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Sunday September 23, 10:53 am Eastern Time
Pentagon Board Wants Hit on Iraq After Afghanistan, But Secretary of State Powell Fears Strike Could Shatter Arab Anti-Terror Coalition
Rove and Hughes Not Included in Nightly Meeting of Principals
NEW YORK, Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- At a two-day meeting last week of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, which is chaired by hard-liner Richard Perle, eminent conservatives including Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich reached a consensus that U.S. military forces should strike Iraq shortly after an initial blow against Afghanistan in response to the terror attack on New York and Washington, Newsweek reports in the current issue. ``When the U.S. loses what may be more than 6,000 people, there has to be reaction so that the world clearly knows that things have changed,'' Gingrich tells Newsweek.
But Secretary of State Colin Powell fears a strike on Iraq could shatter his efforts to build a worldwide anti-terror coalition. The aim would be to pool intelligence on terrorists with ``global reach'' and to gain police cooperation which he and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice believe is at least as critical to cracking down on terror as military action, report Foreign Editor Michael Hirsh and Diplomatic Correspondent Roy Gutman in the October 1 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, September 24).
The strike-Iraq contingent fears American credibility will be damaged if the U.S. gets bogged down in Afghanistan. It also believes Saddam's weapons of mass destruction could be used against America next, Newsweek reports. There is ``a recognition that it will be very tough to get bin Laden in the rocky and mountainous terrain of Afghanistan,'' said one participant in the Pentagon meetings. ``There's a feeling we've got to do something that counts -- and bombing some caves is not something that counts.''
On the other hand, Powell and deputies believe a full-blown military strike on Baghdad would only kill many Iraqis, enrage the Arab world and probably not dispose of Saddam, who has slowly won new allies with promises of oil deals since 1991.
As the debate continues, the importance of conventional political considerations are being played down. Newsweek reports that President George W. Bush's closest domestic advisers, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, don't take part in the key nightly ``principals'' meetings of Powell, Rice, Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.