Here's an interesting discussion of strategic and
timing considerations with respect to war on Iraq.
Plans For Iraq
by Gary D. Halbert
December 30, 2002
IN THIS ISSUE: War Plans For
If you watched the news over the
holiday, it is clear that the US and Britain are accelerating the movements of
troops and equipment to the Middle East, obviously in preparation for a possible
war with Iraq. Many of you reading this E-Letter are in favor of such a war and
many are not. Regardless of your view, a war with Iraq is probably going to
happen. In the last week, Stratfor.com
published the analysis which
follows. Rather than try to summarize it for you, I have chosen to reprint it
intact. Stratfor is an excellent source for geopolitical intelligence and
information. Here is their latest thinking on the war with Iraq. QUOTE
States is under pressure to provide intelligence that shows Iraq possesses
weapons of mass destruction. This leaves Washington with a problem. The main
threat comes from Iraqi chemical weapons, which must be attacked early in a war.
If Washington makes public information on where chemical weapons are located,
Baghdad can move those weapons around. If the United States provides
intelligence, it must follow up rapidly with attacks. For this and other
reasons, the pressure to launch the war is growing as diplomatic pressure to
avoid the war is beginning somewhat to abate.
chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix delivered his report to the U.N..
Security Council last Thursday, he took the U.S. position, saying that Iraq's
12,000-page weapons declaration contained serious omissions. He did not, as U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell had, use the term 'material breach,' which is
the magic word for war. Blix was in no position to use that term: He is a
technician reporting to the Security Council. He reports the facts. It is up to
the Security Council to draw conclusions from those facts -- conclusions that
are political in essence.
What was most striking was the quiet that
followed Blix's report and Powell's evaluation. Russia pointed out that it was
not up to the United States, but the Security Council to determine whether a
material breach had occurred. Moscow focused on procedure, not on substance. As
for the rest of the permanent Security Council members, there was mostly
silence. That silence is ominous for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
focus has shifted away from the question of Iraq's compliance with the
inspection regime; it is now obvious that Baghdad is not compliant. The question
now is whether Iraq actually has weapons of mass destruction, and the spotlight
is on U.S. intelligence. First Blix, then Iraq, challenged the CIA to reveal
information on Iraq's weapons program, but the CIA has a couple of reasons for
1. The agency has an institutional aversion to revealing its
sources and methods. Information comes from sources within Iraq, monitoring of
telecommunications, penetration of Iraqi computer systems and so forth. Every
bit of information provided can compromise a source.
2. Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction capabilities are heavily focused in the area of chemical
weapons. These chemicals, contained in drums and shells, can be moved easily and
quickly. They will be one of the first targets of U.S. air attacks. Any report
filed by the CIA would give Baghdad the opportunity to move them quickly. In
fact, even if the inspectors find these chemicals and report them, the Iraqis
still would have time to move them before the United States could act.
Therefore, providing intelligence on the location of chemical weapons would
undermine the United States' ability to destroy them.
Baghdad understand this. Having lost the first line of defense, they've moved to
the second. Having been shown to be uncooperative, they are trying to shift the
focus of the question to their actual possession of weapons. This creates a
minor problem for the United States. If Washington provides accurate
intelligence, it could lose a target. If it fails to provide accurate
intelligence, a case could be made that Iraq has no WMD. The United States,
therefore, will focus on the non-cooperation issue while trying to work through
back channels with France and Russia, which know about Iraq's capabilities
through their own intelligence and, of course, because they provided some of the
production facilities themselves.
The point here is that the situation
is shifting perceptibly from a diplomatic to a military issue. The United States
has, with some real skill, gone a long way in defusing opposition to an attack.
There is no enthusiasm for it and most nations will not participate, but there
is now a sense that war no longer can be resisted. The standard position that is
emerging, from France to Syria, is that (1) war is coming, (2) other countries
don't want to be deeply involved, yet (3) they don't want to be left out of the
spoils. That's about as good as it's going to get for the United States this
Which brings us to timing. Blix is supposed to file a
definitive report by Jan. 27. The United States will push to make that a
negative report. Washington also will use the interim period to perpetuate the
atmosphere of resignation that has gripped most third parties in the last few
weeks. We expect the U.N. Security Council will declare Iraq in breach of the
resolution and will develop some vague language under which the United States
can launch an attack without an actual U.N. endorsement. That will do for the
All forces for a ground assault have not yet moved into
place. Britain still is moving equipment in, as is the United States. U.S.
reservists and National Guardsmen are being told that they will be mobilized
around mid-January. Many of these will replace regular troops that are going
overseas and others will be providing increased security in the United States.
But others, particularly Marines, will be sent overseas, including to Iraq. If
they are mobilized in mid-January, they will not arrive for several weeks -- and
they will need several more weeks of training in-theater for acclimation and
integration into the war plan.
The United States on several occasions
has made it clear that an air war can begin before all forces are in place. That
appears to be the strategy. As long as the U.S. Air Force is ready in Turkey,
Qatar, Diego Garcia and other air bases from which strategic bombers can
operate, and as long as both carriers and platforms capable of firing cruise
missiles are ready, the air war can be launched. The current speculation is for
the air war to begin within days of the Jan. 27 deadline. We expect that to be
the case: The days from Jan. 29 through Feb. 3 will provide excellent conditions
for air strikes.
An air war would take four to six weeks. The issue is
not early suppression of enemy air defenses or disruption of communications;
both undoubtedly can be achieved on a strategic and operational level within the
first week of operation. However, in anticipation of a ground war, the United
States first will attack Iraqi ground formations, including armored, mechanized
and infantry units. Attacking large formations is inevitably a time-consuming
process involving the delivery of munitions to targets. Also, a large number of
missions will need to be carried out, battle damage assessments made and targets
revisited. The goal will be to render Iraqi formations incapable of resisting.
We would estimate a minimum of four weeks for the anti-ground force
mission.. That would move us into March for the ground war, with March 3-5
providing a reasonable window of opportunity. The weather in early March remains
acceptable, with increasing possibilities of spring rains and flooding.
Washington would like to have the operation completed by mid-March.
should be noted that the actual commencement of ground operations need not be as
clean as in 1991. There are persistent reports of Israeli and other special
forces operating in western Iraq, which is lightly held. There are similar
reports of U.S. forces operating in northern Iraq, where Turkish forces are
ever-present. Thus, the war could include effective operations in western and
northern Iraq while the air war goes on in January.
The real issue will
be in the south, where the British are leaking promises of an amphibious attack.
Stratfor's war plan, 'Desert Slice,' which appears to be the model being pursued
here, views an amphibious attack at the Shatt al Arab as likely, if the United
States cannot squeeze enough force into Kuwait. However, during Desert Storm, an
amphibious assault was not carried out but was merely threatened in order to
hold Iraqi troops in place along the coast. In either case, the attack in the
south must take place before any flooding is possible.
must develop a multi-axis line of attack, including a swing to the west to
supplement any movement north along river lines. Air power will be critical in
breaking up Iraqi formations on already unpleasant terrain. That means that the
southern attack is likely to be the last axis implemented.
us -- as it has over and over again -- to Baghdad and the fundamental
imponderable in the war: morale. There is little that is less quantifiable, less
predictable and more critical in war than morale and its twin, training. It cuts
both ways: An enemy's morale and training sometimes are wildly overestimated,
sometimes wildly underestimated, but rarely are they correctly evaluated.
The battle of Baghdad depends on morale and training more than on any
other single factor. If even a relatively small force decides to stand and fight
and has basic fighting skills, then taking Baghdad will become a brutal, bloody
process. If the Iraqi army shatters under the bombing and ground assault and
simply fails to resist, then taking Baghdad still will be complex but will not
be a problem.
In 1991, the United States overestimated the morale and
training of the Iraqi army, assuming that the blooded force that fought Iran
would put up a better fight. Of course, the forces deployed in Iraq were cannon
fodder, deployed for destruction. The United States did not engage Republican
Guard units in Baghdad. The current assumption is that the victory of 1991 in
Kuwait will be replicated throughout Iraq, using the same basic combination of
forces. That might well be true, but it will not be known until after the battle
That is why the United States needs to fight earlier rather than
later. After mid-March, rains turn some of the country into a quagmire. Later
still, the temperature rises, frequently making operations in MOP-4 chemical
protection suits unbearable. The temperature in July can reach as high as 120
degrees Fahrenheit. Whoever said that summer is not a problem either has never
worn a MOP-4 suit at Fort Benning or Fort Bragg on an ordinary summer day or
knows that the Iraqi chemical weapons stash doesn't exist or won't be used. You
do not fight in the Iraqi summer if you don't have to.
So, given that no
one knows how long the battle for Baghdad might last or if the United States and
Britain will have to pull into siege positions for an extended period, launching
the battle of Baghdad as early as possible is a military necessity. Its very
unpredictability requires that the battle be waged as early as possible. That
means that the commencement of the war cannot be put off much past Feb. 1. If it
is, the entire war could start to slide into April and May -- and that means
that if the Iraqi army doesn't simply crumble in Baghdad, the war could extend
beyond what the United States wants. Given other requirements, follow-up
operations in the region and the intensification of activity in Afghanistan, the
last thing the United States wants is to tie forces down around Baghdad.
All of this argues for an air war beginning in late January or early
February, operations in the west and north beginning a week or so later and an
attack launched from Kuwait by early March. A lot of slippage will not be a good
END QUOTE Conclusions
not absolutely certain, the odds of war with Iraq are huge. This is one reason
why stocks have been moving lower and oil prices higher in recent days. These
trends could continue (probably erratically) for several more weeks as war
preparations continue. For stocks, it remains to be seen if the move down will
provide an excellent buying opportunity, or if the bear market has resumed. I
tend to believe the former.
Whatever turns out to be the case, the
equity markets will continue to be very volatile which argues, once again, for
market timing strategies that can get you out of the market from time to time.
My new Special Report on Market Timing
is available to you free of charge
call us toll free at 800-348-3601
As for oil prices, in addition
to the strike in Venezuela, much depends on whether or not Saddam Hussein
destroys his oil fields and production facilities. If at all possible, the US
will not allow him to do this, and such a move could actually be the catalyst
which starts the war.
As we close out 2002, we learn that the economy
was considerably stronger than most analysts predicted a year ago, but very
consistent with what The Bank Credit Analyst
forecasted. As I will
discuss in more detail next week, BCA is mildly optimistic about the US economy
Let me thank those of you who have read and appreciated these
weekly E-Letters this year, and even those who have e-mailed us with opposing
views and thoughts. With the audience now over 1.5 million people, there will
undoubtedly be those who agree and those who disagree. To all, let me
wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year!! Warm holiday
wishes, Gary D.
LINKS TO SPECIAL ARTICLES
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