Declaring Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is now in “a tighter box,” President Clinton announced Tuesday he had approved plans to send 3,500 additional U.S. troops to Kuwait, and the administration said it sent Saddam a new set of demands he must meet or face military action.
White House and State Department officials said that a diplomatic note had been sent to the Iraqi mission at the United Nations, demanding Iraq stop firing at or targeting allied aircraft patrolling “no-fly” zones in the north and south of the country.
It also demanded certain anti-aircraft equipment, including missiles, be removed from the zones, the officials said.
Defense Secretary William J. Perry told reporters that “in the last few days the Iraqis have been backing off threatening moves” against patrolling U.S. aircraft. But he said the additional troops would be sent “because the Kuwaiti government feels threatened.”
About 1,200 U.S. soldiers already are in Kuwait, whose invasion by Iraq in 1990 led to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The additional troops, which the Pentagon said would arrive by the end of this week, will conduct exercises designed to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the region and against Saddam.
The latest U.S.-Iraq crisis began late last month when Iraqi forces moved into the northern part of the country that the United States and its allies had declared off limits to Baghdad since the Gulf War. In response, U.S. forces fired cruise missiles at anti-aircraft installations in southern Iraq and expanded the southern no-fly zone. Baghdad subsequently fired missiles at patrolling U.S. aircraft, but then said it would no longer attack the planes.
The announcement Tuesday morning that the new U.S. troop deployment to Kuwait would go ahead came after several days of confusion after the initial deployment announcement Friday.
Initial indications Kuwait would not accept the additional troops fueled charges by Republicans that the Clinton policy was confused and aimless. After a weekend visit by Perry to the region, however, Kuwait announced Monday it would accept the deployments. But some Pentagon and White House officials then said the deployment was being reconsidered as possibly unnecessary.
Early Tuesday morning, however, Clinton said he had authorized the deployment and spokesmen for the president and Perry said that as far as the two were concerned, it had never been in doubt.