27 March 2003
Pollack Predicts Iraq War Will Last 4 to 10 Weeks Despite Early
(Brookings scholar examines progress of campaign) (660)
By Afzal Khan
Washington File Special Correspondent
Washington -- A former Iran-Iraq military analyst for the Central
Intelligence Agency, now with the Washington-based Brookings
Institution think tank, predicts that the war against Iraq will take
from "four to ten weeks."
Kenneth Pollack, director of research at Brookings' Saban Center on
Middle East Policy, said at a weekly Iraq briefing on March 27 that an
allied victory was inevitable and that even if his prediction turned
out to be "wrong," then the error would be more on the side of "less
than four weeks" than "more than ten weeks."
Describing the situation on the battlefield in the last few days as
"very badly skewed and out-of whack," Pollack maintained that it was
Saddam Hussein who had "over-achieved" and that even Hussein was
surprised by the success of his "irregular forces" in slowing down the
advance of Coalition forces toward Baghdad, the defense of which was
his "main concern."
Pollack said that it was clear that Iraq had learned its lesson from
the 1991 Gulf War, but more importantly Hussein had seen what happened
to U.S. forces in Somalia, where civilians were used as human shields
to thwart enemy attacks.
Pollack said the irregular, or fedayeen, forces had disrupted lines of
supply in southern Iraq but had not inflicted any significant number
of casualties on Coalition forces. Also, the use of machine-guns or
anti-aircraft guns mounted on small trucks by the fedayeen could
result in easy kills for the Coalition forces, he said. Pollack said
individual fedayeen with rocket-propelled grenades often could evade
Pollack said the Coalition war strategy had been risk-based and no
provisions had been made to protect supply lines that could stretch
"500 kilometers long." The emphasis was on air power to "shock and
awe" Iraqi forces and bring about early capitulation, he said.
The other mistake was not taking Iraqi POWs. Most of them were allowed
to lay down their weapons and go home. Pollack said that those who
went home were then "dragooned" by Hussein's Baath Party loyalists or
the fedayeen, he said.
But Pollack stressed that "the biggest problem" for Coalition air
power is the broken terrain that prevented Apache helicopters from
firing Hellfire missiles at tanks from high altitudes two to three
kilometers away like they did on flatter ground in Kuwait during the
Gulf War. Instead the helicopters have to come in low in Iraq and face
ground-fire from all angles, he said.
As a result, Coalition forces "have lost some momentum" for the time
being, Pollack said. On the other hand, the apparent success of the
fedayeen might prompt Hussein to flee Baghdad and fight a guerrilla
war in the desert instead of facing Coalition troops in a last-ditch
defense of Baghdad, Pollack speculated.
On the question of weapons of mass destruction, Pollack said Hussein
was unlikely to use chemical weapons before any siege of Baghdad
because he was encouraged by the battlefield news from Western
journalists that describe "heavy casualties." Hussein still believes
that the United States "might throw in the towel" if casualties
continue to mount, Pollack said.
The perception of the war in neighboring Middle East countries was
summarized by Shibley Telhami, who is Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace
and Development at the University of Maryland and a nonresident Senior
Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Instead of relying on CNN and other Western sources of news about the
war, Telhami said people in the Arab World go to satellite stations
such as Al-Jazeera in Qatar and Al-Manar television produced by the
Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Telhami also noted "the fear" among Arab governments that if the war
in Iraq became too easy for the United States then other regime
changes could take place in the region.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: