“We are going to get serious with Iraq. All constraints are off”. These were the words of Edward Walker, assistant secretary of State at the US State Department. George Bush has agreed with Robin Cook, the British Foreign Secretary, to change the rules of engagement in Iraq, making more air strikes more of a certainty than a possibility. Under the Clinton administration, rules against engagement were tighter and air strikes were curtailed. The strikes against Baghdad by a joint UK/US air force will be a guarantee from Blair to Bush that the UK is very much on the side of the US foreign policy while at the same time the European Union proceeds with the formation of its army. It will also signal the position that Britain is not against the SDI (Strategic Defence Initiative). The new rules of engagement were said to have been drawn up by Robin Cook and Colin Powell at a meeting two weeks ago. It is believed by Britain that the Yugoslavs have aided Iraq to improve its air defence system, mounting massive banks of microwave ovens to fool guided missiles and engaging in a complex system of switching on and off radar systems, passing information to the next station and disconnecting before the aircraft can react. The information is then passed on to an anti-aircraft missile battery. NATO warplanes are reported to have been fooled time and time again in the action against the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo. The pilots operation in the unilaterally-imposed no-fly zones over Iraq stated that they were in greater and greater danger of being hit and so it was decided to damage the Iraqi systems in a show of strength. The strike sends a warning sign to Iraq to proceed with care but could also be interpreted as a slamming of the fist on the international relations table by George Bush, in an “I am here and I have arrived” message. Despite claims by the Pentagon that the strikes had not been carried out in civilian areas, it is reported that two civilians were murdered and grevious bodily harm was inflicted on 20 others. It remains to be seen whether Iraq moves an action against the perpetrators of this act of terrorism in the Hague Penal Court.
JOHN ASHTEAD PRAVDA.RU LONDON