2. Critical Dates: February 23-28

The last week in February 2003 is the last time frame to be set by US President George W. Bush for launching the Iraq war, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence experts and our sources in Washington.

After months of false starts, a new spirit of determination pervades the Washington scene this week. All parts of the administration say the attack will get under way whether or not the UN weapons inspectors find a smoking gun and even if France, Germany and China veto a new resolution to strengthen the mandate inherent in 1441 for military action against the Saddam regime. Bush seems to have reconciled himself to sailing into the fray solo, should the few allies left, like Britain, let him down at the last minute.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington report exclusively that when Commander-in-Chief Bush handed the US high command his final launch dates – February 23-28 – he added three caveats:

1. All the units designated for stage one of the war must have reached their battle stations by one of the following dates: February 23, 24 or, at latest, 25.

2. By those dates, the Pentagon, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, and the war commander, General Tommy Franks. must be able to inform the president that the armed forces are on-station and that everything is ready for the offensive to start – else the countdown will be wound back to the beginning.

3. The American troika in charge of war planning and operations – Myers, Franks and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld — must ascertain that everything has been done from a military, logistical and intelligence standpoint to keep the duration of the war down to 100 hours, meaning four to five days. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources say that Bush will insist on this promise from the three war leaders, or else hold back the military’s marching orders until more reinforcements are consigned to the war zone.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, Rumsfeld, Myers and Franks have assured the president they have every intention of sticking to the last week in February deadline and abiding by the White House’s provisos.

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