Iraq: March 21, 2003


The U.S. finally admitted what had long been suspected, that negotiations were under way with senior Iraqi military leaders to obtain the surrender of Iraqi army units, including Republican Guard divisions. This may include army units inside Basra, that could be used to maintain order in the city while American and British units moved on towards Iraq. 

There are two military campaigns going on in Iraq. One is the more obvious "Shock and Awe" campaign to defeat Iraq. But there is a parallel psychological warfare campaign that is trying to defeat the Iraqi armed forces with little or no fighting. The two campaigns work together towards a common goal, but use different weapons and tactics. 

The rumor set loose on the 20th, that Iraqi official Tariq Aziz had defected was a classic psywar tactic. This forced Aziz to get on Iraqi television quickly to insist that he had not defected. This made the Iraqi leadership look bad, and weak. Same with the 40 cruise missiles that were fired at Baghdad on the 19th. This was billed as a "decapitation attack" (trying to kill senior leaders.) Maybe it did, but it scared Saddam enough to make a prompt TV appearance (looking haggard and distracted) to insist that he was alive. Another bad showing for the Iraqi leadership. Leaflets and radio broadcasts hammer Iraqi troops about the futility of resisting, and with instructions of how to surrender. 

Over the last year, more rumors and debilitating actions have worked on Iraqi morale. Many of these psywar actions were hardly noticed. Like the one last Summer where the U.S. quietly asked for bids, from international aid organizations, for relief work in central Iraq in 2003. 

The PsyWar campaign is also said to have arranged defections and surrenders of senior Iraqi military and political leaders. Already, many of the Iraqi tribes are renouncing Saddam, and some generals may soon follow. The way these things work, you let psywar get in the first shot. Even if that doesn't do it by itself, when the "Shock and Awe" phase begins, the psywar offers, for many Iraqi generals, become offers you really can't refuse.


Iraq has fired some ten missiles at coalition troops. Two have been identified as SCUDs, which were shot down by Patriot PAC-3 missiles. The other missiles were apparently shorter range al Samoud (180 kilometers) or FROG 7/Luna-M (70 kilometers) which landed nowhere near any likely target. Some landed in the Persian Gulf. None of these missiles are very accurate to begin with, and require careful attention to recording local weather conditions and entering data into the fire control system to obtain any accuracy at all. Apparently the missiles that missed by so much were fired in haste from a long distance. 

Iraq also has some truck mounted rocket launchers. The Yugoslav M-87 Orkan 262mm rocket launcher was bought by Iraq in the 1980s and renamed the Ababil-50. This truck mounted system carries a dozen 262mm (10.3 inch) rockets with a range of fifty kilometers. There are three types of cluster bomb warheads for this rocket. One carries 30, another 300 antipersonnel bomblets and the third 288 antipersonnel mines. There may be a few dozen or so of these launchers left. Iraq developed a larger missile based on the Orkan. This was the Ababil 100, a 400mm (16 inch) rocket with a reputed range of 100 kilometers. But it is not known is this system was ever tested. If any are available, there aren't many and probably aren't very accurate.

Cruise missile and smart bomb attacks continue every night on Baghdad and Mosul. Only a handful of targets are being hit, mostly Baath party and secret police facilities. Saddam's Baghdad mansion was also demolished.

Way Up North

U.S. Special Forces have apparently attacked Iraqi troops guarding the oil fields up north around Kirkuk and seized them.

Mass Surrenders

There have not yet been any large surrenders of Iraqi troops. In fact, few Iraqi troops have been encountered. Some have resisted, and quickly killed or captured. Most appear to have fled, but most Iraqi army units are to the north around Basra. 




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