Road to Baghdad Goes Through Tel Aviv
Large American contingents, airborne and heavy mechanized divisions, Marine task forces, aircraft carriers, helicopter fleets and hospital ships are speeding to jumping-off positions around Baghdad.
The US is expected to launch the coming war against Iraq with parachute drops on Baghdad, together with commando landings in the city from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.
A large-scale force will meanwhile encircle the Iraqi capital, while a mighty tank force dashes north from Kuwait and Qatar, bypassing the southern Iraqi Shiite cities of Najef and Karbala and circumventing the Iraqi army defending Baghdad. Those tanks will join the encircling force.
The object of this colossal movement of military strength is to lay Baghdad to siege.
This tactic and the consistency of the strength for its execution, debkafile‘s military sources report, have been taken from the Israeli doctrine of besieging Palestinian West Bank cities in order to lower the level of terror. The doctrine was initiated by defense minister Shaul Mofaz in his last job as IDF chief of staff and has been carried on by his successor, Lt. General Moshe Yaalon.
For over four months, American military officers have been observing Israeli units at first hand, as they operate against terrorists in Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm, Bethlehem and Ramallah, watching also the IDF method of isolating Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah headquarters.
According to our sources, American military planners are transposing the anti-terror tactics they have witnessed on the West Bank as battle plans for the 101st Airborne Division fighters destined for Baghdad. Israeli tank maneuvers under helicopter cover have been studied in Jenin as a model for the 3rd US division’s M1 Abrams main battle tanks to follow, in the streets of the Iraqi capital.
In effect, American war planners have adopted sections of the IDF’s combat strategy against Palestinian terrorist strongholds. This strategy consists essentially of pouring with stunning speed into targeted urban districts large-scale tanks columns armed with heavy firepower, together with armored units under helicopter and drone air cover, as well as crack fighting units, such as paratroops.
This onslaught leaves the forces under attack too overwhelmed to put up more than token resistance. They soon discover that any attempt to hit the iron giants roaming their streets results in their firing positions, bunkers or rooftops, being pulverized by the attacker’s superior firepower.
This strategy has so far kept Israeli and local casualties in Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron and Jenin to a minimum, while cutting down the volume of terrorism.
According to debkafile‘s military sources, the American strategists were also interested in the second half of the Israeli doctrine, namely the way in which Arafat has been corralled in his Ramallah administration and terror headquarters for more than 10 months, together with 20 to 30 Palestinian terror chieftains who dare not come out from under his protection.
US war leaders are planning to use tanks, drones and crack troops in a similar fashion to beleaguer Saddam Hussein, his family and top staff in the palace or bunker in Baghdad or Tikrit in which they are holed up – for as long as it takes. They see no need to break in and capture him, only to wait patiently outside his gates until he surrenders or agrees to leave the country.
The road of departure is also open to Arafat.
With this tactic accepted in Washington – a source of no little pride in Sharon’s circle – the Israeli prime minister and his inner defense cabinet – Mofaz, foreign minister Binyamin Netanyahu and public security minister Uzzi Landau – agreed Sunday night, January 5, not to deport Arafat from Ramallah, despite the cruel provocation of the terror massacre perpetrated a few hours earlier in Tel Aviv.
Two suicide bombers from Nablus, activists of the military wing of Arafat’s Fatah, the al Aasa Martyrs’ Brigades, blew themselves up in a poor Tel Aviv district frequented by migrant workers from East Europe, Thailand, China and West Africa and bus commuters. The killers held their 15-kilo charges, packed with nuts, ball-bearings and shrapnel, high in the air to wreak maximal carnage. Some injured illegal workers were too frightened of expulsion to go to hospital for treatment until two Israeli ministers promised publicly to suspend any action against them.
Even after the deadliest Palestinian massacre since 29 Israelis were murdered last Passover in Netanya, Sharon’s inner cabinet decided once again not to expel Arafat.
This decision was not the result of any pressure from Washington, the fear of inflaming the masses in the streets of Cairo and Damascus, or lack of courage. It had one rationale: Sharon’s iron determination to operate in perfect sync with President George W. Bush. He is convinced that by spring, two Middle East terror masters, Saddam and Arafat, will be caged respectively by US and Israeli forces. His siege doctrine will then be vindicated as the only key capable of opening the door to a real settlement with the Palestinians and a genuinely revamped Middle East. As Sharon sees it, regimes and frontiers will be redrawn and new rulers rise after the Iraqi and Palestinian dictators, wielders of terror and weapons of mass destruction, are overthrown.
In pursuit of this goal, Israelis are being called upon to pay a terrible price. The 23 deaths from the Tel Aviv bombings Sunday night, January 5, have raised the Israeli death toll from terrorism – only since Sharon became prime minister in February 2001 – to nearly 700. Sharon remains convinced, as he told injured victims of the Tel Aviv attack whom he visited in hospital Monday, January 5, that though the struggle is protracted and savage, Israel is bound to vanquish the terrorists in the end.
Defense minister Mofaz, coming earlier out from briefing the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, predicted that Arafat would step down, an action that would make way for Israel and the Palestinians to go back to the negotiating table. The dictates of reality, he said, are bringing the moment for a new Palestinian leadership to take over ever closer.
The human price for this strategy is being paid by the ordinary Israeli. As voters in the general election due on January 28, Israelis will have a say on whether the price is worth paying – unless of course the poll is postponed by the Iraq War.