Iraq's leaders, aware that their Air Force will be no match for Western planes policing a southern "no-fly" zone, are drumming up Shiite Muslim loyalty to preserve their control on the ground.
President Saddam Hussein has sent senior members of his Baath Party to the south to muster public support. Iraqi officials are stressing that Baghdad is certain of the loyalty of the Shiites, but express fears that the Western allies intend to free the south of central government authority.
Iraq has invited the United Nations Security Council to send a team to check the welfare of the marshland Shiites. Officials have stopped short of saying whether Iraq will defy the West's "no-fly" zone, but Baghdad has made it clear it will not relinquish authority over the south.