- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

The U.S. government has secretly contacted a majority of Iraqi Republican Guard commanders to persuade them to surrender or refrain from fighting once the allied march toward Baghdad begins, a U.S. official says.
The United States has received "pretty good" feedback. But American forces will not know for sure of any surrenders until the shooting starts.
"We know who the leaders are," says the official. "It's not that tough to get in touch with them. E-mail. Cell phones. Any way that is possible and plausible."
Analysts have talked frequently about how the planned invasion of Iraq will be different from Operation Desert Storm during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when the main objective was to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait, not to conquer Baghdad.
One big difference is the way the U.S. military is attempting to communicate with Iraq's military beforehand to negotiate surrender or even to persuade commanders to turn on the country's leader, Saddam Hussein. There were no such efforts in 1991, Gulf war veterans say.
The communications are made in two ways: secret messages and psychological warfare, in which aircraft drop leaflets and mount propaganda radio broadcasts.
"There is some preliminary information that the [psychological warfare] campaign is having some early successes, especially at changing minds in the Iraqi regular army, which is the farthest down the food chain in the Iraqi security hierarchy," says a military officer at the Pentagon.
Iraq's ground forces are divided along a three-tier structure.
There is the regular army a poorly equipped force of about 160,000 that is not expected to put up much resistance. The Pentagon expects the great majority of these soldiers to retreat or surrender, as they did at the start of the Desert Storm ground invasion. The regular army is Iraq's first line of defense against 140,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers in Kuwait.
The second layer is the Republican Guards, Saddam's best-trained, conventional ground forces totaling six divisions, or about 60,000 soldiers. They are armed with Soviet T-72 tanks, armored personnel carriers and shoulder-fired missiles.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that the military does not expect much of a struggle from the regular army or the Republican Guard.
The greatest resistance, he said, would be with the new Special Republican Guard and the Special Security Organization, which closely guard Saddam's regime. "My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely, as well, to want to avoid conflict with U.S. forces and are likely to step aside," Mr. Cheney said.
He added: "I don't want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there's no doubt about the outcome. There's no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action."
Asked how Iraqi units will know to signal if they do not wish to fight, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week:
"They are being communicated with privately at the present time. They will be communicated with in a more public way. And they will receive instructions so that they can behave in a way that will be seen and understood as being nonthreatening. And they will be not considered combatants, and they will be handled in a way that they are no longer part of the problem."
The U.S. official, who asked not to be named but is involved in war planning, says one estimate is that about a third of the Republican Guard units will surrender, a third will fight briefly and then quit, and the remainder will extend the fight for several days until they are destroyed.
If Iraqi commanders do not signal surrender, by, for example, keeping the gun barrels of their tanks pointed toward the ground, then "we'll attack."
Iraq's third defensive layer is the relatively new Special Republican Guard, consisting of about 12,000 to 15,000 troops. Saddam created the corps in the mid-1990s to shore up his, and the city's, security. The U.S. planners think that some of these units will conclude that the war is lost and turn on Saddam.
Officials say the siege of Baghdad is likely to turn out to be the most important development of the war. War plans call for sending Marines and Army units from Kuwait, south of Iraq, and from the country's west and north, to ring the capital and force a surrender.
The U.S. official says the city can be encircled in four days, as Navy and Air Force strike aircraft and Tomahawk cruise missiles destroy key military targets.
"How long we will surround Baghdad is anybody's guess," the official says. Gen. Tommy Franks, who will command the assault, wants to avoid the confusion of urban combat.
Another U.S. official says the key objective is to seal off Saddam's power bases Baghdad and his hometown of Tikrit, which is protected by some of his most loyal commanders. Other cities, such as the port of Basra, may fall on their own once Iraqis see the tide of battle going against Saddam.
"I think from the intelligence I've seen I think it's way too early to tell whether there's going to be a fight for Baghdad or not," Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said earlier this month. "If the regime cedes the rest of the country then in many people's view it's no longer a regime. They're lost before things even started."
Audrey Hudson contributed to this report.

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