ANOTHER STEP TOWARDSTHE COMING WAR WITH IRAQ
By Yvonne Ridley
29 August 2002: A disused Iraqi airbase, seized by Turkish Commandos, will play an integral part in America's war against Iraq. Work has started to repair and widen the runways at Bamarni Airport which is 50 miles outside of the Kurdistan-controlled sector of Iraq. RAF and US jets operating in the northern no-fly zone have reported increased activity and were involved in another skirmish on Friday evening, confirmed a Ministry of Defence spokesman.
The rundown Bamarni airbase was seized by Turkish troops and American Special Forces in a top secret military operation earlier this month. Iraqi opposition leader Jalal Talabani has now given confirmation to an American-based international news agency that Turkish troops are in control of the airbase. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin also confirmed yesterday that American forces are involved in a covert operation.
International attention switched to the region several days ago when US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Al Qaeda fighters were operating in northern Iraq. Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin accused Rumsfeld yesterday of lying and added the US had made the claim in order to justify their illegal presence in northern Iraq and under the pretext that they want to chase members of al-Qaeda.
Northern Iraq has been outside the control of the central government in Baghdad since soon after the US-led 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and its rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have administered the region since the end of the war, when the two groups wrested control of the Kurdish enclave from the Baghdad government.
The region, which borders north-western Iran and south-eastern Turkey, is protected by a no-fly zone patrolled by US and British warplanes which knocked out more of Saddam's early warning systems in the Irbil region on Friday. An MoD spokesman confirmed: "There was activity and a missile guidance radar system was hit in the northern sector. There have been exchanges in the last couple of weeks when aircraft has been threatened by ordnance or have been locked on to. Naturally they will respond."
Last week, The Sunday Express detailed how the war against Iraq has started with RAF fighter jets coming under enemy fire as 5000 commandos invaded the north of the country seizing Bamarni air base. The news of the "secret war" shocked Britain's MPs who are demanding a full Parliamentary debate on the threat of a British-backed invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Pentagon officials will only say: "We can't comment on current or future
As more details emerge, The Sunday Express can confirm that an "enhanced" version of the Paveway Weapon system with a 2 metre accuracy has been deployed by the Allies to knock out mobile Chinese manufactured fibre-optic air defence systems. The upgraded Paveway Weapon system which was installed only four months ago was used by the RAF. Its refined laser guided system enables it to strike a target with an accuracy of plus or minus two metres.
Several US Hercules transporter planes have flown in to Bamarni from bases in Turkey in the last two weeks to unload heavy earth-moving machinery and electronic support equipment.
As Turkish troops reinforced security around the airport which lies just outside of the Kurdish district, American Special Forces and a crack unit of Turkish commandos seized two other strategic military points on either side of the airbase in the Dahuk province of Iraq. The two bases which incorporated very basic army barracks were on two hills, one 565 ft above sea level and the other 2160 ft and now provide US and Turkish soldiers with strategic look out posts over the immediate area.
Americans are now confident they have air superiority over the entire region which includes the two famous industrial cities of Al Mawsil and Kirkuk. This also includes the strategic railroad linking Syria and Iraq which has long been suspected as a key smuggling route for receiving arms and sending out illegal oil exports.
The invasion, which resulted in the first hand-to-hand combat between coalition and Iraqi troops, took place as Saddam Hussein warned America against invading his country. In the televised address he predicted such an
invasion would result in American soldiers being sent home in coffins.
American military sources have confirmed that Special Forces have been: "on the ground" in Iraq since April training Kurdish soldiers in the north and helping to create insurgencies in the south among rogue elements of Iraq's army.
A senior officer from Saddam's army who arrived in Britain earlier this month told The Sunday Express: "It is well known that there are Allied troops in Bamarni. However I do not believe Iraq has lost its entire air defence system network. Even if American warplanes flew over Baghdad it would be typical of Saddam to shut everything down to lure the enemy into thinking they have knocked out everything. Everyone is talking of American airstrikes and the elite are already sleeping in heavily fortified bunkers every night."
According to information relayed to America by Israeli intelligence via satellite photography, accurate to within three metres, Saddam's army is positioned in three strategic positions to repel ground force invasions.
Regiments are dug in near the Kurds to repel an invasion from the north while another major force is positioned by the Jordanian Border which had previously been ear-marked by the US as an ideal site for a US-led invasion until King Abdullah voiced his concerns in Washington recently. Another armoured division is positioned near the Turkish border but has not reacted or advanced to the August 8 invasion.