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  •   U.S. Warns Iraq of More Raids

    By Thomas W. Lippman
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, December 21, 1998; Page A01

    President Clinton's senior national security advisers warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yesterday that the United States will repeat last week's aerial assault as often as necessary to prevent Iraq from developing or deploying poison gas or germ warfare weapons or missiles capable of delivering them.

    In television appearances the day after Clinton halted the airstrikes, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and other senior officials made clear that the attacks opened a new chapter in the long-running confrontation with Iraq.

    Saddam Hussein will no longer be permitted to control the agenda by interfering with U.N. weapons inspections, they said, and the United States and Britain will take any action they deem necessary, with or without the approval of other allies or the U.N. Security Council.

    Despite their talk of future attacks and their declaration of an open-ended commitment to the use of force to keep Saddam Hussein bottled up, however, there was a manifest lessening of tension in Washington yesterday after the most dramatic week of Clinton's presidency.

    With the presidential impeachment process launched toward an uncertain outcome in the Senate and the missile strikes ended, the anxiety and fury that gripped the capital last week receded on a balmy pre-Christmas Sunday. The subject of the day was damage assessment -- military in Iraq, political at home -- and the difficulty of forecasting the outcome of either the impeachment proceedings or the shift in Iraq policy.

    Cohen, Albright and White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger made a round of Sunday television talk-show appearances to profess satisfaction with the results of the missile strikes, but they could not escape questions about the impact of impeachment on Clinton's foreign policy decision-making.

    On NBC's "Meet the Press," Albright acknowledged that she had been "misled" when she emerged from a Cabinet meeting last winter to say she believed Clinton's denials of an affair with Monica S. Lewinsky. "But I can assure you," she said, "that in no way has this affected my ability in the job, or more importantly, the president's clout and credibility internationally."

    Berger, on CNN's "Late Edition," said the president remains "a highly respected figure around the world" whose stature in foreign capitals is undiminished by his troubles at home.

    Saddam Hussein, in a taped television address to the Iraqi people, proclaimed victory, as he has always done.

    "You were up to the level that your leader and brother and comrade Saddam Hussein hoped you would be at, so God rewarded you and delighted your hearts with the crown of victory," he said in comments reported by Reuters.

    Berger, however, said Saddam Hussein was "whistling past the graveyard."

    "We've damaged his command and control over his military," Berger said. "We've damaged his security forces, including his elite Republican Guard. We've damaged his missile production system and air defense system, and I think, across the board, he certainly is in a weaker position."

    Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on ABC's "This Week" that key missile production, engine test and missile research facilities were put out of action "for at least a year."

    Cohen, who appeared with Shelton, added: "If he tries to reconstitute that capability, we're prepared to take it down again."

    Whatever the impact of the missile strikes on Iraq's armed forces and military infrastructure, they appear to have radically altered the way the United States plans to deal with Iraq in the future. Members of the Clinton team said they are determined to end the cycle of thrust and parry in which Saddam Hussein has tormented the United States and its allies for much of this decade.

    Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, said on "Late Edition" yesterday that one sure result of the attacks would be termination of the U.N. weapons inspection program, which has been the center of U.S. efforts to contain Iraq.

    That may be the case, Albright and others said, but the impact will be minimal because the inspectors have been unable to function for much of the past year anyway -- that was what the military campaign was about. In its place, they said, the United States will increase surveillance of Iraq to see if the destroyed facilities are being rebuilt and bomb them if necessary, tighten enforcement of the economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and maintain indefinitely the current levels of military deployment in the Persian Gulf region.

    "We don't want to go through the same old process with [the weapons inspections] of cheat and retreat, in and out, partial compliance, that we have seen for the past year," a senior administration official said. "We are going to sit down with the British and the French and the Russians and others and say, 'We don't need to torture ourselves again. Let's just accept the reality of no inspection regime,' " and redouble efforts to enforce the economic sanctions.

    "We have disarmament by force because disarmament by inspections didn't work," this official said. "We've made a long-term commitment that containing Saddam may require the use of force, again and again if necessary."

    Hamdoon said Iraq "will be dealing directly with the Security Council, and Iraq will be demanding an immediate lifting of the sanctions, because we think that we deserve that." He predicted "lots of fragmentation" on the Security Council, pitting members that want to see a relaxation of the sanctions, such as France and Russia, against the United States and Britain.

    Russia has been vocal in its opposition to the airstrikes, at least in part because the United States and Britain have shown a willingness to act without explicit authorization from the Security Council, where Russia has a veto.

    "Common sense has finally prevailed" with the end of the attacks, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said in a statement yesterday. "Now the international community must draw serious conclusions from these tragic events. . . . Special attention must be paid to consolidating the U.N.'s leading role in international affairs."

    News agencies reported that French President Jacques Chirac called for a review of U.N.-imposed limits on Iraqi crude oil exports, saying that France has "a certain number of proposals to put forward" to ease the hardships imposed on innocent Iraqis by the economic sanctions.

    "The French are always trying to play to the Arab public," a senior U.S. official responded. "We'd like to see sanctions lifted too, but on what terms?" Albright and other officials said the United States does not even wish to see the inspection force, known as UNSCOM, return to Iraq if that would mean a resumption of the previous situation in which Saddam Hussein could instigate and defuse crises virtually at will by granting or withholding cooperation.

    Albright said Saddam Hussein would have to undertake "affirmative actions" to ensure that they could work effectively before inspectors from UNSCOM or the International Atomic Energy Agency would be allowed to return to Iraq.

    "Obviously, on-the-ground inspectors that are doing their job is the best, but if we can't do that, then we have other means for monitoring and, as I said, we reserve the right to use force again," she said.

    After the 1993 U.S. military debacle in Somalia, it became fashionable in Washington to say that troops should be deployed only when the United States has a clear "exit strategy." But just as the stationing of U.S. troops in Bosnia has become an indefinite commitment, Cohen, Shelton and others said yesterday that they are in no hurry to reduce the U.S. military force that carried out the attacks on Iraq.

    "The force that we have there now has been there for quite some time, and our plan is to retain it, to ensure that Saddam does not threaten interests vitally important to this nation," Shelton said. "The strike that was carried out was carried out substantially by the force that is in the region. We didn't have to build up almost anything. That is the same force that will stay there now, and is prepared to do something equivalent" to last week's attacks.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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