- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

LONDON Most of the 1,500 British reservists called up this week for action against Iraq are doctors and support personnel, leaving military chiefs concerned that time is running out to mobilize the armored forces that really matter.
Army commanders expect the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair to order the deployment of up to 10,000 troops in Britain's Germany-based 1st Armored Division who already are preparing their tanks for desert warfare.
If they do not get their orders now, senior officers say, they will not have time to get to Kuwait before the U.S. Army and Marines mount attacks in mid-February, considered the best time for the operation.
Army sources say some armored units have been told to take anthrax shots this week but not to expect to see any action in Iraq until most of the fighting is over, after which they are likely to serve as occupation forces.
Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon made no mention of the armored "Desert Rats" on Tuesday when he announced the call-up of 1,500 reserves and dispatched an amphibious task force of some 2,500 Royal Marines to the Persian Gulf.
The omission prompted opposition Conservative Party defense spokesman Bernard Jenkin to ask whether the Cabinet was in full agreement on whether to go to war with Iraq at all.
Adding to the uncertainty, the London Daily Telegraph reported today that the government was urging that any war be postponed for several months to give weapons inspectors more time to provide clear evidence of new violations by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The newspaper said ministers and senior officials believe there is no legal case for military action as yet, but that the U.N. Security Council likely will approve military action later in the year if Saddam can be shown in clear defiance of existing U.N. resolutions.
Mr. Blair and other ministers publicly insist that the Cabinet is not divided on the war issue.
Speaking to 120 British ambassadors gathered in London on Tuesday, Mr. Blair said that if the world does not take a stand against weapons of mass destruction, "we will rue the consequences of our weakness."
"We are the ally of the United States not because they are powerful, but because we share their values. I am not surprised by anti-Americanism, but it is a foolish indulgence. For all their faults and all nations have them the U.S. are a force for good; they have liberal and democratic traditions of which any nation can be proud."
The British public instinctively believes that, too, but has little sense that Iraq is a serious threat to their country. Almost all church leaders are opposed to a war, as are prominent academics and media commentators, and the opposition Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.
Military personnel are undecided, too. "I, and the rest of the British public, clearly don't think the case [for war] has yet been made," said a man who commanded Britain's 7th Armored Brigade during the 1991 Gulf war.
"One can only assume that the government knows something that they can't tell us about, and I hope that's so, if we do go into the attack. But clearly, at the moment, I don't think there is a case," Maj. Gen. Sir Patrick Cordingley told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Tuesday.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide