Iraqis Have Numerical Edge, But U.S.-Led Force Has Other Advantages With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Nearly three months after the conquest of Kuwait, Iraq’s armies hold a large numerical edge over the multinational force arrayed against it in the Saudi desert.
But those numbers may start evening up soon. And even now, commanders and analysts say they believe Saddam Hussein’s forces are inferior in terms of training, weapons - and possibly morale.
Those could be key factors if war erupts.
″The Iraqi armed forces are large,″ Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine said last week. ″On the other hand, we have many advantages.″
Hine is the joint commander of British forces in the region.
″We have total maritime supremacy and the allied air forces are more capable overall than Saddam’s. And then you’ve got the high quality of American, British and other ground forces here. It’s by no means all in his favor,″ he said.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said last week that up to 100,000 U.S. troops could be added to the 220,000-member American force deployed in the gulf region.
U.S. troops make up the bulk of the multinational force of about 300,000 troops. They confront an estimated 430,000 Iraqis in Kuwait and southern Iraq.
In addition to a troop-strength edge, Iraq has an advantage in terms of some weaponry.
Iraq overwhelms the allied forces with 5,500 main battle tanks, including about 1,000 high-quality, Soviet-designed T-72s. An estimated 3,000 tanks are deployed in Kuwait and southern Iraq, including all the T-72s.
By the end of October, the United States will have deployed about 700 M1 Abrams tanks to the region. It is also transferring several hundred advanced M1A1 tanks with 120mm guns from storage in Germany to replace some of the older M1s.
Britain has sent its 7th Armored Brigade, the ″Desert Rats,″ with more than 120 Challenger tanks and 45 Warrior armored fighting vehicles.
But the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, analysts say.
″You can’t (only) compare equipment with equipment,″ said Don Kerr, an analyst at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. Training, maintenance and morale are also key factors, he said.
If it came to battle, he said, ″the strategy would be to hold the Iraqis static in position and let the aircraft and helicopters go at the tanks.″
There’s little question that the allied air strength is superior in quality, numbers and readiness.
Saddam has 500-plus combat aircraft, including Soviet-supplied long-range fighter-bombers and advanced MiG-29 interceptors, spread around an estimated 25 airbases.
Among the 700 tactical aircraft ranged against Iraq are 430 from the U.S. Air Force, including 22 Stealth fighter-bombers and 38 long-range bombers.
Also, the armada of Western warships in the region dwarfs Iraq’s small navy.
As for Iraq’s arsenal of missiles and chemical weapons, military analysts have said they would appear to have limited military use since the missiles have low accuracy and it is doubtful whether Iraq actually has workable chemical warheads for its missiles.
That leaves only chemical artillery shells and aerial bombing to deliver the chemical weapons.
If it comes to war, the Iraqis could have the advantage of a relatively unified command system facing an allied force of units from many nations.
But Kerr said the U.S. Central Command headquarters could set strategic objectives while giving a certain amount of tactical flexibility to individual units from the various nations.
In any combat that erupts, Iraqis would initially be defending Kuwait, not their own soil. That could be a factor in undermining morale and willingness to fight, he said.