BY MAURICE WILLIAMS
The Clinton administration has escalated preparations for a military assault on Iraq, dispatching 129 more war planes and 4,000 additional troops to the Arab-Persian Gulf region. More than 230 United Nations personnel, including 103 "weapons inspection" agents, have left Iraq based on a strong recommendation from Washington that a military strike may be imminent.
"Time is running out," declared U.S. secretary of defense William Cohen, referring to the White House demand that Baghdad reverse its October 31 decision to end cooperation with the so- called UN inspectors or face bombing raids.
Cohen announced November 10 that the aircraft carrier Enterprise and other ships will speed up their arrival to the Arab-Persian Gulf to get there by November 23. They will join the Dwight D. Eisenhower and 13 other warships stationed in the area.
The Pentagon also announced that it was sending a Marine Corps attack force to the region as well as dispatching a guided missile cruiser, the Anzio, to the Gulf. The U.S. military arsenal in the region currently includes 173 war planes, 250-300 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and 23,000 troops. By mid November, Washington's armada there will increase to 27,500 GIs, 300 war planes, and 14 warships. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pentagon officials are debating military options including a major escalation of firepower, "that would culminate with air raids larger than those launched the first night of the 1991 Gulf War." Washington has scuttled its "revised policy," which involved rapid military action without sending in additional U.S. aircraft and ground troops for its latest military confrontation with Baghdad.
The U.S.-led military slaughter in 1991 resulted in the killing of an estimated 150,000 Iraqis. Prior to that assault, Washington also imposed economic sanctions against Baghdad that after eight years have inflicted hunger and destitution on millions of Iraqi civilians.
The latest crisis began in August when the Iraqi government prohibited UN Special Commission snoops from conducting unannounced "inspections," after it became clear that these spying operations have no end in sight. Baghdad charged that the UN spies were deliberately working to maintain the sanctions and "to serve U.S. policy against Iraq."
In September the commission released a report charging that missile fragments dug up in Iraq showed traces of VX nerve gas, backing up propaganda by Washington that Baghdad had loaded its missiles with nerve gas. Swiss studies on the fragments showed nothing and French tests revealed that one out of 40 samples showed traces of an agent that could have been VX, another chemical, or some other product for civilian use. The special commission was also instructed to spy on 300 facilities, including plants, breweries, and university laboratories, which the imperialists claim can be considered of dual use for producing "weapons of mass destruction."
During debates in late October, Paris, Moscow, and Beijing - three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - argued that sanctions could be lifted once the weapons inspectors say Iraq no longer has "weapons of mass destruction." On October 30, the Security Council sent a letter to UN secretary general Kofi Annan about reviewing the sanctions imposed on Iraq. Washington had refused to include in the letter reference to a section of UN resolution 682 that stipulates lifting of the oil embargo if Baghdad was declared free of "weapons of mass destruction."
Washington and London, instead, insist that Baghdad must meet other requirements, including paying war reparations and accounting for Kuwaiti prisoners following Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The next day the Iraqi government announced it would end all cooperation with the UN inspectors, stating it would not reverse its decision until UN economic sanctions are ended. Baghdad has also called for the dismissal of Richard Butler, head of the UN commission, viewed as a puppet for the U.S. government.
`Flagrant violation' of UN resolution
In its last confrontation with the Iraqi government in February, the Clinton administration received little support for launching a military assault from its imperialist allies in Paris, as well as from Moscow and Beijing. Washington's only major support for its war moves in February came from London, which recently drafted a resolution passed by the Security Council on November 5 condemning the Iraqi government of "flagrant violation" of its resolutions.
That same day Paris withdrew its chargé d'affaires from Iraq to condemn Baghdad's moves to assert its sovereignty. Alain Dejammet, Francés representative to the UN Security Council, asserted that the Iraqi government could only get the sanctions lifted by "rescinding without delay the unjustifiable measures" it took on October 31. Moscow's representative, Sergey Lavrov said the UN resolution should not be "interpreted arbitrarily as a kind of permission to use force." Moscow, Paris, and Beijing voted for the resolution condemning Baghdad.
While Washington prepares to launch its military action, Iraqi trade minister Mehdi Saleh declared that the Iraqi people had nothing to fear from such attacks since the sanctions were already causing suffering. According to the Associated Press, he stated: "They will not kill in a military strike more than they are killing with sanctions every day."
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