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[ Stratfor Weekly: U.S.-Iraq War Web Site]

  Bisschen OT, aber spannend zu lesen, imho.

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Here is your complimentary Stratfor Weekly, written by our
Chairman and Founder, Dr. George Friedman.

Please feel free to email this analysis to a friend.

To War or Not to War, That is the Question


Even as recent weekend demonstrations increased pressure for the 
United States to avoid a war in Iraq, the pressure on Washington 
to go to war is mounting. The United States has deployed the bulk 
of its military strike force in the Persian Gulf region, but it 
cannot keep it there indefinitely. Given weather conditions, the 
war must conclude in April. The preference to begin the war under 
moonless skies means that an attack is possible around March 1 or 
at the end of March -- which wouldn't leave enough time for the 
operation. Since
simply walking away from Iraq is impossible for the United States 
and Saddam Hussein is not likely to fall by himself, the pressure 
for war in the next two weeks is heavier than the pressure 
against war.


The United States has had a bad few days. 

It had appeared that Franco-German insistence that weapons 
inspections continue, despite reports of limited cooperation on 
Baghdad's part and the presence of some weapons that clearly were 
proscribed, was on the way to being managed. The behavior of 
French and German leaders (not to mention Belgians) on beginning 
a NATO planning process on behalf of Turkey had put the United 
States in an excellent position. Their vetoes in the 16-3 vote on 
the issue made those countries look totally rigid and 
unreasonable; more important, it made them appear to be isolated 
and unilateral, while the United States appeared to have broad 
support and to be acting multilaterally. France's inflexibility 
within the U.N. Security Council was being turned against it.

Then the United States ran into a set of public relations 
setbacks. The American media in particular portrayed the outcome 
of the Feb. 14 Security Council meeting as a broad repudiation of 
the U.S. position. While anti-French sentiment intensified in the 
United States and polls showed growing support for going to war 
without a second U.N. resolution, the weekend arrived with the 
sense that, for better or worse, the United States was relatively 
isolated. The problem hadn't been solved, but then it hadn't 
worsened much either. 

The weekend was another story. Reports of worldwide 
demonstrations against a war dominated the global media. Though a 
total of 2.5 million demonstrators -- the number that has been 
estimated globally -- represents an infinitesimal fraction of the 
world's population, it was sufficient not only to energize the 
media into an obsessive focus but to shake up policymakers and 
military officials alike.

The nightmare for U.S. policymakers and military leaders is a 
repeat of the Vietnam War. For the serving military in 
particular, which maintains a group memory of that conflict, 
fighting a war without public support remains the one thing that 
none of them wants to do. In a scene redolent of Vietnam, where 
Richard Nixon crushed the dovish George McGovern in an election 
that hinged on the war -- but in which the persistence of public 
demonstrations created the impression of overwhelming opposition 
to the war -- policymakers and the military suddenly were hit by 
the specter of a Vietnam that was unpopular even before it began. 
The situation was even worse for Tony Blair in the United 
Kingdom, where the demonstrations were massive and the polls held 
little comfort.

The anti-war demonstrations were effective, but it is not clear 
that they have redefined the situation. The problem that the 
United States has now is, in the first instance, military: It has 
deployed the bulk of its striking power to the Middle East; it 
cannot leave it there indefinitely. A host of other problems, 
apart from the fact that other potential trouble spots cannot be 
dealt with effectively while this force is concentrated in the 
Persian Gulf, also are rearing their heads. For example, the U.S. 
military depends on reservists. It is one thing to mobilize 
reservists for war and quite another to mobilize, deploy and then 
have them do nothing. It is politically difficult. It is also 
difficult to keep five carrier battle groups in position 
indefinitely -- they need maintenance and rotation. 

The weather window also is closing in, and this is not a trivial 
problem. By the end of April at the latest, the temperatures in 
Iraq will be rising, particularly in the south, into the 90s 
daily. Apart from chemical warfare suits -- which are unbearable 
in such weather and merely wretched in other weather -- other 
systems degrade rapidly as heat rises. The United States must 
conclude this war by about April 15 or else postpone until the 
fall. Some have argued that the United States can solve the 
problem by fighting only at night. True, so long as Saddam 
Hussein cooperates and doesn't attack during the day.

There is another constraint: the moon. During the opening days of 
operations, U.S. aircraft will knock out Iraq's electronic air 
defense system. They cannot knock out the optical system -- human 
eyes. On a moonless night, it is hard to see, but with a full 
moon, it is quite possible to see and to fire at aircraft. Even 
more important, the United States will be carrying out extensive 
special operations on the nights surrounding the start of war. 
One of the advantages of the U.S. military is that it "owns" the 
night: Its equipment and training are optimized for night 
fighting. But with moonlight, a great deal of the invisibility 
upon which U.S. special ops depend disappears. 

The next moonless night, or night when the moon rises after 4 
a.m., will be Feb. 27. The moon re-emerges on March 4. The United 
States does not want to attack in mid-month, with the full moon. 
The next open window will come at the end of March. If the 
weather sets a terminus date of about April 15, that will allow 
for only a two-week operation before problems might begin to 
arise from the weather. 

The United States therefore appears to have these military 
choices. First, launch the attack in the Feb. 26-March 4 period. 
Or launch the attack in mid-March, under much less advantageous 
conditions. It could launch the attack at the end of March, 
hoping that the operation ends quickly and that summer heat 
doesn't come early. Or it could postpone the invasion, bring the 
troops home and redeploy in the fall -- or simply leave them in 
the region for the summer.

Postponing the invasion is not a likely strategy:

1. This would make the United States appear weak and indecisive 
in the view of the Islamic world. It would generate greater 
confidence in Osama bin Laden's analysis of the weakness of U.S. 
forces, increase recruiting for al Qaeda and undermine the entire 
psychological basis of the American strategy.
2. It would not generate any increased support for the United 
States in general. Those who demonstrated against the war are, in 
general, opposed to the United States on a host of issues, of 
which Iraq is merely the most salient. The idea that abandoning 
the war would generate substantial support for the United States 
is dubious. Moreover, the value of such support is unclear.
3. U.S. allies in the region -- such as Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, 
which have risked a substantial amount by participating in the 
war buildup -- would be left in a highly exposed state, both from 
external threats and internal instability. The United States 
would be regarded as a highly unreliable ally.
4. Hussein, rather than being contained, would perceive that 
there was no effective limit on his behavior and would begin to 
exploit his opening.

Here, then, is the U.S. problem. Washington must have regime 
change Iraq. Regardless of whether the United States would like 
to build a broad coalition, it is running out of time on the 
diplomatic process. If the process continues much past March 1, 
the option of war will begin to disappear and the pressure on 
Iraq will diffuse. The United States either will spend the summer 
off-balance, with its forces concentrated in the Persian Gulf and 
idle, or it will withdraw. It is unlikely that it would be able 
to redeploy in six months, given the new political configuration 
in the region.

It is no accident that a French proposal suggests another report 
from chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix on March 14. The 
French, in this apparently innocent proposal, know they are 
undermining the U.S. military option. It is also no accident that 
the United States is insisting that Feb. 28, when Blix is 
scheduled to give his next report, is the date that Washington is 
insisting on as the final decision point. If France wins, the 
United States either has to fight the war under less-than-optimal 
conditions or postpone the attack. President George W. Bush is 
not going to start a war at a time when his commanders are saying 
that it might entail additional risk. If anything went wrong, the 
president couldn't survive that call. 

So the situation is this. The United States no longer can avoid 
war, even if it wanted to -- the situation has gone too far down 
the road. Washington is running out of time to wage the war. The 
best time to go will be the end of February and the beginning of 
March; later is possible, but this option increases the risk of 
casualties and failure, and the benefit of delay is primarily 
diplomatic. If France opposes on March 1, it will oppose on March 
15. At the same time, the situation in Europe has improved over 
the past 24 hours. French President Jacques Chirac's assault on 
Eastern European states for siding with Washington undermined his 
standing as the voice of reason -- while the revelation that the 
German government knew about Iraqi stockpiles of smallpox months 
ago undermines Berlin's claim that it needs proof of a material 
breach. To that extent, the public relations war is not entirely 
hopeless for the United States.

In a sense, Washington already has delayed too long. The United 
States has been talking about this war since last spring. It has 
allowed opposition to the war to gel. Paradoxically, the very 
thing the Europeans have accused the United States of -- haste 
and unilateralism -- is about the only thing the United States 
isn't guilty of; the Bush administration has taken nearly a year 
and endless diplomacy to come to this point. In doing so, it has 
lost the diplomatic initiative that it held after the Sept. 11 
attacks. It also has lost any possibility of strategic surprise.

The only other options? -- a coup in Baghdad or Hussein's 
resignation -- has been dramatically reduced as a possibility by 
the events of the last few days. Hussein, who consistently 
appears to believe that Europe would save him in the end, as well 
as believing that the United States really is afraid of taking 
casualties, now seems more convinced than ever that, if U.S. 
forces take casualties, the Europeans will rush in with a cease-
fire proposal and Washington -- under pressure from a public 
unwilling to bear the burden of war and of an anti-U.S. alliance 
rising up -- will accept it. 

Meanwhile, the possibilities for a negotiated settlement have 
declined dramatically. Indeed, if the diplomatic struggle 
continues, another window of opportunity will not open. It is 
doubtful that the global anti-war demonstrations encouraged 
potential coupsters in Baghdad to take risks. Moreover, the 
arrest of the commander of the Iraqi military (who is Qusai 
Hussein's father-in-law) signals that Hussein is beginning the 
traditional process of shuffling his staff -- arresting some of 
them and shooting others prior to a crisis, in order to disrupt 
any covert plans that Washington may think it has in place.

The United States therefore is in a situation in which it cannot 
avoid war, in which diplomatic complexity remains substantial, 
and in which the enemy, Iraq, is fully alerted and prepared. 
Unless Washington's core assumption is true -- that the Iraqi 
army will collapse under first assault -- the circumstances for 
this war are not particularly auspicious.

On the other hand, if the United States wins a quick and 
relatively easy victory, the events leading up to this conflict 
will not be long remembered. Few will recall, for example, the 
acrimony -- domestic and international -- that ripped the United 
States prior to the 1991 war. Success solves many problems. Given 
that the United States is now in a position from which it cannot 
easily retreat -- indeed, from which it does not want to retreat 
-- a complete and rapid military victory is the only solution to 
its problems. Or so the reasoning in Washington goes.

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