- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

LONDON Britain will begin deploying advance parties to Kuwait within two weeks in preparation for an attack on Iraq, which could involve up to 30,000 British troops, defense sources here said yesterday.

At the same time, attacks on Iraq by aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones will be stepped up with the intention of piling the pressure on Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass-destruction programs.

There are signs that this has begun, with a recent 100-aircraft raid on an air base in western Iraq. The aim was to clear a corridor to allow special forces into western Iraq to prevent Saddam from moving Scud missiles to threaten Israel.

The British deployment will begin after Sept. 24, when Parliament debates support for U.S. action against Iraq, the sources said.

But it will take at least three months for British tanks to get to Kuwait, ruling out any attack on Iraq this year. Government officials said the United States was now determined to try to pressure Baghdad through the United Nations before initiating any attack.

The British Ministry of Defense denied reports that two British armored brigades would be in the desert within two weeks. But the sources confirmed that plans were in place to deploy a "light" armored division to Kuwait.

U.S. war plans will require a five-division assault on Iraq's southern flank. This will include four American divisions.

In the north, U.S. airborne troops, likely to be supported by Britain's 16th Air Assault Brigade, would occupy Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and a U.S. Marine Expeditionary Force is likely to mount an amphibious attack from the northern Gulf. The strike also could involve the British Royal Marines' 3rd Commando Brigade.

Every British army unit has been asked to provide a full status of its readiness for deployment, the sources said.

However, the British division is expected to be made up of 1st Armored Division, plus 4th Armored Brigade and 7th Armored Brigade, the "Desert Rats." With logistical support, that would total about 20,000 troops.

The number of British aircraft in the region will be tripled with the six Jaguars based at Incirlik in Turkey. In the event of war, these would move to bases in northern Iraq already prepared by U.S. engineers.

The number of Tornado GR4s would increase to about 30 aircraft based in Kuwait, and the number of Royal Air Force personnel would rise to about 5,000.

The British navy is expected to provide an amphibious carrier task force led by Ark Royal, which is on its way to the Mediterranean. The group would include the amphibious assault carrier Ocean, which is in the Indian Ocean, and would involve about 4,000 servicemen and women.

The plans were leaked after discussions between Geoff Hoon and Donald H. Rumsfeld, the British and U.S. defense secretaries, on U.S. preparations for Iraq. Senior officers also participated in the talks.

Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has decided to start moving his command post to the Gulf soon a clear sign that the United States is preparing for war.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair received strong backing yesterday from Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative Party leader, for the dispatch of troops.

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