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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Most interesting are two paragraphs that state quite bluntly that intelligence gathered by inspectors is to be used by the US for the invasion and also that the no-fly zones have been used as a means for pounding defence and communications facilities. Interesting that comments such as this can be made without even a hint that this makes hash of any idea that the UN is 'fair' or even concerned with legality..It is amazing to me that so many people think that the invasion would be OK if it had UN sanction! Cheers, Ken Hanly http://www.latimes.com The Dividends of Delay Allies' foot-dragging has strengthened U.S. war strategy By William M. Arkin William M. Arkin is a military affairs analyst who writes regularly for Opinion. E-mail: warkin@igc .org. February 23, 2003 SOUTH POMFRET, Vt. -- Thanks to France and Germany, to Turkey and NATO, to Saudi Arabia, the United Nations and protesters worldwide, when war with Iraq comes, the United States will have a far better battle plan and a more realistic political strategy than it had before all the unpleasantness began. Gone is reliance on Iraqi exiles to fight as "proxies." Abandoned is the initial design of an armored force driving straight for urban Baghdad. Rejected are dreams of quick victory through air power or exotic weapons. Vanished are the visions of another Afghanistan, with CIA and special operations forces carrying the day. Since the first contingency plans for Iraq were drafted last spring, the U.S. military has vastly improved its design for war. And much of that improvement comes from the extra time afforded by the procession of diplomatic miscues and setbacks. What is more, though hawks in the administration have been driven mad by the real world's defiance of their unilateralism, eight months of delay may turn out to have moved the United States onto stronger political ground as well. It wasn't supposed to have been this way. Senior administration officials admit a lot of cold water has been thrown in their faces over the last six months. Some insist that diplomatic accommodations have been a mistake and that the U.S. military has been weakened. But these hawks fail to appreciate the degree to which additional time has permitted serious errors to be rectified in both war planning and political strategy. Originally, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) called for 250,000 soldiers, five full divisions of heavy armor and mechanized infantry, driving "up the middle" from Kuwait against Iraqi forces. Over the last eight months, planners have shifted to a strategy embodied in the current buzzword "simultaneity." The Army's institu- tional impulse to play a dominant role and prove its future worth has given way to an approach that emphasizes air, ground and special forces working in unison to achieve a more subtle effect. By linking massive airstrikes with ground operations, planners hope to achieve several objectives. Their goal is to show the Iraqi populace and the Iraqi military that the United States is deadly serious about total victory. They intend to banish any notion that Washington expects to defeat the regime solely from the air or on the cheap, and thus might be deflected by the prospect of heavy casualties or urban combat. Faced with simultaneous air attacks and ground operations, together with psychological warfare and special operations, a CENTCOM planner says, key elements in Iraqi society may reconsider their options. Senior Iraqi officers, the conscript troops in the regular army and/or the civilian population might rise up against the regime and its Republican Guard. Such an uprising, supported by U.S. forces, could obviate the need for American soldiers to write the final chapter of the war in the streets of Baghdad. America's plan for war in Iraq is now what could be called a Muhammad Ali strategy, to "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." It will threaten Baghdad from many directions and in many ways simultaneously. Powerful blows to the head will be delivered by a mind-boggling number of precision-guided weapons. Meantime, flexible ground operations will overload Iraqi defenses with more threats than they can handle. Though the news media continue to report whole "divisions" being sent to the region, the actual deployments are more selective -- an assortment of units from inside those divisions, each chosen for its particular capabilities. And many of the units will be used in far more varied and flexible ways than in the past. As an example, although the media report the 82nd Airborne Division deploying from Ft. Bragg, N.C., in fact, only one of the division's three regiments -- the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment -- is slated for Iraq. The second regiment of the 82nd is in Afghanistan; the third has just returned from there. The single brigade-size unit can parachute deep into Iraq to set up a forward operating base. Similarly, the 3rd Infantry Division, a traditional mechanized unit, is being supplemented to increase its flexibility. The addition of Task Force 11th Aviation regiment, a composite brigade that consolidates attack and transport helicopters from Germany, as well as the new Apache Longbow chopper from Texas, transforms the division into a far more mobile force. The central element of any war will be the deployment of forces deep inside Iraqi territory. Meanwhile, months of delay have brought tangible benefits for U.S. military units as they prepared for war. First, the support base and the command and control setups are much stronger today than planners anticipated a few months ago. Second, constant bombing in the southern no-fly zone has significantly degraded Iraqi air defenses and communications networks; the bombing has also created pockets inside the country that are isolated from Baghdad. Iraqi forces themselves are weakened and immobilized, psychologically battered by the tensions of the yearlong stand-off. Finally, American intelligence has benefited enormously from the work of the United Nations inspectors. They have visited hundreds of factories and military bases, including the Iraqi missile force, indirectly updating U.S. target folders and verifying where weapons of mass destruction are not being hidden. Testifying before Congress on Feb. 12, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell stated for the first time the most significant grand strategy change that has developed as America has tried to convince its Arab partners to support the use of force against Saddam Hussein. When the war is over, Powell said, "We'll be able to change the presence levels of American troops throughout [the] region in the absence of a threatening regime like Saddam Hussein's Iraq." In other words, the administration now accepts the fact that the permanent presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf breeds terrorism and resentment. According to a senior military officer, the administration is loath to commit itself publicly to withdrawing the majority of its forces and reshaping the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf after Hussein is gone. But a secret promise to do so has prompted virtually all the neighboring states to offer at least tacit support for military action. Jordan has restarted its clandestine support, opening the way for special operations from its soil and air operations across its skies. Though use of the U.S. air command center at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Riyadh had been a bone of contention, Saudi Arabia has not only given its approval but it is quietly allowing the buildup of offensive air units on its soil. Meanwhile Qatar is letting the U.S. use an important air base and will be the center for the thousand-strong CENTCOM forward headquarters and the hundreds of news media representatives who will report from the region. How the war plan will unfold, Powell told Congress, "will depend, frankly, on the resistance that is put up by Iraqi forces. It might collapse quickly [or] it may be a more prolonged conflict, particularly if you get into some sort of siege situation in Baghdad." >From its cocksure initial beliefs, the administration has gained a textured appreciation of the risks of war, and of the importance of a clear outcome. Sparing the Iraqi infrastructure from destruction is not a sign of a "timid" plan, as some complain. It is part of the new determination to pave the way for as quick an exit as possible. "The plans that we are looking at for the after[math]," Powell said, "would include using the institutions that are there but purged of Saddam Hussein's cohorts, and build on what's there and put in place a new government, and get out as fast as we can." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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