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EDITIONS
Breakfast Monday, 7 April, 2003, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Winning the war on the streets
Breakfast's discussion on urban fighting
A British Royal Marine on patrol in Umm Qasr
Coalition forces continue their push towards Baghdad but as they begin to move into built up areas they are faced with the real prospect of urban warfare and possibly hand to hand fighting.

The risks to both sides are extremely high and there is of course the possibility that civilians may get caught in the crossfire which could turn public opinion against the US and British soldiers and undermine any attempts at creating an uprising.

Breakfast discussed the issue of urban warfare as part of our series of debates on the war with Iraq - you can see that discussion by clicking on the link below

Taking part were Dr Alice Hills who is an expert in urban combat and Professor of defence studies at Kings College Michael Clarke.


Michael Clarke

  • Says the coalition forces will break Baghdad by using psychology. the capital is very vulnerable and if the Iraqi Republican Guard can be overcome it will send a very clear message.

  • He compares the current situation with the battle for West Beirut in 1987 but this failed in its attempt to destroy 15'000 Hezbollah.

  • Michael Clarke thinks that it could be just a matter of days until the coalition take control of Baghdad but adds that it is very unpredictable but winning the psychological war could lead to the Iraqi regime collapsing.

    Alice Hills

  • Says that a short sharp surgical operation is unlikely and the battle to take Baghdad will be ruthless and is complicated by the fact there are still so many civilians in the city which could leave to collateral damage.

  • It's not a straightforward battle because of the number of so called irregulars and soldiers fighting in civilian clothes.

  • She says that no two urban conflicts are the same and the coalition forces should not underestimate their enemy. They will also need to be mindful of disease and health issues including the maintenance of clean water.

  • The urban battle will be won on technical issues and what type of hardware is available. It can be very simple like ladders and grappling irons or involve the use of tanks which create fear in civilians.

  • And there is the effect it might have on coalition troops: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome could cause serious problems for fighting soldiers.
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