Prague, 17 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Following is an interview with Colonel Bill Taylor, an expert on U.S. military policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Our correspondent asked Colonel Taylor to outline the military strategy he expects U.S. and British air attacks in Iraq will follow. Colonel Taylor's remarks came just hours before the start of air strikes early this morning, Baghdad time.
Colonel Taylor said that the attacks will likely be a sustained campaign directly targeting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's power base:
"A sustained campaign, I can't tell you how many days or weeks, but sustained. The first target set (group) is clear: going after Iraqi surface-to-air missile sites and accompanying radar, the things that can do bad damage to our manned aircraft when we start to put those in. We go after those targets with air-launched cruise missiles, with cruise missiles launched off destroyers and frigates in the Persian Gulf right now. Number two, we would go after their command-and-control centers. We will know where they are every time somebody in the Iraqi military or government turns on a radio to send a signal, we pick that up via satellites through signals intelligence and we will immediately go after the (related) command-and-control center. On the other hand, if they decide not to communicate, that's fine with us too (because) then they are not in control of their own forces, not able to give orders. The third set we go after, and maybe simultaneously, is the major support base that keeps Saddam Hussein in power, and that is his Republican Guard divisions and his internal security forces. They can't hide, the Republican Guards, we will know via satellite where they are every second of every day, and we can do terrible damage to them. Whether or not we would proceed to (destroy) economic infrastructure, their oil producing and processing facilities that we did a lot of damage to in the Gulf War in 1991, or (attack) their electric power grid is kind of problematical -- I don't think anybody can tell you that. But the military targets are very clear, the ones that I talked to you about.
Colonel Taylor said there will likely be pauses during the campaign as the United States brings more firepower into the region to boost its existing capabilities:
"If we have a sustained campaign, we do need a little bit more time to build up the forces that we had (in the Gulf region) a month ago. Remember that we had two aircraft carrier battle groups in the Gulf last October, but one of them has left and now we are sitting there with one aircraft carrier battle group -- the USS Enterprise. We would want to bring in more strike aircraft, we would want to get the (radar-invisible) Stealth aircraft back in, so (the strikes) would gradually build up as we build up (our) capabilities. I don't think there will be pauses for political reasons, but I think there will be a gradual buildup (of the strikes) as we bring in reinforcements.
Colonel Taylor also said he believes Washington's aim in striking Saddam Hussein's power base is to hasten the collapse of his regime:
"The strategy of the Clinton administration has shifted to one where a clear majority in the U.S. Congress and the Clinton administration itself says that we are now pursuing a strategy of ousting Saddam Hussein by supporting other groups, exiled Iraqi political organizations -- in London the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi National Front in Amman. So, we have shifted and this thing could be (extended) in a much longer sustained air campaign than most people think as we move as quickly as possible to find an alternative regime to Saddam Hussein's Baath party.