U.S. Antimissile Unit Ready to Go to Israel

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U.S. Antimissile Unit Ready to Go to Israel By Thomas E. Ricks and John Lancaster Washington Post Staff Writers Friday, September 1, 2000; Page A01

Concerned about a possible threat from Iraq during the U.S. presidential campaign, the Pentagon yesterday alerted an Army Patriot antimissile battery for possible deployment to Israel, defense officials said.

The unannounced action was taken in response to concerns that Iraq could try to fire ballistic missiles at Israel, the officials said. The unit alerted is the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, based near Frankfurt, Germany.

Administration officials were extremely reluctant to provide any details about the possible move of the Patriots, which are guided supersonic surface-to-air missiles designed to intercept enemy aircraft and missiles with high-explosive warheads.

The United States has previously sent Patriots to Israel, but only in times of crisis. A Patriot battery consists of eight launchers and 64 missiles, but it is not clear that a full battery would deploy.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, 39 Iraqi Scud missiles were fired at Israel, and the United States dispatched Patriots to Israel for the first time. The Patriots failed to stop the Scuds, many of which damaged neighborhoods in and around Tel Aviv.

In December 1998, the Pentagon again sent the missiles to Israel as tensions rose over Iraq's refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors  a confrontation that culminated in the 70-hour U.S. and British air war against Baghdad called Operation Desert Fox. No Iraqi missiles were fired at Israel.

Yesterday's alert came in response to worries that Iraq might try to attack Israel, a Defense Department official said. "Let's just say that prudence dictates that we should be ready to respond," he said.

It was not clear last night whether the United States was acting out of general concern, or instead was provoked by new intelligence, such as satellite imagery indicating that Iraq was readying a long-range missile. A senior administration official said last night that while he was not aware of any specific missile threat from Iraq, "the situation as we see it now is that [Iraq President] Saddam [Hussein] has miscalculated in past U.S. elections, thinking we were somehow distracted."

The official noted, moreover, that with a new U.N. weapons inspection team nearly in place, Saddam Hussein may be tempted once again to test the will of the Security Council. "The U.N. is ready to conduct inspections," the official said. "If he doesn't allow the inspections he doesn't get out of the box of international sanctions, and he has a habit of trying to provoke, back down and renegotiate when it comes to U.N. resolutions."

"We're not seeking a provocation," the official added. "At the same time we want him to know we're not distracted. The general attitude is to be on top of our game."

Likewise, an Israeli official declined to go into specifics about the nature of the Iraqi threat and how it might be deterred. "There is a feeling that maybe Saddam is going to to do something as we get closer to the American election," the Israeli official said. "There is a concern."

The official added that the prospect of hostile action by Iraq has arisen in the context of a continuing "strategic dialogue" between Israel and the United States  most recently during a meeting yesterday between Ambassador David Ivry and White House national security officials  on enhancing military cooperation between the two countries.

Officially, the Pentagon had no comment on the alert. In Germany, Navy Capt. Bob Pritchard, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command, said only that "various elements of U.S. Army Europe have been placed on a heightened state of readiness to be prepared to deploy within the command's area of operations." Israel is one of the nations covered by the European Command's area of responsibility, which sprawls from the Arctic Circle to Africa.

Though his military hand is weak, Saddam Hussein has a long record of provoking confrontations at sensitive moments  both to draw attention to the issue of the U.N. sanctions against his country and also to create strains in the alliance that ousted his forces from Kuwait in 1991.

Only this week, the United States and other permanent members of the Security Council persuaded the head of a new U.N. arms agency to cancel his planned announcement that weapons inspectors are ready to resume their work in Iraq. Diplomats expressed concern that such an announcement could provoke a new clash over Iraq policy just as heads of state descend on New York next week for the so-called U.N. Millennium Summit.

Under terms of the cease-fire agreement that ended the war, the sanctions against Iraq cannot be lifted until the country is certified free from weapons of mass destruction. But the country's weapons programs have not been subject to outside scrutiny since U.N. inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq on the eve of the U.S. and British airstrikes in December 1998. So far Saddam Hussein has shown no willingness to permit the entry of a reconstituted inspection agency chaired by Hans Blix of Sweden.

In recent months, U.S. reconnaissance satellites have detected increased signs of missile testing activity south of Baghdad. The cease-fire permits Iraq to test ballistic missiles with a range of less than 150 kilometers (about 93 miles), far short of the range necessary to reach Israel.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 31, 2000


.Sept. 1, 2000 - Rosh Chodesh Elul 5760

U.S. ALERT CONFUSES ISRAEL Jerusalem government sources are having trouble understanding why exactly United States forces in Germany have suddenly gone on anti- Scud alert. Prime Minister Barak said that Israel is keeping an eye on the situation in Iraq, and that as far as is known, there is no need to send Patriot missiles to Israel. The Washington Post reported today, in the name of Pentagon sources, that Iraq is liable to attack a nation "friendly with the U.S." one month from now. Other sources in the American capital feel that the entire issue is an election- campaign gimmick, as the Republicans have accused the ruling Democrats of being "soft" on Iraq.

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/english/newspaper/news/news.htm#thre e

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 01, 2000.

Friday, 1 September, 2000, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK Patriot missiles readied for Israel

Patriots might not have hit anything over Israel in 1991

By defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus A unit of the anti-missile Patriot system is being readied at a US Army base in Germany amid reports it may be sent to Israel as a precaution against the possibility of long-range missile attack from Iraq.

The Patriot battery is being readied for deployment at short-notice, but both US and Israeli officials seem to be playing down the significance of the report.

Patriots have been sent to Israel before, notably during the Gulf War in 1991 and during a period of tension between the US and Iraq in December 1998.

The Patriot has undergone substantial changes since 1991 It is unclear if these preparations are in response to some specific intelligence threat from Baghdad or just uncertainty about the intentions of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The Americans may fear Iraq could try to exploit the distractions of the US presidential campaign and embark upon some military moves of its own.

Best defence

A Patriot battery consists of eight launchers, 64 missiles and their associated radars, but it is not clear if the full battery will be despatched to Israel or just part of it.

The Patriot was widely used in the Gulf War but is not credited with hitting any incoming Iraqi missiles.

Iraq claims to have no more of its Scud missiles Nonetheless, the Americans say that software improvements and other changes now make it the only credible western weapon that can defend against ballistic missile attack.

The potential Patriot deployment underscores the close strategic relationship between the US and Israel but it also raises significant questions.

Paper tiger?

It is not clear how many missiles Iraq has - if any - that would be capable of reaching Israel.

Iraq says it has none of the long-range Scuds, but Richard Butler, the former head of Unscom - the UN body overseeing the destruction of Iraq's banned weapons programmes, disagrees.

And recent US and German intelligence reports claim there has been renewed missile building and testing in Iraq, though apparently of shorter-range systems that it is allowed to build.

Coming in the run-up to a closely fought presidential campaign, the proposed Patriot move could have some minor domestic impact within the US, demonstrating the Clinton-Gore administration's resolve in dealing with Iraq.

But it also underscores that successive administrations have tried to deal with the problem posed by the Baghdad regime without being able to come up with any definitive answers

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_906000/90621 8.stm

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 03, 2000.

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