Skip to comments.Iraq: In all but name, the war's on
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:
But in part the actions go well beyond that. In Kurdish Iraq - according to Israeli sources - US army engineers are working around the clock to build a series of six to eight airstrips to serve fighter planes and helicopters that will provide air cover for invading ground forces. The airfields are strung along a western axis from the city of Zako southwest to the city of Sinjar; a central axis from Zako south to Arbil; and an eastern axis from Arbil to Sulimaniyeh.
Special Forces teams are involved in on-the-ground military target identification, mapping out Scud and anti-aircraft battery locations. They are also helping set up, equip and train Kurdish militias and are cooperating closely with Turkish counterparts engaged in the same activities in Turkoman regions.
US and British aircraft are probing Iraqi defenses beyond the no-fly zones close to Baghdad. On August 6, they destroyed the Iraqi air command and control center at al-Nukhaib in the desert between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The center is wired to fiber optic networks installed last year by Chinese companies. New types of precision-guided bombs disabled the fiber optic system. The broad aim of recent bombing runs is to thoroughly disrupt Iraqi command, control and communications functions.
In light of these developments, the various "war plans" bandied about in the US press - with the New York Times and the Washington Post trying to outdo each other with the latest scoops - are largely irrelevant as such, whether it's the "Northern Alliance Option" (US troops and intelligence personnel aiding an attack by opposition forces); the original "Franks Plan" (massed attack involving some 250,000 troops); the "inside-out" approach (commando attacks on Baghdad and key Iraqi command centers first, followed by mopping-up action); or the "status-quo" or "do-nothing" option of continued containment of Saddam. Elements of all of these scenarios will eventually be seen as having been incorporated in the removal of the Iraqi leader.
Equally irrelevant is speculation on the timing (September/October for the sake of surprise? January/February a la Gulf War to avoid the desert heat?) of "the" allied attack. Attacks of various kinds are ongoing. Their intensity and intrusiveness can increase at any time ... or decrease again. It's a game of options and contingencies, backed by ever increasing material capabilities; perhaps a game of prodding Saddam into a tactical mistake or a flight-forward reaction. Earlier this year, a British journalist asked Bush how exactly he was going to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He replied, "Wait and see." The journalist, like many of his colleagues, may well still be waiting - for lack of ability to see that the war is on. Some high-speed, high-intensity strikes may later be called "The Iraq War", but it began no later than March.
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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.
Well, look at it this way: given the quality of our Congress, any declarations they made would be lowfalutin' anyway.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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".
Close, but no cigar.........
No. Actually, Saddam is playing the role of the slickster and the Bush's bite this time will be fatal!!
There's no way at all that there could be a war coming and the krauts wanting to jump into the fray just for ol' times sake, and to stay in practice.
NO WAY that the limeys could be watching us getting ready to go whup some @$$ and wanting to help with the parades and stuff!
NO WAY, AND I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED I TELL YOU TO HEAR YOU EVEN SUGGEST SUCH A THING!
No way that Dick Armey and those guys could just be play-acting for Saddam's benefit!
(How about the Frogs? Are they gonna cover the Limey's left flank like last time?)
There's also this one, which takes the opposite point of view:
The one I linked to seems to be a bit out of date, but it's getting more comments, so far.
Funny, Iraq's got all it's forces on the spot already. Howcome everyone thinks the war'll start when it's convenient for us?
There will be very little doubt when the actual war, if any, really does start. Trust me on that one.
Its much more likely that WMD will be used against rebel populations and US force bases in northern and southern Iraq where the world outcry will be less and the range of delivery vehicles greater.
Last, the key is the oil and its cash flow. If we cut it off or control it, then his Russian and French apologists shut up and get in line. Even the most loyal mercenary thugs know when their isn't another paycheck. They'll hang his beaten and bloody body from a lamp post for an appropriate cash reward and amnesty.
No weapons of mass destruction will be used by Iraq until Saddam is finished, and then they will be hand-delivered against the US civilian population.
We could offer him luxurious confinement on some island, a la Napoleon on Elba (with better guards to prevent a similar escape.) With so much of the U.S. government up in arms against the International Criminal Court, that strikes me as a better solution than a trial before an international tribunal.
In any case, I think Germany is likely to drop any opposition to us once Stoiber wins next month's election.
This article seems to make a good bit of sense. Chris, I'd be interested in your take.
It's a Silent War. Saddam knows it's happening, but he can't do anything about it. He's in the same position Hitler was vis a vis the United States in the summer of 1941. The U.S. was actively helping the Royal Navy in convoy duty and Hitler was loathe to retaliate, as he didn't want to give America a casus belli while his troops were moving deep into Russia.
I think I understand now.
Actions will be undertaken from here on in with increasing frequency. The SF will be using guerrilla tactics to soften up the Iraqi regime prior to the Main Event. The airbases are being upgraded so that the maximum number of troops can be airlifted in at any one time into Iraq itself.
Why worry about basing rights when you've siezed the northern tier of the country? They become your main base. Saddam's been counting on the Saudis and the Jordanians to turn us down. Saddam didn't figure that the Turks and ourselves would be so bold as to seize parts of his territory to use as a base.
Be Seeing You,
You got the words right but your sarcsm is all wrong. The drafters of the Constitution foresaw the need for the President as Commander in Chief to ACT with dispatch and thus they deliberately omitted "permission" from Congress. They gave Congress the power to declare war....knowing that it might be a time consuming partisan process just as it is today with all those empty-headed liberals in place. The framers of the Constitution knew the game of politics quite well and anticipated the disloyal opposition.
By deploying forces in small, regular bursts over a long time period it doesn't give the game away.
I don't want to break the security guidelines here though.
Oddly enough, our press is reporting the bits and pieces, but they aren't connecting the dots.
Are they being patriotic?
Or deliberately ignoring it until they can figure out a way to criticize it?
But Tenet in Iraq? He doesn't seem to me to be the type to take such a risk, and furthermore I don't see the administration as taking such a risk as allowing someone like that into enemy territory.
President Bush better make another one of those speeches telling us how patient we are, because I am gettting a bit antsy. LOL!
section9 ..."Why worry about basing rights when you've siezed the northern tier of the country ..."
Indeed ... very good point ... seems thinking out of the box keeps your from being boxed in ...
Saddam's strategy is all-or-nothing. There is absolutely nothing he can do to stop us from dismembering his country. And, when he's left ruling over the rump of a country -- and I'm guessing maybe we're talking early 2004 now -- who is going to want to stick around in Baghdad, knowing what's next on the menu?
When Ariel Sharon said, months ago, that Israeli policy was to "isolate" Arafat, he was describing a trial run, a prototype for the end game. All this was figured out in September-October last year. They looked at the chess board, they looked at our assets, they looked at his assets, and they figured out what to do about it. And, no, nothing the New York Times can come up with is going to make a lick of difference to what happens next.
Meteoric iron has this characteristic. Back then, meteoric iron was the preferred iron, just pick it up off the ground. They progressed to mining iron ore when this source gave out even though smelted iron is prone to rust. Nickel, too, can come from old meteorite hits. Canadian nickels seem to be meteoric nickel.