The 70-Hour War: The Damage - Target list suggests more action is planned

Click to follow
The Independent Online
BRITAIN AND the United States are claiming that they hit all of the targets on their list in four days of air strikes.

But it is difficult to survey the target lists without coming to the conclusion that this operation leaves the way open for some other form of military action against, or within, Iraq. The focus on military units and communications facilities in the south of the country suggests that Washington and London believe there is a possibility of a revolt against the regime.

The US and Britain have released fairly extensive information about the targets of their strikes and the extent of the damage done.

They have not claimed, as was sometimes the case during the 1991 Gulf War, total victory. They have been more modest in their assessments, fearing the sort of backlash which came in 1991 when it was discovered that not everything that they said had been destroyed was even hit.

The first main category of targets was the air defence system, which was moderately damaged.

The US and Britain hit command centres, surface-to-air missiles, communication links and radar sites across the country. This would have been expected as part of any air attack - it clears the way for aircraft, rather than missiles, to be used. The US said that it wanted to clear an air corridor from the south of the country to the north.

The second main category of attack was the sites associated with weapons of mass destruction. The targets seem to have been principally sites associated with the weaponisation of chemical, nuclear and biological threats - missile factories and repair sites, guidance manufacturers and engine sites.

The US avoided dual-use sites where the chemical or biological agents might have been prepared, partly because these might have entailed civilian casualties, partly because, it said, it feared releasing dangerous chemicals into the air. But it would also be far harder to find these sites, and they might be easier for the Iraqis to patch up.

The message seemed to be that London and Washington still fear that such weapons will be developed, but they want to stop Iraq from being able to deliver them.

The Pentagon said that it believed it had delayed Iraq's missile programme by a year - that implies it wants to revisit the strikes.

The third category of targets was politico-military. There has obviously been an effort to remove or weaken the upper tier of the regime. The key command centres of the Republican Guard have been selected - corps and divisional headquarters. So have the main barracks and HQs of the Special Republican Guard, the units with the task of protecting the regime, and the headquarters and barracks of all of the intelligence organisations.

These attacks on security organisations were explained as assaults on the weapons concealment programme, in which all of these organisations played a key role.

But they are also important elements in the regime's internal security. Add to that the other targets, and it looks as if some other military action - either internal revolt, or some sort of limited intervention from outside - is being contemplated. The US destroyed communications facilities tying together the north and south of the country, for instance. These links can be restored within a few months, so there must have been some reason for wanting to weaken the communications in the short term.

And the attacks on assault helicopter bases across the country also indicate that America wants to prevent Iraq from being able to respond to an insurgency.

Statistics of War

American and British aircraft flew 650 strike and support sorties. 97 targets were hit in total. US Navy launched more than 325 cruis missiles. US Air Force launched more than 90 cruise missiles. The twelve RAF Tornado bombers flew 32 sorties and dropped some fifty 2,000 lb bombs.

Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs), Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS)

Total Sites Attacked: 32

Destroyed/Damaged: 6

Moderate/Light Damage: 8

Under Assessment: 18

Destroyed/Damaged: 11

Moderate/Light Damage: 6

Under Assessment: 3

Destroyed/Severely Damaged: 7

Moderate/Light Damage: 11

Under Assessment: 0

Total Sites Attacked: 11

Destroyed/Damaged: 1

Moderate/Light Damage: 9

Under Assessment: 1

Total Sites Attacked: 9

Destroyed/Damaged: 3

Moderate/Light Damage: 6

Under Assessment: 0

Total Sites Attacked: 5

Destroyed/Damaged: 0

Moderate/Light Damage: 5

Under Assessment: 1

Total Sites Attacked: 1

Destroyed/Damaged: 0

Moderate/Light Damage: 1

Under Assessment: 0

Comments