Iraq: US and British attacks continue

Uinsionn Mac Dubhghaill

UNITED STATES and British warplanes have continued to attack Iraqi targets in the north and south of the country since the end of Operation Desert Fox last December.

Most of the attacks receive scant attention in the western media, despite increasing Arab and Muslim anger at what is seen as a clear breach of international law.

In one such attack, on March 14th, US F-15E Strike Eagles flying out of the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey dropped GBU-12 laser-guided bombs on what the US military described as anti-aircraft artillery sites near the city of Mosul.

On the same day the US Central Command in Florida said US airforce F-16CG Fighting Falcons and British Royal Air Force FGR-1 Tornadoes struck two Iraqi military communications sites in southern Iraq.

A US military spokesman said another attack in northern Iraq at the end of February hit anti-aircraft defense systems. But Iraqi officials claimed the bombs halted the flow of crude oil through a pipeline in northern Turkey.

The attacks are in response to what the US describes as threats to its aircraft from Iraqi air defenses in the ‘no-fly’ zones over northern and southern Iraq. For its part, Iraq refuses to recognise the no-fly zones, imposed by western forces at the end of the Gulf War.

The attacks are portrayed as ‘surgical strikes’ or ‘pinpricks’, although their accuracy has been questioned. In one instance, CNN reported that bombs destined for Iraqi targets had landed inside Iran.

Meanwhile, the commander of US forces in the Gulf has warned that moves to topple Iraqi president Saddam Hussein may destabilise the region.

"I am not opposed to the Iraqi regime changing," General Anthony Zinni said. "I am all for that change. I just cautioned to be careful on any kind of programs that we institute on how that might come about."

General Zinni was speaking to Reuters at the International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi last month. In January he questioned US plans to support exiled Iraqi opposition groups, telling a committee of the US Senate that none of the existing organisations presented a viable threat to Saddam.

The US has named seven Iraqi groups in exile as eligible to share $97 million earmarked to topple the Baghdad government.

Asked to comment on concerns that changing the Iraqi regime may lead to the break-up of the country, General Zinni said: "That’s a very big concern. We do not want to see the territorial integrity of Iraq broken apart or changed in any way . . . We think it is important that it stays together. It is an important country [with a] very proud heritage, and it is important for the region that it stays together."


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