2. Putin Is in With Both Feet

America’s allies’ preparations for the coming US offensive against Iraq are close to completion. This will be one of the messages US vice president Richard Cheney will be bringing back to the White House from his 12-nation tour of capitals in Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.


Subject to a last presidential go signal, therefore, DEBKA-Net-Weekly stands by its original forecast three editions – and three weeks ago – that the US assault will be ready to take off in the second half of March or early April.


In one important sense, the Afghanistan War pattern will be replicated in the coming offensive: Russia will be America’s foremost ally.


On February 15 (Issue No. 49), DEBKA-Net-Weekly disclosed that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, had decided to dump the Kremlin’s traditional pro-Iraqi policy and swing Russian support round to the United States campaign against Saddam Hussein.


He has made good on his word. Russian military and intelligence personnel have since been brought home from Baghdad with their families; the 70-member Iraqi military delegation has been asked to leave Moscow, along with an estimated 300 Iraqi military men, engineers and technicians, studying or working at Russian research institutes.


As in Afghanistan, Putin has laid before Washington intelligence-sharing facilities on Iraq and offered Moscow’s intelligence assistance – both in support of the US military campaign in Iraq and to forestall an Iraqi terror assault on US cities and strategic targets.


By the time the Bush-Putin Moscow summit comes round on May 25, the Russian President believes the first stage of the war in Iraq will be behind them and the two men can get down to discussing Russia’s role and influence in post-Saddam Baghdad.

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