Baghdad Has Fallen, Problems for America are Only Beginning

Baghdad has fallen. Although fighting is going on on Baghdad's outskirts and some of its districts, and it is not known what has happened to Saddam Hussein, his sons and entourage, the destiny of the five-million city and the Gulf war is absolutely evident.

However, it was evident to military experts even three weeks ago, when Operation Shock and Awe was at its outset. The two sides' forces were too unequal, and the gap between the 21st-century's U.S. army and the mid-20th Iraqi army was too great. But in fact no one thought the end would be so soon. The first two weeks of fighting revealed the high morale of Iraq's republican guard, its regular troops and militia. The coalition was failing to capture even an average Iraqi city, let alone such centres and transport junctions as Basra, Umm-Qasr, Najaf, Kirkuk or Mosul. And suddenly, Iraq's defence went to pieces in three days. Why?

"Any resistance has a margin," says General of the Army Makhmut Gareyev, former USSR Armed Forces Vice-Chief of General Staff and now President of the Military Sciences Academy. "Of course, the three weeks of incessant fighting, permanent bombing and strikes of cruise missiles, the absolute air superiority of the coalition's aviation, the impossibility to perform a manoeuvre into the enemy's flank or rear without being spotted by his aerospace reconnaissance means which vector on you the fire of high-precision means of destruction, exhausted both the republican guard and the regular troops." "It is difficult to fight with a rifle and a grenade-launcher against an enemy armed with 155-mm howitzers, Abrams tanks, and Bradley combat vehicles supported by Apache helicopters and A-10 tank killers," the general says. "After the Anglo-American troops singed their feathers in Basra and Najaf, their tactics became more flexible: they would not occupy a city before all major firing-points were destroyed there. Methodical mass shelling at enemy's positions, destroying enemy's personnel from the air, cutting off the avenues of reinforcement, delivery of ammunition, food and potable water led to the Iraqi guard's collapse. It lost the capability to control resistance and the guardians in fact ran away in civilian clothes to save their own lives." General Gareyev points to another detail of unsuccessful resistance in the Iraqi capital.

"The defending troops did not undertake any serious action to stop the American offensive on Baghdad," he says. "Bridges across the Tigris were not mined and blown up, antitank ditches were not dug, escarps, counterscarps and barricades were not arranged, though they could have delayed the enemy armour's advance and made it a good target for grenade-launchers. Then, the Iraqis could have fired from round any corner and from houses' ruins. The sandbags that sheltered the Iraqi submachine gunners standing on Baghdad's crossroads looked rather like scenery, not reliable fortification. Therefore it is no wonder that after several probing raids to the Baghdad centre, the Americans saw that no serious resistance awaited them and in fact entered the city by a mechanised division, not by ten tanks as previously." Colonel-General (Ret.) Anatoly Sitnov, former head of ammunition of the Russian Armed Forces and now head of the International Co-operation Centre has also analysed the military and technical reasons for the Iraqi army's defeat. He believes that one of them was the destruction of communications and control system. AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft and aircraft with electronic warfare equipment controlled Iraq's air. They put Iraqi control stations out of action and guided on them cruise missiles and smart bombs. A 'blind and deaf' army cannot resist an organised well-controlled enemy," the general said.

However, according to General of the Army Andrei Nikolayev, Chairman of the State Duma Defence Committee, the capture of Baghdad does not put an end to the problems of the American troops and the whole coalition. "To occupy a territory does not mean to gain final victory," he said. "The history of wars proves that when armies conquer a state they often fail to establish full control over it." Such is the situation in Afghanistan. The American troops and their German and Dutch allies in fact control only Kabul and Bagram, while warlords play the master in all other areas. And they don't obey the central authorities. "This may be repeated in Iraq," General Nikolayev notes.

It is clear that the American and British troops have proved to be unable to cease looting, he said. In addition, the problem of Kurdistan - the oil areas in Iraq's north claimed by the Kurds and the Kurd autonomy - remains a delayed-action bomb. The Kurds will require much from the Americans for their support of the war against Saddam. Will America be able to meet their demands and will it regard Ankara's apprehensions and protests? These questions can lead to a long subversion and guerrilla war in another region of Iraq and provoke a headache of the occupation troops and the new Iraqi administration.

Baghdad has fallen, experts say, the problems for the post-Saddam Iraq are only beginning.

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