Giant US B-1 Bombers Lead Way for Ground Forces

The two giant American B-1 multi-role long-range bombers that struck two military radar sites in West Iraq Friday, March 14, laid down markers for fully activating the western warfront of the Iraq campaign. The heavy bombers, not used in Iraq since 1998 Operation Desert Fox, hit a mobile anti-aircraft radar system near the H3 military air base and another near the Jordanian border.
debkafile‘s military sources say the bombing raid aimed to clear the routes of advance for the US Marines and British forces poised to enter western Iraq from Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the next 48 hours.
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The southern and northern Iraqi warfronts were launched earlier this week.
The mission of the troops of the western front, fighting as part of the US 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Jordan, is to capture the largely desert wasteland of western Iraq, focusing on five key Iraqi bases – a cluster of installations at H3, H3 Northwest, H3 Southwest and H3 Highway plus the disused Shab al Hiri facility. The Jordan-based units will link up with American forces streaming to the western region from bases in Saudi Arabia – Arar in the east and Tabuk in the north near the Saudi-Jordanian frontier.
Although disused, the Shab Al Ari base’s capture in the initial stage of combat is important for Israel and Jordan. It is partly concealed in a labyrinth of deep desert gulches surrounded by mountains and hills atop which are a complex of ramshackle buildings, most of them abandoned farm structures. The US war command as well as Israeli and Jordan military leaders are acting on the premise that the Iraqis have hidden in those deep wadis and abandoned buildings a number of missiles – although not necessarily of the Scud type that hit Tel Aviv in 1991 – for launching against Jordan and Israel. They also postulate the possible concealment in remote caves there of guided drones capable of delivering chemical and biological payloads.
Warning sirens will certainly sound in Israel when Iraq attempts to mount air or missile attacks against Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both of which are braced for punishment. Jordan has this past year served as primary launching pad for the American-British invasion of western Iraq, while a large-scale buildup of US air, armor and ground forces ready for attack has taken place in the Saudi kingdom in the last ten days.
American, British and Jordanian special forces are therefore sweeping the wadis, derelict buildings and caves of western Iraq inch by inch in search of hidden Iraqi weapons. But however exhaustive this search and destroy operation may be, it cannot count on 100 percent success. The Iraqis are wizards at deception and camouflage. A single drone or missile with crew may well escape human and electronic detection and surface long enough to strike a US-UK target across the nearby Jordanian border – or even civilian targets in Jordan or Israel.
The radar system knocked out at the H3 base complex on Friday is codenamed “Flat Face”, while “Pluto” was the system smashed opposite the Ruwayshid base in East Jordan, where over the past year American forces built a large airfield and air base and now house their Western Front Forward Commands and several Marine units. “Pluto” is designed for the surveillance of low-flying aircraft like helicopters, which its screens can pick them up at a distance of more than 100 km. Iraq positioned this system within range of the Jordanian-Saudi frontier so as to track the hundreds of American helicopters due to carry Marines to western Iraq in the next day or two.
debkafile‘s military sources report that 1,200 American and British warplanes of different types deployed in bases within striking distance of Iraq are now performing an average of 1,000 sorties a day, which by any definition is full scale warfare. Saddam Hussein may therefore decide it is time to start fighting back, a decision he has held off until now, although large expanses of Iraqi territory have already fallen into American hands.

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