As US Build Up to Hit Iraq Continues: General Zinni Tours the Region [Archives:1998/05/Front Page]

February 2 1998

One of the top US military men is flying into Sanaa on February 10th. General Anthony C. Zinni, Commander of the Central Command Theater, an area of responsibility that includes 20 nations in Northeast Africa, the Mideast, and Southwest Asia, arrives on a two-day visit. Reliable sources tell Yemen Times that the purpose is to coordinate cooperation between the military in both countries. “During 1998, we are looking at joint military exercises, call of US military vessels on Yemeni seaports, training for military cadres, and other forms of cooperation,” said Major Jim Finn, Assistant Military Attache and Representative of Central Command in Yemen.
Indeed, the visit is yet another sign in the warming up of relations between the two countries. The last such visit to Yemen was by Mr. Schwarzkof. Zinni will meet with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and will hold talks with the Minister of Defence, Brig-General Mohammed Dhaifallah, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Brig-General Ali Aleiwah, as well as other leading military officers.
Yemeni officers regularly complain that they have been unable to buy spare parts for US military hardware. Yemen had obtained F5 planes in the late 1970s, which have since fallen into disrepair. American officials insist that there is no problem on that count and that the past problems were procedural.
Given the Yemeni position on the Gulf war, all military hardware was denied to it. And even today, whatever safety-related spare parts it can purchase is done with the specific conditions that such parts do not enhance the fire power of Yemen.
General Zinni, who was himself directly  involved in Somalia and Iraq, will use the occasion to brief Yemeni officials on the US position regarding the rising possibility of confrontation with Iraq. He will try to pursuade the Yemeni authorities to see things from the American perspective.
In the past, Yemen had disapproved of military action against Iraq. Although Yemeni officials gradually distanced themselves from Saddam, they are still unhappy about the US military strikes against Iraq. To further complicate the problem, several Yemeni opposition parties are  opposed to the American show of force.
General Zinni’s visit to Yemen comes within his tour of the region. The US Foreign Secretary has said her country needs neither UN approval nor cooperation of any other state to hit Iraq. A strike could take place later this month.