Saddam Hussein still believes he can smash the coming US assault on Iraq and send the mighty American army running home with its tail between its legs.
Preparing his last line of defense, the Iraqi leader has built an “Iron Triangle” outside his capital. Since Monday February 10, Saddam’s has been gathering in his military resources — tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, planes, special forces and weapons of mass destruction” – from positions across Iraq.
From the northern tip of the triangle, his hometown stronghold of Tikrit, the zone’s western leg stretches south to Al Ramadi. From there, it reaches Baghdad and takes in the giant Habaniya airfield and Iraq’s largest concentration of bases at Faluja. From the Iraqi capital, the base of the triangle cuts across to Al Azamiyh, only 12 miles (19 miles) east of Baghdad.
Saddam and his generals left the eastern leg of the triangle exposed, hoping the Iranians will not take advantage of the US assault and attack Iraq (for motives outlined in a separate article in this issue).
Therefore, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military experts, the bulk of Saddam’s military assets is massed in an area of no more than about 80 square miles (207 square km), deliberately keeping only about 0.05 percent of Iraq’s 168,000 square miles (435,120 square km) of territory under his control.
Please click here to view the layout of Saddam’s Iron Triangle.
Saddam has moved into this wedge of land his government, the ruling Baath Party apparatus and the military units that he and his generals believe capable of saving the Iraqi regime from annihilation.
These forces include units of the Special Guard – widely misnamed the Republican Guard – suicide troops, special combat units belonging to various branches of Iraqi military intelligence and segments of Iraqi divisions, whose officers and men Saddam and his sons believe to be completely loyal.
Most of Iraq’s short- and medium-range surface-to-surface missiles and their launchers, warplanes, helicopters, anti-aircraft systems and aircraft, which are capable of delivering chemical, biological and radiological weapons, are also located in the triangle.
The aircraft have been concentrated primarily in military bases located between Al Ramadi and Baghdad, such as Habaniya, Faluja, Samarra and al-Halis.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources report an intelligence estimate that between 160,000 and 180,000 Iraqi troops have been drawn into the triangle, a figure that could go up to 220,000 – or half the Iraqi military – once the redeployment is completed.
The strategy is simple: Iraqi generals, who answer to the triangle’s supreme commanders, Saddam’s two sons Uday and Qusay, believe the massive concentration of might will be able to throw back the first wave of US troops advancing from the north, south and west and prevent it from reaching the heart of Baghdad.
Saddam is operating on the premise, outlined by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military analysts, that if he can repulse this first wave and inflict heavy casualties on the American invaders, the US army will withdraw from Iraq.
The Iraqi dictator was therefore full of bravado when he received his top generals and government officials come to greet him on the Muslim Eid al-Adha Feast of the Sacrifice on Tuesday, February 11.
“I cannot imagine us better placed than we are now,” Saddam crowed. “In fact, I could not wish for Iraq to be in a better situation or for higher national morale as we get set to confront the cruel enemy,” he said.