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Ultimatums to Iraq Have Become Old Hat - 2003-03-18


U.S. presidential ultimatums, like U.N. Security Council deadlines, are nothing new when it comes to Iraq - and if the past is any example, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is likely to reject any new one.

Ahead of the first Gulf war, the United Nations Security Council gave Iraq a deadline to pull its occupation troops out of Kuwait. That deadline was January 15, 1991. When Baghdad refused to comply, U.S.-led coalition forces began a massive series of air strikes the next day, Washington time.

The relentless air campaign went on for a month and on February 22 then President George Bush, the current President's father, threatened Iraq with an all-out land war if Baghdad did not withdraw its troops from Kuwait by the next day.

Once again Iraq failed to comply and the allied ground offensive began the next day, Washington time. Just three days later, Iraqi forces were reported in full retreat and residents of Kuwait began celebrating the end of the occupation.

U.S. military commanders are hoping for an even faster and more decisive engagement in any new war with Iraq, using a campaign of "shock and awe" that will feature air strikes so intense that more bombs and missiles are likely to fall on Baghdad on the first night than during the entire 1991 conflict.

The hope is that Iraqi defenses will crumble in the face of an overwhelming show of power, with Iraqi troops surrendering by the thousands, many never having fired their weapons.

Of course, there are fears as well, especially that Saddam Hussein might order retaliatory attacks on coalition forces with chemical or biological weapons.

Pentagon officials say they cannot rule out that possibility.

But they say U.S. troops will be prepared for any eventuality and will prevail no matter what happens.