FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

CIA Survey of Iraqi Airfields Heralds Attack

 

In the first concrete sign that the US is planning military action against Iraq despite objections from its allies, CIA officers have surveyed three key airfields in northern Iraq.

The airfields, situated in northern Iraq near the cities of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan–the only part of Iraq not held by Saddam Hussein–could be used to receive arms and troops in the event of a conflict between the US and Iraq, an Iraqi source has told The Independent.

The US is pursuing its military strategy and, at the same time, trying to persuade Iraq to accept UN weapons inspectors back into the country, which could theoretically avert the need for a military campaign.

But America has made it clear that it is prepared to act alone, if necessary, against Saddam Hussein, even though the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has heard strong objections to its plans for a military campaign aimed at overthrowing President Saddam during the tour of Arab states that he is currently finishing.

The CIA visit, at the end of last month, will deeply worry Baghdad and has infuriated Iran and Syria. Both countries are concerned that an American attack on Iraq will endanger their own security.

President Saddam has shown in the last few weeks that he takes American threats to attack him very seriously by telling householders in Baghdad to stockpile food. Militia and paramilitary groups as well as the army have been put on high alert.

In addition, the regular Iraqi army has been issued with plentiful supplies of ammunition. Regular units, in contrast with the elite Republican Guard, are usually only given small supplies to ensure that they do not take part in a coup d’etat against the government.

The largest of the airfields examined by the CIA is near Arbil, the biggest Kurdish city, about 20 miles from the Iraqi front line. “It has good modern runway about 1.6 miles [2.5 km] long, built for the Iraqi airforce in the 1980s,” said a member of the Iraqi opposition, who did not want his name published.

The other airfields are at Bamarnii outside Dohuk in western Kurdistan, which was used by Gulf War allies in Operation Provide Comfort, launched to help the Kurds after they had been routed by President Saddam’s army in 1991. A third airfield is in Sulaimaniyah province in eastern Kurdistan, not far from the Iranian border.

The Kurds, who have repeatedly risen against Iraqi governments in the past, have enjoyed de facto independence since the 1991 Gulf War. Protected by US and British aircraft, which maintain a no-fly zone over Kurdistan, they have tried in recent years to steer a neutral course between President Saddam and his enemies.

One scenario being pushed in Washington is for the US to try to repeat its success in Afghanistan by using its air power to support opposition forces. But the Kurdish forces number about 15,000 fighters and are no match for the 400,000 soldiers in the Iraqi army.

Late last year a high-level delegation from the US State Department visited Kurdistan. They were told by the two most important Kurdish leaders–Massoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Jalal al-Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan–that the Kurds would not act against Saddam Hussein unless they were certain that the US was determined to overthrow him and had a plan to do so.

The CIA visit has seriously embarrassed the two leaders. “The news of the CIA visit has created a furore among the Kurds,” said an Iraqi source. Mr al-Talabani has made a rushed visit to Damascus to reassure the Syrians that his party is not joining an attempt to topple President Saddam. Mr Barzani sent two senior members of the KDP politburo, Azad Barawi and Favel Mirani, to make the same point to Syria.

Patrick Cockburn is the co-author of Out of the Ashes: the Resurrection of Saddam Hussein.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail