- March 23, 2003, 1200hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - The situation
in southern Iraq can be characterized as unstable and controversial. Heavy
fighting is taking place in the Umm-Qasr-An-Nasiriya-Basra triangle. Satellite
and signals intelligence show that both sides actively employ armoredvehicles
in highly mobile attacks and counterattacks. Additionally, fighting is
continuing near the town of An-Najaf.
- As of this morning the Iraqi defenses along the Basra
- An-Nasiriya - An-Najaf line are holding.
- Following the yesterday's Iraqi counter strike near An-Nasiriya
the US command was forced to halt the advance of its troops toward An-Najaf
and to redirect a portion of available tank forces to cover the flanks
of the 3rd Motorized Infantry Division attacked by the Iraqis. By late
evening yesterday constant air strikes and increasing strength of American
tank attacks forced the Iraqis to withdraw their troops back to eastern
parts of Nasiriya, across the Euphrates river, were they assumed defensive
positions along the river bank.
- During the last day of fighting the Iraqis lost up to
20 tanks, up to 2 artillery batteries, and around 100 troops.
- Yesterday's US losses are estimated at 10 destroyed or
disabled tanks, several armored personnel carriers and up to 15 troops
killed in action.
- By 0700hrs MSK today the fighting at Nasiriya stopped.
Currently both sides are rushing to regroup their forces and to get them
ready for more fighting in this area.
- Near Basra the advance of the coalition forces came to
a complete halt at the near approaches to the western and southwestern
outskirts of the city. The US and British forces are rushing to settle
into defensive positions after failing to surround Basra. Eastern and northern
approaches to Basra remain open and under control of the Iraqi forces.
- More controversial reports are coming in from the town
of Umm-Qasr. As early as three days ago the US command has declared that
the coalition forces have captured this small port town and the adjacent
oil terminal. However, throughout these three days heavy fighting continued
in the town and in the suburbs. The US forces are still unable to break
the defense put up by the Iraqi 45th brigade defending the town.
- Moreover, several counterattacks by the Iraqi forces
at Umm Qasr have pushed the US forces out of some part of the town. During
last night the Iraqi 45th brigade was reinforced by a special tank battalion
of the 51st Infantry Division. The reinforcement included up to 600 troops
and 10 tanks. However, the coalition forces were also strengthened overnight
with two tank battalions and self-propelled artillery. As of 1000hrs MSK
this morning heavy fighting continues at Umm Qasr.
- According to intercepted radio communications, the British
marine infantry units in defensive positions on the Fao peninsula have
requested emergency air and artillery support after being attacked by superior
Iraqi forces. So far it is not clear whether this was an actual counterattack
by the Iraqis or just a nuisance attack. The British commanders report
that their positions are being attacked by up to a regiment of infantry
supported by tanks.
- Other intercepted radio traffic suggests that, as the
British and US forces bend the Basra - An-Najaf line of defense, the Iraqi
command will pull back its main forces to the Al-Ammara - Ad-Divaniya line.
Already most of the Iraqi forces in this region have moved to the Al-Ammara
- Ad-Divaniya positions and within the next 48 hours defense of Basra and
Fao peninsula will be reduced to just the local units and garrisons. The
goal of the remaining forces will be to tie up superior coalition forces
in these areas.
- According to radio intercepts during today's night the
coalition begun airdropping troops in northern Iraq from airfields in Turkey
and Jordan. These forces are being used to form mobile strike groups in
northern Kurdistan and near the western-Iraqi town of Er-Rutbah. Already
up to 5,000 coalition troops have been delivered to northern Kurdistan
and up to 1000 paratroopers have landed near Er-Rutbah.
- Russian military intelligence has uncovered a range of
facts pointing to a separate arrangement between the top leadership of
Jordan and the US military command. Officially Jordan has declared its
neutrality in the war against Iraq and refused to provide its airspace
to the coalition aviation. However, at the same time Jordan has allowed
the anti-Iraq coalition to place surveillance radars and radio reconnaissance
stations on its territory. Jordan has also allowed the coalition to use
its military airbases.
- Available information indicates that coalition special
ops units, including up to 400 troops and their command headquarters, have
been deployed to the Jordanian Zarka military base and to the home base
of the Jordan's 71st special ops brigade.
- Reports that have surfaced in the media in the past 12
hours about the capture of a US special ops unit near Baghdad are probably
not true. It is likely that these reports refer to the capture of coalition
paratroopers yesterday morning near the town of Akashat.
- During the past 12 hours there has been a drop in intensity
of air strikes against Baghdad. Analysts attribute this to the fact that
most of available coalition air assets are now deployed in support of ground
forces. Intercepted coalition radio traffic shows that most of the bombing
attacks against Baghdad are carried out by the US strategic aviation and
by sea-launched long-range cruise missiles.
- So far the US was unable to destroy the air defense networks
in central Iraq. As before, the Iraqis continue to covertly use their radars
and SAM launchers on a limited bases while employing a huge number of decoys
designed to imitate radars.
- The US was also unable to disrupt the central control
over the Iraqi army. The US command is forced to admit that, despite the
best efforts of the coalition aviation, the Iraqi forces maintain high
combat readiness and reliable command and control structure.
- [Russian] radio intercept units have reported the loss
of two coalition planes. One of the planes was a "Tornado" strike
aircraft and the other one was believed to be an F-16 fighter-bomber. The
F-16 was shot down over Baghdad and is believed to have crash-landed in
a desert in southern Iraq. A coalition search-and-resque unit was immediately
dispatched to this area.
- A CIA referent in the combat area Col. Davis (likely
to be a pseudonym) and the US DoD Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) regional
director were demoted due to their inadequate performance in estimating
the strength of Iraq's forces and their combat readiness.
- Eyewitnesses report that Gen. Tommy Franks looks extremely
exhausted and irritated. Gen. Franks has cancelled the meeting with journalists
planned for this morning.
- Work is paralyzed at the coalition press-center in Kuwait.
Journalists are not able to get any information except for the hourly press
communique from the command. A variety of reasons are cited by the military
to reduce the number of trips into the combat zone for the journalists.
All reports coming from the journalists attached to the coalition units
are now being strictly censored by the military. All live broadcasts, as
those seen during the first day of the war, are now strictly prohibited
by a special order from the coalition command. The required time delay
between the time news video footage was shot and the time it can be broadcast
has been increased to a minimum of 4 hours.
- More accurate information became available regarding
the losses sustained by both sides during the first three days of the war.
The coalition has officially acknowledged the deaths of some 25 servicemen.
However, intercepted radio communications show that the actual number of
coalition casualties is at least 55-70 troops killed and no less than 200
wounded. The emergency dispatch of the "Comfort" medical ship
closer to the combat zone is a direct indication of serious casualties.
The "Comfort" is expected to arrive to the southern tip of the
Fao peninsula later tonight.
- It is more difficult to evaluate the losses of the Iraqi
especially due to the air strikes. On the south front Iraqi losses are
estimated at 400-600 killed, 1,500 wounded and up to 300 captured.
- (source: iraqwar.ru, 03-23-03,
translated by Venik)