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S P E C I A L: The Standoff with Iraq

Kuwait hopes to avert replay of Gulf War

U.S. tanks engage in war games in the Kuwait desert   

vxtreme CNN's Linda Pattillo reports

But taking precautions

In this story: February 18, 1998
Web posted at: 3:09 p.m. EST (2009 GMT)

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait (CNN) -- In the Kuwait desert, 30 miles (50 km) from the Iraqi border, war games are being waged by 1,500 U.S. Army soldiers based there year-round -- troops who soon will be joined by 5,000 additional forces. Seven years after the Gulf War, the scene has a familiar look.

The new deployments are defensive, to protect Kuwait and neighboring Saudi Arabia if Iraq attacks. But Kuwait could also become the launch pad for U.S. air strikes against Iraq.

U.S. troops in Kuwait say they "can handle anything Iraq throws at us right now."
Ritter Sgt. Adam Ritter, tank platoon
(icon 68K/3 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Leirmoe Specialist Eric Leirmoe, tank platoon
(icon 145K/6 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Smith Sgt. Michael Smith, platoon leader
(icon 485K/6 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Keller Pfc. Bradford Keller, gunner
(icon 102K/4 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Six more U.S. F-117A stealth fighter-bombers arrived on Tuesday, joining six more of the radar-evading planes that have been in Kuwait since November, when the latest crisis over U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq began to escalate.

In addition, the United States has 18 A-10 tank killer aircraft and six F-16 fighters based in Kuwait. Britain has sent eight Tornado ground attack aircraft.

U.S.-led Gulf War forces freed Kuwait following Iraq's 1990 invasion and seven-month occupation into the following year. Some of the U.S. soldiers now stationed in Kuwait are Gulf War veterans.

Kuwait takes protective steps of its own ...

Once again feeling threatened by Iraq, Kuwait has taken several precautions:

  • Civil defense centers are giving training classes in protection from chemical and biological weapons, first aid and firefighting. Thousands of people have signed up.

  • Stores are selling out of supplies of protective suits and gas masks.

  • Kuwait television runs videos showing what to do during air raid drills.

  • The Red Cross is stockpiling blood donations.

"Everybody in Kuwait right now is taking precautions," said one Kuwaiti man, "getting more water in their house (and) sealing their windows. It's kind of nervous for everyone here, right now."

... but non-resident workers worry

Kuwait preps
Among other protective measures, Kuwaitis train for first aid (top) and donate blood to the Red Cross   

Even so, the prospects of protection in the event that Iraq attacks with chemical or biological weapons appear unequal for Kuwait's non-resident workers -- many of them Asians -- who make up a large portion of the country's total population of 2.2 million.

"I'm worried about the poison gas missiles but we don't know anything (about safety measures)," said a Bangladeshi cleaner who earns $150 a month.

He said colleagues who live with him in a crowded dormitory in a dowdy section of Kuwait City wanted their employers to return their passports to them to allow them to flee in case of attack.

Some were too afraid to ask for their passports for fear their employers would think they were being difficult, he said.

Some Kuwaiti employers take possession of guest workers' passports to ensure they do not leave the country, diplomats say.

While many Westerners plan to stay in Kuwait for now, some have taken the precaution of booking flights out of the country, obtained visas for neighboring Saudi Arabia or bought gas masks for themselves and their families -- all actions well beyond the finances of most Asian and Arab expatriates.

Correspondent Linda Pattillo and Reuters contributed to this report.

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