March 31, 2003
U.S. Military Campaign Is on Course
The war in Iraq continues. There are various opinions on the effectiveness of the war. We decided to get the view of First Deputy Russian Defense Minister Colonel General Igor Puzanov.
- How is the war in Iraq unfolding from a professional point of view?
- The military operation in Iraq has been going on for a week. From a professional point of view, I think the operation is going to plan and all the hype in the mass media is really just to attract attention but it does not give a fair reflection of the situation in Iraq or the military campaigns of the two sides. At the moment the U.S. campaign is going to plan, they have basically got two thirds of Iraqi territory under their control and they are already close to Baghdad, which speaks for itself. They have been advancing 70 kilometres a day, which proves that the operation was carefully planned.
The fact that U.S. troops have formed blockades around the towns and cities they have passed is perfectly reasonable as their main goal is Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein and his government are based. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein is their main objective as they believe this will have a serious impact on the activity of the Iraqi army and the civilian population as a whole. For this reason, they are trying to avoid any serious combat in the other towns and cities. The isolation of these built-up areas will make it more difficult for Iraqi forces to operate freely across Iraqi territory.
- I have another question. What are the prospects of the 'second front' in the north?
- That depends on what the U.S. military plans are.
- Will the Kurds be on the side of the U.S.?
- They already are on the side of the U.S.! The fact that U.S. troops are already in Kurdistan and are not meeting any resistance there shows that there is some kind of alliance and that the Kurds will not impede the U.S. advance from the north.
- How will things develop between the Turks and the Kurds?
- I think this is an issue which concerns Turkey and Iraq and it won't be resolved by a change of power in Baghdad. It is of course a question of territory, while the question of government concerns both Iraq and Turkey and it could be a long-term problem.
- Turkey refused to let U.S. forces use Turkish territory. Perhaps the Americans will try to get even?
- I don't think the Americans will manipulate events in Kurdistan simply to get even with Turkey for not allowing U.S. troops to be deployed on its territory. Bear in mind that the U.S. and Turkey have many common interests in terms of NATO, the Turkish army uses American weapons and, to a large extent, Turkey is economically dependent on the U.S.
- Some people are saying that Iran could be the next target.
- I don't think the US will start another military campaign somewhere else as soon as this one is over. There is no particular reason why they should. The Iraqi problem has been with us for over a decade. Operation Desert Storm did not accomplish its objective, namely the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the U.S. have had to put up with this situation for the last ten years. Now they have decided to finish the job without UN approval and despite the protests of many world leaders. Unfortunately this is the continuation of the U.S. campaign of 1991.
Radio-1 specially for Rosbalt. Moscow Translated by Nick Chesters