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Iraqi moves raise war tensions

Iraqi moves raise war tensions

Today’s London Times is reporting that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has put his military forces on high alert.

According to the story, the Hammurabi tank division of the elite Republican Guard has been moved from its permanent barracks to the new headquarters at Al-Rabtah, west of Baghdad, where it is on 24-hour standby.

There is concern that two Iraqi tank divisions stationed on the Jordanian and Syrian border may pose a threat to Israel in the event of a collapse of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

A Jerusalem Post report in October asserted the main purpose of the amassed firepower was a ’symbolic’ show of support for the Palestinians, this according to OC Operations Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland.

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Eiland said the moves were Iraq’s way of showing that it was doing more than other Arab states that are ’just talking’ about solidarity with the Palestinians.

Eiland added this was another attempt by Iraq to take advantage of the situation to move back into the Arab fold.

The assessment in the IDF is that Iraqi troops would only be able to reach Israel through Syria or Jordan in the event of a comprehensive regional war, and ’it seems to me we are very far from these scenarios,’ Eiland said at the time.

Eiland later told military reporters that at least one division, the elite Hammurabi Division of Special Republican Guards, already is in western Iraq, and there are plans to bring in ’another few divisions.’

The Iraqi headquarters and Saddam’s promise to support the Palestinian uprising - reaffirmed in yesterday’s speech - are being closely monitored by Israel. It is expected that heavy Iraqi armor would join Syria in any regional war against Israel.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak predicted that such a war would break out if the Palestinian question is not settled peacefully, the London Times report said.

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