Bush Poised to Stake His All on Iraq Victory
President George W. Bush is poised to stake every US resource to hand on a no-holds-barred military operation all the way to victory in Iraq, after first bringing Baghdad under control. The chips should all be lined up by the time he goes public next week on his new strategy for Iraq and the Middle East at large.
debkafile‘s military and Washington sources report that the new Bush policy will brook no look-in for Iran, Syria or Hizballah in Iraq’s affairs. Exceptionally offensive US military resources have been marshaled to bar any interference with the White House’s plans for Iraq. They will under the hand of the military command for instantaneous responses. To this end, the shakeup of military leaders the US president set in motion over the weekend moves into forward position one of the toughest and most hawkish US military leaders.
Adm. William J. Fallon (picture), 62, hitherto supreme commander in the Pacific theater, takes over from Gen. John Abizaid as commander of the US central command which is in charge of the US fronts in Iraq, Afghanistan and against global terrorism. The admiral specializes in deploying large-scale navy, air and Marines forces simultaneously in different arenas.
And the White House is making sure that Adm. Fallon has plenty of resources to deploy, a veritable buildup, the second in four months, in the Persian Gulf and other waters opposite Iran. The USS John C. Stennis strike group is heading for the Persian Gulf with a mighty air arm of 9-10 fighter-bomber squadrons. Saturday, some sources reported that another task force, the USS Ronald Reagan Strike Group, had been ordered out of Sand Diego on Jan. 4 and was heading in the same direction.
Military observers in the US and Middle East noted that the group’s commander, Rear Adm. Michael H. Miller, reiterated: “When we deploy for real-world operations, Carrier Strike Group 7 will be an example of how the Navy is able to carry out our mission any time, anywhere in the world.”
The original announcement that the Stennis strike group will this month join the USS Dwight Eisenhower aircraft carrier group and USS Boxer strike force in the Persian Gulf described the deployment “as a warning to Syria and Iran” in face of acts seen as provocative, and to give commanders more flexibility in the region.
Deployment of the Stennis group puts a total of 16,000 US sailors in the region as well as another nuclear carrier and 7 escort warships, 10 air squadrons, 2 submarines and helicopters to support amphibious landings on enemy soil.
This massed naval, air and marine forces assembled should provide credible evidence of the lengths the United States is prepared to go to keep Iran, Syria or Hizballah from interfering with the all-out American attempt to stabilize Iraq.
While the Stennis group has a high capability for sowing sea mines across broad stretches of water, thus threatening to disable the Iranian army and corking up its oil export outlets, the Ronald Reagan has the opposite and supplementary operational capability of sweeping up marine mines and explosive charges should Tehran blockade the Persian Gulf and Hormuz Strait against American warships and outgoing oil shipping from Iraq and Arabian oil centers.
debkafile‘s military sources foresee these frenzied preparations as spelling a turbulent winter and spring for the region – critical for Iraq and fraught with tension for the rest of the Middle East.
Israel might face extreme danger should Tehran and Damascus target the Jewish state in retaliation for US strikes. Israel is ruled by a volatile, shaky government; its military command under fire for its Lebanon War mistakes. Both may decided to take advantage of Israel’s low state. In fact US and Israeli military leaders do not rule out possible Iranian, Syrian or Hizballah assaults on the pretext that they are really aiming for US military installations in Israel. They may also direct their fire on American locations in Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and its fleet in the eastern Mediterranean.
President Bush’s willingness to go all the way in Iraq, say debkafile sources in Washington, is prompted by a simple line of reasoning. If it ends in victory, he will end his presidency on a high note and be able to boast that American doggedness and courage prevailed over the enemy in the long haul. If the US armed forces fail to deliver, Bush will be in exactly the same position as he is today, namely, heading for the history books as the American president who lost the Iraq war and the struggle against terror.
He therefore has nothing to lose and everything to gain by staking his all on victory.
In pushing ahead in Iraq, the Gulf and the Middle East, Bush faces intense opposition from the Democratic majority which rules both houses of congress since they were lost to the Republicans last year over Iraq.
Democratic leaders Senate leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are urging the US president to reject US troop increases in Iraq and opt for redeployment. Turning them down would also reject the bipartisan spirit embodied in the Baker-Hamilton Iraqi Study Group report.
Using his powers as commander in chief, he continues to bolster the Iraqi front with another key appointment: Lt. Gen. David Petraeus will succeed Gen. George Casey in command of American forces in Iraq. Petraeus commanded the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Its motto, Rendezvous with Destiny, fits the US president’s present frame of mind.
The appointment of Ryan Crocker to replace Zamay Khalilzad as US ambassador to Baghdad further supplements the all-or-nothing scenario. Crocker led the US campaign in the Indian subcontinent against al Qaeda and Taliban. Khalilzad moves over to head the US mission at the United Nations.