The United States and Britain may be tightening their nine-year stranglehold on Iraq. The bombing campaign on Iraq, in place since December, shows signs of augmentation while the United States has used the seizure of an Iraqi ship on Sunday, allegedly laden with baby supplies for export, to renew its propaganda war against Iraq.
The Iraqi Government said that 19 civilians were killed in air raids on Tuesday. The attacks by U.S. and British planes were launched from bases in Kuwait and Turkey and reportedly breached the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. If the allegations by the Iraqi government are true, it would be the first such violation since the U.S. led the four-day Desert Fox blitz on Iraq in December. The 19 killed would also be the highest one-day death toll since December's fiasco, set off after Iraq barred U.N. weapons inspectors for spying for the United States.
This latest military escalation to the long running bombing campaign reinforces the notion that the United States and Britain are engaged in what Jeremy Bowen, writing for the BBC on August 5, calls an "undeclared, almost ignored, war" with Iraq. And U.S. and British attacks outside of the no-fly zones, if true (US military officials only reported attacks in the northern no-fly zone near Mosul), indicate that the Western imposed no-fly zones are perhaps a fabricated excuse to justify U.S. and British ulterior motives: presumably to bomb Iraq into submission to U.S. demands.
The U.S. government has also set about undermining the major source of international sympathy for Iraq's plight under the sanctions: the plight of Iraqi citizens, and particularly the starvation and sickness of Iraqi children. A report last week by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said sanctions were responsible for the death of half a million Iraqi children and that children are currently dying at twice the rate as they were during the 1990-91 Gulf War. Many critics have blamed the United States and Britain, as some of the few supporters for continued sanctions against Iraq, for the mass starvation and death in Iraq. But the United States has made its latest counter in the propaganda war by saying an Iraqi ship seized in Kuwait loaded with baby supplies for export is proof that Iraq has only its government to blame for the plight of its children.
Disregarding Iraqi protests that the boat was returning sub-standard supplies and even that the boat had nothing to do with the Iraqi government, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin called the affair an "indication of the Iraqi regime's cynical disregard for the welfare of its own citizens." But according to BBC correspondent Rob Watson reporting on Wednesday, "the facts surrounding the seizure are few and far between."
While an increase in U.S. and British belligerence towards Iraq is no doubt a sign of the allies' unwavering resolve to continue to pressure Iraq, it is also a sign of desperation. Despite years of sanctions, bombing and even outright attempts to overthrow the Iraqi government from within, Saddam Hussein's government still holds power and is perhaps even making gains in terms of sympathy from the international community.
Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Britain, France, Russia and China), three have argued in favor of lifting the sanctions and even Britain now says the sanctions should be eased. The latest escalation of attacks against Iraq may then represent a U.S. attempt to galvanize world opinion for a final assault on Iraqi sovereignty.
Zakariya Wright is a staff writer at iviews.com