Baghdad Briefing

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He kept his gun holstered for a little more than a week after U.S. warplanes pounded his military sites, but now Saddam Hussein is firing back--and beginning the next round of his war with Washington. One of his mobile surface-to-air missile batteries near the northern town of Mosul launched three SAMs at U.S. jet fighters patrolling the no-fly zone last week. Two days later, more SAMs were launched from the Talil air base in southern Iraq against British and U.S. warplanes. Both times the pilots under attack jinked their planes in evasive maneuvers, avoiding the missiles. Then Air Force F-16 Falcons and Navy EA-6B Prowlers roared in with HARM antiradar missiles and precision-guided bombs to flatten the batteries.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan vowed that Baghdad's "resistance will continue," and Washington believes him. By week's end Saddam had lobbed 11 SAMs at allied forces, and Air Force planes equipped to knock out SAM sites were rushed to the region in anticipation of more challenges to the no-fly zones. For now, the White House will respond to each provocation by counterattacking the offending battery. The Pentagon has no doubt what Saddam is up to. He hopes one of the SAMs will find its target and that a "golden BB will get him an American pilot," says a U.S. general. It would be a prized bargaining chip in the standoff, but even if Saddam fails, "defiance is still more important than success," says Georgetown University expert Amatzia Baram. After enduring four days of U.S. bombing, "Saddam needs to show his people he can bloody the American nose."