Coming Attractions: Gulf War II

For a sobering look at modern war, check out this video of an AC-130 hunting down targets in Afghanistan. (Windows Media Player required.) The most chilling is the tracking and leading of individuals as they run for their lives.

ac-130.jpg

For a sobering look at modern war, check out this video of an AC-130 hunting down targets in Afghanistan. (Thanks to IFILM for picking up the slack on this.) The most chilling is the tracking and leading of individuals as they run for their lives, who appear as bright spots in the infrared imaging. The audio commentary is interesting, too, with comments from pilots and commanders. There are orders to avoid a mosque but “level” a building nearby. I’m assuming similar scenes will be played out in several months in Iraq.

Of course, you know, this means war

bombs
Photo courtesy of the BBC

First off, my apologies for the delay in updating the site. This past week, I got snowed under by a combination of outside assignments and a maternal visit. I’m not a slacker. Really. Also, to whoever just donated $5, thanks very much! You pushed me over the $100 mark for donations.
Oddly enough, it’s been a bit of a quiet week on the Iraqi front, with any news mostly pushed to the side by Trent Lott winking at the segregationists and then saying, in effect, “I wasn’t winking, I had something in my eye.” As they say in the movies, “It’s quiet … too quiet.”
But the war machine moves on, although perhaps with more hesitation than many people think. Chief of the Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, and the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James L. Jones, worry that the current war plans are too risky. The plans, as reported by the Washington Post call for “a fast-moving ground attack without an overwhelming number of reinforcements on hand.” Instead, the war would get off to a “rolling start” with more troops being flown in. Also, the armored units, instead of traveling a predetermined distance and pausing to allow slower units to catch up, would charge across the desert until they run into opposition. They would then blow things up real good.
That’s the current plan, anyway, and it’s giving Shinseki and Jones, who sit on the Joint Chiefs, the heebie-jeebies. They argue that Paul Wolfowitz’s rosy “house of cards” theory of the life span of Saddam’s reign is overly optimistic. The generals argue that worst-case planning is necessary, especially in the case of a “Fortress Baghdad” scenario that involves heavy street fighting with the Iraqis using chemical and biological agents. (Hm. Have Shinseki and Jones been reading this entry in which the Ba’ath party has a contingency plan to ring Baghdad with the Republican Guard? The details of the Iraqi defense plan, first reported in the London-based Arabic daily paper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi are thus:

“First, deployment of the Republican Guard forces at the periphery of the cities, primarily Baghdad, to resist any American ground offensive that seeks to take them. The mission of the Republican [Guard] forces will also be to resist any attempt at internal Iraqi rebellion, such as the one that followed the American offensive in January 1991 in the South and the North.”
“Second, deployment of special forces that will include the ‘elite of the elite’ – in his words – inside the capital Baghdad, so that they can participate in street combat if the American forces or their allies enter. Then, will begin fierce resistance operations, such as those carried out in occupied Palestine.”
“Third, deployment of groups of ‘Saddam’s Fedayeen’ within the capital and in other cities, to control the internal situation and participate in the resistance operations.” (Translation provided courtesy of MEMRI)

The “good” news, I guess, is that if it does come down to horrible fighting, block by city block, and Saddam strikes back with chemical or biological weapons, a majority of Americas are fully prepared to nuke him.
Six in 10 Americans would support a nuclear response, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll. Yipes! More encouragingly, however, 58 percent of respondents said President George W. Bush had not presented enough evidence to warrant attacking Iraq, up from 50 percent in September. There seems to be some concern over Bush’s motives for attacking Iraq and the public worries he’s moving too quickly for their taste. Fifty-eight percent also want to see the United Nations as a supporting cast member. Perhaps in the Gulf War II movie, it will be credited as “second international organization on the left.”
(As an aside, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that the United States had no plans to remove Saddam from power. “If he cooperates, then the basis of changed-regime policy has shifted because his regime has, in fact, changed its policy to one of cooperation,” Powell said. Note it’s no longer “regime change” but “changed regime” as the goal. Orwell must be proud.)
Oh, and in case anyone thought a war might be averted, the United States will give Iraq’s dossier it turned in last weekend an “F.” With the news that the United States would not be accepting Iraq’s excuse that the dog ate its chemical weapons, the price of gold rose and the dollar fell, indicating that markets feel war is now inevitable. I’ve been saying it since July: It’s not a matter of will the United States go to war, but when. And it’s still looking like February or March. Stratfor agrees, saying that Australia has been advised to be ready to gear up in March. The British military has also begun leaking to the press saying the summer heat would not be a “crucial factor” in an attack on Iraq.
In other news, the Associated Press is now reporting that Turkey is preparing to deploy 65,000 to 75,000 troops in northern Iraq in the event of a U.S. invasion. I reported on this back in October. Radio Australia is reporting that Turkey has already put 10,000 to 15,000 troops on the Turkish-Iraqi border in order to counter Kurdish rebels operating cross border. The goal of the Turks is to prevent the Kurds from forming a state in the fog of war resulting from a dust-up to the south. The Turks would also be in a position to seize the oil fields of Kirkuk and Mosul, something they’ve wanted to do since 1923 when they were denied to Ataturk. Ankara is not going to miss out on the spoils of this war, especially since the first one and the decade of sanctions demolished Turkey’s economy. It’s payback time.

Kurdish rebels armed on Turkish-Iraq border

ane’s Defense Weekly reported (sorry, no link) last month that the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), the successor to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), has armed itself with man-portable surface-to-air (SAM) missiles along the Turkish-Iraqi border. The news, leaked by the Turkish military to the national press, underscores the Kurdish rebels’ concerns that Turkey may be planning an invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan in conjunction with a U.S.-Iraq war.

Jane’s Defense Weekly reported (sorry, no link) last month that the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), the successor to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), has armed itself with man-portable surface-to-air (SAM) missiles along the Turkish-Iraqi border. The news, leaked by the Turkish military to the national press, underscores the Kurdish rebels’ concerns that Turkey may be planning an invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan in conjunction with a U.S.-Iraq war.
According to the report, KADEK has acquired 70 to 80 Strela-2 missiles, and is looking to procure more. (These are labeled by NATO as the SA-7 “Grail”.) The arms are positioned in the Harkuk and Kandil mountains in northern Iraq, and the group is looking to further deploy the missiles in the Haftanin and Garadag mountains. KADEK is also reportedly seeking mines and other ordinance to be deployed along the border with Turkey’s Sirnak province. Fighters have been repositioned to the evacuated villages of Haftanin, Metine, Zap, Avasin-Basyan and Harkuk in Northern Iraq. These weapons would pose a serious threat to Turkish armed forces operating in the region.
The weapons, worth about $200,000, have been acquired from Armenia, Iran and Iraq in the last couple of months. Most of the arms are Russian made.

Addendum to Iraqi use of WMD

More thoughts on the Iraqi’s possession of WMD.

Previously, I metioned a report from MEMRI that quoted an “unidentified senior Iraqi official” as saying that Iraq would use chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction to repel the Yankee invaders. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this at the time, but hasn’t Iraq told the UNMOVIC folks it has zero, zero, zero WMD? Granted, this story is out of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based, pro-Saddam Arabic language paper, but still… This is very weird.
In related news, U.S. president George W. Bush warned Iraq again that it was in danger of being shitcanned if it didn’t cooperate with UNMOVIC. The signs from Iraq are “not encouraging,” Bush said. The signs? Cameras and gear tagged by inspectors in 1998 have been removed from the Karamah misslile site. This might be serious or it might indicate that desperate Iraqi soldiers had stripped the gear and sold it for extra money.
But Bush’s war mongering is more upsetting. The inspectors have been there, what? A week? Five days? And the deadline for accounting for all weapons isn’t until Dec. 8. Bush says he wants an international coalition to disarm Saddam, but he seems a twee impatient to get the shooting started now, Now, NOW. His constant warnings are unlikely to convince anyone except Britain, and his insistent sabre-rattling and undercutting of the inspectors will do little but convince the rest of the world of America’s bad intentions. Bush needs to shut the hell up and let the inspectors at least pretend to do their jobs.

Russian coups and World War III

ArabicNews.com has picked up Stratfor’s theory that the Russians are plotting a coup in Iraq, hoping to steal the United States’ thunder, preempt an American invasion and protect Russian oil interests. The United Stats is also stepping up its courtship of Turkey, asking for help against Iraq and even trying to invoke Article V of the NATO charter, which provides for mutual defense if a member country is attacked. …And if that doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations worries that a war with Iraq would start a “third world war” with “more Mombasas, more Balis.”

Wow, I take a few days off and all news happens. I’m going to have to get a staff at this rate. Keep those donations coming!
Anyway, ArabicNews.com has picked up Stratfor’s theory that the Russians are plotting a coup in Iraq, hoping to steal the United States’ thunder, preempt an American invasion and protect Russia’s oil interests. There’s more and more chatter about this on various news sources. The obvious question is, is it true? Russia did sign off on UNSCR 1441 rather easily considering how critical oil prices are to Russia’s economy. Granted, Bush has assured Russian president Vladimir Putin that Russia’s interests will be taken care of. But honestly, does anyone really think American oil companies will give the Russians and the French serious consideration?
So here’s my theory: The Russians are buzzing about with some kind of coup plan that would install either a pro-Western or pro-Russian government. Washington has agreed to this plan in exchange for solid support on UNSCR 1441. If the coup plan works, the American forces will move in and help restore order. If it doesn’t, American soldiers are on standby to start shooting.
Of course, it could be wrong, too.
What is without doubt, however, is the United States’ efforts to step up its courtship of Turkey, asking for help against Iraq and even trying to invoke Article V of the NATO charter, which provides for mutual defense if a member country is attacked. Whether the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won the parliamentary elections in November will agree to this remains to be seen, since the United States is trying to enlist both the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey. (By the way, Turkey lifted the state of emergency — after 15 years — in the southeast part of the country.)
Across the frontier, in Iraqi Kurdistan, the chairman of the KDP, Massoud Barzani, said he has received no assurances about the form of rule in Iraq after Saddam is toppled. “(The United States) has decided what it will do in Iraq without briefing precisely the Iraqi opposition about it,” he told the BBC. “If the U.S. wants to ensure the security (of the country) it has to listen to us.” He added American military rule is unacceptable and hinted darkly that the Kurds might — might — react badly to an American viceroy. “The role of the soldiers is to defend the territories,” he said.
(The Kurds introduced drafts of a federal constitution into their regional parliament in October. Frankly, they’re asking for trouble with the Turks. And they seem to have found it. Turkey has shut down the illegal fuel sales that were a big source of revenue for the KDP and PUK, an effort to starve the Kurdish authorities of revenue in northern Iraq so they have less of an ability to agitate for independence or autonomy.)
In the event of a war, the Natal Witness, South Africa’s oldest newspaper (it says so on the Web page, so it must be true!) reports that Americans will not get a warm welcome in the streets of Baghdad. “It’s really a question of sovereignty and pride,” a taxi driver told reporter Fred Kockott. And American war planners are kidding themselves if this report is true. Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a pro-Saddam newspaper in London, quoted a “senior Iraqi official” thusly:

“When the regime was under intense attack in Al-Fau and began to be under threat, it did not hesitate to use all the weapons of mass destruction in its possession. Similarly, when the people of Halabja, or some of them, became guides for the Iranian forces that tried to breach the northeast [front], the regime did not hesitate to use chemical weapons. … Do not expect us to stand idly by in the face of any aggression that seeks to destroy and banish us not only from the regime but also from life.”

Well, that seems clear enough. U.S. soldiers should expect to confront chemical weapons. If that happens, I fear the United States will retaliate with nuclear weapons, as James Baker threatened it would do in 1991 if Iraq used weapons of mass destruction. The threat of deterrence worked then, but will it this time?
And if that doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations worries that a war with Iraq would start “a third world war.” Hans von Sponeck, the U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq from 1998 to 2000, warned that there would be “more Mombasas, more Balis.”
“I shiver when I hear the extreme views some people have in the region,” he says.
Now, Herr von Sponeck is German, and they haven’t been the most reliable of NATO allies when it comes to war with Iraq, so take his comments with grains of salt. (I happen to agree with him, that it will be very bad and dangerous after the Battle for Baghdad, but draw your own conclusions. I can point you to a lot of writings by Paul Wolfowitz, who says everything will be hunky-dory.)
There was a slight lessening of war drums over the holiday weekend, but look for them to start up again on Monday. We’ve got about three months to go.

Arms inspectors back in Iraq; Perle says ‘so what?’

United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. Bush hawk Richard Perle, however, says they don’t matter.

25cnd-iraq.3.468.jpg
© 2002 Reuters

United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. The team has said it will “freeze” sites to prevent evidence from being smuggled out.
“We are fully conscious of the responsibility we have on our shoulders,” said Jacques Baute, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC). “We have an access anywhere and access anywhere is translated into inspections to any type of facilities.
It may not make any difference, however, if this report from the Mirror in the U.K. is to be believed. Richard Perle, chairman of the civilian Defense Policy Board and noted Bush Administration hawk, told British MPs that the United States would attack Iraq even if UNMOVIC comes up empty.
“I cannot see how Hans Blix can state more than he can know,” Perle allegedly said. “All he can know is the results of his own investigations. And that does not prove Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction.”
Well, hell. You can’t prove a negative, as the logicians say, but Perle seems willing to bet that the U.S. can find someone to finger Saddam as man with his finger on the button. “Suppose we are able to find someone who has been involved in the development of weapons and he says there are stores of nerve agents,” Perle allegedly said.
Former defense minister and Labour Party member Peter Kilfoyle said that the United States would be satisfied with such claims, which is alarming to say the least. Remember the story about the dead Kuwaiti babies in the run-up to the first Gulf War? That bit of media manipulation was brought to you courtesy of PR giant Hilton & Knowlton and the daughter of the Kuwati ambassador to the United States, all in a (successful) attempt to enrage public opinion against Iraq. (For the record, it appears this incident never happened.) If Perle is willing to accept someone’s testimony at face value, the people of Iraq don’t have a prayer.
Of course, it’s quite possible Perle is the public hard-liner who espouses positions so far to the right that they make the Bush administration look reasonable in comparison. I’ve fired off an email to Mr. Perle, but as yet have had no response. I will reprint it in full if and when I hear back from him.

Much news and catching up… (LONG POST)

Hi all. Sorry for the delay in posting. Not only have we seemed to enter a “phony war” period regarding impending hostilities with Iraq without anything definite happening, but I also needed to take a little break. Be that as it may, there have been some interesting stories to show in the last few days.

Hi all. Sorry for the delay in posting. Not only have we seemed to enter a “phony war” period regarding impending hostilities with Iraq without anything definite happening, but I also needed to take a little break.
Be that as it may, there have been some interesting stories show up in the last few days. First off, United Nations weapons inspectors have gone … back to Iraq. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Hans Blix, the chief of the inspectors, holds the fate of Iraq in his hands and he has said he will asses the intent of any delays on the part of the Iraqis as to whether foot-dragging is obfuscation or simple foul-ups. Considering that much of my time in Iraq was characterized by hurrying up and waiting — and I was in friendly territory! — I wonder if the, ah, “flexible” concept of time in societies other than northern European ones will be taken into account. Blix is Swedish after all; I hear they frown on tardiness. At any rate, Iraq has until Dec. 8 to present UNMOVIC with a full accounting of its weapons of mass destruction programs or it will be in “material breach” of UNSCR 1441. We’ll see what happens. (P.S. When the Iraqis fire on Allied aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones in the south and the north, does that constitute a “material breach”? Some in the Bush administration want it to be so. Please note, Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch have never been sanctioned by the UN and Iraq has never accepted them.)

Continue reading “Much news and catching up… (LONG POST)”