More than 1,000 marines from the 11th Expeditionary Unit have just completed "Eager Mace" exercises in Kuwait. On October 6 about 1,400 U.S. Special Forces troops began "Early Victor ‘02" maneuvers in Jordan.
They are training with Jordanian, Omani, and Kuwaiti troops in "unconventional warfare techniques," including operating behind enemy lines.
Jordan was also the venue for the little-publicized "Infinite Moonlight" maneuvers conducted by U.S. and Jordanian forces in late August.
Jordan’s Ruwayshid and Wadi al-Murbah airbases are located near its border with western Iraq. U.S. military planners have been open about their plans to send Special Forces troops into the area to take out concentrations of Iraqi missile launch sites.
In recent weeks the U.S. and British warplanes, stationed in Kuwait, Turkey, Oman, and on aircraft carriers in the Gulf, have increased the tempo of their bombing attacks on southern and northern Iraq.
Under United Nations cover, the imperialist powers have declared these regions "no-fly" zones to justify the decade-long air assaults they have conducted against Iraq. Since the end of the 1990–91 Gulf war, Washington and London have carried out nearly 300,000 bombing missions against Iraq--about 265,000 in the south since 1992 and 33,000 in the north since 1997. The Iraqi government has denounced this violation of the country’s sovereignty and the continuous killing of Iraqis, both civilians and defense personnel.
The imperialist military buildup continues throughout the region. By mid-October, the total troop strength of U.S. armed forces under the Pentagon’s Central Command (Centcom), whose field of operation stretches from Kazakhstan to East Africa, stood at close to 60,000 troops. Some 25,000 of them are in the Arab-Persian Gulf, while tens of thousands of others are stationed in bases around the Arabian peninsula.
Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar include some of the largest concentrations of U.S. military personnel, with 9,000, 6,000, and 3,000 troops, respectively. In November some 600 Centcom officers will arrive at the Al-Udeid air base in Qatar, which is being expanded and upgraded by U.S. forces and already has the capacity to house 10,000 troops.
Some 37 warehouses, each averaging 60,000 square feet, have been constructed in Kuwait and Qatar over the last decade. Each holds tanks and other armored vehicles, personnel carriers, mortars, howitzers, and other equipment.
The 600 Qatar-based officers, who will be flown in from Centcom’s U.S. headquarters in Florida, will play a central part in "Internal Look," a series of military exercises scheduled to start before the end of 2002. Gen. Thomas Franks, who is in charge of the U.S. war moves in the Middle East, said the maneuvers will test the new command facilities in a "simulated war."
The shift of Centcom’s command from the United States to Qatar is one of the moves designed "to shorten the time between any decision on war and our execution of the orders," a senior Pentagon official told the media.
"We’re a war-fighting headquarters and the responsible thing is to plan for a variety of contingencies," Centcom spokesman Maj. John Robinson said in Qatar on October 15.
U.S. officials say they are building up their "forward positions" in the Mideast region to be able to move large numbers of troops and military equipment much more rapidly than they did a decade ago. Vice Adm. Charles Moore said, "For the first time in a number of years we have the capability to surge a significant portion of our force."
Writing in the October 16 Wall Street Journal, Gen. Barry McCaffrey said the U.S. armed forces were preparing a "short and violent military campaign." He acknowledged that to accomplish their goal of taking over Iraq, "U.S. forces are likely to endure significant casualties."
A major target of the assault will be Iraq’s elite Republican Guard, a force of 100,000 that is reportedly digging in around Baghdad, including the Special Republican Guard, which reportedly protects central government officials. In an invasion, McCaffrey wrote, "allied forces will be compelled to kill the 15,000 troops of the Special Guard."
In 1991, during the six weeks of bombing and the 100-hour ground invasion of Iraq, the U.S.-led forces--including those under McCaffrey’s command--killed at least 150,000 people. In the final 48 hours of the invasion, as Iraqi soldiers fled Kuwait along the road to Basra, Iraq, U.S. forces trapped tens of thousands of Iraqis, Kuwaitis, and others on a 20-mile stretch of highway and proceeded to slaughter them in wave after wave of bombing, strafing, and shelling.
The U.S-British bombing attacks on Iraq and the imperialist military buildup in the region have steadily continued while they have pressed for a United Nations resolution "authorizing" Washington to launch an invasion of Iraq. The resolution, still being negotiated, would demand that Iraq accept "UN weapons inspectors" as a way to justify a subsequent assault on Iraq when the imperialist powers--who themselves have nuclear weapons--deem that the Iraqi government hasn’t complied with their demand to disarm.
Whether or not the United Nations backs Washington’s position, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer October 16, "the president has made it perfectly plain that the United States will assemble a coalition of the willing who are going to enforce the UN resolutions."
The steps toward war against Iraq are increasingly intertwined with the Israeli war on the Palestinians. This can be seen in the maneuvers carried out by U.S. troops on Jordanian soil, which provides the Pentagon with a staging ground for forays into western Iraq.
In an October 17 White House meeting, U.S. president George Bush repeated earlier promises to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon that U.S. special forces would carry out such raids in order to counter any possible Iraqi missile strikes against Israel.
The administration’s pledge "follows an undisclosed reconnaissance mission in western Iraq this summer by Israeli special forces," reported the October 18 Washington Post.
A White House official told the Post that "the Israelis are pushing for a permanent U.S. troop presence to maintain security" in western Iraq, "an area the Israelis believe will quickly fill up with refugees in the event of a U.S. invasion."
In an October 21 New York Times column, William Safire described his discussion with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Tel Aviv’s stance in the approaching war on Iraq. "Israel will respond," he said, "if our citizens are attacked seriously."
Sharon also pointed to Syria and Iran as possible targets of attack, a comment that Safire reported favorably. "The Syrians, together with the Iranians, are playing a double game, escalating tension on our northern border," the Israeli prime minister asserted. He claimed that the government in Damascus was integrating the Lebanon-based Hezbollah combatants into Syria’s front-line forces and that the Iranian government was supplying Hezbollah with rockets. "If war comes, we see what Syria-Iran-Hezbollah are preparing: they’ll be surrogates for Saddam, opening a second front to help him," Sharon said.
The Israeli regime has continued its assault on the Palestinian population in the occupied territories. In mid-October, the Israeli army moved its tanks out of the center of the West Bank city of Jenin, the second of eight cities occupied in mid-summer from which it has partially withdrawn. Soldiers immediately began digging a trench around the city, forcing residents or visitors to go through Israeli checkpoints.
Israeli tanks fired shells at Palestinians in the Gaza Strip’s Rafah refugee camp on October 17, killing six people, including two children. "We have no need to apologize," Brig. Gen Yisrael Ziv told a television reporter.
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