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March 07, 2003

U.S. Reportedly Has OKd Israeli Retaliation if Iraq Attacks

This news items seems to signal a new attitude out of the Bush administration
WASHINGTON -- In a marked departure from the U.S. approach during the Persian Gulf War, the Bush administration has signaled that it would accept an Israeli retaliation against a devastating Iraqi missile attack, U.S. officials say.

In 1991, the United States successfully pressured Israel not to retaliate against Iraqi missile strikes even if the Jewish state faced heavy losses, fearing that such a move would alienate Arab countries and rupture the international coalition against Baghdad. If war comes again, U.S. officials say, they still would prefer that Israel stay on the sidelines if damage is limited. However, they would not stand in the way of a counterstrike if an Iraqi attack inflicted many casualties.

President Bush has said that the U.S. recognizes Israel's right to defend itself. And Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that although his nation would retaliate against strikes that inflicted mass casualties or involved chemical or biological weapons, there would be no need to retaliate if missiles fell harmlessly.

In private, there has been agreement that if an attack is not catastrophic but still significant, the two sides would consider the specifics and discuss whether Israel or the U.S. should respond, officials say. Such a formulation, they acknowledge, still leaves room for disagreements between the two countries.[more]