|The Iraq War|
Report for 2003-03-27
March 27, 2003, 1425hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - There has been a sharp increase in activity on the southern front. As of 0700hrs the coalition forces are subjected to nearly constant attacks along the entire length of the front. The Iraqi command took the advantage of the raging sand storm to regroup its troops and to reinforce the defenses along the approaches to Karabela and An-Najaf with two large armored units (up to two armored brigades totaling up to 200 tanks). The Iraqi attack units were covertly moved near the positions of the US 3rd Infantry Division (Motorized) and the 101st Airborne Division. With sunrise and a marginal visibility improvement the Iraqis attacked these US forces in the flank to the west of Karabela.
Simultaneously, massive artillery barrages and counterattacks were launched against units of the US 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division conducting combat operations near An-Najaf. The situation [for the US troops] was complicated by the fact that the continuing sand storm forced them to group their units into battalion convoys in order to avoid losing troops and equipment in near zero-visibility conditions. These battalion convoys were concentrated along the roads leading to Karabela and An-Najaf and had only limited defenses. There was no single line of the front; aerial reconnaissance in these conditions was not possible and until the very last moment the coalition command was unaware of the Iraqi preparations.
During one of such attacks [the Iraqi forces] caught off-guard a unit of the US 3rd Infantry Division that was doing vehicle maintenance and repairs. In a short battle the US unit was destroyed and dispersed, leaving behind one armored personnel carrier, a repair vehicle and two Abrams tanks, one of which was fully operational.
At the present time visibility in the combat zone does not exceed 300 meters, which limits the effectiveness of the 101st Airborne Division and that of its 70 attack helicopters representing the main aerial reconnaissance and ground support force of the coalition. One of the coalition transport helicopters crashed yesterday during take-off. The reason for the crash was sand in the engine compressors.
The Iraqis were able to get in range for close combat without losses and now fierce battles are continuing in the areas of Karabela and An-Najaf. The main burden of supporting the coalition ground troops has been placed with the artillery and ground attack aircraft. Effectiveness of the latter is minimal due to the weather conditions. Strikes can be delivered only against old Iraqi targets with known coordinates, while actually supporting the ground troops engaged in combat is virtually impossible and attempts to do so lead to the most unfortunate consequences.
Intercepted radio communications show that at around 0615hrs this morning the lead of a flight of two A-10 ground attack planes detected a convoy of armored vehicles. Unable to see any markings identifying these vehicles as friendly and not being able to contact the convoy by radio the pilot directed artillery fire to the coordinates of the convoy.
Later it was discovered that this was a coalition convoy. Thick layers of dust covered up the identification markings - colored strips of cloth in the rear of the vehicles. Electronic jamming made radio contact impossible. First reports indicated that the US unit lost 50 troops killed and wounded. At least five armored vehicles have been destroyed, one of which was an Abrams tank.
During the past day the coalition losses in this area [Karabela and An-Najaf ] were 18-22 killed and up to 40 wounded. Most of the fatalities were sustained due to unexpected attacks by the Iraqi Special Forces against the coalition rears and against communication sites. This is a sign of the increasing diversionary and partisan actions by the Iraqis.
During the same period of time the Iraqi forces sustained up to 100 killed, about the same number of wounded and up to 50 captured.
Since the beginning of the operation no more than 2000 Iraqi troops were captured by the coalition. The majority of the captured troops were members of regional defense [militia] units.
The Iraqis were able to move significant reinforcements to the area of An-Nasiriya making it now extremely difficult for the Americans to widen their staging areas on the left bank of the Euphrates. Moreover, the Americans [on the left bank of the Euphrates] may end up in a very difficult situation if the Iraqis manage to destroy the bridges and to separate [these US units] from the main coalition force. The US forces in this area consist of up to 4,000 Marines from the 1st Marine Division and supporting units of the 82nd Airborne Division. Currently, fighting has resumed in the An-Nasiriya suburbs.
During one of the Iraqi attacks yesterday against the US positions the Iraqis for the first time employed the "Grad" mobile multiple rocket launch systems [MLRS]. As the result an entire US unit was taken out of combat after sustaining up to 40 killed and wounded as well as losing up to 7 armored vehicles.
There are no other reports of any losses in this area [An-Nasiriya] except for one US Marine drowning in one of the city's water canals and another Marine being killed by a sniper.
During the sand storm the coalition command lost contact with up to 4 coalition reconnaissance groups. Their whereabouts are being determined. It is still unknown what happened to more than 600 other coalition troops mainly from resupply, communications and reconnaissance units communication with which was lost during the past 24 hours.
The situation around Basra remains unclear. The Iraqis control the city and its suburbs, as well as the area south of Basra and the part of the adjacent Fao peninsula, which the British have so far failed to take. The British forces are blockading Basra from the west and northwest. However, due to difficult marshy terrain crossed by numerous waterways the British have been unable to create a single line of front and to establish a complete blockade of the city. Currently main combat operations are being launched for control of a small village near Basra where the local airport is located. The British field commanders report that there has been no drop in the combat activity of the Iraqis. On the contrary, under the cover of the sand storm up to two battalions of the "surrendered" Iraqi 51st Infantry Division were moved to the Fao peninsula to support the local defending forces.
Rumors about an uprising by the Basra Shiite population turned out to be false. Moreover, the Shiite community leaders called on the local residents to fight the "children of the Satan" - the Americans and the British.
During the past 24 hours the British sustained no less than 3 killed and up to 10 wounded due to mortar and sniper fire.
It is difficult to estimate the Iraqi losses [in Basra] due to limited available information. However, some reports suggest that up to 30 Iraqi troops were killed during the past day by artillery and aircraft fire.
During an attack against a coalition checkpoint in Umm Qasr last night one British marine infantry soldier was heavily wounded. This once again points to the tentative nature of the British claims of control over the town.
Information coming from northern regions of Iraq indicates that most of the Kurdish leaders chose not to participate in the US war against Iraq. The primary reason for that is the mistrust of the Kurds toward the US. Yesterday one of the Russian intelligence sources obtained information about a secret agreement reached between the US and the Turkish government. In the agreement the US, behind the backs of the Kurds, promised Turkey not to support in any way a formation of a Kurdish state in this region. The US has also promised not to prevent Turkey from sending its troops [to Northern Kurdistan] immediately following [the coalition] capture of northern Iraq.
In essence, this gives Turkey a card-blanche to use force for a "cleanup" in Kurdistan. At the same time the Kurdish troops will be moved to fight the Iraqis outside of Kurdistan, thus rendering them unable to support their own people.
Along the border with Kurdistan Turkey has already massed a 40,000-strong army expeditionary corps that is specializing in combat operations against the Kurds. This force remains at a 4-hour readiness to begin combat operations.
All of this indicates that the coalition command will be unable to create a strong "Northern Front" during the next 3-4 days and that the US Marines and paratroopers in this area will have to limit their operations to distracting the Iraqis and to launching reconnaissance missions.
During a meeting with Germany's chancellor [Gerhard] Schroeder the heads of the German military and political intelligence reported that the US is doing everything possible to conceal information on the situation in the combat zone and that the US shows an extremely "unfriendly" attitude. Germany's own intelligence-gathering capabilities in this region are very limited. This is the result of Germany, being true to its obligations as an ally, not attempting to bolster its national intelligence operations in the region and not trying to separate its intelligence agencies from the intelligence structures of NATO and the US.
There has been a confirmation of yesterday's reports about the plans of the coalition command to increase its forces fighting in Iraq. The troops of the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) are currently being airlifted to the region, while its equipment is traveling by sea around the Arabian Peninsula and the unloading is expected to begin as early as by the end of tomorrow. The Division numbers 30,000 soldiers and officers. By the end of April up to 120,000 more US troops, up to 500 tanks and up to 300 more helicopters will be moved to the region.
In addition to that, today the US President [George W.] Bush asked the British Prime-Minister [Tony] Blair to increase the British military presence in Iraq by a minimum of 15,000-20,000 troops.
At the current level of combat operations and at the current level of Iraqi resistance the coalition may face a sharp shortage of troops and weapons within the next 5-7 days, which will allow the Iraqis to take the initiative. The White House took this conclusion of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff with great concern.
During the past seven days of the war the US Navy detained all ships in the Persian Gulf going to Iraq under the US "Oil for Food" program. Since yesterday all these ships are being unloaded in Kuwait. Unloaded food is being delivered by the US military to Iraq and is being distributed as "American humanitarian aid" and as a part of the "rebuilding Iraq" program. These US actions have already cause a serious scandal in the UN. The US explained its actions by its unilateral decision to freeze all Iraqi financial assets, including the Iraqi financial assets with the UN. These assets the US now considers its property and will exercise full control over them. Captains of the detained ships have already called these actions by the US a "piracy."
(Translation by Venik.)
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