Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

As Paras Drop in, the New Vital Task in the North

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

As Paras Drop in, the New Vital Task in the North

Article excerpt


THE US military commanders who have opened a second front in northern Iraq will have to win the political battle with their allies before turning their attention to Saddam's forces.

The second front is crucial to any hope of pulling off a classic pincer movement on Baghdad and diverting Saddam's resources away from the push from the south.

The Pentagon's original plans were wrecked by the Turkish parliament's refusal to allow the 62,000 US soldiers, led by the 4th Cavalry Division, to be deployed from their side of the border.

Major General Harry "Pete" Osman of the US Marines has set up headquarters in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to deal with the disparate elements opposed to Saddam eager to fill in for the missing Americans troops but, at the same time, neutralise any threat from Turkey to move in on Kurdish-controlled Iraqi territory.

But a dangerous third factor has entered the political permutations - the growing threat from Iran and possible incursions to support fellow Shi'ites, which would realise the fear long held throughout the Arab world that war with Iraq would spread to both Turkey and Iran.

As his warplanes pounded forward Iraqi positions on the hilltops overlooking the Kurd-controlled enclave around Chamchamal, Maj Gen Osman attempted to forge peace in a summit at Salahudin.

Present were leaders of the Iraqi National Congress, which has about 500 mostly Arab guerrillas, and the main Iraqi Shi'ite opposition group the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, with their 1,500. The two main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party, who have 60,000 peshmerga fighters, were also there. But it ended with the Iraqi opposition groups furious to be left out of war plans, the KDP expressing growing anger with Washington's apparent indifference and Kurdish military commanders bitterly critical of American tactics on the ground. …

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