United States and Britain special operations forces have begun to conduct long-range reconnaissance missions from their bases along the 180 kilometer border between Iraq and Jordan. Israeli forces are also said to be involved. At least 5,000 US troops are already in Jordan, according to an official source in Amman and there are educated guesses that the true figure was closer to 7,000. Among them are about 100 British SAS operators. Jordans Foreign Minister conceded that the number of foreign troops may have risen to 2,000 or 3,000.
While the rumors of US special operations forces in Jordan have been around since the summer of 2002, the presence of Israelis is a new and interesting twist. The Sayeret Matkal (Israels commando force) are also allegedly executing covert reconnaissance operations inside the Western Iraqi desert, looking for Saddam's Scuds.
Meanwhile, Jordan urged neighboring Arab states to overcome their political differences and establish a joint rapid deployment force (consisting mainly of special forces) in the Gulf, as part of a collective security step to reduce the number of foreign forces in the region. While the chance of his idea being accepted is pretty slim, Crown Prince Faisal outlined how collective security would entail establishing a coalition command center that shares critical intelligence, along with conventional air, land and sea forces able to deploy to predetermined staging areas. The Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) already has a 5,000-strong "Peninsula Shield" joint force, with plans to expand it to 22,000. - Adam Geibel
Sayeret MATKAL Training Photo Gallery online:
One major target for coalition commandos will be Iraqi dams. The commandos will be there to make sure Saddam's henchmen do not destroy the dams. While it would seem foolish for Saddam to destroy dams, and kill thousands of Iraqis downstream, he knows he could do it and get away with blame it on American bombers. After all, many in the Moslem world still believe that the September 11, 2001 attacks were all an Israeli plot, and a Frenchman wrote a book claiming that the attacks were staged by the CIA, and this became a best seller in France. The most important dams, from a military point of view, are two north of Baghdad. If these are blown, large parts of the city would be flooded, along with vast amounts of farmland around the city. In the south, there are several dams, some built recently to drain swamps hiding anti-Saddam guerillas, that could be opened or destroyed to turn much of the terrain south of Basra back into swamp. And there is a huge dam up north by Mosul. Since the U.S. is no longer planning to advance from the north, blowing this dam would be done just to stick it the Kurds. This dam holds back over nine billion gallons of water, and releasing all this would drown a lot of people downstream.
The US has advised the UN that it would be a good idea to get it's 202 arms inspection personnel out of Iraq. For the past week, most embassies have been sending all, or most, of their staff out of Iraq.
US military planners are confident that they have a good idea of who they are facing and how likely it will be for each Iraqi general to fight, surrender or just stay out of the battle until the dust clears. The CIA has shared enormous quantities of intelligence data on Iraqi commanders. This, combined with what Department of Defense intelligence had, has given American unit commanders an unprecedented view of who they are up against. Moreover, American negotiators have been in touch with many of the Iraqi commanders, to arrange surrender. Most Iraqis are fed up with Saddam and his crowd, and dozens of Iraqi generals and colonels have defected in the last year. Many more have been executed by Saddam on suspicion of plotting against him.