- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

LONDON Half of Iraq's military equipment lacks spare parts, and its armed forces are operating at only 50 percent effectiveness, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates in its annual survey of world armed forces.
The Institute's Washington director has also said a military invasion of Baghdad itself may not be necessary to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The report, titled, "The Military Balance 2002-2003," is to be released later today in London and Washington.
While estimating Iraq's ground forces at 350,000 men far fewer than prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf war to liberate Kuwait the prestigious institute also warns that Iraq's elite units are in much better shape than the bulk of the army.
Most significantly, it reports that Iraq's air-defense command has been modernized over the past year.
Early warning radar is now being used in the greater Baghdad area, the report says, so Western coalition aircraft policing the southern and northern no-fly zones can no longer successfully attack Iraqi surface-to-air missile batteries by hitting them with anti-radiation missiles.
It also says Iraq's SA-3 missiles are no longer static, but mainly are being carried on rotating launchers on the back of six- or eight-wheeled trucks. Also, SA-3 and SA-6 missile sites are said to be linked by a new fiber-optic network that enhances air-defense command and control.
The report says Iran's reaction to the outbreak of hostilities against Iraq would be "uncertain."
"The fact that both [Iran and Iraq] were named as 'rogue states' in an 'axis of evil' by the Bush administration has in a sense given the two former enemies a common cause to stand up to the U.S."
However, the Institute's Washington director, Terry Taylor, expressed confidence in an interview that many of Iraq's armed forces would wilt or put up minimal resistance under a U.S.-led assault.
"I would be very surprised if it is anything more than a patchy defense," said Mr. Taylor, a former British colonel who was a chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq for six years.
"Last time, they said it would be the 'mother of all battles,' and it was not. Their on-paper formidable numbers just melted away."
But he added that even though much of the army was undertrained and probably not highly motivated, "that's not to say it will be a pushover this time."
In any battle plan, the coalition commanders will be assuming a worst-case scenario under which all available forces will fight, Mr. Taylor said.
He also said the outright capture of Baghdad may not be necessary.
"It's questionable whether there needs to be an assault on Baghdad," he said. "Who knows what negotiations [for surrender] would go ahead at that stage? It may not be necessary to fight street by street."
By the time Baghdad is encircled, he said, it is possible that military opposition will have melted away.
A key military objective will be to minimize civilian casualties to limit the political repercussions, Mr. Taylor said. "I would doubt whether civilian causalities will be on a large scale."
As for American casualties, he expects those to be low. "The 1991 war illustrates that point. The figures turned out to be extremely low, in the hundreds on the allied side, and many of those were accidents."
He predicted the bulk of resistance will come from the elite Republican Guard, of whom the most effective is likely to be the elite Special Republican Guard Brigades, comprising between 12,000 and 20,000 men.


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