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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
US prepares for military option
US F-16 fighter at Incirlik air base, Turkey
Efforts have been made to improve bases

The United States says it will soon submit a tough new draft resolution on Iraq to the UN Security Council.

As the diplomatic manoeuvring at the United Nations goes on, what of US military preparations for a possible showdown with Iraq?


The moves currently under way would help shorten the build-up, and the warning-time, considerably

The diplomacy over Iraq has not really been affecting the US military's moves to be ready for whatever President Bush may order.

The decision, revealed in the last week, to deploy headquarters personnel for an army corps and a Marine Expeditionary Force to Kuwait were the first significant moves which the Pentagon could not pass off as either routine or simply connected with exercises.

The deployment would involve several hundred personnel in all. In a conflict, their job would be to co-ordinate ground force operations.

Familiarisation

Exercises continue as well. While the much-reported US Marines manoeuvres codenamed Eager Mace took place in Kuwait, a less well-publicised special forces exercise - Early Victor, involving 1,400 US troops - has also been under way in Jordan.

USS Theodore Roosevelt
Aircraft carriers were used extensively in the Afghan campaign
Next month, headquarters staff from US Central Command - which would oversee any Iraq operation - head for the Gulf state of Qatar. They could stay after their exercise has finished.

But even if all the forces which have been training recently pull out of the region for now, they will have had a valuable familiarisation with local conditions.

The Pentagon has also been quietly moving in extra equipment.

With the threat of chemical and biological weapons in mind, it has begun new vaccinations of US troops against anthrax, and could soon begin a similar programme for smallpox.

The US Navy has also accelerated training programmes for all its available aircraft carriers.

It may all still be preliminary.

Defence officials say there would have to be some significant and unmistakable reinforcements of weapons, ammunition and personnel before any major operation, even if there were to be a "rolling start" attack before a full build-up is completed.

Aircraft carriers

But the moves currently under way would help shorten the build-up, and the warning-time, considerably.

All this is on top of the efforts under way for the past 10 years to pre-position equipment and improve bases so that there would not have to be the six-month build-up that there was to the 1991 Gulf War.

With uncertainty still over where US bases might be allowed in the region if there were to be a conflict, the deployment of aircraft carriers could, as ever, be a tell-tale sign.

There are two within striking distance of Iraq at the moment, but, as navy officials point out, only two, and one must keep an eye on Afghanistan.

In the Gulf War, there were six carriers in all - three in the Gulf and three in the Red Sea.

But, even with current deployment plans, there could be four in the area by the end of the year.


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18 Oct 02 | Middle East
16 Oct 02 | Europe
15 Oct 02 | Middle East
17 Oct 02 | Americas
15 Oct 02 | Middle East
13 Oct 02 | Middle East
12 Oct 02 | Middle East
11 Oct 02 | Middle East
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