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Tuesday, August 02, 2005 

US led forces entered Iraq two months prior JHS Res.114

In August of 2002, two months before the Congressional resolution was passed that would allow the use of force in Iraq, a joint US, British and Turkish strike force of commandos and Special Forces troops crossed the border from Turkey into Iraq and engaged a unit of enemy armor in what would become the opening salvo of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Preceded by two days of aerial bombardment to destroy the Iraqis ability to detect and defend against the incursion, on Aug. 8 at 5 PM an armada of helicopters swept over the Turkish border towards the strategic Bamarni military airbase laying 50 miles north of the oil-rich city of Mosel. After a brief skirmish with the ill-equipped Iraqi defenders, the base fell into Allied hands.

Coming six months prior to the official start of hostilities, the attack not only heralded events to come in Iraq, it represented the culmination of planning and preparation that began in the weeks and months that immediately followed 9/11.

Events leading up to the attack

Immediately following the attacks of September 11th the White House began to question just how far the powers of the executive branch could extend to engage in military activities in the new “war on terror”. The justice department was asked to review the constraints put upon them by both the War Powers Act and the legislative branch as a whole. On September 25, 2002 the Attorney Generals Office came back with an answer. In “The President’s Constitutional Authority to Conduct Military Operations Against Terrorists and Nations Supporting Them”, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C.Yoo advised the President that:

“the President's broad constitutional power to use military force to defend the Nation… would allow the President to take whatever actions he deems appropriate to pre-empt or respond to terrorist threats from new quarters” and that “Military actions need not be limited to those individuals, groups, or states that participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: the Constitution vests the President with the power to strike terrorist groups or organizations that cannot be demonstrably linked to the September 11 incidents, but that, nonetheless, pose a similar threat to the security of the United States and the lives of its people, whether at home or overseas"
Having received the constitutional authority to engage in pre-emptive activity, the administration’s war planning for Iraq was in full swing by the winter of 2002. During the first few weeks of December, General Tommy Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met numerous times to hone the plans which were finally presented to the Presidentat his Crawford ranch on December 28th. Although the plans for regime change in Iraq would evolve over the coming months, two key elements remained in all the early war scenarios: The use of Iraqi opposition groups as key allies in the overthrow of Saddam, and the need to “prepare the battlefield” by degrading the air defenses and command and control systems of the Iraqi military prior to any invasion.

In the first week of February the initial phases of the plan went into effect when the President signed an Executive Finding that gave the go ahead for the CIA and military Special Operations Forces to operate inside Iraq. Within weeks of that finding, the 5th Group Special Forces were pulled from Afghanistan where they had been hunting for Bin Laden and sent to work in Iraq to begin the preliminary work on the next phase of the war on terror. By mid- March, there were reports of upwards of 1800 US unconventional forces operating in Iraq, most in the northern Kurdish Region where they had been sent to set up local militias and train them for battle.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, in April large numbers of Turkish ground forces also began entering the Turkman regions around the big oil towns of Mosul and Kirkuk.

By June, American and Turkish construction engineers had started working in the mountains of the Kurdish Region, building and expanding airfields and air strips to make them fit for military use. That same month CIA director George Tenet was reported to have taken a side trip from Israel and Palestine to meet with Kurdish opposition leaders and US operatives in Kurdistan to discuss possible scenarios for the overthrow of Saddam.

Against this backdrop, the USAF began to step up its effort to destroy Iraq’s Air defenses and communications capabilities when Operation Southern Focus began in May. All this increased activity created a need to secure more substantial landing strips within Iraq where equipment and materials could be brought in for both the increasing US forces and the fledgling militias they were trying to organize. They were also needed to be used as staging bases for further air attacks.

The attack begins
The campaign to take Bamarni Air Field began on August 6, at 8AM Middle East time when US and British bombers went into action to destroy the Iraqi air command and control center at al-Nukhaib in the desert near the Saudi Arabian border, just under 300 miles southwest of Baghdad. The center had recently installed a new advanced fiber optic network. It was later confirmed that the Allies had deployed an "enhanced" version of the Paveway Weapon system for the first time during the raid to knock out the mobile Chinese manufactured fiber-optic air defense system. The upgraded weapons system was installed only four months before the raid, and its refined laser guided system enabled it to strike a target with an accuracy of plus or minus six feet.

Less than twenty- four hours later two squadrons of US warplanes flew from Prince Sultan airbase in Saudi Arabia and from American aircraft carriers in the Gulf to test the effectiveness of the previous raid. Flying over the Iraqi capital there was no anti-aircraft activity, telling them that the early warning radar system protecting Baghdad and its environs from intrusion by enemy aircraft and missiles was now inactive.

On August 8, the first major military assault inside Iraq began. That night a fleet of Turkish troop-carrying helicopters with Turkish Commandos backed by American Special Forces left air bases in Turkey for northern Iraq. Eye-witnesses on the ground claimed air support and/or protection for the mission was provided by Turkish, American and British aircraft. The Allies seized the critical Bamerni airport in northern Iraq after a brief skirmish with an ill-equipped force from an armored section of the Iraqi army. The airport, just outside the Kurdish region, lies 50 miles north of the big Iraqi oil cities of the north, Kirkuk and Mosul. After the base fell several C130 transport planes were guided on to the airstrips from bases in Turkey to deliver engineering units, heavy machinery and electronic support equipment, which were put to work at once on enlarging the field and widening its landing strips.

As Turkish troops reinforced security around the airport, the American unit, reinforced, went on to capture two other strategic military points on either side of the airbase in the Dahuk province of Iraq. The two bases which consisted of very basic army barracks on two hills, one 565 ft above sea level and the other 2160 ft provided the US and Turkish forces with strategic look out posts over the immediate area, and air superiority over the entire region that includes the cities of Mosal and Kirkuk. Also falling under Allied control was the strategic railroad linking Syria and Iraq and the major oil production facilities of northern Iraq.

Seven hours after the attack which resulted in the first face-to face engagement between US led forces and Iraqi troops, Saddam Hussein was delivering a national televised speech celebrating the 14th anniversary of the eight year Iran-Iraq War. Saddam, with his usual bravado, threatened American troops going to war against Iraq that they would return home in coffins.

The coverage in the press

Although this story was covered extensively in the world press, it received little attention from the US media. Clearly the evidence is incontrovertible that although it would be more than two months before Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq, the military had already gone forward with the Administration's plans for war.

."..on Wednesday night, August 8, Turkey executed its first major military assault inside Iraq. (Israeli) military sources learn from Turkish and Kurdish informants that helicopters under US, British and Turkish warplane escort flew Turkish commandos to an operation for seizing the critical Bamerni airport in northern Iraq. This airport, just outside the Kurdish region, lies 50 miles north of the big Iraqi oil cities of the north, Kirkuk and Mosul. With the Turkish commandos was a group of US Special Forces officers and men. Bamerni airport was captured after a brief battle in which a unit of Iraqi armored defenders was destroyed, opening the airport for giant American and Turkish transports to deliver engineering units, heavy machinery and electronic support equipment, which were put to work at once on enlarging the field and widening its landing strips.
The American unit, reinforced, went on to capture two small Iraqi military airfields nearby.
...military experts explain that with Bamerni airport and the two additional airfields the Americans have acquired full control of the skies over the two oil cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as over the Syrian-Iraqi railroad, which they can now cut off by aerial bombardment."

From Debka Net Weekly 8/10/02 (Israel)

"08 August 2002: According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Turkish troops have taken control of the strategically important Bamerni Airport in south Kurdistan, as a preparation for a future attack on Iraq and to prevent the creation of a Kurdish State. Apparently, Turkey took control of the airport as a preparation in case of a chaos during attacks against Iraq and the possiblity of a Kurdish State. The Bamerni Airport is from the Saddam era. Hurriyet reported that Turkey has also sent civil and military personnel to the airport for maintenance and technical support. Several logistics-electronic machinery has also been sent to further improve the condition of the airport."


"On August 9, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that 5,000 Turkish troops had entered northern Iraq and taken over the Bamerni air base north of Mosul.
But in part the actions go well beyond that. In Kurdish Iraq - according to Israeli sources - US army engineers are working around the clock to build a series of six to eight airstrips to serve fighter planes and helicopters that will provide air cover for invading ground forces. The airfields are strung along a western axis from the city of Zako southwest to the city of Sinjar; a central axis from Zako south to Arbil; and an eastern axis from Arbil to Sulimaniyeh."

From Asian Times 8/17/2002

"Two interesting stories recently appeared in the Turkish press about northern Iraq:
First, according to the dailies, Bamerni Airport near Dhohuk, across the border from Sirnak, is now completely under the control of Turkish troops. This development has been evaluated as a sign of imminent US intervention against Saddam Hussein since Turkey has brought the flurry of activity in the region under stricter control. However, as yet we don't have enough information about the actual story. Soon after Ankara's official denial that Turkey had deployed troops at the airport, we received information about struggles in the region."

From Milliyet (Turkey) via Turkish Press Review

On August 9,2002 future Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, then head of the Patriot Union of Kurdistan (PUK), spoke with CNN-TURK. He confirmed that the airport was in fact under Turkish control, but with an odd twist.

"A prominent Iraqi Kurdish leader said in a broadcast Friday that the Turkish army had controlled an airport in the Kurdish-held north of neighbouring Iraq for several years, but the general staff in Ankara promptly denied the claim.
"But it has been under the control of Turkish forces for a long time, since 1995 or 1996," said Talabani, who left Turkey on Thursday for a meeting of the Iraqi opposition in Washington.
The Turkish army however denied it had control over the airport, a claim widely reported in the Turkish press for the past few days. "These reports are incorrect and do not reflect the truth," said an army statement, adding that the airport had been extensively damaged during the Gulf War and rendered inoperational."

From Kurdish Observer 8-9-02

By August 18, 2002 the news finally made it into the British press. The Sunday Express reported:

"...around 5pm on Wednesday, August 8 the Iraqi early warning systems were tested yet again as a fleet of troop-carrying helicopters from the Turkish Army swept over the Turkish border and into the strategic Bamarni military airbase which lies 50 miles north of the oil-rich Al Mawsil city.

The military invasion involved 5,000 Turkish Commandos backed by American Special Forces. Eye-witnesses on the ground claimed air support and/or protection in the northern no-fly zone was provided by Turkish, American and British aircraft. Claims of a British air involvement in this particular action drew a strong denial by the MoD.

After a brief skirmish with ill-equipped Iraqi troops from an armoured section of Saddam's war machine, Bamarni airbase fell into the control of Allied troops and several C130 transporter planes were guided on to the airstrips from bases in Turkey.

Heavy earth-moving machinery and electronic support equipment were unloaded over several days and as rumours of an invasion began to circulate, Turkish television issued strong denials and broadcast old pictures of the air base showing it abandoned and derelict. As Turkish troops reinforced security around the airport which lies just outside of the Kurdish district, American Special Forces and a crack unit of Turkish commandos seized two other strategic military points on either side of the airbase in the Dahuk province of Iraq."

From The Sunday Express 8/18/2002 via Global

Summary at The Edge.Org

When the Downing St Memo was first published in beginning of May, one of the oft quoted lines was John Reid's report that: "The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime". Two weeks after Tony Blair and his cabinet met at #10 Downing to discuss how they would balance the increasing pressure from Washington to go to war with the actual political realities of doing so, the realities of Rumsfeld's "spikes of activity" became evident in the mountians of Northern Iraq.

 posted by IRAQFACT  # 12:39 AM  
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