Iraqi troop mobilization is spotted

June 24, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Iraq has moved some troops closer to the Iranian border and put its air defenses on high alert in its largest military mobilization since the Persian Gulf War, according to American officials.

Intelligence officials have said the flurry of activity appears to reflect Baghdad's fears of a new Iranian attack rather than plans for an offensive strike of its own. But the moves have raised concern within the Clinton administration, where officials say they are uncertain of Iraq's intentions.

The officials would provide little information about the Iraqi mobilization. They said yesterday it was possible that the buildup is simply a military exercise. Or, they said, it might have been ordered in anticipation of a military strike by the United States for Baghdad's role in a suspected assassination plot against former President George Bush.

Officials said a new report by the FBI pointed strongly to Iraqi involvement in the suspected plot. But they said a final decision about an American response would probably not be made for several weeks, and that the Iraqi mobilization might complicate American planning.

But the officials said intelligence assessments being circulated within the government pointed to the renewed tensions between Iran and Iraq as the most likely explanation for the Iraqi alert.

Iran last month launched an air raid against Iraqi bases used by the People's Mujahedeen, the main Iranian opposition movement. Since that raid, Tehran has become more blunt in accusing Baghdad of complicity in rebel "terrorist attacks," including raids on oil pipelines near the giant Abadan oil refinery.

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