May 30, 2005 – Beginning a year before the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, the US and UK governments ordered aircraft patrolling Southern and Northern "no-fly zones" to step up their bombing of Iraqi air defenses and other targets, according to new information discovered by opponents of British leader Tony Blair.
The new information, first reported in the London Times, shows that bombing by the US Air Force and Royal Air Force more than doubled from 2001 to 2002. The two countries used twice as many missiles and bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as during all of 2001, according to the data.
The increased attacks began six months before the passage of a United Nations resolution the two nations would cite as the legal basis for invading Iraq.
Western governments unilaterally established the controversial no-fly zones following the 1991 Gulf War, ostensibly to protect Kurds in the Iraqi North and Shi'ite Arabs in the South from Saddam Hussein's warplanes. Critics soon began to speculate that aggressively patrolling sovereign Iraqi airspace was more provocation than deterrent.
This new revelation comes almost a month after the leak of a memo showing that US and British officials had already decided on ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before going to the UN, and that they were engaged in "fixing" facts to support such a policy.