Plans Advance for War Against Iraq
By NILES LATHEM
Al Udeid Airbase,
Picture of the Week
Dramatic satellite photos show just how far U.S. preparations for war with Iraq have advanced.
They are images of the state-of-the-art al Udeid air base in Qatar, which has been significantly upgraded over the last six months and is expected to be used as America's base for military operations against Saddam Hussein.
The images, taken by the commercial satellite company Digital Globe, show that between January and June, Qatar - with the help of the United States - has quietly expanded the base to put it on a war footing.
It built a 13,000-foot runway to handle heavy bombers, as well as new ammunition dumps and large storage buildings for tanks.
Also under construction are hardened aircraft shelters that can hide hundreds of warplanes. And in recent months, a giant tent city has been erected to house as many as 3,800 troops.
The photos also reveal what appears to be a sophisticated command and control center.
Tim Brown of the defense think tank Globalsecurity.org which has published an extensive analysis of the latest satellite imagery on its web site, said the base "looks like it is being designed to replace the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia so we don't have to rely on the Saudis for this operation."
Pentagon officials last night refused to discuss details of the preparations at al Udeid. One added that planners are "not happy" the images are floating around on the Internet - "but [we] realize there's nothing we can do."
Pentagon sources also said al Udeid is one of a handful of bases in the Persian Gulf region where extensive work is being done in advance of military operations against Iraq.
Massive expansion and equipment pre-positioning is also taking place at a secret base in southern Kuwait as well as a NATO base in Incirlik, Turkey, the sources said.
Bush administration officials have insisted that final decisions on launching military strikes have not yet been made.
Military officials said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has recently rejected two competing plans for toppling Saddam: one, modeled on Operation Desert Storm, involves a massive invasion by 250,000 troops and the other, modeled on the war in Afghanistan, envisions extensive use of Special Forces troops alongside Iraqi opposition groups.
Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, is said to be nearing completion of a third option involving a quick-strike force of 75,000 troops aimed at separating Saddam from his armies, capturing Baghdad and preventing Iraq from launching weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops or Israel.
Franks briefed President Bush on the war plans at the White House yesterday.
Although the timing of the operation has not yet been set, it is generally believed the Bush administration wants it to begin sometime in the spring.
Defense experts warn, however, that the widely reported timetable could be a deception so that Saddam has as little time as possible to prepare for the attack.
Meanwhile, Iraq made some diplomatic moves apparently designed to derail or delay U.S. war plans.
Saddam invited the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, to Baghdad for talks, hinting this might result in renewing the hunt for illicit weapons that was suspended in December 1998.
But the Bush administration rejected the offer. It also rejected an invitation to members of Congress to tour suspected biological, chemical and nuclear weapons sites, accompanied by arms experts of their choice, during a three-week visit.
"I can't think of anything funnier than a handful of congressmen walking around. They'd have to be there for the next 50 years trying to find something,' said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "It's a joke."
U.S., Britain prepare logistics in Gulf for military campaign
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Wednesday, August 7, 2002
LONDON — The United States and Britain are taking steps to ensure logistical support in the Persian Gulf for any military campaign against Iraq.
Gulf defense sources said the two countries are seeking facilities for fuel and water as well as ports for warships in Gulf Cooperation Council states, Middle East Newsline reported.
The United States has been building its supply stockpile, the sources said. They said the U.S. Central Command's logistics unit, based in Kuwait, has been ordering what the sources term vast quantities of aviation fuel and mineral water.
The sources said Oman and Qatar have become the key areas of supplies and logistics for U.S. and British forces. But they said other countries are being approached as well including Saudi Arabia, regarded as the most ardent GCC opponent of a U.S. attack on Baghdad.
[On Wednesday, the London-based Al Hayat daily quoted witnesses as saying the United States is completing a project to refurbish an abandoned military air base in northern Iraq. The newspaper said trucks from the Turkish border have been transporting everything from metal and cement to radar components over a 60-day period.]
So far, Saudi Arabia has refused repeated U.S. requests to allow for the deployment of up to 50,000 troops as well as the use of the kingdom's air bases as launching pads for an attack on the regime of President Saddam Hussein. But the sources said Saudi Arabia could allow France or Britain naval facilities.
A U.S. defense delegation is expected to begin a Gulf tour later this month. The delegation will consist of officials from the Defense Department and State Department and will seek financial assistance from the GCC for the war against Iraq as well as logistics assistance from Gulf Arab states.
Bahrain and Qatar have been asked to store U.S. ammunition and other supplies. In addition, the sheikdom is said to have been asked to host thousands of U.S. troops as well as store ammunition.
The London-based Al-Quds Al Arabi daily said the U.S. purchases are taking place in Saudi Arabia. The newspaper said the goal is for the U.S. military to have enough supplies and fuel for several months of operations.
Britain has sought to obtain Saudi support for naval facilities, the sources said. A British delegation has been sent to the Gulf for talks with Kuwait and the Saudi kingdom. The sources said London has asked Riyad for additional port facilities to facilitate the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the region.