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First Iraq war begs questions for Libya 20 years on

US, Gulf forces stage naval exercise
Manama (AFP) March 21, 2011 - US and Gulf naval forces have staged a joint exercise in the Gulf focused on tracking vessels deemed threatening, the Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Force (CMF) said on Monday. Ships from Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States took part in the seven-day Exercise Goalkeeper 11-01 in central and southern Gulf waters to "train across the spectrum of Maritime Security Operations (MSO)", CMF said in a statement. It did not disclose when it happened.

The exercise focused on coordinating coalition security operations at sea, as well as "improving the dissemination of information among regional command centres and building relationships between contributing nations," said Bahraini Colonel Isa al-Doseri. He currently heads the Combined Task Force 152 that is in charge of Gulf security and cooperation task force within CMF. Doseri said the "exercise's key focus was working as a synchronised coalition team at sea and on shore to meet the challenge of locating and tracking specific vessels deemed to pose a threat of any kind to maritime security or to coalition nations in the Gulf region."

The announcement came shortly after Kuwaiti ships were deployed to Bahrain waters to take part in a joint Gulf force that entered the Gulf state last week to help quell a Shiite-led month-old protest. It also follows a decision by the Bahraini authorities to impose a maritime night curfew off a large part of its coast, without specifying the threat. Tension has escalated between Gulf Arab states and Iran on the northern shore of the narrow Gulf, as Tehran condemned the deployment of Gulf troops in Bahrain and slammed the heavy-handed crackdown on protests. CMF is a multi-national naval partnership in the Middle East, where some of the world's most important shipping lanes are located.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) March 21, 2011
Twenty years after the First Gulf War against Iraq, the Western airstrikes on Libya have similar backing from the UN and Arab states but are raising similar questions.

The 1990-91 conflict that drove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's forces out of neighbouring Kuwait featured a broad coalition of 34 countries -- bigger than the alliance now arrayed against Moamer Kadhafi.

Like Libya it was triggered by a UN Security Council resolution approving "all necessary" means to achieve its goals; had support from Arab nations; and began with an aerial campaign.

But in Iraq two decades ago airstrikes were followed weeks later by boots on the ground, meaning this time around there is extra scrutiny of coalition assurances that there is no mandate for an occupying force.

"The decision has been made that the mission is regime change in Libya. The strategic sequence is the routine buildup to war since 1991, this time with a heavier European component," said George Friedman of the US security consultancy Stratfor.

"The early days will go extremely well but will not define whether or not the war is successful," he added in a commentary.

The big issue, then as now, is regime change.

In 1991 then-US president George Bush senior stopped short of sending his forces on to Baghdad to topple Saddam. Ousting the Iraqi leader would have to wait until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under his son George W. Bush.

In Libya 2011 the line is finer, with leaders saying they want Kadhafi out but saying the UN mandate does not explicitly allow action against him.

US President Barack Obama said Monday that US policy is that Kadhafi has to leave power -- while stressing that Washington would stick to the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

British Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated that the resolution "excludes an occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory" and did not give the legal basis for Kadhafi's ouster by military means.

Another similarity with 1991 comes from the no-fly zone established in northern Iraq immediately after the Gulf War to protect the Kurdish minority from Saddam's forces, which stayed in place for a decade.

In Britain's parliament on Monday, lawmaker Nadhim Zahani said there were "similarities between this campaign and that to protect the Kurdish people," while calling for assurances against regime change by Western forces.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox dismissed the comparison and said there were no prospects of the Libyan no-fly zone remaining in place for as long.

"When you are talking about the size of the assets they have, in terms of the air force and army, Libya is not Iraq," he told the BBC.

But former British army Colonel Bob Stewart, who operated under a no-fly zone when he was the commander of British forces in Bosnia in 1992-3, said the principles would be the same -- and would require action.

"Ultimately, you have to be prepared to bring down aircraft or helicopters," he told AFP.

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