The United States has bolstered its military presence
near the Iraqi- Syrian border.
U.S. officials said Central Command has ordered a buildup of assets in
western Iraq. They said the buildup is centered at Al Rutba and includes
M1A1 main battle tanks, AH-64A attack helicopters and A-10 ground-support
The U.S. move aims to prevent the escape of Iraqi leaders and
nonconventional military assets to Syria. They said U.S. forces will also
ensure that Arab foreign volunteers based in Syria will be captured as soon
as they enter Iraq.
Officials have assured Syria that the military buildup is not meant
against the regime of President Bashar Assad. But Coalition forces have already
attacked Iraqi targets within 10 kilometers of the Syrian border.
Officials said Syria has been harboring hundreds of regime leaders
and insurgents connected to Saddam. One of them, they said, is Farouq
Hijazi, an Iraqi intelligence agent and said to have led a plot to kill the
father of President George Bush, who was also president, after the 1991 Gulf
Officials said the U.S. deployment near the Syrian border has been
enhanced by cooperation from Iraqi tribes. They said U.S. special operations
units are now located along such key routes as Highway 10, Highway 11 as
well as around the northwestern town of Al Qaim. On Tuesday, an Iraqi army
unit located near Al Qaim and said to have contained 16,000 troops formally
surrendered to U.S. forces.
"We have forces that are located in a number of places along the Syrian
border with Iraq," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy operations chief at
U.S. Central Command said on Tuesday. "We have vehicle checkpoints that are
located along some of the key routes. In the northwest area, Al Qaim is an
important area for us. We have a presence there, at that very important
crossing point. We are located in other areas as well that I would not want
to be too specific about at this point."
"We have concerns about Syria," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
said. "We have let Syria know of our concerns. But there is no list, there
is no war plan right now to go attack someone else, either for the purpose
of overthrowing their leadership or for the purpose of imposing democratic
Earlier, Powell raised the prospect that the United States would impose
sanctions on Syria for its help to the regime of Iraqi President Saddam
So far, the United States has shut down the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline,
which produced revenues of about $1.2 billion a year for the Assad regime.
Since 2000, the pipeline had brought up to 250,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per
day to Syria, which were then sold abroad.
"We have been told that they have shut off a pipeline," Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "Whether it's the only one, and whether that
has completely stopped the flow of oil between Iraq and Syria, I cannot tell
you. We do not have perfect knowledge. We do know that they were instructed
to shut it down, and they have told us that they have."
But Rumsfeld refused to discuss details of any plans to pressure Syria
to surrender Iraqi weapons of mass destruction scientists. He said such
decisions would be discussed by President George Bush and Powell.
"I don't have anything else to add on that," the defense secretary said.
"The president's spoken on it. Secretary Powell has spoken on it. I'll leave
that to them."
In an unrelated development, the United States has begun to withdraw
more than 1,000 troops from Turkey. The Turkish military General Staff said
in a statement on Tuesday that 1,166 U.S. soldiers would be flown out of the
Incerlik air force base in southern Turkey by Wednesday.
The U.S. soldiers were part of a support effort for coalition air
attacks on neighboring Iraq. They also helped establish supply routes to
The Turkish statement said U.S. military equipment and supplies will be
shipped out of the Turkish port of Iskenderun between April 15-23.
U.S. officials said the no-fly zone in northern Iraq has also been
discontinued. They said up to 50 U.S. combat jets deployed at Turkey's
Incerlik air base have been redeployed.
"We have shut down Operation Northern Watch," Rumsfeld said. "The assets
that were there for that purpose have been redeployed. We have not made
final decisions with respect to the footprint of the United States in that
part of the world, and
won't for some months."