The consequences of the Feb. 16 air strikes on Iraqi air defense sites may wind up being as unsuccessful as the bombings themselves.
It appears that the Bush administration’s “self-defense operation” has met sharp international criticism from allies and foes alike, just as Secretary of State Colin Powell embarked on his first trip to ease Middle East tensions.
According to Pentagon officials, American and British air raids damaged less than half of the targeted Iraqi radars and satellites. But the failure to hit specific targets has become the least of the administration’s worries.
In recent days Russia, China, South Korea, India, France and many Arab nations have made harsh statements against the bombings. One of the more vocal opponents was French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Francois Rivasseau.
“This raises a question mark. We await an explanation from the American administration,” Rivasseau said. The French government went on to term the act “pointless and deadly,” he said.
Powell’s visit was intended to bring a certain level of peace to the region, but has instead been received by many Arabs as an aggressor’s attempt to divert attention from Israel’s wrongdoings.
Some are contending that military strikes this early in Bush’s presidency will send an aggressive message to the world. But according to the president’s national Security Advisor, Condleezza Rice, the administration is just continuing the Clinton administration’s policy of striking at Iraqi’s air defenses.
Despite accounts that the bombings were simply an attempt to protect US and British pilots patrolling the no-fly zone, an unclassified report to Congress last year and a recent German intelligence report suggest the problem is far worse.
The German intelligence report, published in several German newspapers two Saturdays ago, states that Iraq might be able to menace its neighbors with nuclear weapons in three years and fire a missile as far as Europe by 2005.
The unclassified report to Congress on Iraq’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction reports that since Baghdad has refused to allow United Nations’ inspectors into the country since December 1998, “Iraq has rebuilt key portions of its chemical production infrastructure for industrial and commercial use, as well as its missile production facilities.”
But US attempts to slow down Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction have come at a huge price. Since the bombings began, US air attacks have claimed 300 civilian lives and injured more than 800, said Iraqi officials.
As these civilian casualties continue to rise, so too will the international pressure put on the US to halt the bombing.