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James Baker: Don't go it alone with Iraq

James Baker
Baker: "We will occupy the moral high ground."  

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- Former Secretary of State James Baker Sunday warned President Bush not to "go it alone" against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Writing on the op-ed page of Sunday's New York Times, Baker became the latest member of the first Bush administration to issue cautionary words about a military attack against Iraq.

"Although the United States could certainly succeed, we should try our best not to have to go it alone, and the president should reject the advice of those who counsel doing so," Baker wrote.

"The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with only one or two countries."

Baker said, however, that he believes the only "realistic way" to bring about regime change is through military force, including "sufficient" ground troops to occupy the country.

CNN's Kelly Wallace reports advisers to U.S. President George W. Bush are providing plenty of advice on Iraq but can't agree on what action should be taken (August 26)

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"Anyone who thinks we can effect regime change in Iraq with anything less than this is simply not realistic," Baker said.

The former chief diplomat urged Bush to build an international coalition like the one he and the president's father brought together during the Persian Gulf War.

He suggested Bush consider pursuing a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring Iraq to submit to an "intrusive inspections regime" and authorizing "all necessary means" to enforce those inspections.

"Some will argue, as was done in 1990, that going for United Nations authority and not getting it will weaken our case," Baker said.

"I disagree. By proposing to proceed in such a way, we will be doing the right thing, both politically and substantively. We will occupy the moral high ground."

Bush, who is winding up his August vacation at his ranch near here, "welcomes" Baker's advice, said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

"It is part of the constructive debate from thoughtful people and it underscores many of the things the president has said about ... the threat [Saddam] presents to the world," Fleischer said.

Fleischer said Bush still has not made a decision about how to bring about a change of Iraqi regimes.

Other former Bush administration officials who have spoken out recently include Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to Bush's father.

Scowcroft, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, voiced his opposition to a military attack on Iraq.

Other Republicans strongly back military action and believe the president should pursue such a course, even if he can't bring together an international coalition.

"I'd much prefer to have a lot of allies out there, both in the Middle East and in Western Europe," Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, told CNN's "Late Edition."

"I'd like to have the American people solidly behind the president. But again, if the president has to do it, he has to do it. And that's what leadership is all about."

Before any pre-emptive strike on Iraq, some Democrats argue, the president must make the case to the American people.

"What we have is an administration that is beating its breast with all this rhetoric about how they're going to do this or that," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, on the same program.

"The president needs the country behind him."

As Bush thinks through options to deal with Saddam, "he will talk to the country about it and he will make the case," a senior administration official said.

To build support in the Arab world for regime change, the State Department is encouraging Iraqi exiles to speak out about the "brutality" of Saddam Hussein, a State Department spokesman said.

Seventeen Iraqi exiles from North America and Europe plan to visit the State Department this week for four days of media training on writing opinion pieces, giving speeches and doing television and radio interviews.

The goal is to make the case that the battle is not between the United States and Iraq, and to convey that the Iraqi people and Iraq's neighbors will be better off without Saddam, U.S. officials said.

Bush will deliver that message personally to Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, in a visit to Bush's Texas ranch.

The president will plead the case to a Saudi government that so far is against a military attack.

The Saudis have also said they will not allow the United States to launch an invasion of Iraq from Saudi soil.




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