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US has two options for a ground war in Iraq

One of Switzerland's leading military strategists, Albert Stahel, believes a war in Iraq could be fought according to one of two scenarios.

This content was published on February 6, 2003 - 14:47

The first would be a partial occupation of Iraq, followed by a "wait-and-see" strategy. The second involves a potentially more costly and risky operation aimed at taking Baghdad.

Stahel, a political scientist and military strategist at Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology, told swissinfo that the United States was clearly ready to strike Iraq without a United Nations mandate.

Significant US forces are now stationed in Kuwait and the region, while in Turkey a recent agreement with Washington has paved the way for additional strategic deployments in that country.

Stahel says the build up of military hardware and personnel suggests a military strike could follow two possible paths.

"One operation could be [called] 'desert slice'," Stahel says.

"This involves occupying most of Iraq and [then] watching the situation in Baghdad."

Under this scenario, the US would bank on an internal Iraqi uprising by opponents of Saddam Hussein, paving the way for a new government.

"That could happen with something like 100,000 to 150,000 combat troops," Stahel estimates.

Going for Baghdad

"An alternative would need more troops, and that would be an attack against Baghdad," he says.

Taking Baghdad would be militarily far more complex and dangerous.

Some strategists believe a direct attack could involve heavy house-to-house fighting - something the Allied forces by-and-large managed to avoid during the 1991 Gulf war.

A protracted ground operation would also substantially increase the likelihood of American casualties, adding a considerable burden to the Bush administration's wartime workload, which will include maintaining the American public's consensus for war.

Stahel adds that a direct move to occupy Baghdad would also require cooperation from Saudi Arabia.

swissinfo

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