by Austin Bay
April 9, 2003 Call it "urban judo," intricate combat operations designed totopple Saddam's tyranny with as few allied and Iraqi civilian casualtiespossible, and with as little damage to Baghdad and Basra as fedayeen andRepublican Guard resistance permits.
The break down of Baath regime control in Baghdad indicates the "judo throw" is working.
The 3rd Infantry Division's armored probes throughout Baghdadand occupation of key regime facilities are highly calculated militaryoperations.
Central Command can mount these operations -- sending armoredforays into the city -- because organized resistance is diminishing. Baghdadis huge, and defending it effectively requires many dedicated defenders. Atthis point, it appears few Republican Guardsmen in the divisions arrayedoutside the city managed to retreat into Baghdad. The 3rd Infantry's rapidadvance "fixed" divisions so air power and precision artillery fire candestroy them. The allies are benefiting from these battles of "annihilationby precision fires."
Fast-moving armor on well-reconnoitered routes is tough to stop,even in cities. Though Baghdad's wide boulevards aren't perfect tankcountry, they do give armor some space to maneuver. When possible, militaryplanners seek routes through areas with comparatively lowpopulation-densities and fewer buildings. America's M1A1 tanks and Britain'sChallengers are expensive behemoths, but they are also quick, sturdy andmechanically reliable. "Stabilized" tank cannons allow tank crews to staylocked on to targets while the tanks roll.
Linking intelligence gathering sources and sensors, then rapidlydisseminating that intel to the troops as the movement occurs, is anotherreason the United States can conduct these operations.
Special operations forces (SOF) are seeded throughout Baghdad,watching for Iraqi movements, fedayeen snipers and even civilian traffic.One source told me that allied SOF may well be warning anti-Saddam civiliansto avoid sectors of the city where the tanks are conducting probes. TheGreen Berets and Seals also look for land mines on the roads. Mines are athreat to the armor.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), like the Predator drone, patrolBaghdad's skies and provide "real time" images of the side streets, as wellas the route of advance. Manned aircraft and helicopters add more eyes.Digital communications let tank and Bradley infantry vehicle commanders tapthis data as they wind through the city.
While embedded reporters' cameras have focused on the armoredunits, trust there is action on the rooftops. Observation teams infiltrateareas UAVs cannot adequately observe. These teams are in contact withartillery units capable of hitting Iraqi troop concentrations within secondsof a team member's "call for fire." Helicopters can deliver these teams.Attack helicopters also "overwatch" the moving armor. Sniper teams alsoprowl rooftops. A critical sniper mission in urban warfare is to pin downenemy shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile teams that threaten thehelicopters.
Training makes this kind of intricate combat ballet possible,where electronic eyes and ears cue human minds and snipers cover helicoptersthat watch tanks covering infantry. All this takes place beneath theumbrella of allied air forces armed with precision weapons.
Which is why judo is an apt term for what we're witnessing, amix of muscle and leverage, the "finesse" of advanced intelligencecapabilities and highly trained troops combined with the allies' firepower.
Allied commanders have several goals. Militarily, they hope theprobes will "segment" the Iraqi defense by destroying key defensivepositions and cutting communications. This isolates remaining defenders.Isolation usually leads to demoralization.
The raids are also political demonstrations, armoredadvertisements that the fascist regime's in its death throes.
As Baghdad's civilians gain confidence, they'll rat out fedayeendeath squads to Special Forces units and CIA paramilitary teams -- anotherjudo throw.
GIs gawk as they traipse through Saddam's various bunkeredVersailles', his Baghdad palaces with plush-pile bordello carpets and acresof marble. The new Clown Prince of Denial, Iraq's Information MinisterMohammad Said Sahhaf, can spew his various big lies, but with American bootson the palace grounds, the Baath regime's era of theft, murder, oppressionand excess is nearly over.