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Some Iraqi Troops Showing Signs of Not Wanting to Fight - 2003-03-18

The are signs some Iraqi troops are interested in surrender even before U.S. forces launch an expected invasion.

A senior Pentagon official said there are indications some Iraqi troops are not interested in fighting U.S. forces and will surrender or possibly even change sides.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, gives no details and cautions that the information is not firm. He declines to characterize the numbers of Iraqi troops who might be involved.

But word of the potential capitulation of Iraqi forces follows President Bush's broadcast appeal to the Iraqi military "to act with honor and protect your country by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces." Mr. Bush went on to urge every member of the Iraqi military and intelligence services not to fight for what he termed "a dying regime that is not worth your own life."

Defense officials have in recent weeks used a variety of means ranging from airdropped leaflets and radio broadcasts to cell-phone calls and computer e-mails to urge Iraqi soldiers and especially their commanders not to oppose a U.S.-led invasion.

Some of the messages have spelled out how troops can specifically signal their desire not to fight. One leaflet dropped over Iraq depicts a tank poised to fire that is being attacked by fighters. It warns, "take an offensive posture and you will be destroyed." It goes on to show a second picture in which the tank's barrel is pointing down and backwards and says those who do not take an offensive posture will have nothing to fear.

Defense officials indicate that the U.S. assault, if and when it starts, will be massive and intended to shock the country into submission. They stress the attack will be strictly focused on government and military targets with, what one official describes, as a substantial amount of ordnance being used in the first 48 hours.

The senior official who spoke to VOA indicates the attack will focus on Baghdad, "the center of gravity" in Iraq.

But the official concedes one of the critical, but unknown, variables of any military action will be how the Iraqi people react, even though he says care will be taken to avoid civilian casualties and damage.