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U.S. troops head to Turkey
as Iraq invasion force builds
Demonstrators in Istanbul, Turkey, rally to oppose government support for a U.S. invasion of Iraq and the use of Turkish territory for the assault. Signs read, "No to War." The regime has bowed to U.S. demands to station invasion force in the south.
BY SAM MANUEL
U.S. and British planes bombed eight air defense installations in southern Iraq January 20, U.S. officials said. An Iraqi military spokesman said the planes carried out 46 sorties from U.S. bases in Kuwait, hitting civilian as well as military targets.
The regularity and scale of such air strikes have increased in step with the imperialist buildup in the Middle East.
In mid-January U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the dispatch of a further 62,000 Marine, Army, and Air Force soldiers. The arrival of the troops will bring the total U.S. strength to 150,000. Another 100,000 are expected to be deployed by mid- to late-February to be ready for a full-scale air and ground assault.
The U.S. buildup includes new naval forces. On January 17 two amphibious assault ships and five other vessels carrying about 10,000 Marines and sailors departed San Diego for the Arab-Persian Gulf.
On January 20 the Turkish government gave the go-ahead for Washington to station 15,000 troops in the south of the country. The move will provide the U.S. warmakers with a substantial force at Iraq’s northern border to add to their Kuwait-based southern army--the principal invasion force.
The deal was cemented after a visit to Turkey by 150 U.S. military officials. The original U.S. demand for the go-ahead to place 80,000 troops in Turkey was scaled back for the moment in face of the widespread opposition among working people there to the alliance with Washington.
"The importance of the northern front is to fix Iraqi military strength, which is positioned in the north," said Turkish foreign minister Yasar Yakis. "It should be a sufficiently big force to fix them there so that Iraqi soldiers do not leave the northern front and go to the southern front."
The Turkish-based U.S. forces will move rapidly to seize the oil fields in the north of Iraq. They will also assist Turkish troops in blocking off any renewed national struggle by the Kurdish people in the region.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has asserted its readiness to launch a war according to its own timetable if taking a decision through the UN Security Council causes excessive delay.
In response to a statement by Hans Blix, the chief UN arms inspector, that it could take up to a year to follow up on leads about chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, Bush stated, "Time is running out."
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice met with Blix in New York to express the "strong displeasure" of the U.S. government with his remarks. She also discussed plans to interrogate Iraqi scientists outside of Iraq. On January 21 Baghdad announced that it would encourage its scientists to agree to the questioning.
U.S. officials demanded a meeting of the UN Security Council to press for speeding up the pace of the inspections. On January 27 Blix is to report on the results of the first 60 days of the inspections.
The Iraqi government has protested the U.S. move to supply the inspectors with a high-altitude U-2 spy plane, noting that the aircraft adds to the surveillance capacity that Washington has already put in place. "Iraq is resisting allowing overflights," reported the Associated Press, "at a time when the U.S. military is massing troops near Iraq’s border for a possible attack."
Administration officials have reiterated that a unilateral decision to attack Iraq is not ruled out. Following a January 14 meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said military action against Iraq should not depend on finding hard evidence of chemical and biological weapons.
The same day, according to a New York Times report, White House spokesman Ari Fleisher said Bush "left open the option of acting against Iraq without a new resolution."
"In the case of Iraq, we’re nearing the end of the long road, and with every other option [but force] exhausted," Rumsfeld said on January 20.
Washington has seized upon the "discovery" of 12 empty chemical warheads at a munitions facility and documents at the home of an Iraqi nuclear scientist. White House spokesman Fleisher described the finding of the empty warheads as "troubling and serious."
Iraq has said that the warheads were included in a report on its weapons capability made to the Security Council last month. Iraqi scientist Faleh Hassan said the documents in his possession had also been reported and that the UN inspectors had acted like "mafiosi."
While it makes use of such developments in its propaganda, the U.S. government has made it clear that the burden of proof is on Iraq and not on the inspectors or the imperialist powers. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced January 18 that the administration expects in a few weeks to declare that Iraq has not cooperated with the inspections. "We believe that a persuasive case will be there at the end of the month that Iraq is not cooperating," hesaid.
U.S. differences with Paris, Berlin
While preparing to throw its lot in with a U.S.-led invasion, the French government has stated that the decision to go to war should be taken by the Security Council. French president Jacques Chirac backed Blix’s view that the weapons inspectors need more time, while French foreign minister Dominique Villepin accused Washington of "impatience" to go to war with Baghdad.
German foreign minister Joschka Fischer also said he differed with the U.S. approach, arguing that the inspectors should have "all the time which is needed." Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said, "We will not take part in a military intervention in Iraq." At the same time, Berlin has not prevented the U.S. command from using German bases in the buildup.
Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov said that a unilateral attack against Iraq would lead to "unpredictable consequences" and "damage" the struggle against terrorism. Iraq signed a new agreement with a Russian company for oil production on January 17. It also set aside two other oil fields for two more Russian companies and began talks with a third.
Ivanov’s counterpart in China, Tang Jiaxuan, described the report to be delivered by inspectors on January 27 as "a new beginning" rather than the final accounting.
British buildup also accelerates
In mid-January British prime minister Anthony Blair expressed confidence that Washington and London would win Security Council backing for an assault. "Of course we all want a second UN resolution," he said. "I believe that we will get one. But where there is an unreasonable veto put down we will not rule out action."
Britain’s most powerful warship, the Ark Royal, set sail for the Gulf region January 16 following a three-day stopover in Scotland to be loaded with munitions. British defense secretary Geoff Hoon announced on January 20 the deployment of 26,000 troops in preparation for war against Iraq. Among them are seven armored brigades and 16 air assault brigades. They will join 5,000 troops already en route, putting a quarter of Britain’s 109,000-member army in the region.