U.S. Assures It Does Not Seek to 'Conquer' Iraq
By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent
LEESBURG, VA. (Reuters - 5 Oct) - The Bush administration, responding to criticism it has
not planned sufficiently for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, promised on Saturday its
military forces would not enter the country as "conquerors" or treat the Iraqi people
as a "defeated nation."
While reaffirming a decision on using force against Iraq had not been made, Zalmay
Khalilzad, a senior aide to President Bush, said, "Should force be required, U.S. and
coalition forces will liberate the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein."
"We will not enter Iraq as conquerors. We will not treat the Iraqi people as a
defeated nation," he said, reading from a written statement.
He also said it was unlikely Washington would support creation of a provisional
post-Saddam government until after Iraq's "liberation."
His comments to an annual conference sponsored by the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy were seen as presaging an important televised speech on Iraq that
Bush has set for next week and were intended to build as much support as possible
within Iraq for a potential U.S. military campaign.
The U.N. Security Council is debating new instructions for U.N. inspectors charged
with disarming Iraq. Bush has expressed doubts Baghdad will comply and said war
may be unavoidable.
U.S. officials and experts say the success of a war against Iraq would depend
heavily on how U.S. forces are received by the Iraqi people and by Iraqi military
officers who might be persuaded to rise up against their leader.
Khalilzad's comments also seemed designed to reassure U.S. friends and allies
anxious about a possible war.
The administration initially turned down a request to have a senior official discuss
Iraq at the conference, but reversed course after public criticism for not participating
in a program held on Thursday on plans for a post-Saddam Iraq.
At that program, leading Republican conservative Richard Perle and members of the
Iraqi opposition exile community accused the administration of failing to lay sufficient
plans for bringing democracy to Iraq if Saddam is overthrown.
Opposition leaders also expressed doubt about the U.S. commitment to a
democratic Iraq and complained that the Bush team had refused to endorse a
transitional authority that would be ready to take political power right after Saddam
U.S. WOULD SERVE IRAQIS
Khalilzad, who oversees Iraq policy at the National Security Council, said the U.S.
"mission in Iraq will be to serve the interests and the hopes of the Iraqi people..., a
gifted and great people with ancient culture."
Long-term objectives include "establishing a broad-based representative and
democratic government ... that will renounce terror and weapons of mass
destruction, respect international laws and norms, give all religious and ethnic groups
a voice, adhere to the rule of law ... and become an example of peace and tolerance
for the region as a whole," he said.
In the short-term, he promised Washington would "look to reunify Iraq ... and
maintain its territorial integrity."
The United States will "meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people," including
immediately starting a major reconstruction program and possibly forgiving certain
debts and other financial obligations, he said.
The ruling Baath Party will be disrupted, individuals accused of crimes against
humanity will be prosecuted and Iraq's oil wealth will be used to meet its people's
Iraqi opposition leaders have pushed the United States to endorse a provisional
government that would be ready to govern immediately after Saddam is overthrown.
Khalilzad called that scenario "a possibility but I think more likely that there would
have to be liberation first and then a government put in place."
Another senior U.S. official told Reuters separately that Washington opposes naming
a transitional government now in part because the Iraqi opposition has failed to stop
its infighting long enough to agree on a democratic vision for the country.
"We don't know enough about what's going on inside Iraq. ... We don't think the
Iraqi opposition yet has laid out its vision for Iraq," he said in an interview.
The Los Angeles Times reported recently the administration was planning a transition
to a new government in Baghdad built around a leader emerging from inside Iraq.