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Iraqi no-fly zones

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Iraqi no-fly zones
Part of the aftermath of the Gulf War and the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict
Iraq NO FLY ZONES.PNG
No-fly zone detail
Date1 March 1991 – 20 March 2003
(12 years, 2 weeks and 5 days)
Location
Result Coalition victory
Belligerents
 United States
 United Kingdom
 France
 Australia
 Belgium
 Netherlands
 Saudi Arabia
 Turkey
 Italy
Iraq
Commanders and leaders

George H. W. Bush (until 20 January 1993)
United States Bill Clinton (20 January 1993 – 20 January 2001)
United States George W. Bush (from 20 January 2001)
United States John Shalikashvili (until 1997)
United States Hugh Shelton (from 1997)
United States T. Michael Moseley
John Major
United Kingdom Tony Blair
François Mitterrand
France Jacques Chirac
King Fahd

Saudi Arabia Prince Abdullah
Saddam Hussein
Strength
6,000 infantrymen
50 aircraft and 1,400 personnel at any one time
Unknown number of Iraqi Air Force personnel and
Iraqi Police officers
Casualties and losses
2 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters shot down (friendly fire, 26 killed)
19 USAF servicemen deployed as part of the operation were killed in the Khobar Towers Bombing
5 RQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft shot down
Unknown number of soldiers killed
Unknown number of air defense systems destroyed
1 MiG-25 Foxbat shot down
1 MiG-23 Flogger Shot down
2 Su-22 Fitters shot down
1,400 Iraqi civilians killed (Iraqi government claim)[1]

The Iraqi no-fly zones were two no-fly zones (NFZs) that were proclaimed by the United States, United Kingdom, and France after the Gulf War of 1991. The United States stated that the NFZs were intended to protect the ethnic Kurdish minority in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraqi aircraft were forbidden from flying inside the zones. The policy was enforced by U.S., British, and French aircraft patrols until France withdrew in 1996.[2]

An estimated 1,400 civilians were killed by US and UK bombing during the NFZ.[3][4]. The Kurdish dominated north gained effective autonomy and was spared from a repeat of much-feared Anfal genocide in 1988 which killed upwards of 200,000 Kurdish civilians. Over 280,000 sorties were flown in the first 9 years of the NFZs.[5]

This military action was not authorised by the United Nations.[6] The Secretary-General of the UN at the time the resolution was passed, Boutros Boutros-Ghali called the no-fly zones "illegal" in a later interview with John Pilger.[7][8]

Legality

The US and UK claimed authorization for the NFZ based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 688. However, the resolution contains no such authorization for military action.[6]

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations at the time of the NFZ referred to them as "illegal" in an interview with John Pilger.[7][8]

Role in preparation for ground invasion

From March to December 2002 the number of bombs dropped increased by 300%.[9] This was recognised as "a clear indication that the no-fly zone is being used to destroy the country's air defence systems in anticipation of an all-out attack".[9] UK Government sources confirmed to The Guardian newspaper that the NFZ had "nothing to do with" the stated US and UK aim of protecting civilian populations.[9]

The commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln's air wing said that the NFZ "makes any potential action infinitely easier ... to fly over the same territory you're going to attack is a real luxury".[10]

Civilian deaths

The United Nations found that in 1999 alone 144 civilians were killed by US and UK bombing.[4]

Reports from Baghdad say that more than 1,400 civilians were killed in the US and British attacks in the NFZs.[3] By 1999 over 1,800 bombs had been dropped on Iraq by the US and UK.[11]

Hans von Sponeck, coordinator of the UN Humanitarian Program in Iraq from 1998-2000 said:

“On average, during the time I was in Iraq, there were bombing incidents every 3 days. The casualties were in the very areas that they allegedly established to protect people. How, at a 10,000-meter height, can you protect a Shi’ite population? That is a fantasy. The cruel reality is that people are dying as a result of these no-fly zones.”[3]

The United States and coalition countries denied these allegations and cited popular Kurdish and Shia demands for no-fly zones, in order to protect against Saddam Hussein, who unhindered had committed numerous genocides a few years earlier such as the infamous 1988 Anfal genocide against Kurds that killed upwards of 200,000 Kurdish civilians. The establishing of no-fly zones effectively cut off Saddam Hussein from much of the north and secured the Kurdish population, who gained effective autonomy directly following the intervention. This autonomy has continued to thrive and even avoided the chaos and bloodshed that characterized the rest of Iraq during the 2003 Iraq war.

History

Still photograph from a videotape of an Iraqi surface-to-air missile, believed to be an SA-3, launched at a coalition aircraft in July 2001.

From 1992 to the United States-led coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were two NFZs in Iraq. The NFZ in the north of Iraq was established shortly after the Gulf War, extending from the 36th parallel northwards. In August 1992 the NFZ in the south to the 32nd parallel was established,[12] but in 1996 it was expanded to the 33rd parallel.[13] The northern NFZ was initially part of Operation Provide Comfort relief operations to a persecuted Kurdish minority in Iraq, and was followed on by Operation Northern Watch. The southern NFZ was maintained by Operation Southern Watch.

When Operation Desert Storm ended in 1991, the safety of Kurds who were fleeing during the uprising from Iraqi persecution became an issue, and Operation Provide Comfort began. This operation essentially created a Northern NFZ to Iraqi military aircraft. The operation provided the Kurdish population with humanitarian aid and reassurance of safe skies.

On 26 June 1993, the US conducted a cruise missile attack on the Iraqi Intelligence Service's (IIS) principal command and control complex in Baghdad, publicly announced as retaliation for the assassination attempt by the IIS on former President George H. W. Bush while he was visiting Kuwait in April of that year to commemorate a coalition victory over Iraq in the Gulf War. Fourteen cruise missiles were launched from USS Peterson and nine of them launched from USS Chancellorsville. Sixteen hit the target, while three struck a residential area, killing nine civilians and wounding 12 others. Four missiles were unaccounted for.[14]

In October 1994, Baghdad once again began mobilizing around 64,000 Iraqi troops near the Kuwaiti border because of their expressed frustrations of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).[15][16] In response, the U.S. begins to deploy troops in the Persian Gulf to deter Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. Code-named Operation Vigilant Warrior, 1st Brigade of the Fort Stewart, Georgia-based 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) deployed and drew pre-positioned equipment in Kuwait. The 23rd Wing's (Flying Tigers) 75th Fighter Squadron (Tigersharks) and its full complement of A-10s initially deployed from Pope AFB, North Carolina to Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, followed by the first forward deployment to Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. This allowed better face-to-face coordination with tactical air control parties (TACP) assets further forward deployed at Camp Doha, Kuwait and points north. Iraq would later withdraw troops near the Kuwaiti border in response to a massive U.S. military build-up.

However, this was marred by a friendly-fire incident on 14 April 1994 when two United States Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter planes mistakenly shot down two United States Army Blackhawk helicopters, killing 26 Coalition military and civilian personnel.

In September 1996, the US conducted Operation Desert Strike, and ships from the USS Carl Vinson Battle Group, including USS Laboon, and USS Shiloh, in conjunction with B-52 bombers escorted by F-14D Tomcats from USS Carl Vinson, launched 27 cruise missiles against Iraqi air defense targets in southern Iraq.[17] A second wave of 17 was launched later that day.[18] The missiles hit targets in and around Kut, Iskandariyah, Nasiriyah, and Tallil.[19] This was done in response to Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, attempting to launch an Iraqi military offensive campaign in the Kurdish town of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Operation Provide Comfort officially ended on 31 December 1996. Following Operation Provide Comfort, the United States continued to watch over the northern skies with the launching of Operation Northern Watch on 1 January 1997. Operation Northern Watch continued to provide air security to the Kurdish population in the north. By 1999, the Department of Defense had flown over 200,000 sorties over Iraq.[20]

American and British aircraft continuously enforced the NFZ, receiving anti-aircraft fire from Iraqi forces almost daily.[21] The operation ran until its conclusion on 1 May 2003. In the south, Operation Southern Watch was underway to watch over the persecuted Shi'ite populations. This operation was launched on 27 August 1992 with the mission of preventing further human rights abuses against civilian populations. Iraq challenged the no-fly zone beginning in December 1992 when a USAF F-16 fighter plane shot down an Iraqi MiG-25 Foxbat fighter which had locked onto it in the Southern no-fly zone. The next month Allied planes attacked Iraqi SAM sites in the South.[citation needed] Baghdad eventually halted firing on patrolling Allied aircraft after August 1993.

In December 1998, the US conducted Operation Desert Fox which was a major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets from 16 December 1998, to 19 December 1998, by the United States and United Kingdom. The contemporaneous justification for the strikes was Iraq's failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and its interference with United Nations Special Commission inspectors.

In the aftermath of Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, Iraq announced it would no longer respect the no-fly zones and resumed its efforts in shooting down Allied aircraft. Saddam Hussein offered a $14,000 reward to anyone who could accomplish this task, but no manned aircraft were ever shot down by Iraq. Air strikes by British and American aircraft against Iraqi claimed anti-aircraft and military targets continued weekly over the next few years. In the early 2000s (decade), the U.S. developed a contingency plan, Operation Desert Badger for dealing with pilots shot down over Iraqi no-fly zones.[citation needed]

The operation continued until it transitioned to Operation Southern Focus in June 2002. They began to carry out offensive sorties, not only against targets that had fired on them, but upon installations that had demonstrated no hostile intent. The U.S. claimed that these increased attacks were the result of increasing Iraqi provocations, but later, in July 2005, the British Ministry of Defense released figures showing that the number of provocations had actually dropped dramatically prior to and just after the increase in allied attacks. Their records indicate that in the first seven months of 2001, there had been 370 provocations on the part of Iraq. In the seven months from October 2001 into May 2002, only 32 such provocations were recorded.[22] General Tommy Franks later acknowledged that the dramatic increase in offensive sorties was an attempt to destroy the Iraqi defenses in much the same way as the air strikes at the beginning of the Gulf War had.[23] The U.S. and British operations had the (apparently intended) effect of reducing Iraqi ability to counter airstrikes prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[24]

In purported retaliation for the Iraqis' now-daily air defense attacks on coalition aircraft, the September attacks included a 5 September 100-aircraft attack on the main air defense site in western Iraq. According to an editorial by Michael Smith for the New Statesman, this was "Located at the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shi'a; it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected."[25]

The NFZs effectively ceased to exist with the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003, since air superiority over the country was quickly attained by the coalition. The NFZs were officially deactivated right after Saddam Hussein's overthrow.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ Carrington, Anca. "Iraq: Issues, Historical Background, Bibliography." Page 18.
  2. ^ "BBC News | FORCES AND FIREPOWER | Containment: The Iraqi no-fly zones". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "No Fly Zones Over Iraq". CounterPunch.org. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b Sponeck, Graf Hans-Christof; Sponeck, H. C. von; Amorim, Celso N. (October 2006). A Different Kind of War: The UN Sanctions Regime in Iraq. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781845452223.
  5. ^ "Iraq Under Siege: Ten Years On". www.globalpolicy.org. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b "No-fly zones: The legal position". 19 February 2001. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b A People Betrayed Archived 14 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine ZNet, 23 February 2003
  8. ^ a b ITV - John Pilger - Labour claims its actions are lawful while it bombs Iraq, starves its people and sells arms to corrupt states
  9. ^ a b c "Britain and US Step Up Bombing in Iraq". www.globalpolicy.org. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  10. ^ "US Pilots Enforce Iraq No-Fly Zone". www.globalpolicy.org. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  11. ^ Salvage, Jane (2002). "The health and environmental costs of war on Iraq" (PDF). MedAct.
  12. ^ BBC News | FORCES AND FIREPOWER | Containment: The Iraqi no-fly zones
  13. ^ 2nd Cruise Missile Strikes in Iraq Archived 9 February 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ John Pike. "Air Strike 13 January 1993 – Operation Southern Watch". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  15. ^ Saddam Hussein & the invasion of Kuwait
  16. ^ U.S., Iraq Move More Troops Toward Kuwait : Military: Baghdad mobilizes force of 64,000. Tension up as American ships, planes, 4,000 soldiers converge on Gulf
  17. ^ Operation Desert Strike at globalsecurity.org
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2005. Retrieved 1 September 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ U.S. launches missile strikes against Iraq – CNN.com
  20. ^ U.S. Counters Iraq's Increased Aggression, Department of Defense News Brief
  21. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (21 June 2004). "Unfairenheit 9/11: The lies of Michael Moore.". Slate.
  22. ^ Michael Smith, "RAF Bombing Raids Tried to Goad Saddam into War," Sunday Times, 29 May 2005
  23. ^ American Soldier [2004] p. 342
  24. ^ The unofficial war: U.S., Britain led massive secret bombing campaign before Iraq war was declared, rawstory.com
  25. ^ "The war before the war". News Statesman. 30 May 2005.

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