Showdown: Iraq -- War Games
Aired December 7, 2002 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of CNN PRESENTS: "Showdown: Iraq -- War Games."
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should prevent any threat against Iraq.
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WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Making the case in Baghdad, Iraq unveils 11,000 pages of documents, and declares the United States has no reason to launch an attack.
Good evening. Welcome to this special edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting tonight from Doha, in Qatar in the Persian Gulf.
We have extensive coverage tonight of what's going on, a dramatic day. The most important news unfolding in Baghdad, not very far away from where I am right now. Qatar, of course, will play a key role if it comes down to a war between the United States and its coalition partners on the one hand and the Iraqis on the other.
The U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, who will be the commander of U.S. forces, if, in fact, there is a war, is now preparing computer games that were -- that are expected to begin on Monday, a war exercise that sets the stage for the possibility of war with Iraq.
The news, though, is in Baghdad. That's where the Iraqis released thousands of pages of documents to the United Nations weapons inspectors, documents that they say will prove they have no weapons of mass destruction.
Iraqi officials delivered those documents to U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, beating the Sunday deadline imposed by the U.N. Security Council. We'll have extensive coverage of today's events, beginning in Baghdad, with our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): So intense, the pressure to get the first pictures of Iraq's declaration of weapons of mass destruction, journalists jockeying for position broke windows. Finally, inside, laid out in orderly rows, the paperwork the world has been waiting to see. Document upon document on A4 sized- paper, some labeled currently accurate. Others titled, "Full And Complete Declaration".
In total, 11,807 pages, plus 529 megabytes of data on CD-ROMS, ready to be handed over to U.N. Officials. Journalists were not allowed to open the documents to read what's inside. The inclination in this room, likely defining for many governments, Iraq's compliance with U.N. Resolution 1441.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Iraqi officials say producing this declaration has been a huge project involving the work of more than 100 scientists. Indeed, they say, barely 24 hours before the declaration's handover, they've been fine-tuning its details.
(voice over): It is, Iraqi officials insist, enough to prevent war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This declaration satisfies, certifies our country's (ph) position of the Resolution 1441, and this should prevent any threat against Iraq.
ROBERTSON: But when asked if the document would answer U.N. questions, such as what happened to the 500 bombs designed for delivering chemicals and biological weapons? Questions still unresolved since inspectors left in 1998, this response --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I cannot give you the detailed information of the declarations before it arrives at the Security Council.
ROBERTSON: General Amin (ph) reasserted that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, and he challenged the United States to give the declaration a careful review.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if the United States has the minimum level of fairness and braveness, it should accept the report. And say yes, this is the truth.
ROBERTSON: Despite the focus on the declaration, inspectors were still at work visiting two more sites, apparently with good cooperation from Iraqi officials. How easy their job continues to be is now defined on the pages already beginning their journey to New York from Vienna.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.
BLITZER: In Vienna, the documents will be reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and in New York they will be reviewed by the United Nation's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix and his team. Let's go to New York, and our correspondent there, Michael Okwu is standing by at the United Nations. Michael, tell us what we can expect. MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you this, that members of the Security Council have been waiting for this moment now for over three weeks. It finally arrives when the document does, tomorrow night. Diplomats very eager to get their hands on this document, although chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has made it very clear that he will review the declaration and extract sensitive information before members of the Security Council can actually view it.
Blix, acting on behalf of the council, very concerned about providing what many people there have called a manual for weapons of mass destruction, what several inspectors in the past have referred to on the ground as "cookbooks."
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DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The other aspect is that these declarations usually are loaded with the names of companies, because that's always been a requirement. You've got an item from overseas? Well, who supplied it? And it's been very difficult for the member states of the United Nations or the Security Council to allow these documents to be made public, because they're intensely embarrassing.
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OKWU: Blix will be meeting with members of the Security Council at a regularly scheduled luncheon on Tuesday. Some of the Security Council members very eager to find out from him on that date how soon they will actually get the document in their hands. A Western diplomat telling us that it is unlikely that Blix will actually have anything of substance to say to them until the week of the 16th.
Earlier today, Mohammed Aldouri, the Iraqi ambassador, spoke before our cameras and gave us his reaction.
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MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR: We have two aims for that, two goals for that. The first one is peace. We want peace. We want to avoid war by any price.
And the other side, you have United States and British want this war. So the ultimate goal for Iraq is to avoid the war. The second one is to satisfy the Security Council and the international opinion that Iraq is cleared from any kind of mass destruction weapons. This is the most important.
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OKWU: It has been very quiet in the corridors of the United Nations today. We expect in the coming days it will get very noisy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Michael Okwu, thanks very much. Michael Okwu, reporting from the United Nations in Washington. Meanwhile, President Bush and his top advisers are openly suspicious of this latest Iraqi declaration. Here's CNN's White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush says his administration will reserve judgment on the Iraqi declaration until it has thoroughly examined the document. But in a written statement, the White House expressed some skepticism about its truthfulness. It says: "The Iraqi regime today submitted what it claims is a declaration of its programs to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other delivery systems.
A currently accurate, full and complete declaration is required."
But if Saddam Hussein doesn't deliver, doesn't come clean, Mr. Bush warned in his weekly radio address that the Iraqi leader would be putting his country on the path to war.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will be making only one judgment, has Saddam Hussein changed his behavior of the last 11 years and decided to cooperate willingly and comply completely, or has he not?
MALVEAUX: Administration officials say if there are any misstatements in the Iraqi documents, the White House will declare that Iraq is in material breach of the U.N. Security Council resolution, but that will not mean immediate military action. Instead, the administration will provide weapons inspectors with some U.S. intelligence, not all, to help them prove Saddam Hussein is hiding his weapons programs.
But the question is whether that will be enough to push U.S. allies to force Saddam Hussein to disarm.
JAMES STEINBERG, FORMER DEP. NATL. SEC. ADVISER: I think the administration has to on the one hand keep the pressure on but also recognize that most other countries are going to want more than the administration's say so as proof that Iraq is concealing its WMD program.
MALVEAUX (on camera): The administration realizes it is now fully engaged in a public relations war, with Iraq apparently cooperating with inspectors, beating the deadline to submit the declaration, and even apologizing for invading Kuwait. Mr. Bush is warning allies, don't be fooled. Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction.
Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.
BLITZER: That highly unexpected, surprising apology from the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, came just as those documents were being handed over to the United Nations weapons inspectors, but a lot of focus on what exactly his goal is in speaking to the people of Kuwait.
Here's CNN's Rym Brahimi.
RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the day that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein conferred with the country's top leadership, an unexpected message to the people of Kuwait who 12 years ago were under Iraqi occupation. A message that began with carefully crafted words of regret.
MOHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHHAF, IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): We apologize to Allah for any action that may anger the Almighty, if such an action took place in the past unknowingly by us and was considered our responsibility.
And to you we apologize on this basis as well.
BRAHIMI: The letter from Iraq's president, as read by the minister of information, called on Kuwaitis to join Iraq in its struggle against what it called "foreign invaders," particularly against the U.S., which has based nearly 10,000 troops in Kuwait.
SAHHAF (through translator): What is more dangerous is that the foreigner is directly occupying your people.
BRAHIMI: The letter said that U.S. troops were desecrating Kuwaiti soil, religion and minds.
Earlier this year, at an Arab summit, Iraq sought a very public reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but this letter appeals to ordinary people, drawing Arab world's attention to U.S. forces currently involved in military exercises, especially in Qatar.
"The U.S.," the letter said, "was only after the region's oil riches."
SAHHAF (through translator): To loot your wealth and turn you into workers under their supervision, and turn your rulers into local managers of U.S. petroleum companies, deciding in Washington or New York the amount, the price and the buyer of your oil.
BRAHIMI: In recent months, Iraq has taken concrete diplomatic steps to repair relations with Kuwait. It returned truckloads of looted Kuwaiti archives, and sources tell CNN there is also progress on the crucial issue of Kuwaitis missing since the Gulf War.
(on camera): Iraq's efforts to appeal to populous sentiment in the Arab world are not new. This latest letter, a clear attempt to galvanize anti-American feeling in the region.
Rym Brahimi, CNN, Baghdad.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Kuwaiti officials quickly dismissed this latest Iraqi apology. Let's get some more details now. Our senior international correspondent, Walter Rodgers, is joining us now via videophone from Kuwait.
Less than impressed, is that a fair assessment, Walter?
WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: More than fair, Wolf. The Kuwaitis have rejected and rejected contemptuously the apology from Saddam Hussein. Sheikh Amid Al-Sabah (ph), the information minister, speaking for the government here said, Saddam's apology might have been more credible had he apologized to the Iraqi people for repeatedly dragging them into wars.
Other Kuwait lawmakers noted that Saddam only apologized 12 years after he invaded, looted, and occupied this country, and that the apology, again, might have been more credible if it had come much sooner and when Saddam had not been cornered, as he now is by the United States and the coalition forces.
Other aspects of that apology have some ring of incredibility to them. We just heard that there were truckloads of archives that belonged to Kuwait which ahve been returned to this country. The Kuwaitis say what Saddam Hussein has returned is old magazines, not their archives, not their national treasures.
Again, the Kuwaitis would have been more impressed with the apology if there had been a mention of the more than 600 -- 605 -- hostages, prisoners of war who were taken 12 years ago that the Iraqis would not even admit and still don't admit that they have.
Privately, in a conversation with the Kuwait sheik recently, who said he believes only 200 of those 600 may still be alive. The Iraqis to this point have not negotiated or even admit that they have had those people.
Again, the Kuwaitis see this very clearly as an attempt to drive a wedge between themselves and the United States. Indeed, the United States has forces here, and this piece of geography is very important to the United States, because it would be the launch pad of any attack on Kuwait (sic) if President Bush so orders -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Walter Rodgers, reporting from Kuwait. Walter, thank you very much.
We have to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll speak with two influential members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They're just back here in Qatar from an incredible trek. They've just gone through northern Iraq to meet with Iraqi opposition forces, including the Kurds. We'll speak live with Senators Joseph Biden and Chuck Hagel when this special CNN PRESENTS returns.
BLITZER: Welcome back to the special edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting tonight from the Persian Gulf. Joining us now, two influential members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the chairman, the outgoing chairman, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
You've just arrived here in Qatar from an incredible journey through northern Iraq. A lot of U.S. officials, U.S. lawmakers are not going through northern Iraq. Senator Biden, what did you see, how did you get there, what did you do?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, we saw a unity among the Kurds that, quite frankly, I didn't fully expect, and we saw a progress where the Kurds have essentially ran northern Iraq since we put the no-fly zone in, and they've made great progress, I mean, physical progress, in terms of what the landscape was, how people were living. Schools they built, hospitals.
But we also, I think, came away with a clear understanding -- this is going to be a significant undertaking on our part if we need to use force in Iraq in terms of what is expected of us in the aftermath of a victory, how do you build a peace. We went to see whether or not the Iraqis were -- the Kurds were committed to a united Iraq...
BLITZER: The opposition forces.
BIDEN: The opposition forces. And so, we -- we -- I came away at least with a sense of how much progress they've made, how difficult it is -- it's going to be to pull together and keep together a united Iraq, and a lot of other things.
BLITZER: It's not going to be an easy mission.
Senator Hagel, in the past, the Kurds themselves have been deeply divided between the Barzani (ph) faction and the Talabani faction, as you well know. Will these opposition forces in northern Iraq be with the United States as a unified force if the president of the United States gives the order to go to war?
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think the answer to that is yes. That was confirmed to us clearly, from the Talabani and the Barzani (ph) leadership. I, like Joe, was impressed with a realism that has developed based on the reality of what's ahead, but also the hope they have. They know that there is an opportunity here, if they unite, if they work together through this one common coalition of common interests, they can make their lives better, and they've done a remarkable job in the last 10 years.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, this trek (ph) you made to northern Iraq was not an easy little junket, a congressional delegation going on an overseas trip. First of all, it had a lot of risk. How dangerous was it?
BIDEN: Well, I'm not sure it was all that dangerous. I think the most dangerous part was riding for six hours in the back of a car on windy roads, but you know, every place we looked, there was someone carrying his own little submachine gun, but it is -- I never felt in any personal danger. What impressed me was how incredibly impressed they were that two United States senators would make a six-hour drive into the middle of Iraq to Rabil (ph), to meet with them. We spoke to the parliament. It was -- that's what impressed me and made me realize how isolated they have been and how isolated northern Iraq has been and how much they yearn for the possibility of being able to develop into -- and to run their country.
It's -- but it was -- I don't think it was that dangerous.
BLITZER: Was there any...
BIDEN: I wouldn't (ph) recommend the trip.
BLITZER: I believe you're the first United States senators to have made that trip, at least recently, to northern Iraq.
BLITZER: And you got authorization from the State Department, from the Bush administration to do it, I assume?
HAGEL: The Bush administration was very cooperative. This is in their interest, very clearly. We'll obviously debrief some of the senior officials when we get back, and this was in the full cooperation with their assistance, and they were very encouraging with it as well.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, I think it's fair to describer you as among those senators cautious in making that decision, to go to war. Did you see or feel anything was a result of this journey to northern Iraq that changed your mind about getting rid of Saddam Hussein?
HAGEL: I don't think there's ever been a question among members of Congress, probably the world, about the future of Saddam Hussein. That's an easy one. This guy needs to go. How he goes is the tough question, and one of the issues here that the United States is going to have to deal with, and it became very clear to us -- clearer to us as a result of our trip to northern Iraq is the expectations these people have. What do they expect the United States to do? How long will we stay there? Reparations. What do we intend to do to cure every problem they've ever had. There are high expectations.
BLITZER: High expectations, and they've been deeply disappointed, if not betrayed, in the past, as you well know, Senator Biden.
BIDEN: You've been all over the world, Wolf. You know there is not a place in the world you've been that we're not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that portion of the world's problems (UNINTELLIGIBLE) solution. And part of our job was to -- self-appointed job -- was also to give them realistic expectations.
We wanted to know, basically, though, three really important things -- were they committed to stay together...
BLITZER: And the answer to that is yes.
BIDEN: And the answer is yes to that, at least for the time being. You know, what happens in a year or two I am not prepared to predict.
Number two, were they committed to a united Iraq, were they -- because, you know, the Turks, the Iranians, everyone has always been concerned about an independent...
BLITZER: The answer to that is yes?
BIDEN: The answer to that is yes, and I think that's borne out of a stark realism. They realize they have no place else to go. They have no choice, and this is their single best option.
And the third question was, what did they expect of us, because as you say, they feel very, very betrayed. It's been centuries they felt betrayed, and in the last decade, they felt betrayed. And that was -- let me put it this way -- I passed a note to Senator Hagel in the middle of one of our meetings and I said, we're getting into a whole hell of a lot here. This is a gigantic undertaking. The American people should understand how complicated this is going to be after Saddam comes down, if that happens, and it's going to take some real, sophisticated and significant investment in management.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, Senator Hagel, good to speak to both of you.
BLITZER: ... in Qatar, I know you're getting ready to go meet with General Franks, and they're getting ready for a big exercise here. We'll be covering that. Go get some sleep.
HAGEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BIDEN: Good to see you.
BLITZER: Thanks a lot. Thanks again.
We have a lot more coverage on this special edition of CNN PRESENTS. We'll also speak with the former chief United Nations weapons inspector, Richard Butler. That and much more when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage, this special edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Qatar. The United States certainly has older, more longstanding allies in this part of the world, and that's raising questions why Qatar, of all places, is now becoming so incredibly important in this showdown with Iraq.
BLITZER (voice-over): On the surface, U.S. General Tommy Franks, who's in charge of planning a possible war against Iraq, has selected an unlikely location for his temporary military headquarters. Qatar is a small country. Fewer than 800,000 people on a small peninsula in the Persian Gulf. Just 150,000 or so are actual Qatari citizens. For all practical purposes, the Emirate has no significant military of its own, no real Air Force, Army or Navy. But it does have a progressive leader, the Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. As a result, Qatar is unique in the Arab world.
ROB SOBHANI, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Because what Qatar is doing is saying the Arab world can have democracy. The Arab world can have opposing ideas, and it may not be fought at the barrel of a gun.
BLITZER: There's a lively news media here including the Arabic language satellite channel Al Jazeera, which is often a thorn in the side of many other Arab governments.
SOBHANI: Qatar is providing a free media zone to the Arab world. Sometimes this media zone provides anti-American platforms, but overall, much of the criticism is directed towards the Arab countries themselves.
BLITZER (on camera): The people of this Persian Gulf state have been blessed with enormous wealth, the result of huge quantities of oil and natural gas. They built up a affluent, educated society and in the process they're now looking to the United States for protection.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: They're a small tiny country in a sea of much larger powers, none of whom are too far away, and so, if they can cozy up to the United States, in their eyes it makes sense to do so provided the costs of doing so are not excessively high.
BLITZER: Among those larger powers, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Experts say the Emir wouldn't be able to cooperate with the U.S. without strong support at home.
PATRICK THEROS, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO QATAR: He really couldn't act without popular consensus. This is a country better on origins, demands consensus, demand that families talk to each other, demand that you clear things with people. It's not done in a formal way, but they are trying to move towards a more formal form of democracy.
BLITZER: It's not the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where the Central Command is headquartered. It's also not the huge consultant air base outside Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, where then Central Commander Norman Schwarzkopf ran the first Gulf War. But given Saudi reluctance so far to overtly join forces with the U.S., Qatar has emerged as the next best thing.
BLITZER: And let's get some analysis now on what these exercises here in Qatar may mean for the U.S. military and its coalition partners. Joining me once again, the retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. General, thanks for joining us. General Franks got up very early this morning, had a pep talk with the troops. The exercise begins on Monday. Look ahead a little bit. What does it all mean?
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Yes, it's an important exercise, Wolf, and basically what the General wants to know is can he command and control his forces throughout the region from this location. He knows he can do it from Saudi Arabia. There's been some confusing rhetoric from Saudi Arabia in the last few months about whether or not we're going to be able to use their bases and their air space.
This gives him an alternate location in case he needs to use it or wants to use it or in case the other one comes under military attack. But the main thing about this exercise is finding out can he command and control through satellites, computers, and communications just like he can at his headquarters in Tampa, Florida. It's an important exercise.
BLITZER: It's called "internal look," and I'm told by some of his senior officers they believe that every capability he has to command an operation from the MacDill Air Force Base, the Central Command Headquarters, he'll have that here in Qatar.
SHEPPERD: Yes, that's what they tell you, but what we learn in military operations is whatever can go wrong will, and it'll go wrong at the worst possible time. What we want to do is shake down those communications here and see if, indeed, they do work and if what he's been told really pans out when crunch time comes. Again, this is a very important time for him.
BLITZER: Security at that Al Sayliyah Base, that military base where they've established these modular command and control systems is incredibly tight. That's obviously understandable, given the nature of this part of the world. But it is an unique facility in many respects.
SHEPPERD: Yes, Al Udeid is a very, very important base for several reasons. One, it's a secure location that you can protect. It's got long, wide runways, lots of taxiways, lots of support facilities. It means you can bring in big airplanes with lots of cargo, and it means you can put big airplanes here with fuel to take off to support a war effort. It's a very, very key asset in this region.
BLITZER: Just to be precise, the military exercise will be headquartered at the Al Sayliyah Military Base, the Army Base, but there is a huge air base, the Al Udeid Air Base has got the longest runway, 15,000 feet in the region, even though the Air Force of Qatar is virtually nonexistent.
SHEPPERD: Right. Exactly. That's what brought all of this equipment in, is the ability to bring it into bases like that, take it out. It's a superb asset to have in this region. Bases are extremely important, as our ports, of course.
BLITZER: If you take a look at what other assets, air, ground, naval, the U.S. has in the region, briefly, General, a lot of these "Ts" are being crosses and "Is" are being dotted.
SHEPPERD: Yes, they're really checking out the infrastructure. Captains and majors are out there thinking about shooting in battle, and the generals are thinking about support, support of the troops and support of the war effort. Logistics are very, very important and that's what Qatar is about, the logistics.
BLITZER: Donald Shepperd, we'll be talking a lot over these next several days, you and me here in Qatar with the rest of our CNN team. Thanks very much.
SHEPPERD: You bet.
BLITZER: We have a lot more coverage on this special edition of CNN PRESENTS including those U.N. weapons inspectors. What do they do now that the Iraqis have handed over all of those documents? I'll speak with a former chief United Nations weapons inspector Richard Butler. He'll be here as our special coverage continues.
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of CNN PRESENTS, SHOWDOWN: IRAQ, WAR GAMES.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight from the Persian Gulf in Qatar. The Iraqis have handed over thousands of pages of documents to United Nations weapons inspectors. They did that earlier in Baghdad. The declaration, as required by the United Nations Security Council resolution included spiral-bound documents and CD ROMs handed over to U.N. officials in Baghdad.
From there, the reports will be flown to U.N. Headquarters in New York and to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria for analysis. It's expected to take several days, if not weeks for a complete review of all of these documents. Iraqi officials insist that the 11,000 pages will vindicate them, that they will have no weapons of mass destruction. They insist that the Bush administration will then have no reason to go to war against Iraq.
At the same time, U.S. and other intelligence services will be very anxious to take a look and see what exactly is in those documents. Our national security correspondent David Ensor has a closer look.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): United Nations officials will pour over Iraq's weapons declaration documents and U.S., British and other officials from governments permanently on the U.N. Security Council also expect to have access to them very quickly. All will be comparing what weapons Saddam Hussein says he has with what they believe he really has, looking especially in the U.S. case with a very skeptical eye.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The U.K. knows that they have weapons of mass destruction. Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
ENSOR: According to a British government report made public just days ago, Iraq has still failed to account for 3,300 tons of precursor chemicals, 397 tons of chemical agents including 1.7 tons of VX nerve gas and more than 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents, all missing during the 1998 U.N. inspections. British and U.S. intelligence officials believe Saddam Hussein has continued to produce a variety of chemical and biological agents with at least some of those weapons capable of being deployed in as little as 45 minutes.
U.S. intelligence officials believe Iraq has retained a delivery system of as many as 20 Al Hussein missiles with a 650-kilometer range capable of reaching Israel. And according to a CIA report, Baghdad maintains multiple delivery systems and mobile production facilities making its biological weapons capability more advanced than before the Gulf War.
RICHARD BUTLER, FMR. CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The reports that say that Iraq has mobilized that production capability in order to evade detection, it seems to me are extremely credible reports.
ENSOR: Both the agents and the delivery system would be in direct violation of U.N. Resolution 687. Iraq recently admitted that it tried to obtain aluminum tubes for use it says in producing conventional short-range missiles that are not forbidden and not for a nuclear weapons program. According to the report by Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee, Saddam Hussein has also sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, and if successful in obtaining fissile material, the Iraqis are one to two years away from producing a nuclear bomb. Other nuclear experts say they doubt Iraq got much uranium in Africa, but that if it did get enough fissile material somehow, the British estimate of up to two years may be too optimistic.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, FMR. NUCLEAR WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I would say that's too long. I mean the U.S. assessment in a report published by the CIA is that they could do it within a year, and they are -- and if they've prepared, built all the other components for a nuclear explosive, they could do it within a few weeks.
ENSOR: U.S. national security and intelligence officials will be going over the Iraqi declaration documents with a fine tooth comb. Once they get access to them, officials say, Washington wants to make its own assessment of the evidence, even as it waits to hear what the U.N. inspectors think.
David Ensor, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Australia is the former chief United Nations weapons inspector, Ambassador Richard Butler. Ambassador, thanks for joining us. If you were still working on the job of the U.N. inspection team, and you had access to these thousands of pages of Iraqi documents, what would be the first thing you'd be looking for?
BUTLER: The first thing to do, Wolf, is to lay all this out next to the existing database. People should not forget that we previously had one million pages of Iraqi documents from the past. I would be looking in particular to see how -- what is now being delivered compares with the past record and to identify significant variations, especially as a guide to what they may have done in the four years without inspections.
Wolf, I'd be doing this in each of the areas -- missile, nuclear, chemical, and biological and deploying the team of the best experts we had separately in each of those areas to try to solve the riddle of what someone has called the telephone book. Eleven thousand pages of documents, it's a big job.
BLITZER: But presumably, and correct me if I'm wrong, Ambassador Butler, but there is information that will be useful to the inspectors there, even though the Iraqis insist their bottom line is they have no weapons of mass destruction capabilities.
BUTLER: Yes, there's -- of course there will be useful information there, Wolf. Iraq has followed a technique that it's used in the past of almost trying to kill with kindness. You know, giving so much information that it doesn't necessarily clarify. It actually, to some extent, makes the task more difficult. But leaving that aside, the basic political and real construct here is that Iraq is obliged under international law, not only to have no weapons of mass destruction, but now to declare to the Security Council the exact status of all its relevant programs, weapons related, and those that could be weapons related.
The job of the inspectors is to verify that declaration. It's to see where it stands out, where it's true and where it's false. And this is what we're now going to see play out. Iraq has made its declaration. The inspectors will now conduct the act of verification. It's a big job and there will be useful information in what Iraq has said. I guess, Wolf, the point that also has to be made and it's a bit like Sherlock Holmes, it's real forensic work, because the inspectors will want to also discern from this document what Iraq has not said.
BLITZER: And presumably, the Bush administration and the U.S. intelligence community, the British intelligence community, others, will have contradictory information that they may or may not share with the Security Council and the U.N. inspectors if they want to try to prove that the Iraqis are lying. That could be a critical step in this entire process.
BUTLER: I think that presumption is absolutely correct, Wolf. I agree with you. You see that's the other stage. I talked about the inspectors having the past database, it now has this new purported database from Iraq. Now, of course, key countries, as one of the people you were interviewing a moment ago said, you know, with a serious intelligent service, they also have another database, material that has come to their hands through their efforts around the world. They will compare what Iraq has now tabled with what they hold privately, and here, Wolf, is the potentiality, I think, for real contention and possible difficulty.
What will be the situation if the United States, for example, says of the Iraqi declaration here is a part of it that we do not accept because of what it says, which they say is wrong, or what it omits to say. And we're saying this because of information we hold separately. The world will want to know what that information is, that intelligence information, and if the United States or the United Kingdom says well no, you can't know that, because we hold it privately, it's our intelligence information, then as you know very well, Wolf, there will be serious trouble in that conflict of information and let's hope that doesn't happen.
BLITZER: Ambassador Richard Butler, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, thanks for joining us on our special edition of CNN PRESENTS, always good to have you with us.
When we come back, forget Desert Storm, think more along the lines of Desert Swarm. When we come back, we'll take a look at what the next U.S. military conflict against Iraq, if it comes down to that, might look like. The military getting ready here in Qatar, but elsewhere as well. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. If Iraq's latest declaration to the United Nations weapons inspectors does not slow down the drumbeat for war, what happens next? The military analysis is quite complex, as all of us know. What would a battle against Iraq look like the next time around? One thing's for sure. It may be very different than the last military operation from the Persian Gulf War a dozen years ago with potentially -- potentially higher casualties this time around.
Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre examines the possible strategic battle plan and how it could play out on the streets of Baghdad.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Instead of Desert Storm, think Desert Swarm and everywhere all fronts lightning assault from the air, ground and sea designed to shock Saddam Hussein's generals into surrender before they can carry out his orders to unleash nerve gas or deadly germs.
GEN. JOHN SHALIKASHVILI, FMR. JOINTS CHIEF CHMN.: The likelihood is very good that he could use weapons of mass destruction. It could be -- it could get very messy. The collateral damage could be very great and our own casualties could increase significantly.
MCINTYRE: In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the U.S. suffered only 148 combat deaths, but this time around the body count could be in the thousands. Eleven years ago when the objective was evicting Iraq from Kuwait, the U.S. spent five weeks wearing down the Iraqi Army from the air before launching a crushing four-day ground invasion across open desert. With the aim now deposing Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops including elite Special Forces will likely have to hit downtown Baghdad on day one.
GEN. JOSEPH HOAR (RET.), FMR. U.S. CMDR.: The nightmare scenario is that six Iraqi Republican Guard divisions and six heavy divisions reinforce with several thousand anti-aircraft artillery pieces defends the city of Baghdad. The result would be high casualties on both sides, as well as in the civilian community.
MCINTYRE: Urban combat is something U.S. troops train for. At this realistic mock city at Fort Knox, U.S. soldiers last year practiced the same kind of intense door-to-door fighting they may have to do against Saddam Hussein's best troops.
(on camera): The military has a saying, no plan survives first contact with the enemy and as realistic as this planning is, it's not real war. On the battlefield, things can and do often go wrong, and when that battlefield is an urban setting, that's doubly true.
HOAR: All our advantages of command and control technology, mobility, all of those things are in part given up and you are working with corporals and sergeants and young men fighting street-to-street. It looks like the last 15 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan".
MCINTYRE: Still, the U.S. does enjoy an overwhelming high-tech advantage. Everything from smarter satellite-guided bombs to more unmanned eyes in the skies to sophisticated computer simulations created from satellite photos to familiarize troops with the streets of Baghdad. And there is a real belief by some military planners when it's clear defeat is at hand, Saddam Hussein's inner circle may turn on him and end the war without a lot of bloody fighting.
MCINTYRE: But for now all the war planning is just that, planning. Pentagon officials from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on down take every occasion to remind the Pentagon Press Corp that President Bush has not yet made a decision and practically speaking, the U.S. can't start an invasion of Iraq while U.N. inspectors are still on the job. So if you want to know when the war's going to start, just like in 1998, watch for the day that the U.N. inspectors pack up and leave -- Wolf.
BLITZER: OK, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Jamie, thanks very much.
When we come back, a story that will touch your heart, "A Letter Home" from U.S. troops. They're far away from their families and their loved ones will get a postcard from Kuwait when we come back.
BLITZER: As we've seen this hour, U.S. troops are scattered throughout the region. They're far away from their homes. They're far away from their loved ones. They're getting ready for the possibility of war.
Our correspondent Walter Rodgers has spent a lot of time these past several days with U.S. troops in the northern part of Kuwait. In the process, he began to think about what they might be writing in letter back to their loved ones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three...
RODGERS (voice-over): Dear Family, this is where we are likely to spend Christmas 2002 in the northwest corner of Kuwait waiting and waiting. Pulling guard duty is the most mind numbing job on earth, hot in the day, cold at night. As I compose this letter, I'm sitting on the brow of a small hill in a big desert south of the border with Iraq.
If we get orders to go, this steel box inside a Bradley fighting vehicle will be home. We fight, eat, and sleep in there. Somebody knew this war was coming. All our tanks and armored vehicles were warehoused in Kuwait long before we got here. There wasn't much wrong with them that a little hammering wouldn't fix. Most of us don't say the "I" word for Iraq, at least when reporters are around, but there are no illusions about Saddam Hussein's Army.
SGT. SHAWNDELL ROUSE, U.S. ARMY: We actually need to take him out as soon as possible because if we don't, then it's going to be a bigger threat later.
RODGERS: Some of us are more philosophical.
SGT. DEMITRIUS JOHNSON, U.S. ARMY: I serve this country and you know if the president says that's where we need to be, that's where we need to be. I don't ask any questions.
RODGERS: We had live fire exercises this week just below the Iraqi border. Those cannons will pop your eardrums. They also spew out metal shards at Mach Five on either side of the muzzle when the darn thing spire that can cut you in half. We staged a mock assault on objective Lisa (ph). Everyone wondered who Lisa (ph) was. Bullets were whizzing everywhere. This was the real stuff. These were daytime exercises, but we also ran one at night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) What's the furthest south we can bring that road to...
RODGERS: Reading between the lines of what the colonel's been saying, if we get the order to go, Saddam could wake up some morning and find us on his doorstep.
COL. DAVID PERKINS, U.S. ARMY, 2ND BRIGADE: Generally speaking, we have the advantage at nighttime. We have a large amount of thermal sight night-imaging devices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody at (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
RODGERS: One of my buddies was over visiting the Marines and their colonel said terrorism is as big a threat as Saddam right now.
COL. JOHN CUNNINGS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We're living in a threat condition that we see as high from a terrorism perspective.
RODGERS: Don't worry, there are always plenty of medics and they rehearse and rehearse. All of us worry about Iraq using chemical weapons, but we have trained with chemical warfare suits. I hope this is over soon. They say it's 125 degrees out here in the summer.
Walter Rodgers, CNN, in northwestern Kuwait.
BLITZER: Thank you very much Walter and multiply that multiple times not only in Kuwait, but in Saudi Arabia right here in Qatar and Bahrain, on the sea in the Persian Gulf, aboard U.S. aircraft carriers, of course, in Turkey and elsewhere, a lot of U.S. troops thinking about home right now at this time of the year.
That's all the time we have for this special edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Qatar. Thanks very much for watching.
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