- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

The allies accelerated the bombing of Baghdad last night by striking the city's telecommunications building, while the Pentagon said it has pinpointed a site outside Baghdad that may hold prohibited chemical weapons.
The Defense Department said more than 100,000 additional ground troops are headed to the Persian Gulf to bolster an American ground presence of fewer than 100,000 now inside Iraq and poised to fight major tank battles.
A special-operations source said it is not yet known whether the United States will prove to the world that Iraq harbors chemical weapons. Weapons analysts have not yet gained access to the site or tested materials believed to be there.
A senior Pentagon official said last night, "We are confident chemical weapons are hidden around Iraq and we will find them during the course of the war or afterwards."
President Bush has sent troops to topple Saddam Hussein and rid Iraq of large stocks of weapons of mass destruction prohibited by a series of U.N. resolutions. An early discovery would back up the president's arguments for war and could cool antiwar fervor around the world.
Both American and British forces already have discovered Iraqi chemical-protection suits stored with other stashes of weapons and ammunition. They say the suits are evidence that Saddam plans to use mustard and VX gas.
"We do have evidence that the Iraqi regime is prepared to use weapons of mass destruction," British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said yesterday.
Yesterday's pre-midnight air strikes, designed to isolate Saddam's regime from his troops, came at the end of a day in which wicked sandstorms finally swept out of central Iraq after a week's pounding.
The lull provided allied pilots a clearer shot at Republican Guard tanks and armored vehicles defending Baghdad.
Navy and Air Force precision bombs struck at Saddam's most professional fighting force in anticipation of a major land battle, perhaps this weekend around the town of Karbala. It would pit the U.S. Army's 5th Corps and its M1-A1 Abrams tanks and Apache helicopters against the Guard's Medina division of about 12,000 soldiers and Soviet T-72 tanks.
"Karbala is shaping up to be a key battle," said Lt. Col. Paul Grosskruger of the 94th Engineers Battalion in the 3rd Infantry Division. "It's being reinforced and it's fairly well defended."
Commanders said that in Karbala a force of about 6,000 Iraqis are dug in, with a mix of Republican Guard and regular army soldiers.
The 5th Corps for the third straight day had to cope with marauding paramilitary guerrillas such as the Fedayeen. Fighting continued south of Karbala around the town of Najaf.
Saddam has sent the fanatical fighters south in trucks, buses and on foot to launch what have amounted to suicide charges against better-equipped armored units. The 7th Cavalry unit killed as many as 300 irregulars in one fight in a blinding sandstorm Tuesday night, without suffering a U.S. combat death.
With Baghdad less than 70 miles away for the 5th Corps, the Iraqi Defense Minister sounded especially defiant yesterday. He invited coalition troops to enter Baghdad and engage in door-to-door urban combat.
"The enemy can bypass the resistance and go in the desert as far as it wants," said Sultan Hashim Ahmed. "In the end, where can he go? He has to enter the city. … We will fight to the end and everywhere."
Central Command has changed tactics to find and destroy the marauders.
"I won't get into the operational details, but Gen. [Tommy] Franks has taken means to deal with this group," Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, told a Senate panel. "It's tough to characterize them, because of the way they act."
With the drive to Baghdad slowed by wind-whipped sand and the fight-to-the-death Fedayeen, the United States is moving thousands more ground troops into the region.
Units include the 4th Infantry Division, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Armored Division. All had received deployment alerts before the war began.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on Capitol Hill to deliver war briefings, told lawmakers that U.S. forces "now have to face the more difficult forces, the Republican Guard. And then the next phase after they have been destroyed or surrender will be to deal with Baghdad."
There are now fewer than 100,000 U.S. ground combat troops in Iraq, while Saddam has about 80,000 Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard troops in and around Baghdad.
Gen. Myers told lawmakers that "at some point, at a time of our choosing, we will engage [Iraqi Republican Guard], and we'll see what kind of fight they have."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the new deployment is not a change in plans or a reaction to some military analysts' complaints that the troop strength was too small to conquer Baghdad.
"It's a good plan," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "And it was designed in a way that forces would continue to flow over a sustained period. The plan called for those forces."
The United States and Britain yesterday accused the Iraqis of more war crimes. The groups have waged guerrilla war against allied troops trying to subdue southern Iraqi cities and sustain a 250-mile supply line from Kuwait to Karbala.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the United States for a war summit with Mr. Bush, accused Iraq of executing two British prisoners of war. The United States already believes that two or more resupply soldiers were captured and summarily executed with shots to the head in the southern city of Nasiriyah on Sunday.
At alliance headquarters in Doha, Qatar, Army Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks, U.S. Central Command's deputy director of operations, accused the Fedayeen in the central Iraqi town of Najaf of threatening to kill the children of men who refused to fight.
"Their disregard for the Geneva Convention is becoming more and more pronounced," Gen. Brooks said.
At the Senate hearing, Gen. Myers said "paramilitary" is too mild a word for the Fedayeen.
"I think a better description is probably regime death squads, because that's what they're doing. They are putting guns on people's heads, the Iraqi citizens, to force them to continue to fight when they'd much rather give up," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said: "We will attack them and subdue them."
Gen. Brooks also denied that the United States bombed a market in the working-class neighborhood of al Sha'ab in Baghdad. He said an investigation has ruled out that an errant coalition bomb or missile could have caused the explosion that Iraq said killed 15 civilians.
He said Iraq is using old surface-to-air missiles and firing them without radar guidance. This increases the risk they will fall directly back to earth and hit civilian areas.
Then, he made a more serious charge.
"Given the behavior of the regime lately, it may have been a deliberate attack inside of town," he said.
The Washington Times reported before the war that there were intelligence reports that Saddam would try such a gambit.
The alliance is using precision-guided munitions that it says only targets the military, the regime and "dual-use facilities," such as a TV station, which is considered a command and control mechanism.
In the bombing of the communications center, and the rebombing yesterday of Saddam's Al Salam presidential palace on the Tigris River, the city faced its heaviest strikes this week.
The communications building's top-floor exploded, sending up a huge mushroom cloud against the night sky as flames engulfed the upper levels.
The coalition used a mix of Tomahawk cruise missiles and aerial bombs, including the first use of the 5,000-pound penetrating "bunker buster" bomb.
Twelve years ago on a January night, Desert Storm air planners made the building their first target in downtown Baghdad.
An F-117A stealth fighter put a laser-guided bomb square on the rooftop of what was then called the AT&T; Building.
But this war is being fought differently. The goal is regime change, not the liberation of Kuwait. The alliance is trying to spare such "dual-use targets" in a bid to win over the average Iraqi citizen and to make reconstruction as painless as possible.
While the 5th Corps repositioned and battled the paramilitaries on the west side of the Euphrates River, some soldiers complained they were running low on fuel and ammunition.
Marines have moved up the river's east side to confront Iraqi troops on Baghdad's southeastern border near the town of Kut.
Reporters with the 1st Marine Division said Marines got into a fierce fight with paramilitaries outside Nasiriyah. Scores of Marines were injured, two critically, when some Marines shot at their own vehicles in the chaos.
According to officials at Camp Lejeune, N.C., 11 Marines fighting near Nasiriyah were listed as missing within the past 24 hours and 14 as wounded in action.

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