IN HIS FINAL ACT AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, BUSH STRIKES IRAQ
IN HIS FINAL ACT AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, BUSH STRIKES IRAQ
It has been two years since allied warplanes filled the skies over Iraq, signalling the start of a six-week military campaign that drove Iraq’s invading army out of neighboring Kuwait. But last week, U.S., British and French aircraft again thundered over the Persian Gulf, launching a 30-minute raid on missile sites and radar installations in southern Iraq. The limited military strike, said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater,
sent an “appropriate message to Saddam Hussein” to stop violating United Nations ceasefire resolutions enacted after the 1991 Gulf War. And with the public support of president-elect Bill Clinton, who assumes office this week, outgoing Defence Secretary Richard Cheney warned Iraq that the United States was “perfectly prepared to use force again” if Baghdad does not back down. Then, on Friday President George Bush set still another deadline for
Iraq’s compliance with UN resolutions, forcing Baghdad to swiftly allow international inspection teams to fly into the country. To emphasize American resolve, Bush ordered about 1,100 ground troops to head for Kuwait in anticipation of possible Iraqi retaliation for the aerial attack.
Tensions flared between Iraq and the Western allies after a U.S. plane shot down an Iraqi fighter on Dec. 27. The Iraqi MiG was flying
Basra "I Umm Qa§r
Flying from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk stationed in the Persian Gulf and from an airbase in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 40 allied bombers supported by about 70 other refuelling, surveillance and escort planes attacked eight military targets in southern Iraq. American planes, including the F-117A Stealth Fighter and the A-6 Intruder, dropped 2,000-lb. laser-guided bombs and 1,000-lb. unguided bombs at their targets with mixed success. Four British Tornado strike aircraft, which fly at altitudes as low as 100 feet to avoid detection by radar, joined the attack and hit about half their targets. The planes were protected by radar-jamming aircraft flying at 9,000 feet—above the reach of anti-aircraft fire—and given air cover by other fighter jets, including six French Mirage 2000 planes. About 20 Iraqis were killed. Resistance was light.
British Tornado fighter
ANDREW BILSKI with correspondents' reports
below the 32nd parallel, one of two so-called no-fly zones in Iraq established by the United States, Britain, France and Russia to protect separatist Kurds in the north and dissident Shiite Moslems in the south. Iraq responded by deploying surface-to-air missiles in both restricted zones. In a further gesture of defiance, Baghdad told the United Nations that its staff, including inspectors dismantling Iraqi weapons of mass destruction under the terms of the ceasefire, could only travel on Iraqi planes. Members of the allied coalition decided to attack last week when Iraqi workmen repeatedly crossed the border to retrieve Silkworm missiles and dismantle installations at Umm Qa§r, a former Iraqi naval base and now a demilitarized zone that was designated part of Kuwait by a UN commission. After consulting his allies, Bush made the decision during an hour-long White House meeting on Jan. 11. The strike was set to take place the next day at 1:15 p.m. EST (9.T5 p.m. Iraqi time), but bad weather in Iraq delayed the raid until Wednesday at the same time.
Baghdad quickly pledged to stop the incursions into Kuwait and rescinded its ban on UN
flights. But Hussein declared that he would not respect the Western-imposed no-fly zones, which hesays breach Iraqi sovereignty. On national television, he exhorted his armed forces to “fight on against the aggressors so that the Iraqi airspace from the north to the south, from the east to the west, is turned into fiery lava.” With Baghdad threatening to shoot down any coalition aircraft flying over its territory, Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger predicted that the incoming president, who takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, will find himself entangled in a crisis with Iraq within weeks. Said Eagleburger of Hussein: “He’ll try to push Clinton within the first month or so of his being in office.”
Pentagon officials said that the nighttime attack by 110 coalition planes focused on eight Iraqi military targets at six sites, seriously damaging about half of them. But privately, some military officials expressed disappointment in the raid, which apparently destroyed only one of the four targeted missile batteries. And the Pentagon made no mention of Iraqi casualties, which Baghdad placed at 19 people killed and 15 wounded—some of them civilians. Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams admitted that one bomb hit “some kind of structure” that was not a target. Other reports said that the bomb may have hit an apartment building in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
Although Canada did not take part in the operation, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, vacationing in Florida, said that he supported the decision to attack Iraq. Mulroney, who went on to weekend with Bush at Camp David, Md., expressed hope that the raid will impress upon Iraq “the need for responsible international behavior.” But both U.S. government officials and analysts said that there was little support among Washington’s key Arab allies for a larger attack. The reasons range from Arab fears of destabilizing Iraq at a time when neighboring fundamentalist Iran has become a resurgent military threat in the region, to the Islamic world’s anger with Washington for not taking decisive action to defend Bosnia’s Moslems from Serbian attacks. “The key thing was how much consensus could be put together for what kind of strike,” said Boston University Middle East expert William Green. “What we had was limited consensus for a limited strike.”
Following the aerial attack, both Hussein and Bush brought a religious overtone to the final act of their confrontation. The Iraqi leader told his armed forces that Iraq’s battle with the Americans was a holy war, “which God wants to be a certain victory for you.” Bush, in an emotional farewell speech to military personnel at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., said that coalition pilots had done “the Lord’s work.” For incoming president Bill Clinton, the prospect of further confrontation with Iraq seemed as certain as death and taxes.
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