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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pentagon Steps Up Flight Patrols Over Iraq

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon announced Tuesday that U.S. jet fighters had stepped up their patrols over the U.S.-enforced no-flight zone in southern Iraq after Iraqi planes breached the zone several times over the last week.

U.S. Defense Department officials said two Iraqi fighters had violated the area Tuesday, apparently to test American resolve to enforce the no-flight zone and to offer at least a symbolic response to Iranian air attacks last week on military camps used by Iranian opposition groups in southern Iraq.

Iraqi and Iranian pilots have been put on notice by the Pentagon in recent days that they risk attack if they continue their incursions into the no-flight zone, which was established by the United States and its allies after the Persian Gulf War in 1991. And the warning to the Iraqis was repeated Tuesday at a Defense Department news conference.

"If they carry out flight operations, they risk getting shot down,'' said Captain Michael Doubleday, a Pentagon spokesman.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary William Cohen had ordered the aircraft carrier Nimitz to skip a port call in Singapore and hurry from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf on a previously scheduled deployment. In what may be a reflection of Washington's hopes for improved relations with the Iranian government, Cohen said that the show of strength with the Nimitz was meant as a warning to Iraq, not Iran.