Wednesday, August 1, 2001
As Iraq steps up attacks, U.S. weighs options
By Warren P. Strobel
INQUIRER WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - Iraq's Saddam Hussein has again presented an American president
with a dilemma, escalating his attacks on U.S. aircraft in a way that leaves
President Bush with few attractive ways to respond.
The White House has hinted over the last few days that it is contemplating
significant air strikes on Iraq in response to Hussein's moves, which
include the near downing of an Air Force U-2 spy plane last week and the
apparent firing of an antiaircraft missile into Saudi Arabian airspace.
The Pentagon yesterday released new figures to illustrate that Iraq
antiaircraft forces are becoming increasingly aggressive.
In the south, Iraq has violated the "no-fly zone" or threatened Western
warplanes 370 times so far this year, the Pentagon said. That compares with
221 such incidents in all of 2000. In the north, there were 145 incidents
last year and there have been 62 so far this year.
Suggesting that a stronger U.S. reply might be in the works, national
security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that Bush is crafting an Iraq
policy that contemplates "the use of military force in a more resolute
manner and not just a manner of tit-for-tat with them every day."
"Saddam Hussein is on the radar screen for the administration," Rice said.
Judith Yaphe, a National Defense University professor, said, "The real
question is, 'Can you let it go?' Because if you let it go, he [Hussein]
will do more." She described the events of recent weeks as Iraq's most
significant challenge in recent years to the two U.S. and British no-fly
zones that cover most of its northern and southern territory.
Bush, however, can't strike back without further inflaming the Arab world,
where the population is increasingly angered by America's failure to
restrain Israel's suppression of the Palestinian uprising, said a senior
U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Turkey and Saudi Arabia,
where U.S. warplanes are based, would not support a major U.S. attack on
Iraq, the official said.
Hussein has tried to align himself with the Palestinian uprising, and has
sent money to the families of Palestinians killed in the conflict, and big
new U.S. attacks would probably enhance his stature among Arabs.
Hussein would be "the hero of the Palestinians," Yaphe said. "He doesn't
care what he loses."
Last Wednesday, Iraq fired a missile at a high-altitude U-2 spy plane. The
missile exploded close enough to be felt by the pilot, but the plane wasn't
A Navy EC-2 reconnaissance plane flying over Kuwait a few days earlier
reported that an Iraqi air-defense missile was fired at it. A third major
incident, in which the pilot of an Air Force airborne radar plane flying
over Saudi Arabia also reported a missile fired in his direction, is still
Military planners have made preparations for a broad attack on Iraq's
air-defense system, one senior official said, and Pentagon officials have
urged that the President, should he decide to retaliate, order a
disproportionately large strike that takes the initiative away from Hussein.
The military's advice is "don't do this nickel-and-dime," said Anthony
Cordesman, an expert on the U.S.-Iraq confrontation at the Washington-based
Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Likely U.S. targets, Cordesman said, include Iraq's air-defense radars,
command and control sites, communications nodes in Iraq's air-defense
systems, and buildings where Hussein is believed to have restarted his plans
to build longer-range ballistic missiles. Other targets might include tanks,
artillery and bases belonging to Hussein's Republican Guard and other units
that help the dictator stay in power.
The risks of such an attack include not only further damage to the United
States' standing in the Middle East, but also unintended civilian deaths,
Iraq, for example, is believed to have hidden biological- and
chemical-weapons facilities on university campuses that the United States
couldn't attack without risking civilian casualties.
And, Cordesman said, "If we lose a single American aircraft, it's a
significant Iraqi victory."
Wednesday, August 1, 2001
Precarious life in a 'no-fly zone'
By Kim Ghattas
FOR THE INQUIRER
TALL AFAR, Iraq - Khoder Jader has been grief-stricken since June 16, when a
missile hit a soccer field in his town while a game was under way. The
explosion killed 23 people, including three of his sons.
"Why, why did my sons die?" asked Jader, a teacher, as he shook his head,
weeping and slowly repeating the names of his dead sons - Faisal, Elias,
Mustafa - and the name of his son Hassan, who lost a leg in the explosion.
This is life at ground zero in the "no-fly zone" of northern Iraq, where
duels between American planes and Iraqi radar installations can rain death
on unsuspecting civilians.
The sound of jet fighters has become part of daily life in Tall Afar since
the no-fly zones were established in 1991 in northern Iraq and 1992 in the
south by the United States, Britain and France. The intent of the zones was
to put an end to Iraq's repression of Kurds in the north and Shiites in the
south. France has since dropped out of the patrols.
After the 1998 weapon-inspector crisis, U.S. and British pilots began
"aggressive enforcement" of the no-fly zones, striking at any part of the
Iraqi air-defense system, not just those that directly target their
aircraft. Since then, the Iraqi army has also been ordered to fire at the
airplanes at all costs.
Baghdad says 300 civilians have died and 900 have been wounded in the raids.
Those figures cannot be independently verified, and American officials
discount them as too high.
For Jader, though, the results are all too apparent.
"It was Tuesday, at exactly 11:30," his nephew Hussein Jader said as
mourning relatives crowded into one of the two rooms of Jader's modest home.
"The American planes came, the children were playing in the football field,
and the planes bombed it. One strike, one tragic strike."
U.S. and British officials say it was not an American plane that caused the
After Iraqi TV announced that 23 people had died in an air raid, U.S.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said coalition aircraft had not fired
any weapons that day. He said that Iraqi forces had fired several
surface-to-air missiles but that the coalition aircraft did not respond.
"[If] anyone was killed, it was undoubtedly the result of misdirected ground
fire that ended up in an [unintended] location," Rumsfeld said.
Hussein Jader doesn't believe that.
"The Americans will never admit it. They are liars; they're guilty. Didn't
they also bomb the Aamiriyya shelter [in Baghdad during the gulf war in
1991]? Didn't they kill hundreds of civilians then? Aren't they killing
hundreds of civilians every day with their sanctions?"
In May 1999, 14 civilians died in an air strike at a nomad encampment that
the United States said it had believed was an antiaircraft-missile site.
The Iraqi army is suspected of positioning antiaircraft guns in residential
areas. And there have been cases in which shrapnel and unexploded Iraqi
ordnance have landed in civilian areas, killing residents.
On June 16, witnesses in a vegetable market near the football field in Tall
Afar say, they heard only one explosion. That would apparently rule out
Iraqi antiaircraft gunfire, though not antiaircraft missiles.
"No, there was no shooting before," Hussein Jader said. "No, there was no
Iraqi antiaircraft shooting at the planes," he said. Before every answer, he
glanced at the official sent by the Iraqi ministry of information to
accompany a foreign reporter.
Determining what exactly happened on that Tuesday in Tall Afar is also made
difficult by the fact that no reporters other than those from Iraqi TV were
allowed on the site until about a week after the bombing.
Sitting on a mat on the floor, Khoder Jader was sipping strong, sweet tea.
He said he cared little for details. Whether his sons were killed by U.S.
aircraft or Iraqi missiles, he blamed "Amreeca" for the conflict that has
gone on here for 11 years.
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