CIA to continue covert efforts to oust Hussein

April 11, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has conclude that the Bush administration's covert program to overthrow Saddam Hussein failed to weaken the Iraqi leader, but it plans to maintain a scaled-down version of the program anyway, administration and other government officials say.

In reviewing the program, the new administration has concluded that much of the aid had been misdirected to groups with no popular following and that too much money had been spent on leaflets and other propaganda devices with little impact, the officials said.

They added that the administration would try to make less money do more in trying to destabilize the Iraqi government and make life more difficult for Mr. Hussein.

The expected changes in the Iraqi program, run by the Central Intelligence Agency, are part of an ambitious and systematic review of all covert programs that the Clinton administration inherited from the Bush administration, the officials said.

The decision to continue the program despite misgivings about its effectiveness reflects conflicting pressures on the administration.

On the one hand, senior administration officials have said that President George Bush's demonization of Mr. Hussein by labeling him "worse than Hitler" was foolish because it raised expectations that he would have to be overthrown even though the United States did not have the tools to do it.

On the other hand, even as the new officials seek to "depersonalize" Iraq policy by focusing on the importance of Iraq's compliance with United Nations sanctions, the administration is sensitive to charges that it is being soft on Mr. Hussein.

A result has been a confusing mix of new signals and status quo. While officials hint at a different emphasis, they have left in place many of the specific decisions, such as the rules of engagement for U.S. pilots enforcing the no-flight zone.

Mr. Bush hoped the Iraqi military could be encouraged to foment a coup against Mr. Hussein, and toward the end of 1991 he authorized a $15 million covert plan to help.

The program was expanded last year to $40 million. Officials said the Clinton administration might cut the $40 million program by about half.

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