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Military analysis by Dr. David McIntyre - 2003-03-21


To analyze the military situation in Iraq, VOA-TV spoke with Dr. David McIntyre of the ANSER Institute. He is a retired Army Colonel and well-versed in the strategies, tactics, and weapons related to the current and past Gulf war. Dr. McIntyre spoke with David Borgida on the program “NewsLine.”

MR. BORGIDA:
Joining me now, military analyst Dr. David McIntyre of the ANSER Institute in the Washington area.

Dr. McIntyre, let's begin where Amy left off, which was her very carefully crafted verbiage, “what appeared to be Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.” She mentioned there are reports that perhaps a double was used. We know that Saddam Hussein has done this before. What are your thoughts on that?

DR. MCINTYRE:
I'm not an expert on Saddam, but actually I thought when I first saw it, it didn't look like him to me.

MR. BORGIDA:
Did not?

DR. MCINTYRE:
It did not.

And he is of course a master of misdirection and misinformation. So, it certainly wouldn't surprise me; he has multiple people who look like him. He stays in multiple locations. Look, it's not just us he's afraid of. He's afraid of his own people, and this is a mark of that. The man travels with doubles because he's afraid of his own people.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk about this effort by the United States to launch these cruise missiles in this what was called target of opportunity. That is not so secret code, I guess, in this context for an effort to hit the Iraqi leadership, if it was possible. And indeed, that's what officials have been saying. How does that happen? This military operation was planned. They saw this target of opportunity. They went forward. Describe what's going on.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Well, first of all, it's important to understand what the war is about. If it weren't for Saddam, we wouldn't have a war. And if Saddam had not insisted on making weapons that could harm other nations, like biological weapons and nuclear weapons, then we wouldn't have a war. So, if in fact we could strike him, if we could strike his senior leadership and get rid of him -- this war is not with the Iraqi people -- it would be over. So, we do have a very complex, complicated, logistically sophisticated plan, but when this opportunity came up, they apparently put that on hold and made the decision to step forward and see if they could end it quickly. In this case, it didn't work, but it was still a good effort.

And, besides that, it's very important that he is not sleeping well tonight. Because he knows that if they made an attempt on him, then they had some sort of intelligence to indicate where he was. So, were they listening to him? Were they watching him? Are there people in his own staff, within his own room, at the table with him, who might be providing information? He can not rest easy with an attack like this.

MR. BORGIDA:
So, you said, let's see if we can end this quickly. And in fact there are those who are suggesting, after hearing the President the other night, that perhaps this might be a little longer in duration than the United States is hoping for. Your thoughts on that.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Right. A lot of people have been trying to press this as a very quick war. I guess the word “quick” is relative now. The last Gulf War took 17 days on the ground, and the indications from some people have been, well, if it takes 18 this time, it's a failure. I think that's an unrealistic standard. I heard someone speak where I was attending the other day, who said 96 hours. I think that's unrealistic. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know how quickly the military will fold. It's important to remember what we're after: Number one, the weapons of mass destruction. Number two, the people who created those weapons. Number three, the facilities where those weapons were created. Number four, Saddam, who mandated their creation. And number five, the people who supported him.

Now, if that takes four days, great. If it takes four months, great. As long as we reach those objectives.

MR. BORGIDA:
Dr. McIntyre, let's talk for a moment or two about what is going on on the ground. There are reports of oil wells on fire. Take that first. What does that signal to you?

DR. MCINTYRE:
It indicates to me that he is willing to sacrifice his own people and his own material in order to make the United States look bad. There is absolutely no advantage to the United States to attacking oil wells. It complicates the attack plans. It destroys the environment. There is no possible benefit to the United States for such an attack. So, I would assume it must be Iraqis, on Saddam's orders.

It makes the United States look bad, that perhaps they destroyed it. It complicates our movement forward. And it just indicates to me the type of individual that we're up against.

MR. BORGIDA:
U.S. and British forces are now reported inside Iraq, after they have done what they call preparing the battlefield. What is this initial wave doing at the moment?

DR. MCINTYRE:
They have to open channels through. There will be fences, there will be minefields, there will be observation posts. They have to strike through that and open holes for the next group to come through. So, they will go through and make a hole, and then sort of peel off to the left and right and secure the shoulders, so to speak, the flanks on each side, for a much larger force to bore through.

And then, at the same time, they will be trying to reach a little deeper, to get the artillery. Normally that would range about 15 to 30 kilometers. So, they will want to move forward about 15 to 30 kilometers, take out the artillery that could bring fire on them, in order to open a much larger hole so a huge mass of soldiers could be pouring through. So, that's what's probably happening right along the front right about now.

MR. BORGIDA:
There has been a lot of attention to this notion that the initial wave of attack will be so massive -- I think “awesome” is one of the words that they are using -- that Iraqi soldiers will give up and Saddam will throw up his hands. Your thoughts about this whole scenario.

DR. MCINTYRE:
I'm a little concerned that that has been a bit oversold. I mean, there is a certain amount of competition among military intellectuals in Washington, D.C., about what theory should be used in waging this war. We have very good weapons and very well-trained troops, good friends and allies in this battle with us, and a number of different options at our disposal. And there are schools of thought about how those options could be used.

One of those is this massive hammer blow that would cause the enemy to throw up his hands. My own thought is that it's probably not going to be a single blow that causes them to surrender. In fact, it's the slow buildup of information over a period of time. And we've seen information operations, an explanation to the Iraqis, to the Iraqi military, that they need not fight, this war is not with them, it's not about destroying their country. And in fact, the best way for them to serve their country is to live to help build a democracy.

So, I think the information operations will be at least as important as that first wave of strikes against military targets.

MR. BORGIDA:
The Turkish Parliament is now allowing overflights, but not the use of bases. How important is that to this U.S.-led effort?

DR. MCINTYRE:
Yes, that's too bad. It is important. It's not critical. We can conduct this, the U.S. can conduct this, without Turkey and without ground troops out of Turkey. But it's too bad, because it would have, I think, made the war much shorter. I think it would have improved and increased stability in the region.

I think Turkey has made a mistake, I'll be frank with you. I think Turkey would be much safer with a large American presence in the northern part of Iraq than with a small American presence in the northern part of Iraq. We all want stability of the region. When this is over, we want a free Iraq. We want people that are allowed to choose their own leaders. And we want the Kurds, the Turks and the Iraqis all to be able to live in peace. And so, excluding American soldiers, large numbers, from that region, I think Turkey has made a mistake.

Now, I'm very glad they're allowing overflight rights. That means just not U.S. but other coalition aircraft will be able to pass through their airspace. And I would hope that in the next couple of days they will also reconsider and allow the use of the airbases, because that would be a very important link -- not critical, but very important.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk military strategy for just a moment. We'll have maps and other things to look at in the days ahead as we get into this. But is the objective in the early days to surround Baghdad or to single out certain cities, Tikrit, for example? What is the objective in these early days?

DR. MCINTYRE:
That's a really good question. The answer is that we don't know. The United States and its coalition partners have not been able to achieve strategic surprise. That is, Saddam knows we're coming. But they have been able to achieve tactical surprise. That is, he doesn't know exactly where or exactly when. And because the plan is not evident, he has to guard everywhere. He is in the same position against the U.S. military now that the United States is in against terrorists. We must guard everything here at home. Now he must guard the north, the south, the approaches out of Basra, the oilfields in the north, the bridges across the rivers. So, my guess would be that we would want to address his military forces very early and either destroy them, surround them, cause them to surrender, working our way up to the Republican Guard, and then eventually surrounding Baghdad so that he doesn't leave.

But remember, the first objective is not the capture of the capital; it's the capture and destruction of those weapons of mass destruction.

MR. BORGIDA:
As we wind down our conversation, let's talk a little bit about technology. What are the differences between what is occurring now out in the field and what occurred in 1991 in the first Gulf War?

DR. MCINTYRE:
There are going to be great differences that will not be immediately evident to people who have looked at it before. They saw cruise missiles during the last war; they're going to see cruise missiles again, for example. But it's a quite different missile. On the outside it looks the same. Last time that missile had a much more limited range. It would carry perhaps not as sophisticated a warhead. And it had to be programmed a long time ahead of time how it was going to fly. It looked only at the ground. It was going to come predictably in the same place time after time, turn over particular terrain features.

This time you have missiles that are able to navigate with multiple different systems. They will use the ground some, but they will also use satellites. They can attack from multiple directions. They have much longer ranges. They have much more sophisticated guidance packages. So, we're talking now, if it works -- and sometimes it won't; there will be mistakes -- but if it works, now you're talking about selecting what window on what floor of what building. That's pretty powerful.

MR. BORGIDA:
A lot to talk about in the days ahead. We hope you'll be joining us as we go through it.

DR. MCINTYRE:
I will.

MR. BORGIDA:
Dr. David McIntyre of the ANSER Institute here in Washington, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Glad to be with you.

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