U.S. Eyes Jordan as Base for Attack on Iraq

(New York Times) - American military planners are considering using bases in Jordan to stage air and commando operations against Iraq, senior defense officials said. Using Jordanian bases would enable the Pentagon to attack Iraq from the west, as well as from the north via Turkey and the south via several Persian Gulf states. Such an arrangement would also introduce American forces between Iraq and Israel to help detect, track, and destroy Scud missiles that Baghdad might shoot at Israeli targets, as it did during the Persian Gulf war in 1991, the officials said. Military cooperation between Washington and Jordan is increasing. The administration has requested $25 million from Congress as part of a larger emergency spending bill to provide Jordan with military equipment and "upgrades for land and air base defense," as well as border security, said a congressional aide. The military's Central Command, responsible for military operations in 25 countries from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, has rated the construction projects in Jordan among its highest priorities, one official said. Some of the American aid could go toward lengthening runways at two Jordanian air bases to accommodate larger planes, the official said. Two weeks ago, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the head of American forces in the Middle East, met in Amman with King Abdullah and with the defense minister. American forces have conducted joint operations in Jordan. A year ago, 2,200 marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, Calif., took part in an exercise in Aqaba. In the late 1990s, American warplanes flew missions to enforce the no-flight zone over southern Iraq from Jordanian air bases. But Jordan's foreign minister, Marwan J. Muasher, said: "Our public position is the same as our private position. Jordan will not be used as a launching pad, and we do not have any U.S. forces in Jordan."

2002-07-10 00:00:00

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