Thursday, April 3
Analysis: The forces around Baghdad
Gary Eason,BBC News Online, 3 April, 2003, 14:58 GMT
The US 3rd Infantry Division is closing in on Baghdad
As US forces close on Baghdad there are signs that the defending Iraqi units have fragmented - or been re-deployed.
The situation is highly fluid. How much this is by design - with both sides using feints in an effort to achieve surprise - is not clear.
Advancing on the left, at the end of a lengthy supply chain, are elements of the US V Corps - primarily the 3rd Infantry Division, a mechanised force with Bradley fighting vehicles and about 200 Abrams tanks.
Its Aviation Brigade includes Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopters.
It is also supported by Apache attack helicopters from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
In total, these troops number between 17,000 and 20,000.
The big mystery
On Thursday, the US 3rd Infantry Division was said to have closed to within a few miles of the Iraqi capital, pushing up from the south-west.
Surprise has been expressed at the lack of opposition met by US troops
But reporters with it say it has not been encountering any sizeable resistance.
"The numbers against the Americans were not that significant," said the BBC's Gavin Hewitt.
The Iraqis did seem to have been surprised by the speed of the US advance, he added - but he thought it premature to say that the Republican Guard divisions expected to defend the capital had been overcome.
He had not seen large numbers of destroyed vehicles or prisoners.
BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar, in Baghdad, said the surprise there was that it still seemed to be an open city - with no checkpoints, troops or tanks on the main arterial routes.
Moving around the city he said the picture was of many different forces - regular army, paramilitaries and militias in small units all over the place, but no armour.
"It does not have the appearance at all of a militarised city.
"Something for me just simply does not add up," he said.
"Where are the defenders? Nobody knows."
Tempted generals weigh up risks of lightning tank strike on capital
Ewen MacAskill in Washington, The Guardian, April 4, 2003
Highways offer chance of quick victory, but troops could be entering hornet's nest
US military men, both serving and retired, look at the map of Baghdad and see temptation: fast, modern three-lane highways running into the centre of the capital, ideal for tanks and other armour.
Colonel Patrick Lang, a former specialist on the Iraqi military for the US defence intelligence agency, said yesterday: "There are all these wonderful roads that cut through the city and these high-speed approaches will be very appealing."
The US military establishment, past and present, appears divided - at least in public - over whether to go for a quick strike into Baghdad in the hope that the regime will topple or to adopt a more cautious approach: waiting for reinforcements and then gradually occupying the city in a piecemeal fashion. [...]
With the airport under their control, the US forces will look at ways of slicing the city. The obvious way to achieve this would be to take the fast road from the airport, the Matar Saddam al-Dowli, then the Qadisiya expressway, into the political and military heart of the city.
The sight of US tanks in the city centre would provide a huge symbolic blow to the regime. Within a few square miles, along the banks of the Tigris, are the Mujamma Dijla, which houses the Revolutionary Command Council - the main leadership - and two of the most lavish presidential palaces.
In the same area is the headquarters of the Special Republican Guard, the 20,000-strong force responsible for defence of the capital and trained for the last 25 years in urban warfare.
But all these buildings have been empty since before the bombing began and the Special Republican Guard dispersed round the city. [...]
Riddle of Saddam's disappearing army
Lorna Martin, The Herald /UK, April 4, 2003
Coalition chiefs wonder: where are Republican Guards?
THE elite Republican Guards (RG) were supposed to have formed a ring of steel around the Iraqi capital.
Yesterday, however, the question for military strategists was: what has happened to them?
Has the 70,000-strong force retreated to Baghdad in preparation for a campaign of urban guerrilla warfare? Have they withdrawn tactically to lead coalition troops into a trap?
Or, is it simply the case that Saddam, or whoever is in charge, has lost the ability to co-ordinate the army, as suggested by the apparent crushing of two divisions on Tuesday?
US commanders have conceded they do not know what lies ahead.
Preparations for urban warfare in Baghdad were supported by journalists reporting sightings of pick-up trucks equipped with machine-guns and anti-aircraft guns dotted across the city's boundaries.
Iraqi authorities have insisted US troops will face bloody street battles. "God willing, we will teach the enemy lessons on the battlefield that it will not forget," an RG commander said on al-Jazeera yesterday.
But few defence experts actually expect the fierce campaign of guerrilla warfare to materialise, and believe the ordinary RG force may well have been defeated.
"As to what's inside of Baghdad, we'll see soon enough," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a briefing at the US Central Command advance headquarters in Qatar yesterday. [...]
Where are all Iraq's soldiers hiding?
John Keegan, Defence Editor, The Telegraph, April 4, 2003
One of the most mysterious aspects of this highly mysterious war is the absence of casualties. People get killed in normal wars. Who is getting killed in this one? Not American or British soldiers. The British death toll so far is under 30 and most of the victims have died in accidents. The American death toll is not much higher.
As a percentage of those engaged, casualties represent less than one tenth of one per cent. For purposes of comparison, during the Second World War casualties in Bomber Command of four per cent per sortie - say 300 dead aircrew each 1,000 bomber raid - were thought bearable.
Opponents of the war will say that, though western casualties may be low, that is not true of the Iraqis. Perhaps, but where is the proof. [...]
... James Meek, travelling with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force up the Tigris, reported yesterday that the enemy was a will-o'-the-wisp.
"The marines are now pushing up against the territory supposedly defended by the dreaded Republican Guard. Yet there is no sign of them; their menace seems constantly to recede.
"Similar reports of a melting enemy are coming from the US army in Najaf and Kerbala and from other marines at Kut, downstream of Nasiriyah." The marine company commander rubbed home the point, after a very rare exchange of fire with the enemy. "We were a little bit surprised to get some fire but we fired back. It only lasted five minutes. These guys are cowards. This is boring."
Where indeed is the Republican Guard or the so-called Iraqi regular army? The situation map on March 20 showed six Republican Guard divisions encircling Baghdad and 16 ordinary army divisions, of which six armoured or mechanised, distributed about the country. [...]
... Squashing the Ba'ath mafia will not, however, help to solve the great riddle of the Second Gulf War: where have all the Iraqi soldiers gone?
Have they gone home and hidden their uniforms? Have they drifted across the borders into Iran or Syria? Are they refugees in the Northern No-Fly Zone? No answers.
Unless they materialise soon, this war will fizzle out for lack of an enemy.
Traffic jam on the road to 'Pax Americana'
Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange, Cursor.org, April 2, 2003
04.02.03 - "At the insistence of our allies, the war in Iraq has become as much a test of the international system as of Saddam Hussein, as much a question of a new world order as of a new, democratic Iraq.
"The battle between American primacy and multipolarity is nearing an end
-- and what is to come is a world that no one ever imagined."
-- Thomas Donnelly, Brave New World: An Enduring Pax Americana National Security Outlook, March 25, 2003, American Enterprise Institute
--"Royal Marines were deployed to Iraq's border with Iran yesterday in a move that will unnerve Teheran's regime, which fears encirclement by American-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan." ("Marines line up on Iranian border", London Telegraph, March 26, 2003)
--"The Iraqi war has convinced the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership that some form of confrontation with the U.S. could come earlier than expected." ("China readies for future U.S. fightCNN.com/World, March 25, 2003")
--"A serial invader is always looking over the horizon for the next target. The new U.S. rationale for invasion--the doctrine of "preventive war" that flies in the face of international law--justifies invasion anywhere, anytime. With the war launched in Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be laying the groundwork for its next move: an attack on North Korea." Is North Korea Next? Foreign Policy In Focus, March 24, 2003
Pardon me for not rising from my chair, saluting Fox's cheerleaders, and singing "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," but America's War with Iraq is creating some really nasty ripple effects -- and eerily enough that's exactly what the neoconservative cabal running Bush's foreign policy is hoping for.
I've never been sure what "It's your world, I'm just passing through" meant until I started to get a better feel for the U.S.'s plan for global domination.
This is not another neocon/Richard Perle-bashing column. I'm writing mainly to let you know about an informative essay recently written by Thomas Donnelly, one of a hardy band of American Enterprise Institute's resident fellows.
You can get a better feel for Perle by checking out my Richard Perle's posse: Right-wing 'think' tanks dominate discourse and Hersh's Lunch with the chairman: Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Khashoggi?.
As Hersh told Amy Goodman, if you listen to Perle and folks like Tom Donnelly, you're guaranteed to learn a lot. I don't know if Donnelly and Perle share coffee, but they sure seem to be operating out of the same playbook:
The U.S. role in the twenty-first century is to create a "Pax Americana," a world dominated so thoroughly by the military power of this country that no other country, or group of countries, will dare can challenge America's hegemony. [...]
If you think that's a mouthful, ... ... For those preferring to cut to the chase, here is my interpretation of the unexpurgated Donnelly:
F**k France and F**k the European Union (Rumsfeld's "old" Europe, not Tony Blair this time around); F**k Russia; totally F**k the United Nations; after we finish F*****g Iraq, it's time to commence F*****g Syria and Iran; plan on F*****g North Korea; and in the future, it may necessary to F**k China.
A little longer explanation:
Although Donnelly compliments the French for outmaneuvering the U.S. at the United Nations, in the long run they did the U.S. a favor. In the end, it is "a featherweight of so-called soft power set against the heavy-metal hard power of the United States." Whatever the outcome in the Middle East, the French will no longer be players of any considerable import. [...]
On to Iran? Syria?
Over the past several days, the Bush administration has issued stern warnings to both Syria and Iran. The first salvo was fired by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who cautioned Iran and Syria about "hostile acts" toward U.S. forces in Iraq, saying that they would be held accountable for their actions.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences." Powell also warned Iran to stop helping terrorists.
John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, said, "The estimate we have of how close the Iranians are to production of nuclear weapons grows closer each day." Bolton pointed out that "In the aftermath of Iraq, dealing with the Iranian nuclear weapons program will be of equal importance as dealing with the North Korean nuclear weapons program." [...]