Iraq At It Again: Coalition Aircraft Report Second Firing Incident This Week
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2002 For the second time this week, Iraq trained its anti-aircraft guns on coalition aircraft patrolling the Southern No-fly Zone over Iraq, DoD officials reported today.
At a Pentagon briefing, Navy Rear Adm. David Gove, Joint Staff spokesman, reported that the Iraqis fired surface-to-air missiles at coalition patrol aircraft today at about 6 a.m. Eastern time. The United States responded by dropping precision-guided munitions on three Iraqi air-defense communication facilities near al-Kut and al-Basrah.
Gove said the Iraqis since Nov. 8 have fired on coalition aircraft at least nine times in the southern zone and twice in the north. He said the firings on coalition aircraft have spiked in recent weeks, but they are no more frequent than coalition aircraft have faced at times in the past.
He said incidents have spiked periodically and then settled down to a baseline of attacks and responses. "The last two weeks, it seems like a spike, and we're responding as we have for no-fly zone violations over the past two years," Gove said.
"The regime in Baghdad is attacking aircraft and coalition planes that are there to protect the Iraqi people," DoD spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said at the briefing. "They are doing this at the very same time Saddam Hussein is professing he will comply fully with the U.N. resolutions and the international community."
The two officials said the attacks were similar to hundreds of others against coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones imposed on Iraq since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. But the firings, they said, come at a time when U.N. weapons inspectors are about to begin intensive searches in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction and as the United States insists the world body hold Iraq accountable to U.N. Resolution 1441, which states it will not take hostile action against any member state.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeated the U.S. position Nov. 19 en route to the NATO Summit in Prague, Czech Republic, that no-fly zone attacks violate the U.N. resolution. He also noted, though, that's an issue the Security Council and U.N. members must resolve.