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Russian Intelligence News
GRU - Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye - Main Intelligence Directorate
War in Iraq - situation at Basra and An-Nasiriya
March 22, 2002, 1300hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - Additional information about
the situation in the primary combat areas in southern Iraq became available
by 1300hrs (Moscow time, GMT +3). The US command reports about the supposed
surrender of the entire Iraqi 51st Infantry Division turned out to be a
complete fabrication. According to our sources the 51st Division continues
to fight on the approaches to Basra and we can only talk about individual
cases of Iraqi soldiers being captured in combat.
Elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Marine Infantry
Division ended up in an exceptionally difficult situation. While attempting
to encircle Basra from the north and to block An-Nasiriya elements the 3rd
and 1st infantry divisions found themselves wedged between the defending
Iraqi forces. The Iraqi command used this situation and delivered a
decisive counterattack with up to 80 tanks in the open flank of the US
forces, slicing through their combat orders. As the result of this
counterattack these US units are now at risk of being separated from the
main coalition forces and being surrounded.
By 1100hrs MSK Iraqi units advanced into the US attack front by 10-15
kilometers and Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the coalition forces,
ordered his troops to switch entirely to defensive operations. At the same
time he issued orders to the forward-deployed coalition tank units to halt
their reconnaissance operations in the directions of Es-Samaba and An-Najaf
and to move immediately to support the defending US forces. However, the
situation is complicated by the fact that a part of the coalition tanks are
currently disabled due to the lack of fuel and are awaiting the arrival of
fuel convoys. Thus the tanks are able to gradually rejoin combat in small
numbers as the fuel becomes available.
Currently the US and the Iraqi tank forces are engaged in mobile head-on
combat approximately 70-90 kilometers to the south of An-Nasiriya. Combat
orders have been received by the carrier borne aviation in the Persian
Gulf, which until now did not take part in this battle. At the same time
orders were issued to all available coalition strike aircraft in Qatar to
scramble in support of the defending coalition forces.
Intercepted radio communications indicate that during the morning period of
March 22 the US forces lost 10-15 tanks destroyed or disabled and up to 30
other armored vehicles. Medevac helicopters flew more than 30
search-and-rescue missions, which suggests heavy coalition losses.
Our sources report that during the early morning hours in southwestern Iraq
in the vicinity of Akashat the Iraqi forces have engaged and surrounded a
tactical paratroop unit of the 101st Airborne Division. Some of the
surrounded paratroopers were able to break out into the desert, where they
request air support and finally lost their Iraqi pursuers. However, up to
30 US troops were killed or captured in this engagement. Additionally,
[Russian] radio intercept units report that one the US attack helicopters
providing close air support was shot down.
The top US military command is planning to enhance the coalition command.
During the Joint Chief of Staff meeting its Chairman Gen. Richard Mayers
expressed strong criticism of the actions by the coalition commander Gen.
Franks and proposed to strengthen his headquarters with several other
senior military commanders. Gen. Franks is required to do everything he can
to change the current situation on the front. Analysts believe that, if
during the next 3-5 days Gen. Franks fails to achieve any significant
results, than it is entirely possible that he will be replaced as the
commander of the coalition forces.
Update: The coalition forces were able to capture a bridge in the suburbs
of Nasiriya. Their control of the Basra airport is tentative at best as
large numbers of Iraqi forces continue to resist with heavy artillery and
machine gun fire. Around Basra the coalition forces have advanced at most
by 1.5 kilometers. Gen. Franks has announced a change in plans: the
coalition forces are no longer set on capturing Basra so not to "create
military confrontations in that city." The coalition forces still do not
control Umm Qasr and appear to be losing territory.
War in Iraq - movement around Basra
March 22, 2002, 0800hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - Information received during
the last night is very contradictory. During all day and night fighting
continued around Basra, Al-Nasiriya, and on the Faw (Fao) peninsula.
Despite of numerous reports by the American and British command about the
capture of Umm Qasr the coalition forces have so far failed to establish
full control over this small borderline town. Exchange of fire in the city
is continuing. Elements of the [Iraqi] 45-th Infantry Brigade, which is
defending the town, are surrounded but continue to resist and are trying to
break out toward Basra.
According to intelligence reports, at Umm Qasr American and British forces
have sustained 10 killed and around 40 wounded soldiers and officers.
Additionally, the Iraqis have destroyed up to 8 British and US armored
"Iraqi resistance turned out to be far more determined than we've
expected," the British and US commanders are reporting. - "They are
surrounded but continue fighting even after losing much of their heavy
equipment. Often we could only advance after completely destroying them
with artillery and aviation."
So far there was no success in trying to clarify the reports about the
capture or surrender of the 51st Infantry Division. According to
intercepted radio communications, this division was fighting as a part of
the 3rd Army Corp (Al-Nasiriya). It's brigades took up defensive positions
along the northwestern approaches to Basra and participated in combat since
the first day of fighting, which makes their voluntary surrender unlikely.
Analysts believe that the anglo-american coalition reports refer to a
surrender by a capture of one of the destroyed units or to a successful
operation by their special forces.
Analysis of the video footage of the captured Iraqis, distributed by the
coalition press-service, makes it difficult to accept the Iraqi army's
"moral breakdown" story advertised by the Americans. Most of the captives
retain their dignity and show no fear or ingratiation characteristic of
demoralized enemy. In addition to that, Americans did not come up with a
single video recording of destroyed or abandoned combat vehicles or any
other equipment, nor did they provide any interviews with the captured
The US forces have halted their advance into Iraq and are now actively
engaged in reconnaissance along the directions of Al-Nasiriya, An-Najaf and
Al-Ammara. However, the main efforts of the coalition are being
concentrated around the approaches to Basra. It is expected that by
tomorrow they will build up a strike force to storm the city. Most major
events of the upcoming several days will be unfolding in this region. Radio
intercepts show that up to 25,000 British and American troops are already
in the Basra region. The city is under a constant artillery and aviation
During the past night a fuel supply convoy of the US 3rd Infantry Division
was attacked by Iraqi special forces. Up to 7 fuel trucks have been lost in
the attack. Three US soldiers were killed and nine wounded. Another three
US soldiers are considered MIA and are believed to have been captured by
As was expected, after realizing the failure of the coup against Hussein
the US have resorted to intensive bombing of Baghdad beginning on the
evening of March 21st. Just during that night Baghdad was attacked with 500
cruise missiles and over 1,000 aviation bombs. The city is engulfed by
Additionally, more than 20 other Iraqi cities were also bombed. More than
1,000 cruise missiles were launched against various targets and over 3,000
bombs were dropped. At the moment it is difficult to estimate the
effectiveness of these strikes. However, judging by the high activity
levels of Iraqi radio transmitters, the US was unable to disrupt the
control of the Iraqi army.
Russian radio intercept units are certain that at least one coalition
combat plane was shot down in these air raids.
Our sources believe that the high-intensity air strikes will continue for
another 24 hours and after that the coalition will be forced to scale down
the attacks to conduct additional reconnaissance and to regroup its forces.
A radio intercept made last night at approximately 4:40 am indicated that
two British helicopters were shot down by a "Strela" SAM system after
flying into a SAM trap. It is believed that the two SAR helicopters were to
retrieve the pilot of the combat plane downed during the earlier air
strike. The number of dead and wounded is still being established. So far
the coalition command did not report these losses. (1)
The coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks demanded from the Air Force a
maximum possible increase in the close air support of the ground forces.
During a "radio-bridge" with the commanders of all units Gen. Franks
expressed his concern with the mounting casualties and the stubborn Iraqi
resistance. "We've just spent three days trying to capture one small town,
so we can only guess what awaits us in Baghdad!" - angrily said the
commander and demanded better aviation support to soften up the defending
Iraqi forces ahead of the advancing coalition units.
For the past day the coalition losses ar up to 30 killed and around 40
wounded. Ten coalition armored vehicles were destroyed my land mines. At
least two armored vehicles were destroyed by anti-tank weapons.
Iraqi losses are estimated in the range of 250-300 killed and up to 500
wounded. So far it is not possible to determine the damage from the night
bombing raids. However, more than 500 people have been taken to hospitals
in Baghdad - all of them were civilians.
While this article was translated the US Navy has confirmed that two
British Sea Knight helicopters of the Royal Navy have crashed killing all
onboard - 6 Britons and 1 American - a US Navy officer. The helicopters
crashed at around 4:30 am. The official explanation for the loss was that
the two helicopters crashed into each other while taking-off from a ship.
It is interesting to note that during more than 25 years in British service
there wasn't a single collision between the Sea Knights. The Royal Navy
operates more than 300 Sea Knights and all helicopter pilots adhere to
strict sets of rules during take-offs and landings from ships; rules that
are designed to help pilots to avoid this type of collisions.
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