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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Crisis: U.S. and Allied Forces

98-120 F   Iraq Crisis: U.S. and Allied Forces
                  LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
NUMBER:     98-120 F
DATE:       March 6, 1998
TITLE:      Iraq Crisis: U.S. and Allied Forces
AUTHOR:     Alfred B. Prados
DIVISION:   Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
     A build-up of U.S. forces has been under way in the
Persian Gulf region since October 1997, in response to
Iraq's refusal to cooperate fully with the work of U.N.
weapons inspectors.  A few allied  contingents have begun
to supplement the U.S. force.  The present force in the
Gulf comprises over 35,000 U.S. and allied military
personnel, approximately 300 combat aircraft, and over 30
ships, including three aircraft carriers. Though much
smaller than the massive coalition assembled after Iraq
invaded Kuwait in 1990, U.S. officials believe the present
force is capable of conducting significant military strikes
against Iraq if diplomacy fails to secure full Iraqi
cooperation.  The Senate is considering two bills related
to the crisis with Iraq:  S.Con.Res. 71, calling on the
President to take all necessary and appropriate actions in
response to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its
lethal weapons program; .and S.Con.Res. 78, calling for
indictment and prosecution of Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein for war crimes.  H.Con.Res. 226, introduced on
February 26, states the sense of Congress that the United
States should not take military action against Iraq unless
authorized by a law enacted after adoption of this
U.S. Forces
     The defeat of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition in early
1991 led to a drastic reduction in U.S. force levels, which
had reached 540,000 in the Persian Gulf region at the height
of the war.  Until late 1997, U.S. troop strength in the
Gulf fluctuated between 14,000 and 20,000, of whom a
majority were embarked on ships, with smaller numbers based
in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.   These
contingents helped enforce a no-fly zone over southern Iraq
(Operation Southern Watch), participated in training and
joint exercises with Gulf armed forces, guarded U.S.
military equipment prepositioned in Gulf countries, and
provided a limited deterrent to potential moves by Iraq or
possibly Iran.  Approximately 200 U.S. combat aircraft and
20 ships (frequently including an aircraft carrier) were in
the region at any given time.
     In October and November 1997, the United States
responded to Iraqi efforts to obstruct the work of U.N.
weapons inspectors by sending additional ships and aircraft
to the Gulf, including two aircraft carrier groups, six F-
117A stealth fighters to Kuwait, eight B-52 bombers to the
Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia (British territory), and
32 other combat aircraft to Bahrain.  As the crisis
intensified, Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced
additional deployments on February 4.  These reinforcements,
which began moving to the Gulf region in mid-February,
include 19 more fighters and bombers, the 24th Marine
Expeditionary Unit (over 2,000 combat personnel) aboard
ships, and Army aviation and mechanized units (approximately
5,000-6,000) which are joining 1,500 Army troops that were
already in Kuwait.
     Table 1 shows U.S. forces in or en route to the Gulf, as
well as a U.S. air contingent based in Turkey (technically
outside the Gulf region but committed to enforcing a no-fly
zone over northern Iraq).  Some U.S. military assets in the
region might not be used in the event of a military
operation against Iraq, notably the 24 fighter aircraft in
Turkey and the 50-60 fighter aircraft in Saudi Arabia. 
Saudi authorities are reluctant to permit air strikes
against Iraq from Saudi bases, although they may be willing
to allow operations by non-combat support aircraft.  Even
without the use of Saudi-based fighters, the U.S. area
commander General Anthony Zinni believes U.S. forces in the
region can carry out a 'very substantial' operation against
Iraq. (See Endnote 1.)
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     Although the crisis has eased following the agreement
reached between the U.N. Secretary General and the Iraqi
leadership on February 23, U.S. officials say the expanded
U.S. force will remain in the Gulf for the time being.  On
March 4, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, quoting
President Clinton, told a subcommittee of the House
Appropriations Committee that 'Our soldiers, our ships, our
planes will stay there in force until we are satisfied Iraq
is complying with its commitments.'
Allied Forces (Non-U.S.)
     Widespread reluctance in the international community to
resort to force against Iraq has prevented the United States
from assembling a large multinational force like the 35-
member coalition that defeated Iraq in 1991.  The United
Kingdom has deployed an aircraft carrier and associated
units to the Gulf; Canada has sent a frigate and transport
aircraft; and Australia and New Zealand are sending tanker
and surveillance aircraft, respectively, together with small
contingents of commandos.  Other donor countries are sending
administrative and logistical rather than combat units:
Argentina, Denmark, and Hungary have promised medical and
humanitarian teams.  Poland has offered an anti-chemical
unit, and the Czech Republic and Romania have offered
unspecified military support, if needed. Total allied forces
deployed or promised come to less than 4,000 personnel, only
a fraction of the roughly 210,000-strong allied force
committed during the 1991 Gulf war.
     Other states have indicated their willingness to support
military action.  On March 4, Under Secretary of State
Thomas R. Pickering told foreign journalists that 'there is
now a coalition of some 20 states' who will engage in a
military operation against Iraq if it should take place. 
Presumably, the total of 20 states includes the allied
countries mentioned above, but Secretary Pickering did not
name the countries or indicate the degree of support they
might provide. (See Endnote 2.)
     Table 2 shows allied forces in the Gulf region or
expected to arrive.  So far, none of the six countries
comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, consisting of
Saudi Arabia and five smaller Gulf neighbors) have committed
themselves to participate in a military campaign against
Iraq.  Consequently, the table does not include any of the
approximately 300,000 military personnel serving in the
armed forces of GCC countries, which were key members of the
allied coalition in 1990-1991.  It is possible that one or
more of these countries might decide to play an active role
in a campaign as the situation develops.  A likely candidate
might be Kuwait, where memories of the 1990 Iraqi invasion
are still fresh.  Kuwait has put its 16,000-member armed
forces on a higher state of alert.  For further information
on allied support and positions of other countries regarding
the present crisis, see CRS Report 98-114, Iraq:
International Support for U.S. Policy.
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(1)  Steven Lee Myers, 'U.S. Will Not Ask to Use Saudi Bases
for a Raid on Iraq,' The New York Times, Feb. 9, 1998, p.
(2)  According to a news report, State Department officials
met with ambassadors of over 30 countries (10 more than the
number cited in the Pickering briefing) that have promised
to provide troops or other support to a military coalition. 
Patrick Worsnip, 'Clinton warns Iraq to comply--or else,'
Reuters news wire, March 3, 1998, 00:50 AET.  It seems
likely that most of these countries are offering modest
logistical support rather than troop deployments.
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