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The forward units of the 101st Airborne/3rd Infantry Division advance towards the SW of the city through the Karbala Gap and the US Marine Corps Division advance through Al Kut have met only insignificant opposition. It seems highly unlikely that many of the defenders have simply melted away into the civilian population here or indeed elsewhere as significant quantities of heavy equipment such as Tanks, APC, Artillery and the like have not been found either abandoned or destroyed. Nor have large numbers of POW's been taken. The Army, Republican Guard and Air Force(largely fighting as Ground or Air Defence Troops)numbered some 410,000 two weeks ago.
The best estimate we have so far received is that some 10,000 have been taken prisoner of defected, with a similar number killed or wounded. Iraq would therefore appear, at least on paper to still have some 390,000 effectives. This does not include 45,000 well armed paramilitaries and perhaps as many as another 50,000 Fedayeen and al Quds Guerrilla-style forces(others give an even higher figure). ~ US claims to have largely destroyed the two main Republican Guard Divisions defending the southern approaches to Baghdad must be treated with caution. There is no evidence that catastrophic damage has yet been inflicted on either unit and the noticeable lack of destroyed and captured equipment, and dead or captured Iraqi soldiers tends to confirm this. More importantly AFI Research believes that there are in fact eight identifiable Republican Guard Divisions, not six as is often reported and indeed the two Divisions reported to have been opposing the US ground campaign are believed to have only transferred south from the Northern Corps within the last month or so.
The 2nd Al Medina Armoured Division with the 2nd, 10th and 17th Armoured, and 14th Mechanized Brigades near Karbala and the 5th Baghdad Mechanized Division with the 4th, 5th and 6th Mechanized Brigades near Al Kut are both reinforcement units. ~ As these two units appear to have been the only such Divisions involved in any serious fighting so far it is of great interest to considered the possible deployment of the original Southern Corps formations.
The 1st Hammurabi Mechanized Division is reportedly deployed in well protected positions to the West of Baghdad with the 8th and 9th Mechanized and 18th Armoured Brigades; the 6th Nebuchadnezzar Mechanized Division was based in Al Kut area with the 19th, 22nd and 23rd Mechanized Brigades, but now appears to have withdrawn into the outskirts of Baghdad; the 8th Special Forces Division based both in the city and probably behind US lines with the 33rd, 65th, 66th and 68th Brigades.
The 26th Brigade is reportedly near the Airport and the Al Nida Armoured Division which was based in the Qal'at Saleh-Amarah area with the 41st, 42nd and 43rd Armoured Brigades. It is believed that this unit was withdrawn north and is deployed somewhere behind the Baghdad Division and on the right flank of the US Marine advance. Inside the city the Special Republican Guard which consists of the First, Second and Third Mechanized Brigades guarding the three main routes into the city, and the Fourth Mechanized Brigade held as a strategic reserve alongside the elite 1st Adnan Tank Regiment at Abu Gharib and 2nd Tank Regiment at Al Makasib forms another overstrength Divisional sized formation.
The Republican Guard units still deployed north of Baghdad are the 7th Adnan Mechanized Division based at Mosul with the 11th and 12th Mechanized, and 21st Armoured Brigades and the Al Abed Mechanized Division based at Kirkuk / Khalid Camp with the 38th, 39th and 40th Mechanized Brigades defending the Northern Front. In addition there are two largely intact Regular Army Northern Corps; the First Corps at Khalid Camp in Kirkuk with the 2nd Infantry Division at Al Rabee, the 5th Mechanized Division at Kirkuk, the 8th Infantry Division in the Shuwan Area and the 38th Infantry Division at Qader Karan, while the Fifth Corps is centred on Mosul with the 1st Mechanized Division at Makhmur, the 4th Infantry Division near Bashiqa, the 7th Infantry Division near Al Mansour and the 16th Infantry Division in Mosul.
The considerable remnants of the Third Corps with the 6th Armoured Division near Naserria and the 11th and 51st Divisions bottled up in the partial-siege of Basrah are still supported by a largely untouched Fourth Corps at Al-Amara (Amarah) with the 10th Armoured Division, the 14th Infantry Division and the 18th Infantry Division to the north east along Route-6. The Second Corps originally at Diwaniyah with the 3rd Armoured Division, the 15th Infantry Division and the 34th Infantry Division is not reported to have been heavily involved in combat nor yet militarily out of the picture.
Iraqi sources, and of course uncorroborated or for that matter denied by independent sources, have claimed that their actual losses in equipment have been marginally less than expected; the effectiveness of the US bombing has also been less than expected though this may be just bravado. However the air campaign has certainly failed to destroy completely either the command and control structure or the moral of the ground units so far. These same sources claim that less than a third of the actual Iraqi front line fighting force has so far been fully committed to battle and that much of the fighting has been left to the Special Force Commando's, stay behind regular Army units and the Fedayeen.
Baghdad remains at the centre of a very large area still under its control, with perhaps 80% of the civilian population of Iraq.
It remains largely unthreatened to the East, North and North West. If the forces listed above have not laid down their arms and returned home, and assuming they are still prepared to continue with the fight (and without large scale surrenders after some two weeks of heavy bombing and ground attack, that is likely to be the case) then somewhere or other are some 250,000 Republican Guard and regular Army strengthened by perhaps as many as 75,000 irregulars and all within easy reach of Baghdad, the forward US units and a goodly part of an exposed 350mile long supply line. In addition there may still be as many as 80,000 additional forces on the Northern Front and 60,000 in Central Iraq and the Basrah area.
Iraqi sources have suggested that a counter-attack, if one occurs of course, would be designed to quickly close with the Allied forces and mix the Iraqi and US units up into a ground 'dog-fight' to neutralize the US air superiority. The Iraqi's are apparently prepared to sacrifice a number of major units in order to inflict very severe casualties on the US 3rd Infantry division in particular. However the most likely scenario appears to be that the Iraqi command will leave a door open into the city and harass the advancing Allied troops at every opportunity. It may be significant that the Iraqi command forecast correctly the time of the US push on Baghdad to the day and indeed made little serious attempt to destroy strategically important bridges, lay mine fields at choke points or flood the low lying areas to impede the US advance. Strange tactics from a country that has had months if not years to prepare for this invasion.
Even when Baghdad is eventually taken, perhaps after many days or weeks of heavy fighting, the regime may still continue to use the cities as a 'trap' while making their final stand in the marshlands to the East, the mountains to the North East and Saddams own heartland to the North. Unless the US 'gets lucky' or springs a strategic surprise, Iraq may be able to prolong this war well into the heat of the summer months with potentially disastrous diplomatic and political consequences for the Allies internationally and particularly in the Middle East.
Richard Bennett Media. [email protected] (C) Richard Bennett Media 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .