WASHINGTON LYLE DENNISTON OF THE SUN'S WASHINGTON BUREAU CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WASHINGTON -- With a week left in his presidency, George Bush launched a quick, punitive military strike against Iraq yesterday, signaling his frustration with repeated cease-fire violations that denied him a clean victory in the Persian Gulf war.
It was also announced that up to 1,700 U.S. ground troops would be dispatched to Kuwait in a further show of strength against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
In a defiant TV speech shortly after midnight Baghdad time, the Iraqi leader declared the start of another holy war against the West and vowed, "They will be defeated."
But in New York an Iraqi diplomat immediately promised that his government would back down on some issues, and there seemed to be little prospect of renewed war in the gulf despite more bellicose talk from Mr. Hussein.
Yesterday's bombing raids by U.S., British and French aircraft followed an escalating series of taunts by Mr. Hussein and was designed to warn him that the end of Mr. Bush's tenure would not mean an end to U.S.-led military enforcement of United Nations sanctions on Iraq. More than 100 U.S. and allied aircraft took part in the 30-minute raid on several anti-missile batteries in southern Iraq, almost two years to the day after the start of the gulf war.
U.S. officials said all of the targets had been hit and that there were no U.S. casualties.
The Iraqi News Agency reported that four Iraqis were killed and seven wounded in the raid. Three of the dead were civilians, it said.
Mr. Bush, in a brief Oval Office session, said that he and President-elect Bill Clinton were determined to force Mr. Hussein to abide by the U.N. resolutions enforcing the 1991 cease-fire agreement.
Mr. Bush said he had "no reservations at all" about ordering a military attack in the final days of his presidency.
"I'm president until the 20th [of January], and I will run the foreign policy and . . . make these kinds of decisions as long as I'm president," he said. "You've got to do what you have to do."
Mr. Clinton said in Little Rock, Ark. that he fully supported the use of military force in this instance.
"I think it was the right decision, done in the right way," he said. Mr. Hussein "keeps, for reasons I don't understand, pushing and pushing."
Spokesman George Stephanopoulos said Mr. Clinton is committed to doing "whatever it takes" to ensure that Iraq complies with the terms of cease-fire agreement that formally ended the gulf war in April 1991.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater warned that "additional forceful actions" might follow if Iraq continued to threaten allied planes in the protected zones along Iraq's border with Kuwait and in the Kurdish region in the north.
"No further warning will be issued," the Bush spokesman said.
At the United Nations, Iraqi Ambassador Nizar Hamdoom said his government would immediately comply with two key U.N. and allied demands: to lift a ban on U.N. aircraft landing in Iraq and to cease all border raids into Kuwait.
The Iraqi incursions were made to retrieve weapons and other material from an area that the U.N. boundary commission has demarcated as belonging to Kuwait. The Iraqis have refused officially to recognize those borders or the U.N. "no fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq.
And Mr. Hussein sounded anything but defeated as he informed his country of the allied attack in a TV speech early today Baghdad time. He said the attack was unprovoked and proclaimed the start of a new holy war against the West.
"The criminals have come carrying their hatred," Mr. Hussein said. "They come back without any cover, even a transparent one. They came back for the same purpose, which they never spoke about the first time in their evil aggression, namely to impose the will of colonialism and to undermine the will of the people.
"Another battle has started, another jihad," he said, using language similar to that in the exhortations he used before the U.S. lead-coalition evicted Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the war that started two years ago tomorrow.
Mr. Hussein's comments were delivered in apparent triumph at goading Mr. Bush into an attack that will help the Iraqi leader convince his troubled people they face a threat that justifies the continuing deprivations of his dictatorial rule.
Yesterday's air strikes were conducted just as darkness fell over the Persian Gulf, about 1:15 p.m. EST.
Mr. Fitzwater said all of the planes -- including the 80 bombers and more than 30 support planes -- returned safely to their various bases, including the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, stationed in the Arabian Sea.
The airborne armada included U.S. radar-evading F117A stealth fighters, British Tornado fighter-bombers and French Mirage fighters.