WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- President Bush wants the U.S. military to hit Iraq with an intense and compressed air attack, if necessary, before using up to 250,000 troops in a wider offensive by land and sea, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Quoting senior administration officials, the Times said the plan to swiftly seize footholds inside Iraq has been approved by Bush in recent weeks although no order has been given to implement it.
The plan calls for quick capture of land and the establishment of bases within Iraq, relieving some of the inevitable diplomatic discomfort with attacks launched from Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries.
Under the plan, a "seamless transition" from attack to a military occupation of parts of the country would include efforts to deliver food to Iraqis and to engage them quickly in planning for economic development and eventual democracy in areas that President Saddam Hussein has terrorized.
Meanwhile, as encouraged in the new United Nations resolution on Iraq, scientists and local military officials would be asked to reveal the location of hidden stores of weapons of mass destruction.
One senior official told the Times, drawing on comparisons with the American occupation of Japan in 1945, "Our message will be that the faster we find the weapons and arrest Saddam's guys, the faster they get some normalcy."
The level of American forces would be as high as consistently advocated by the commander of American forces in the Gulf, Gen. Tommy R. Franks.
While the Army is loading tugboats, forklifts and other cargo-handling equipment onto a giant cargo ship in Hampton Roads, Va., the orders for heavy ground forces have not yet been issued.
Pentagon officials, the Times said, had been awaiting language from the Security Council rsolution because the timetable for the inspection process will shape the schedule of troop deployments and, ultimately, the start of any offensive.
The plan envisions the only ally contributing significant ground forces will be Britain.
The initial air campaign would probably last less than a month, compared to the 43 days of bombing in the the first Gulf war, the report said. More than half of the bombs would be guided to their targets compared to the 9 percent during preliminaries to the Gulf War.
The campaign, the Times said, would quickly seek to cut off Iraq's leadership in Baghdad and a few other important command centers in hopes of causing a rapid collapse of the government.
Special Operations forces would infiltrate Iraq early on as they did in Afghanistan, designating targets, destroying sites holding weapons of mass destruction and preventing the flooding of marshes in southern Iraq and the burning of the country's oil fields.
The plan avoids unnecessary destruction of national assets needed for a post-war rebuilding while concentrating on structures associated with Saddam Hussein, like his presidential palaces. It also would encourage Iraqi soldiers to decide to be noncombatants rather than be killed.
The plan envisions the air campaign continuing as the ground campaign gets under way, the Times said, and incorporates precautions against being forced to confront the kinds of "martyrs' brigades" of civilians Saddam Hussein has used in the past.
The first Gulf War saw 265,000 National Guard and Reserves called up and if the order for such a callup is given again, they may be innoculated against smallpox, the account said.
Under the terms of the U.N. resolution, the last deadline for compliance is Feb. 21 when inspectors report their findings to the Security Council.