This Day In Military History: U.S., Britain, and France Establish No Fly Zone That Only Ended After Total Air Dominance Was Achieved

No Fly Zone

The Bush Administration, in an effort to confront Saddam Hussein, won British and French agreement on this day in 1993 for a plan to shoot down Iraqi military planes if they venture into a wide zone throughout the southern part of the country.

August 26, 1993: The Southern Iraq “No Fly Zone” Established

The “no fly” zone, populated by Shiite Muslim dissidents, was to become a pivotal point for the days to come. The U.S., Britain, and France had been discussing the idea of setting up a secure zone for several weeks, after reports that Iraq was waging a brutal offensive against the Shiites.

The week before the establishment of the zone, representatives of the three nations issued pointed warnings in the United Nations Security Council, telling Baghdad that they were considering action to stop the Iraqi military from attacking the Shiites.

A Grave Threat

In a statement released after the Security Council meeting, the Bush Administration said that “the Iraqi regime’s repression of its own people, which has included summary executions and use of chemical weapons, represents a grave threat to international peace and security.”

The next day, U.S. warplanes began flying patrols over southern Iraq, in what Pentagon officials called a “show of force” designed to deter Baghdad from attacking the dissidents.

While relatively effective, the show of force itself was not quite enough.

The 32d Parallel Issue

On this day in 1993, the three nations formalized their agreement on the zone, with Western officials saying that they were still discussing several technical issues. They were agreed that the zone would cover an area below the 32d parallel. But the allies had been discussing how far west it should run.

The Americans believed that the zone should include all the territory south of the 32d parallel, but some allied officials had reportedly expressed reservations about protecting such a large area. If the zone encompassed all of Iraq south of 32d parallel it would include approximately 54,000 square miles — an area about the size of Iowa. Ultimately, the decision was made to extend it to all territory south of the 32nd parallel.

A Decade Of Enforcement Along With The 1991 Northern “No Fly” Zone

The no fly zone would remain in effect for over a decade, with various degrees of international enforcement. Military history buffs and those interested in the Bush Administration’s foreign policy will find this event an interesting moment in time.

The Iraqi government’s repression of a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War led to the establishment of a northern no fly zone two years earlier in 1991. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly civilians, were killed in the offensive.

Air Dominance Brings An End To The Iraqi “No Fly” Zones

Both the Northern and southern no fly zones ended in 2003. The no fly zones effectively ceased to exist with the beginning of the Iraq War since air superiority over the country was quickly attained by the coalition. The no fly zones were officially deactivated right after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

The Iraqi no fly zone is an event worth looking into, especially for military strategists. It was a significant moment in time that had long-lasting effects. Though it may be over now, it’s important to understand how and why it came to be.

Looking at events like these can give us a better understanding of both our past and present. Military action is not always as simple as we might think, and there are often many factors at play.

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