Skip to comments.The Inevitable War Against Iraq
Posted on 03/15/2002 1:47:27 PM PST by maquiladora
A war with Iraq? It's not a question of 'if' but 'when'. Today, during the President's speech at Fort Bragg, he stated clearly that Phase One of the war on terror was almost warped up. The Taliban were gone, and the remains of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan were being mopped by in operations conducted by US and Canadian troops such as 'Anaconda' and 'Harpoon'. So as Phase One draws to a close, we must shift our attention to Phase Two: Iraq.
Saddam Hussein is the only leader to have used chemical weapons against his own people. While he is in power in Iraq, the threat of him using WMD against his own people again, or other nations, is very real indeed. He has had more than three years to covertly further research and enhance the development of chemical and biological weapons since the UN inspectors left in December 1998. The location of the majority of Iraq's WMD facilities is unknown, and their status is unknown too.
President Bush wants to address the problem of Iraq's WMD and the problem of Saddam in power. So the goals of the coming war are clear:
1: Eliminate Saddam Hussein.
2: Locate and destroy all WMD facilities in Iraq.
Vice President Dick Cheney is currently visiting Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, and Oman. It's no vacation, he's going to tell Iraq's neighbours that the US plans to deal with the Iraqi problem once and for all. He'll want to know who's on board and who isn't. He'll be looking for covert and overt assistance: overflight, airbase usage and perhaps staging area permission.
All this in exchange for whatever is in Mr Cheney's briefcase: aid, advice, writing off debts, trade deals etc. Don't be fooled by what some Arab leaders say publicly. Most of that is for interal public consumption. Besides what is in the papers or reports on TV, the regional countries that will aid the US in a war on Iraq are: Israel, Turkey, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. The other states in the region won't be of much use.
However, the US administration does not envision significant allied help when it comes to the crunch. Socailist Gulf War coalition partners Britain and France will be unwilling to engage in another fight against Iraq. The British Labour Party is generally strongly against a war on Iraq. A letter was delivered to No. 10 last week, signed by no less than 70 Members of Parliment informing the Prime Minister of their opposition to any military action against Iraq. France is even more unwilling to get involved, but perhaps that should not be surprising. But as Secretary of State Powell said recently, America is ready to do this alone.
The political impact of an unsuccessful lone-US campaign against Iraq would be unacceptable and unthinkable to the Bush administration. Thus, it is clear that the coming offensive will be an all-out, no-holds-barred war that would use overwhelming force and every conventional asset in the US military has at hand. Failure is not an option.
The war is coming, all the signs are there: Cheney's visit to the Mid-East, the President's remarks about Iraq's WMD and 'Phase Two', the recent deployment of Apache gunships to the Gulf, the insertion of CIA and Spec forces into Kurdish Northern Iraq last month and the reports that over 5,000 mothballed US armoured vehicles are being readied for action in Kuwait.
However, any action is likely to wait until at least the fall of 2002. The carrier battlegroups and associated airwings that will be needed will have to move to the region. Strategic sea-lift assets, pre-positioned ordnance and aviation fuel supplies, and other logistic requirements will all have to be looked at. These things take time. But a lot of the background stuff, the planning and plotting will already be well under way at CENTCOM by now.
The Air Tasking Order template for conducting the air war and initial steps needed to ensure air superiority are being formulated. Required active duty manning levels, which would need to be supplemented by Reserve call-ups, for all services is being evaluated.
How many troops are we taking about? Well, this won't be as big the Allied force there was in Desert Storm. Iraq's military is only a shadow of it's 1990-self. Even though there's still about 300,000 men in the Iraqi Army, it's expected that most of those will surrender en masse in the early days of the war. However, the 10,000-20,000 Republican Guard may prove a more difficult obsticle. Iraq's Air Force is virtually useless now, and though some SAM capabilites have been rebuilt, they should not pose a major threat. So at first glance, this should be easier than The Gulf War, right? Wrong. The objective in the Gulf War was to liberate Kuwait, not occupy the whole country and attempt to overthrow the government too. It will require a broader, more ambitious but perhaps less intense offensive. But we are back to our original question: How many troops are we talking about?
Well, up to 100,000 US troops will be required for any major ground war. You can add to that 25,000 support personnel based in the region. They most likely would stage out of Israel, Turkey, Oman and especially Kuwait.
Overall, the U.S. forces used likely would be lighter and more agile than during the Desert Storm conflict. Lessons learned in Afghanistan with the use of Special Forces guiding the crosshairs for smart bombs from tactical aircraft will be exploited to the fullest.
One of the two primary objectives for the troops would be to seek out and destroy all WMD facilities in the country. But a lot of this will first be done from the air. At least four carrier battlegroups would probably be pre-position for offensive air strikes: one or two in the Red Sea, two or three in the Arabian Gulf. The Air Force, unlike their operations in Afghanistan, would have a substantial number of tactical fighter/bombers involved. They would most likely operate primarily out of bases in Oman, Kuwait, Turkey and Diego Garcia.
The war against Iraq will start straight from the textbook: a massive around-the-clock campaign to neutralize command and control facilities, the surface-to-air threat and minimal aircraft threat.
The general expectation among US military planners is that Iraqi air defenses, command and control facilities, the Iraqi army and Republican Guard would be rapidly overwhelmed and defeated swiftly.
Nonetheless, Saddam has watched the US forces in Afghanistan and their operations very closely. He certainly will expect a massive air campaign with precision-guided munitions as the first onslaught. His contingency plans may include locating the majority of his Republican Guard and WMD devices in the hospitals, schools, mosques, and public institutions surrounding Baghdad. In fact, Iraqi forces are already on the move. Over the past week or so, reports have been coming in that Iraqi troops have been redeployed near the Jordanian border from their positions in the north. These may very well be Republican Guard forces taking up positons around remote WMD facilites.
So Saddam knows he's in trouble. His back is against the wall and he knows full well that President Bush will not end the war against Iraq until he is overthrown. Despite his public retoric and propaganda, he knows deep inside the power, might, reach and resolve of the US military. He knows deep inside that he can never win, that he is doomed. This is dangerous. When a man is doomed, he throws caution to the wind, he's got not nothing to lose.
If Saddam does have active WMD and the ability to deliver them, then he can be expected to use them. There is no doubt about that.
US planners will have to honor reports that over a dozen Scud II are hidden and functional within Iraq, and thus set up a robust theater missile defense network. The threat of biological or chemical weapons targeting Israel, neighboring countries, or US troops will be a major concern. If Saddam can do it, then he will do it. This time he has nothing to lose.
Israel undoubtedly will expect more deployments of improved Patriot missile batteries in country to offer greater protection. In fact, there are reports that this already underway.
This is serious stuff. Look at it this way. Action against Iraq is inevitable, if Saddam has the means, then an Iraqi WMD attack on Israel as a responce is inevitable, if the attack is succesful then a nuclear attack by Israel is inevitable. Now it turns into a whole new ball game. Israel will have launched a nuclear attack against Iraq and the Arab and Muslim world will be in uproar and the knives will be out for Sharon. Syria and Iran could be expected to launch an assualt on Israel and suddenly the US forces in the region could be facing multiple enimies, nuclear fallout, spiraling casualties and a global economic nosedive the likes of which have never been seen before. Where things could go from here is anyones guess...
To engage Iraq in a war will be the hardest decision President Bush will make to date. The danger in action may be very high, but as the President said recently, 'inaction' is not an option.
In my opinion, the all-out assault will be preceded by internal guerilla uprising probably by Kurds. This will distract Saddam. He has to divert part of his elite troops to fight these guerillas. While this insurgency is in progress under the direction of CIA/SpecOps, U.S. will try to instigate defection of high ranking people or army units. Then U.S. can mount an invasion. But due to WMD, the invasion force may be spread out and move in slower pace. Anytime Saddam uses his WMD to Kurds, American troops or Israelis, U.S. will use her small nukes for retaliations. It is politically less provacative for U.S. to nuke Iraq than Israel. I know, U.S. is a great satan in Mid-East. But U.S. is still more popular than Israel. Finally, if the stalemate develops in the battlefield for some reason, U.S. will again use nukes to finish the war. U.S. cannot afford to have prolonged attrition battle Muslim extremists are so fond of waging. U.S. should not give any hopes to them. If they play madmen, they will be nuked.