International Information

International Operation Name: Operation SOUTHERN WATCH

International Mission Name: Operation SOUTHERN WATCH

Mandating Organization: 
United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 (5 April 1991)
United Nations Security Council Resolution 949 (15 October 1994)

Region Name: Middle East

Location: Iraq

Mission Date: 26 August 1992 - 19 March 2003

Canadian Operation: No Canadian operations name - 26 August 1992 to 19 March 2003

Mandate: To enforce a no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

Mission Notes: At the end of the Gulf War, the Shi’ite population of southern Iraq (the “marsh Arabs”) rebelled against the rule of the predominantly Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein. Although the Shi’ite are the majority in Iraq, they suffered repression from the regime, including religious repression. 

The Iraqi military started a campaign to end the insurrection, using helicopters and enforcing their will with repressive measures. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 688 (5 April 1991) calling upon Iraq to end the repression of its population and allow humanitarian agencies to provide assistance. While Iraq chose in some measure to abide by the Resolution in northern Iraq where the Kurds had also rebelled, it did not do so in the south. But because international attention was focused upon the Kurds and their plight, the Shi’ites’ in the south continued to be targeted by the Iraqi military and received little support.

After consultation with a number of coalition partners, on 26 August 1992 American President George Bush announced the creation of a no-fly zone in southern Iraq, below the 32nd parallel (moved to the 33rd parallel in 1996). All Iraqi fixed and rotary wing aircraft were banned from flights in the no-fly zone. Operation SOUTHERN WATCH was created with this announcement. Most of the subsequent two years passed with few Iraqi violations of the ban; however, Saddam Hussein’s threats of violence against neighboring states, as a means to end sanctions against Iraq, created apprehension among the Gulf States and in the United Nations.

On 15 October 1994, the Security Council passed Resolution 949 demanding that Iraq withdraw its forces from its southern borders and that it not threaten neighbors or UN operations. This was backed up by the use of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Operation SOUTHERN WATCH henceforth had Chapter VII backing to ensure that Iraq did not deploy any new units into the southern border region, and that it not use military force to threaten its neighbors or UN operations. Among the nations participating were the United States, Britain, France and Saudi Arabia, with support from 22 other nations. 

Initially, American, British and French forces conducted the AWACS patrols. After 15 December 1996, France withdrew from the AWACS operations, although it continued to support Coalition operations in the Persian Gulf with men and equipment. The AWACS monitored the airspace in and north of the no-fly zone, watching for Iraqi attempts to violate the zone or lure Coalition into surface-to-air missile traps. AWACS also controlled Coalition air strikes against Iraq in December 1998 after Iraq expelled UN arms inspectors (Operation DESERT FOX). 

Canada’s participation in Operation Southern Watch stems from participation in AWACS operations during and after the Gulf War. The Canadian personnel were part of the Canadian Contingent 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The Canadians are integrated into the four squadrons on the wing, participating in the wing’s operations. 

With the commencement of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 19 March 2003 (20 March in Iraq), Operation Southern Watch ended.

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