On the road to Baghdad

I’ve heard from an undisclosed source that Baghdad is “Phase-1 Houston” in U.S. military parlance and that it will be getting a visit from the air “very soon.” This is all I know, except that it jibes with a March 1 (or slightly later) start to the campaign to oust Saddam.
This is starting to get tricky. I’m starting to get information specific to war plans and which, if published, could conceivably endanger United States forces. Just to be clear: I will not be publishing any information that could get people killed. If I have advanced information of troop movements, you won’t see it here. I may oppose the war, but I won’t do anything to harm people in the field. I have friends in the military, and they have a tough job. Most them don’t want this war any more than peace activists do and they don’t have the opportunity to march in the streets saying “no.” However, they do make it possible for everyone else to march by nature of their service to their country.
Therefore, what follows is speculation. I have no data that the following is accurate, but I think it makes sense.
The massive buildup in Kuwait and in other Gulf countries such as Qatar is a Calais-style feint. Just as in the first Gulf War, when Marines practiced an amphibious invasion that turned out to be a ruse only to mount a massive “left hook” by armored divisions, the United States is hoping to convince Iraq that the majority of its attack will be from the south. However, two other fronts could be open without the American media being informed.

Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan: Much has been said about the reluctance of Turkey to allow U.S. forces to open up a northern front in order to tie down Iraqi forces from racing to defend Baghdad. Recent article have mentioned further foot-dragging on the part of the Turkish Parliament. This is likely a ruse. I think it’s probable there is already a modest build-up of American forces larger than previously admitted but smaller than what the United States is publicly asking for. The situation is probably even more stabilized in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Washington Post reported on Jan. 30 that “small numbers” of American military forces are operating in Iraqi Kurdistan. Jalal Talabani, chairman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan made a laughable distinction between the”personnel”and”troops.” My theory is that the numbers are much greater in Iraqi Kurdistan than anyone is admitting. The northern front, despite its public disarray is probably in pretty good shape.
Iraqi armored vehicleJordan and Saudi Arabia: There have been consistent rumors of American troops “training” in Jordan. It’s not unreasonable for the one Arab country with a free-trade agreement with the United States and a peace treaty with Israel to have allowed a modest build-up in the eastern desert ready to launch into Iraq’s vast western provinces to seize SCUD sites and advance on Baghdad. There are already troops in Saudi Arabia and the desert kingdom’s public protests, reluctance to allow the use of its bases and declarations that the Americans will be expelled after the war could very well be a head-fake on Saddam. The government-controlled media could be easily brought to heel, as evidenced by protests that rocked the country months ago and which were never reported in the newspapers.

in each region I’ve mentioned, the media are either tightly controlled or can quickly be censored. My speculation mirrors a war plan that was leaked to the New York Times in July 2002 but which was quickly disowned by the Americans and the regional powers. Turkey and Jordan, especially, said quickly that their territories would not be used. I’m skeptical of these claims, especially considering the leverage the United States has on Ankara and Amman.
Again, this is speculation, but considering the history of the United States using massive build-ups to distract enemies only to hit them hard from another direction, it makes sense. There are also signs that Iraq may be wise to this tactic. Along an Iraqi army post about 100 yards from the Kuwaiti border, “there is no sign here that Iraq is doing much to prepare itself militarily against an invasion. A stray tank or two can be seen farther north, off the road from Basra to Baghdad, but otherwise there is little evidence of any real military presence near the zone.”
In two weeks or so, we’ll see how close I was in my predictions. Any takers?
[UPDATE: I swear I didn’t read this article in the Boston Globe before I wrote this entry. But the two pieces seem to jibe pretty closely, eh?]