More covert-action funds reported sought

May 31, 1992|By Robin Wright | Robin Wright,Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has proposed almost tripling the $15 million budget for intelligence and covert action to help overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to U.S. sources.

The request, which would increase CIA spending on the Iraq effort to $40 million, follows a year of U.S. frustration and embarrassment over Mr. Hussein's ability not only to survive the political and military punishment from Operation Desert Storm, but to reconsolidate his singular hold over the country.

The new funding would go toward a program begun in May 1991, when President Bush signed a presidential finding after two uprisings, by Mr. Hussein's Shiite and Kurdish foes, failed to force him from power.

The finding opened the way for U.S. covert action to destabilize the Iraqi regime and then to encourage internal forces to oust Mr. Hussein, the sources said.

The size of the increase for fiscal 1993 amounts to an admission lTC that the U.S.-led effort has so far had limited impact, they said.

Despite recent public assessments by the administration that Mr. Hussein is facing growing obstacles at home, senior U.S. analysts have told the administration privately that Mr. Hussein may be able to hold on to power indefinitely.

Sources said that the CIA funds would be used primarily in three ways: to increase U.S. surveillance over Iraq, particularly to monitor arms deployment and potential manufacturing; to assist least three Iraqi opposition groups; and to increase anti-Hussein propaganda.

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