Day Two of Iraq War – March 20, 2003

Thursday morning, March 20, the Iraqi military moved onto the offensive against the allied troop buildup on the Kuwait-Iraqi frontier and Kuwait itself. They loosed a barrage of artillery prompting an exchange of heavy fire. As the shells fell, coalition troops were ordered to don their bio-chemical protective suits. At 11.00 the first two missiles were lobbed into northern Kuwait, followed by another two. At least two of the four were Scuds- one or two of which were shot down by US Patriot anti-missile batteries, as the sound of explosions heard in Kuwait City set off alarm sirens. There were no initial reports of unconventional warheads or casualties from the missile salvo.
IST 08:20
Saddam Hussein’s said very little in his very brief televised address beyond declaring repeatedly that Iraq would defeat the invader and was fighting for freedom and humanity. He blamed the attack on Americans “driven by criminal Zionism” and mentioned Palestine three times.
US secretary of state Colin Powell called Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to notify him of coming attack 90 minutes before it began.
debkafile`s Kuwait correspondent reports from sources with the US 3rd Infantry Division on the Kuwait-Iraq border: The surrender of the Iraqi 11th and 51st divisions is under negotiation with US military officers and is expected in the coming hours. The two divisions represent two-thirds of the Iraqi army in the south.
Pentagon: In the earlier attack on Baghdad, at least 36 Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles were fired from 4 US cruisers and 2 submarines in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf along with F117 stealth bombers.
The Iraq campaign has been officially dubbed: Operation Iraqi Freedom.
IST 07:00: Two Iraqi divisions in Basra area of southeastern Iraq are in the process of capitulating to the advancing US-UK force. They are the 11th Infantry and 51st Mechanized Infantry charged with defending the oil fields of the region and made up of conscripts. Saddam Hussein is due to broadcast an address to the nation in a few minutes.
State Department has issued worldwide terror alert for US citizens. Fox News TV reports 1000 US troops have mounted Operation Valiant against Al Qaeda south of Kandahar in Afghanistan.
IST 06:30
Two Iraqi divisions in Basra area of southern Iraq offer to surrender to advancing US-UK force.
Baghdad state television is off the air. US military have taken over airwaves and are broadcasting over Iraqi state radio.
The opportunity of targeting top regime officials is said to have influenced the decision in Washington to bring the entire operation forward by several hours.
IST 05:50
Minutes before and after President George W. Bush made his announcement that the early stages of the military operation to undermine Saddam’s ability to wage war had begun, sirens and explosions were heard in Baghdad as the first Tomahawk cruise missiles and F117 stealth bombers went into action over Baghdad and Tikrit.
Pentagon officials disclosed that the cruise missiles in quantities measured in two digits were fired from vessels in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Targets were described as “senior Iraqi leadership” in Baghdad.
Pentagon sources: “Targets of opportunity” hit in first stage of attack reportedly five members of Saddam regime at highest levels – possibly Saddam’s sons or top generals. Strike enabled by intercept or very recent intelligence from someone very close to president.

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