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Bush 'gives CIA powers against Iraq'
16 June 2002
US President George W Bush is reported to have given the CIA extra powers to conduct covert operations against Saddam Hussein, including the possible use of special forces teams inside Iraq.
Saddam Hussein's Iraq is part of Bush's "axis of evil"
Sunday's Washington Post says the presidential order was signed earlier this year.
The newspaper says the operations are seen by CIA insiders as preparations for a full-scale military attack.
President Bush has made no secret of his desire to see Saddam Hussein toppled from power.
This report seems to indicate more precisely what the Bush administration is planning.
The Washington Post says the CIA has been given permission to undertake a comprehensive covert programme to remove Saddam Hussein.
If the reports about the CIA action are true, it would suggest that the president feels so strongly about Saddam that he is willing to brush aside his allies and overrule his generals in order to achieve his goal
Included in that programme, the newspaper says, is authorisation for the CIA to use lethal force to capture Saddam Hussein or to kill him in self defence.
What appears to be envisaged is the use of small special forces teams inside Iraq - working in a similar fashion to those that have been deployed in Afghanistan.
A CIA source is quoted as saying this action would be mainly in preparation for a full-scale military action, but another source told the Washington Post it is not a silver bullet, but we could get lucky.
Serious about Saddam
These reports appear to confirm that President Bush is still serious about ousting Saddam Hussein.
It was reported earlier this year that the Pentagon was worried about the number of US troops that would be involved and was advising caution.
There is also some concern about the diplomatic fallout, particularly among America's European allies, most of whom would see any military action in Iraq as extremely unwise.
If the reports about the CIA action are true, it would suggest that the president feels so strongly about Saddam that he is willing to brush aside his allies and overrule his generals in order to achieve his goal.
Justin Webb, Washington