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Old 03-15-2003, 05:59 PM   #1
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Iraq geography will challenge fighters

I think this is interesting.

Iraq Poses Geographic Challenge for U.S. Forces

Updated 7:50 AM ET March 15, 2003


By Luke Baker

NEAR CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait (Reuters) - As the U.S. army awaits word on war with Iraq, commanders say one of their chief concerns, alongside the threat of chemical and biological weapons, is the country's harsh and varied terrain.

Between the Kuwait border and Baghdad -- the ultimate objective -- lie around 35,000 square miles of rough terrain including deserts, swamps, major rivers, towering escarpments and ancient irrigation networks.

And that doesn't include the man-made obstacles that Iraqi forces are likely to have laid in the way, such as anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, ditches, berms and fences. Some major roads are also still damaged since the last Gulf War.

"From a combat engineering point of view, this is going to be one huge operation," Colonel Gregg Martin, commander of the 130th Engineers' Brigade, told Reuters. "We've got a lot of obstacles to get around."

The challenges begin at the border, with U.S. forces likely to encounter tank ditches and high berms -- mounds of earth and rock -- for some distance into the country. The area is also likely to be heavily mined.

Once across the border, and depending on where the frontier is breached, forces will essentially have to either move west and then north or north then west to get to Baghdad.

The straight diagonal route to the capital is marked as impassable on unclassified military maps because an army could not effectively move through the huge area of swamp and marshland that lies between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers dissecting Iraq.

The Mesopotamian plain, known as a cradle of civilization, has proved disastrous for armies in the past.

In 1915, British troops under Major General Charles Townshend were defeated by the Turks when they tried to march up the Tigris toward Baghdad and ended up getting bogged down in the salt marshes near Kut. They surrendered after 20,000 men were killed or wounded.

HIGHWAYS DAMAGED

U.S. commanders say they are confident they have the equipment to move forces rapidly across Iraq and to within a 60 mile radius of Baghdad within a matter of days. But it would be tough going.

The southwestern quarter of Iraq is virtually all desert, with a wide sloping plain rising steadily northwest toward the border with Jordan and Syria, according to U.S. military maps.

Highways do cross the area and would allow U.S. forces the quickest and easiest means of mobility. But satellite pictures show many of them suffered damage in the 1991 Gulf War and have only been repaired in areas closer to Baghdad.

Captain Alex Deraney, commander of the 535th Engineers Company, which uses huge industrial machinery to shift major obstacles out of an advancing army's way, believes any invasion of Iraq is going to mean a long, hard road for units like his.

"There's a heck of a lot of terrain to cover and some major obstacles in the way. In some areas of the desert there are 60-meter-high (180 feet) escarpments running for many kilometers that we may have to negotiate," he said.

A further concern is Iraq's vast network of irrigation ditches, first developed by the Sumerians around 3500 BC, which direct run-off from the Euphrates and Tigris into the fertile plains which once gave life to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

With water flow in the Euphrates and Tigris generally higher in the March-May period after snow melts in the northern mountains, those irrigation channels, known as wadis, could pose problems for an army on the move.
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Old 03-15-2003, 06:19 PM   #2
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Very interesting article. Thanks for posting. Of course with the "shock & awe" Hiroshima/Nagasaki tacits, they think they will avert this.
3000 bombs on 1.4 m civilians in Baghdad. Makes me understand Gabe's thoughts.
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Old 03-15-2003, 06:21 PM   #3
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Originally posted by Scarletwine
Ver interesting article. Thanks for posting. Of course with the "shock & awe" Hiroshima/Nagasaki tacits, they think they will avert this.
3000 bombs on 1.4 m civilians in Baghdad.
Damn. Not a pleasant picture, to say the least.
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