The French and the Russians in 1998

Wretchard has another excellent analysis of the actions of France and Russia during the 1998 blockade of Iraq. bq. The November 1998 issue of Proceedings, the journal of the US Naval Institute is no longer online. However I discovered a cached copy on my hard disk in the process of cleaning it out. One of the articles it contained was the third part of a series of six entitled Five Fleets: Around the World with the Nimitz by Lieutenant Commander William R. Bray, U.S.N. The events of that long-ago blockade on Iraq before the War on Terror took on a fascinating aspect in retrospect. Bray describes how the Nimitz was taking part in a UN sponsored mission to contain Saddam Hussein. One of its tasks was to support a U-2 flight over Iraq that Saddam had threatened to shoot down. The U-2 was an American aircraft assigned to a United Nations mission. What Bray described next was how the French tracked the Nimitz task force almost certainly on behalf of Saddam. He goes on to quote from the article and gives two examples of French actions: bq. On 3 November, one of the Nimitz's escorts reported being overflown by a plane bearing similar characteristics to the French built Atlantique, a twin-propeller engine aircraft used for maritime surveillance and antisubmarine warfare. Task Force 50 assets were unable to positively identify the aircraft, although it appeared the plane tracked back to the west, either to Saudi Arabia or Qatar, following its mission. No Gulf country has the Atlantique. On 9 November, an Atlantique-type aircraft again flew a maritime patrol profile in the northern and central Arabian Gulf, even dropping a passive acoustic listening device near a U.S. submarine operating on the surface. This time the aircraft was tracked back to Doha, Qatar. It was later learned that two French Atlantiques, deployed to Djibouti on the Red Sea, had flown to Qatar on 29 October for a bilateral training mission. The French made no excuses for their activity, but it seemed strange that they should use a bilateral training exercise to fly maritime surveillance patrol against U.S. ships during a period of heightened tension. bq. Likewise, in early November, the French frigate Jean de Vienne mysteriously deviated from her published schedule, which called for port visits outside the Gulf, and instead loitered close to U.S. ships in the northern Arabian Gulf until the crisis abated. The Jean de Vienne never actually obstructed U.S. operations, but her presence and odd behavior were highly suspect and a public statement from the French mission in Kuwait that the Jean de Vienne was operating in close coordination with her coalition partners had a disingenuous ring to it.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on December 2, 2004 5:50 PM.

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