Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

Return to Iraq War index page

March 21, 2003

Initial Iraq War Indications: Scuds and Other SSMs Active; ABM Systems Operational

Note: GIS will note devote itself to day-to-day coverage of operational aspects of the US-led war against Iraq, given that this is covered extensively in the open source media. It will focus on emerging “lessons learned” and strategic trends emerging from the conflict. GIS has a number of correspondents in the area, although it withdrew its correspondent from Baghdad on March 19, 2003.

Initial analysis of early operations in the US-led Coalition war against Iraq indicates:

The initial response of the Iraqi forces to the selective US attack, targeting Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein, on March 20, 2003, was sufficient, however, to demonstrate that Iraq had been in violation of UN sanctions, despite the inability of the UN weapons inspectors to find that evidence earlier. There were no Kuwaiti casualties from the March 20-21, 2002, ballistic missile attacks. The last two missiles were both intercepted over the country by Patriot missiles, while the first two crashed into the Mutlaa desert, 40km (25 miles) north of Kuwait, around 10:30hrs local. US sources said that all the missiles launched had conventional warheads. One source said that 10 ballistic missiles had been launched by Iraq; one struck 300m from a US staging camp.

US and British troops, meanwhile, crossed into southern Iraq on March 20, 2003, capturing the main sea port at Umm Qasr. More than 1,000 troops of the US First Marine Expeditionary Force and the US Army Third Infantry Division followed a fierce artillery barrage by crossing the desert border with tanks and armor at about 20.00hrs local. Some 180,000 US and UK troops were preparing for engagement. Special forces units from the US, UK and Australia were already in Iraq, and had been there for some time. Harrier fighters reportedly engaged Iraqi mobile Scud launchers, presumably targeted by Coalition special forces.