Iraq: September 24, 2002


Britain released a report detailing Iraqis attempts to expand it's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. 

Military planners have to deal with the possibility that Iraq might use chemical or biological weapons during, or before, an invasion. The most dangerous situation would be a Scud with a chemical warhead fired into Kuwait, Bahrain or Qatar while American troops were getting ready for an invasion. Such an attack is unlikely because the casualties to Arab civilians would cause a great outcry from Arabs against the Iraqis. But such an attack would catch US troops without their chemical warfare equipment on and thus cause greater casualties. If chemical weapons are used against troops deployed for combat, you are only going to inflict a few percent casualties. But against unprepared troops, the casualty rate can go to 50 percent or more. In response to the chemical threat, efforts are being made to locate and keep an eye on Iraqis chemical and biological weapons. The Iraqi leadership have also been quietly told that they will be held personally responsible if these weapons are used. While Saddam might order the weapons used, if his subordinates refuse, there's not a lot Saddam can do about it once the battle has begun.

The war plans against Iraq assume that most Iraqi troops won't fight. Iraqi plans apparently agree, as Saddam keeps even his Republican Guard out of Baghdad lest it switch sides. The major problem is not seen as defeating the Iraqi armed forces (Western armies have been doing that regularly for over 60 years), but in dealing with the aftermath. The major problem is corruption and religious/political/ethnic hatreds. The Baath party has run the country for four decades and the Sunni Arab minority control the Baath party. Some ten percent of the population exploits the other 90 percent. While not all of the ten percent are loyal to Saddam, they are looking out for themselves. While most of the ruling ten percent are Sunni, many are Kurd and Shia officials who make a good living by helping the Baath party stay in power. 

Iraq has a middle class and many university trained professionals. But most of these are Sunni Arabs, and not liked or trusted by the majority of Iraqis. Occupying Iraq would mean finding Iraqis with the skills to run the country, but are not hated and mistrusted by most Iraqis. It's same problem encountered in Japan and Germany after World War II. It will take a major effort to purge the Baath party members from government work. But unlike Germany and Japan, the corrupt attitudes go beyond tainted government officials. Finding people who will govern honestly, and not steal in the name of their tribe or clan, will be very difficult. There are some 150 tribes in Iraq, and many more clan organizations. Tribe and clan come first, Iraq comes a distant second. Occupation forces will have to deal with Kurds and Shias intent on inflicting revenge for half a century of persecution, and then getting their share of the oil wealth. The Sunnis will try to barter their skills, and professed loyalty and honesty, to retain important jobs. The challenges after the battle will be far more formidable than any resistance the Iraqi armed forces might provide. 


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