The Iraq campaign: Analysis by Russian experts


Richard Moore


What have we come to?  We need to turn to Russian sources to get 
any kind of objective professional reporting about what's happening
on the ground in Iraq...


From: "Brian" <•••@••.•••>
To: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Fw: Russian military reports on 
             Basra and An-Nasiriya
Date: Sun, 23 Mar 2003 16:55:00 -0800
----- Original Message -----
From: <•••@••.•••>Paul Wolf
Sent: Sunday, March 23, 2003 3:30 PM

War in Iraq - situation at Basra and An-Nasiriya, 
March 22, 2003

The IRAQWAR.RU analytical center was created recently
by a group of journalists and military experts from
Russia to provide accurate and up-to-date news and
analysis of the war against Iraq. The following is the
English translation of the IRAQWAR.RU report based on
the Russian military intelligence reports.

March 22, 2002, 1300hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow -
Additional information about the situation in the
primary combat areas in southern Iraq became available
by 1300hrs (Moscow time, GMT +3). The US command
reports about the supposed surrender of the entire
Iraqi 51st Infantry Division turned out to be a
complete fabrication. According to our sources the 51st
Division continues to fight on the approaches to Basra
and we can only talk about individual cases of Iraqi
soldiers being captured in combat.

Elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st
Marine Infantry Division ended up in an exceptionally
difficult situation. While attempting to encircle Basra
from the north and to block An-Nasiriya elements the
3rd and 1st infantry divisions found themselves wedged
between the defending Iraqi forces. The Iraqi command
used this situation and delivered a decisive
counterattack with up to 80 tanks in the open flank of
the US forces, slicing through their combat orders. As
the result of this counterattack these US units are now
at risk of being separated from the main coalition
forces and being surrounded.

By 1100hrs MSK Iraqi units advanced into the US attack
front by 10-15 kilometers and Gen. Tommy Franks, the
commander of the coalition forces, ordered his troops
to switch entirely to defensive operations. At the same
time he issued orders to the forward-deployed coalition
tank units to halt their reconnaissance operations in
the directions of Es-Samaba and An-Najaf and to move
immediately to support the defending US forces.
However, the situation is complicated by the fact that
a part of the coalition tanks are currently disabled
due to the lack of fuel and are awaiting the arrival of
fuel convoys. Thus the tanks are able to gradually
rejoin combat in small numbers as the fuel becomes

Currently the US and the Iraqi tank forces are engaged
in mobile head-on combat approximately 70-90 kilometers
to the south of An-Nasiriya. Combat orders have been
received by the carrier borne aviation in the Persian
Gulf, which until now did not take part in this battle.
At the same time orders were issued to all available
coalition strike aircraft in Qatar to scramble in
support of the defending coalition forces.

Intercepted radio communications indicate that during
the morning period of March 22 the US forces lost 10-15
tanks destroyed or disabled and up to 30 other armored
vehicles. Medevac helicopters flew more than 30
search-and-rescue missions, which suggests heavy
coalition losses.

Our sources report that during the early morning hours
in southwestern Iraq in the vicinity of Akashat the
Iraqi forces have engaged and surrounded a tactical
paratroop unit of the 101st Airborne Division. Some of
the surrounded paratroopers were able to break out into
the desert, where they request air support and finally
lost their Iraqi pursuers. However, up to 30 US troops
were killed or captured in this engagement.
Additionally, [Russian] radio intercept units report
that one the US attack helicopters providing close air
support was shot down.

The top US military command is planning to enhance the
coalition command. During the Joint Chief of Staff
meeting its Chairman Gen. Richard Mayers expressed
strong criticism of the actions by the coalition
commander Gen. Franks and proposed to strengthen his
headquarters with several other senior military
commanders. Gen. Franks is required to do everything he
can to change the current situation on the front.
Analysts believe that, if during the next 3-5 days Gen.
Franks fails to achieve any significant results, than
it is entirely possible that he will be replaced as the
commander of the coalition forces.

Update: The coalition forces were able to capture a
bridge in the suburbs of Nasiriya. Their control of the
Basra airport is tentative at best as large numbers of
Iraqi forces continue to resist with heavy artillery
and machine gun fire. Around Basra the coalition forces
have advanced at most by 1.5 kilometers. Gen. Franks
has announced a change in plans: the coalition forces
are no longer set on capturing Basra so not to "create
military confrontations in that city." The coalition
forces still do not control Umm Qasr and appear to be
losing territory.

(source:, 03-22-03, translated by Venik

March 22, 2003, 0800hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow -
Information received during the last night is very
contradictory. During all day and night fighting
continued around Basra, Al-Nasiriya, and on the Faw
(Fao) peninsula. Despite of numerous reports by the
American and British command about the capture of Umm
Qasr the coalition forces have so far failed to
establish full control over this small borderline town.
Exchange of fire in the city is continuing. Elements of
the [Iraqi] 45-th Infantry Brigade, which is defending
the town, are surrounded but continue to resist and are
trying to break out toward Basra.

According to intelligence reports, at Umm Qasr American
and British forces have sustained 10 killed and around
40 wounded soldiers and officers. Additionally, the
Iraqis have destroyed up to 8 British and US armored
personnel carriers.

"Iraqi resistance turned out to be far more determined
than we've expected," the British and US commanders are
reporting. - "They are surrounded but continue fighting
even after losing much of their heavy equipment. Often
we could only advance after completely destroying them
with artillery and aviation."

So far there was no success in trying to clarify the
reports about the capture or surrender of the 51st
Infantry Division. According to intercepted radio
communications, this division was fighting as a part of
the 3rd Army Corp (Al-Nasiriya). It's brigades took up
defensive positions along the northwestern approaches
to Basra and participated in combat since the first day
of fighting, which makes their voluntary surrender
unlikely. Analysts believe that the anglo-american
coalition reports refer to a surrender by a capture of
one of the destroyed units or to a successful operation
by their special forces.

Analysis of the video footage of the captured Iraqis,
distributed by the coalition press-service, makes it
difficult to accept the Iraqi army's "moral breakdown"
story advertised by the Americans. Most of the captives
retain their dignity and show no fear or ingratiation
characteristic of demoralized enemy. In addition to
that, Americans did not come up with a single video
recording of destroyed or abandoned combat vehicles or
any other equipment, nor did they provide any
interviews with the captured Iraqis.

The US forces have halted their advance into Iraq and
are now actively engaged in reconnaissance along the
directions of Al-Nasiriya, An-Najaf and Al-Ammara.
However, the main efforts of the coalition are being
concentrated around the approaches to Basra. It is
expected that by tomorrow they will build up a strike
force to storm the city. Most major events of the
upcoming several days will be unfolding in this region.
Radio intercepts show that up to 25,000 British and
American troops are already in the Basra region. The
city is under a constant artillery and aviation

During the past night a fuel supply convoy of the US
3rd Infantry Division was attacked by Iraqi special
forces. Up to 7 fuel trucks have been lost in the
attack. Three US soldiers were killed and nine wounded.
Another three US soldiers are considered MIA and are
believed to have been captured by the Iraqis.

As was expected, after realizing the failure of the
coup against Hussein the US have resorted to intensive
bombing of Baghdad beginning on the evening of March
21st. Just during that night Baghdad was attacked with
500 cruise missiles and over 1,000 aviation bombs. The
city is engulfed by numerous fires.

Additionally, more than 20 other Iraqi cities were also
bombed. More than 1,000 cruise missiles were launched
against various targets and over 3,000 bombs were
dropped. At the moment it is difficult to estimate the
effectiveness of these strikes. However, judging by the
high activity levels of Iraqi radio transmitters, the
US was unable to disrupt the control of the Iraqi army.

Russian radio intercept units are certain that at least
one coalition combat plane was shot down in these air

Our sources believe that the high-intensity air strikes
will continue for another 24 hours and after that the
coalition will be forced to scale down the attacks to
conduct additional reconnaissance and to regroup its

A radio intercept made last night at approximately 4:40
am indicated that two British helicopters were shot
down by a "Strela" SAM system after flying into a SAM
trap. It is believed that the two SAR helicopters were
to retrieve the pilot of the combat plane downed during
the earlier air strike. The number of dead and wounded
is still being established. So far the coalition
command did not report these losses. (1)

The coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks demanded from
the Air Force a maximum possible increase in the close
air support of the ground forces. During a
"radio-bridge" with the commanders of all units Gen.
Franks expressed his concern with the mounting
casualties and the stubborn Iraqi resistance. "We've
just spent three days trying to capture one small town,
so we can only guess what awaits us in Baghdad!" -
angrily said the commander and demanded better aviation
support to soften up the defending Iraqi forces ahead
of the advancing coalition units.

For the past day the coalition losses ar up to 30
killed and around 40 wounded. Ten coalition armored
vehicles were destroyed my land mines. At least two
armored vehicles were destroyed by anti-tank weapons.

Iraqi losses are estimated in the range of 250-300
killed and up to 500 wounded. So far it is not possible
to determine the damage from the night bombing raids.
However, more than 500 people have been taken to
hospitals in Baghdad - all of them were civilians.


While this article was translated the US Navy has
confirmed that two British Sea Knight helicopters of
the Royal Navy have crashed killing all onboard - 6
Britons and 1 American - a US Navy officer. The
helicopters crashed at around 4:30 am. The official
explanation for the loss was that the two helicopters
crashed into each other while taking-off from a ship.
It is interesting to note that during more than 25
years in British service there wasn't a single
collision between the Sea Knights. The Royal Navy
operates more than 300 Sea Knights and all helicopter
pilots adhere to strict sets of rules during take-offs
and landings from ships; rules that are designed to
help pilots to avoid this type of collisions.

March 21, 2003, 0930hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - In the
course of yesterday’s US military command meeting on
Iraq the primary topic of discussion was the unexpected
tactics adopted by the Iraqi forces. The coalition
aircraft over Iraq encountered a huge number of various
kinds of target mockups and other decoys on the ground.
Thus, for example, after the post-strike aerial
reconnaissance mission of an Iraqi airbase near Basra
it was determined that all of the 20 Iraqi aircraft
reported earlier by the coalition pilots as being
destroyed in the bombing turned out to be aircraft
mockups. Additionally, nearly all Iraqi radars
discovered earlier have ceased transmission and
relocated to new positions. As the result, every third
coalition aircraft designated for the role of
suppressing Iraqi air defenses returned to base with
its full combat load unused. The pilots report that
there is no way to know if the weapons released against
the Iraqi air defenses hit the real targets or just
more decoys. "We engaged everything that looked like a
radar. But there is no way in hell we can know what it
really was!" reported one of the coalition pilots back
to ground control after releasing missiles against a
suspected Iraqi radar site.

A particular point of concern for the coalition air
force commander is the fact that after the first 24
hours of the bombing campaign by the coalition aircraft
Iraq is yet to launch a single air-to-surface missile.
Coalition aerial, electronic and satellite
reconnaissance forces are being urged to determine the
locations and composition of the Iraqi air defenses in
the next 16 hours.

The sources insist that the elements of the 3rd
infantry division were purposefully provoked into
fighting by the Iraqi mobile units, which from the
first hours of the ground campaign used the "pinprick"
tactics by launching more than 20 artillery attacks
against the positions of the coalition forces. To
prevent further such attacks the coalition command
ordered its troops to pursue all attacking Iraqi units.

The GRU GSh RF radio intercept units reported that
during one of such pursuits the Americans lost one of
their helicopters. Following the loss of this
helicopter Russian reconnaissance detected the take-off
of a US search-and-rescue helicopter. This was at least
a third helicopter lost by the coalition during the
first 24 hours of fighting. As the result of the
hit-and-run tactics employed by the Iraqis almost the
entire 3rd infantry division was pulled inside Iraq and
spent the day by conducting reconnaissance missions and
exchanging fire with the Iraqis 20-60 kilometers from
the Kuwaiti border. To protect the flanks of the
division the US command was forced to begin the
operation to encircle Basra an by 1900hrs the coalition
ground forces (possibly the US Army III Corps which
includes the 4th Infantry Div. Mech. and the 1st
Cavalry Div., aided by the 1st Marine Div. (1) begun
advancing with one part of their forces encircling
Basra from the west, while the part moved in the
direction of Baghdad. This maneuver was predicted by
the Russian intelligence even before the war started.

By sunrise the 1st armored division was forced to stop
their advance after encountering a minefield. According
to the intercepted radio communications, mines
destroyed some two US armored vehicles.

Additionally, at 0730hrs forward Marine units walked
into an ambush and called in air support and medevac
helicopters. Based on the intercepted radio
communications Russian military intelligence believes
that the Marines have encountered one the Iraqi mobile
units. Currently this area is being bombarded by the US

The US command is disappointed with its psychological
campaign designed to damage the morale of the Iraqi
troops. So far there were no mass surrendering of Iraqi
troops. During the first day of the war only a few
dozen Iraqi soldiers have surrendered. These soldiers
came mainly from the border checkpoints and border
patrol units. Reports by the majority of the US field
commanders show that they do not see any confusion or
any loss of control on the part of the Iraqi forces.

So far the weak bombing attacks against Baghdad and
other large Iraqi cities, analysts believe, are due to
the continuing hopes by the US command that the planned
coup against Saddam Hussein would finally materialize.
The bombing campaign is being restricted to avoid heavy
civilian casualties and provide the coup organizers
with more favorable conditions in the cities. However,
a step-up in the intensity of the bombing campaign
against the Iraqi cities should be expected by the end
of the day today, as the hope for a coup against the
Iraqi president fades.

At lest two of the eight supposedly Iraqi missiles that
hit Kuwait turned out to be US sea-launched cruise
missiles that strayed off course. This can be clearly
seen even from the craters left in the ground by the
explosions of these missiles. After detonation the
"Scud" warhead leaves a crater as much as 8 meters
deep. What was observed in Kuwait, however, is the
typical crater left by the detonation of a cruise
missile’s warhead. The story with the rest of the Iraqi
missile launches is also unclear. Experts are leaning
toward a possibility that the explosions in the Kuwaiti
border regions were caused not by missiles but by
120-mm mortar shells fired by the Iraqi mobile units.

The British troops failed to quickly capture the Fao
peninsula. Once they landed on the peninsula they were
hit with a heavy artillery barrage and held down near
the shoreline. Only after the requested aviation
support has arrived the British were able to advance
3-5 kilometers inland. During this operation, according
to the intercepted radio communications, the British
have suffered some casualties and called for medevac
helicopters. Russian intelligence reports that the
peninsula is being defended by up to two Iraqi
regiments and by the armed civilians from the local
population supported by several artillery battalions.
Currently the British and the US forces are attempting
to prevent the defending Iraqi forces at Fao peninsula
from retreating toward Basra.

The coalition casualties during the first day of war
numbered 23, as war reported to the US Secretary of
Defense by the coalition commander Gen. Franks.
However, during the next 12 hours the casualties are
likely to grow to 40 killed and over a hundred wounded.
At the moment the exact coalition casualty figures are
difficult to determine due to the continuing evacuation
of wounded from the Fao peninsula, the Basra region,
and from the battlefield 70 km from the Kuwaiti border.

The first day of ground combat confirms the conclusion
that the Iraqi command is organizing defenses in the
central regions of the country. All main Iraqi forces
have been pulled toward central Iraq leaving huge mine
fields and many ambushes on the path of the advancing
US forces.

The defense of Basra is carried out by the part of the
Iraqi 4th Army Corp. and volunteer brigades formed by
the resident of Basra. It is believed that the Iraqi
command is not counting on preventing the US forces
from taking Basra but is simply trying to inflict as
many casualties on the coalition forces as possible.

The main battles of this war may begin as early as by
the end of tomorrow, when the US forces reach central


The 4th Infantry Div. Mech. and the 1st Cavalry Div.
are reported to be still located at their home base at
Fort Hood, TX, so their participation in this operation
seems to be out of the question. Their equipment was
shipped to Turkey but could not be unloaded due to
Turkey's refusal to accept US troops. This equipment is
still at sea now for the sixth week and both divisions
are in TX. The 4th Infantry Division was to take part
in the Northern Front against Iraq coming from Turkey.
It was also reported that the 1st Cavalry Div. will be
deployed to Iraq but only sometime in May.


Sunday, March 23, 2003 10:44:42 PM

Washington, March 23 (ANTARA/AFP) - The United States
on Sunday complained angrily that Russia has not
adequately dealt with its concerns about arms sales to
Iraq by Russian firms which it said threatened the
safety of US, British and Australian troops now
advancing on Baghdad.

The State Department said it had repeatedly brought
sales of militarily sensitive equipment to Iraq to the
attention of senior officials in Moscow, including in
the days leading up to the current conflict, but had
not yet received a satisfactory response.

`Such equipment in the hands if the Iraqi military may
pose a direct threat to US and coalition armed forces,`
said Brenda Greenberg, a department spokeswoman.

`We regard this as a very serious matter,` she said.
`We thus have raised this issue with the Russian
government a number of times, including at senior
levels and particularly over the past two weeks.

`Their response so far has not been satisfactory,`
Greenberg said. `We hope that the responsible Russian
agencies will take our concerns seriously.`

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