WASHINGTON – The two senior members of the Senate's intelligence committee predicted Sunday that the United States and Iraq will go to war.
"I've said that there was a 70 percent chance of war with Iraq this winter, from January to March," said the chairman, Sen. Bob Graham, "and nothing that has happened in the last few days has changed that calculation."
The vice chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., appearing with Graham, D-Fla., in a televised interview, blamed the worsening outlook on the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.
"I know Saddam Hussein. I know his background. I know his history," Shelby said.
"I always hoped something would happen. You know, I'd like to see the people of Iraq rise up and get rid of a despot there. Will it happen? Probably not. There will probably be a war."
Sen. John McCain said Saddam could prevent hostilities, but only by cooperating fully with U.N. weapons inspectors. McCain is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"This isn't a game of hide and seek," the Arizona Republican said on CBS' Face the Nation. "We know that there are areas where there are weapons of mass destruction."
The top two weapons inspectors arrived Sunday on Cyprus to begin assembling their team for the journey to Iraq for a reassessment of Saddam's suspected clandestine arms program.
Preliminary inspections, the first in nearly four years, probably will resume the day before Thanksgiving, with full-scale checks beginning after Iraq meets a Dec. 8 deadline to declare the extent of its weapons projects.
A forceful advocate of military action to force disarmament, McCain said the Iraqis should not "start jerking us around" by moving their weapons from place to place.
"We fully expect Saddam Hussein to say, 'Look, here's what I have. Come in here to this place,'" McCain said. But if he continues to try to hide his weapons, McCain said, the United States must declare at a very early point in the process that Iraq was not complying with the latest U.N. Security Council resolution reinstating the weapons checks.
If that happens, McCain said, Iraq must face severe consequences. "Otherwise, the United Nations risks its relevancy, but, perhaps more importantly, the United States risks its relevancy," he said.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., also appearing on CBS, agreed.
"The idea that you could jerk us around and get away with it is just beyond any sense at all," Dodd said.
But he said it would be wrong to launch any military action against Iraq before the weapons inspectors report back to the United Nations, expected in February.
"It's going to be critically important that, if Saddam Hussein does ... jerk us around here, we're going to want that same coalition that we built at the U.N to be with us if military action is necessary," said Dodd, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "And it seems to me that you're going to have to complete these dates and get these reports back before you're going to want to make that decision."