Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Iraq: In all but name, the war's on
Asia Times Online ^ | Aug 17, 2002 | Marc Erikson

Posted on 08/16/2002 3:58:59 PM PDT by Kermit

Iraq: In all but name, the war's on
By Marc Erikson

How do you tell a war has begun? This is not the 17th or 18th century. There are no highfalutin' declarations. Troops don't line up in eyesight of each other. There are no drum rolls and bugle calls, no calls of "Chaaa...rge!". When did the Vietnam War begin? When, for that matter, World War I? When mobilizations were ordered setting in motion irreversible chains of events or at the time of the formal declarations of war?

The lines of battle and the timelines to overt battle and full-scale combat have become fluid. Consider this: At the beginning of this year, when US President George W Bush started talking ever more in earnest about taking out Saddam Hussein and signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple the Iraqi president, including authority to use lethal force to capture him, the US and putative ally Britain had approximately 50,000 troops deployed in the region around Iraq.

By now, this number has grown to over 100,000, not counting soldiers of and on naval units in the vicinity. It's been a build-up without much fanfare, accelerating since March and accelerating further since June. And these troops are not just sitting on their hands or twiddling their thumbs while waiting for orders to act out some type of D-Day drama. Several thousand are already in Iraq. They are gradually closing in and rattling Saddam's cage. In effect, the war has begun.

For sticklers for details, here are some numbers and locations of the allied troop build-up gathered from local sources in the various countries where US and British forces deploy or from open allied sources: Prior to the past seven months' troop movements, there were 25,000 US troops (army, air force) in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates and some 20,000 British troops, mainly in Oman.

Since March, 12,000 US troops have been added to Kuwait (8,000) and Qatar (4,000) and 5,000 Brits to Oman, bringing the April/May total to 62,000. In late June, the Turkish foreign ministry reported heavy air traffic of US military transport planes aimed at increasing the number of US troops in southern Turkey from 7,000 to 25,000 by the end of July. Also in June, a contingent of 1,700 British Royal Marines were re-deployed from Afghanistan to Kuwait and a 250-man, highly-specialized German NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) warfare battalion equipped with "Fuchs" (fox) armored vehicles has been in Kuwait since early this year.

An additional 2,400 US troops are deployed in Jordan and, according to Jordanian news agency Petra, are being reinforced by another 4,000 arriving since August 12 at Aqaba for joint exercises with the Jordanian army. Already, 1,800 US troops (mostly Special Forces) are inside Iraq, at least since the end of March and, in fact, units there were visited two months ago by CIA director George Tenet during a side trip from Israel and Palestine. Another 2,000-3,000 US troops are in semi-permanent deployment in the Negev and Sinai deserts in accordance with old international agreements. On August 9, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that 5,000 Turkish troops had entered northern Iraq and taken over the Bamerni air base north of Mosul. These numbers add up to about 105,000 US and allied troops on bases surrounding and inside Iraq.

The number of US and British aircraft in the region (land-based and on three US and one British carrier) cannot be determined with any real precision. But they greatly outnumber Iraqi air forces (not to speak of their vast qualitative superiority) and are in the process of being reinforced. Munitions and equipment for German Tornado fighters have been pre-positioned in Turkey.

The Saudi announcement of August 7 that US forces will not be permitted to use Saudi bases for an attack on Iraq causes the US military no major headache. The US has quietly moved munitions, equipment and communications gear to the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar from Saudi Arabia in recent months. Further, construction of a large new military camp in Kuwait has just been completed. Allied ground troops, air forces and naval units now on hand are sufficient to carry the fight to Iraq from a virtual stand-still, certainly sufficient for the "small-war scenario" (75-100,000 troops) on which US Central Command chief General Tommy Franks briefed George Bush on August 6.

What are these allied forces up against? As the head of the US Defense Policy Board Richard Perle put it succinctly the other day, Iraq today has one third of its 1990-91 capabilities, "but it's the same third, just 11 years older". That's something of a characteristic exaggeration by the "Prince of Darkness", but not by very much. Iraqi ground forces now number 375,000, less than 40 percent of their 1990 pre-Gulf-War strength. Of that number, 70,000 are in the Republican Guard (half of the 1990 strength) and another 25,000 in the Baghdad-based Special Republican Guard assigned exclusively to protecting Saddam Hussein and maintaining political control in the city (no other troops are allowed in). The remaining 280,000-man regular army has major morale problems and is made up largely of unwilling conscripts, many from the oppressed Shi'ite population, who consider themselves ethnic Iranians rather than Arabs.

Principal equipment is 2,200 tanks of Soviet-era vintage (including a few hundred T-72s) and 1,900 artillery pieces. The Iraqi air force is reduced to 130 attack aircraft and 180 jet fighters, but only about 90 of the latter are combat ready at any given time. The navy no longer exists.

Iraq's anti-aircraft defenses consist of some 120 batteries dispersed around the country, and are as technologically degraded as the rest of Iraq's rusting arsenal. The number of Scud missiles is between a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 36. Of these, between six and 16 are Scud-B (Al-Husayn) with a range of 600 kilometers. The remainder are plain Scuds with a 300-kilometer range. The Scud-B missiles are the only ones that pose problems because they can reach targets outside Iraq. They are very inaccurate, however, and have numerous serious technical problems. The biggest of these is that they tend to break up during their descent phase. Their theoretical accuracy is 3,000 meters CEP (Circular Error Probability). This makes them militarily useless, and useful only for terrorizing urban populations if warheads contain chemical or biological agents.

Ongoing actions by US and allied forces around and in Iraq in part are in line with guidelines provided in Bush's presidential order to oust Saddam:

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: iraq; war
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-59 next last
Interesting. Not the first place, where I've read that the war has already started. Bush did promise that this would be a war like no other.
1 posted on 08/16/2002 3:58:59 PM PDT by Kermit
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Kermit
There are no highfalutin' declarations.

Not that our supreme law of the land would demand such a thing. I mean it's not like the pres has to ask permission to commit our troops and resources to a war or anything, that would of course curb his power and subject him to the people. Wouldn't want that.


2 posted on 08/16/2002 4:02:18 PM PDT by EBUCK
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kermit
Good find. It has the ring of accuracy, including improved versions of various reports from other sources such as DEBKA that are normally garbled at best.
3 posted on 08/16/2002 4:06:22 PM PDT by RightWhale
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kermit
Reference bump.
4 posted on 08/16/2002 4:10:57 PM PDT by Rocko
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

There are no highfalutin' declarations.

Well, look at it this way: given the quality of our Congress, any declarations they made would be lowfalutin' anyway.

5 posted on 08/16/2002 4:15:36 PM PDT by Grut
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Kermit
Bush is going to implicate Saddam in 9-11. That has been already been promised, sotto voce, and the leadership will deliver when the time comes to act -- just as Tony Blair promised last month. Bush will also either expose Saddam's attempted anthrax blackmail, or simply allow the phony "Amerithrax" investigation to die on the vine, and let people draw their own conclusions. He is going to ask the Iraqis to hand over Saddam for trial -- which is going to take everyone by surprise, because we are being set up to expect an attack or an invasion. All possible means will be used to isolate Saddam (just as Arafat has been isolated), including military pressure. However, there will be no direct assualt on Baghdad, either by aerial bombardment or ground invasion. Far too dangerous, given Saddam's WMD threat to US civilians. However, there is nothing to stop us from reprising the Afghanistan strategy and gradually lopping off bits of Iraq over a period of 12-48 months, while we build up our civil defenses. Kurdistan would be one obvious place to start the dismemberment. By the end of this process, with the threat of nuclear-biological war at flash-point, Saddam will no longer be able to intimidate people to stay in Baghdad (they are already sweating bullets and leaving in droves), and Saddam will be a leader without a country. Better hope that imprisonment looks better to him than death.
6 posted on 08/16/2002 4:17:08 PM PDT by The Great Satan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Grut
Good Call. But I'd still rather have a lowfalutin' declaration than none at all, at least for precedent's sake. We don't want Pres. Hitlery weilding that kind of power on the basis of established precedent alone.


7 posted on 08/16/2002 4:19:22 PM PDT by EBUCK
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

If he can prove that Saddam had ANYTHING to do with 9-11, then he has his declaration already. As of 9-28-2001, he got the authorization to do whatever was necessary.

The declaration he has, he just needs to announce the link.
8 posted on 08/16/2002 4:31:49 PM PDT by Aric2000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Kermit
In late June, the Turkish foreign ministry reported heavy air traffic of US military transport planes.

American cargo planes are landing and taking off on weekly basis from Deyar and other bases in Turkey.
Theres also a lot of pre-positioning at Incirlik.

Still though, I think we're still quite a while away from any military action.

9 posted on 08/16/2002 4:39:11 PM PDT by maquiladora
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Aric2000
Links to 9/11 is only part of the sell.

The WMD is the big point, but if there's a shred of evidence to 9/11 you can be sure that it'll be used.

10 posted on 08/16/2002 4:41:37 PM PDT by maquiladora
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Kermit
I've also had similar thoughts. Among the potential problems with an Iraqi invasion are:

(1) Saddam retaliates against Israel and against U.S. military forces with chemical/biological/radiological weapons, because he figures he's a dead man and has nothing to lose;

2) Other Arab countries shut off oil shipments and encourage a new wave of suicide attacks on Israel;

3) World opinion lines up behind Iraq and actively opposes the U.S. (e.g., trade disruptions);

4) Americans around the world are targeted by terrorists (presuming they lack the capability to again attack us in our homeland);

(5) Bush gives up the element of tactical surprise by requesting Congressional authorization or a Declaration of War, or else is heavily criticized at home for failing to do so.

Now none of the above problems are insurmountable, and indeed some are rather unlikely. But if there is no distinct start to the war, but it just slowly increases in intensity, then there is no occasion for any of the above to happen. Of greatest importance is that Saddam might refrain from using WMDs, because he couldn't be sure of his fate and because it would be much harder to rationalize to world opinion (and would certainly precipitate an all-out military offensive by the U.S.).
11 posted on 08/16/2002 4:59:03 PM PDT by dpwiener
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: maquiladora
They're describing the Iraqi army as "rusting," but somehow they've managed to put together nukes, according to DEBKA. Yeah right.
12 posted on 08/16/2002 5:03:32 PM PDT by mvpel
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: The Great Satan
"All possible means will be used to isolate Saddam (just as Arafat has been isolated), including military pressure."

Not only Arafat, but bin Laden and the Taliban.

Isolating the cancerous cells before conducting the operation has thus far proven a very satisfactory course of treatment.

13 posted on 08/16/2002 5:09:26 PM PDT by okie01
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: maquiladora
In late June, the Turkish foreign ministry reported heavy air traffic of US military transport planes.

A couple of days ago a German colleague near Frankfurt mentioned that there has been an unusual amount of air traffic through Frankfurt -- Galaxy transports(troops? materiel?) coming in from the west and leaving to the southeast. Along with other indicators of buildup to war he mentioned was one that surprised me because if he is correct (and if I understand him correctly) it implies German preparations for participation.

14 posted on 08/16/2002 5:14:34 PM PDT by Eala
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: RightWhale
(from today's Mobile Register)


Docks Closed-Mouthed About Military Copters

An Undisclosed number of U.S. military helicopters circled downtown Mobile on Thursday and were loaded onto a ship bound for an un-named foreign port, according to Alabama State Docks officials

Dock officials said further information about the shipment was confidential.

(short brief little article)

15 posted on 08/16/2002 5:20:01 PM PDT by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: mvpel
They're describing the Iraqi army as "rusting," but somehow they've managed to put together nukes, according to DEBKA. Yeah right.

Well, it was the arsenal they said was rusting. But it may be that the nukes might offer him more leeway than more conventional weaponry that, let's be blunt, we can easily afford to take out in short order no matter how much he has it polished up... well, it might seem to him that the money's better spent on nukes.

And it's not like he has to develop the most technologically advanced lightweight and compact nukes. Some really ancient nuke technology such as what we had in the 1950s (remember then? before B-52s, before calculators, before most Freepers) might do just fine.

16 posted on 08/16/2002 5:27:43 PM PDT by Eala
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Kermit
Impressive writer, at the very least.
17 posted on 08/16/2002 5:57:16 PM PDT by the_doc
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kermit
I've always been a subtle contrarian.

I believe all the European bluster against our impending "war" against Iraq is just a smoke screen to the reality.

That reality says that the Euros are on board.
The Saudis are on board.
The Dems and Pubbies are on board.

The proof of WMDs has been shown to the leaders.

When the time comes, we will all be amazed at the speed and efficiency with which Iraqi opposition will be dispatched.

The plan is to catch the enemy with his pants down.

The battle plan could be called the "Clinton Operation".

18 posted on 08/16/2002 5:59:21 PM PDT by CROSSHIGHWAYMAN
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Dog; JohnHuang2; Grampa Dave; Howlin; A Citizen Reporter; illstillbe; ohioWfan; kattracks; ...
This sems to be a fairly accurate summary of what has been going on. I am glad to see a lot of info put together in one place.
19 posted on 08/16/2002 6:01:50 PM PDT by Miss Marple
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

So Saddam is playing the role of Monica? Just wondering.
20 posted on 08/16/2002 6:04:22 PM PDT by Billy_bob_bob
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-59 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson