When a controversial decision is taken (involving serious risks) those politicians who oppose the decision can profit by any mischance that follows. In general terms, this is the danger in George W. Bushs decision to make war on Iraq.
If U.S. ground forces take heavy casualties as they approach Baghdad the president will lose politically. The anti-war activists will say, We told you so. The Democratic Party will say, We told you so.
The wisdom of the liberals in the media will be apparent. If Iraqs weapons of mass destruction are unleashed against Israel, the resulting conflagration between Jew and Arab might be blamed on President Bush. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already blamed Bush in advance.
The Russians not only have the best intelligence service in the world, they also have close relations with the very players Iran, North Korea and Syria that might upset U.S. plans by widening the war in either the Far East or the Middle East.
With a twist of Russian irony, Putin made the following statement on Monday before a group of Muslim religious leaders: Russia has a community of 20 million Muslims, and we cannot but take their opinion into account. I fully share their concerns [about a U.S. assault on Iraq]. This KGB colonel, this scourge of Chechnya, who stood before the Hindus of India and pledged Russian support in their struggle against Islam, is suddenly a Muslim sympathizer.
According to Putin, We stand for resolving the problem [of Iraq] exclusively through peaceful means. Any other option would be a mistake. It would be fraught with the gravest consequences. It will result in casualties and destabilize the international situation in general.
Putin spoke to his Muslim listeners of the rampaging of a drunken cowboy. Anyone familiar with the U.S. President s wilder days will understand Russian presidents allusion. It is not something a friend would say. Putin further stated that attacking Iraq was playing with the fate of many peoples and the fate of the world, and no one but God has the right to do that.
The Russian president made these statements for a very important reason. He clearly intends to exploit any and every negative effect that follows the start of the war. Putin realizes that a global financial meltdown in the near future might be blamed on American imperialism. A terrorist strike against Britain or the U.S. might be blamed on Washingtons provocative actions. The same could be said about the unleashing of mass destruction weapons by both sides in the conflict.
According to Fox News Senior Defense and other U.S. officials confirmed that intelligence reports indicate that Saddam Husseins troops are armed with chemical munitions. Fox News quotes one official as saying: Saddam Hussein has armed troops south of Baghdad with chemical weapons.
In the warmer weather of March, when protective chemical suits are problematic for soldiers on the march, a disruption of U.S. operations and heavy allied casualties cannot be ruled out.
But this is not the only danger confronting allied forces. The Pentagon must also consider the movement of Iranian troops to the Iraqi frontier. In recent days the Iranian military commenced a series of war games code-named Moharram.
It is possible that these exercises are intended to cover preparations for an Iranian attack on the flank or rear of British/U.S. forces advancing toward Baghdad.
For many years the Iranian military has been training its elite troops for a special mission, described by Middle East expert Yossef Bodansky as a test of the ability of [Irans] reorganized ground forces to confront an army of the quality of the Israeli Defense Force.
In the first series of Iranian exercises, conducted shortly after the 1991 Gulf War, three Iranian armored and mechanized divisions, four infantry brigades and paratroop forces participated in the exercise. According to Bodansky, The Iranian forces were to breach fortified positions of the enemy and then develop a swift, deep offensive into the enemys rear with extensive fire support from artillery and combat aircraft.
This classic blitzkrieg maneuver involves the encirclement of target forces by penetrating their rear and disrupting their logistics and communications, forcing their surrender. This method was used to great effect by Russian forces against Hitlers Sixth Army during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II.
Previously the Germans had advanced across Russia using this same method. It is of interest, in this context, that Saddam Husseins stated defense strategy is to turn the city of Baghdad into a Stalingrad type battle, in which enemy forces concentrated in front of the city (or inside part of the city) are outflanked and trapped.
Military analysts who read about Saddams remarks probably scoffed, knowing that Saddams army, at best, could only hope to fight a static battle of attrition inside the city. But what if the Iranians are preparing an envelopment operation? Stalingrad was not simply a battle of attrition. It was a battle of entrapment and encirclement, effected by a surprise attack to the German Sixth Armys overextended flanks.
Iranian officials have stated that todays military exercises are to test Iranian proficiency at asymmetrical combat, a term also used by the Chinese to describe a method of warfare in which inferior forces defeat superior forces by neutralizing the electronic and troop control advantages of the superior force.
Weapons used in this type of warfare would include electromagnetic pulse bombs, surface-to-surface missiles and paratroop raids on command centers.
The bolstering of Iranian troops near the Iraq border on the eve of a U.S. ground offensive into Iraq is therefore an ominous development.
Irans strategists know that President Bush has included Iran in the axis of evil. The Iranian leadership has every reason to think that they are next on the presidents list of terror-supporting states targeted for elimination. It is only logical that Iran would contemplate a move against the American forces in the days ahead.
Two weeks ago the Iranian 624th and 41st armored brigades advanced to marshes near the Iran-Iraq border. Iran also has surface-to-surface anti-ship missiles positioned along its coastline. These might successfully engage U.S. naval forces and assist in the temporary closing of the Persian Gulf to oil traffic. This would be a serious economic blow to America and its oil-dependent allies. The resulting economic hit on already weakened financial institutions could produce a chain reaction that would distract the president from the war, forcing him to focus on a deteriorating domestic situation at home.
There is one other danger that must be considered, and that involves the state of Israel.
It is a fact, beyond dispute, that Saddam Hussein has long prepared to wage a war of mass destruction against Israel. Saddam has spent decades preparing his country to absorb Israeli nuclear strikes. Con Coughlin, in his book King of Terror, has described extensive Iraqi preparations that involve lucrative contracts to French and German companies.
We know that Saddam planned to construct deep bunkers capable of hiding nearly 50,000 troops. One of the bunkers described by Coughlin was built under Saddams newest Presidential Palace. Built by a German company, the facility lies 300 feet beneath the Tigris River. The walls contained six to eight feet of reinforced concrete, wrote Coughlin, and the structure rested on huge springs, two feet in diameter, on a cushion of hard, molded rubber. This structure was built to withstand Israeli nuclear strikes.
In addition, French contractors have built a system of tunnels under the Baghdad area that will enable the Iraqi dictator to move from place to place in safety.
Saddam Husseins program to develop mass destruction weapons was never a stand-alone endeavor. The Iraqi dictators fortifications indicate a readiness to use mass destruction weapons against the hated Zionist entity (i.e., Israel).
Should Iraq launch missile or drone attacks on Israel that kill thousands of Israelis, the response of the Israeli Defense Force would be devastating. The resulting conflagration would undoubtedly pull Lebanon and Syria into a widened war, if not Egypt. Calls for Arab or Islamic solidarity against Israel would threaten Americas bases in Kuwait and the Gulf States, jeopardizing the flow of supplies.
The resulting political fallout would likely disrupt U.S. air units operating from Arab territories. In addition, the Egyptian regime would be seriously threatened and might be forced to join an all-Arab coalition against Israel and the United States.
It should be admitted that it would take significant courage on the part of Iran and Iraq to set the Middle East on fire by widening the war. Plans of this type have backfired in the past, with grave consequences to the instigators. It is not known whether Iran would dare attack American forces in the Gulf, but it is certain that Saddam Hussein will attempt an attack on Israel.
War is a game of mixed chance and skill. As such it is always dangerous and full of surprises. The courage of President Bush in launching this war is remarkable. We have not seen a bold move of this kind since MacArthur landed at Inchon.
Americans are hoping for a quick victory. We should also pray for a healing of the split with France a country that helped us gain our independence, and a country we helped in two world wars. It is possible that America will achieve a battlefield victory in the war. Let us hope that this victory does not result in a strategic break with France and Germany.
In the present instance it is possible, as well, to achieve a battlefield victory while suffering dislocating economic damage with far-reaching domestic political consequences.
Leftists have long hoped for a crisis of capitalism that discredits the free enterprise system and opens the way to full socialism in America. An economic fiasco following in the wake of a Middle East war might set the stage for a leftist resurgence. Catastrophe would then be compounded by catastrophe.
These are the risks the president is willing to take in his war against the axis of evil. These risks are not being run for trivial reasons. Only a significant threat against the American people can explain the presidents determined policy.
May God bless the United States and our troops in the field.
© 2003 Jeffrey R. Nyquist
March 18, 2003