Us 3rd Infantry Division Has Entered

*The US 3rd Infantry Division has entered southern Iraq virtually without opposition. The insertion of some 16,000 or 17,000 men into enemy territory before the air campaign has all us observers baffled. Is it because they are assured that the Iraqi command structure has disintegrated and there is no need to soften the Iraqi armor up? The Washington Post reports that many US intelligence officials think Saddam is dead or badly wounded from the Tomahawk strike on his bunker. You may know the answer by the time you read this, but right now the whole thing is a bit mysterious.

*Kurdish groups tell Asharq al-Awsat that the night before yesterday some Iraqi soldiers between Kirkuk and Kurdish-held Irbil surrendered to them. But they say that the death squad enforcers sprinkled by Saddam among the various units make it impossible for most soldiers to defect without risking being shot in the back.

*US forces face a 350,000 man Iraqi army, but most are conscripts who serve for a year and a half to two years (and most are Shiites). The 3rd Infantry Division already passed a camp of 200 soldiers who had put white sheets over their tents to show that they had surrendered, and left them alone. There will be more of that, especially in the south. Iraq has “three armored divisions, three mechanized divisions and at least 15 infantry divisions.” But the tank corps and artillery corps lack spare parts. The Republican Guard, the unit most likely to fight, consists of 26,000 men with attached armor, artillery and air defense units. The 2600 tanks are Soviet T-72s The US tanks typically have greater range and so can kill the Iraqi tanks without exposing themselves to much danger (9 were destroyed Thursday afternoon EST when they attempted to block the US advance from Kuwait). They also have the ZSU-23-4 23mm self-propelled antiaircraft gun and SA-7 hand-held surface to air missiles (similar to stingers). They also have French Milan anti-tank missiles. They also have about 2200 artillery pieces and a similar number of armored vehicles. But it is still possible that the Iraqi high command will collapse and none of this equipment, some of which is deadly and should not be underestimated, may be committed.

*I double-checked and I misspoke when I said the State Department counted Pakistan as a supporter of the war. Karzai in Afghanistan did lend it his reluctant support. But Pakistan declined, and Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarallah Jamali yesterday denounced the war and expressed his hope it would be over quickly. The Islamist opposition parties have called for massive anti-war rallies after Friday prayers today, and may be able to produce impressive crowds. Since Jamali came out against the war, however, these demonstrations may be difficult to turn to the purpose of denouncing the Pakistani government. This conundrum shows the contradiction in the Bush administration’s policies, of pushing democracy in Asia and of unilateral US use of force to attain its goals. The new Asian democrats are objecting to the second goal.

*A group of Israeli rabbis has issued a call for the Sharon government to cease its policy of cavalierly allowing the killing innocent civilians in the Occupied Territories in the course of its military operations against radical groups. They say such actions are inconsistent with the essence of the Jewish religion. Too right! Judaism has given us so much that is noble in ethical religion, and what the Likud is doing is an insult to that long and glorious tradition. Likud’s real roots lie not in the Bible but in Zionist Revisionism of the Jabotinsky sort, which is frankly a kind of fascism.