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Iraqi Forces Reported on the Move - 2001-11-19

Defense officials say Iraqi forces are on the move. But these recent movements are not viewed as threatening.

Pentagon officials describe the movements as defensive dispersals - moves they link to apparent fears in Baghdad that Iraq might be the next target of the U.S. military campaign against terrorism.

The officials tell VOA the movements involve troops, tanks, missiles, and other equipment, but they provide no numbers or other details.

The officials also report a sharp reduction in the amount of hostile Iraqi activities in the so-called no-fly zones in both the north and south of the country. They see this as a further indication that Iraqi forces are adopting a low-profile in light of U.S. military buildup and related Americans strikes in and around nearby Afghanistan.

The officials say allied forces continue to monitor the Iraqi activities closely.

Iraq has been linked to involvement in terrorist activities and has long been accused of seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction. Senior Bush Administration officials have recently hinted that attacking Iraq is something that is an option in the war on terrorism.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz puts it this way: "This is a broad campaign," he said. "It starts in Afghanistan, but it does not end in Afghanistan. And the goal really is to free the United States and to free the civilized world from this terrible menace of global terrorism."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has also said that, in his view, there is no question but that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is still a threat to his neighbors as well as to various groups in his own country.