U.S. abandons Turkey as northern front

Kuwait sets conditions for
additional invading forces

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

The Bush administration has abandoned the hope that Turkey will serve as a major front in the planned U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Officials said the Defense Department has ordered U.S. Central Command to begin preparations to execute a contingency plan for a one-front war against Iraq. That front would be Kuwait and Central Command has been informed to prepare for the arrival of at least two additional divisions meant for deployment in Turkey.

"The Pentagon has written off Turkey as a second front," an official said. "There is the prospect that U.S. special forces could eventually enter Iraq from Turkish territory. But this will not comprise the second front that we had been planning."

Officials said the Pentagon has launched negotiations with Kuwait for the arrival of tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops, Middle East Newsline reported. They said Kuwait has agreed in principle, but raised unspecified guarantees.

The Pentagon has ruled out an air-lift of a massive number of troops and equipment to northern Iraq. They said the amount of military platforms and equipment required could not be transported except either by ship or overland.

So far, at least 10 U.S. ships laden with military equipment have been waiting outside Turkish territorial waters in the eastern Mediterranean. In wake of parliament's rejection of U.S. troops, the U.S. Army has halted a $300 million modernization project of Turkish bases and sea ports.

The White House said a contingency plan that would exclude Turkey would be a viable military option. But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the plan, termed "Plan B," has not yet been implemented. He termed "Plan A" as that which would use Turkey as a second front.

"The preferable is Plan A for a variety of geographic reasons," Fleischer said on Monday. "But Plan B is also a very militarily viable option, which will be successful. So I think it rather speaks for itself. "

[On Wednesday, the London-based Al Hayat daily quoted Western diplomatic sources as saying that Israel and Cyprus are regarded as the only U.S. option in wake of Turkey's refusal to allow the entry of American troops.

The sources envisioned the U.S. use of Israel and Jordan for massive convoys of American troops and equipment toward northern Iraq.]

Pentagon sources said the use of Kuwait as the only front against Iraq would pose several significant problems. One is that the Kuwaiti border is regarded as too narrow for a massive U.S. invasion against Iraq and would allow the regime of President Saddam Hussein to place all of its military assets in the south.

Another drawback, the sources said, is that the use of Kuwait as the sole launching pad against Iraq would create tension with neighboring Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have pledged to stay out of the war and the sources said the kingdom has ordered reinforcement of troops near its border with Kuwait to prevent U.S. forces from using Saudi Arabia in any war against Baghdad.

The sources said the use of Kuwait would force the U.S. military to quickly divert warships from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. They said this would require that the ships utilize the Suez Canal, owned by Egypt. On Tuesday, President George Bush telephoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and discussed Iraq.

"We are expecting the Egyptians to cause problems or just plain delays," a Pentagon source said. "It's clear that after the Turkish episode, the Egyptians will want guarantees for additional aid and other incentives."

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