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How Did Saddam's Defense Strategy Collapse So Quickly? - 2003-04-09

With coalition forces surrounding the Iraqi capital and seizing control of the center of the city, some military analysts in the area are beginning to analyze Saddam Hussein's failed strategy to defend Iraq against coalition forces. People celebrated in the streets of Baghdad Wednesday as U.S. troops moved into the city center in force. The citizens of Baghdad defaced pictures and statues of Saddam Hussein, and looted government's offices.

The vivid images of the end of his regime's control in the capital city led immediately to discussion of Saddam's failure to hold on to power, in spite of his declarations that he would defeat the U.S.-led coalition.

Mohammed Sowaillam, former general in the Egyptian army and director of the Armed Forces Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo said Saddam Hussein's strategy was to prevent a war through the United Nations Security Council. But, he said, when war came Saddam had no military strategy.

"He was dreaming, he was dreaming and living an illusion and dreams. No strategy, no tactics, no anything but lies, lies, lies from Saddam and the Baath party. All was an illusion,' said Mr. Sowaillam.

Mohammed Kadry Said, a former Egyptian army general who now heads the military unit of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said he believes Saddam did have a military strategy but, it did not have much popular support.

"I think Saddam had a strategy but the energy for supporting this strategy is minimum," said Mr. Said. "That's why he collapsed in three weeks. He is isolated from the countries around him. He had no, any, line of supply for anything. Also, to a certain extent, there's some mistrust between him and the Iraqis."

But Mr. Said said, more important than Iraq's failed military strategy, was a coalition strategy that he said was "very good."

"They started, from the beginning, attacking the capital," he explained. "They destroy every communication possibility, control means. And, I think, their tactics at the end were very good. They used the air power up to the last moment. They combined this air power with ground forces at the same time. They targeted persons and targeted small targets, so they make holes everywhere. So, the body, with time, disintegrated."

Mr. Said says he does not expect what he called a "last gasp" effort from Saddam to inflict heavy losses on coalition forces.

But Mr. Sowaillam at the Armed Forces Center for Strategic Studies says he does not necessarily agree.

"It's still standing. This scenario is still standing, unless he's dead," he said. "I expect these weapons of mass destruction will be found, sure it will be found. But I am afraid it may be used at the last moment, if he is still alive."

So Saddam Hussein may have one more surprise reserved for coalition forces, if he is alive and if anyone will follow his orders, some analysts say. That is why coalition forces are already preparing to move on from Baghdad to his hometown and stronghold in Tikrit. But such concerns were far from the minds of people in Baghdad Wednesday, as they celebrated the end of Saddam's power over them.