Iraqi no-fly zones

Iraqi no-fly zones

The Iraqi no-fly zones are two separate no-fly zones (NFZs), and were proclaimed by the United States, United Kingdom and France after the Gulf War of 1991 to protect humanitarian operations in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraqi aircraft were forbidden from flying inside the zones. The policy was enforced by US, UK and French aircraft patrols until France withdrew in 1998. While the enforcing powers had cited United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 as authorising the operations, the resolution contains no explicit authorization. The Secretary-General of the UN at the time the resolution was passed, Boutros Boutros-Ghali called the no-fly zones "illegal" in a later interview with John Pilger [ [ ZNet] ] [ [ ITV - John Pilger - Labour claims its actions are lawful while it bombs Iraq, strarves its people and sells arms to corrupt states] ] .

The NFZ in the north of Iraq was established shortly after the Gulf War. In August 1992 the NFZ in the south to the 32nd parallel was established [ [ BBC News | FORCES AND FIREPOWER | Containment: The Iraqi no-fly zones] ] , but in 1996 it was expanded to the 33rd parallel. [ [ 2nd Cruise Missile Strikes in Iraq] ] From 1992 to the United States-led coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were two NFZs in Iraq. The northern NFZ extended from the 36th parallel northwards, while the southern extended from the 33rd parallel southwards. The northern NFZ was initially part of Operation Provide Comfort relief operations to a persecuted Kurdish minority in Iraq, and was followed on by Operation Northern Watch. The southern NFZ was maintained by Operation Southern Watch.

When Operation Desert Storm ended in 1991, the safety of Kurds who were fleeing from Iraqi persecution from the south became an issue, and Operation Provide Comfort began. This operation essentially created a Northern NFZ to Iraqi military aircraft. The operation provided the Kurdish population with humanitarian aid and reassurance of safe skies. However, this was marred by a friendly-fire incident on 14 April, 1994 when two United States Air Force F-15 Eagle fighters mistakenly shot-down two United States Army Blackhawk helicopters killing twenty-six personnel. Operation Provide Comfort officially ended on the 31st of December 1996.

Following Operation Provide Comfort, the United States continued to watch over the northern skies with the launching of Operation Northern Watch on January 1, 1997. Operation Northern Watch continued to provide air security to the Kurdish population in the north. American and British aircraft continuously maintained the integrity of the NFZ, receiving anti-aircraft fire from Iraqi forces almost daily. The operation ran until its conclusion on May 1st, 2003.

In the south, Operation Southern Watch was underway to watch over the persecuted Shi'ite populations. This operation was launched on August 27th, 1992 with the mission of preventing further inhumane acts against civilian populations. Iraq challenged the no-fly zone beginning in December 1992 when a U.S. F-16 shot down a MiG which had locked on to it in the Southern no-fly zone. The next month Allied planes attacked Iraqi SAM sites in the South and bombed a nuclear facility. Baghdad eventually halted firing on patrolling Allied aircraft after August 1993.

In the aftermath of Operation Desert Fox during December 1998, Iraq announced it would no longer respect the no-fly zones and resumed its efforts in shooting down Allied aircraft. Saddam Hussein offered a $14,000 reward to anyone who could accomplish this task, but no manned aircraft were ever shot down by Iraq. Air strikes by the British and Americans against Iraqi claimed anti-aircraft and military targets continued weekly over the next few years.

The operation continued until it transitioned to Operation Southern Focus in June 2002. But even before this, as early as May 2002, both the US and British Forces stepped up their attacks on Iraqi facilities. They began to carry out offensive sorties, not only against targets that had fired on them, but upon installations that had demonstrated no hostile intent. The US claimed that these increased attacks were the result of increasing Iraqi provocations, but later, in July 2005, the British Ministry of Defense released figures showing that the number of provocations had actually dropped dramatically prior to and just after the increase in allied attacks. Their records indicate that in the first seven months of 2001, there had been 370 provocations on the part of Iraq. In the seven months from Oct. 2001 into May 2002, only 32 such provocations were recorded (See, Michael Smith, "RAF Bombing Raids Tried to Goad Saddam into War," "Sunday Times", May 29, 2005). General Tommy Franks later acknowledged that the dramatic increase in offensive sorties was an attempt to destroy the Iraqi defenses in much the same way as the air strikes at the beginning of the Gulf War had (See, "American Soldier" [2004] p. 342). Needless to say, the Iraqi government in turn, claimed the NFZ and the unprovoked attacks were illegal, and in response increased their futile efforts to shoot down an allied plane. These US and British operations had the (apparently intended) effect of reducing Iraqi ability to counter air strikes prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (Also see: [] )

In purported retaliation for the Iraqi's now-daily air defense attacks on coalition aircraft (brought about by the increased coalition attacks), the September attacks included a 5 September 100-aircraft attack on the main air defense site in western Iraq. According to an editorial by Michael Smith for the "New Statesman", this was "Located at the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shi'a; it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected." [cite news|title=The war before the war |publisher=News Statesman |date=2005-05-30 |url=]

The NFZs effectively ceased to exist with the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003 and were officially deactivated right after Saddam Hussein's overthrow.fact|date=July 2008

pecific Operations

*Operation Provide Comfort
*Operation Southern Focus
*Operation Northern Watch
*Operation Southern Watch

External links

* [ Full-text of Resolution 688]
* [ Operation Northern Watch]
* [ Operation Southern Watch]
* [ Robert Dryfus article about illegality of NFZs]
* [ The Embarrassment and Illegality of the No-Fly Zones]
* [ No-fly zones: The legal position]


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