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Iraq Repositions Troops for Possible War - 2003-02-27

Iraq has begun what could be a major repositioning of its troops in anticipation of a possible war.

U.S. defense officials say major elements of an Iraqi Republican Guard division stationed in northern Iraq have begun moving south, possibly to Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit or perhaps even further south to Baghdad.

While these officials say the ultimate destination remains uncertain, they do believe it may be linked to Turkey's final decision on allowing the deployment of U.S. ground troops.

If U.S. troops will not be allowed to attack Iraq from the north, then Pentagon officials speculate the Republican Guard forces currently on the move may keep heading south, unneeded for defense of the north.

On the other hand, if Turkey does allow American soldiers to deploy, then the Iraqis may halt their movement south and perhaps return to their northern defensive positions.

A senior Pentagon official told reporters Wednesday that Iraqi authorities have concentrated their forces in and around Baghdad.

But America's top military officer, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that while he is aware of what he terms "some movement" of military units in Iraq, he has not seen reports of any more large military units being pulled back into Baghdad.

The United States has deployed over 200,000 military personnel to the Gulf region for a possible attack on Iraq. About half of those forces are positioned just south of Iraq in Kuwait.