Wednesday, December 16, 1998

Immediately upon his return to the U.S., Pres. Clinton convenes his senior advisers to "discuss the UNSCOM report on Iraq"; they unanimously recommend a strike. Clinton orders forces in the Gulf to attack immediately; 1st sorties reach Iraq around 5 p.m., leaving 2 Iraqis (Iraq says 25) dead, 30 injured. A token force of 18 British planes takes part. House postpones indefinitely its vote on impeachment, set for tomorrow. Operation Desert Fox is expected to conclude in 3-4 days, before the beginning of Ramadan. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chmn. Gen. Henry Shelton says decision was made in 11/98 to attack immediately if the UNSCOM report was negative. However, sources say that the White House informed the JCS 12/13 that a strike would be ordered this wk. Various congressmen say that they were briefed on the plan 3 wks. ago. Arab states are silent. France, Russia condemn the operation. Canada, Japan support it. (RJ 12/16 in WNC 12/17; ITV 12/16, AFP, ATL, JT 12/17 in WNC 12/21; CSM, NYT, WP, WT 12/17; MM, WP 12/18; MEI 12/25; GIU 1/5, 1/6)

PM Netanyahu says that he is prepared to call early elections unless the Knesset ratifies his hard-line policies on Wye implementation as outlined in his 12-point list of demands given to Clinton 12/15. (NYT, WP, WT 12/17; ITV 12/20 in WNC 12/22)

Israeli Finance M Neeman resigns in frustration over PM Netanyahu's political manipulation of the budget process. Netanyahu takes over the finance portfolio himself, giving himself control over budget allocations, which he could use to his political advantage if early elections are called. DM Mordechai is also reportedly threatening to leave over Wye implementation delays. (MM 12/16; MA, YA 12/16 in WNC 12/17; MM, NYT 12/17; NYT 12/19; WP 12/22; MEI 12/25; JP 12/28; Globes [Internet] 1/13 in WNC 1/14)

Peace Now reports that new housing starts in settlements more than doubled in 1998 compared to 1997. In the 1st half of 1998, construction began on 1,420 new units, up 136% fr. the same period last yr. In the 2d half of 1998, 640 units were started, up 121%. (Associated Press [Internet] 12/16)