Debka pessimista - gz
By: GZ on Venerdì 28 Marzo 2003 11:38
Il report forse più seguito sul medio oriente e la guerra è quello di debka che esce il venerdì mattina. Essendo israeliani tendono a esagerare i pericoli e fare scenari pessimisti, comunque sono abbastanza precisi per quello che ho visto.
Quello uscito stamattina è molto dettagliato e indica che può richiedere ancora parecchie settimane ed è piuttosto difficile.
Saddam e i suoi si sono preparati per mesi, hanno rifornimenti dalla siria e e hanno messo assieme tattiche di guerriglia efficaci per le quali hanno anche l'aiuto di volontari hezbollah dal libano, di al quaeda di diversi paesi arabi e di militanti palestinesi, tutta gente esperta e motivata.
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The US 101st Airborne Division Was Poised to Attack Iraqi Elite Hamourabi Division Thursday Night
By the time this reaches you early Friday, March 28, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive military sources can report that the US 101st Airborne Division will have embarked on its first major engagement against Saddam’s Special Republican Guards’ Hamourabi Division.
Barring an eleventh-hour change of plan, this attack will effectively kick off the western front of the battle for Baghdad.
Since Thursday, March 27, the 101st has been moving under cover of darkness along a northward line roughly 12 km west of Karbala and east of the Lake Razzaza (click on the map to enlarge), closing the distance to the forward tank positions of the Hamourabi Division defending the western approaches to the Iraqi capital.
By Friday morning, American troops backed up by at least 200 helicopter gunships out of their fleet of 300 will be pummeling the Iraqi division’s tanks and artillery.
Hoping for a short, sharp battle to remove the elite Iraqi force from it path, the American division plans to sweep north towards al Ramadi and seize the Baghdad-Amman Expressway No. 1 west of Baghdad.
This change of plan means the American war command has just recalled the 101st ‘s earlier instruction to capture Baghdad’s Saddam International Airport (as we reported earlier below), targeting the international expressway to be appropriated as a landing and takeoff strip for the division’s helicopter fleet and its base of operation for the Baghdad campaign. Its capture will place 300 American gunships within striking distance of Baghdad and its environs, no more than 20 miles away as the crow flies. After the battle with the Hamourabi is over and while the expressway is being secured, several other units of the 101st Airborne will come down at the big military airfield of Habaniya midway between Falluja and Al Ramadi northwest of Baghdad.
Late Exclusive Update
American Forces Begin Operating out of Seven Air Bases in Iraq
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive military sources report that Thursday, March 27, the allied war command relocated its operational and intelligence command quarters from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan to the big air base at Talill east of Nasiriya, Iraq’s most sophisticated and well-equipped air facility. As soon as the command offices moved over Thursday afternoon, giant American Galaxy transports began lifting in reinforcements of tanks, armored vehicles and heavy artillery collected from overseas bases around the world. The Pentagon and the war command are transporting war materiel to Talill at top speed to supply the army’s urgent needs.
Two thousands US Marines were flown into Talill Thursday night from their base in Djibouti, where they were based for counter-terror duty in East Africa, the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They have joined the Marine forces fighting in the Nasiriya sector.
At the same time, the big H-3 air base complex of western Iraq began taking small transports, fighters, spy planes, reconnaissance craft and helicopters that had been based in Jordan. US military engineers are working round the clock under sporadic artillery fire to upgrade Basra airport in the south. The artillery fire comes from the town’s center (click on the map to enlarge).
In the north, four airfields are functioning under American command at Barmeni, Bakarjo, Ankwa and Harir.
One thousands paratroops of the US 173 Airborne Division were flown in from northern Italy to Harir early Thursday, followed by an airlift of additional troops and equipment for the forces fighting in north Iraq.
Georgia Opens Door to Americans
In addition to the seven air bases taken over for American military use in Iraq, Georgia has made two military air installations near its capital of Tbilisi available as staging posts for US air force flights to western and northern Iraq.
President George W. Bush obtained the consent of the Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze for this arrangement on Tuesday, March 25, so gaining an alternative to Turkish bases.
Riyadh Shuts Door to US 4th Infantry Division
Saudi Arabia had a change of heart in the opposite direction. Thursday, Riyadh withdrew its permission for the US 4th Infantry Division to put in or discharge its tanks at its Red Sea port of Yanbo and for transport planes to land 4th Division tank crews flying in from Texas.
This movement was therefore halted abruptly Thursday night and diverted from Saudi Arabia to Kuwait.
Saddam’s Next Trap: The Flood Plains between the Great Rivers
After standing up to a grueling three days of foul weather and four major reverses – the Iraqis put up strong resistance at Nasiriya, Basra, Najef and al Amarah - coalition forces drove forward Thursday, March 27, and crossed the Euphrates River from west to east on a broad front.
Reporting this, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources note that their next stop is the Tigris, a big step closer to Baghdad.
As the suffocating dust and sand cover began to lift Thursday, the allied war command went back to its first plan for the main columns to head straight for Baghdad without shilly-shallying to clean up trouble spots en route. Above all, as the skies cleared of suffocating clouds of sand and dust, the generals were bucked up over their regained air superiority. American and British generals decided, against most expert advice, that the infantry troops to hand – estimated at 170,000 – would be sufficient to overwhelm Saddam’s crack Special Republican Guard divisions and break through to Baghdad.
This was decided although they still face formidable problems, notably the advancing troops’ over-long supply lines which continue to be vulnerable - even to local paramilitary attack. Supplies are reaching the units later and later as they move forward. This situation is aggravated by the masses of explosives Iraqi saboteurs have planted under the river bridges to be crossed by the supply convoys.
In Nasiriya, northwest of Basra, Iraqi regular 3rd Division troops with local militiamen were still pinning down US forces on Thursday. Elements of the US 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, after fighting to capture the bridges at al Qurnah at the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris and heading northeast past al Amarah, looped back to help the beleaguered American force in Nasiriya. Other elements of the two Marine divisions pushed on ahead to Al Hillah on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
The American 3rd Infantry Division overcame the Iraqi al Medina Division and local militias holding up its progress at Diwaniyah. In Basra, the British 7th Armored Brigade (Desert Rats) was unable to hold Basra and called up American artillery and warplanes to halt a large Iraqi tank column heading out of the Shiite city to the Faw Peninsula to recover lost ground.
A popular Shiite uprising in the city led by Majid Khoei, son of a revered Iraqi Shiite ayatollah, did not take off at its first attempt.
Probing for Weaknesses
The early days of the war saw both sides weaving and tacking as they probed for their adversary’s weak points and adjusted their reactions. US War Commander Gen. Tommy Franks had to adjust to the shock of finding that, contrary all predictions, the Iraqis were for the first time fighting and fighting hard, employing versatile tactics with great flexibility.
When allied troops refused to be thrown back in most places, Saddam made his own adjustments. Suddenly, he began to send small detachments of his elite divisions out of the Baghdad region. Thursday morning, March 27, the first 2,000 troops of the Iraqi Special Republic Guards Nebuchadnezzar Division were seen moving south towards al Kut, while an Al Medina convoy made for Najef. US generals believe that by sending Special Republic Guard units south to meet coalition forces head-on, Saddam has given allied forces several edges: in a confrontation in the open the allies will enjoy the advantages of numbers and superior air might.
Saddam could, however, change tack again and pull his elite troops back to their Baghdad positions or send them out to defend the Tigris – the next allied objective – and cut off their approaches to Baghdad from the east. The next stage in Saddam’s war – after the guerrillas in their pickups – could be to trap the US columns advancing on Baghdad on the flood plains between the two great rivers of western Asia, the Euphrates and the Tigris, until their highest flood period in April and May, slowing progress and the delivery of supplies. If he can hold them up until then, the Iraq ruler believes he has a chance of winning the day.
Until, then, both sides no doubt have rabbits up their sleeves, presumably including an American fleet of amphibious vessels, rafts and mobile bridges for crossing flooded terrain.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military analysts point out that Iraq has kept its air force grounded and hidden. Its warplanes deployed in present circumstances by day would be easy prey for allied air forces. By night, Saddam may send the solo kamikaze pilots, drones or remote-controlled gliders he is known to have ready, with or without WMD, with devastating effect. Another rabbit in Saddam’s bag of nasties might be suicide killers, to follow the guerrillas.
US war planners are banking heavily on the crack 101st Airborne Division, due to reach the Baghdad theatre first - and the “high tech” 4th Infantry Division, which will come in later – both from the west. Above all, Franks is counting on the speed of the columns’ advance to the gates of Baghdad,
The 101st, which came up from Kuwait along the Iraqi-Saudi frontier with hardly any resistance quietly turned up on Wednesday, March 26, at a point between Karbala and the Razzaza Lake to the west. Its troops have yet to cross over to the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Nonetheless they are in the forefront of the columns heading for Baghdad. Their task is to take and secure Baghdad’s Saddam International Airport west of the capital. To reach that point, the 101st airborne, which commands 300 helicopter gunships, will have to breach the defense lines of the Special Republican Guards Hamourabi Division.
The US 4th Infantry Division will arrive late because the closure of the Turkish route into northern Iraq made it necessary to divert its 16,000 troops plus additional units numbering some 15,000 men through the Suez Canal. The division’s equipment including more than 200 M-1A2 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles will apparently be delivered separately from the men, who are being lifted across Saudi Arabia to save time.
Baghdad Timeline Problematic
But DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources doubt whether the US command’s wish to reach Baghdad by Saturday 29 will be granted. Even if the battle is launched on time, it is bound to be on a narrow front for lack of sufficient ground troops and tanks – even after the arrival of the 4th Infantry Division.
The overall war plan is additionally beset by the failure to launch a northern front after Turkey dropped out and the western front’s shortcomings. A US-British operational plan to free the few roads in the area for US armored reinforcements to reach the Baghdad arena was scrapped.
In view of all these developments in the first nine days of the Iraq War, President George W. Bush and Pentagon planners face some hard decisions:
Going into battle at the scheduled time, Saturday, March 29 - but only on a narrow front in the southwestern outskirts of Baghdad, which has been pounded by US air and missile strikes almost round-the-clock since Tuesday, March 25.
The 101st Airborne Division, would be useful for this engagement – if it can overcome Saddam’s Habourabi Division, cross the Euphrates and reach Saddam International Airport in time. In short, the most US military planners are hoping for now is for the 101st to take the airport, analogous to capturing Dulles Airport which would be a far cry from capturing the Washington D.C.
Furthermore, commanders of the 101st and top defense officials in Washington and Qatar are under no illusion about the risk of Iraq unleashing chemical and biological weapons mounting the closer American forces come to Baghdad.
In addition to an assault by the 101st, US commanders could order elements of the 4th Infantry Division, now making its way from the Saudi Red Sea port of Yanbo to Jordan and on to western Iraq, to launch an eastern offensive (click on the map to enlarge) against Ar Ramadi and drive on from there toward Al Fallujah, when the division would turn south and enter Baghdad’s northern suburbs.
But DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources can report, while a small number of the division’s tank crews have made it to western Iraq, the tanks will not reach the battle arena in time to launch the Baghdad offensive March 29. Once delivered, the M-1A2 tanks and their crews will need a few days before going into action, not before next week. A graduated assault on Baghdad – first by the 101st Airborne, followed by the 4th Infantry Division was not the scenario originally conceived by the US war command. While on the drawing board, the main thrust was meant to come from the south, the revised script has it coming from the west.
A top-level decision has to be made whether to throw into an offensive oriented from the west all four US assault forces moving up from the south after fighting their way across the Euphrates – or just one of them. If only one, a second crucial decision confronting US commanders and policy-makers concerns the disposition of the three or four columns of US forces who are blocked in their passage north, by for instance being ambushed on the flood plain between the two rivers. One suggestion is to use maximum force to force their way through. Or about turn and consolidate US and British gains in the southern cities.
Both have been at pains to avoid combat in densely populated city areas, attended by a high civilian toll and bad press. Even if the two governments decide to go through with this plan of action, it will not solve the problem of insufficient troops to take Baghdad. Urban warfare will leave the troops exhausted with run-down equipment and low supplies of ammunition, after being battered by sandstorms and Iraqi fire. They will not be fit for fresh combat before late next week.
Reserves Call-up Unavoidable
All in all, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military experts scarcely see how the decisive battle for Baghdad can get underway before the middle or even late April. Temperatures in the region then soar to 42 to 48 degrees centigrade (108 to 118 F) and the terrain to be covered on the way to Baghdad may well be flooded and impassable.
The options under discussion at the US command in Qatar and Washington are:
To launch a limited assault on Baghdad immediately.
To postpone the battle for Baghdad until April or May.
To import to the Gulf three or four US divisions from other parts of the world, with all the political and budgetary ramifications entailed.
To call up another 120,000 or as some experts suggest, 200,000 military reservists or -- mainly air and ground crews for the assault on the Iraqi capital. Domestic impediments aside, the United States and Britain will not be able to complete this mobilization before late summer or early fall.
To pile on more firepower - even tactical nuclear devices – against selected strategic targets, such as locations where Iraqi Special Republican Guards divisions and Saddam’s Fedayeen are well dug-in with chemical and biological weapons, even if they are not brought into play.
According to information reaching DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington, London, Qatar and Kuwait, American leaders will decide on a number of small steps after President Bush’s war summit with British prime minister Tony Blair this week.
One is to launch the assault on Baghdad as scheduled, keeping it to a small sector and aiming more for the psychological than the military effect on the Special Republic Guards troops. As the weather improves over the weekend – the meteorological forecasts are conflicting – coalition forces will try to break through from the south and advance toward Baghdad’s southern suburbs. A partial call-up of reserves will be declared in the United States and Britain, together with the transfer to the Iraqi front from Far East and Asian bases of non-essential air force, maintenance, transport and other support units.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military experts believe these steps can lighten the onus of combat on front-line units in Iraq, but will not solve the primary problem: the United States does not have enough field troops or tanks to smash through the Iraqi defenses ringing Baghdad.
1. Saddam’s Assassination – Failed and Faked
The United States has not procured a scrap of hard on-scene intelligence information from Baghdad since its Tomahawk missile attack on a building where Iraqi leaders gathered on March 19 (See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 102, March 21) misfired.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources, Saddam Hussein, who was not present when the cruise missile hit - and as we reported was never scheduled to be there – was not slow to strike back. He ordered his son Uday, who commands the Saddam Fedayeen suicide fighters and Iraq’s Ba’ath party militias, to arrest anyone suspected of ties with US intelligence and execute them after the briefest of interrogations.
Various intelligence organizations, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report, are keenly interested in finding out why the operation failed and who provided the misinformation about the venue of the targeted conference and its roster of participants. Preliminary data show that during four days after the failed assassination attempt, from Wednesday, March 19 until the morning of Monday, March 24, the same source continued to recount its “lethal results”. First came an account of Saddam’s death; next a description of how Iraqi engineering units were digging furiously to remove the dead and wounded from the rubble; and finally, the report that Saddam’s second son Qusay had died in the attack.
Certain Middle Eastern intelligence agencies forewarned of the Tomahawk strike were sure of one thing as they tracked its progress and aftermath: Saddam may not have been present, but vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan was killed. That information also proved false, and “deep throat” finally disappeared Monday morning, never to be heard from again.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly fell into the trap and wishes now to apologize to its readers for misreporting Ramadan’s death in our last issue. Far from being killed, Ramadan emerged without a scratch and is performing his duties by Saddam’s side. We also discovered later that none of Saddam’s immediate circle was hurt in the US attack, leading some US and British intelligence officers to surmise that “deep throat” was a double agent employed by the Iraqi leader and one of his sons to plant false information to confuse the Central Intelligence Agency about Saddam’s whereabouts.
The deception was put together painstakingly. Pictures from the scene showed Iraqi engineering units clearing rubble. When the cameras were gone, they downed shovels. Ambulance teams carting away casualty after casualty were actually carrying stretchers with rolled up, empty blankets.
It was only when CIA and other intelligence agencies in the Middle East applied their satellite cameras - capable of transmitting real-time photos of every doorway in Baghdad - to analyzing the footage that the real picture emerged.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence source say Washington and London now believe that the Tomahawk with Saddam’s name on it did score a direct hit – on a structure built above a bunker that turned out to be empty.
Since the failed assassination, the CIA and its sister agencies have been shy of using double agents in Baghdad and are relying mostly on satellites and surveillance aircraft as well as agents employed by third countries with skeleton staffs in the Iraqi capital.
Aside from missing Saddam, the current Iraq campaign has not been an unmixed US intelligence success. Iraqi state radio and television continues to churn out propaganda despite the American decision to knock them of the air in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the war. These broadcasts provide valuable support on the psychological warfare front to Saddam’s cause, carrying his messages to the Iraqi people along with images of US and British casualties and POWs. Such scenes are intended to demoralize coalition forces and public opinion.
Other Intelligence Misses
Other key military objectives not yet achieved, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources, including the severance of the communications links between the Baghdad-based Iraqi leadership and high command and remote cities, despite several bombing sorties for this goal.
A case in point: Although the Iraqi general command and military intelligence headquarters were bombed on March 26, GC operations remained in direct contact with Iraqi field commanders in Basra, in southern Iraq and Nassariyeh in the center of the country. The Iraqis were ready for targeted aerial strikes and had prepared numerous backup systems. Each time one communications network was knocked out, another switched on almost immediately at an alternative location.
Similarly, the heavy aerial and missile raids intended to grind down the Special Republican Guards guarding Baghdad have been disappointing. Their combat gear, tanks and vehicles in and around Baghdad are buried deep in well-protected bunkers. In the first round of strikes, a number of Republican Guardsmen were caught in exposed positions along the line of defense around the capital and took casualties. That soon changed. Most of the men were moved into the city and placed in areas that had not been targeted. A few remained outside as cannon fodder to serve as observers and guards. But coalition war headquarters soon grasped that there was little point in continuing to clobber the Special Republican Guards positions around the city as they were largely unmanned. The troops will only be sent back to forward positions if the Iraqi general command spots US forces approaching Baghdad’s defensive perimeter.
The Iraqi tactic of moving elite units from place to place to keep them out of harm’s way and in good shape for defending Baghdad presents the allies with another intelligence problem:
US and British special forces have found the Special Republican Guards’ forward lines and the city itself to be impossible to penetrate.
2. Uday’s Guerrillas – Lessons from Chechnya and Afghanistan
The biggest intelligence failure of all, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources stress, was the inability of any Western agency to uncover the military preparations Saddam and his sons made in the run-up to the war to counter the allied invasion.
The CIA and the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Oman and Israel were equally deficient on this score.
Nine days into the war, the preparatory intelligence campaign turns out to have been misdirected. It focused on a partially successful attempt to penetrate the Special Republic Guards and the regular army’s command structure in a bid to tempt officers and men to surrender, defect or rebel against Saddam. However, they did not reach far enough into the militias and security bodies running the guerrilla war behind US and British frontlines, the “hornets” assault programmed to inflict heavy loss of men and materiel and ultimately undermine the allied offensive by intense harassment.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources, the CIA and allied agencies discovered that Saddam Hussein had charged his elder son Uday with establishing a guerrilla force – but nothing more than the general directive.
In fact, from April 2002, Uday was busy for many months putting together an 800,000-strong guerrilla army. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that its largest component is the Baath militia of 650,000 members with chapters in every corner of Iraq. In addition to a regular paycheck, each member drew an extra $200 a month for attending military training three times a week. Party members earned another $50 a head for any relative over 14 he recruited.
Their training included dare-devil driving tactics on a battlefield behind the wheels of pickup trucks, usually Toyotas, while firing heavy machineguns or light mortars. They were taught how to plant and detonate explosives, mount ambushes and take part in coordinated sorties by groups of armed vehicles.
The militiamen were transformed into guerrilla fighters by an estimated 700 Iraqi military intelligence officers who had been in Chechnya in the 1990s for long training stints in guerrilla warfare with al Qaeda experts.
Uday is rumored to have made secret trips to Iran, Lebanon, Bosnia and Macedonia to bring 300 al Qaeda instructors over to Iraq. These rumors will remain unconfirmed until allied forces actually capture an al Qaeda instructor. What is not in dispute is that Saddam and Uday copied the deadliest practices al Qaeda and Taliban perfected in Afghanistan.
Both used dozens and sometimes hundreds of fast pickups armed with light and heavy weapons to crisscross the country and repress Afghan tribes and warlords. Tribal chiefs were intimidated and kept obedient by their fear of the vehicles popularly known as “white devils” suddenly darting out at them.
When the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, al Qaeda sold the pickups to finance its fighters’ getaway when they saw the vehicles charging up and down Afghanistan’s winding mountain roads were easy prey for US aircraft and drones.
All the same, Uday chose the fast pickups to bedevil US troops in the open Iraqi desert. He knew the allied forces would be passing through since the US war command made no attempt to hide its preparations for invading Iraq from Kuwait and Qatar in the south.
In late 2002, Iraqi agents in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, bought 7,500 pickups and shipped them by sea to Iraq in small, inconspicuous lots. The purchasing agents were briefed to order trucks with front-wheel drives. Anyone curious about Saddam’s wholesale purchase of pickup trucks was told they were for the use of farms newly established to make the desert bloom.
Ruling Baath Converted to Guerrilla Army
Painting them in the drab colors of the desert, Iraqi mechanics fitted the pickups with heavy machine guns, handing them to the Baath militiamen whose local cells have spearheaded the strikes at US military routes, small convoys which lose their way and US military camps bedded down for the night. In this project, Uday made history. Apart from the Soviet Union, Mao’s China and North Vietnam in the communist era, no political party had converted itself into a vast guerrilla army until Saddam Hussein’s son’s brainchild was born. Its members are moreover highly motivated fighters.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources add that, after borrowing al Qaeda’s raiding tactics, Uday took a leaf out of Yasser Arafat’s suicide terror strategy. They report that while US intelligence officers were taking notes of the large-scale battles Israel conducted in Palestinian towns from April to September 2002 – especially in Nablus and Jenin, Iraqi intelligence agents studied Palestinian combat tactics and sent in their reports to Uday by couriers passing through Jordan or Syria.
The Americans were interested in Israeli combat in the densely populated areas of Arab cities; Uday’s informants focused on the Palestinians’ failure to keep Israeli troops out of their Casbahs and the refugee camps of Nablus and Jenin, despite alleyways no more than a few feet broad and underground tunnels connecting the houses.
Uday’s conclusion was that the Palestinians had booby-trapped only a part of their honeycombed towns and camps, while Israeli intelligence knew precisely which alleys and buildings had been trapped, enough to keep their troops out of harm’s way. To be on the safe side, IDF soldiers initiated the method of passing from house to house by breaking through internal walls instead of exposing themselves to attack on the outside.
Saddam’s son was also informed that the Palestinians had not prepared sufficient suicide bombers to stop the Israelis from seizing their cities. Only in Jenin, in the battle fought on April 7, 2002, did a group of Palestinian and Hizballah suicide fighters blow themselves up and inflict heavy Israeli casualties.
After making a thorough study of these techniques, Uday ordered the 100,000 troops of Saddam’s Fedayeen suicide fighters to set up small suicide units of 3-5 men in every Iraqi city including Baghdad and Tikrit. These men were ordered to greet US forces entering their towns by blowing themselves up in sequence.
Assad to Saddam’s Rescue
In two covert operations this week, US special forces blew up the Iraqi-Syrian pipeline that was carrying illegal oil exports from Mosul and Kirkuk in the north to the Syrian Mediterranean oil terminal on the Banias for sale overseas, as well as the Syrian-Iraq railroad that was Saddam’s only route for importing war supplies. Nonetheless, Syrian president Basher Assad kept the smuggling routes running with the help of giant tanker trucks prepared in advance; weapons and arms components are reaching Iraq by means of trucks and other vehicles impounded by Syrian troops.
Assad also roped in his military intelligence and transport commands to enlist and move thousands of volunteers from Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria across the border to Baghdad in hired buses and trucks. They are given weapons and their families get cash payments. Assad is also forcing Damascus-based Palestinian groups – Hamas, Jihad Islami, Jibril, Popular Front etc. - to enlist their followers for Saddam’s war against the Americans.
Thursday, hundreds of Lebanese Hizballah fighters were taken in convoy to Iraq to join Saddam’s army in an operation organized by Syria.
Last week, an American F-15 warplane fired a rocket at a Syrian bus killing five passengers, who turned out to be Palestinian volunteers on their way to Baghdad. Syria complained and Washington apologized, but both knew that the American rocket was a last warning to the Syrian president to halt his aid to Saddam Hussein. That warning was not heeded
France and Germany to Turkey’s Rescue
The break between Turkey and Washington appears irretrievable.
The US president’s personal envoy Zalmay Khalilzad left Ankara Wednesday after receiving a stiff notice from Turkey’s new prime minister Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara had resolved to turn its back on its traditional political and military alliance with the United States dating back to the days of the Cold War.
Instead, Turkey was throwing in its lot with two European powers, France and Germany, the most steadfast opponents of the Bush administration’s war on Iraq. Both have assured Ankara that if the British veto Turkey’s admission to the European Union, Paris and Berlin will provide Turkey with the same benefits as those enjoyed by full member-states.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Support… US War on Iraq
US, British and Iranian navies have forged a watery entente cordiale to protect Gulf waters against Iraqi attempts to drop mines and launch speedboats packed with explosives against US war vessels. The naval arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has caught more Iraqi rogue vessels than the US and British fleets combined. The first forces to enter Faw Peninsula were not British as planned but Iranian to establish a helicopter base for the anti-terror naval operation. Two low-flying Iranian helicopters hunting Iraqi boats crashed this week over Gulf waters.
The Iranian leadership is divided over whether to help the America-British war effort in this manner. The supporting faction is led by the Revolutionary Guards commander General Yahya Rahim Safavi, his deputy Brigadier Mohammed Bagher Zolghadr, defense minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the liaison officer between the Revolutionary Guards and regular army General Hassam Firouz-Abadi and the navy commander Brigadier Abbas Mohtaj.
Its opponents are the hard-line spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, head of Islamic propaganda Ayatollah Mohammad Iraqi, who is also in charge of Tehran-sponsored overseas terrorist organizations, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Jihad, as well as Baker Hakim, head of the leading anti-Saddam Shiite opposition group. He says he does not trust the Americans to keep faith with Iraq’s Shiites
Modificato da - gz on 3/28/2003 10:56:38