Did Washington underestimate Iraqi resolve? (FWD: Jane's Defence Weekly)

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Sun Mar 30 12:56:57 MST 2003

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28  March 2003   Did Washington underestimate Iraqi resolve?

Andrew Koch JDW Washington Bureau Chief

Coalition war plans in Iraq, developed at least initially in part around
trying to persuade
wider elements of the Iraqi armed forces not to fight, are being
reconsidered as Iraqi
morale has to date stood up relatively well.

US military commanders have begun to acknowledge that the Fedayeen Saddam
Special Security Organisation (SSO) paramilitary and other Iraqi forces
are fighting
more fiercely and capably than initial war plans envisaged.

However, say US defence and intelligence officials with experience in the
the Iraqi resolve should come as no surprise. They say US intelligence
reports have
repeatedly warned that Iraqi paramilitary forces closely tied to Saddam
Hussein's regime
 were not likely to give up easily and could organise hit-and-run attacks
to the rear of US forces.

The problem, the officials tell JDW, is that senior US civilian officials
in the US
Department of Defense did not heed the advice.

This underestimation is directly affecting the war planning, one element
of which has
been to try to detach senior Iraqi leaders and Ba'ath party officials
from the country's
regular army. If that was successfully accomplished Iraqi defences could
be quickly
overcome with a smaller US force. Without it, the length and intensity of
the aerial
bombing campaign will be far greater, as will the number of combat troops

Further, coalition commanders had hoped that the wider surrender of Iraqi
regular units
would enable them to keep the infrastructure of the country intact and
save as much of
the Iraqi Army as possible to help police a post-Saddam Iraq.

Part of the problem, officials say, is that coalition forces are less
welcome than the senior
civilian defence officials believed. Not only does that negatively impact
on the coalition
military plans, but also harms the operation's wider political
objectives. The longer Iraqi
resistance continues away from Baghdad - particularly in areas not fully
under President
Saddam Hussein's immediate control - the more the image the coalition
portrayed of
his government as being universally despised by its people is damaged.

US officials insist this lukewarm reception to date is not because of any
support for
Saddam among the Iraqis, but rather is due to lingering fears over
possible retribution
by Ba'ath loyalists. US defence officials note that Fedayeen Saddam, SSO
and other
regime loyalists have been dispersed among front-line army soldiers,
threatening to
shoot them if they surrender or do not fight.

However, that appears an incomplete explanation. One intelligence
official said that
nationalism is a greater factor than many expected. The negative image of
the US among
many Iraqis is also a factor, he said.

All of this indicates a more protracted and violent conflict than many
had expected, and
perhaps an even more difficult post-conflict period.

455 of 754 words

Copyright 2003 Jane's Information Group. All rights reserved.

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