Countdown to Iraq War Goes on
Tuesday, March 18, Saddam’s eldest son rejected President George W. Bush’s ultimatum Monday night for the Iraqi ruler and his sons to go into exile within 48 hours or face “military conflict launched at a time of our choosing.”
The loose presidential phrasing enabled the White House to consider advancing the date of the full-scale offensive against Iraq before the 48 hours expired – particularly after the brutal threat that accompanied Uday Hussein’s rejection. “The wives and mothers of those Americans who will fight us will cry blood, not tears,” he said. “They should not imagine that they will have a safe spot inside the land of Iraq or outside it.” Hussein’s son tauntingly urged Bush to leave his office in America with his family…”
Further incentive for advancing military action came from the rising concern in the Pentagon that Iraqi forces may attack the invasion force poised in Kuwait with chemical shells – whether as a pre-emptive or to deter allied troops by demonstrating what lies ahead – not only for the invaders but for America’s Middle East allies if the invasion goes forward. A chemical or biological attack against Israel would serve the additional purpose of drawing Israel into retaliation and thus upsetting US war planes.
Israel Goes on Alert
Wednesday, March 19, Israel’s military, police and home front go on full war alert after the Israeli cabinet holds a special meeting on the Iraq crisis. All the Patriot anti-air anti-missile batteries have been deployed. The partial call-up of tens of thousands of reserves continues. Tuesday, the population was told to keep personal gas mask kits close at hand at all times.
The reason why Israelis have been receiving mixed signals about how and when to prepare for the coming war is, debkafile reveals, is that Washington had decided not to give Jerusalem advance notice of D-Day. Israel is also in the dark about American operational war plans. This no Israeli in authority wants to admit. The prime minister’s office, the defense minister and the general staff are therefore improvising as best they can on the strength of Israel intelligence evaluations. That is why the Israeli public has not been forewarned about the hazard of biological and chemical terror attack, in the way that President Bush warned the American public Monday night and British nationals were advised to leave Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in view of the threat of biological and chemical terror attack. So far, only the Pentagon has explicitly spoken of Israel as a prime target for an Iraqi pre-emptive attack.
Israelis were finally advised to hang up their nylon sheeting and masking tape Tuesday night – but not yet to enter the sealed spaces or open their gas-mask kits.
According to our Washington sources, the Bush administration is striving to distance Israel from the Iraq conflict to an even greater extent than did the first Bush government in 1991 Gulf War. It is beginning to look as though Israel may have been placed in a serious quandary with tied hands as a result of prime minister Ariel Sharon’s directives to the government and military to lend the United States their all-out cooperation.