but former un weapons inspector scott ritter says

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    Imploding strategy
    A week into the war and it is the planners of the illegal invasion who are in shock, writes Hani Shukrallah

    The US/British invasion of Iraq, now in its seventh day, has proved, if anything, even more "unpredictable" than American military officials promised it would be, and this in ways they could not have imagined a week ago. The invasion was to be conducted with "breathtaking" speed. The world was to be given a demonstration of new smart weapons, so precise they would flush the Iraqi leadership out of its deepest bunkers. Shi'ites in the south would rise up in rebellion, welcoming their liberators on the streets of Basra, in scenes reminiscent of the "liberation" of Kabul. Saddam Hussein's regime would crumble. Iraqi military commanders, with whom "coalition" military chiefs hinted they were in secret communication, would disband their forces and disappear quietly rather than face trial as war criminals -- as US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seemed to threaten in the early hours of the invasion, when he warned all those who fought beside Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that they would face the same fate as Iraq's president if they fought back. The duration of the war would be counted in hours rather than days.

    It did not quite work out that way. By day seven the only urban centre the coalition forces can claim to have seized is the tiny port of Umm Al-Qasr, straddling the Iraq-Kuwait border. This, after six days of fierce fighting.

    Speaking to reporters at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday Rumsfeld warned: "This campaign could well grow more dangerous in the coming days and weeks as coalition forces close on Baghdad and the regime is faced with certain death." "But the outcome is assured," he added, in what has become an Anglo-American mantra.

    "It's important for the American people to realise that this war has just begun, that it may seem like a long time because of all the action on TV," US President George Bush was telling military leaders at the Pentagon on Tuesday. He added: "In terms of the overall strategy, we're just in the beginning phases, and we're executing a plan which will make it easier to achieve objectives and, at the same time, spare innocent lives."

    As Al-Ahram Weekly went to print yesterday Bush was due to meet with his principal war ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at the presidential retreat in Maryland.

    He was also due to visit the headquarters of Central Command, revealed White House spokesman Ari Fleisher in a press briefing yesterday. According to Fleisher Bush would be cautioning the American public that the fight for control of Baghdad "could be long and hard, but that there is no doubt about success".

    Things had been going wrong even before the coalition forces missed their window of opportunity -- apparently by a long shot -- and were unable to kill Saddam on the first day of the war. The US and Britain, despite fierce efforts and intense pressure, failed to win a majority of nine at the Security Council sanctioning a military attack on Iraq. In terms of international law this renders the invasion a violation of Article 2 of the UN Charter, i.e. the very same transgression committed by Saddam in his invasion of Kuwait in 1991. A majority of the world's states have declared their opposition to the war and, on 15 February, the anti-war movement was able to mobilise more than 30 million people in anti-war demonstrations across the globe. This may well have stayed the hands of the US military from unleashing the full force of its "Shock and Awe" strategy, in order to avoid the massive civilian casualties such a course would have resulted in.

    While American and British officials have dismissed the loss of a northern front due to opposition in the Turkish parliament as unimportant to the conduct of the invasion there are military analysts who disagree. Speaking to CNN on Tuesday night retired US Army General Wesley Clark, a CNN analyst and former NATO supreme allied commander, asserted that Turkey's "failure to permit the 4th Infantry Division to go through was a significant problem, not an insignificant problem." Neither could the coalition count on its erstwhile Kurdish allies who, increasingly more worried about Turkey than Baghdad, decided to stay out of the fight.

    Clark also asserted that the scenario of a quick coalition victory in Iraq is "not going to happen". The simple fact, he pointed out, "is that the liberation didn't quite occur. They didn't uprise."

    Indeed no uprising occurred anywhere in the predominantly Shi'ite south despite British claims on Tuesday of an uprising in Basra, Iraq's second largest city. Earlier, British forces had declared, rather bizarrely, that Basra had become "a legitimate military target". A day later, Prime Minister Blair told parliament that "truthfully, reports are confused but we believe there was some limited form of uprising."

    Not only was there no uprising, but coalition forces were facing stiff resistance every step of the way in their northbound drive towards Baghdad. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all for the US/British military has been the strategy adopted by the Iraqi leadership. Iraqi strategy (see pp. 10&11) has been to avoid large troop deployments and direct confrontations in which superior fire power would be decisive. They opted instead to create relatively small detachments, ensuring greater manoeuverability, luring invading forces into the cities, forcing them into urban warfare. In a paradox of epochal magnitude, an Arab military dictator, faced with certain death, opted for popular warfare.

    The coalition military chiefs have been yelling foul. Some of the greatest losses suffered by the coalition forces, complained the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff on Tuesday, "were due to the Iraqis' committing serious violations of the law of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions by dressing as civilians and luring us into surrender situations and opening fire on our troops". None of the coalition officials, however, admit what history has revealed on countless occasions -- that a people faced with foreign invasion of their homeland do take up arms in its defence.

    As Al-Ahram Weekly went to print yesterday fighting continued to rage around Karbala, Najaf, Nasseriya and Basra, while intensified air raids were, from early dawn, pounding Baghdad with bombs and missiles. One missile slammed into a poor residential district in the Iraqi capital, leaving, according to a Reuters count, at least 15 scorched corpses on the street. Iraqi television, meanwhile, has been able to resume airing news bulletins after a 45-minute stoppage caused by a US-British bombardment of the state television building, an action Amnesty International condemned as a possible breach of the Geneva Conventions which forbids attacks on non-military targets.

    "We will stay on the path, mile by mile, all the way to Baghdad and all the way to victory," Bush told his troops at Central Command headquarters in Florida yesterday. But former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, in an interview broadcast by a Lisbon private radio station on Tuesday was doubtful. "We do not have the military means to take over Baghdad," he said. "The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated. It is a war we cannot win."

    Throughout the Arab world, seven days into the invasion of Iraq, there was considerable awe, not at the viciousness of an illegal foreign invasion of Arab land, but at the stiffness of the Iraqi people's resolve in its defence.
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