US war games starting early to warn Iraq

Washington (Reuter) - The United States and Kuwait have decided to hold a scheduled military exercise in Kuwait in about 10 days' time instead of in the autumn as part of US warnings to Iraq, a senior US military official said yesterday.

The American moves were triggered by information received from two of President Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law since their defections to Jordan last week. The defectors told debriefers Iraq had contemplated an attack on Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, the officials said. Baghdad denied making threats and dismissed Western concerns as "merely a frog's croaking" and "a balloon full of lies."

"The American administration creates unfounded stories to consolidate its presence in the Gulf and to terrorise the Sabahs [the Kuwaiti rulers]," the Iraqi News Agency said.

The announcement at a Pentagon briefing amplified a notice released minutes earlier at the US Embassy in Kuwait, and underscored that the war games, to last four to six weeks, had been moved forward as part of US measures designed to discourage Iraq from menacing its neighbours. Regarding the decision on the exercises, the official said: "It was just felt this was a good time to do it."

He said this was "part of the prudent steps" Washington had announced on Thursday to discourage Iraq from making any threatening gestures toward Kuwait or Jordan.

In Kuwait, the US Embassy said the exercise would involve about 1,400 US soldiers.

Military officials at the Pentagon said they were concerned but not alarmed by Iraqi military activity, which they said did not noticeably increase after the defections last week of President Saddam's top aides.

No large military force has shown up on Kuwait's borders, one official said, adding: "The posturing of forces in the Baghdad area and south of the Baghdad area were of such a nature as to cause us concern."

He said Iraqi soldiers were moving out of their garrisons in convoy formations, which they do not usually do for training exercises. Moving in convoy formations enables them to travel greater distances in less time, thus reducing US warning-time if Iraq plans to invade Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

The United States also said it was urging Jordan to stop accepting supplies of Iraqi oil, but would not say whether the effort had been successful.

Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau and Mark Parris, a special assistant to President Clinton, made the US case during talks in Jordan with King Hussein and other officials before going on to Egypt, the State Department said. "The objective is to insure that Iraq complies with all of the Security Council resolutions. And we're pushing in every way we can to put pressure on Iraq to do so," State Department deputy spokesman David Johnson said. Asked if this meant Washington was trying to cut off one of Iraq's oil customers, he replied: "Well, I think that would be consistent with the UN Security Council resolutions."

A sweeping trade ban slapped on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait bars all Iraqi oil sales. But the UN has given Jordan tacit approval to continue the arrangement with Baghdad because Amman, estranged from its traditional Gulf Arab donors due to its pro-Iraqi sympathies in the Gulf war, has had no other source. As part of its strategy to further isolate Iraq, Washington has been pressing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, either to make up for Jordan's oil needs or provide other assistance.

The two states halted aid to Jordan in retaliation for its refusal to break with Iraq during the 1991 war in what Gulf leaders saw as a personal betrayal by King Hussein. Since then, Jordan has depended completely on Iraqi oil.

The US is rallying support for Jordan among Gulf states in recognition of King Hussein's decision to grant political asylum to the two senior Iraqi defectors, who include Saddam Hussein's son-in-law Hussein Kamel Hassan Majeed, who formerly headed Iraq's advanced weapons programmes.

Savage family, page 13

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own