U.S. Counters Iraq's Increased Aggression
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 1999 The United States is meeting Iraq's increased aggression head-on and will continue to do so as long as it lasts, according to Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.
"Iraq is mounting a very aggressive, determined, day-in- and-day-out attack against the planes patrolling the no-fly zone," Bacon said here Jan. 26. The United States is "responding appropriately" to that higher threat level in its continuing effort to enforce the U.N.-mandated no-fly zones, he said.
U.S. pilots have "adequate authority" to protect themselves and their missions, Bacon said. President Clinton expanded that authority recently at the request of Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, commander of U.S. Central Command and Operation Southern Watch, he added.
Bacon would not detail the rules of engagement, but stressed the United States and its coalition partners firmly intend to enforce the no-fly zones. "We are determined to do so in a way that protects our pilots ... and prevents Saddam Hussein from organizing his troops to attack his neighbors or his own people," he said.
Since the coalition's Desert Fox bombing operation in late December, Iraq has intensified its defiance of the no-fly zones, declaring them invalid. More than 100 Iraqi planes have violated the zones, and Iraqi forces have attacked coalition planes with anti-aircraft missiles and guns. The United States has responded in kind, striking missile sites and radar systems in both northern and southern Iraq.
Along with aircraft incursions, the Iraqis have positioned more anti-aircraft missiles and other air defense assets in the no-fly zones, Bacon said. This violates the 1991 U.N.- Iraq Gulf War cease-fire agreement. He noted U.S. planes previously ignored Iraqi missile sites in the zones because they did not challenge coalition patrols -- but now that they do, the United States is striking back.
"Our goal is to be able to execute the patrols over the no- fly zones without threats from Iraq," Bacon said. "This is a choice for Saddam Hussein to make. So far, he is suffering losses on a daily basis. If he chooses to continue suffering those losses, we will continue to inflict those losses on him. ... As long as he continues to threaten and attack our planes, we will respond.
"If he wants to honor the no-fly zone and return to his previous status of not attacking our planes, we will be pleased and we will see that as a sign of good sense on his part."
U.S. and coalition pilots of operations Southern and Northern Watch have flown about 200,000 patrol sorties to enforce no-fly zones over Iraq north of the 36th parallel and south of the 33rd parallel. The zones, created after the Gulf War, were mandated by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 678, 687, and 688 to deter Iraq's use of aircraft against its people and its neighbors.