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Star Mid-East Watch - Page A4 Star

Updated 02:00 September 3, 1996

News Analysis


by Howard Hobbs, Ph.D., Economics Editor, Daily Republican Newspaper

WASHINGTON DESK - Tom Clancy got it right when he wrote the president's dialog in his new book Executive Orders. According to Clancy's account, the president of the United States resolutely said: "Those guilty of attack (on the Kurds) will face our justice. We will not send notes of protest. We will not call a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council. We will make war with all the power and rage this country and her citizens can muster." Clancy's new book is a colossal read. But is it just fiction?

In a BBC short-wave broadcast at 01:55 Tuesday the Daily Republican first learned that the United States had launched missile strikes against Saddam Hussein in retaliation for his military assault on Kurdish areas and the murder of Kurdish leaders, in a United Nations"safe haven" in northern Iraq.

The BBC report said that U.S. Navy ships and Air Force B-52 bombers fired a total of 27 cruise missiles at "selected air defense targets" in southern Iraq for about a 45-minute period beginning midmorning, the Pentagon has said.

President Clinton ordered the mission and was expected to make a formal statement about it at 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the White House said.

About 23,000 U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf remained on "a very high state of alert," braced for "any possible retaliation response" from Iraq, military officials said.

Meanwhile, in a statement televised on Iraqi state-owned television, Saddam indicated that he doubted the resolve of the Clinton administration to see military action through. He urged his troops to resist U.S. strikes and declaring th "no-fly zones" to be null and void. This challenge to the Clinton administration came after Britain announced that the "no-fly zone" in southern Iraq would be expanded to the north.

Saddam claimed damage from the U.S. strikes ordered by president Clinton were minimal and many missiles were downed. Saddam also claimed that the missiles struck civilian areas, causing high numbers of civilian casualties.

U.S. military sources admitted in a CNN interview that the missile attacks focused on air defense command and control facilities in relatively unpopulated areas of southern Iraq.

The Pentagon was waiting for damage assessment reports after disclosing the attack at 1:55 a.m. EDT, about 30 minutes after air raid sirens sounded in Baghdad. Hours earlier, Clinton signed off on military and economic sanctions against Iraq.

The Pentagon initially indicated Baghdad targets were included, but later backed-off that statement. Sites in and around Al Kut, Al Iskandariyah, An Nasiriyah and Tallil were targeted, military officials said. Reuters is reporting that witnesses on the scene reported anti-aircraft fire was launched for a period from some positions in Baghdad.

The air strikes followed a Clinton White House statement that it had evidence Saddam's troops were moving toward the Kurdish stronghold of Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq.

However, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz denied the Clinton White House claims, and said in the official Iraqi News Agency that Iraqi troops would withdraw Tuesday to the positions they held before Friday's assault.

Iraqi forces were apparently trying to consolidate the positions of pro-Saddam Kurdish troops against those Kurdish groups opposed to Iraq, contended Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry.

However, U.N. officials said Iraq had actually withdrawn from the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq two days after routing the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and installing the pro-Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Military intelligence indicated three divisions of Iraqi troops remained outside Irbil, north of the 36th parallel that designates the Iraqi "no-fly zone" marked off by the U.S., France, Britain and the United Nations, said McCurry.

The Clinton brokered a cease-fire last week and attempted to bring representatives of the Kurds and Iraq together in London on Friday for peace talks.

But Iraq angrily charged the Clinton administration with meddling in its national affairs. As the Kurdish factions clashed, Iran also moved troops into its northern territories. Thursday, Iraq accused Iran of sending troops into Iraq itself, presumably to strike at Iranian Kurdish guerrillas there.

The Clinton administration' has been frustrated and rebuffed in its efforts to keep peace between the rival Kurdish groups have had no positive successes. Since last year, the Clinton administration has attempted to step in several times order to maintain the outward appearance of peace, but it has never been able to obtain a firm agreement of any sort.

The most recent fighting in the area flared in mid-August, raising alarm in Washington that it would lead to Iraq disregarding the no-fly zone and begin ethnic genocide attacking Kurd villages and the mass execution of Kurd men, women, and children.

The Clinton State Department has issued several stern warnings to Iraq and Iran in recent weeks.

Late on Monday, Clinton signed off on military action against Iraq. President Clinton signed a directive taking responsibility for initiating military and economic means to force Iraq to comply with removal of Iraqi troops from northern Kurdish areas.

Fourteen of the missiles were launched by the Navy cruiser USS Shiloh and destroyer USS Laboon in the northern Persian Gulf, and 13 were launched by Air Force B-52 "Stratofortress" bombers that flew in from Guam, according to military sources.

The cruise missiles were Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) and Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) with high explosive warheads. Eight of the Navy's TLAMs were launched from the destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58), and six were fired from the cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 68). The 13 ACLMs were deployed from Air Force B- 52 bombers.

Britain provided logistical support for the operation, as U.S. B-52s flying to the Persian Gulf from Guam refueled at a base in the Indian Ocean, said Britain Defense Secretary Michael Portillo.

Any U.S. military action is likely to involve war planes from the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf. There are six Navy ships in the a Gulf equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles. There are four B-52 heavy bombers in range of the Gulf, each with eight air-launched cruise missiles.

However, Pentagon sources said Monday, Saudi Arabia had refused to give the United States permission to launch air strikes against Iraq from Saudi bases. Pentagon sources said Washington had not given up on intentions to base additional U.S. war planes in Jordan, despite a public statement from Amman that it would not allow U.S. planes to be based there.

Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, announced Sunday he would delay a deal to let Iraq sell limited amounts of oil to buy food and medicine. Gas prices can be expected to continue to rise as a result of the embargo on Iraqi oil sales.

Ironically, the Iraqis thought the oil would start flowing this month. The plan would have allowed Iraq to sell $2 billion worth of oil over six months to buy needed humanitarian supplies.


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