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Rumsfeld says siege possible for Baghdad

A confident defense secretary promises: ''There isn't going to be a cease-fire'' as allied forces move on the capital city.

©Associated Press

March 28, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested Thursday that U.S. forces bearing down on Baghdad might lay siege to the capital and hope anti-Saddam Hussein citizens rise up against the government before American troops have to invade the city of 5-million.

Rumsfeld also said the United States and its battlefield allies would accept nothing short of victory in Iraq.

"There isn't going to be a cease-fire," Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. He said later, "It will end at the point where that regime does not exist and a new regime is ready to go in its place."

Rumsfeld appeared before two congressional committees Thursday amid efforts by the Bush administration to counteract speculation that the war effort is bogging down and that it underestimated the need for armored forces to protect attacking U.S. troops' long supply lines inside Iraq.

Asked by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., what American ground troops would do once they reached Baghdad, Rumsfeld answered by alluding to what is happening at Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. British forces there have laid siege, hoping for a successful uprising by the city's Shiites.

Rumsfeld noted Basra and Baghdad have large Shiite populations. "And they are not terribly favorable to the regime," Rumsfeld said. "They've been repressed, and they are in the present time in Basra assisting us." He said roughly half the Baghdad population is Shiite.

"The regime has tended to be fearful of them and repress them," he said. Rumsfeld said he expected Hussein's loyalists to shoot Iraqi troops in Baghdad who try to surrender and those who might try to assist U.S. forces.

"We will go through a period where we'll have to deal with that problem," he said.

Rumsfeld did not say how long Gen. Tommy Franks, the war commander, would wait before launching the final phase of the attack on Baghdad. He left little doubt, however, that Franks has a plan for fighting the 30,000 or so Republican Guard troops north, south and east of Baghdad.

"I think it's only reasonable to expect that it will require the coalition forces moving through some Republican Guard units and destroying them or capturing them before you'll see the crumbling of the regime," he said.

The Republican Guard are Hussein's best trained and equipped military forces.

If the war reaches that stage, the large Shiite population in Baghdad might feel emboldened to revolt, Rumsfeld said, obviating the need for an invasion that could result in heavy losses.

The invading forces approaching Baghdad are led by the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the Army's 101st Airborne Division. Although more heavy forces are designated for deployment from bases in the United States and Germany, none are likely to reach their staging areas in Kuwait before April.

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