THE BATTLE for Baghdad has not yet properly begun. There are still not enough troops in place for a serious assault on the Iraqi capital. We are seeing the prelude to the Battle of Baghdad. The objective of the US attacks on the Republican Guard roughly south of the great city is a discrete one: to trap them, isolate them from the huge metropolis and stop them withdrawing into it.
US spokesmen yesterday said it was already impossible for the three Republican Guard divisions, reported as Medina, Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar, to move back into the urban jungle because of overwhelming Allied air power. Oh yes they can. Even if these relatively well-disciplined, equipped and manned divisions have to leave their heavy weapons behind, they can withdraw into Baghdad to fight as infantry if ordered to. If I were an Iraqi general trained at the British Staff College, or any other, that is what I would do.
Why? Because my tanks, self-propelled and towed guns, infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers are a magnet for US firepower. And the fire pouring down on my men is unsustainable.
Had I trained in Moscow, I would know that even better. German veterans of the eastern front in the Second World War described a Soviet artillery barrage as being "a thousand express trains rushing toward you". Ted Briggs, one of the three British sailors to survive the sinking of HMS Hood by the Bismarck in 1941, described the huge one-tonne projectiles fired by the German battleship as white-hot circles ringed in red flame - heading for you. Of the 100 or so prisoners taken in the cellars of the Berlin Air Ministry in 1945, after Soviet artillery attack, the official reports say, "17 had gone mad". We saw similar pictures of people shocked into madness after Grozny, …