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Second in a two-part series

Iraq's militaryClick here for a look at Iraq's military capabilities.

ARLINGTON, Va. — If the United States goes to war with Iraq, it will face an untrained, poorly equipped force that will retreat into the cities to fight among hapless civilians, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

“The Iraqi military as a whole has not been able to modernize” since the Gulf War, a U.S. intelligence officer told Pentagon reporters. The force “suffers from equipment shortages, manpower shortages, desertions … a lot of serious problems.”

“It’s essentially a hollow army,” said the official, who was one of two intelligence officials who provided unclassified, highly detailed description of Iraq’s military capabilities Wednesday.

Given the unusual nature of the briefing, reporters expressed concerns the Pentagon was using the press to deliver a message to Saddam Hussein or to influence public opinion. But Pentagon officials said the briefings were in response to media queries.

“We have had numerous requests for information on Iraq’s capabilities from the media,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

Officials would not say how the information was gathered.

“If we say who the source is, we’d be giving classified information,” one official said.

Although Saddam intends to stop at nothing to remain in power, his conventional forces are weak, according to the “order of battle” information provided by the officials [see graphic].

Iraq’s army has about 375,000 soldiers, less than one-third the size of the army U.S. forces saw in the Gulf War, they said.

Poorly armed and trained, most of Iraq’s infantry “are static cannon fodder,” one official said.

Poor training and equipment also is the rule for the air force.

“And when they do fly, it’s stick-and-rudder stuff, not tactical training,” he said.

In order to bolster his forces, Saddam may choose to tap civilians to form new units, one official said.

That’s what the Iraqi president did in 1990-91, the officials said, when 11 of his 70 army divisions were “scraped together” from draftees, including four “elite” Republican Guard units.

“But the real limitation to throwing together rat-bag divisions is equipment [shortages],” one official said. “If he tries to roll [draftees] out, so much the better, because reservists in Iraq will be the weak link. They’ll be a negative for Saddam, not a gain.”

Most of Saddam’s forces, and his best air defense systems, are in the center of Iraq, well away from the “no-fly” zones that U.S. and British pilots have patrolled since the end of the Gulf War.

In order to take advantage of this centralized concentration of military forces, Saddam “intends to fight a defense-in-depth campaign,” one of the officials said. “He’s not going to defend the border, because they know they can’t stop us there.”

Click here to read Part One of this two-part series.


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