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30 March 2003

Myers Says Air and Ground Forces Engaging Iraqi Republican Guards

(Coalition has "power to be patient" in ending regime) (540)
By Howard Cincotta
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- The coalition's military campaign against the regime of
Saddam Hussein is on track, and ground forces are already engaging
Iraqi Republican Guard troops around Baghdad with armed
reconnaissance, artillery, and Apache helicopters, according to
General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Myers appeared March 30 on two television interview programs -- NBC's
Meet the Press with Tim Russert, and CBS's Face the Nation.

The heaviest fighting may lie ahead as coalition forces move to engage
the Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad, several of which may
already be below 50 percent capability, Myers warned.

"We're going to be patient," Myers said on Face the Nation, "and we're
only going to start major pushes when we think it's to our advantage
at a time and a place of our choosing."

Once the coalition enters Baghdad, Myers said, "The regime will be cut
off. They will not be in control. They will not be able to put any
messages out or communicate with anybody on the outside. And like we
have in this whole campaign, we are going to show patience. We have
the power to be patient in this, and we are not going to do anything
before we're ready."

Despite the intensity of individual fire fights, Myers said on Face
the Nation, if you step back and look at the overall strategic
picture, "none of them have had a militarily significant impact on our
efforts so far. We are on track, on plan. Everybody agrees that the
plan is the right plan."

Myers said that coalitions forces -- especially the British forces in
Basra and the U.S. Marines in An Nasiriyah are starting to see
indications of switches as the coalition targets the regime's
supporters in those areas.

"I think the people know there's a much better life awaiting them
without Saddam, without weapons of mass destruction," Myers said on
Meet the Press. "And I think you'll see them swing."

Myers also questioned the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. "We have not
seen the leader, Saddam Hussein, live," he commented on Meet the
Press. "He's always been recorded. And so I think there is some
question in lots of people's minds: Is their leader alive or is he
severely injured, or is he possibly dead?"

Myers expressed no doubt that Iraqi forces possess chemical weapons,
now probably concentrated in the Baghdad area. What is not clear, he
said, is whether Saddam will use them.

Myers said U.S. and coalition forces have tried to offer a better
alternative to the Iraqi military leadership.

On Face the Nation he said: "What we have encouraged the people that
have to pull the trigger on those weapons is to not fight for Saddam
-- fight for a future Iraq that is going to be a lot kinder to their
families and to their children, that gives them a future to look
forward to, that gives them hope for some economic prosperity, a
representative government that maintains the territorial integrity of
Iraq, that represents all the people of Iraq no matter what faction
they come from."

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)