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EDITIONS
Panorama
America will win, but how?
Iraqi soldiers
Experts say war with Iraq will happen

At this stage in 1990, we knew roughly what form the confrontation with Saddam Hussein was likely to take, even though we couldn't be certain that it would actually happen.

In November 2002 it is the other way round: we know it's going to happen, because President Bush is determined to get rid of Saddam. What we can't know is the pattern it will take.

I've been talking to a range of people in London, Washington and the Middle East about the lessons for today which we can draw from the last conflict.

Much depends on the small-ish band of under-equipped UN arms inspectors who will arrive in Baghdad during the next few weeks. We can assume that some deal will be cobbled up at the United Nations, probably supported by the French and not opposed by the Russians and the Chinese.

Sheds and houses

UN weapons inspectors
UN weapons inspectors may find it difficult
The inspectors will have a difficult task. Saddam Hussein has long dismantled the factories where his chemical and biological weapons have been manufactured. When they arrive at these places, they will find them clean, tidy and entirely empty.

Then will come the difficult part. The Americans and British have a good idea, from intelligence sources, where the weapons and equipment have been moved to; but for the inspectors to force their way into sheds, private houses and warehouses may prove difficult.

Unless they do, they will not find what they have been sent to look for.

Saddam's people, who are extremely skilful at this sort of thing, will let them visit all sorts of places where chemical and biological weapons were made in the past.

It is quite possible that the inspectors will have to go back to New York and announce that they have not found any serious evidence that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction.

No fight

At that point the Pentagon hawks will advise Mr Bush to attack without UN backing. If he does, then he will put Tony Blair in the most difficult spot of his time as Prime Minister.

Opinion in the Labour Party and the country will be strongly against; will Mr Blair ignore that and send in British forces anyway? Or will he simply provide political and logistical help without joining in? Probably even he does not know yet.

The date for war is slipping. Now it seems likely that it will happen in February or even March. It will certainly be dangerous but Saddam's army and his Republican Guard will not fight any better than they did last time.

The Special Republican Guard may fight better, and will no doubt be used in the last, predominantly urban battle of the war.

But the most important action may well come outside Iraq: with the crowds in the streets of Islamic cities, and with the plotters of al-Qaeda.

VW Passat


The Israeli military are remarkably upbeat and believe they can take out Saddam's Al-Husseini missiles

John Simpson
Saddam will certainly attack Israel if he can, yet the Israeli military are remarkably upbeat and believe they can take out Saddam's 18 or so Al-Husseini missiles. As for his few warplanes, the Israelis can probably shoot them down.

It looks very much as though Ariel Sharon has promised Mr Bush that he will not attack Iraq, even if Iraq attacks him.

During the endgame, someone - a general, an ambitious colonel, a treacherous bodyguard - may well kill Saddam.

Yet it will not be easy. During the last war, Saddam rarely took cover in his bunker; instead he drove around in a red VW Passat with a single bodyguard, meeting his generals and ministers.

This time they will be less trustworthy. many will be looking to the post-Saddam dispensation, and to their place in it.

US will win

Iraq will not, I am assured, be run like Japan in 1945 with Gen Tommy Franks as a MacArthur-like proconsul. The Americans say they have no plans to create their own long-term administration although there will be a period of US military rule while an Iraqi administration is formed.

In Washington there are suggestions that a cousin of King Faisal, a member of the Hashemite family, should be included; as we saw in Afghanistan, where are no monarchists like committed Republicans.

Will everything work neatly? Of course not. Will it be a disaster? In some places, quite possibly.

But the Americans will win and it is hard to believe that Saddam will still be in power next Spring.

Saddam - a warning from history


Background



IN DEPTH
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