Iraq Distances Army from Main Cities

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources refute the reports spread mainly by the Iraqi opposition of large army contingents brought to Baghdad and digging in to confront US and British invasion forces. On the contrary, Saddam has sent the army out of the cities to remote desert areas in the south and west. They were ordered to take up battle positions spread thinly over large areas – not as protection against US aerial attack, but because they are not trusted. The authorities want to make it hard for the men to regroup and re-enter Iraq’s cities as rebel forces.

To reduce their mobility, these scattered troop units are sparsely supplied with petrol, as well as insufficient fresh food and water. This device has served Saddam as a two-edged sword. Deprived of basic supplies and stuck in the desert, his officers and men welcomed the advances of US, British and Turkish special forces in the region and were more than willing to establish relations, particularly after being promised that food and water would be parachuted in to them. Most of all, the stranded Iraqi servicemen asked for gasoline, but were turned down by the Americans.

Our military sources report that food and water airdrops were made in several places this week. Their continuation depends on the willingness of Iraqi commanders to play ball with the US-led contingents.

If the Saddam Hussein regime cannot count on the armed forces, it can rely even less on Iraq’s largest tribal groups, the Majiedi and Dulain. Sensing the approaching threat to the regime, those tribes each convened their senior councils for emergency sessions last week to consider their oaths of allegiance to Saddam Hussein.

Our Iraq experts explain that the members of the two tribes make up the bulk of the Iraqi army’s senior officer corps. Since the Iraqi ruler transferred to his sons the command over the units composed of members of his own Tikrit tribe, these two tribes form the backbone of the brigade and battalion command echelons. Therefore, it is in their power to bring about the collapse of the Iraqi army’s command structure should they decide to withdraw their loyalty from Saddam Hussein.

The Americans, like the Iraqi ruler, are watching intently to see which way the debate goes. However they are finding the wait a nail-biting experience. The debating in the tribal councils is typically long-winded, tending to go on and on, back and forth and round and round in sessions counted in weeks rather than days, before a decision is forthcoming. The palaver is still going on in both councils.

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