U.S., Pentagon Attention on Iraq Is Long-standing, Rumsfeld Says
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2002 President Bush raised public speculation about U.S. military involvement in Iraq when he called that country part of "an axis of evil" during his Jan. 29 State of the Union address.
But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today the Pentagon's concerns over Iraq are not a recent shift. "This building has always been attentive, for at least more than a decade now, toward Iraq," Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters.
He noted that U.S. forces have maintained no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq and that the United States has continually called on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq.
Each year that goes by without inspectors in place allows Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction unchecked, he said. The world moves closer to a time when Iraq will develop its weapons in a form that can make them increasing threats as time passes, Rumsfeld said.
Technological advances make it more likely that Iraq has obtained materials for weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld explained, noting that sanctions historically tend to weaken over time.
"As those sanctions are relaxed and as dual-use capabilities flow into that country, their capability is restored in terms of their ability to impose harm on their neighbors or threaten others," he said.
Iraq is on the minds of the American people more in recent months because Sept. 11 "reminded the world and the United States that terrorist networks exist," the secretary said.
Intelligence information has shown U.S. officials that terrorists have actively sought chemical, biological and radiation capabilities, Rumsfeld said. "We know that Iraq has those (and) I don't think it has a neighbor that it wishes well."
Rumsfeld wouldn't speculate, however, on U.S. military involvement in bringing about a change of regime in Iraq.
"The timing and whether or not anything is done in that respect with any country that is for the president and the country to make those judgments," he said. "It's not for me to express views on that."