Iraqi Army’s Defenses Seem Impenetrable

Friday 4 April 2003, by Robert FISK

In Al-Mussayib, central Iraq - The road to the front in central Iraq is a place of fast-moving vehicles, blazing Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, tanks and trucks hidden in palm groves, a train of armored vehicles bombed from the air and hundreds of artillery positions dug into revetments to defend the capital. Anyone who doubts that the Iraqi Army is prepared to defend its capital should take the highway south of Baghdad.

How, I kept asking myself, could the Americans batter their way through these defenses? For mile after mile they go on, slit trenches, ditches, earthen underground bunkers, palm groves of heavy artillery and truck loads of combat troops in battle fatigues and steel helmets. Not since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War have I seen the Iraqi Army deployed like this; the Americans may say they are "degrading" the country’s defenses but there was little sign of that here Wednesday.

That a Western journalist could see more of Iraq’s military preparedness than many of the reporters supposedly "embedded" with British and American forces says as much for the Iraqi government’s self-confidence as it does for the need of Saddam’s government to make propaganda against its enemies. True, there are signs of the Americans and British striking at the Iraqi military. Two gun pits had been turned to ashes by direct air strikes and a military barracks - empty like all the large installations that were likely to be on the Anglo-American target list - had been turned into gray powder by missiles. A clutch of telephone exchanges in the towns around Hilla had been destroyed; along with the bombing of six communications centers in Baghdad, the country’s phone system appears to have been shut down.

Read the full story published by The Independant :

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