Massive invasion of Iraq planned
sherrynstan at igc.org
Thu Jul 11 11:32:58 MDT 2002
[As MJ called it, "Exterminism, the Highest Stage of Imperialism"]
U.S. plans massive invasion of Iraq
By Richard Sale
UPI Terrorism Correspondent
>From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk
Published 7/10/2002 5:34 PM
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President George W. Bush and his advisers are reviewing plans for a
massive, full-scale military conquest of Iraq, composed by Central Command
under Gen. Tommy Franks, that would require five ground force divisions
numbering 200,000, two Marine Corps divisions, and 15 wings of U.S.
fighters and bombers, key administration officials told United Press
These officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Britain is
expected to provide as many as 25,000 troops for a total on-the-ground
force of 250,000 men.
Franks briefed the Pentagon and the White House on major outlines of his
plan in May. Though Bush has declined to provide any details in recent
weeks, Monday, for the first time, he acknowledged being thoroughly
involved in the planning.
"I'm involved in the military planning, diplomatic planning, financial
planning ... reviewing all the tools at my disposal," the president said.
Bush stressed, as he has in the past, it is his firm intention to get rid
of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.
The president said he is a "patient person ... but I do firmly believe that
the world will be safer and more peaceful if there's a regime change in
The president and other officials have repeatedly said that military action
is only one of the options they are looking at to impose regime change in
According to officials who spoke to UPI, three dates are being discussed as
possible times to launch the attack. The first would be before the November
elections -- an option now considered the least likely, officials said.
Another would be just after the elections or January/February of next year,
Franks believes that the optimum date for an attack would be just after the
November elections, one U.S. government source said, adding that the date
would depend on logistical readiness.
Good weather that would allow for maximum use of U.S. air power is also a
chief consideration, Pentagon officials said.
According to U.S. intelligence sources, Kuwait would be the leading staging
base of the huge operation. Sources said there are already advance elements
of five American divisions in Kuwait searching for sites to quarter U.S.
troops and set up advanced communications and logistics networks.
Other preparatory deployment moves are taking place all over the map. For
example, the 101st Airborne Division, which will be used against Iraq, is
being quietly withdrawn from Afghanistan, while the 82nd Airborne, which
would not be used, is being assigned to Kabul, according to Pentagon
Turning day-to-day command of Afghanistan operations over to the 18th
Airborne Corps, under Lt. Gen. Daniel McNeill, left Franks and the Central
Command free to focus on planning the attack on Iraq, U.S. government
Sources familiar with the plans told UPI that the U.S. Army already has
about a division's worth of armor and other heavy equipment pre-positioned
in the Persian Gulf region, including brigade-sized depots in Kuwait,
Qatar, Oman, and on ships in the Indian Ocean.
U.S. Air Force planes are already based in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi
Arabia. In the event of the attack, more planes would operate from Turkey,
which is expected to join any U.S. effort against Iraq.
Former senior Army intelligence official Pat Lang, said the United States
would use U.S. facilities in Saudi Arabia, probably with a minimum of
"The Saudi government would prefer not to know," Lang said.
Pentagon casualty estimates range as high as 2,000 deaths, but Lang pointed
out that 5,000 deaths were predicted for Operation Desert Storm, which cost
only 28 American lives.
The invasion of Iraq would occur from three directions: the north, south,
and west using land- and sea-based forces. One U.S. analyst called it a
"major amphibious effort" and "vertical envelopment" of Airborne and Marine
Corps units, adding, "There are a dozen ways to do it."
The leading U.S. ground commander would be Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, of U.S
Army Forces Central Command -- Arcent -- based at Ft. McPherson, Ga.
McKiernan is formerly deputy chief of staff of military planning for the
The attack would be a preemptive strike, a source familiar with the plans
said. He added that the Armed Forces Staff College had done studies three
years ago on U.S. preemptive strike capabilities, which are excellent. "The
problem is that they cost a lot of political capital," he said.
Bush announced several weeks ago that the U.S. reserves the right to strike
first under certain circumstances, essentially changing long-standing U.S.
Cold War policy.
The first stage of Franks' plan would entail using electronic and other
advanced military technologies "to get into Saddam's decision process" and
disrupt his command and control system -- Hussein's ability to talk to his
military, secret police, and security forces, including his land telephone
lines, according to sources familiar with the plan.
The U.S. air strikes would use round-the-clock strikes on Hussein's palaces
and his major bases of support such as the Republican Guard, the Special
Republican Guard, the Saddam Fedayeen and the Baath Party, in the hope of
sparking a coup.
According to Ken Pollack, deputy director of national security studies at
the Council on Foreign Relations, a 1998 attack called Operation Desert Fox
which attacked such targets provoked Hussein to overreact and order arrests
and assassinations that resulted in Shi'a uprisings.
Anthony Cordesman, national security expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, noted that Desert Fox "was more of a retaliatory
strike than an attempt to topple Saddam," but Pentagon officials said the
planned attack would go for many of the same targets.
Cordesman said that the Pentagon expects "committed resistance" from Iraqi
forces, at least at first.
But to mount such a huge invasion involves solving certain problems.
One is manpower. According to Eliot Cohen, professor of strategic studies
at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns
Hopkins University, over the decade the United States has developed a
military system "very dependent on reservists."
This includes areas of intelligence, logistics, communications, and even
combat support and service, he said.
After Sept. 11, Bush mobilized over 80,000 reservists and National
Guardsmen to support the war in Afghanistan, with tours of duty lasting up
to a year. Homeland security duties occupied the bulk of Guard troops who
were used to protect U.S. forces and bases, especially those overseas. The
wear and tear has reduced the readiness levels of some units, Pentagon
According to these sources, a key indicator of the administration's
readiness to attack Iraq will be extending the tours of duty for the 80,000
already in service and mobilizing more reservists.
One U.S. military analyst said that a call-up of more reservists was
"unavoidable" and would be done "quickly."
Larry Wortzel, military expert at the Heritage Foundation said, "Bush will
not be able to run a major operation without extending tours of duty and
ordering a larger call-up."
Nearly a quarter of a million National Guard troops and reservists were
activated for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991, he said.
Next, a full-scale invasion would mean the transfer of "heavy" Army and
Marine Corps divisions -- those with tanks and artillery -- from bases in
Germany, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, California, and other locations.
Such transfers "would telegraph what was coming, and Saddam isn't just
going to sit there," a Pentagon official said.
Some have questioned if the United States has the necessary military
resources, given the war in Afghanistan.
But Mike O'Hanlon, military expert at the Brookings Institution, quoted the
Bush administration as claiming that the United States still retains the
capability to wage one all-out war and a second major operation, half as
big, with both requiring as many as 750,000 troops in combat.
According to Pentagon figures, operations in Afghanistan and the Persian
Gulf currently total about 60,000 Americans personnel while ongoing
commitments in the Balkans involve another 10,000. Another 10,000 are
involved with small missions in Georgia, the Philippines, and Yemen.
The United States also keeps some 37,000 troops in South Korea.
But O'Hanlon said those numbers left the United States with "a total of 10
divisions immediately available."
Because of the declining pace of air operations in Afghanistan, the rate of
sorties has fallen to 50 per day, leaving plenty of assets free to topple
Hussein, including unmanned aerial vehicles, aerial tankers and transports,
"We have plenty of tactical intelligence assets in the inventory,"
including U-2s, a traditional, single-seat aircraft, UAVs, or unmanned
surveillance aircraft, and RC-35s, a large, tanker-sized aircraft, said
In terms of critical over-flight and basing rights, Kuwait would be key.
One former U.S. senior CIA official who recently talked with Kuwaiti
officials reported they had expressed impatience with the fact that the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict had complicated U.S. plans to get rid of
"They want him out," the former analyst said. "They wanted to know why
Kuwait was being held hostage to the Palestinian question."
Vice President Dick Cheney's 11-nation tour last March to garner support
for an attack produced no public backing for the plan, but administration
officials claimed that the United States will be getting plenty of crucial
support privately from Arab countries who will publicly disown it.
One continuing worry is the U.S. Air Force, the most heavily stressed of
all the U.S. armed services. Not only has it been playing a major part in
Operation Enduring Freedom, it had been conducting reconnaissance flights
over the Balkans, the Middle East, and Korea, as well as continuing
Operation Northern and Southern Watch flights for the last 11 years over
But Wortzel pointed out that the war in Afghanistan has not yet drawn on
U.S. Army aviation "which ate up the Iraqis big time" in Desert Storm.
(Nicholas M. Horrock, UPI's Chief White House Correspondent, contributed to
Copyright © 2002 United Press International
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