Egyptian military experts say U.S. won't capture Baghdad

Friday, April 4, 2003

CAIRO Arab military experts expect coalition forces to avoid engaging in urban warfare in Baghdad.

The experts, most of them from Egypt, said Iraq would exhibit ferocious resistance to British and U.S. troops who enter the Iraqi capital, Middle East Newsline reported. They cited British and Israeli battles in Egyptian cities during previous wars in the Middle East.

"The regular troops usually avoid urban fighting," Egyptian Gen. Mustafa Maher, who is now retired, said. "They besiege cities and launch air strikes to destroy them and force the indigenous fighters to lay down their weapons. This method is used by the U.S. troops in their ongoing onslaughts on Baghdad."

Maher told the official Egyptian news agency Mena that Baghdad could turn out to be what Port Said was for the British army in the 1956 war. The general recounted heavy street battles for control of the Mediterranean city.

"The British military entered Port Said in 1956 but did not succeed in breaking the staunch will of its people, who fought street-to-street battles with the enemy forces," Maher said.

Gen. Saad Eddin Al Chadli, a former Egyptian army commander, went further. Al Chadli, who fought in the 1973 war, said coalition forces will fail to capture Baghdad.

"I believe the Iraqi people and army are at the peak of their morale," Al Chadli said. "What many people do not realize is that the Iraqis are fighting for their homeland, dignity and honor and I think this is enough for them to hold out and sacrifice everything. I know it is an unfair war, but it is a losing war for the allies."

The Egyptian general said Iraqi strategy has been to preserve its air force and limit battles to urban areas. Al Chadli said the Iraqi division of the country into four separate military zones enabled the military to maintain the war despite coalition strikes on communications in Baghdad. "The war could only be ended by the ground forces," Al Chadli said.

"Storming Baghdad has to be done by the ground forces not the air force. They have tried to capture Nasariya and other small cities but have not tried to enter them because they know they will enter a quagmire."

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