WAR IN THE GULF: DAMNATION ALLEY; Allies Prepare for Street Fighting in Baghdad as Elite Units Make Last Stand

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH McLEOD

STREET warfare in Iraq is a possibility which coalition forces dread.

If the war moves into the cities, they will face desperate resistance from units devoted to Saddam for whom defeat is a worse option than death.

And the Allied forces will lose the advantage their vastly superior firepower has given them out in open country.

Commanders are unlikely to risk their tanks in big numbers in built-up areas, where they are too vulnerable to tank traps or rocket attacks.

Analysts say if it does come down to a battle on the streets for control of Baghdad, the Allies will have no option but to send in the infantry to face the fanatical Fedayeen and the well- equipped and trained Special Republican Guard.

There has been talk of Baghdad becoming a new Stalingrad, with fierce and bloody fighting stretching on for months.

But military observers do not envisage a Stalingrad-type scenario.

Then, the Soviets grimly held on to pockets of resistance against the Nazis, knowing the longer they could hang on, the more chance there would be of large Soviet armies coming to their aid.

But even the fanatical forces who intend to fight to the death in Baghdad know there can be no question of anyone coming to help them.

And satellite images and reconnaissance aircraft will give vital information about the movements of Iraqi forces, allowing for precision bombing.

Both UK and US regular forces are trained in the specialist art of urban combat.

British forces call it FIBUA, or Fighting in Built-up Areas, while the Americans call it Military Combat in Urban Terrain. The tactics are essentially the same but new developments and thinking are always being evaluated.

Tactics employed by the Israeli Army when they fought Palestinian militia in Jenin last year will have been closely studied by coalition commanders.

But, unlike Jenin, Baghdad is a huge city with more than five million people.

First, the coalition will divide the city into several zones and assign responsibility for each to different army units.

These will be divided and sub-divided to give brigades, battalions and companies responsibility for small local areas.

Then the troops will begin systematically removing enemy forces and ensuring that, step by step, areas are made secure. …