Syria on Iraq Equipment
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
28.3.03- WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stern warning to Syria on Friday to stop sending military equipment to Iraqi forces, saying such shipments have included night-vision goggles. "We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing. "There's no question but that to the extent that military supplies or equipment or people are moving across the borders between Iraq and Syria, it vastly complicates our situation," Rumsfeld said. Asked if the United States was threatening military action against Syria, Rumsfeld said: "I'm saying exactly what I'm saying. It was carefully phrased." "We have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles," he said. "These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces," the defense secretary said. Syrian President Bashar Assad has described the military action as "clear occupation and a flagrant aggression against a United Nations member state." Syria is the only Arab country currently on the U.N. Security Council. When asked if the shipments from Syria were "state sponsored," Rumsfeld said he wouldn't answer because "it's an intelligence issue." "They control their border," he added. "We're hoping that kind of thing doesn't happen." Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Rumsfeld briefed at the Pentagon as America's battle plan for Baghdad was taking shape, with U.S. forces now in position to strike the Iraqi capital from nearly all sides or to mount a siege and wait for Saddam Hussein's regime to fall to internal opposition. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Republican Guard units defending the city are "dug in." "They could be consolidating to make a defense. It doesn't make any difference. The outcome is certain," he said. As sporadic battles rage between American infantry and defiant Iraqi troops and paramilitary guerrillas, more armor and at least 100,000 reinforcing U.S. and allied troops are on their way to join the coalition force over the next few weeks. In the interim, the American game plan is simple: bombs, bombs and more bombs. The Army's senior ground commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace of V Corps, told reporters of The New York Times and Washington Post on Thursday that unexpected tactics by Iraqi fighters and stretched supply lines were slowing down the campaign. "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against," the papers quoted Wallace as saying during a visit to the 101st Airborne Division headquarters in central Iraq.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, at the daily briefing at U.S. Central Command in Qatar, insisted U.S. war planners had not underestimated Iraqi fighting capabilities, but said unexpected developments were inevitable in any war. He accused the Iraqis of using "terrorist death squads" who changed in and out of civilian clothes. Meanwhile, a U.S. official involved in military planning and intelligence said Iraqi troops have been spotted between U.S. and Iraqi lines wearing full chemical protection suits and unloading 50- gallon drums from trucks. U.S. intelligence doesn't know what was in the drums, but fear it could be chemicals. fficials have said that the closer invading forces get to Baghdad, the higher the possibility that a cornered regime will launch an attack with chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam as denied he has. U.S. and British aircraft are pounding some of the estimated 30,000 Republican Guard forces arrayed around Baghdad and striking inside the capital against Saddam's levers of power and modes of communication. The military early Friday rolled out new weapons two 4,700-pound, satellite-guided "bunker busting" bombs were dropped from American B-2 bombers on a major communications tower on the east bank of the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad. The bombs were twice the size of the bunker busting bombs that were being used before. The bombing attack, aimed at disrupting communication between Saddam and his military leaders, gutted a seven-story telephone exchange, leaving the street strewn with rubble.
Powerful explosions rocked the capital during the night and Friday morning aircraft swooped low over the city. Anti-aircraft fire was intermittent. iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al Sahaf said the overnight air strikes killed seven people in Baghdad and wounded 92. While the coalition war plan is flexible and certain to shift with events, U.S. leaders say they are operating on three rock-solid certainties: They won't lose. They won't set a timetable. And they won't let up until Saddam is gone. "There isn't going to be a cease-fire," Rumsfeld told lawmakers on Thursday. Rumsfeld also raised the possibility of a siege of Baghdad rather than a quick strike into the heart of the city. Asked by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., what American ground troops would do once they reached Baghdad, Rumsfeld answered by saying Baghdad had to be isolated before it was taken. He also alluded to what is happening at Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. British forces there have laid siege, hoping for a successful uprising by the city's Shiite population. Rumsfeld noted that both Basra and Baghdad have large numbers of Shiites. "And they are not terribly favorable to the regime. They've been repressed," Rumsfeld said.