Thursday, Mar 27, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
A week after the war, there is a marked evolution in Anglo-American military tactics as well.
Instead of committing their forces in large numbers inside the city, pro-U.S. Shia fighters appear to have been pushed into Basra in considerable numbers. A Shia militia, loyal to Majid Al Khoei, son of Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Khoei, is now battling the Fidayeen or suicide squads that have entrenched in Basra. Uday Hussein, son of Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, is commanding these units.
The Fidayeen forces that also possess tanks, have reportedly withstood the assault by troops belonging to the British seventh armoured division.
0The Basra `uprising' that has erupted since Wednesday night is mainly the result of the internal fighting between the forces of Mr. Uday Hussein and Mr. Majid Al Khoei's Shia fighters.
By playing the Shia card to bring about the fall of Basra, the U.S. forces hoping to set a precedent would also encourage mass uprisings in the other Shia strongholds of Najaf and Karbala. Since 75 per cent people in Iraq are Shias, the U.S. wants to unhinge Mr. Hussein's grip on his majority population before the final battles for Baghdad begin. Basra, therefore, is becoming a test case to demonstrate whether the new Anglo-American thinking of hammering at Iraq's religious faultlines as a tactic of war will work. In case the pro-U.S. Shia forces, backed by British troops fail to clearly and demonstrably succeed in Basra, the chances are that the invading troops may be unable to stir the Shia heartland surrounding cities such as Najaf and Karbala against Mr. Hussein.
The focus on Basra, before Baghdad is fully addressed, is also driven by three other considerations. First, swirling sandstorms in Iraq are hampering the speed of the American advance towards Baghdad.
The fierce Iraqi resistance to the Anglo-American invasion has also retarded this advance.
0This was evident when forces belonging to the U.S. first and second Marine Divisions took considerable time to cross the Tigris River on their way towards Baghdad. Second, the U.S. has been unable to mount military pressure on the Iraqi stronghold of Tikrit north of Baghdad, mainly because of the breakdown of talks with Turkey.
Consequently, the U.S. northern front that would have supplemented the assault from the South and squeezed the Iraqi regime further has not materialised so far.
Third, while there may not be real shortage of troops, the U.S. wants to make sure that it positions enough forces before the final assault on Baghdad commences.
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