The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .
At an afternoon press conference Wed, Clinton was asked about earlier reports that the US would temporarily cut its carrier presence in the Gulf, beginning in late May. Clinton replied "The Eisenhower is sailing on schedule, as you probably know. . . but I can tell you that I have not—Secretary Cohen has not recommended a final decision to me on this and I have certainly not made one and we've done our best to keep all our options open." Yet what Clinton meant is unclear. In a subsequent dispatch, AP explained that the USS Eisenhower was originally scheduled to leave the US June 10, but its "departure date had been pushed ahead to May 13, to ensure that two carriers would be on station" in the Gulf. "Clinton's decision today restores its original timetable for departure." That means there will be only one carrier in the Gulf as of late May, unless a decision is made to delay the departure of the USS Independence from the region. In a late afternoon report yesterday, Reuters quoted DoD spokesman, Bryan Whitman, "The Independence and its battle group are operating in the Gulf region now. The Indy is scheduled to depart the region in late May." Citing defense officials, Reuters reported that that could change, even as other officials said the Independence was "likely" to leave the Gulf on schedule. One reader advised, "It's useful to keep in mind that one carrier has less than half the strike power of two carriers, because a lot of the first batch of aircraft are used to defend the fleet." The timing of any late May decrease in US forces is sensitive, because last Nov 27, after the "resolution" of the first round of this confrontation, Iraq's National Assembly "called on UNSCOM to expedite the closure of its files and end inspections in Iraq within a maximum period of six months as of the resumption of its activities on 20 November" [the date of the Primakov-brokered accord that returned UNSCOM to Iraq.] Saddam underscored that statement in his Jan 16 speech, marking the anniversary of the start of the Gulf war, "Unless the UN Security Council decides to fulfill its obligations toward Iraq as stipulated in the unfair resolutions, which it adopted itself without Iraq's participation as reciprocal obligations of the Council, then Iraq is determined to take a stand that conforms with the recommendations of the people's representatives in the National Assembly, and will take responsibility for such a position." Six months from Nov 20 would be May 20.