Iraq: First Target Tel Aviv : Saddam Vows to Include Israel in Gulf War Strike

From Associated Press

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has threatened to make Tel Aviv his first target if war breaks out in the Persian Gulf, and Israel today promised swift and terrible retribution for any Iraqi attack.

Three weeks before the U.N. deadline for Iraq to withdraw its armies from Kuwait or face a possible military strike, the Baghdad government recalled its ambassadors to the United States and some European nations for urgent consultations, diplomats said. No details about the talks were disclosed.

Hussein’s newest threat against Israel came in a Spanish television interview to be aired Wednesday. The journalist who spoke with the Iraqi leader in Baghdad on Saturday said Hussein told him that “Tel Aviv would receive the first blow in the case of a gulf war,” whether or not Israel joined any multinational strike against Iraq.


Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir responded to the reported threat by telling Israel radio that Iraq “will be harmed in a most serious way” if it attacks Israel.

The new threat against Israel appeared to be a fresh bid by Hussein to divide the anti-Iraq coalition, which includes some Arab nations traditionally hostile to the Jewish state.

A senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel’s most implacable enemy, indicated in an interview to be published Tuesday that the PLO would side with Hussein if war broke out.

“We have coordinated our plans to fight with Iraq in one trench,” PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s chief political adviser, Hani Hassan, told the Iraqi daily newspaper Al Jumhuriya.

Other Arab leaders, however, appealed to Hussein to give up Kuwait before it is too late.

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Qatar, said that “it is braver to opt for peace than for war.”

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told reporters in Cairo that Iraq would be the big loser if war breaks out.


“A very large number of Iraqi people will die,” he said. “The decision of one man will lead to the death of hundreds of thousands.”

The Baghdad government, meanwhile, has been holding urgent consultations on the gulf crisis with Iraq’s ambassadors to 10 Western countries, Iraqi officials said.

The Iraqi Embassy in Washington said the Iraqi envoy to the United States, Mohammed Mashat, and Baghdad’s envoy to the United Nations, Abdul Anbari, were among those summoned.

Iraqi envoys to a number of European nations were also recalled for talks, officials said. It was unclear how many were involved.

In another development, conservative Soviet lawmakers submitted a resolution to the Parliament today demanding a vote before any Soviet troops are sent to the gulf region. The resolution seeks a special legislative session held on the topic Jan. 14, the day before the U.N. deadline for an Iraqi withdrawal.

And French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement called off a meeting with his Saudi counterpart after the Saudis refused to allow a French rock star to perform for troops camped in the desert.