Think tank urges armed support for Iraq inspections
Urges war only if 'alternatives have been exhausted'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A leading think tank is urging U.S. and United Nations officials to consider sending weapons inspectors to Iraq with support from a significant military force that could depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein if they meet resistance.
As outlined by researchers for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a "coercive inspection" plan calls for the U.N. to demand Iraq to allow inspectors to resume searching for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction without obstruction -- or else.
"If successful, it would reduce Iraq's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) threat to negligible levels. If a failure, it would lay an operational and political basis for a transition to a war to oust Saddam. The United States would be seen to have worked through the U.N. with the rest of the world rather than alone, and Iraq's intent would have been cleanly tested and found wanting," Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Mathews writes.
Iraq's deputy prime minister has flatly denied that his nation has weapons of mass destruction or that it is developing nuclear arms.
"Everybody in the world should know that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," Tariq Aziz told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday.
Aziz also said his country has no ties to the terrorist network al Qaeda, which is blamed for the September 11 attacks and is said to have members living in northern Iraq.
The Carnegie plan requires fielding a force strong enough to pose a credible threat of ousting Saddam. U.N. endorsement would give the plan "unimpeachable legitimacy" and strengthen the cooperation U.S. officials need to wage war on terrorism, she argues. It also would ease concerns among some U.S. officials about launching an attack on another country without direct provocation, which Mathews called "a dangerous precedent."
"War should never be undertaken until the alternatives have been exhausted," the report states. "In this case, that moral imperative is buttressed by the very real possibility that a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, even if successful in doing so, could subtract more from U.S. security and long-term political interests than it adds."
The endowment argues that coercive inspections could avoid the threat of Saddam using advanced weapons on invading forces or against Israel, as well as questions about whether Iraq would break apart without him in power.
The Bush administration's more hawkish members do not expect the United Nations, much less Baghdad, would agree to such a proposal.
Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that renewed inspections would not solve anything. But other officials say going through the process, even if unsuccessful, would help build support for U.S. action.
Asked about the proposal this week, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was noncommittal.
"I wouldn't place a lot of emphasis on that," he told reporters. "I think there are still a lot of different things that are being talked through."
CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.
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