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[casi] US can carry out quick strike on Iraq

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U.S. Capable of Quick Iraq Strike
Associated Press, 10 July 2002
By Sally Buzbee

The United States is capable of launching a rapid attack on Iraq by
marshaling 50,000 troops at the Kuwaiti border in roughly a week,
airlifting them in and bringing their tanks and heavy equipment on
ships through the Strait of Hormuz.

That would give Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein just a few days' notice,
rather than the six months he had before the 1991 Gulf War. It also
might eliminate America's need to rely on bases in neighboring
countries like Saudi Arabia or Jordan, whose governments say they
want the United States to leave Iraq alone.

A risk is that Saddam still would have time to launch missiles - perhaps
carrying poison gas or anthrax - toward U.S. troops in Kuwait or
civilians in Israel, say military experts eyeing the options if President
Bush decides to take on Iraq.

Such a surprise attack also might fall short of the main goal of toppling
Saddam, requiring a backup plan involving thousands more American

For now, Bush seems focused on covert action: He signed an order
earlier this year directing the CIA to increase support to Iraqi
opposition groups and allowing possible use of CIA and Special Forces
teams against Saddam.

Bush also recently unveiled a new policy that allows for pre-emptive
action against enemies who have weapons of mass destruction.

If covert attempts fail, many expect Bush to try military action, and
perhaps look for an element of surprise.

"We could have a situation where on Monday, it first looks like there
will be a war, on Friday troops are in Kuwait, and by (the next)
Thursday they're in Baghdad," said John Pike, a defense analyst in

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday that Bush has
indicated he's made no decisions on Iraq. "The president is, of course,
consulting with nations around the world about all of America's plans,
diplomatic and otherwise, in the war against terrorism," Fleischer said.

Many U.S. officials and lawmakers believe 200,000 or more soldiers
could be needed to topple Saddam, a force that would require
months to move to the region.

The hope behind a swifter attack is that the Iraqi army would crumble
in shock if Saddam - with little warning - appeared doomed, said
retired Rear Adm. Stephen Baker, an analyst at the Center for
Defense Information in Washington. Thus, fewer American troops
would be needed for success, the argument goes.

U.S. officials might try to delay knowledge of any such impending
attack by, at first, explaining the troop movements as merely the
beginning of a six-month buildup.

There are risks.

One is that Iraqi troops, especially Saddam's Republican Guard, would
not give up, instead bogging American soldiers down in difficult urban
warfare within Baghdad.

Using fewer American troops also increases the risk that Iraq might
disintegrate into ethnic conflicts if Saddam falls, said Anthony
Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies in Washington.

The biggest risk is that Saddam would retaliate with biological or
chemical weapons. That might happen even if America does a slow
military buildup, said Baker, who along with others considers this the
critical danger.

In any surprise attack, the keys would be:

Air power:

The United States could launch strikes off aircraft carriers in the Red
Sea and Persian Gulf, and from land bases in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman,
Diego Garcia and possibly Turkey. The military also might try, early
on, to seize airfields in western Iraq itself and also use Kurdish-
controlled northern Iraq.

Help from neighboring Saudi Arabia or Jordan isn't strictly needed,
Cordesman said, but it would give the United States more military
flexibility to have Saudi staging areas.

Jordan reiterated on Wednesday that it would not allow foreign
troops to use its territory for any attack against Iraq, a position the
Saudis also have publicly taken.

Moving troops and equipment:

Transport ships carrying heavy equipment, weapons and tanks from
Guam, Diego Garcia and elsewhere could be sent to the Persian Gulf
region without attracting much initial notice.

The public would learn that a large convoy was moving toward Iraq
only when the ships passed through the Strait of Hormuz into the
Persian Gulf, a day or so from docking in Kuwait. Other heavy
equipment is stored in nearby Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Once in Kuwait, the ships could provide tanks to waiting U.S. soldiers.

Some 10,000-15,000 troops already could be in Kuwait through
normal rotations. An additional 35,000-40,000 could be flown in
quickly from surrounding bases or ships.

The U.S. military also might try to employ Iraqi opposition forces like
the Kurds in the north, or dissident generals, but there are strong
risks to that.

Stopping missiles:

The United States would try to use reconnaissance aircraft like the
unmanned Predator to find and prevent Saddam from launching
short-range ballistic missiles armed with chemical or biological

Najib al Salhi, a former Iraqi general opposed to Saddam, contended
in a recent Washington speech that the United States could prevent
such launches. But most U.S. experts call that wishful thinking.

Many Iraqi missile launchers are hidden either in hardened bunkers,
or beneath sites like hospitals or garages. It's considered likely that
Saddam would manage to launch at least some toward either U.S.
troops or toward civilians in Israel.

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