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Stratfor: "U.S. Iraq Strategy Apparently Working, ..."

I have no idea about the reliability of this information, but it's
interesting nonetheless.  --seb

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 20:04:08 -0600
Subject: Iraq

Listen to Stratfor Analysts discuss
the latest in World Affairs

Global Intelligence Update
Red Alert
March 11, 1999

U.S. Iraq Strategy Apparently Working, Despite Incoherent Policy


Shiite forces in southern Iraq have reportedly begun substantial 
attacks, following the reported killing of a top Iraqi commander 
and the creeping U.S. bombing campaign.  The potential outcome 
remains debatable.


Iraqi Shiite opposition forces have reportedly launched a major 
military operation in the southeastern Iraqi provinces of Maysan 
and Basrah, according to a statement issued March 10 by the Iran-
based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).  
SCIRI claimed that the operation, launched in retaliation for the 
February 19 assassination of Iraqi Shiite cleric Ayatollah 
Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, has resulted in heavy losses among Iraqi 
troops.  The Shiite forces reportedly pummeled a tank battalion 
between Talha and Uzair with rockets and mortar fire, and 
destroyed an additional eight tanks along a road from Hamayon to 

The reported offensive, for which there has been no independent 
confirmation, comes only a day after the also unconfirmed report 
of the assassination of Saddam Hussein's commander for southern 
Iraq.  The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan on March 8 cited Iraqi 
opposition Al-Intifadah Television, broadcasting from the Iranian 
border, as reporting that Iraqi Southern Region commander General 
Ali Hasan al-Majid had been killed by his aides in the southern 
city of Nasiriyah.  Al-Watan added that the same story was being 
reported by SCIRI leader Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim's Voice of 
Rebellious Iraq radio, as well as by Iraqis in the south. Al-
Majid was reportedly traveling to Qurnah District, near the Shatt 
al-Arab in northern Basrah province, when he was attacked.  
According to sources at Al-Hayat, SCIRI's London office has 
categorically denied that Baqir al-Hakim had made such a claim, 
and Stratfor has been unable to otherwise confirm the death of 

If, in fact, al-Majid has been either executed or assassinated, 
it would be a highly significant development.  Al-Majid, known as 
"Ali Chemical" for his use of chemical warfare agents against the 
Kurds, was Saddam Hussein's cousin and one of his closest and 
most trusted commanders.  Al-Majid was made governor of Kuwait 
during the Iraqi occupation.  He was placed in charge of southern 
Iraq last December 16, during the reorganization of Iraq's armed 
forces that took place immediately preceding Operation Desert Fox 
and which, we believe, was in reaction to a foiled coup plot 

In fact, Al-Majid reportedly personally ordered the executions of 
General Ali Maaruf al-Saidi and Lieutenant Colonel Sabah Dhiyab 
al-Khalidi, from the Iraqi 3rd Corps, during Desert Fox.  The 3rd 
Corps appears to have been central to the failed coup plot.  Al-
Majid also commanded the reportedly brutal suppression of Shiite 
uprisings that swept southern Iraq in the days following the 
murder of Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr and his two sons in 
Najaf.  The crackdown reportedly resulted in the deaths of 25 to 
300 Shiites, depending on the source, as well as the execution of 
eight Iraqi officers.

Interestingly, Al-Majid's aide and deputy commander for the 
Southern Region, Lieutenant General Kamel Sachet al-Janabi, was 
reportedly among those killed for involvement in yet another 
failed coup plot.  The plot was allegedly foiled in late January, 
when two Iraqi generals reported to Saddam Hussein that they had 
been contacted by exiled officers.  The Iraqi generals were to 
have built support among divisional commanders and to have moved 
to take control of key installations under cover of a future 
confrontation with the U.S. and Britain.  Multiple Iraqi 
opposition sources reported on February 25 and 26 that Sachet, 
eight of his aides, and Lieutenant General Namiq Hassan, 
commander of the Iraqi 3rd Corps, were arrested on January 26 and 
executed shortly thereafter on charges of treason.  

SCIRI reported on March 9 that a total of 24 officers, including 
Sachet, Hassan, and former Baghdad air defense commander Major 
General Ghadaban Abed al-Ghriri, whose clan controls the highway 
south of Baghdad, were executed on February 8 for involvement in 
the coup plot.  Sachet's reported execution does raise the 
question of whether al-Majid, if killed, was assassinated by his 
anti-Saddam aides, or was executed by his pro-Saddam aides for 
his own involvement in the coup plot.  Either possibility 
suggests serious security breaches in Saddam's inner circle.

Events in southern Iraq point to the inadvertent success of U.S. 
military strategy in Iraq, despite the apparent chaos paralyzing 
U.S. policy toward the country.  U.S. policy makers, while 
agreeing on the need to remove Saddam from power, apparently 
remain divided over how exactly to effect his overthrow, with 
whose assistance, and with what outcome.  Top U.S. commander in 
the Persian Gulf, Marine General Anthony Zinni, last month told a 
Senate committee, "I don't see an opposition group that has the 
viability to overthrow Saddam at this point."  Despite generating 
a list of eligible recipient opposition groups, the Clinton 
administration has yet to distribute any of the $97 million 
approved by Congress last year for use in funding the overthrow 
of Saddam Hussein.  This has drawn the ire of Congressional hawks 
who argue that the Clinton administration is moving too slowly in 

American policy is not only stalled by lack of a suitable 
contender for power in Iraq, particularly among the preferred 
Sunni minority, but also because the most viable groups, Shiites 
and Kurds, have post-Saddam goals not altogether palatable to 
Iraq's neighbors.  As we reported in the March 2 Global 
Intelligence Update, newly appointed U.S. coordinator for 
transition in Iraq, Frank Ricciardone, effectively ruled out 
cooperating with Iraq's Shiites and Kurds for the overthrow of 
Saddam, instead proposing a coup by Sunni military officers 
[].  Ricciardone 
explicitly ruled out a division of Iraq into a northern 
"Kurdistan," southern Shiite entity, and Sunni central Iraqi rump 

Turkey opposes a Kurdish state that could stir up unrest among 
eastern Turkey's Kurdish population.  Persian Gulf states are 
concerned about a Shiite state in southern Iraq that would 
effectively be an extension of Iran.  Yet according to the 
Bahrain newspaper Akhbar al-Khaleej, which cited "well informed 
diplomatic sources" in Doha, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen 
was attempting to drum up support for an Iraqi partition plan 
during his recent tour of Gulf states.  Under the alleged plan, 
ongoing air strikes would intensify and cut off northern and 
southern Iraq from Baghdad's control.  Iraqi opposition forces, 
protected by U.S. air cover, would then enter the "liberated" 
territories, their governments would be recognized, an they would 
begin launching attacks on Baghdad.  The Akhbar al-Khaleej argued 
such a plan is already being implemented.  "The aim is both to 
gradually destroy Iraq's defensive capabilities and try to 
establish the principle that such attacks are a routine matter, 
thus getting public opinion accustomed to them ahead of stage 
two," the paper claimed.

While U.S. policy is clearly divided within the administration, 
Congress, and the military, evidence suggests that U.S. miliatary 
strategy of gradually eroding Iraq's defense capability and 
tightening a noose around Baghdad through continuous air strikes 
is proceeding effectively.  U.S. aircraft have struck more 
targets since Operation Desert Fox than were hit during the 
December operation itself.  The attacks have reportedly destroyed 
more than 20 percent of Iraq's air defense capability.  But 
though specifically aimed at Iraq's air defense system, targets 
have extended to coastal defense missile batteries, communication 
facilities, and command and control bunkers.  

The U.S. has all but acknowledged that the air strikes, 
officially acts of self defense for aircraft patrolling the "no 
fly" zones, are more of a creeping war of attrition.  One senior 
State Department official described the strikes to the Washington 
Post as a "mini undeclared war."  U.S. Undersecretary of Defense 
Walter Slocombe was cited by the International Herald Tribune as 
saying, "What we are working to do is to help create the 
political and military conditions that will permit a successful 
change of the regime."  The International Herald tribune also 
cited a senior administration official as saying, "We think we 
see Mr. Saddam flailing.  We are working toward a slow whittling-
down of his power, his authority, and his nerves.  There are 
reports of military guys perhaps not following orders."

The "mini undeclared war" last month may have just missed a major 
victory.  According to "travelers from Baghdad" in Jordan, cited 
by the Egyptian news agency MENA, the February 24 air strike in 
the suburbs of Baghdad was, in fact, targeted at Saddam Hussein.  
The "command bunker" that was struck in the attack was reportedly 
the Radwaniyah Palaces, near Baghdad International Airport, and 
the attack allegedly occurred minutes after Saddam left the area. 
According to the unidentified travelers, the U.S. had information 
that Saddam was inspecting the facility.  As with much news out 
of Iraq, this report too is unconfirmed.

While the air campaign may have missed the big one, it still 
appears to be succeeding.  However, in the absence of coherent or 
at least realistic U.S. policy, it is not succeeding exactly 
according to plan.  Repeated attempts to foster a military coup 
have been thwarted by Saddam.  But the Shiite opposition seems 
ready to take full advantage of the destabilizing effect of the 
U.S. air strikes.  SCIRI claims to have moved some 20,000 
fighters into southern Iraq from Iran in mid-February, and is now 
claiming to have launched an offensive against Iraqi forces in 
southeast Iraq.  If they have also managed to decapitate the 
Southern Region command, they may see some success.  However, the 
Shiites do not have what it takes to capture Baghdad and control 
Iraq.  Neither do the Kurds.  So whether a U.S. policy preference 
or not, the success of U.S. air war strategy combined with the 
failure of the U.S. to coordinate the ground war against Saddam, 
could inadvertently create a divided Iraq.


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