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Iraq

News Q&A

By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2003


1) Does the United States have a legal right to invade Iraq?

The Bush administration believes so. Many experts in international law believe not. The disagreement turns on ambiguities in various United Nations resolutions.

After the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the United Nations adopted a resolution requiring Iraq to "unconditionally accept the destruction ... of all chemical and biological weapons."

In November, the Security Council adopted a resolution decrying Iraq's "failure to cooperate," warning Iraq that it would face "serious consequences" if it did not comply.

U.S. and British officials say those resolutions authorize war, even without a new Security Council resolution.

2) How will this war be different from the first Gulf War?

The goal of the first Gulf War was to expel Iraq from Kuwait. After five weeks of bombing, the ground war lasted a mere 100 hours. The U.S.-led coalition never had to send ground forces into Baghdad.

This time the goal is "regime change," a takeover and the capture of Baghdad. That could involve dangerous close-range fighting and civilian casualties.

3) How difficult will it be to find Saddam Hussein?

Very difficult. He is believed to have three body doubles who have been surgically enhanced to look more like him. He seldom sleeps in the same bed two nights in a row, and he is protected by nearly 30,000 security forces. In the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. warplanes bombed 260 "leadership targets," including his underground bunkers, command centers and offices, and still failed to kill him.

4) If Hussein is captured what will be done with him?

He almost certainly would stand trial before a military tribunal established by the United States and its allies. Similar trials are being held for war criminals in the former Yugoslavia, where Slobodan Milosevic is being held accountable for his role in ethnic wars during the 1990s.

5) What ever happened to Osama bin Laden?

With all the focus on Iraq and Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden has drawn little attention lately. He is believed to be alive in Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

6) What are the best- and worst-case scenarios?

The best case: U.S.-led forces advance so easily and quickly toward Baghdad that Saddam Hussein's government collapses and his army surrenders.

The worst case: a desperate Hussein unleashes chemical or biological weapons.

7) What effect will war have on the U.S. economy?

Past wars have provided an economic boost by forcing sectors of the economy to speed up production, which creates jobs. But the U.S. economy has changed significantly since World War II and Vietnam. A war with Iraq likely would not spur a significant shift in production.

War could interrupt the flow of oil out of the region and result in higher prices at the gas pump.

In terms of inflation, some experts say, this might be the best time to conduct a war. The economy shows few signs of inflationary pressures, so oil price hikes are unlikely to trigger general inflation.

The stock market has been down at the prospect of war, then again, Wall Street posted healthy gains this week as war appeared imminent.

8) Is it safe to travel?

The State Department issues warnings to U.S. citizens traveling to foreign countries. Check its Web site:

http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html.

This is a travel warning posted Feb. 12, and still considered current:

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully the increased risks of travel to Saudi Arabia. ... Americans are reminded of the potential for further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf."

9) How many Iraqis died in the 1991 Gulf War?

Baghdad says 75,000 to 100,000 soldiers were killed in action. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 300,000 were wounded.

Iraq estimates that 35,000 to 45,000 of its civilians were killed by allied bombing; U.S. Intelligence puts the number at 3,000.

10) How many U.S. and allied troops died?

Of more than 540,000 Americans deployed at the peak of the fighting, 148 were killed and 467 wounded. Also killed were 24 British servicemen, 39 allied Arabs, two French and one Italian.

11) Are U.N. weapons inspectors and non-Iraqi citizens leaving the country?

After President Bush set the 48-hour deadline Monday for Hussein to leave Iraq, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered all weapons inspectors and humanitarian workers out of the country. Governments around the world urged their citizens to leave.

12) Can I still send mail to American soldiers now that war has started?

Yes, but it could take a while to get there.

Many letters have arrived in about nine days, but some Marines report they received mail roughly three weeks after it was postmarked. Packages take longer. With troops on the move, mail will get there even slower.

To see what items not to send in packages to soldiers in the Gulf region, go to:

http://www.marinemoms.us/usmc/deploy-mail.asp

-- Information from the Congressional Quarterly, Knight Ridder Newspapers, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Orlando Sentinel and USA Today was used by Times staff writer Stephen Hegarty to compile this report. Times researchers Kitty Bennett, Barbara Oliver and Cathy Wos also contributed.

-- If you have any questions about a possible war in Iraq, please send them to warquestions@sptimes.com.

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