Tuesday | July 09, 2002
Iraq invasion not imminent
Bush is still threatening to take out Saddam Hussein. However, there are no indications, other than a "wag the dog" effort to get Harken out of the news, that an invasion of Iraq is that imminent.
Quite simply, if news reports are to be believed, the logistics of any such invasion are currently impossible.
One scenario, leaked to the New York Times, would have the US invade Iraq from three sides. The land invasion would come from Kuwait, with air strikes from Turkey and Qatar. Qatar is apparently supportive of US plans. However, both Kuwait and Turkey have publicly come out against an Iraq invasion. And, further Arab support will be non-existent while the Palestinian/Israeli conflict continues. Interestingly enough, the plan leaked to the NY Times acknowledges one bit of real politik -- Saudi Arabia cannot be counted on to provide either staging areas for ground troops or any air bases.
Some commentators have suggested an Afghanistan-type campaign, coupling US air power and special forces with local insurgents. The Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south come to mind. However, the Shiites were abandoned by Bush I after the Gulf War, and are not likely to face annihilation again. The Kurds have zero interest in getting drawn into a war with Iraq (here also). Not only do they enjoy a de facto nation, complete with their own currency, secured by the no-fly zone, but they have long memories of past US betrayals. Bitter relations between Turkey and the Kurds further complicates the situation in northern Iraq, making acquiescence by either country less than a forgone conclusion. Another report has the US attacking from Jordan, but that seems unlikely. Not only does Jordan have strong ties to Iraq (one of the few nations to back Iraq during the Gulf War), but Jordan-based US troops would still have to cross Kurd territory, something the Kurds have vowed not to allow.
Europeans are particularly opposed to any US invasion. The continent, already seething from US unilateralism in a wide range of areas, is adamant about any Iraqi invasion. Russia and France have already announced strong opposition to any US move. Notably, France provided ground troops and air power during the Gulf War. Russia was outspoken against the 1990 war against Iraq, so their current position is not a surprise. The fact that France, Germany, and the rest of mainland Europe has effectively joined in that opposition is significant.
As for Britian, this report says it has committed 30,000 troops to a US invasion. However, PM Tony Blair has faced strong opposition within his own party on the issue, and may face a revolt if he sides openly with Bush. This reality seems to have cooled recent British support for war.
Back at home, news reports earlier this year indicated that the joint chiefs of staff were leery of an Iraq invasion, reluctant to overextend US forces in an ill-conceived and unnecessary campaign. While the Congressional leadership, other than the clueless Gephardt, is reluctant to invade Iraq. Republicans Henry Hyde, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Trent Lott all have urged Bush to focus on other pressing needs (such as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict). Other congressional leaders support action if Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, but haven't seen evidence of that yet.
So when will the US enter Iraq, guns blazing? The last credible word on the matter, beyond Bush's amateurish bluster, was a report in the Washington Post that the Pentagon's uniformed leadership had talked its civilian (political) leadership into postponing any invasion until at least early next year. Given the depleted state of the military's ammo stockpile, and the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, this timeline is still most realistic.
Even money says there won't be any invasion. The obstacles are many, with few nations willing to help shoulder the burden. And a deteriorating political and economic situation at home will make the difficult even more so. Sure, there is a chance of some "wag the dog" action, but with the press finally giving Bush heat, he will have little leeway to take the nation to war.Posted July 09, 2002 12:00 AM | Comments (2)