In a gesture that would seem brazenly calculated to invite a military response from the Western allies, the Baghdad daily Babel said that all targets - be they military, civilian or commercial - would be fair game. "American and British interests, embassies and naval ships ... in the Arab region should be the targets of military operations ... and attacks by Arab political forces," said the paper's front page editorial.
Clearly irked by the British government's decision to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, where the US already has a powerful flotilla in place, Iraq is pointedly extending its rhetorical attacks beyond America to include Britain. On Friday the Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammad Said al-Sahaf, described the British as America's "stooges".
Last night Mr Sahaf reiterated that Iraq would try to shoot down a US U-2 spy plane expected to fly over the country on behalf of UN arms inspectors. "We have informed [the UN] that our position is stable: If a U-2 plane is going to fly over us, we will be obliged to defend our security ... which indicates we are going to shoot such planes." Asked how near Iraq was to a military conflict with the United States, Mr Sahaf said: "How near are the Americans and their stooges, the British, from launching an aggression against Iraq? Well, any moment. This would not surprise us at all."
President Clinton himself upped the ante in Washington when, as if preparing a political justification for an attack on Iraq, he declared Saddam's pursuit of major weapons systems to be "one of the three or four most significant security threats that all our people will face".
A media war, page 20Reuse content