a difference a week makes
have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will
come crashing down
Adolf Hitler to Field Marshal von Rundstedt before
Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
profile of the US armys new Kevlar helmet is ominously reminiscent
of the coal scuttle helmet worn by Hitlers troops; their camouflage
uniforms to those of Hitlers SS units on the Eastern Front. As
the war on Iraq entered its second week and the Anglo-US expeditionary
force bogged down south of Baghdad after a 450 km dash from the Gulf,
these details have taken on an eerie resonance.
was a long week in both war and politics and Coalition spin-doctoring
was amongst the first casualties. On day one, the public was confidently
assured the Iraqis would turn out to greet their liberators with flowers
and music, by the end of the week it was being warned to expect a long
war of conquest against a hostile people.
and politically, the situation is deteriorating for the Coalition. Their
battle plan was based on false and arrogant assumptions: that the Iraqis
would believe US promises and turn against the regime, that shock
and awe would cower them; that the Iraqi army could be brought
to battle quickly and on the Coalitions terms; that the Turks
would come on side; that it would all be over quickly. Now consider
four factors the pro-war media dont even like to think about:
on the Tigris
Coalition has relied on classic German blitzkreig strategy. In 1941,
when he invaded the USSR, Hitler believed he had only to kick the Russian
door down and the Soviet house would cave in. German armoured columns
crashed through the huge but unprepared and poorly led Soviet forces
in breathtaking forward leaps that took them to the gates of Moscow,
Leningrad and Stalingrad. But the Nazi war machine ground to a halt
on the outskirts of these cities. At Moscow and Leningrad the Panzer
generals baulked at throwing their troops into close-quarter urban warfare.
turning-point of WWII came at Stalingrad on the Volga, where, on Hitlers
insistence, his generals committed their mechanised legions to a bloody,
prolonged attempt to storm the city. In Stalingrads streets the
balanced technical superiority of their war machine gave the Germans
no advantage over the desperate, highly motivated, defenders. In the
wash-up, the Russians triumphed and 200,000 Germans shuffled off into
has a perimeter of around 100 kilometres. Besieging it is a massive
undertaking. The Iraqis are used to the hardship of war and to heavy
casualties. In the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war it was not uncommon
for tens of thousands of casualties to be sustained in a single battle.
The majority of young Iraqi men (and many women) have basic military
training. Fierce patriotism will motivate them to fight for every house.
Does this sound familiar?
Street is right behind the Iraqis
of support for Iraq are growing daily in the Arab capitals in spite
of government attempts to mute them. The pro-Western governments are
deeply troubled by the prospect of revolutionary uprisings or military
coups. In an effort to placate public opinion the Arab foreign ministers
have agreed not to participate in the war and called for
a Coalition withdrawal. This is in contrast to the Gulf War when some
Arab states actively participated on the Coalitions side. Soon,
Arab governments will be forced to move, cautiously at first, from words
to deeds. Already, Donald von Rumsfeld has accused Syria of supplying
advanced military equipment to Iraq and threatened unspecified consequences.
Turkey wont stand aside
the war drags on, Turkey will most likely enter Kurdish northern Iraq
as a counterweight to the Anglo-US forces. Turkey has always opposed
the idea of a separate Kurdish state and its worst nightmare is that
US military dependence on the current crop of right-wing Kurdish organisations
will make it beholden to the Kurds and lead to the recognition of a
Kurdish state. After the Gulf War, Turkey sent 75,000 troops into Iraq
to prevent this. If necessary they will do it again.
may decide the outcome
far, Iran has vowed neutrality and, ominously for the Coalition, Tehrans
Shiite front organisation, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution
in Iraq, has sternly discouraged a Shiite uprising in the south.
the Iran-Iraq war -- the longest and one of the bloodiest conflicts
of the 20th century -- the US tilted strongly towards Iraq because they
saw Saddam Husseins secular Arab nationalism as a bulwark against
the Islamist internationalism of the Ayatollah Khomeinis Iran.
Iran has no reason to love Saddam Hussein (although he gave them his
airforce at the end of the Gulf War to prevent it falling into the Coalitions
hands) but it knows that George Bush has branded Iran as part of the
Axis of Evil and they fear that if Iraq falls to the Coalition, theyll
be next for the treatment.
expect Tehran to gradually ratchet up pressure on the Coalition as it
gets bogged down in a prolonged seige of Baghdad. Iran will be sorely
tempted to unleash its irregular forces to bolster Iraqs Fedayeen
in attacks on the Coalitions long, vulnerable supply lines. Irans
regular armed forces are not insignificant and if the Coalitions
political (as well as its military fortunes) decline, Tehran may even
be tempted to throw these into the balance on Iraqs side.