Secretary of State James Baker says the United States is not arming Iraqi rebels attempting to overthrow Saddam Hussein because it is up to the people of Iraq to move against the dictator.
Baker, fresh from a 10-day peace mission that included several stops in the Middle East, said Sunday thatwhile the United States would welcome the overthrow of Saddam, it would take no part in such an action.Appearing on ABC TV's "This Week with David Brinkley," Baker also defended the U.S. insistence that Iraqi warplanes and even helicopters remain grounded until a permanent cease-fire is signed as a way to protect allied forces still in Iraq. He said this was not an effort to bolster insurgents trying to overthrow Saddam because it is up to the Iraqi people to make the move.
Asked if Saddam would remain in power eight months from now, Baker responded: "I don't know. I would tell you that there's a judgment among many of the foreign officials that I visited with that he will not be.
"We've said on a number of occasions that it was really up to the Iraqi people to determine who their leadership is. We would like to see a change in that government," Baker said.
Baker, who met with nearly a dozen leaders during the journey, said many foreign officials believe Saddam will be out of power by year's end.
"There is an enhanced credibility out there for the United States that might make possible some progress in some of these very, very intractable areas and problems that we have faced for a long time," Baker said.
"I've said before that the United States is not going to be able to impose a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, is not going to be able to impose peace in the Middle East. But we should be able to serve as a catalyst to help bring that along, and hopefully now even more than ever."
Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., said Saddam is in great difficulty and his own military is likely the most dangerous element he faces.
"I will be surprised if he survives this for very long," said Nunn.
However, Nunn warned that if Saddam is removed from power it could lead to chaos.
"There are no Thomas Jeffersons out there," said Nunn. "(The) worst case is we could end up with another Lebanon, and of course nobody wants that."
Meantime, two Senate Democrats said they didn't believe opposition by many Democrats to a resolution authorizing use of force in the gulf would be a major issue in 1992.
"The American people know there was unity in this war and any effort to exploit the sacrifice of American men and women to gain politically, I think will backfire," said Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine.
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, the 1988 Democratic vice presidential candidate, said the issue "doesn't worry me in the slightest."
"I can remember a year or two ago when some Republicans were trying to charge us as the war party," Bentsen said. "Now they've taken the other side of the issue."