A War Of Attrition With Iraq

For the past three days, allied aircraft have struck Iraqi targets, and now U.S. pilots have been given even broader discretion in choosing what to bomb, reports CBS News Senior European Correspondent Tom Fenton.

With more than 30 laser-guided bombs dropped on Iraqi targets, Monday's strikes in the northern "no-fly" zone were the heaviest since "Operation Desert Fox" was launched by the U.S. and Britain for four days in mid-December.

Baghdad is feeling the crunch and appealing to world opinion to condemn the air strikes.

Journalists were escorted Monday to a pipeline pumping station, heavily damaged in Sunday strikes, according to an Iraqi oil ministry official.

"The station was subjected to a vicious aerial attack by American airplanes coming from Turkey," the official said.

The damaged pipeline had pumped 50 percent of the crude oil Iraq is allowed to export in accordance with a U.N.-mandated oil-for-food deal. That arrangement allows Iraq to sell fuel in order to supply its people with humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.

The provocation that led U.S. pilots to damage the pipeline is part of an almost daily routine in which regular U.S. and British "no-fly" zone patrols are targeted by Iraqi air defenses.

After "Operation Desert Fox," Baghdad said it would no longer tolerate patrols of the "no-fly" zones, which it labels a violation Iraqi sovereignty. The "no-fly" zones were set up after the 1991 Gulf War, ostensibly to protect Kurdish insurgents in the north and Shi'ite rebels in the south from attack.

The United States has been responding to stepped-up Iraqi attempts to shoot down American warplanes by enlarging the list of targets pilots are allowed to hit. Those targets now include communication and command installations.

In Washington, Defense Secretary William Cohen admitted Sunday's attack might have affected the flow of oil.

"We did in fact target a communications facility which may or may not have interrupted the flow of oil," he said.

In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein met with his revolutionary council Monday and vowed to continue "no-fly" zone challenges against American and British warplanes.

The defiant Iraqi leader sent a protest to the United Nations and staged a small demonstration in the streets of Baghdad.

But the harder Iraq tries to shoot down Western warplanes, the more its military installations are likely to suffer in what appears to be a war of attrition with the U.S. and Britain.

No longer aimed exclusively at protecting American pilots, U.S. strikes are designed to harm Saddam Hussein.

Signaling what may be an increasingly precarious position, there were reported riots - denied by Baghdad - in the outskirts of Saddam's capital several days ago following the assassination of the Shi'ite grand ayatollah of Iraq.

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