Monday, March 31, 2003

As Bush’s advisers argue about who is responsible for the lack of sufficient fire power in Iraq (and is therefore responsible for the high casualty rates suffered by our troops), George Bush’s main political contributors are fighting it out for the spoils of a war that may never be won. From the Guardian:

Halliburton, the company once headed by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, has failed to make the shortlist for an American government contract to rebuild Iraq, it emerged today.

Halliburton, an oil services company, was one of five companies invited by the US agency for international development (USAid) to bid for a $600m (£381m) contract to rebuild Iraq's basic infrastructure.

Only US companies were invited to bid, to the fury of British industrialists and unions, who pointed out that British troops are fighting alongside American soldiers.

The five companies also had close ties to the Bush administration, sparking accusations that the White House was returning favours for generous political campaign contributions.

Allegations of unduly cozy ties between the Bush administration and corporate benefactors has dogged the White House, going back to the scandal over Enron, the failed energy company.


The scale of the work has astonished experts who have examined the plans.

"We are embarking on a very aggressive effort, both figuratively and literally, at nation-building - far, far bigger than anything we have seen since the Marshall Plan," said Steven Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government.

Rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure after war and years of sanctions will be a mammoth task and companies are eager to win contracts in an industry suffering from the global economic slowdown.

Some analysts estimate that the final bill for rebuilding and improving Iraq would be roughly equivalent to the operating budget of a US state with a comparable population. Texas, with 22 million people, has a budget of $57bn.

As construction companies position themselves for lucrative contracts, the rebuilding of Iraq has already emerged as a politically contentious issue. Tony Blair is at odds with the Bush administration on wanting the UN to take the lead role in running and reconstructing the country once the war ends. But administration hawks argue that the spoils of war should go to American companies as the US is bearing the brunt of the war effort.

In a possible foretaste of what is to come, the US and Britain clashed on who should rebuild the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. USAid awarded a $4.8m to rebuild Iraq's only deep water port, which is under British military control, to an American company, Stevedoring Services of America.

Britain argued in favour of returning the port to local control to win Iraqi confidence.

Tony Blair throws himself on a political hand grenade for Bush, and in return Bush won’t even brush off a few crumbs for Blair. Bush needs every one of these contracts to help his re-election campaign in 2004.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Here’s a quick review of the English press. From the Guardian:

Blair's drawn face, with its deepening gullies set in a near permanent hard frown, tells the story. This is the internationalist who is aiding and abetting, however unintentionally, the break-up of the UN system. The pro-European who is the trigger of the most acute divisions in the European Union since its foundation. The wannabe progressive whose closest allies are Washington's neo-conservatives and conservative leaders in Italy and Spain.

Worse, he is fighting a barely legitimate war that is already a military and diplomatic quagmire, where even eventual victory may not avert a political disaster. He knows his capacity to survive the diplomatic humiliations piled on him by the Bush administration is limited; you cannot long lead Britain's centre and centre-left from such a compromised position, wounding not only the country's profoundest interests but torching any linkage with the progressive project. For the first time his premiership is genuinely at risk.

It is a political tragedy, Shakespearean in the cruelty of its denouement. 9/11 accelerated trends in America that had been crystallising since the 1970s and which made the political structures in which successive British Governments have managed simultaneously to play both the American and European cards unsustainable. Blair was confronted with an invidious choice that nobody in the British establishment has wanted to make: Europe or America. Side with Europe to insist that the price of collaboration in the fight against terrorism had to be that the US observe genuinely multilateral international due process - and certainly say No to some of Washington's wilder aims. Or side with America insisting from the inside that it engaged in its wars multilaterally, and hope to bring Europe along in your wake.

Either choice was beset with risk, but it's hard to believe that siding with Europe, for all its evident difficulties, would have produced an outcome worse than the situation in which we currently find ourselves: a protracted war with no second UN Resolution, no commitment to UN governance of post-war Iraq, no commitment to a mid-East peace settlement. But Blair misread the character of American conservatism, its grip on the American body politic and its scope for rationality. He continues to do so, the miscalculation of his life.


The capture of universities by the rich and the lack of education for the poor has meant that social mobility in the US has collapsed. American capitalism, in thrall to the stock market and quick bucks it offers, has hollowed out its great corporations in the name of the hallowed conservative conception of share- holder value - the sole purpose of a company is to enrich its owners. Productivity and social mobility are now higher in Old Europe than in the US - despite a tidal wave of propaganda to the contrary. Ordinary Americans are beset by risks and lack of opportunity in a land of extraordinary inequality.

Yet it is internationally that the rest of the world feels the consequences. Even before 9/11 the Bush administration had signalled its intention to be unencumbered by - as it saw it - vitality sapping, virility constraining, option closing international treaties and alliances, whether membership of the International Criminal Court or the Kyoto accords on climate change. It intended to assert American power as a matter of ideological principle; 9/11 turned principle into an apparent imperative in order to guarantee the security of the 'homeland'.

There are only two possible rival power centres that champion a more rational approach to world order - in the US a revived and self-confident Democratic party, and abroad an unified European Union. Britain's national interest requires that we ally ourselves as powerfully as we can with these forces - both of whom are only too ready to make common cause. Blair has done neither. Either he is now a convinced conservative or the author of a historic political misjudgment. Neither the Labour party nor the country can indulge this ineptitude much longer.

From today’s pro-war Times (registration required) a harrowing story of American soldiers winning the hearts and minds of Iraqi civilians: (All that follows is the Times story by Mark Franchetti, it is too long to put in italics, and the Sunday Times web site is very difficult to access)

THE light was a strange yellowy grey and the wind was coming up, the beginnings of a sandstorm. The silence felt almost eerie after a night of shooting so intense it hurt the eardrums and shattered the nerves. My footsteps felt heavy on the hot, dusty asphalt as I walked slowly towards the bridge at Nasiriya. A horrific scene lay ahead.

Some 15 vehicles, including a minivan and a couple of trucks, blocked the road. They were riddled with bullet holes. Some had caught fire and turned into piles of black twisted metal. Others were still burning.

Amid the wreckage I counted 12 dead civilians, lying in the road or in nearby ditches. All had been trying to leave this southern town overnight, probably for fear of being killed by US helicopter attacks and heavy artillery.

Their mistake had been to flee over a bridge that is crucial to the coalition’s supply lines and to run into a group of shell-shocked young American marines with orders to shoot anything that moved.

One man’s body was still in flames. It gave out a hissing sound. Tucked away in his breast pocket, thick wads of banknotes were turning to ashes. His savings, perhaps.

Down the road, a little girl, no older than five and dressed in a pretty orange and gold dress, lay dead in a ditch next to the body of a man who may have been her father. Half his head was missing.

Nearby, in a battered old Volga, peppered with ammunition holes, an Iraqi woman — perhaps the girl’s mother — was dead, slumped in the back seat. A US Abrams tank nicknamed Ghetto Fabulous drove past the bodies.

This was not the only family who had taken what they thought was a last chance for safety. A father, baby girl and boy lay in a shallow grave. On the bridge itself a dead Iraqi civilian lay next to the carcass of a donkey.
Next morning, the men of Alpha company talked about the fighting over MREs (meals ready to eat). They were jittery now and reacted nervously to any movement around their dugouts. When cars were spotted speeding along two roads, frantic calls were made over the radio to get permission to “kill the vehicles”. Twenty-four hours earlier it would almost certainly have been denied: now it was granted.

Immediately, the level of force levelled at civilian vehicles was overwhelming. Tanks were placed on the road and AAVs lined along one side. Several taxis were destroyed by helicopter gunships as they drove down the road.

A lorry filled with sacks of wheat made the fatal mistake of driving through US lines. The order was given to fire. Several AAVs pounded it with a barrage of machinegun fire, riddling the windscreen with at least 20 holes. The driver was killed instantly. The lorry swerved off the road and into a ditch. Rumour spread that the driver had been armed and had fired at the marines. I walked up to the lorry, but could find no trace of a weapon.

This was the start of day that claimed many civilian casualties. After the lorry a truck came down the road. Again the marines fired. Inside, four men were killed. They had been travelling with some 10 other civilians, mainly women and children who were evacuated, crying, their clothes splattered in blood. Hours later a dog belonging to the dead driver was still by his side.

At the barracks, the marines hung a US flag from a statue of Saddam, but Lieutenant-Colonel Rick Grabowski, the battalion commander, ordered it down. He toured barracks. There were stacks of Russian- made ammunition and hundreds of Iraqi army uniforms, some new, others left behind by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.

As night fell again there was great tension, the marines fearing an ambush. Two tanks and three AAVs were placed at the north end of the third bridge, their guns pointing down towards Nasiriya, and given orders to shoot at any vehicle that drove towards American positions.

Though civilians on foot passed by safely, the policy was to shoot anything that moved on wheels. Inevitably, terrified civilians drove at speed to escape: marines took that speed to be a threat and hit out. During the night, our teeth on edge, we listened a dozen times as the AVVs’ machineguns opened fire, cutting through cars and trucks like paper.

Next morning I saw the result of this order — the dead civilians, the little girl in the orange and gold dress.

Suddenly, some of the young men who had crossed into Iraq with me reminded me now of their fathers’ generation, the trigger-happy grunts of Vietnam. Covered in the mud from the violent storms, they were drained and dangerously aggressive.

In the days afterwards, the marines consolidated their position and put a barrier of trucks across the bridge to stop anyone from driving across, so there were no more civilian deaths.

They also ruminated on what they had done. Some rationalised it.

“I was shooting down a street when suddenly a woman came out and casually began to cross the street with a child no older than 10,” said Gunnery Sergeant John Merriman, another Gulf war veteran. “At first I froze on seeing the civilian woman. She then crossed back again with the child and went behind a wall. Within less than a minute a guy with an RPG came out and fired at us from behind the same wall. This happened a second time so I thought, ‘Okay, I get it. Let her come out again’.

She did and this time I took her out with my M-16.”

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Here is what they are saying about the “The Poodle” in Britain. From The Guardian:

But in Blair's war the defeats are not confined to the battlefield. Diplomatically he is being humiliated, running to Washington or Camp David or wherever Bush summons him, only to receive the most meagre reward. So, having reassured a sceptical country and party that this war would be authorised by a second UN resolution, he broke his back to get one while the US barely broke a sweat. Blair worked the phones; Bush made no secret of his nonchalance whether he got a UN mandate or not.

Rebuffed once, Blair set his sights a little lower. Instead of UN approval before the war, he sought a UN role after it. That promise was enough to keep Clare Short on side, but even that is proving too much for Washington. Blair returned to Britain yesterday with next to nothing from Bush and certainly no firm promise that the US will let the UN administer postwar Iraq. At their joint press conference, Blair was reduced to talking merely of an "appropriate" post- conflict administration, while Bush pointedly did not mention the UN at all.

No topic confirms Blair's humiliation more fully, though, than the Middle East peace process. Blair wants progress here partly because he genuinely believes in it and partly to mollify anti-war anger on both the Arab street and the Labour backbenches. And what does Blair have to show, in this area, for his shoulder-to- shoulder loyalty to Bush? Nada, zip and zilch. All he has managed to extract is a promise to publish a document - the much-vaunted roadmap - which was written last autumn and which, in itself, has no teeth at all.

Bush made that pledge on the eve of war, when London was still trying to win over the waverers: he probably said it to help Blair out, with his cabinet and in the security council. But it has still not appeared. Blair is repeatedly asked to explain this fact, and watching him make excuses for Washington's laggard behaviour is becoming excruciating.

First, we were told the road map would appear once the Palestinians had appointed a prime minister. On Tuesday Blair revealed that the goalposts had shifted: the new Palestinian PM, Abu Mazen, would have to name his cabinet first. Then, on Thursday, Blair explained that Abu Mazen's "confirmation had to be properly administered" - whatever that means. A British prime minister is having to cover for the fact that Washington is not interested in advancing Middle East peace while this war is on - and maybe not afterwards either.

It is mortifying to behold, a British PM risking everything in the hope that he can nudge an instinctively unilateralist Republican president toward processes and institutions he and his team either doubt or mock.

Here is what the pro-war Times is saying:

THE war in Iraq threatened to spill over into neighbouring countries yesterday when Washington warned Syria and Iran to stay out of the fight.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, accused Syria of arming President Saddam Hussein. He said the shipments, including nightvision goggles, were a direct threat to US and British forces and he added that Washington would hold Damascus accountable for “hostile acts” if the traffic continued.

Mr Rumsfeld said the movement of military supplies, equipment and people across the Syrian border “vastly complicates our situation”. Asked if he was threatening Damascus with military action, he replied: “I’m saying exactly what I’m saying. It was carefully phrased.”

Mr Rumsfeld also said that hundreds of revolutionaries of the Badr Corps, who are trained, equipped and directed by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard, were operating inside Iraq. He said American forces would be forced to treat them as enemy “combatants” and the Iranian Government would be held responsible for their actions.

The surprise threats raised the spectre that the war could suddenly and quickly spiral out of control. Arab opinion was further inflamed last night by reports that more than 50 civilians had been killed in an air raid that hit a market in the residential Baghdad neighbourhood of Shula.


Yesterday Britain’s senior army commander warned Tony Blair that the British military was already overstretched; the huge commitment of troops to Iraq was “not sustainable over a long period”. General Sir Mike Jackson’s statement followed an admission by America’s ground commander in the Gulf that overextended supply lines and the enemy’s surprising resilience had meant the war could last longer than predicted.


A quarter of the British Army is in Iraq and General Jackson confirmed that there were contingency plans to send in reinforcements to replace exhausted troops if necessary. Half the Army is now committed to operations around the world and about 19,000 service personnel are tied up in the standby firefighting force in Britain.

Friday, March 28, 2003

From today’s Guardian:

According to a report to be published today by the US watchdog Center for Public Integrity, at least 10 out of 30 members of the Pentagon committee are executives or lobbyists with companies that have tens of billions of dollars' worth of contracts with the US defence department and other government agencies.

Britain's chief military officer in the Gulf, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, yesterday attacked American moves to hand over the running of Iraq's largest port to a company which has a history of bad industrial relations and has faced accusations of union- busting.

The firm, Stevedoring Services of American, has been awarded a £3m contract to manage Umm Qasr by the Bush administration. Britain argues that the port should be run by Iraqis once it has been made secure.

Another contract in Umm Qasr - for construction work - has gone to a subsidiary of Halliburton, Vice-President Dick Cheney's old firm.

The war is set to cost around $75 billion of which $63 billion is actually for the war, $4 billion for “Homeland Security”, and $8 billion goes to pay for the greatest Rent-A-Coalition that the world has ever seen. Estimates for Iraqi oil sales are around $15-$20 billion a year. Using these numbers, many people are saying that this war can not be about money, oil, or profit because it would take at least four years for us to get our money back out of Iraq. After all, if it costs us $75 billion, and in the end we get back only $60 billion, we have lost, and surely the Bush Administration can do simple math, as well as being good capitalists, so profit can not be the reason for this bloodbath.

Such a statement shows complete ignorance as to who actually pays the money up front and who receives the money that we get in return. As Bush transfers more of the tax burden on to middle and lower income people by cutting taxes on the rich and hyper-rich, the costs of the war in money is pushed further down out the income brackets. The rich do then share a bit of the financial costs, which is certainly not the case when it comes to the blood costs, which are exclusively paid for by the poor and lower middle classes, whose sons and daughters comes back in large numbers either dead, injured for life, or mentally damaged.

Yet who receives the financial benefits from the war in Iraq?

These will be the exclusive domain of the rich.
The latest from Moscow. The last paragraph is very interesting. It is hard to decide what to make of these reports, I believe there are certainly elements of truth here. What I have noticed with the American explanations of soldier’s deaths is that they are always a result of either Iraqi trickery or friendly fire, never a legitimate battlefield casualty inflected by the enemy.

We will have to wait until the books are written on this conflict before we can really start understanding what is going on. All that follows is the Russian report:

March 27, 2003, 1425hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - There has been a sharp increase in activity on the southern front. As of 0700hrs the coalition forces are subjected to nearly constant attacks along the entire length of the front. The Iraqi command took the advantage of the raging sand storm to regroup its troops and to reinforce the defenses along the approaches to Karabela and An-Najaf with two large armored units (up to two armored brigades totaling up to 200 tanks). The Iraqi attack units were covertly moved near the positions of the US 3rd Infantry Division (Motorized) and the 101st Airborne Division. With sunrise and a marginal visibility improvement the Iraqis attacked these US forces in the flank to the west of Karabela.

Simultaneously, massive artillery barrages and counterattacks were launched against units of the US 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division conducting combat operations near An-Najaf. The situation [for the US troops] was complicated by the fact that the continuing sand storm forced them to group their units into battalion convoys in order to avoid losing troops and equipment in near zero-visibility conditions. These battalion convoys were concentrated along the roads leading to Karabela and An-Najaf and had only limited defenses. There was no single line of the front; aerial reconnaissance in these conditions was not possible and until the very last moment the coalition command was unaware of the Iraqi preparations.

During one of such attacks [the Iraqi forces] caught off-guard a unit of the US 3rd Infantry Division that was doing vehicle maintenance and repairs. In a short battle the US unit was destroyed and dispersed, leaving behind one armored personnel carrier, a repair vehicle and two Abrams tanks, one of which was fully operational.

At the present time visibility in the combat zone does not exceed 300 meters, which limits the effectiveness of the 101st Airborne Division and that of its 70 attack helicopters representing the main aerial reconnaissance and ground support force of the coalition. One of the coalition transport helicopters crashed yesterday during take-off. The reason for the crash was sand in the engine compressors.

The Iraqis were able to get in range for close combat without losses and now fierce battles are continuing in the areas of Karabela and An-Najaf. The main burden of supporting the coalition ground troops has been placed with the artillery and ground attack aircraft. Effectiveness of the latter is minimal due to the weather conditions. Strikes can be delivered only against old Iraqi targets with known coordinates, while actually supporting the ground troops engaged in combat is virtually impossible and attempts to do so lead to the most unfortunate consequences.

Intercepted radio communications show that at around 0615hrs this morning the lead of a flight of two A-10 ground attack planes detected a convoy of armored vehicles. Unable to see any markings identifying these vehicles as friendly and not being able to contact the convoy by radio the pilot directed artillery fire to the coordinates of the convoy.

Later it was discovered that this was a coalition convoy. Thick layers of dust covered up the identification markings - colored strips of cloth in the rear of the vehicles. Electronic jamming made radio contact impossible. First reports indicated that the US unit lost 50 troops killed and wounded. At least five armored vehicles have been destroyed, one of which was an Abrams tank.

During the past day the coalition losses in this area [ Karabela and An-Najaf ] were 18-22 killed and up to 40 wounded. Most of the fatalities were sustained due to unexpected attacks by the Iraqi Special Forces against the coalition rears and against communication sites. This is a sign of the increasing diversionary and partisan actions by the Iraqis.

During the same period of time the Iraqi forces sustained up to 100 killed, about the same number of wounded and up to 50 captured.

Since the beginning of the operation no more than 2000 Iraqi troops were captured by the coalition. The majority of the captured troops were members of regional defense [militia] units.

The Iraqis were able to move significant reinforcements to the area of An-Nasiriya making it now extremely difficult for the Americans to widen their staging areas on the left bank of the Euphrates. Moreover, the Americans [on the left bank of the Euphrates] may end up in a very difficult situation if the Iraqis manage to destroy the bridges and to separate [these US units] from the main coalition force. The US forces in this area consist of up to 4,000 Marines from the 1st Marine Division and supporting units of the 82nd Airborne Division. Currently, fighting has resumed in the An-Nasiriya suburbs.

During one of the Iraqi attacks yesterday against the US positions the Iraqis for the first time employed the "Grad" mobile multiple rocket launch systems [MLRS]. As the result an entire US unit was taken out of combat after sustaining up to 40 killed and wounded as well as losing up to 7 armored vehicles.

There are no other reports of any losses in this area [ An-Nasiriya] except for one US Marine drowning in one of the city's water canals and another Marine being killed by a sniper.

During the sand storm the coalition command lost contact with up to 4 coalition reconnaissance groups. Their whereabouts are being determined. It is still unknown what happened to more than 600 other coalition troops mainly from resupply, communications and reconnaissance units communication with which was lost during the past 24 hours.

The situation around Basra remains unclear. The Iraqis control the city and its suburbs, as well as the area south of Basra and the part of the adjacent Fao peninsula, which the British have so far failed to take. The British forces are blockading Basra from the west and northwest. However, due to difficult marshy terrain crossed by numerous waterways the British have been unable to create a single line of front and to establish a complete blockade of the city. Currently main combat operations are being launched for control of a small village near Basra where the local airport is located. The British field commanders report that there has been no drop in the combat activity of the Iraqis. On the contrary, under the cover of the sand storm up to two battalions of the "surrendered" Iraqi 51st Infantry Division were moved to the Fao peninsula to support the local defending forces.

Rumors about an uprising by the Basra Shiite population turned out to be false. Moreover, the Shiite community leaders called on the local residents to fight the "children of the Satan" - the Americans and the British.

During the past 24 hours the British sustained no less than 3 killed and up to 10 wounded due to mortar and sniper fire.

It is difficult to estimate the Iraqi losses [in Basra] due to limited available information. However, some reports suggest that up to 30 Iraqi troops were killed during the past day by artillery and aircraft fire.

During an attack against a coalition checkpoint in Umm Qasr last night one British marine infantry soldier was heavily wounded. This once again points to the tentative nature of the British claims of control over the town.

Information coming from northern regions of Iraq indicates that most of the Kurdish leaders chose not to participate in the US war against Iraq. The primary reason for that is the mistrust of the Kurds toward the US. Yesterday one of the Russian intelligence sources obtained information about a secret agreement reached between the US and the Turkish government. In the agreement the US, behind the backs of the Kurds, promised Turkey not to support in any way a formation of a Kurdish state in this region. The US has also promised not to prevent Turkey from sending its troops [ to Northern Kurdistan] immediately following [the coalition] capture of northern Iraq.

In essence, this gives Turkey a card-blanche to use force for a "cleanup" in Kurdistan. At the same time the Kurdish troops will be moved to fight the Iraqis outside of Kurdistan, thus rendering them unable to support their own people.

Along the border with Kurdistan Turkey has already massed a 40,000-strong army expeditionary corps that is specializing in combat operations against the Kurds. This force remains at a 4-hour readiness to begin combat operations.

All of this indicates that the coalition command will be unable to create a strong "Northern Front" during the next 3-4 days and that the US Marines and paratroopers in this area will have to limit their operations to distracting the Iraqis and to launching reconnaissance missions.

During a meeting with the Germany's chancellor [ Gerhard ] Schroeder the heads of the German military and political intelligence reported that the US is doing everything possible to conceal information on the situation in the combat zone and that the US shows an extremely "unfriendly" attitude. Germany's own intelligence-gathering capabilities in this region are very limited. This is the result of Germany, being true to its obligations as an ally, not attempting to bolster its national intelligence operations in the region and not trying to separate its intelligence agencies from the intelligence structures of NATO and the US.

There has been a confirmation of yesterday's reports about the plans of the coalition command to increase its forces fighting in Iraq. The troops of the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) are currently being airlifted to the region, while its equipment is traveling by sea around the Arabian Peninsula and the unloading is expected to begin as early as by the end of tomorrow. The Division numbers 30,000 soldiers and officers. By the end of April up to 120,000 more US troops, up to 500 tanks and up to 300 more helicopters will be moved to the region.

In addition to that, today the US President [George W] Bush asked the British Prime-Minister [Tony] Blair to increase the British military presence in Iraq by a minimum of 15,000-20,000 troops.

At the current level of combat operations and at the current level of Iraqi resistance the coalition may face a sharp shortage of troops and weapons within the next 5-7 days, which will allow the Iraqis to take the initiative. The White House took this conclusion of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff with great concern.

During the past seven days of the war the US Navy detained all ships in the Persian Gulf going to Iraq under the US "Oil for Food" program. Since yesterday all these ships are being unloaded in Kuwait. Unloaded food is being delivered by the US military to Iraq and is being distributed as "American humanitarian aid" and as a part of the "rebuilding Iraq" program. These US actions have already cause a serious scandal in the UN. The US explained its actions by its unilateral decision to freeze all Iraqi financial assets, including the Iraqi financial assets with the UN. These assets the US now considers its property and will exercise full control over them. Captains of the detained ships have already called these actions by the US a "piracy."

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

All that follows is the latest Russian intelligence analysis of the situation in Iraq. (This information is current up to Tuesday morning, European time).

March 25, 2003, 1230hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - As of the morning March 25 the situation on Iraqi fronts remains quiet. Both sides are actively preparing for future engagements. Exhausted in combat the US 3rd Motorized Infantry Division is now being reinforced with fresh units from Kuwait (presumably with up to 1 Marine brigade and 1 tank brigade from the 1st Armored Division (all coming from the coalition command reserves) and elements of the British 7th Tank Brigade from the area of Umm Qasr. The troops have a stringent requirement to regroup and, after conducting additional reconnaissance, to capture An-Nasiriya within two days.
The Iraqis have reinforced the An-Nasiriya garrison with several artillery battalions and a large number of anti-tank weapons. Additionally, the Iraqis are actively deploying landmines along the approaches to their positions.
However, currently all combat has nearly ceased due to the sand storm raging over the region. Weather forecasts anticipate the storm's end by noon of March 26. According to intercepted radio communications the coalition advance will be tied to the end of the sand storm and is planned to take place during the night of March 26-27. The coalition command believes that a night attack will allow its forces to achieve the element of surprise and to use its advantage in specialized night fighting equipment.
There have been no reports of any losses resulting from direct combat in the past 10 hours. However, there is information about two coalition combat vehicles destroyed by landmines. Three US soldiers were wounded in one of these incidents.
Positional warfare continues near Basra. The coalition forces in this area are clearly insufficient for continuing the attack and the main emphasis is being placed on artillery and aviation. The city is under constant bombardment but so far this had little impact on the combat readiness of the Iraqi units. Thus, last night an Iraqi battalion reinforced with tanks swung around the coalition positions in the area of Basra airport and attacked the coalition forces in the flanks. As the result of this attack the US forces have been thrown back 1.5-2 kilometers leaving the airport and the nearby structures in the hands of the Iraqis. Two APCs and one tank were destroyed in this encounter. According to radio intelligence at least two US soldiers were killed and no less than six US soldiers were wounded.
The coalition forces are still unable to completely capture the small town of Umm Qasr. By the end of yesterday coalition units were controlling only the strategic roads going through the town, but fierce fighting continued in the residential districts. At least two British servicemen were killed by sniper fire in Umm Qasr during the past 24 hours.
The coalition command is extremely concerned with growing resistance movement in the rear of the advancing forces. During a meeting at the coalition command headquarters it was reported that up to 20 Iraqi reconnaissance units are active behind the coalition rear. The Iraqis attack lightly armed supply units; they deploy landmines and conduct reconnaissance. Additionally, captured villages have active armed resistance that is conducting reconnaissance in the interests of the Iraqi command and is organizing attacks against coalition troops. During the past 24 hours more than 30 coalition wheeled and armored vehicles have been lost to such attacks. Some 7 coalition servicemen are missing, 3 soldiers are dead and 10 are wounded.
The coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks ordered his forces to clear coalition rears from Iraqi diversionary units and partisans in the shortest possible time. The British side will be responsible for fulfilling these orders. A unit from the 22nd SAS regiment supported by the US 1st, 5th and 10th Special Operations Groups will carry out this operation. Each of these groups has up to 12 units numbering 12-15 troops each. All of these units have some Asian or Arabic Americans. The groups also have guides and translators from among local Iraqi collaborators, who went through rapid training at specialized centers in the Czech Republic and in the UK.
The sand storms turned out to be the main enemy of the American military equipment. Just the 3rd Motorized Infantry Division had more than 100 vehicles disabled. This is causing serious concern on the part of the coalition command. The repair crews are working around the clock to return all the disabled equipment back into service. The M1A2 Abrams tanks are not known for the their reliable engines as it is, but in the sand storm conditions multiple breakdowns became a real problem for the tank crews.
All attempts by the US paratroopers to capture the town of Kirkuk have yielded no result. The Americans counted on the support of the Kurds but the latter refused to take a direct part in the attack and demanded guarantees from the US command that it will prevent a Turkish invasion. The Turkish themselves are avoiding making any promises.
Additionally, the situation [at Kirkuk] is affected by the lack of heavy weapons on the part of the US paratroopers. The aviation support alone is clearly not sufficient. The northern group of forces commander Marine Brig. Gen. Osman has requested artillery and armored vehicles.
All indications are that so far the US is unable to form a combat-capable strike force in this area.
According to satellite reconnaissance it seems likely that the Iraqis had time to remove the captured Apache Longbow attack helicopter of the 11th Aviation Regiment. The pieces remaining at the landing site following a US bombing strike indicate that the bombs hit a crudely constructed mockup.
Aerial bombardment of Baghdad has so far failed to produce the expected results. All targets designated before the war have been hit 3 to 7 times, but this had almost no effect on the combat readiness of the Iraqi army, their air defenses or the command and control structures.
It seems that during preparation for the war the Iraqis were able to create new, well-protected communication lines and control centers. There is plenty of intelligence information indicating that so far the US electronic reconnaissance was unable to locate and to penetrate the Iraqi command's communication network, which is an indication of the network's high technological sophistication.
A particular point of concern for the US command is the huge overuse of precision-guided munitions and cruise missiles. Already the supply of heavy cruise missiles like the "Tomahawk" has been reduced by a third and, at the current rate of use, in three weeks the US will be left only with the untouchable strategic supply of these missiles. A similar situation exists with other types of precision-guided munitions. "The rate of their use is incompatible with the obtained results. We are literally dropping gold into the mud!" said Gen. Richard Mayers during a meeting in Pentagon yesterday morning. [reverse translation from Russian]
The US experts already call this war a "crisis". "It was enough for the enemy to show a little resistance and some creative thinking as our technological superiority begun to quickly lose all its meaning. Our expenses are not justified by the obtained results. The enemy is using an order of magnitude cheaper weapons to reach the same goals for which we spend billions on technological whims of the defense industry!" said Gen. Stanley McCrystal during the same Pentagon meeting. [reverse translation from Russian]
Since the early morning today the coalition high command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are in an online conference joined by the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. This meeting immediately follows an earlier meeting last night at the White House. During the night meeting with President Bush emergency actions were outlined to resolve the standstill in Iraq. The existing course of actions is viewed as "ineffective and leading to a crisis". The Secretary of State Collin Powell warned that, if the war in Iraq continues for more than a month, it might lead to unpredictable consequences in international politics.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Mayers reported on the proposed actions and corrections to the plan of the operation in Iraq. George Bush demanded that the military breaks the standstill in Iraq and within a week achieves significant military progress. A particular attention, according to Bush, should be paid to finding and eliminating the top Iraqi political and military leadership. Bush believes that Saddam Hussein and his closest aides are the cornerstone of the Iraqi defense.
During today's online meeting at the coalition headquarters Gen. Franks was criticized for inefficient command of his troops and for his inability to concentrate available forces on the main tasks.
According to [Russian military] intelligence Pentagon made a decision to significantly reinforce the coalition. During the next two weeks up to 50,000 troops and no less than 500 tanks will arrive to the combat area from the US military bases in Germany and Albania. By the end of April 120,000 more troops and up to 1,200 additional tanks will be sent to support the war against Iraq.
A decision was made to change the way aviation is used in this war. The use of precision-guided munitions will be scaled down and these weapons will be reserved for attacking only known, confirmed targets. There will be an increase in the use of conventional high-yield aviation bombs, volume-detonation bombs and incendiary munitions. The USAF command is ordered to deliver to airbases used against Iraq a two-week supply of aviation bombs of 1-tonn caliber and higher as well as volume-detonation and incendiary bombs. This means that Washington is resorting to the "scorched earth" tactics and carpet-bombing campaign.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Here is the latest from Moscow (it seems strange to have to get the real news from a Russian source). As usual, I am posting the entire article because of difficulties accessing this web page: (Again, it is too long to put in italics, but all of the following is a quote)

March 24, 2003, 0800hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - As of morning (MSK, GMT +3) March 24 the situation in Iraq can be characterized as quiet on all fronts. Attacking coalition forces have settled into positional warfare, they are exhausted, lost the attacking momentum and are in urgent need for fuel, ammunition, repairs and reinforcements. The Iraqis are also busy regrouping their forces, reinforcing the combat units and setting up new defense lines.

Exceptionally heavy fighting continued for two days and nights near An-Nasiriya. Both warring sides employed large numbers of tanks and artillery. More than 20,000 troops of the US 3rd Motorized Infantry Division, supported by 200 tanks, 600 other armored vehicles and 150 artillery pieces, were opposed by the Iraqi 3rd Army Corps consisting of up to 40,000 troops, up to 250 tanks, more than 100 artillery, up to 100 mortars and 1000 rocket propelled grenade launchers (RPG) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). The two-day battle ended without any significant results.

The Americans have failed in trying to use their momentum in capturing An- Nasiriya and attempted to encircle the town from the west, where they encountered strong layered Iraqi defenses and forced to withdraw. The Iraqi forces used this opportunity to attack the US flanks with two brigades, breaking the US combat orders and causing panic among the US troops. The US command was forced to halt the advance of its forced toward An Najaf and once again redirect several tank battalions to support the attacked units. Nearly 6 hours was needed for the US aviation to stop the Iraqi attack and restore combat order of the US forces.

During the past day the coalition aviation flew more than 2,000 close support missions in this area [An-Nasiriya]. "We can only thank God for having air dominance!” said the commander of the US 15th Marines Exp. Corps Col. Thomas Waldhauser in a private conversation with one of the CNN reporters. Later the CNN journalist cited the Colonel in a phone conversation with his editor. The conversation was intercepted.

According to the intercepted radio traffic, the US forces have sustained up to 40 killed, up to 10 captured and up to 200 wounded during the fighting near An- Nasiriya. There is confirmed information about one lost attack helicopter and an unconfirmed report about a lost ground attack plane. The US forces have also lost up to 40 armored vehicles, including no less than 10 tanks. Several intercepted reports by the US field commanders stated that their troops are unable to advance due to their soldiers being demoralized by the enemy's fierce resistance and high losses.

Four days of continuous advance exhausted the coalition forces, which now have settled into defensive positions nearly on every front to rest and regroup. As of this morning (MSK, GMT +3) the coalition forces are in control of the western part of An-Nasiriya but have no foothold on the left bank of Euphrates. The left bank of the river is controlled by the Iraqi forces, which are conducting engineering works to reinforce their defenses. A part of the Iraqi forces have been deployed to strengthen the defense of An-Najaf, where they expect the next coalition attack.

Around 2300hrs (MSK, GMT +3) March 23 a British platoon was ambushed by Iraqi Special Forces unit near Basra. Following a powerful initial artillery barrage the Iraqis engaged the British in close combat and destroyed several armored vehicles. After the Iraqis withdrew the British commander reported up to 8 killed, two missing and more than 30 wounded British soldiers. Thus over the 30% of the unit's troops have been disabled in the attack. Reinforcements and medevac helicopters have been dispatched by the coalition to the scene of the attack.

During the past day there has been a sharp increase in combat activity in the coalition's rearguard.

Reports have been intercepted showing at least 5 attacks on the coalition military convoys, 8 vehicles destroyed by landmines and 2 ambushes. Iraqi special operation units are mining the roads, setting up ambushes and conduct search and reconnaissance operations. The coalition forces have been ordered to halt the movement of convoys during dark hours and to provide each convoy with combat escort units and air cover.

The situation around the borderline town of Umm Qasr (population 1,500) still remains unclear. Radio intercepts and satellite images show that the town was under constant bombardment throughout out the night. The morning photos indicate its complete destruction. This shows that the coalition command, fed up with the Iraqi's stubborn resistance, ordered the complete destruction of the town using aviation and artillery. However, according to reports by the British troops ordered to "clean up" Umm Qasr the town still contains many pockets of resistance. The overall coalition losses at Umm Qasr during the past four days amounted to up to 40 killed and up to 200 wounded. Currently it is impossible to estimate the Iraqi losses at Umm Qasr. As of yesterday's morning the Umm Qasr garrison consisted of 1600 troops.

The units of the British marine infantry have failed to establish control over the strategically important Fao peninsula. After yesterday's counterattack by the Iraqis the British forces have been thrown back some 3 to 5 kilometers and were forced into defensive positions. Intercepted radio communications indicate that today the British command will attempt to regain the lost ground after spending the night reinforcing their units on Fao with two additional marine infantry battalions. The overall British losses on the Fao peninsula during the past four days of fighting include up to 15 killed and up to 100 wounded. The Iraqis lost here up to 100 killed and around 100 captured.

A heated exchange of fire continues near Basra. The coalition units hesitate to enter the city and limit their actions to constant artillery and aviation bombardment of Basra. So far the coalition forces have failed to completely surround the city and to cut off the defending Iraqi garrison from the main Iraqi forces.

The US troops continue landing in northern Iraqi territories controlled by the Kurds. It is expected that as early as tomorrow morning these forces supported by the Kurdish units will make an attempt to capture the town of Kirkuk.

Aerial strikes against Iraq continued throughout the night. A total of up to 1,500 combat flights were carried out by the coalition aviation. Additionally, B-52 bombers launched more than 100 cruise missiles from the so-called "Turkish corridor". Some 150 more cruise missiles have been launched by the US and British naval forces.

Intercepted radio traffic indicates another lost coalition plane this morning. There was a confirmed loss of a "Predator" unmanned aerial reconnaissance aircraft.

Any further advances by the coalition within the next 8-12 hours are unlikely. The coalition command in Qatar has been in meeting since the early morning and is expected to come up with significant changes to the overall operational plan. According to most experts the coalition command made a most serious strategic error by starting the ground phase of the operation nearly at the very start of the war. The Americans have violated their own doctrine where the ground phases of a military operation coincide in time with the destruction of the enemy from the air.

The US made serious errors in their estimates of the Iraq's army strength and combat readiness. The US military intelligence and the CIA failed to uncover the true potential of the Iraqi forces and, in essence, misinformed the top military and civilian leadership of the coalition member countries.

Monday, March 24, 2003

According to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the following is how much it cost us to pump up the “Coalition of the Willing to get Paid” so as to make the current adventure in Iraq appear to be somewhat endorsed by the international community:

Colombia: $574,600,000
Afghanistan: $550,000,000
Turkey: $255,600,000
Georgia: $89,900,000
The Philippines: $89,700,000
Ethiopia: $58,900,000
Uzbekistan: $57,500,000
Macedonia: $51,400,000
Azerbaijan: $449,600,000
Romania: $43,500,000
Bulgaria: $41,500,000
El Salvador: $41,100,000
Honduras: $41,000,000
Nicaragua: $35,400,000
Albania: $34,900,000
Poland: $14,000,000
The Czech Republic: $11,900,000
Hungary: $11,900,000
Lithuania: $10,000,000
Latvia: $9,300,000
Slovakia: $9,300,000
Estonia: $9,200,000
Eritrea: $8,000,000
Portugal: $900,000
Israel is already making plans on where they will send American troops after the nightmare in Iraq is over. From today’s edition of Haaretz: (via Cursor)

A few months ago, Jerusalem learned that the Argentine government had identified the culprits behind the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 people were killed, and the July 1994 bombing of the city's Jewish community center, in which 85 were killed. There was worry in Israel that the Argentine authorities might not permit their findings to be publicized, but it wasn't so: The report stated that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the two bombings, and Argentina even issued international arrest warrants for four Iranian diplomats suspected of involvement in the incidents. Meanwhile, the Mossad completed its own eight-and-a-half-year investigation, which was presented to President Moshe Katzav this week and summarized by Ze'ev Schiff in Tuesday's edition of Haaretz.

The picture that emerges from the report is enraging: The Iranian leadership, including then-president Hashemi Rafsanjani and the country's supreme spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, initiated the attacks on the Jewish and Israeli targets in Buenos Aires, enlisted Hezbollah suicide bombers for this purpose, and exploited the embassy system at its disposal in South America in order to put the plan into action. It did this out of religious- ideological, not to say anti-Semitic, motives. Israel and Iran have no quarrel over borders or other existential questions, though they do have an outstanding financial dispute (over unpaid oil deliveries, dating from the time of the Shah's overthrow) and there is some lingering resentment stemming from the IDFs' 1992 killing of Hezbollah secretary general Sheikh Mossawi. Nevertheless, the Iranian leadership did not hesitate to harness its resources and its diplomatic infrastructure to carry out savage terror attacks against Israel and against Jews.

According to information possessed by Jerusalem, Iran is currently involved in subversive activity against King Abdullah of Jordan and against Israel. It is conducting this activity via Hezbollah in Lebanon (with Syrian president Bashar Assad being the connecting link) and via agents in the PA and among Israeli Arabs. Israel believes that Iran played a key role in torpedoing the negotiations on an accord with Syria that Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres conducted in 1995 and 1996. Israel also knows that Iran is developing nonconventional weapons. The war on terror and on weapons of mass destruction is the banner under which President Bush is going to war in Iraq. Then why is he passing over Iran when the smoking gun is there for all to see?

After the war in Iraq, Israel will try to convince the U.S. to direct its war on terror at Iran, Damascus and Beirut. Senior defense establishment officials say that initial contacts in this direction have already been made in recent months, and that there is a good chance that America will be swayed by the Israeli argument.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Thanks to someone on the Daily Kos comments page, I have found this Russian website that is telling quite a different tale than the one they are telling on CNN. Most of the articles on the site are of course in Russian but it they occasionally update in English. I really hope that the following is not true, but I fear it might be:

March 22, 2002, 1300hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - Additional information about the situation in the primary combat areas in southern Iraq became available by 1300hrs (Moscow time, GMT +3). The US command reports about the supposed surrender of the entire Iraqi 51st Infantry Division turned out to be a complete fabrication. According to our sources the 51st Division continues to fight on the approaches to Basra and we can only talk about individual cases of Iraqi soldiers being captured in combat.

Elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Marine Infantry Division ended up in an exceptionally difficult situation. While attempting to encircle Basra from the north and to block An- Nasiriya? elements the 3rd and 1st infantry divisions found themselves wedged between the defending Iraqi forces. The Iraqi command used this situation and delivered a decisive counterattack with up to 80 tanks in the open flank of the US forces, slicing through their combat orders. As the result of this counterattack these US units are now at risk of being separated from the main coalition forces and being surrounded.

By 1100hrs MSK Iraqi units advanced into the US attack front by 10-15 kilometers and Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the coalition forces, ordered his troops to switch entirely to defensive operations. At the same time he issued orders to the forward-deployed coalition tank units to halt their reconnaissance operations in the directions of Es-Samaba? and An-Najaf? and to move immediately to support the defending US forces. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that a part of the coalition tanks are currently disabled due to the lack of fuel and are awaiting the arrival of fuel convoys. Thus the tanks are able to gradually rejoin combat in small numbers as the fuel becomes available.

Currently the US and the Iraqi tank forces are engaged in mobile head-on combat approximately 70-90 kilometers to the south of An-Nasiriya?. Combat orders have been received by the carrier borne aviation in the Persian Gulf, which until now did not take part in this battle. At the same time orders were issued to all available coalition strike aircraft in Qatar to scramble in support of the defending coalition forces.

Intercepted radio communications indicate that during the morning period of March 22 the US forces lost 10-15 tanks destroyed or disabled and up to 30 other armored vehicles. Medevac helicopters flew more than 30 search-and-rescue missions, which suggests heavy coalition losses.

Our sources report that during the early morning hours in southwestern Iraq in the vicinity of Akashat the Iraqi forces have engaged and surrounded a tactical paratroop unit of the 101st Airborne Division. Some of the surrounded paratroopers were able to break out into the desert, where they request air support and finally lost their Iraqi pursuers. However, up to 30 US troops were killed or captured in this engagement. Additionally, Russian radio intercept units report that one the US attack helicopters providing close air support was shot down.

The top US military command is planning to enhance the coalition command. During the Joint Chief of Staff meeting its Chairman Gen. Richard Mayers expressed strong criticism of the actions by the coalition commander Gen. Franks and proposed to strengthen his headquarters with several other senior military commanders. Gen. Franks is required to do everything he can to change the current situation on the front. Analysts believe that, if during the next 3-5 days Gen. Franks fails to achieve any significant results, than it is entirely possible that he will be replaced as the commander of the coalition forces.

If this is true, one has to wonder if the situation in Southern Iraq might be a little bit better off if, instead of putting on a huge fireworks show in Baghdad by bombing empty palaces over and over again, we had been concentrating on the less sexy job of hitting the Iraqis tanks in the field. It may be that the US military believes its own propaganda about the Iraqis not wanting to fight.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

France 1 is showing footage of George W. Bush “goofing around” before giving his speech last night announcing that his massacre of Iraq was beginning. In the footage he is shown making faces and moving his eyes from side to side, basically acting like the frat boy we all know that he is. I am sure this footage is going to become very popular viewing all over the world accept in the US where it is unlikely ever to be seen.

From KnightRidder (via Cursor)

Minutes before the speech, an internal television monitor showed the president pumping his fist. "Feels good," he said.

Hopefully this footage will be on the internet soon.

In a Belgian court, a complaint has been filed by some of the victims of the Almerya massacre, in which a US cruise missile was fired into a bomb shelter killing 403 people (among them 52 children) during the 1991 Gulf War. The four people named in the complaint are George Bush Sr., Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Norman Schwartzkopf. Powell and Cheney both currently have immunity from prosecution because of their positions, both the cases against Bush and Schwartzkopf can go ahead.

Belgium has a law that accepts crimes against humanity complaints committed anywhere in the world. There is currently a complaint against Ariel Sharon for ordering the massacre of hundreds of refugees in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps, south of Beirut, in 1982.

Une association de victimes irakiennes a a déposé mardi une plainte au parquet de Bruxelles pour violation grave du droit humanitaire contre l'ancien président américain George Bush Sr et trois autres responsables américains pour des faits commis pendant la guerre du Golfe en 1991, a-t-on appris mardi auprès du député Patrick Moriau (PS).

La plainte, déposée en vertu de la loi belge de compétence universelle, a trait à des bombardements américains dans la nuit du 12 au 13 février 1991 qui avaient touché l'abri civil d'Almerya à Bagdad, la capitale irakienne. Ces bombardements avaient fait 403 victimes civiles, dont 52 enfants et 261 femmes, indique cette "association des victimes du bombardement de l'abri civil d'Almerya". Celle-ci est notamment soutenue par M. Moriau et défendue par l'avocat Jean-Marie Dermagne. La plainte a été déposée mardi matin auprès de la juge d'instruction Sylviane Verstreken par un minimum de sept familles. Deux d'entre elles sont établies en Belgique où leur statut est en voie de régularisation, a indiqué Patrick Moriau à l'agence Belga.

La plainte vise quatre personnes: George Bush (président des Etats-Unis entre 1990 et 1994), Richard Cheney (secrétaire à la Défense et désormais vice-président), Colin Powell (alors chef d'Etat major interarmes et aujourd'hui secrétaire d'Etat) et Norman Schwartzkopf (le commandant des forces américaines dans le Golfe à l'époque et désormais retraité).

Friday, March 14, 2003

This is probably one of the most concise and intelligent statements I have come across during this entire crisis in Iraq. From Jane’s Defence Weekly (scroll down):

Another former Reagan administration official said that Bush appears to be set on the course of action he has already decided because he is out of his depth and is unable to understand the nuances of the arguments that oppose an immediate war with Iraq. "He just doesn't have the experience to be dealing with these issues."
“Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it”

From today’s New York Times:

In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq, while other United States allies — chiefly France and Germany — resisted. But without significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. The C.I.A.'s "Health Alteration Committee," as it was tactfully called, sent Kassem a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached its victim.

Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side," Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.

As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.

According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite — killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.

The United States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad — for American firms, their first major involvement in Iraq.

But it wasn't long before there was infighting among Iraq's new rulers. In 1968, after yet another coup, the Baathist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized control, bringing to the threshold of power his kinsman, Saddam Hussein. Again, this coup, amid more factional violence, came with C.I.A. backing. Serving on the staff of the National Security Council under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960's, I often heard C.I.A. officers — including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a ranking C.I.A. official for the Near East and Africa at the time — speak openly about their close relations with the Iraqi Baathists.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Tony Blair is finally starting to admit that there will be no second UN resolution allowing for a legal invasion of Iraq. In the Guardian:

France today stated its opposition to Britain's six tests for Iraqi disarmament and threw the likelihood of a vote on a second resolution into doubt.

Its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said in a statement that the proposed compromise resolution did not "respond to the questions the international community is asking".

His British counterpart, Jack Straw, described the French position as "extraordinary" and the prime minister, Tony Blair, said he believed a second resolution on Iraq was "now probably less likely than at any time".

This will of course put Mr. Blair in a difficult position. DebkaFile has an article describing what Britain will receive in return for supporting the US position:

The British army will, furthermore, have military jurisdiction over a triangular sector in southeastern Iraq, a sector that extends from Basra in the east, Sug Al Shuyukh in the west and Khozistan in the north. This wedge of land includes such strategic assets as the oil fields of the Basra and the Khozistan regions, Al Qurnah in the east and the Hawr Al Hammar southern marshlands up to the Iranian border, which British and American units will jointly patrol.

The oil fields in the south, like those in the north, will be under American administration. The British have been given to understand that a portion of oil revenue will be allotted to defray their military expenses and the costs of maintaining an army in Iraq.

The strategic implications of Britain’s role in the Iraq war transcend Iraq’s borders and cannot be overstated. Their command of the Iraq-Iran frontier zone abutting Iraqi Shiite regions transforms the UK into the dominant military force in the power equation between Tehran and the largest Shiite community in the Gulf, numbering 12-14 million. The mullahs of Teheran will have to watch their step - not only with regard to Washington but also to London.

I have begun to believe that the US and Britain will launch this war without a UN resolution. If this is so, the trio of France, Russia, and Germany (FRG) will be seen as the losers in this diplomatic battle if the war is relatively quick. Even if it becomes a massacre, with hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, the US and UK will control the flow of information, so it is unlikely that we will learn the truth for a number of years. US control of the Iraqi oil fields will eventually lead to much lower oil prices, which is not at all in Russia’s interest, and its outlandish display of world hegemony will hardly be what certain Europeans, who fancy the EU as an eventual counterweight to the US, want to see.

I have always felt that there will not be a war, so now I am going to describe to only scenario left that will prevent it, and at the same time bring diplomatic victory to FRG alliance.

Quite simply the FRG’s will have to convince Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq and be replaced by Russian, and French troops that will both help fill the resulting power vacuum and keep the US and UK grouping from going in under the pretext of stopping massacres etc. These troops would be more of symbolic value as opposed to a real military threat to the US, who would then have no pretext for launch an invasion. They could obviously defeat any Russian and French troops, but would hardly be likely to try considering both countries are friendly nuclear powers. The FRG alliance would, after gaining control of the situation, have to promise democratic elections within a year and hand over power at some point to the UN

George Bush has said along that regime change was his goal and in my scenario it would be accomplished. The US is really not that interested in rebuilding countries (although many corporations that are friendly to the Bush Administration are very interested in winning contracts in Iraq). Bush could hold his head high and march his two hundred thousand troops back home, claiming that his military goals have been accomplished in a peaceful way. There would certainly be some grumbling about not securing the Iraqi oilfields, but those are not the kind of things politicians can discuss loudly in public.

On Saddam’s side, I am quite sure he realizes that he has absolutely no chance to last more than two weeks in the event of a war. By stepping down, Saddam could claim victory by keeping his oil out of American hands. He is an extremely wealthy man and would have a comfortable life in retirement. If he chose Russia, he would be safe from any eventual American attempts on his life. Not only that, a few years down the road, his son could return and attempt to run for office if he so desired. By then, American attention will be elsewhere.

The real winners would be the FRG alliance. We would again be in a multi-polar world, but this time with the two poles on more or less friendly terms. The Russians, who are already on good terms with Iran, would become the dominant player in the Persian Gulf, considering that the Saudis are threatening to kick out the US military off its territory after the Iraq crisis is resolved. Some might say that the Russians would not dare do such a thing like sending in troops in the face of an American attack. Remember the end of the Kosovo conflict when Russia sent troops in ahead of NATO troops. That was in fact a rather dangerous move to make during an actual war. In this scenario, the Russians and French could claim they are saving American lives by accomplishing her goals (removing Saddam Hussein from power) through peaceful means.

The main losers would be Likudniks in Israel and in the American neo-conservative movement. This is hardly the Middle East they are envisaging, but they can hardly complain since Saddam would be out of power. Perhaps that is why I am hoping that this will be the outcome, along with the fact that hundreds of thousands of people will escape the death and misery that war brings.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The US is planning on using Electro-Magnetic Pulse bombs during any possible invasion of Iraq. These weapons create a powerful electromagnetic field radiating out from the point of explosion. All electronic equipment within range is destroyed. At the edges of the weapon’s range, equipment is left functioning, but would be susceptible to constant breakdowns.

The use of these weapons would basically set the affected area back by about 200 years and are particularly dangerous to societies that are totally dependant on electronic equipment to survive. These weapons are the perfect terrorist tools as they cause little to no direct harm to human beings. If they were to be used on Wall Street, in downtown Manhattan, their effects would be economically catastrophic to say the least.

Clearly I am not the first person to think about these aspects of the weapons, so I did some Google-search and found this story in Popular Mechanics:

The next Pearl Harbor will not announce itself with a searing flash of nuclear light or with the plaintive wails of those dying of Ebola or its genetically engineered twin. You will hear a sharp crack in the distance. By the time you mistakenly identify this sound as an innocent clap of thunder, the civilized world will have become unhinged. Fluorescent lights and television sets will glow eerily bright, despite being turned off. The aroma of ozone mixed with smoldering plastic will seep from outlet covers as electric wires arc and telephone lines melt. Your Palm Pilot and MP3 player will feel warm to the touch, their batteries overloaded. Your computer, and every bit of data on it, will be toast. And then you will notice that the world sounds different too. The background music of civilization, the whirl of internal-combustion engines, will have stopped. Save a few diesels, engines will never start again. You, however, will remain unharmed, as you find yourself thrust backward 200 years, to a time when electricity meant a lightning bolt fracturing the night sky. This is not a hypothetical, son-of-Y2K scenario. It is a realistic assessment of the damage the Pentagon believes could be inflicted by a new generation of weapons--E-bombs.

The first major test of an American electromagnetic bomb is scheduled for next year. Ultimately, the Army hopes to use E-bomb technology to explode artillery shells in midflight. The Navy wants to use the E-bomb's high-power microwave pulses to neutralize antiship missiles. And, the Air Force plans to equip its bombers, strike fighters, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles with E-bomb capabilities. When fielded, these will be among the most technologically sophisticated weapons the U.S. military establishment has ever built.

There is, however, another part to the E-bomb story, one that military planners are reluctant to discuss. While American versions of these weapons are based on advanced technologies, terrorists could use a less expensive, low-tech approach to create the same destructive power. "Any nation with even a 1940s technology base could make them," says Carlo Kopp, an Australian-based expert on high-tech warfare. "The threat of E- bomb proliferation is very real." POPULAR MECHANICS estimates a basic weapon could be built for $400.

Is it really wise for the US to develop and use such a weapon, knowing that the publicity that will be generated by its deployment will surely cause some would-be terrorist to take note of the huge potential economic damage these weapons afford while at the same time providing the important political advantage of no human casualties? After all if we are in a war on terrorism and we use a weapon on the enemy, surely the enemy has the right to use the same weapon on us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Via Cursor. A Russian military analyst discusses how the invasion of Iraq will be accomplished:

For more than 10 years now the United States has conducted exclusively no-contact wars. In May 2001 George Bush Jr., delivering his first presidential speech to students at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, spoke of the need for accelerated preparation of the US Armed Forces for future wars. He emphasized that they should be high-tech Armed Forces capable of conducting hostilities throughout the world by the no-contact method. This task is now being carried out very consistently.

It should be observed that the Pentagon buys from the military-industrial complex only those weapons that have been tested in conditions of real warfare and received a certificate of quality on the battlefield. After a series of live experiments -- the wars in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan -- many corporations in the US military-industrial complex have been granted the right to sell their precision weapons to the Pentagon. They include Martin Lockheed, General Electric, and Loral. But many other well-known companies are as yet without orders from the military department. The bottom line is $50-60 billion a year. Who would want to miss out on that kind of money? But the present suppliers of precision weapons to the Pentagon are also constantly developing new types of arms and they must also be tested The US military-industrial complex demands testbed wars from its country's political leadership. And it gets them.

The Iraqi army will be subjected to very powerful blows. It will be physically annihilated. In order to impose a new puppet government in the country (and I am sure the Americans have already formed that government) and to give that government the opportunity to get on with its work, the United States will be forced actually to occupy Iraq. The occupation of territory within which seats of organized resistance could persist would lead to large losses among US Army personnel. Guerrillas, and in the context of the Arab world also shahid martyrs wearing explosive belts -- naturally the Americans do not need this Therefore they will totally annihilate the Iraqi army. Practically all Iraq servicemen will die. There will be terrible carnage.

I predict that Operation Shock And Awe will last not more than six weeks. The first period of the war -- the "shock" -- will last around 30 days. Some 400-500 sea- and air-based precision cruise missiles will be launched against targets in Iraq every 24 hours. During that month Iraq's troops and its economic potential will be annihilated. Anything that survives for any reason will be guaranteed destruction in the next two weeks. In the second stage -- "awe" -- the Americans will conduct a piloted version of a total cleanup of the territory. To this end the United States will use B- 52 and B-2 Stealth bombers. In four hours of flight one Stealth is capable of detecting and destroying as many as 200 stationary or moving targets on the ground. The United States intends to use at least 16 B-2 bombers The Stealths will be in the air constantly, one replacing the other.
It’s all starting to fall apart for Bush. It looks like Tony Blair does want to keep his job after all. I suppose he would not find being branded a war criminal all that nice. From the NY Times:

Britain, the United States' staunchest ally in its campaign to disarm Iraq, has begun to distance itself from the White House's insistence on confronting Baghdad with or without the United Nations' blessing. France and Russia said unequivocally on Monday that they planned to veto the draft resolution if and when a vote occurred.

While France and Russia have become familiar opponents of the United States in the Iraq debate, the possibility of a shift by Britain presages an even thornier diplomatic path ahead for the White House. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has come under strong domestic criticism of his support for the United States, criticism that has undermined his popularity and threatens the viability of his government.

In response, the British are now adopting a more temperate posture toward Iraq. Diplomats here say that Britain is hesitant to support military action against Iraq without United Nations backing and that it does not support the White House's advocacy of "regime change" in Baghdad to overthrow the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

From what the BBC is saying, British troops are supposed to turn right out of Kuwait and take the important port city of Basrah, while the main American contingent heads straight for Baghdad. The US will have to split off a large number of forces to cover for the missing British troops, if indeed Blair backs out now.
Five companies have been invited to bid for contracts to put Iraq's infrastructure back together after a decade of sanctions and the expected US-led war.Among the five is a subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil and construction giant run by US Vice President Dick Cheney for five years till 2000.The US Agency for International Development (USAID) told the AFP news agency that the five were part of a "limited selection process" intended to speed up contracting given the "urgent nature or the unique nature of the work".

Aside from Halliburton unit Kellogg Brown and Root, they include Bechtel, Fluor, Louis Berger and Parsons. All five are US-owned and headquartered.

There is growing tension between Britain and the US tonight. The above quotes come from the BBC website, in the same report on television, it was very much emphasized that no British firms were invited to bid, despite Tony Blair putting his job and reputation on the line for Bush.
From Atrios today comes this remarkable analysis of the recent Bush “press conference”:

After watching George W. Bush’s press conference last Thursday night, I’m more convinced than ever: The entire White House press corps should be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North Atlantic.

Even worse were the qualitative assessments in the major dailies of Bush’s performance. As I watched the conference, I was sure I was witnessing, live, an historic political catastrophe. In his best moments Bush was deranged and uncommunicative, and in his worst moments, which were most of the press conference, he was swaying side to side like a punch-drunk fighter, at times slurring his words and seemingly clinging for dear life to the verbal oases of phrases like "total disarmament," "regime change," and "mass destruction."

He repeatedly declined to answer direct questions. At one point, when a reporter twice asked if Bush could consider the war a success if Saddam Hussein were not captured or killed, Bush answered: "Uh, we will be changing the regime of Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people."

These quotes really don’t do justice to the article, please go read it.

Monday, March 10, 2003

I just finished watching Jacques Chirac being interviewed by France’s two leading anchormen. It was refreshing to see a 70-year-old world leader handle a fairly hostile situation quite easily. The two anchors played devil’s advocate and argued the American position for 45 minutes, interrupting Chirac often. He held his own quite well, although admittedly the journalist were not all that convincing in their arguments. He never showed any anger and was actually quite proud when one of the interviewers compared him to Charles de Gaulle.

Chirac not only promised to vote no on any new resolution that automatically (or almost automatically) lead to a war, he promised to go to New York and deliver the vote personally. He wants all the Heads of State or Government to cast their votes at the UN. That is hardly likely to happen, but it shows that when you take on Bush, you can’t do it half-ass, you really need to go after him. Chirac added that he expects Russia and China to also vote no. He said that as of tonight, the US did not have the nine votes needed to pass a resolution even if a veto was not used. The French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin travelled today to Angola, Guinée and Cameroon, the three African countries with seats on the UN Security Council. They probably wanted public assurance that France was not going to wimp out and leave them alone to face America’s wrath if they abstained from voting for the new resolution, thus Chirac’s announcement tonight. France would of course prefer that her no vote not be a veto, which would be the case if the US could not muster the nine votes needed.

Afterwards there was a debate on France 5 with among others an American (most likely left leaning but it was hard to tell) who mentioned something that I had never heard before. He claimed that during the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein had his suitcases packed and was ready to leave the country if the coalition troops had started heading towards Baghdad. This may be motivating some of the leaders who are currently beating the war drum. They are probably convinced that the war will be short and painless, for them at least.

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Gary Hart has an excellent op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post:

The urgent necessity to disband terrorist networks abroad and to secure the American homeland has been replaced by the Bush administration's puzzling preoccupation with Saddam Hussein. He has become George Bush's White Whale, an obsession that has cost us international solidarity in eradicating terrorism, the goodwill of tens of millions of people worldwide and the role of benign democratic world leader.

Iraq is a detour from the war on terrorism. Hussein mysteriously morphed into Osama bin Laden, or vice-versa. But at least we have the advantage -- for the moment -- of knowing what country Hussein is in. Instead of wondering how many Americans will be sacrificed to urban warfare in Baghdad, we should be concerned with equipping and training police and firefighters in Baltimore, Dallas and Denver. Right now, first things are being put second and third as our leaders obsess about an isolated Iraq.

The war on terrorism is too serious to become the vehicle for settling old scores, either abroad or between neo-hawks and traditionalists in the administration. It is also too serious to become an excuse -- a kind of foreign policy Trojan horse -- to experiment with the new doctrine of preemption to replace containment. And if we really do intend to bring democracy to the Arab world at the point of a bayonet, the American people deserve the candid accounting we have not been given.

It is a very clear-headed appraisal of Bush’s folly. It seems as if Gary Hart is going to run for President. I certainly hope so, and if the rest of his policies are as straight forward as his opinions on the war, I will certainly be supporting him.

In fact the tide seems to be turning, in America, against the war. It is probably too little too late but at least people are slowly starting to wake up. Thomas Friedman has been one of the leading hawks in support of an invasion of Iraq. Today he has changed his mind:

Mr. Bush talks only about why it's right to dismantle the bad Iraq, not what it will take to rebuild a decent Iraq — a distant land, the size of California, divided like Yugoslavia. I believe we can help build a decent Iraq, but not alone. If we're alone, it will turn into a U.S. occupation and make us the target for everyone's frustration. And alone, Americans will not have the patience, manpower and energy for nation-building, which is not a sprint but a marathon.

So here's where we are. Regime change in Iraq is the right choice for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the world. Mr. Bush is right about that. But for now, this choice may be just too hard to sell. If the president can't make his war of choice the world's war of choice right now, we need to reconsider our options and our tactics. Because if Mr. Bush acts unilaterally, I fear America will not only lose the chance of building a decent Iraq, but something more important — America's efficacy as the strategic and moral leader of the free world.

That's still the most important question for U.S. national security. The world does not want to be led by transparent cynics like the French foreign minister and his boss. But it also does not want to be led by an America whose Congress is so traumatized by 9/11 that it can't think straight and by a president ideologically committed to war in Iraq no matter what the costs, the support, or the prospects for a decent aftermath. But, France aside, the world is still ready to be led by an America that's a little more humble, a little better listener and a little more ready to say to its allies: how can we work this out? How much time do we need to give you to see if inspections can work for you to endorse the use of force if they don't?

What gets on my nerves is his calling the French cynical. They are basically saying the same thing that Friedman is saying. They have oil contracts in Iraq, but it is hardly realistic to think that they are doing all of this to hold on to a billion Euros or so. Especially after Friedman dismisses suggestions that Bush could have ulterior motives concerning the $15 billion a year in oil revenues that the US may soon take control over. The French, and the rest of the world, just realize how stupid it is to go to war when the inspections are working.

I watched the McLaughlin Group (a rare occurrence for me) tonight and was shocked by how anti-war and cynical this group of right-wingers was. They were even talking about war crimes and how much more dangerous North Korea is. There may yet be hope for America, we will see. It is going to be an interesting week.

Friday, March 7, 2003

The Washington Post had an amazing article the other day:

The United States and Asian countries have begun to accept the idea of a nuclear- armed North Korea, according to officials and analysts here and in Washington. Increasingly, the Bush administration is turning its attention to preventing the Communist government in Pyongyang from selling nuclear material to the highest bidder.

Washington had issued repeated warnings to North Korea not to begin reprocessing materials that could become fuel for a nuclear bomb, but administration officials have become resigned to North Korea taking that step sometime within the next two to four weeks. "The administration has acquiesced in North Korea becoming a nuclear power," said a Senate source who was briefed last week on the administration's evolving policy.

During the last crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, in 1994, the Clinton administration indicated to Pyongyang that reprocessing materials for a nuclear bomb could prompt a military strike. Many officials in Asia believe that Washington will now set new "red lines" that it will not tolerate North Korea crossing. But Bush and his senior advisers have refused to do that, publicly at least, saying it would only encourage North Korea to charge past them.

Is this possible? Can you imagine the outcry if Clinton had refused to set redlines because the North Koreans would charge past them?

Can Bush really run for reelection in 2004 with a nuclear-armed North Korea? The Democrats had after all solved this problem back in 1994 with the Agreed Framework. Bush thought this was appeasement and broke the agreement. Now they are saying that North Korea will be allowed to have nuclear weapons. This is worse than appeasement; it is straight up surrender. Bush has thrown his arms to the air and bowed down on his knees before the overwhelming might of the Great Leader Kim Jong Il.

My belief is that most of the current Administration’s foreign policy comes straight from Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv. They can not be pleased about North Korea bringing enriched Plutonium onto the world market. They must be waiting for the Iraq crisis to be resolved before calling their neo-conservative stooges to wake up the President on this one.

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