Bush Asking Allies for Billions to Aid Cost of Containing Iraq : Gulf crisis: He says U.S. burden must be shared by all having ‘a stake in international order.’ Baker and Brady will begin worldwide quest for commitments next week.
President Bush, saying other nations must “bear their fair share,” dispatched his top Cabinet officers Thursday on a global tour to seek a multibillion-dollar commitment from foreign leaders to defray the mounting cost of meeting Iraqi aggression.
In a blunt message aimed at domestic concern about what has been primarily a U.S.-sponsored effort, the President declared at a news conference that the burden of the Persian Gulf deployment must be borne by “anyone with a stake in international order.”
The decision to send Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady abroad next week came as the Administration laid the groundwork for what could be a prolonged military occupation and as Bush made clear that the operation will continue “as long as it takes” to force Iraq from Kuwait.
At the same time, the President made an indirect appeal for the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, pointedly stating that the United States has “no argument with the people of Iraq.”
Bush expressed concern about the fate of foreigners being held as shields against a potential U.S. military attack, but declared: “We cannot permit hostage-taking to shape the foreign policy of this country.”
And under mounting pressure to articulate American aims in Operation Desert Shield, the President hinted that they now exceed what he called his “publicly stated objectives” of forcing Iraq out of Kuwait and winning freedom for the hostages.
Asked whether he could accept a solution that leaves Iraqi military power intact, Bush said he believes “the world would demand that there be no chance of another invasion right the minute this ended.”
The new Administration plan to solicit billions of dollars in assistance abroad represents a recognition that the United States cannot shoulder both the massive costs of its Persian Gulf operation and the mounting needs of nations harmed by the economic embargo against Iraq.
As approved by the President on Thursday, the Administration appeal is aimed at Japan, West Germany, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the exiled government of Kuwait. Officials said it seeks a one-year commitment of at least $10 billion.
In addition, Bush held open the possibility that other nations might be solicited as the United States seeks to ensure that the campaign against Iraq is a “concerted and coordinated one and that all affected countries participate.”
A significant share of the fund is to be provided directly to the United States to help carry the burden of a military operation now estimated to cost $46 million a day--$2.5 billion by the end of September.
The remaining aid--including cut-rate supplies of oil--is to be channeled to Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and other nations once largely dependent on trade with Iraq. Such economic assistance is regarded as essential to maintain those nations’ support of the sanctions against Iraq.
At the same time, the President pledged that the United States remains “more than willing to bear our fair share of the burden.” Administration officials said the United States, its military costs at least partially defrayed, could be expected to contribute an additional $10 billion in foreign aid.
A total of 22 nations now have sent a limited number of ground troops to Saudi Arabia or dispatched naval forces to surrounding waters. But economic contributions have been paltry, and some of the world’s wealthiest nations--West Germany and South Korea among them--have not participated in either effort.
In unveiling the initiative at a White House news conference, Bush insisted that he was not displeased with ad hoc steps taken by other nations so far. He called attention to a “significant” pledge by Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu to provide $1 billion in aid.
But a senior official acknowledged there had been “some frustration” within the Bush Administration over Japan’s delays in providing help for the gulf operations. He said the Administration still hopes Japan can be persuaded to do more.
With his Administration clearly preparing for the long haul, Bush said the United States is seeking to “get the priorities right and make sure that those most deserving of assistance receive it and those most able to contribute do so.”
Administration officials said Treasury Secretary Brady will lead a high-level delegation to Asia as early as Monday. Secretary of State Baker is scheduled to take a similar entourage to Europe and the Middle East by midweek.
Baker will combine his trip with a previously planned visit to Moscow, a senior Administration official said, adding that there is no possibility that the secretary of state will go to Iraq. The official also ruled out the possibility that Brady would visit China, which remains officially subject to Administration sanctions on high-level visits.
Bush began his own personal diplomacy Thursday by making telephone calls to a host of foreign leaders as he returned to his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Me. A White House spokesman said the President spoke with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal; the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Jabber al Ahmed al Sabah; and Sheik Zayid ibn Sultan al Nuhayan, president of the United Arab Emirates.
The announcement of the plan came just two days after members of Congress raised concerns in a private meeting with Bush that the United States is carrying too heavy a load in a mission that has near-unanimous international backing.
At the time, the President warned that the United States should not appear to be fielding a “mercenary army.” He suggested Thursday that his plan would avoid that impression by using foreign aid to meet transportation and fuel costs rather than to pay soldiers’ salaries.
In the same session, some members of Congress had urged Bush to go beyond his public demand that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and outline more specifically American objectives in the current crisis.
While still repeating his “publicly stated objectives,” Bush made clear that he had discussed the issue with a leading critic, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who has argued that the United States must seek no less than the ouster of Hussein. And in indicating that he would favor steps to ensure that there would be “no chance” of another Iraqi invasion, the President went beyond his previous public statements.
Bush also went out of his way, in an opening statement that otherwise focused on the burden-sharing plan, to draw a distinction between a U.S. policy aimed at the Iraqi regime and what he said are “the true interests of the Iraqi people.”
In language that directly paralleled his comments urging the overthrow last year of Panamanian strongman Manuel A. Noriega, the President said he wants to make clear that the United States has “no argument with the people of Iraq.”
Asked later whether he wants Hussein out of power, Bush said: “It wouldn’t disappoint me if the Iraqis got up and said, ‘Look, this man is our problem.’ ”
Bush also made more explicit what other officials have said is a firm Administration decision not to allow the presence of American hostages in Iraq to be a deterrent to any military action deemed necessary.
While saying it would be “too hypothetical” to declare that hostage lives are expendable, Bush said he would not “change the policy of the United States” to “pay homage or to give credibility to this brutal move . . . of holding people against their will.”
Appearing tired and tense, Bush also evinced no patience for a proposal by the Iraqi leader that the two appear on television to “debate” the differences between them.
“I say you can put an empty chair there as far as I’m concerned,” the President said.
In military developments, the United States for the first time Thursday moved combat units from Europe to the Middle East. The transfer of two combat air groups from West Germany to Saudi Arabia represented a change from previous Pentagon reluctance to deplete its European forces.
At the same time, F-16s from the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, now based in Torrejon, Spain, were transferred to Qatar, which this week agreed to permit foreign forces to operate from its soil.
The Pentagon also announced that U.S. naval vessels operating near Iraq boarded two more vessels Wednesday as part of a continuing effort to enforce the U.N.-sanctioned economic blockade. The move brought to a total of 250 the number of vessels intercepted by U.S. forces since the crisis began.
Times staff writers John M. Broder, David Lauter and Jim Mann contributed to this report.
RELATED STORIES, PHOTOS: A6-A23, B1, D1, E1, F1
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get the day's top news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.