WASHINGTON April 7 —
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that while Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein's whereabouts may not be known, "we do know
he no longer runs much of Iraq."
"The circle is closing, their options are running out," Rumsfeld
said of Saddam and his top lieutenants.
Looking beyond Saddam, Rumsfeld said that planning is under way
to turn over to Iraqis control of several government ministries
other than defense and intelligence.
"It's pretty well sorted through," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon
U.S. officials envision turning over administration of Iraq to an
interim Iraqi government at some point, leading to eventual
Rumsfeld cautioned against news accounts suggesting that the
presence of chemical weapons had been confirmed. "Almost all first
reports we get turn out to be wrong," he said.
"We don't do first reports and we don't speculate," he said.
Other defense officials said Monday that the military was testing
samples from a site in Iraq where soldiers found possible chemical
weapons. Testing at laboratories in the United States has to be
completed before the presence of chemical weapons could be
confirmed, those officials said.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, said there were now 125,000 coalition troops inside Iraq and
that all but "a couple of dozen" of the Iraqi military's tanks had
Rumsfeld was asked when U.S. forces could declare victory, and
whether it would depend on capturing or killing Saddam. "I don't
think it would necessarily hinge on Saddam," he replied.
But the secretary added that "at that point where he's unable to
run his country, the regime would have been changed."
Rumsfeld suggested that complete victory would likely come "later
rather than sooner, simply because it's a big country."
Rumsfeld and Myers both expressed optimism that the notorious
Iraqi general known as "Chemical Ali" (Ali Hassan al-Majid) had been
killed in a U.S. airstrike on his home in southern Iraq. They showed
reporters a video of the missile attack.
"We believe that the reign of terror of Chemical Ali has come to
an end. To Iraqis who have suffered at his hand, particularly in the
last few weeks in that southern part of the country, he will never
again terrorize you or your families," Rumsfeld said.
He said that British forces operating in the south now control
much of Basra, Iraq's second largest city.
"Despite the dire predictions about the forces and the plan,
coalition forces have come a long way in a short time. But there is
dangerous and difficult work ahead," he said.
Rumsfeld insisted that the United States did not intend to
indefinitely administer Iraq, and that the plan was to turn
government over to an Iraqi-run interim government as soon as
practical. "The United States is not going to impose a government on
Iraq," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld and Myers gave an update on the war as U.S. troops
roared into Baghdad for the third day in a row. U.S. officials said
it showed they could move in and out of the capital at will.
The show of massive force is part of a plan to eliminate
resistance from Saddam's forces piece by piece, in hopes of avoiding
an all-out battle for Baghdad, home to some 5 million Iraqis.
One difference in the latest thrust into the capital, following
forays Saturday and Sunday, is that Americans might stay a bit
longer, one official said, adding it might be a matter of hours, not
days. Officials stressed that the commander on the ground would make
the decision based on developments and had the ability and mobility
to decide whether he would move around the area, or move along.
Also, "it proceeded on a much slower pace and did a lot more
activity than we did in our previous entry," said Navy. Lt. Mark
Kitchens, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command at its Qatar
headquarters. Asked if troops might stay in Baghdad, "I think that
would be a possibility."
"I think ... the military commanders will slowly but surely take
on various parts of the city, go in and clean it out and make it
safe for the Iraqi civilians that want to live there," Marine Gen.
Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said
hours before Monday's assault.
On Sunday, troops began flying into the captured international
airport outside Baghdad, destroyed a Republican Guard headquarters
and began to deploy a force of Iraqi exiles and dissidents who are
to make up the core of a new national army.
U.S. soldiers and Marines surrounded Baghdad to try to prevent
regime leaders from getting out and Iraqi troops reinforcements from
getting in, Pace said in a round of television interviews Sunday. He
acknowledged it wasn't "an impenetrable cordon" around the city.
"It is certainly true that we have huge amounts of combat power
around the city right now, and that we have over a thousand planes
in the air every day," he said. "So if it moves on the ground and it
takes aggressive action, it's going to get killed."
Asked what tactic commanders planned in the coming battle to
unseat Saddam, he said it was essentially more of the same but in a
Air power will shape the battlefield and destroy Iraqi forces and
equipment; ground troops will force Iraqi fighters to move, then air
strikes will attack again, Pace said.
U.S. Central Command reported that 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi fighters
were killed in the first thrust a sweep Saturday by the 3rd Infantry
Division through the city's southwestern industrial section.
Over time, the thinking goes, Saddam and his inner circle would
completely lose their ability to communicate with their remaining
military forces, and would be unable to control anything except
their own defenses.
|U.S. Army Stf. Sgt. Chad
Touchett, center, relaxes with comrades from A Company, 3rd
Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, following a search in one of
Saddam Hussein's palaces damaged after a bombing, in Baghdad
Monday, April 7, 2003.(AP Photo/John
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