Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Losses in a Gulf War Would Be Heavy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Losses in a Gulf War Would Be Heavy

Article excerpt

IF war broke out in the Gulf, Iraqi forces could not hope to hold out against a well-coordinated attack for more than a few weeks, and might crumble in a matter of days.

Nor could they be sure of being able to use chemical weapons effectively against mobile tank formations or well-defended air bases.

These are the views of leading strategists at the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). These analysts say that a war would almost certainly be severely destructive, with heavy losses on both sides. But the chances of a sudden and early collapse by the Iraqis are no better than 50-50.

Iraq's armed forces consist of seven elite divisions drawn from President Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, plus more than 40 others organized essentially along infantry lines and lacking adequate logistical support for fighting a long war, said Col. Andrew Duncan, the institute's chief Middle East expert, at a press conference.

The bulk of the Iraqi Army, though large in numbers, Colonel Duncan added, lacks the mobility of the United States, British, and other formations that it would have to confront in battle.

Iraqi forces would be particularly vulnerable to air attack, and there are limits to how long Saddam would be able to hold out against opposing forces, the analysts say.

According to the latest estimates, Iraq's Army of 1 million men (plus reserves of some 850,000) has 5,500 tanks and more than 3,000 artillery pieces. It is supported by more than 530 combat aircraft, mostly Soviet-made.

More significant than the raw figures, however, is the way Saddam has deployed his forces, IISS experts say. More than half of his tanks, together with about a third of his troops, have been moved into Kuwait.

That concentration, the strategists say, is one reason why an early attack on Saddam's forces is ruled out.

It will not be until late October or early November that enough American, British, Egyptian, and Syrian tanks and armored vehicles will arrive in Saudi Arabia to match what Iraq has already deployed. …

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