2003 April 03 Thursday
Coalition Forces May Stop Outside Of Baghdad

US forces may stop outside of Baghdad, grab just a few key pieces of it, conduct only special forces operations in Baghdad and wait for the regime to collapse.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated the coming days might bring neither an all-out fight for the city, as many have predicted, nor a conventional siege of the capital.

``When you get to the point where Baghdad is basically isolated, then what is the situation you have in the country?'' he said at a Pentagon news conference. ``You have a country that Baghdad no longer controls, that whatever's happening inside Baghdad is almost irrelevant compared to what's going on in the rest of the country.''

It will be interesting to see how this strategy plays out. Do they think they can get the regime to break up into factions? Can they get into the underground tunnel passageways without capturing all of the city? Can they build large spy networks to track the movements and activities of members of the regime in Baghdad? There are a lot of possibilities.

The US military obviously wants to avoid large numbers of casualties.

Although he did not rule out any scenario for Baghdad, Myers' comments strongly suggested that the intention is to bleed Saddam's government of its political and military authority without launching an all-out ground assault that would risk high casualties.

ABC TV correspondent Mike Cerre reports so many people streaming away from Baghdad that the military unit he is travelling with has had to stop to set up a POW compound.

"What is stopping us now is the flood of deserters and civilians, on buses, trucks, taxicabs and whatever they can catch a ride on, trying to make their way south to their families or American forces to surrender," he said.

They will need to find a way to handle the large numbers of civilians who are bound to try to flee Baghdad.

Update: The reason why this strategy may not work is illustrated in a report filed by Newsweek journalist Rob Nordland. Here he talks to Umm Qasr port workers about how everyone in southern Iraq is still living in fear of Saddam's intelligence agents.

They begin naming people they know in Safwan, overrun well before Umm Qasr, who spoke out. "One even said, 'What took you so long?' when the Americans and British arrived. And now he's dead," said a dockworker named Khalid. "We hear from Basra that they're hanging them in the streets." In their own town, the coalition authorities are acting on tips and hunting down regime activists, but that still hasn't made them feel terribly safe. "You can never tell who is from Saddam's intelligence, and if I can't tell, how can the Americans and British? They can come in our homes any night and kill us any time," says an engineer named Ali.

An AP story by Doug Mellgren with US Marines in Nasiriyah illustrates the level of fear in the minds of the Iraqi people.

The civilians seemed terrified in the first house he searched. Beitia assumed they expected the Americans to murder the men, rape the women and plunder the home.

''Then I got down on my knee and gave their little girl a piece of chewing gum,'' he related. ''The father was ecstatic. It was like I was saying I was not better than them. When I got I got down on my knee, they almost started to cry.

The job of routing out Saddam's intelligence agents will take months if not years.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 03 05:15 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War


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