On Missile Alert

From Saturday, August 3, all US military units in the Middle East, Gulf and West Europe went on full combat alert.

August 4 and 5, American mechanized infantry, armor, artillery and medical combat units were rushed to the region, first stopping over in Germany for short briefings and stocking up on equipment and supplies. The units were all outfitted with protective gear for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.

Units of the US 49th armored division were given pride of place in the transfer, mainly to Kuwait.

Reporting these movements, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources also tracked two US forward command groups who landed separately in Israel and Turkey over that same hectic weekend. Their mission for the duration of the conflict is to keep Israeli and Turkish operations integrated with US military action against Iraq, including the defense of Israeli and Turkish skies.

Each group is headed by an American general and is made up of senior US officers specializing in intelligence, satellite and air reconnaissance, air, sea and armored operations and auxiliary services.

Immediately upon arrival in Tel Aviv late Sunday, August 4, the heads of thefirst US delegation went into session late into the small hours of Monday with top Israeli security and political officials led by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, IDF chief of staff lieutenant-general Moshe Yaalon and deputy chief of staff major-general Gaby Ashkenazy. The heads of Israeli military intelligence, the Mossad and Shin Bet internal security service, were also there.

Two day later, Tuesday morning, August 6, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain went on high alert against a possible Iraqi missile attack. It was called by US general Tommy Franks, commander of the war against Iraq, shortly before a joint US-British air raid against an Iraqi air command and control center at al-Nukhaib in the desert between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The center contained advanced fiber optic networks recently installed by Chinese companies. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources say the raid made military history. For the first time, the US air force used new precision-guided bombs capable of locating and destroying fiber optic systems. The existence of such weaponry was hitherto unknown.

Following the destruction of the facility, about 260 miles (415 kilometers), southwest of Baghdad, waves of US warplanes swept in from the Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf and penetrated the Iraqi capital’s airspace.

The Iraqi air force and anti-aircraft system held their fire on orders from above.

However, General Franks called the wide-ranging missile alert just in case Saddam viewed the leveling of the al Nukhaib facility, which effectively left Baghdad vulnerable to US missiles and fighter-bombers, as the start of the US military campaign and responded in kind.

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