The Persian Gulf war of wills settled into economic attrition today as an Iraqi oil tanker was unable to dock or load at a Saudi Arabian port. A barricade of U.S. warships stood ready to block all trade with Iraq.
"The purpose of the embargo is to put the pinch on them" so the Iraqis cannot "maintain their war machine," White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said.
"You don't give them the essentials that enable them to carry on the war," he said, adding that the embargo covers food imports as well as military supplies and other goods.
Pentagon officials today said Defense Secretary Dick Cheney will visit Saudi Arabia on Friday to stress U.S. willingness to use military force in the region to protect the Saudis from any Iraqi attack.
The visit will be Cheney's second this month. He went there earlier for discussions with Saudi King Fahd, and later Fahd invited U.S. troops and aircraft to the kingdom to protect it against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
An international quarantine was imposed on Iraq for its lightning conquest of Kuwait and its massing of troops near Saudi Arabia, which has the world's largest oil reserves. Hussein launched the Aug. 2 blitzkrieg in a dispute over oil, land and money.
Pakistan voted to send troops today to help defend Saudi Arabia, joining ground forces from the United States, Egypt, Morocco and Syria.
Squadrons of warplanes and a multinational armada, joined today by warships from Belgium and the Netherlands, have massed in the region since Aug. 2.
Britain and Australia said today that they will help the United States interdict Iraqi shipping, but France said it will not join the barricade because that would make it a "co-belligerent" in the Persian Gulf.
The Netherlands said it will send two frigates to the area as a symbol of solidarity.
"I think our position grows stronger with each day," said Maj. Gen. Don L. Kaufman, chief of the U.S. military training mission to Saudi Arabia. He said planes ferrying U.S. troops and equipment are landing every 10 minutes or so at a base in the desert.
Hussein has called for a "holy war" against the Saudi royalty and Western forces now gathering. Over the weekend, he asked Iraqis to cut meat consumption in half and to refrain from hoarding food. Black marketeers will be executed, he warned.
The Iraqi tanker Al Qaddisiyah was unable to dock at the Saudi terminal at Yanbu on the Red Sea because tugs necessary to guide ships did not appear, according to Saudi diplomatic sources.
The same sources said pumping through a pipeline carrying oil from Iraq across Saudi Arabia had ceased. The Saudi pipeline was Iraq's last major oil export outlet after the closure of two pipelines through Turkey last week.
Also, the Iraqi oil tanker Tarik ibn Ziyad was denied access to a Portuguese repair yard and cruised toward international waters, officials said in Lisbon. The work was contracted before the crisis, but Portugal said it would violate a trade embargo.