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Hull Daily Mail March 20, 2003

Saddam'S Demoralised Military May Not Have The Stomach For A Fight

Iraq's military was once among the world's largest, with nearly one million soldiers at the start of the 1991 Gulf War. But the war and international sanctions have taken their toll.

The air force failed to get off the ground in the first Gulf war and is not expected to perform any better this time round. And the much vaunted army, battle hardened from the eight-year war with Iran, failed to live up to its reputation. Thousands of demoralised soldiers surrendered at the first opportunity Military analysts do not expect the regular troops to be enthusiastic fighters when faced again with superior American and British troops and armament.

Only the elite Republican Guard is expected to have the stomach for a fight.

The following is a rundown of Iraqi forces:

GROUND FORCES
Estimated at 350,000 soldiers, including about 50,000 members of the elite Republican Guard, according to GlobalSecurity.org, an American think tank.

Another 12,000-15,000 members of the Special Republican Guard are primarily responsible for protecting President Saddam Hussein.

The People's Army, the militia of Saddam's Baath Party, has hundreds of thousands of members who have received light-arms training and can act as a sort of national guard.

The militia's role is mainly to indoctrinate Iraqis on Saddam's vision of the country and counterbalance the regular army.

Saddam's son Qusai supervises the Republican Guard, which was once open only to young men from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit but began to expand its recruiting during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

AIR FORCE
Iraq has 300 combat aircraft, only half of which are believed to be serviceable.

At the start of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq had an estimated 500-750 combat aircraft, including Soviet and French fighters.

The United States claims to have destroyed three per cent of Iraq's air defences.

Since the Gulf War ended, US and British planes have been patrolling southern and northern enclaves to protect Shiite Muslims and Kurds.

NAVY
Iraq has little access to the sea. Its small navy was virtually destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War.

UNCONVENTIONAL WEAPONS
Iraq pursued biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programmes starting in the 1970s.

The United Nations says Iraq has failed to provide enough details to answer US charges that it is lying about having abandoned those programmes.

UN inspectors in the 1990s said that they believe Iraq produced three times the amount of anthrax and 16 times more gas gangrene than it declared.


Copyright 2003, Hull Daily Mail