Britain admits Iraq's "no-fly" zones have nothing to do with protection

Simon Verwest Geeno at milton23.freeserve.co.uk
Wed Dec 4 12:24:13 MST 2002


Britain and US step up bombing in Iraq

Ministry of Defence reveals 300% rise in ordnance dropped over southern
no-fly zone

Richard Norton-Taylor
Wednesday December 4, 2002
The Guardian

The total amount of bombs dropped by British and American aircraft on
targets in southern Iraq has increased dramatically over the past few
months, in a clear indication that the no-fly zone is being used to
destroy the country's air defence systems in anticipation of an all-out
attack.

Ordnance dropped on southern Iraq in response to threats has increased
by 300% since March this year, according to figures released by the
Ministry of Defence today in response to questions from the Liberal
Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs, Menzies Campbell.

The total tonnage of ordnance released over Iraq between March 1 and
November 13 this year was 126.4 tonnes. This is an average of nearly 15
tonnes a month - a 60% increase over last year.

For every threat detected in April and May 2002, about one third of a
tonne of bombs was dropped on Iraq; between September and November,
every threat was met with an average of 1.3 tonnes.

Ordnance weighing 0.3 tonnes was dropped in April, a figure which rose
dramatically to more than 54 tonnes in September.

Whitehall officials have admitted privately that the "no-fly" patrols,
conducted by RAF and US aircraft from bases in Kuwait, are designed to
weaken Iraq's air defence systems and have nothing to do with their
stated original purpose of defending the marsh Arabs and the Sh'ia
population of southern Iraq.

"The figures require further explanation. It appears that there has been
a marked increase in the destructive power of the bombs dropped while
the number of recorded threats has remained about the same", Mr Campbell
said yesterday.

He added: "The inference is that these operations have little to do with
humanitarian purposes but are being carried out to soften up Iraq air
defence systems. There must be a risk that escalation of this kind could
provoke wider military action at a time when the inspectors still appear
to be able to carry out their work."

Washington has said that the Iraqi response to the patrols - for
example, by locking radar on to the aircraft, could amount to a
"material breach" of the UN resolution mandating the weapons inspectors
now in Iraq.

However, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has distanced himself from
the Bush administration, making it clear that Britain separates the
issue of the no-fly zones from the UN inspectors and UN demands for Iraq
to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. The southern no-fly zone
patrols are not covered by a UN resolution.

In recent weeks British and US pilots have been aiming at a wider range
of targets, including communications systems, covering a larger area.
British military sources say they are concerned in particular about
Iraq's carbon-fibre communications network linking Baghdad's military
command and control centres with the rest of the country.

Last month Britain and America stepped up the hidden air war over Iraq,
with RAF fighters based in Saudi Arabia supporting US navy attack
aircraft in practice bombing runs on Iraqi targets.

US navy Super Hornets from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which
is in the Gulf, carried out mock attacks on airfields, control towers,
and other military sites.

The New York Times reported American commanders as saying that the
aircraft were "acquainting themselves" with targets they may be called
on to attack and were being supported by RAF aircraft.

Earlier this week, Iraqi officials said four people had been killed by
western warplanes.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,853260,00.html


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