Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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March 3, 2003

Saddam Succeeds in Staving Off Favored US Date for Attack

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. Iraq Pres. Saddam Hussein on March 1, 2003, staved off the probability of a US-led military attack on Iraq on March 3, 2002 — the optimal time for a night attack because of the lack of a moon — by “agreeing in principle” to commence destruction, as requested by the United Nations, of al-Samoud 2 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). The Iraqi Government then began with the destruction of four of the estimated 150+ missiles on March 1, and reportedly was to destroy six more on March 2, 2003. At the same time, the US Air Force, acting on a contrived alert in the southern “No Fly” Zone of Iraq, attacked at least one al-Samoud 2 battery near the Kuwaiti border, destroying it on March 1, 2003.

GIS analysts believe that the gesture was organized by Pres. Saddam to push the US off an optimal attack date, on the premise that every delay possibly opens another opportunity to find another avenue away from the conflict, or at least determine the commencement of the conflict on Iraqi, rather than US, terms. At the same time, the defeat in the Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi (Grand National Assembly) on March 2, 2003, of a motion to allow US forces — some 62,000 ground troops plus related helicopters, armor, artillery and other equipment — to stage through Turkey into Iraq, gave Pres. Saddam a further chance to regain the initiative in the impending conflict.

Of the 534 MPs present in the assembly hall, 264 voted in favour of the motion, 250 voted against and 19 abstained.

Meanwhile, Marie Lesure of the GIS Paris Station reported that the two AMD Mirage IVP strategic reconnaissance aircraft dispatched by the French Air Force (FAF) to the Persian Gulf to assist the UN disarmament inspectors conducted their first reconnaissance mission over Iraq on February 26, 2003. France transmitted the images of the mission to the UNMOVIC (Commission de Contrôle, de Vérification et d'Inspection de l'ONU) in New York the next day.The aircraft are from the strategic reconnaissance squadron ERS 1/91 Gascogne. Accompanied by two Boeing C-135 FRs tankers of the 1/93 Bretagne, they had left the Istres base 125 on February 21, 2003. and received their UN paint the next day. The Mirages will contribute to increase observation/date collection means over the Iraqi territory, along with the USAF Lockheed U-2s and Russian Antonov reconnaissance aircraft. These surveillance and intelligence capacities complement one another. A support/exploitation team of around 70 military from the FAF accompany the Mirages, which are fitted with Antilope V terrain-following radars for their original low-level attack, night capacity rôle. Red Flag training sessions at the Nellis AFB in Nevada have enhanced their performance in mountainous environment.