a definite step toward aiming the war on terror at new targets.
The U.S. Third Army moved its headquarters to Qatar two weeks ago, and analysts report large numbers of troops coming into the region since that time. The Third Army is the ground component of the U.S. central command which oversees U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and the Mideast.
It also was in charge of our forces during Desert Storm.
The Pentagon all the while has insisted it is just rotating troops. Analysts say, however, that about 24,000 troops have moved in, while barely 4,000 (about a brigade) have moved out.
The Czech Republic unwittingly confirmed the build up when it said the 400 troops it has committed to the war on terror may be sent to Kuwait.
American officials have disclosed that a State Department team, led by Ryan Crocker, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, was secretly sent into northern Iraq recently to meet with Kurdish leaders. The Telegraph said the meeting was designed to make the Iraqis jittery and to encourage Kurdish leaders to oppose Hussein.
The newspaper said President Bush and his advisers are reported to have decided against a direct attack on Iraq and favor an effort by opposition groups to topple Saddam Hussein from within. The presence of a large number of troops close by could be seen as support for opposition forces if they rise against Iraqi leaders as some Afghanis rose against the Taliban.
Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly is readying a long-term plan designed to force Iraq to readmit U.N. weapons
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inspectors and to cooperate with economic sanctions. U.S. officials say if Saddam refuses the U.S. terms, they may opt to use military force.
The Telegraph said Powell and the CIA would like to find and install an Iraqi Gorbachev in an effort to put a more amenable leader in Baghdad. Others, such as the Pentagon and Condoleeza Rice, National Security adviser, think the plan will fail because it will get rid of the tyrant, but not tyranny in Iraq.
They want to initiate heavy bombing in support of ground forces, even though the U.S. has been bombing Iraq for 11 years. The hawkish faction wants to expand the no-fly zones and enforce a no-drive zone as well. Support for insurgents would come from both the north and south borders of Iraq.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned U.S. officials against expanding the war into Iraq. Annan said it would greatly aggravate Mideast tensions. The other main concern is that Saddam has a supply of anthrax and could send someone to this country to release it with horrific consequences.
Despite that, some in the government still argue that a pre-emptive strike is the best way to deal with that possibility.