Military deployment in Gulf doubled with 50,000 extra troops

After its rejection of Iraq's weapons declaration, the Bush administration has stepped up preparations for war by authorising the dispatch of a further 50,000 troops to the Gulf region, doubling the US military presence there.

The deployment, Pentagon officials confirmed yesterday, will start early in the new year, and be complete by mid-January. The announcement came amid a series of planning meetings between President George Bush, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and General Tommy Franks, the head of US Central Command, who would be in charge of an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

Under the plans, thousands of reservists will be mobilised, and additional tanks, warplanes and other equipment will be sent to join the substantial material pre-positioned around Iraq. Two more aircraft carrier battle groups are also en route to the Gulf, to join the two already there.

After Mr Bush's decision that the weapons inventory provided on 7 December by Baghdad fell well short of the demands of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 for a complete accounting of Iraq's suspected chemical, biological and nuclear programmes, the real debate here has been whether formally to cite the omissions as an automatic trigger for a decision to go to war, or whether to wait a few more weeks.

The latter view has apparently prevailed, with top administration officials concluding that Washington needs more time to win over potential allies, and to put together a genuinely broad coalition to oust President Saddam. This in turn reassures critics at home who say the US has not yet made the case for going to war, and that if it does so, it must be under a clear UN mandate.

Despite the rejection of the 12,000-word declaration, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said Mr Bush would continue a "deliberative" approach to the crisis, encouraging the inspectors to use "every tool available" under the resolution to ferret out the truth about Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction.

US officials have been careful to note that the phrase "material breach" – invoked again yesterday by John Negroponte, the US ambassador to the UN – will not immediately set in motion the "serious consequences", a code-term for war, laid down in the resolution unanimously approved by the Security Council on 8 November. "We'll work with our partners on Council to determine the way forward," Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, said on Wednesday.

But for all the administration's keenness to go through the motions at the UN, there is a mood of resigned inevitability in Washington. A timetable is now clear for the countdown to military action, most likely in the first fortnight of February, long seen by the Pentagon as the best window for an attack.

The troop build-up, and intense US diplomatic efforts to build international support, will continue through January. Barring some blatant earlier provocation by Iraq, the next pivotal moment will come on 27 January when Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, is due to present the Security Council with his first full report on the inspections.

By then, too, the Bush administration calculates it will have again trapped President Saddam – this time on the issue of interviews with Iraqi weapons scientists, as stipulated by resolution 1441. If the Iraqi leader Saddam resists making his experts available, as Washington assumes he will, he will be in material breach for a second time. US officials claim this will harden international support for a US-led attack, clearing the decks for military action to start in early or mid-February, when weather conditions would suit a desert campaign.

Though far smaller than the 500,000 force assembled by President Bush Snr to drive Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, the 100,000-strong force – which could be easily reinforced – is in line with estimates of what will be needed for the swift, fierce campaign planned by the Pentagon. The US also wants to tighten the UN sanctions screw on Iraq, by restricting imports of antibiotics and other items, such as large tyres, which have a potential military use. But these plans, which will cause additional hardship for Iraqi civilians, could encounter strong resistance on the Security Council.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power