War on Terrorism: Washington Hardliners Want 'Every Snake in the Swamp' ; Analysis
Rupert Cornwell and Stephen Castle, The Independent (London, England)
AMERICA ISSUED a stark warning to its Nato allies yesterday that terrorists could be willing to use weapons of mass destruction and demanded pressure not just on Afghan-istan but on other states that harboured terrorists.
Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, issued a chilling description of the "alarming coincidence" between "states that harbour international terrorists and those states that have active and maturing weapons of mass destruction programmes".
He is regarded as the leading hawk in the Bush administration. Mr Wolfowitz still kept to the emerging American position that phase one of its military activities would be directed against the Taliban. He played down the imminence of a big military strike, stressing that a sophisticated strategy was being drawn up. "We are going to try and find every snake in the swamp we can but the essence of the strategy is to drain the swamp," he said.
In private sessions held in Brussels with 18 Nato partners and Russia, Mr Wolfowitz said Nato countries would not be required to provide collective military action to help the US in its proposed war against terrorism. "If we need collective [military] action, we'll ask for it, but I do not anticipate that for the moment," he said.
However, each member country would be asked to give "targeted help" after the historic decision by the 19-nation alliance to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which declares that an attack on one member is an attack on all.
Standing in for the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Mr Wolfowitz gave more details of President Bush's long-term campaign against terrorism, but without giving away any secrets of the battle plan. He also failed to reveal the intelligence which America had gathered to justify its belief that Osama bin Laden was behind the 11 September attacks. But he added: "The evidence is there for the whole world to see."
Geoff Hoon, the British Defence Secretary, said: "All the evidence that I have seen points to bin Laden."
Mr Hoon said that the US was still deciding how much information it could reveal without jeopardising its own intelligence gathering.
Mr Wolfowitz said more information was needed to identify targets and he singled out Britain, France and Turkey for having contributed crucial help to the Americans.
From the outset, Mr Wolfowitz has argued for US retaliation, not just against Mr bin Laden and the immediate perpetrators of the attacks, but against states that sponsor terrorism - above all, Iraq.
Now nothing would delight America more than to use the war on terrorism as an excuse to get rid of Saddam Hussein. But most policymakers in Washington realise this simply is not possible. Mr Wolfowitz is an increasingly lone voice in an administration all too aware that anything smacking of a general offensive against Muslim countries of which the US disapproves might destroy moderate Arab support - the most important but also the most fragile part of the coalition Mr Bush wants to build.
A senior Western diplomat in constant contact with the administration says: "Colin Powell has emerged as perhaps the key figure. His measured, deliberate approach is prevailing." On occasion General Powell has got too far out in front. …