While the U.N. vote is on hold the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf is growing as a possible war with Iraq looms. Now there are reports of concerns that the Iraqi army may be planning for a pre-emptive strike against American and British troops in the region. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins with more on the story.
Thousands of U.S. and British soldiers train in the desert of Kuwait, preparing for a possible war with Iraq.
The American broadcasting network, ABC, quoting unnamed Bush administration sources, says U.S. intelligence reports suggest Iraqi artillery, capable of firing shells filled with poison gas, are now within firing distance of some 135-thousand U.S. soldiers in Kuwait.
The report goes on to say that some 700 oil wells in Southern Iraq have been wired for explosives.
U.S. military leaders are also studying satellite imagery and photographs from spy planes that reportedly show that the Iraqis have buried their SCUD missiles in Western Iraq. These are missiles that could carry chemical or biological weapons hitting targets in Israel. The Defense Department has not commented on the specifics of the ABC news report.
But in an Interview from Qatar, General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces, says if President George W. Bush decides to take military action against Iraq the troops are ready.
GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS
“We have sufficient, I use the word capacity, not levels of troops, not counts of bombs. We have sufficient military capacity to do the job that America’s military will be asked to do.”
British forces in Kuwait are training in and out of trenches and practicing tank maneuvers. Captain Adam Foden says his soldiers are prepared to stay out of the line of fire.
CAPTAIN ADAM FODEN
“We know that we are as ready as we can be and as when we are told what to do, then obviously we’ll get on and do that.”
In Kuwait City residents are on a heightened state of alert. Soldiers from the Czech Republic and the United States are helping prepare local emergency workers by staging mock drills in the event of a possible chemical attack. U.S. Army Captain Eric Dent says everyone is ready for a possible chemical attack.
“The whole work that has been going on here for the last year and a half between our task force and Kuwaiti civil defense has put the people of Kuwait in a good stead should this unfortunate incident ever occur.”
More U.S. Troops and equipment are expected to arrive in the region over the next few days, waiting and preparing for a possible war.