TEL AVIV ó Israel is bracing for what defense sources termed a massive pre-positioning of U.S. military equipment in the Jewish state as
part of preparations for any Washington-led war against Iraq.
The sources said the U.S. Army plans to bring such systems as PAC-2 anti-missile and anti-aircraft batteries, ammunition, military systems and
logistical supplies. They said the equipment would begin arriving in Israel by air and sea over the next week.
The U.S. equipment would be stored in unspecified army and air force bases, the sources said. More than 50 U.S. Army personnel have arrived in Israel
to arrange for the delivery and stockpiling of the equipment.
The U.S. move is part of the strategic cooperation between Jerusalem and Washington and bolsters existing U.S. military stockpiles in Israel, the
sources said. They said that over the last few months the United States has moved equipment from Israel to other areas of the Middle East.
ìThere is an agreement for preplacement of military equipment between the two countries and it could be that the United States is exercising this
accord,î former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, said.
[In a related development, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily reported on Tuesday that Iraq has ordered a withdrawal of its troops from Kurdish
areas of northern Iraq. The Saudi-owned daily said the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is concerned that Iraqi troops could defect to
Kurdistan on the eve of any U.S.-led attack on Baghdad.]
An Israeli Defense Ministry statement said no formal request has come from the Bush administration to stockpile weapons and ammunition in Israel in
advance of a possible U.S. strike against Iraq. But the statement appeared to confirm reports that U.S. weaponry is arriving.
ìIn light of the special relations between Israel and the United States, any request that will be relayed will be given a substantive discussion in
the suitable frameworks,î the ministry said.
On Monday, the Tel Aviv-based Maariv daily quoted from an Israeli Defense Ministry document that reported the imminent arrival of the U.S. military
equipment. The document reported approval for the U.S. transfer of the prepositioned weapons and systems by Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben
ìThe quantities of arms which have already been shipped to Israel are enormous because Israel is the only country in which we have such confidence,î
the newspaper quoted a U.S. officer as saying.
Israelís ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon said the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has relayed a list of requests to the United States
concerning any attack on Baghdad. Ayalon said a key request is for advanced warning sufficient to allow Israel to prepare for any Iraqi counterstrike
on the Jewish state. (MENL)