Iraq: April 8, 2002


In one scenario, the coming War With Iraq would begin with a massive air bombardment, followed by a thousand or more special forces troops (and unmanned recon drones) fanning out to track down targets, identify weapons of mass destruction, and block key movement routes. Even after paralyzing the Iraqi military, however, it would take a hundred thousand troops (five or six divisions) a month to topple Saddam. Anything other than a massive invasion would all but certainly leave Saddam in power. And even an invasion might not be easy. One option open to Saddam would be to hide in a remote area (or another country) and try to maintain enough command of his forces to make a US occupation untenable and a US-imposed new government unworkable. Another would be to dig in the entire Republican Guard inside the city of Baghdad, mixed among hundreds of thousands of civilians. This would require a bloody house-to-house fight with tens of thousands of civilian casualties. The US would probably run out of political capital before Saddam ran out of troops. Yet another option would be for Saddam to accept UN weapons inspectors and then return to his original games of hiding what they want to see and blocking the inspectors at every turn, counting on French, Chinese, and Russian votes on the Security Council to prevent any serious sanctions. There is no support for such a move among Arab countries (except maybe Kuwait) and little among Moslem nations (except, perhaps, Turkey, and them only silently). The current crisis in Israel is in many ways the result of the open secret of US intentions to wage war on Iraq. The Arab states have bluntly told the US that it must pressure Israel into a deal (one that would only last a few years before a tactically disadvantaged Israel could be overwhelmed and destroyed) before expecting any agreement on an invasion of Iraq. The Bush Administration has begun to seek other means of dealing with Saddam because of the lack of support for any invasion, but is also shuffling forces and equipment into the nations most likely to silently accept a US move (Oman, Kuwait) in case it has to invade Iraq without Saudi help.--Stephen V Cole


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