U.S. orders fighter-jets to engage Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

U.S. defense sources said American combat jets operating out of both Turkey and Kuwait have been ordered to respond to any threats from Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries. They said the United States has revised rules of engagement in an effort to stress that it will not limit enforcement of the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.

On Monday, two U.S. F-16 fighter-jets struck an Iraqi surface-to-air missile battery near the Kuwaiti border, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the aircraft dropped several laser-guided bombs on a radar site when it illuminated the aircraft. It was the first such attack by U.S. planes since Jan. 21, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

"We have not changed to a substantial degree our patterns, and our forces, our airmen and aircraft, continue to be fired upon when they fly," Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. "And they respond appropriately to those firings."

Iraq has been steadily improving its anti-aircraft batteries. The regime of President Saddam Hussein has been obtaining help from such countries as Belarus, China, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.

Ukraine has been said to have sold $100 million in radar systems to Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions. The United States is investigating reports that Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma approved deliveries of the Kolchuga radar.

The U.S. attack on the Iraqi radar installation comes as the Bush administration has expressed doubt over the effectiveness of any UN inspections of suspected weapons of mass destructions sites in Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Iraq has taken its missile and WMD underground to the extent that little might be learned by the return of UN inspectors to Iraq, expelled in 1998.

"I just can't quite picture how intrusive something would have to be that it could offset the ease with which they had previously been able to deny and deceive, and which today one would think they would be vastly more skillful, having had all this time without inspectors there," Rumsfeld said in a briefing on Monday.

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