Tracking Number:  171144

Title:  "Iraq Taking Advantage of Allied Air Strike Policy." Iraqi military leaders are taking advantage of the coalition's scrupulous adherence to a policy of not attacking civilian targets by moving some of their operations and equipment into schools and mosques. (910204)

Translated Title:  "L`Irak profite des regles de bombardement alliees." (910204)
Date:  19910204


02/04/91 1Ne Re IRAQ TAKING ADVANTAGE OF ALLIED AIR STRIKE POLICY (Shifting military to residential areas) (1310) By Davis Brashears USIA Staff Correspondent

Washington -- Iraqi military leaders are taking advantage of the allied coalition's scrupulous adherence to a policy of not attacking civilian targets by moving some of their operations and equipment into schools, hospitals, mosques or residential areas, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) says.

Asked at a February 4 news briefing in Riyadh monitored at the Pentagon if the Iraqis are using schools and hospitals for military command posts in lieu of their normal headquarters, which have been destroyed by allied bombing attacks, a CENTCOM spokesman replied, "I think that happens to be a true fact."

"I think they're simply trying to protect their military capability -- command and control, aircraft, other important equipment," Marine Major General Robert Johnston said. He explained that the Iraqis are shifting military operations into civilian areas "for the very reason that we are not targeting" those areas "as a part of our air campaign."

In stating the coalition policy, the spokesman stressed again that mosques or other religious shrines will not be hit, saying, "We have avoided anything that has any religious significance, and we will continue to do so."

Despite the care being taken, the nine coalition air forces have continued to strike Iraqi military targets -- command and control facilities, nuclear, chemical and biological production sites, and the elite Republican Guard forces -- at an unrelenting pace.

"In the last 24 hours," Johnston said, "with nine countries involved, we have flown over 2,700 sorties, bringing the grand total to date to over 44,000 sorties." He explained that for those who are keeping track of the bombing missions, "that translates to approximately one bombing sortie for every minute of the Desert Storm operation."

Pointing out that coalition air strikes have already severely crippled Iraq's military posture, "both on the leadership level, and even on the tactical level," Johnston

GE 2 SFF104 expressed doubt that moving remaining assets into civilian locations would have much effect on the outcome of the war.

Referring apparently to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Johnston told a questioner, "I'm not sure that he can put a half million troops and 5,000 tanks in residential areas. "I'm not being flip about it. He can hide a slight part of his military capability, but he can't hide it all."

Johnston emphasized that "we will continue to scrupulously adhere to our policy that we will not target civilian areas," adding that, "I guess you could conclude that he has protected some of his assets."

Noting that allied air strikes have inflicted significant damage on Iraqi chemical and biological weapons storage facilities, Johnston told a questioner it is doubtful, as some reports had indicated, that poison gases have been released into the atmosphere as a result of the attacks.

"We have been attacking those targets in such a way as to minimize the potential for any of those toxins to go into the air," he said. "It's been done very carefully; I can't say that some contamination may not be in the air in the immediate surroundings, but I suspect that there would be no serious damage to any community."

Questioned whether he knew of bombs that had missed their targets, Johnston replied, "There are no reports that I know of of inaccurate bombing, particularly north of the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. There are a couple that may have ended up on friendly positions, but I can't tell you of any that I know of that have grossly missed the target. I'm not aware of any."

Asked if it were possible that "there could not have been one mistake?" he responded, "I would never say never, but I think it's unlikely." He again emphasized that "we try to use the right kind of weapon system to attack those targets which prevent the potential for collateral damage to civilian communities. So even our weaponeering is designed to avoid civilian casualties."

Johnston said the Republican Guard "continues to get the focus of our attention. We had 26 fighter strike packages against them today, and six B-52 strikes. We continue at high tempo to attack those forces in the Kuwaiti theater of operations."

During the night, he said, allied surveillance systems picked up movement of some Iraqi vehicles in Kuwait, which were then "systematically attacked and destroyed."

He noted that there were only about 10 vehicles in the convoy, compared to 50 or 100 which have usually traveled together in the past. "That's an indication that they are trying to

GE 3 SFF104 minimize the target they present to our air forces," Johnston commented.

After another allied air attack later in the day, the spokesman said, 25 or 30 Iraqi tanks were said to be destroyed, "or at least burning."

On the U.S. side, he noted, one aircraft, an AH-1 Huey helicopter, and its crew of four were lost when it crashed accidentally in Saudi Arabia. Johnston said investigators were seeking to determine the cause of the accident.

Reporting on naval activity, the spokesman noted that the U.S. battleship Missouri on station in the gulf fired seven rounds from its 16-inch guns -- the first such firing since the Korean War in 1952. Air observation confirmed that the target of the rounds, a group of Iraqi command and control bunkers, was destroyed, he said.

Johnston said a 16-inch round from the Missouri can hit an object the size of a tennis court from 25 miles away. "When that system is in range, it can take on any target; it's a very accurate weapons system," he added.

Although the Iraqis fired no Scud missiles against either Saudi Arabia or Israel February 4, Johnston said, coalition pilots attacked three suspected Scud sites, damaging support vehicles in each place.

Bridges which are part of Iraq's line of transport and communication into the Kuwaiti theater also continue to be targeted by coalition air forces, Johnston told reporters. He said 27 have been severely damaged or destroyed, emphasizing that "we continue to reservice those targets. If we find that he's trying to repair or has repaired a critical bridge...we go back and strike it the next day or the day after."

British pilots have been especially active against bridges. In a separate briefing February 4, Air Vice Marshal William Wratten showed reporters a video clip of a combined strike by Buccaneer and Tornado aircraft against a rail span across the Euphrates River. The laser guided British bomb scored a direct hit, putting the bridge out of action.

Concerning Iraqi defenses against the air strikes, Johnston said recent anti-aircraft responses have reached "nowhere near the same intensity" as in the first days of Desert Storm. Anti-aircraft batteries "become an immediate target for our airpower. We have supremacy of the air, so they become an extremely lucrative and vulnerable target," the briefer explained.

"But don't get the impression that it's not a high-risk environment for our pilots," he added. "When they go in after targets they are getting 'triple-A' fire. It's still

GE 4 SFF104 a high-risk profession to be an aviator right now, and they're doing a superb job."

In another incident away from the Kuwaiti theater, the CENTCOM spokesman confirmed that shots were fired at a contract shuttle bus vehicle carrying three American servicemen, a Saudi Arabian guard and their Egyptian driver to the airport in Jidda, Saudi Arabia. He said the occupants received minor cuts from shattered glass, but were otherwise uninjured.

Both Johnston and a Joint Arab Command military spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Al-Robayan, expressed doubt that the shooting was carried out by terrorists. Colonel Al-Robayan, speaking at a separate briefing, said Saudi authorities were investigating the incident. NNNN

File Identification:  02/04/91, SF-104; 02/04/91, EU-107; 02/05/91, AF-208; 02/05/91, AR-230; 02/05/91, NA-211
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Languages:  Arabic; French
Thematic Codes:  1NE
Target Areas:  EU
PDQ Text Link:  171144; 171342