New war powers start post-Saddam Iraq plans
WASHINGTON -- Handed authority by Congress to oust Saddam Hussein, President Bush is reviewing postwar plans for Iraq that could include deploying U.S. troops to stabilize the nation until a new government is formed. His anti-Iraq resolution at the United Nations met stiff resistance Friday.
The pace of diplomatic and military planning quickened after a 77-23 vote in the Senate gave Bush authority to use military force, if necessary, against Iraqi president Saddam. The House easily passed the same resolution Thursday, and Bush planned to sign it next week.
"The president was very pleased to receive such an outstanding and overwhelming bipartisan show of support from both houses," presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Bush hopes the votes in Congress will build momentum for a tough new Iraq resolution at the U.N. Security Council, where France, Russia and China, all permanent members with vetoes, are balking. A U.S. compromise failed to swing any votes Friday.
Iraq, meanwhile, confirmed in a letter that it is ready to allow resumed U.N. weapons inspections, but it failed to sign off on agreements with the United Nations.
"We are not surprised that once again the Iraqis want to delay and deceive," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte.
In Washington, the daily White House briefing was dominated by questions about Bush's plans for a post-Saddam Iraq after The New York Times reported plans to install an American-led military government that would control Iraq and its valuable oil wells.
White House officials said the idea, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, was among scores of possible scenarios but is one of the least likely to be adopted.
"That's not what's envisaged," Fleischer told reporters.
If Saddam were gone, Bush would be more likely to use troops to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and help rebuild the nation's infrastructure as democracy took hold, senior White House officials said.
"The United States will not cut and run," Fleischer said.
"The administration is working to find ways to help achieve stability for Iraq and for the region. And we are considering a variety of ways to do so with our international partners, with the possibility of the United Nations" being involved as well, Fleischer said.
Several administration officials said Bush's top advisers, including Condoleezza Rice, his chief national security adviser, would oppose a military government. Among their concerns: occupation would inflame Iraqis and Muslims in other countries.
Secretary of State Colin Powell sounded more open to the idea, telling National Public Radio the administration was looking at such historic models as the U.S. occupation of Germany after World War II and a U.S. military government in Japan at war's end.
He said if U.S. troops were to go into Iraq, there would be "an immediate need for some presence until you could put in place a better system."
Anti-Saddam Iraqis and the Arab League objected.
"We were told by American officials that they want a broad-based Iraqi government ... with no direct American role," said Hamid al-Bayati, a representative of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite-led opposition group.
Bush did not directly address the issue, although he said at an event promoting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan that the United States has "a history of liberating, not conquering."
Since Bush has not decided on a course of action, White House officials said they could not estimate how long the troops would remain in Iraq, how much the deployment would cost or how risky the operation would be. "It's safe to say it would cost millions and last months," one official said.
Aides compared Bush's intentions for a post-Saddam Iraq with the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the ruling Taliban militia was routed. Just as U.S. troops have lingered in Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaida remnants, they may remain in Iraq to rid the nation of weapons of mass destruction and stabilize the often fractious nation.
At the United Nations, American diplomats offered to remove from the proposed resolution a threat to use "all necessary means" to compel Iraq to disarm. The resolution simply would threaten consequences, although the United States would be able to interpret that as meaning force, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
French and Russian diplomats rejected the offer.
"I think the member states want a two-stage approach: send in the inspectors (and) if they get into trouble, if it fails, come back and we will pass the second resolution," said Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Still, there were signs that Bush may be gaining ground.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin left open the possibility that Moscow could agree to a new U.N. resolution.
"We do have apprehensions that such weapons might exist on the territory of Iraq, and this is precisely why we want to see to it that U.N. inspectors travel there as fast as possible," Putin said at a news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's closest ally on Iraq.
Amid rising tensions, the U.S. Navy changed the status of lost Persian Gulf War pilot Scott Speicher from missing in action to missing-captured. Some in the Navy had worried that declaring the pilot captured would be seen as a political move as Bush tries to build support for war.