- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Baghdad has moved new surface-to-air missiles into two no-fly zones in Iraq in an indication Saddam Hussein may be planning to confront Washington during continuing turmoil in the Middle East.
Iraq periodically fires upon, or "paints" with radar, allied aircraft enforcing no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. Last week, allied jets fired on air-defense sites in both the south and north.
But this is the first time in two years Baghdad has significantly reinforced its arsenal of mobile SAMs used to harass patrolling fighters.
"It was just reported to me today that some of these movements of surface-to-air missile systems into regions where we enforce the no-fly zones under the U.N. resolutions are greater than they have been in a couple of years," Gen. Richard Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, told reporters at the Pentagon.
The buildup comes as Washington and Iraq are in a war of words. President Bush has labeled Iraq part of an "axis of evil" and promised it will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
Saddam has urged Arab states to cut off U.S. oil supplies and sponsor more terrorist attacks against Israel. Saddam has also offered a reward in the form of thousands of dollars to families whose sons or daughters carry out suicide bombings on Israelis.
The Washington Times reported earlier this month that Iraq was taking defensive steps that indicate it expects Mr. Bush to order an attack, including moving mobile air-defense radars to the western part of the country, facing Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Earlier reports said some military forces were dispersing outside their main garrisons in what may be an attempt to protect troops and weapons from precision air strikes.
Also, the Iraqi military has begun building scores of concrete revetments to protect soldiers, equipment and aircraft. The construction began shortly after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Iraq proved unable to protect its jet fighters during the 1991 Gulf war. The allies simply dropped bombs that could penetrate the concrete hiding places. Iraq responded by flying the jets to Iran, where most remain.
U.S. officials say Iraq's rebuilt air force is ineffective and would be destroyed in a war's opening days.
Gen. Myers analyzed the SAM movements this way: "This is one of the things that we have seen over time, that in the no-fly zones there will be surface-to-air missiles moved in, moved around and moved out. It's just a little more activity in the last couple of days than we have seen in the last couple of years."
The United States and Britain have conducted a small war against Iraq during the past 10 years in enforcing no-fly zones that keep Saddam in a box and limit his ability to attack rebels in the north and south. Iraq typically fires unguided missiles at the jets; if guided by radar, the signal would give allied aircraft the radars' exact location.
Nonetheless, the United States and Britain are often able to find the offending system and take it out with a laser-guided bomb.
Iraq has not downed any coalition aircraft enforcing the exclusion zones.
Early in Mr. Bush's presidency, the United States launched a major strike against the air-defense command stations and radars south of Baghdad that are used to coordinate attacks on Western planes. Days later, the United States disclosed that the sites are integrated through high-tech fiber-optic links installed by communist Chinese technicians.
The Iraqis "have a very good fiber-optics system. I'll just leave it at that," Gen. Myers said yesterday.
Asked if China was still aiding Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld answered, "I don't know that they stopped."

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