What Are Iraq’s Military Moves About?

While defense minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer wages his crusade against the outposts Jewish settlers planted at the Palestinians’ favorite ambush sites against West Bank highway traffic, Israeli security authorities anxiously try to puzzle out the purpose of the latest Iraqi military moves in the Western Desert.
Since Monday, June 25, according to debkafile‘s military sources, Iraqi fighter squadron, elite Hamurabi armored division and presidential guard command elements, together with the commands of some forward intelligence units, began a slow march westward. They moved out of bases at Al Haditha and Al-Baghdadi to the H-3 air force base, arriving at a point within 80 km as the crow flies from the Jordanian frontier and 450km in a straight line from the West Bank.
That was not the beginning. Earlier this week, the Iraqis reopened their big air base at Al Baghdadi and brought in MiG-23 and MiG-25 fighters, as well as moving four brigades, two armored infantry and two tank, believed to be part of the Hamurabi division, into Al Haditha to the north of Al Baghdadi. US and Israeli military sourcestheorized at first that Saddam Hussein’s son, Qusay, who is in command of the Western Desert force, may have the advance force to the west to protect the western flank of a planned Iraqi assault against the Kurds.
This theory connected with a larger force Iraq has massed near the northern town of Irbil. In the American and British view, this second concentration is poised for a general offensive in the Kurdish-control areas of North Iraq, namely the no-fly zones regularly patrolled by US and UK air units. Iraq’s strategic objective would be to reach the Turkish frontier and disarm the US-backed Kurdish threat to the Iraqi oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. It would be a repeat performance of Saddam’s 1996 drive north, when his army demolished the training bases and commands set up by the CIA in the Kurdish tribal lands, with the help of Kurdish turncoats. It took the CIA four years to rebuild its infrastructure in North Iraq.
On Monday, after the fresh westward movement of the Western Desert force, the various intelligence agencies thought again, particularly after learning that key Iraq headquarters and government ministries had been secretly relocated in high-security locations outside Baghdad.
The latest hypothesis is that in the process of an assault on the Kurds, Saddam and Qusay may decide to deliver a side-blow against Israel. While such a threat may not be imminent, it may have gained some substance in the last 48 hours. After all, Iraqi support for the Palestinian cause has been so vociferous, that Saddam can scarcely go to war against his Kurdish minority without a single gesture of military solidarity with his Palestinian brethren. He might even stage the Kurdish offensive as a diversion for his main thrust – against Israel.
Israeli military ears and eyes, human and electronic, are therefore glued to watching every Iraqi move.

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