Washington -- A former Iran-Iraq military analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, now with the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank, predicts that the war against Iraq will take from "four to ten weeks."
Kenneth Pollack, director of research at Brookings' Saban Center on Middle East Policy, said at a weekly Iraq briefing on March 27 that an allied victory was inevitable and that even if his prediction turned out to be "wrong," then the error would be more on the side of "less than four weeks" than "more than ten weeks."
Describing the situation on the battlefield in the last few days as "very badly skewed and out-of whack," Pollack maintained that it was Saddam Hussein who had "over-achieved" and that even Hussein was surprised by the success of his "irregular forces" in slowing down the advance of Coalition forces toward Baghdad, the defense of which was his "main concern."
Pollack said that it was clear that Iraq had learned its lesson from the 1991 Gulf War, but more importantly Hussein had seen what happened to U.S. forces in Somalia, where civilians were used as human shields to thwart enemy attacks.
Pollack said the irregular, or fedayeen, forces had disrupted lines of supply in southern Iraq but had not inflicted any significant number of casualties on Coalition forces. Also, the use of machine-guns or anti-aircraft guns mounted on small trucks by the fedayeen could result in easy kills for the Coalition forces, he said. Pollack said individual fedayeen with rocket-propelled grenades often could evade Coalition attacks.
Pollack said the Coalition war strategy had been risk-based and no provisions had been made to protect supply lines that could stretch "500 kilometers long." The emphasis was on air power to "shock and awe" Iraqi forces and bring about early capitulation, he said.
The other mistake was not taking Iraqi POWs. Most of them were allowed to lay down their weapons and go home. Pollack said that those who went home were then "dragooned" by Hussein's Baath Party loyalists or the fedayeen, he said.
But Pollack stressed that "the biggest problem" for Coalition air power is the broken terrain that prevented Apache helicopters from firing Hellfire missiles at tanks from high altitudes two to three kilometers away like they did on flatter ground in Kuwait during the Gulf War. Instead the helicopters have to come in low in Iraq and face ground-fire from all angles, he said.
As a result, Coalition forces "have lost some momentum" for the time being, Pollack said. On the other hand, the apparent success of the fedayeen might prompt Hussein to flee Baghdad and fight a guerrilla war in the desert instead of facing Coalition troops in a last-ditch defense of Baghdad, Pollack speculated.
On the question of weapons of mass destruction, Pollack said Hussein was unlikely to use chemical weapons before any siege of Baghdad because he was encouraged by the battlefield news from Western journalists that describe "heavy casualties." Hussein still believes that the United States "might throw in the towel" if casualties continue to mount, Pollack said.
The perception of the war in neighboring Middle East countries was summarized by Shibley Telhami, who is Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Instead of relying on CNN and other Western sources of news about the war, Telhami said people in the Arab World go to satellite stations such as Al-Jazeera in Qatar and Al-Manar television produced by the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Telhami also noted "the fear" among Arab governments that if the war in Iraq became too easy for the United States then other regime changes could take place in the region.
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