U.S. plans northern front without Turkey

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The United States has completed plans for a northern front against Iraq in absence of American troop deployment in neighboring Turkey.

Officials said the Joint Chiefs of Staff have approved plans for an invasion of the Baghdad area by air and ground troops from northern Iraq.

They said forces could be flown from the eastern Mediterranean or make their way by land from Jordan.

"The fact is that we will have a northern option, whether or not Turkey fully supports all our requests," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday. "I'm not going to talk about the operational ways of doing it. But just be assured there will be a northern option."

Officials said one option is for special operations forces to fly to northern Iraq in the first stage of the war. The forces would work with Kurdish allies and obtain supplies airlifted from U.S. aircraft based in Jordan or Turkey. U.S. fighter-jets take off from Turkey's Incerlik air base in the effort to enforce the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

At a later stage, the officials said, Turkey would be expected to allow for the direct supply of munitions and equipment from its territory into northern Iraq. Officials said the government in Ankara has already approved an effort for a huge U.S. logistics operation in northern Iraq despite the rejection by parliament of a request to deploy up to 62,000 U.S. troops in Turkey.

[On Wednesday, Turkish protesters tried to enter the Turkish naval base at Iskenderun to stop U.S. forces from unloading military equipment for the war against Iraq. Turkish soldiers fired their weapons in the air and police clashed with the demonstrators.]

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said President George Bush is also examining the prospect of launching a war against Iraq without Britain's participation. Rumsfeld acknowledged Britain's appeal for an extension of a U.S. deadline for Iraq to reply to questions on its missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

"To the extent they're able to participate in the event the president decides to use force, that would obviously be welcomed," Rumsfeld said. "To the extent they're not, there are workarounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it. That is an issue that the president will be addressing in the days ahead, one would assume."

Hours later, Rumsfeld issued a statement in which he expressed certainty that Britain would join any U.S.-led war against Iraq. "In the event that a decision to use force is made, we have every reason to believe there will be a significant military contribution from the United Kingdom," Rumsfeld said.

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