War On Iraq
SADDAM ON IRAQI T.V.; CHEMICAL ARMS PLANT FOUND; STOCKS DOWN IN LONDON; TURKS WARNED
American Reporter Staff
LOS ANGELES. March 24, 2003 2:40am -- Saddam Hussein made a live appearance on Iraqi television Monday, hailing his troops and bringing a close to speculation that he is dead or badly injured.
Hussein's appearance was another blow to the leaders of Operation Iraqi Freedom, beset since Friday by friendly-fire casualties and a suddenly-lengthened supply line that left Iraqi units intact behind their lines.
However, there may yet be a silver lining to his television appearance: that he is again a candidate for exile or surrender, two quick war-ending options that could not exist in his absence, Now, with the discovery Sunday of a huge chemical arms plant in southern Iraq by the U.S. Army, he is also now potentially accountable for the production of weapons of mass destruction.
Officials warned that while the plant was clearly producing chemical arms for a military purpse and had been well-disguised, its true output had not been determined. Much of the legitimacy of the American leadership of Gulf War II relies on its claims that such weapons were being produced by Hussein's regime, which has used chemical weapons against its own people and against Iran.
Meanwhile, what coalition officials called "significant casualties" and a warning from President George W. Bush that the war in Iraq may be a long one depressed stocks in London in advance of the opening of the New York Stock Exchange.
The stranded Iraqi units unexpectedly engaged coalition forces in Nasiriyah and took at least five U.S. Army soldiers, including a woman, captive; the prisoners were soon paraded for the Arab world on television, while cameras panned corpses in American uniforms lying on the floor of what was said to be a morgue. News reports say a total of 17 Americans died in combat over the past 24 hours.
Yet the powerful advance of three columns of men and tanks and artillery was 95 miles from Baghdad by Monday morning. From here, all sides have warned, progress will slow as resistance grows.
Nonetheless, anti-aircraft batteries remained silent for a second night in Baghdad as coalition bombers and fighters continued to drop bombs on key military targets. That would seem to open up opportunities for insertion of paratroopers to begin moving against Iraq's vaunted Republican guards in and outside the capital.
In northern Iraq, 40,000 Turkish troops have been moved to the Iraqi border and President Bush warned them to go no farther. They are a potentially complicating factor that may not have been fully taken into account in planning for the war. Across the border in Iraq lies the vast Kirkuk oil field, and the proposed People's Republic of Kurdistan, a political entity whose creation Turkey has vowed to resist by any means.
Yet 70,000 Kurdish pesh murga guerillas are fighting beside coalition soldiers while Turkey has tried to exact a huge price from the United States - some $6 billion - for merely permitting the overflight of coalition aircraft that are sent into the skies over Baghdad and other cities in the north. By delaying a decision, it cost the coalition extra days required to move troops and equipment in the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf or across the Jordanian border.
It might have been impossible to predict that Turkey, which has long harbored important U.S. bases even as a series of its leaders fought a seesaw battle between Islamic resurgence and secular democracy, would unite with a distinctly nationalist cast against the Kurds, as columnist William Safire said today, "to grab the oil fields."
Turkish enmity for the Kurds guarantees political problems for the coalition even before any capitulation of Iraq's present leadership. In the aftermath of a swift victory that friction might have been tolerable, but in the context of a longer war where a Turkish incursion - even as a means of controlling any flow of refugees - introduces a three-way battle for land, oil and political supremacy, the drain on coalition resources might be too great to tolerate.
Rattled by the losses around Nasiriyah and also anxious to take gains in a surge that has seen stocks rise 17 percent in a week, London markets fell 69 points on Monday even after a sharp improvement in Tokyo's Nikkei average. London's FTSE stood at 3,790, down 1.8 percent, after a 17 percent surge in the past week, creating a climate for expectations of a flat day on U.S. markets.