Athens – Following the loss of two pilots engaged in enforcement of the no-fly zone over Iraq, the Athenian Federation has declared that it has uncovered undeniable proof of the Iraqi government’s complicity in the attack against the peacekeepers. A spokesperson for the Imperial Palace has added that with this escalation the Athenian Federation has no alternative but to match the escalation.
According to the Hellenic Air Force and Hellenic Navy Joint Investigation’s preliminary findings while engaged in regular patrols the two pilots in F-35Cs were instructed to intercept an Iraqi F-16 that had launched in violation of the no-fly zone. After intercepting the Iraqi fighter the two pilots followed the rules of engagement in seeking to establish contact with the pilot in both English and Arabic. After these efforts failed, verifying that the pilot was conscious and the F-16 making hostile moves against the two F-35Cs, one of the Athenian pilots launched missiles against the F-16 and destroyed it in the process. After the destruction logs show that the fighters were almost immediately targeted by ground based installations and had multiple surface to air missiles launched against them. One of the two pilots has been confirmed to have died on impact while the fate of the second pilot is as of yet unclear as their jet was not immediately destroyed, this leaves the possibility that they managed to eject and are currently somewhere in the region.
In a separate briefing the Foreign Intelligence Agency has stated that based on its information, a single fighter launching could be the actions of a rogue actor as claimed by the Iraqi government, however the coordination of multiple segments of the Iraqi Armed Forces needed to destroy an Athenian fighter makes it all but impossible for the action to have taken place without implicit consent on the highest levels of government.
With the combination of these two reports, Athens is now preparing a response but insiders have already revealed that both the military and political leadership are agreed that only a ground war to remove the Iraqi government can restore peace to the Middle East and guarantee the rights of the Kurdish population in North Iraq. As a result the Hellenic Forces have cancelled all leaves and have ordered the Third Army, stationed in Syria, to mobilize and redeploy to bases closer to the Iraqi border. Military analysts believe the Hellenic Forces could be ready for combat operations within days. Meanwhile efforts are likely to continue to find the missing pilot or their remains before Iraqi forces can get to them.
It is believed that any expansion of military action will only be ordered after an emergency summit of the Byzantine League can be held to discuss a unified response.