Kuwait City, March 20: The American military strategy to overrun Iraq has been described by reports from the Pentagon as “shock and awe” followed by “rapid dominance” aimed at making the invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein a quickfire — compared to past standards — military operation. But evidence so far is that the American attacks are surgical and not near carpet-bombing at least in and around the Iraqi capital.
Little, however, is known of the Iraqi defence mechanism. Saddam’s military defence of his regime is built on three rings of forces — the outer, the Iraqi army, followed by two of the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard led by his younger son Qusay.
In September last year, the Iraqi establishment gave a rare glimpse of what its strategy of defence might be, part of which has been touched upon by Toby Dodge, an analyst with the International Institute of Strategic Studies specialising on Iraq in a paper titled Cakewalk, coup or urban warfare: the Battle for Iraq.
Sometime last year, Iraqi deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was quizzed on the military.
“People say to me,” he had responded, “you are not the Vietnamese, you have no jungles or swamps to hide in’. I reply ‘let our cities be swamps and our buildings jungles’.”
The Iraqi security forces are also likely to adopt static positional defence strategies — a lesson learnt from erstwhile Indian military advisers when New Delhi and Baghdad had military-to-military ties.
The tactic would involve digging into bunkers at ground level that will not be easily spotted from air and ones that can withstand heavy bombardment.
Static defence against mobile attacks is likely to become evident somewhere along the road from Kuwait to Baghdad — the road called in the last Gulf War “the highway of death”.
Using population centres, or, in other words, “human shields”, Saddam’s forces are also likely to gamble on Americans wreaking such heavy “collateral damage” — euphemism for civilian casualties — that it can be used as propaganda against Washington.
In the first 14 days of the last Gulf War that lasted 43 days, the US-led air forces were reported to have flown 1,10,00 sorties. This time, the strategy of “shock and awe”, if adopted, too, means that aerial bombardment of a scale rarely seen before will be in evidence.
At the same time, the advances in technology means that the American-led air assault — and this will be more in evidence in nightly raids — can claim more and more “smart weapons”.
General Richard Myers, the US joint chiefs of staff chairman, had indicated as much recently.
He had said that while less than 10 per cent of the bombs dropped in the 1991-92 war were precision-guided, more than 80 per cent of the bombs used this time will be guided by satellite and laser.