China fortifying Iraq's air-defense system

Henry C.K. Liu hliu at
Tue Feb 20 13:47:27 MST 2001

Bill Gertz is the most vocal journalist demonizing China.  If the US can
sell arms to Tiawan, what is the big deal with China fortifying Iraq's
air-fefense system?

February 20, 2001

China fortifying Iraq's  air-defense system

By Bill Gertz

China is building a fiber-optic communications system for Iraq's new
air-defense network that was
targeted by U.S. and British bombing last week, Pentagon officials
confirmed yesterday.   "The Chinese are in the process of helping to
construct a fiber-optic connection network to better integrate the
air-defense system of Iraq," said a senior defense official. "These are
largely buried fiber-optic cables that would protect them from a variety
of things like weather — or coalition air attacks."
The Chinese fiber-optic program in Iraq, part of a new integrated
air-defense network that was nearly finished before the raid Friday, was
first reported by The Washington Post yesterday. The air-defense network
will greatly increase Iraq's ability to target and shoot down patrolling
U.S. aircraft with anti-aircraft missiles, defense analysts said.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered a reward to any air-defense
unit that succeeds in downing a U.S. or allied jet patrolling the two
air-exclusion zones over northern and southern Iraq. The officials said
the bombing raid by some two dozen warplanes was conducted on a Muslim
holiday to avoid killing people — including Chinese military officials
and civilians working on the fiber-optic network.  "We wanted to take
out the system and  hardware and not the people," the senior official
said.  Pentagon officials said they do not know how long China has been
helping build the air-defense network or whether the U.S. government has
protested the apparent violation of U.N. sanctions on Iraq.  China's
government has condemned the bombing raid, along with the Russian
government. The Chinese involvement in an Iraqi military program is
raising questions among some U.S. officials about China's assistance to
America's enemies. CIA Director George Tenet stated in Senate testimony
last week that China is a leading supplier of weapons and missiles to
rogue states, such as Iran, Libya and North Korea.
However, the Iraqi fiber-optics program is the first time China's
involvement in selling arms to the Baghdad government was made public.
The damage caused by Friday's bombing of some 20 radar stations that are
part of the new air-defense network is not clear and still being
assessed, the officials said.
As of last week, satellite photographs and other reconnaissance data
showed that seven targets described as command-and-control "nodes" or
central points in the new integrated air-defense system were destroyed
or severely damaged. Because the radars vary in size, it has been
difficult to tell which have been put out of action completely and which
systems may be functioning fully or partially, the officials said.
China several years ago set up a nationwide system of fiber-optic
communications lines through  its territory. The fiber-optic system is
able to handle larger volumes of communications and is more secure
against electronic eavesdropping.   U.S. companies also have sold
fiber-optic communications equipment to China, raising questions about
whether U.S.-origin fiber-optic  know-how was resold to Iraq as part of
the air-defense network.   The sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian
Gulf war prohibit sales of military goods to Iraq until it gives up all
its weapons of mass destruction and certain missile programs.
The United Nations allowed Chinese companies to repair severe damage to
Iraq's electrical-power-grid system from the Gulf war.  Arthur Waldron,
a China specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, said the Chinese
help  to the Iraqi air-defense system shows Beijing continues to align
itself "with the most backward and repressive regimes in the world."
"We see an increasing pattern, in which the Chinese align themselves
with states like North Korea, Iran, Syria and Iraq," Mr. Waldron said.
Mr. Waldron said China's communist dictatorship is the cause of
Beijing's support to rogue states. "The dictatorship needs external
enemies and is exaggerating fears that foreigners are going to come in
and subvert China," he said.

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