US Carriers in the Gulf

Iraq News 07 May 1998

By Laurie Mylroie

The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .

   At an afternoon press conference Wed, Clinton was asked about earlier 
reports that the US would temporarily cut its carrier presence in the 
Gulf, beginning in late May.  Clinton replied "The Eisenhower is sailing 
on schedule, as you probably know. . . but I can tell you that I have 
not—Secretary Cohen has not recommended a final decision to me on this 
and I have certainly not made one and we've done our best to keep all 
our options open."

    Yet what Clinton meant is unclear.  In a subsequent dispatch, AP 
explained that the USS Eisenhower was originally scheduled to leave the 
US June 10, but its "departure date had been pushed ahead to May 13, to 
ensure that two carriers would be on station" in the Gulf.  "Clinton's 
decision today restores its original timetable for departure."  

   That means there will be only one carrier in the Gulf as of late May, 
unless a decision is made to delay the departure of the USS Independence 
from the region.  In a late afternoon report yesterday, Reuters quoted 
DoD spokesman, Bryan Whitman, "The Independence and its battle group are 
operating in the Gulf region now.  The Indy is scheduled to depart the 
region in late May."   Citing defense officials, Reuters reported that 
that could change, even as other officials said the Independence was 
"likely" to leave the Gulf on schedule.

   One reader advised, "It's useful to keep in mind that one carrier has 
less than half the strike power of two carriers, because a lot of the 
first batch of aircraft are used to defend the fleet."  The timing of 
any late May decrease in US forces is sensitive, because last Nov 27, 
after the "resolution" of the first round of this confrontation, Iraq's 
National Assembly "called on UNSCOM to expedite the closure of its files 
and end inspections in Iraq within a maximum period of six months as of 
the resumption of its activities on 20 November" [the date of the 
Primakov-brokered accord that returned UNSCOM to Iraq.]  

    Saddam underscored that statement in his Jan 16 speech, marking the 
anniversary of the start of the Gulf war, "Unless the UN Security 
Council decides to fulfill its obligations toward Iraq as stipulated in 
the unfair resolutions, which it adopted itself without Iraq's 
participation as reciprocal obligations of the Council, then Iraq is 
determined to take a stand that conforms with the recommendations of the 
people's representatives in the National Assembly, and will take 
responsibility for such a position."  Six months from Nov 20 would be 
May 20.