U.S. Prepares Response To Iraq

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Hours after an Iraqi missile was fired at a U.S. fighter, the Pentagon upped the ante by sending F-117 stealth fighters and two B-52s to the Persian Gulf region in response to the latest provocation by Saddam Hussein. "The Pentagon is ready to send in aircraft with pilots, which can obviously be more dangerous than firing cruise missiles," TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson says. "But that is the only way to get rid of the Iraqi surface-to-air defense missiles." The move came in response to an Iraqi missile launched at a U.S. F-16 fighter jet patrolling northern Iraq. U.S. forces were unable to locate the battery to return fire when the Iraqis apparently turned their radar off seconds after firing the missile. In another tweaking of the U.S., Iraqi aircraft also violated the new, expanded no-fly zone in southern Iraq. "The U.S. will take some action, the question is when and how strong," Thompson says. "The good thing about this attack from the U.S. standpoint is it gives the Pentagon a reason to get rid of the air-defense missile sites in the no-fly zone. The question is whether the response this week will be stronger and more effective than it was last week." Providing an effective response could prove a delicate balancing act. Short of a ground assault on Iraq, the U.S. is ultimately limited in just how far it can go to control the Iraqi leader. Thompson says that while the U.S. will most likely step up its response, it does not want to launch too strong an attack out of fear it won't deter Saddam. "If you go to some heavier response and Saddam doesn't respond the way you like, the question is when do you stop," Thompson says. "You can highlight your impotence if you ratchet up worry and he doesn't get the message." Scot Woods

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