U.S. Senators Warn of Possible 'Arab-Israeli' War
By Lori Santos
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prominent members of the U.S.
Congress warned on Sunday that a unilateral U.S. attack on
Iraq could draw in Israel and lead to a wider Middle East war.
Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat and chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said if the Israelis
became involved "it becomes an Arab-Israeli war."
Biden and others appearing on Sunday television talk shows responded to a report
in The New York Times that said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had told the
Bush administration he would retaliate if Iraq attacks Israel.
On CNN's "Late Edition," Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres would not say
what Israel would do in the event of an Iraqi attack, but made it clear his country
would coordinate its response with the United States.
"We are not the ones to tell the United States what to do," Peres said. "We
understand there is not going to be two wars and there are not going to be two
supreme commands. So whatever will be, if it will be, should be coordinated."
Biden, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," said if Israel responded to an attack
no Muslim nation, including such critical allies as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, could
support the U.S. effort against Iraq, even behind the scenes.
"And you would find probably every embassy in the Middle East burned to the
ground before it went too far," Biden warned.
Sen. Richard Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, said
any retaliation by the Israelis could mean "a widespread war in the Middle East."
"And also we'd be perceived, we'd be fighting side-by-side with the Israelis against
all the Arab interests, and the war could spread," the Alabama senator said on "Face
GULF WAR EXPERIENCE
The New York Times said Sharon had told senior American officials privately of
Israel's intention to act, unlike in the 1991 Gulf War, when dozens of Iraqi Scud
missiles struck without an Israeli response.
Biden urged President Bush to make his case for U.S. action based on his stated
goal of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.
"That should be our international rationale for moving, if we move, not this new
doctrine of pre-emption and this doctrine of "regime change," because then what do
you tell the Israelis?" he asked.
"Regime change" is the term Bush has used in calling for Saddam's ouster. The
administration last week announced a new U.S. security doctrine of pursuing
pre-emptive action against potential enemies.
"If we make that the premise for our action, then in fact what ... pressure can we put
on Israel not to do something that could make this an overall Middle East war?"
Both lawmakers predicted, however, that the United States would move against Iraq
in the new year.
Biden also said Bush should make his case on Iraq before the American public.
Shelby said he expected both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to
overwhelmingly pass a resolution giving Bush broad authority to attack Iraq though
other lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have questioned the scope of the version
proposed by the president last week.
"It's much too broad," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of
the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"I think you will find a number of Republicans as well as Democrats who will be
working on some language with some limits on it," Levin told "Fox News Sunday."
Several lawmakers objected mainly to the White House wording authorizing use of
force to "restore international peace and security in the region" around Iraq, which
many said was a blank check for the administration to strike any country in the
Biden said he believed the American people would back the president but should be
aware that any operation will cost billions of dollars and require thousands of U.S.
"The president should ... go on air and say, 'This is why I believe we will have to act,
if we do, and the rationale for it and what we're in for.' ... There can be no foreign
policy that succeeds without the informed consent of the American people."