Ruses lured Iraqis from attack points WAR IN THE GULF

February 28, 1991|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,Sun Staff Correspondent

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, overall allied commander in the Persian Gulf war, revealed yesterday that deception had been a major weapon in the defeat of Iraq.

Breaking a news blackout on the coalition's battlefield strategy, General Schwarzkopf used an hourlong briefing to unveil charts showing roughly where his forces had breached Iraq's defenses and moved north.

As described by General Schwarzkopf, the buildup of naval forces in the Persian Gulf, and the much-publicized rehearsals for a Marine amphibious landing, were ruses to encourage Iraq to expect an attack from the sea and to prepare its defenses accordingly.

Iraq also was encouraged to believe that the coalition would try to invade Kuwait head-on -- pushing due north from eastern Saudi Arabia toward Kuwait City. "We wanted him to concentrate his forces," the general said, "which he did."

But the military command was fine-tuning altogether different plans.

First, three weeks of around-the-clock air strikes targeted Iraq's air force. Without planes, General Schwarzkopf said, Iraq was blinded, deprived of the ability to see whether and where coalition forces moved.

The military command then shifted entire divisions hundreds of miles to the west, facing Iraq instead of occupied Kuwait.

Not expecting an invasion there, and unable to detect troop movements, Iraq failed to build up its minefields or create an effective system of trenches.

"This was an absolutely extraordinary move," said General Schwarzkopf, known affectionately to his troops as "Stormin' Norman."

"I can't recall any time in the annals of military history when this number of forces moved over this distance to put themselves in a position to attack."

Ammunition, food and water for up to 60 days of combat were moved along with the troops because the military command worried that they might have to fight extended battles with tenuous supply lines.

Meanwhile, allied aircraft switched their emphasis to target Iraqi units closest to the border. Most of the Iraqi units, because of casualties and desertions, were only at half strength by the time the ground invasion began, General Schwarzkopf said.

The general said that bad morale was a major factor in the Iraqi defeat. The troops, he said, "didn't want to be there. They didn't want to fight their fellow Arab, and they were lied to, they were deceived when they went into Kuwait.

"And then after they got there they had a leadership that was so uncaring that they didn't properly feed them. . . . And in the end they get them there only at the point of a gun."

Sunday morning, when the ground offensive began, French and U.S. forces in the west breached the Iraqi obstacles with relatively little trouble and headed toward the Euphrates River to cut off any attempt by the Republican Guards to escape north to Baghdad.

Two Marine divisions, along with a Saudi infantry and armored division, deployed in more than a half-dozen columns to cut their way through the denser barriers erected by Iraq in southern Kuwait.

"They cut through the first barrier like it was water," the general said.

The allied columns avoided the danger of becoming trapped in minefields and becoming targets of Iraqi artillery firing chemical rounds, what General Schwarzkopf described as "the nightmare scenario."

"Once we got through this and we're moving, then it's a different war," he said. "Then we're fighting our kind of war."

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