Iraq: April 9, 2003


The Battle for Baghdad nears a conclusion, with coalition forces seeking out resistance, and destroying it wherever they find it. Iraqi forces appear to be without any central control and many are deserting. Iraqi military communications are monitored by coalition electronic warfare units, making any deliberate movement of Iraqi troops subject to ambush from the air or on the ground. Coalition commanders know where the enemy is, while Iraqi commanders know little. Most government officials, including the "minders" that accompany foreign journalists, have disappeared. Abandoned uniforms, weapons and armored vehicles are found throughout the city. As a result of this, thousands of Iraqi civilians are now seen cheering coalition troops moving through their neighborhoods. 

Thousands of American marines are moving into eastern Baghdad, while U.S. 3rd Mechanized division patrols range over the northern and western portions of Baghdad. Coalition Special Forces and commando units are becoming more noticeable, a few operating in daylight. Some Iraqi factions have declared they are on the side of the coalition. Some towns around Baghdad have declared themselves free of Saddam's control.

The coalition casualty rate has stayed as low as ever (about five casualties per division per day), mainly because of the high level of training and combat leadership among coalition troops, and the equally low levels among Iraqi troops. On the Iraqi side, the men most likely to resist are paramilitary troops (security troops, foreign Islamic volunteers.) These men, who appear to be clueless about what they are getting themselves into, are slaughtered by the coalition professionals. The Iraqi fighters are making matters worse by deliberately using civilians for cover. But the coalition rules of engagement do not force troops to not fire if Iraqis are shooting from behind civilians. In southern Iraq, the local civilians eventually took sides and went over to the coalition forces. This made it impossible for the pro-Saddam fighters to carry on and they fled. While this is happening in parts of Baghdad, there is really no place to run. While there may be a last stand in Saddam's home town Tikrit (north of Baghdad), coalition forces have blocked all the main roads out of the city. For Saddam's diehard defenders, it's surrender or die, and many are choosing the latter option.

Coalition forces entered the main base of the Iraqi army 10th Armored Division and 14th Infantry Divisions and found that no one was home. The coalition psychological warfare campaign apparently worked. It was rumored before the war that the coalition was in contact with senior Iraqi military leaders. At one point, it was thought this effort might get some Iraqi divisions to switch sides. But this didn't happen. What did happen was very useful. The Iraqi army sat out the war. Except in cases where Saddam's security troops went house to house to round up deserters, or soldiers home on leave, the army was not seen in combat. How the army generals managed to resist visits from Saddam's secret police is not known. This will come out in the coming weeks, but it was probably a matter of the army generals surrounding themselves with trustworthy, and heavily armed, bodyguards. The Republican Guard was created for situations like this. But once it became clear that the regular army would not fight, the Republican Guard was too busy dodging coalition bombs to be bothered with army units who refused to fight. It also became apparent, as coalition troops, and their embedded journalists, entered major army bases, that many of the Iraqi army armored vehicles were deceptions. These were either fake canvas and wood "vehicles" that were replaced after a bombing, or elderly armored vehicles that were towed to new positions after they were hit and covered with cloth to look like they were still ready to roll. 

In southern Iraq, tribal leaders are being sought out to establish local governments. The tribal organizations survived Saddam's rule, by first demonstrating that killing off the chiefs could not destroy the tribe, and later showing that the tribe could be bribed to be loyal. Now Saddam is gone and the tribes are looking to cut deals with the new masters of Iraq. 

Many parts of Iraq consider the war against Saddam over, and are now moving to the phase where the rulers of post-Saddam Iraq are selected. This is starting off in a murky fashion, because there are not a lot of coalition troops on the ground, and several factions of anti-Saddam forces out to establish their claims. Several Shia groups have appeared in the south, and in the north, Kurdish militias are outside the major cities, Mosul and Kirkuk. Bit apparently U.S. troops have been equipped with armed trucks and light armored vehicles for the final push on these cities. Once that is done, northern Iraq is no longer under Saddam's control. 




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