AREA NEWS

Story last updated at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Cost of war against Iraq --$9 billion a month

by Jim Abrams
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Fighting a full-scale war with Iraq would cost up to $9 billion a month, congressional budget experts said as the Senate prepared to open debate this week on a resolution authorizing President Bush to wage that war.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld continued to press the need for tough action against Iraq, citing 67 incidents in the past two weeks of Iraq firing on U.S. and British warplanes patrolling no-fly zones in the country.

"With each missile launched at our air crews, Iraq expresses its contempt for U.N. resolutions" demanding that Iraq allow unimpeded weapons inspections and disarm, Rumsfeld said Monday.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in a report Monday said uncertainty about the length and intensity of a war with Iraq made predicting the cost difficult.

But it estimated that deploying U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf would cost from $9 billion to $13 billion, and that the monthly cost of combat by either heavy ground or air forces would be $6 billion to $9 billion.

Another $5 billion to $7 billion would be required to bring the troops home after a war. The monthly cost of a postwar peacekeeping force -- excluding humanitarian aid, reconstruction and the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction -- would be $1 billion to $4 billion.

"This debate should not be driven by how much it will cost U.S. taxpayers," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But he said it was important to keep in mind that three months of combat with a heavy ground force and a five-year occupation by a large U.S. force could cost more than $272 billion.

Saying that Iraq's biological and chemical weapons stockpiles and its attempt to attain a nuclear capability are an immediate threat to U.S. security interests, the Bush administration is urging both Congress and the U.N. Security Council to approve resolutions authorizing the use of military force if Iraq does not abide by past demands to disarm.

"We believe that one resolution with consequences in it is the way to achieve Iraqi compliance," Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman said Monday night in a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. If Iraq feels the U.N. Security Council is divided, Grossman said, or that "nothing will happen, then nothing happens in Iraq."

Rumsfeld said the fact that Iraq continues to fire on U.S. and British warplanes shows that Iraq's claimed willingness to open the country to weapons inspectors was "patently false."

Congress, while generally supporting the president's campaign against Iraq, has haggled with the White House over the wording of a resolution authorizing the use of force. Many Democrats, and some Republicans, say that the original White House proposal was too open-ended in ceding authority to the president and did not give enough weight to the importance of crafting a multinational coalition before taking action against Saddam Hussein.

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, an influential Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stressed Monday that international cooperation is essential for U.S. success in deposing Saddam. "American power alone cannot carry the day in a project of this magnitude," he said in a speech to the Eisenhower Institute. "It will require substantial assistance from our allies, including our Arab allies. Attempting to rebuild Iraq with only a Western hand would be an enormous mistake."

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., and senior committee member Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., on Monday circulated an alternative proposal that they said "helps the president attract strong bipartisan support in Congress."

Their draft resolution would focus on authorizing the use of force against Iraq as opposed to the entire region and make clear that dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would be the primary reason for using force. It emphasizes the importance of international support but reserves the right to act unilaterally if the Security Council does not approve a new resolution requiring the timely elimination of Iraq's weapons.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said earlier Monday it was ready to begin debate on the issue today, regardless of progress in reaching a consensus on the language.

But Daschle's spokeswoman, Ranit Schmelzer, later said they would put off the start of debate until at least Wednesday, awaiting the outcome of staff-level negotiations and a Wednesday breakfast Bush is hosting for top congressional leaders.

The House is expected to take up the resolution some time next week.

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