White House: No division in the ranks over Iraq
Powell doesn't back invasion of Iraq without support of 'key allies'
CNN State Department Correspondent
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- The White House Friday downplayed any suggestion that there is a split in President Bush's national security team over Iraq, despite opposing views coming from top members of the Cabinet.
U.S. officials tell CNN that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other members of the team met earlier this week at the White House and discussed regional strategies, including those for Iraq.
"The view of the administration is united and one in the same," Scott McClellan, White House deputy press secretary, told reporters Friday in Crawford, Texas. "We are singing from the same songbook."
However, a person close to Powell within the administration says Powell does not believe the United States should invade Iraq without the support of "key allies."
This person, who asked not to be identified but is intimately familiar with Powell's thinking, said Thursday that Powell opposes any action in which the United States would "go it alone ... as if it doesn't give a damn" what other nations think.
Vice President Dick Cheney has pressed the case for a U.S. attack on Iraq, saying the advantages of attacking far outweigh the risks of inaction. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also said this week that the decision to strike Iraq will be based on leadership, not consensus.
McClellan said the administration has been consistent, advocating a policy of regime change in Iraq. The Bush spokesman stressed the president has not made any final decisions, including whether to pursue military action to try to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
'Powell's voice will be persuasive'
But the person close to Powell said the secretary and others in the State Department were "blindsided" by Cheney's "time is running out" speech Monday and were just as surprised as everyone else. (Full story)
"The battle is not over," said the person close to Powell, alluding to the fact that Powell is working to convince the president of the need to build a strong coalition, similar to the one that existed during the 1991 Gulf War, and win the support of the U.N. Security Council through a new resolution. "Does he think it's going to have to be done? Yes, and he'll make the best case for it," the source said.
Powell was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 war.
One possibility is a revamping of United Nations Resolution 1284, to set a deadline for Iraq to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country or face military action.
As it stands now, Resolution 1284 calls on Iraq to disarm and allow weapons inspectors to ensure that no weapons of mass destruction are present in the country, but the resolution sets no deadline.
"Powell's voice will be persuasive," this source said. He predicted that, in coming weeks, there will be a "considerable amount of head knocking" behind the scenes as Bush aides attempt to win the president's support for their various positions.
One possible venue for an unveiling of the president's final decision is a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly planned for mid-September, the person close to Powell said.
'Those who never fired a shot in anger'
Last week, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni added his voice to the public commentary in the United States, questioning the wisdom of a U.S. attack on Iraq.
But Zinni's comments stood out from the rest in that he implied that Powell shares his opinion.
He also cited the views of Brent Scowcroft, an adviser to President Bush's father, who was president during Operation Desert Storm.
"Attacking Iraq now will cause a lot of problems," Zinni told members of the Florida Economic Club. "If you ask me my opinion, Gen. Scowcroft, Gen. Powell, Gen. Schwarzkopf, Gen. Zinni -- maybe all see this the same way.
"It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it in the same way, and all those, who never fired a shot in anger and really held back to go to war, see it in a different way. That's usually the way it is in history."
Zinni's speech came a week before public comments by Rumsfeld and Cheney making Bush's case for regime change in Iraq.
In recent weeks, a number of influential former U.S. officials -- including former Secretaries of State Lawrence Eagleburger and James Baker and former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Scowcroft -- have cautioned against going to war with Iraq without first laying out a detailed, reasoned case to the American people and U.S. allies.
-- CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.
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