Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

March 26, 2003

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info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Saddam Hiding Scuds, Launchers under Bridges (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel Television Channel 1 reported that Saddam is hiding missile launchers, of Russian manufacture, and Scud missiles on specially constructed trucks which move around the country and hide under bridges, making them invisible to satellite surveillance and coalition warplanes.
    According to Israeli officials, some of these trucks may have been hidden in western Iraq, and coalition forces have been bombing bridges and trucks in that part of the country intensively for the past few days.
    Israeli officials say these trucks are fully capable of launching Scud missiles.
    Israel sees this as a threat and it is for this reason that Israel's threat assessment has not changed. Israel is still on high alert.


"We Hit Saddam" - Jack Kelley (USA Today)
    CIA operatives and Army commandos hunting for Saddam Hussein believe he could be in a Baghdad bunker receiving medical attention from military doctors, U.S. intelligence and military sources said Monday.
    "We know we hit him. We know he was wounded" Thursday in a missile and bomb attack on a compound south of Baghdad, said a U.S. intelligence official involved in tracking Saddam.
    "We also believe he hasn't left Baghdad."
    Some of the bunkers are 300 feet underground and are beneath mosques, hospitals, and schools to keep coalition forces from bombing them.


Palestinians Name Babies after Saddam - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    According to the London-based al Quds al Arabi, Saddam has become the favorite name for Palestinian families in Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank.
    Each time people hear about a U.S. helicopter being downed or American soldiers killed or captured by the Iraqis, "Drivers start honking their horns, passersby start chanting and others fire shots into the air."
    An Egyptian song praising Saddam and Iraq has become the latest hit in the West Bank.


Terrorists Use Car with EU Emblem (IDF)
    IDF forces arrested two wanted Fatah-Tanzim terrorists on Tuesday driving a car with a European Union emblem.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Fighting Intensifies in Drive toward Baghdad; Uprising in Basra Reported
    American forces killed at least 150 Iraqi soldiers on Tuesday after being attacked in a swirling sandstorm about 100 miles south of Baghdad, senior American military officials said. American troops had made their way to within 50 miles of the capital before the blinding weather on Tuesday snarled the allied push north. On Wednesday the sandstorms had eased, and heavy bombardment of Baghdad resumed.
        British military officers reported the first signs of popular uprising in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Tuesday. Saddam's security forces used artillery and mortar fire against civilian crowds who attacked them, military intelligence officials reported. Securing Basra and its population has become a political and psychological objective for the allies. On Tuesday, British commandos seized the "most senior" official of the governing Ba'ath Party in Basra and killed 20 of his aides and security guards, said a British army spokesman. Iraqi defenders stormed out of Basra Tuesday morning, attacking to the south with tanks and armored vehicles in a surprise countermove against British forces. But the Royal Marines called in airstrikes that destroyed the attacking column with rocket fire, British officials said. (New York Times)
        See also The Iraqis Revolt
    Once they observed mortars firing on protesters, British forces immediately called up artillery and air support, destroying the Ba'ath Party headquarters. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Resistance by Militia is Delaying Baghdad Battle
    Allied forces have shifted the focus of their land campaign in Iraq to concentrate on defeating the fedayeen and other militias in the south before beginning the battle for Baghdad, senior officers said Tuesday. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Officials Say Iraqis May Have Killed Prisoners
    Some of the Army mechanics captured on Sunday after they took a wrong turn in the Iraqi town of Nasiriya were apparently executed by their captors, probably in front of townspeople, American officials charged Tuesday. Senior White House and Pentagon officials accused the Iraqis of a number of war crimes, including feigning surrender and then shooting at American forces, and using a hospital as a staging area for military operations. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Turkey Changed the Thrust of the War - Ze'ev Schiff
    The initial American battle plan called for the main attack on Baghdad to come from the north, but the U.S. has instead been compelled to launch its primary attack from the south. The American division (the 4th) that was supposed to enter from Turkey is instead now making its way to Kuwait by sea, and it will be at least another ten days before it is fully combat-ready. It seems the initial focus will be to block the Republican Guard infantry divisions from entering the populated areas of Baghdad, which would make the Americans' battle for the city easier. From Saddam's perspective, the Republican Guard divisions are still intact, and even his regular army has not collapsed.
        The Americans have neutralized the only Iraqi airfield in western Iraq and have destroyed bridges in western Iraq to make it harder for heavy trucks carrying missiles to move through the area. There is no confirmation of reports that the Americans had bombed either Scud or Al-Hussein missiles en route to western Iraq. The Americans apparently hit heavy vehicles that could be used as missile transporters, but it is not yet known whether they were actually carrying missiles.
        The current American strategic concept is the application of massive air power based on technological systems and advanced weaponry, supplemented by ground forces, to replace a hostile regime without destroying the country during the war. Yet when American forces reach the outskirts of Baghdad and start the siege of the Iraqi capital, they will face complicated alternatives, including aerial bombardment on the entrenched Iraqi forces in the city, plus ground-force penetration to proceed until Saddam's bunker is reached. Unlike the early stages of the campaign, it will be impossible to avoid losses among the civilians in Baghdad or the attacking forces unless they succeed in a quick and direct strike on Saddam. (Ha'aretz)
  • American Jews Tread Softly on Road Map during War in Iraq - Nathan Guttman
    The American Jewish community appears critical of both the content of the road-map plan and the timing of its publication, but criticism of this kind is not easily expressed while America is at war. Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on March 14 that President Bush's announced intention to push the road map in the near future created a link between the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - a link that Israel and the U.S. Jewish community have been trying to dismantle since the conflict in Iraq began. Foxman defines the linkage as "a dangerous precedent."
        Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, says the road map plan poses real problems relating to Israel's security. He believes there is a need to wait to hear Israel's official position on the plan, but stresses that if Israel does express reservations, the U.S. Jewish community will come to its assistance.
        American Jewish community representatives emphasize Israel's commitment to Bush's June 24 speech and that it is important to preserve the agenda laid out by the U.S. president. The prevailing view in the American Jewish community is that the road map will not be submitted to the sides before an end to the central part of the war in Iraq, and that America will not come out with a comprehensive Middle East initiative before it knows how things in Iraq are developing. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why They Resist - Brendan Miniter
    The power of fear should not be underestimated. Saddam is still in power despite multiple assassination attempts, internal uprisings, and even the onslaught of American military might a decade ago. Some Iraqis are understandably hesitant to gamble that this time Saddam - and his evil lieutenants - will be gone after this war. Fear of Saddam doesn't fully account for Iraqi resistance, of course. Many of the guerrilla fighters and militiamen as well as the irregular recruits Saddam enticed from other Arab countries (who are strikingly similar to al Qaeda recruits) are committed to propping up the regime. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Stirrings of Arab Reform - Jackson Diehl
    The Bush administration's embrace of a democratization strategy for the postwar Middle East has produced a flurry of political reforms, quasi-reforms, and grass-roots initiatives in countries across the region. Arab governments, and to some extent their peoples, have absorbed the idea that political change is coming after the war, and are trying to anticipate it. By focusing too narrowly on an Arab-Israeli settlement, as it did after the first Persian Gulf War, there is a danger that the U.S. will allow the window for change in the Arab world to slip away. (Washington Post)
  • Can You Get to Palestine from Here? - James Bennet
    The Bush administration has never regarded peace between Israelis and Palestinians as a goal as central to American interests as, say, getting rid of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has rarely been more than a nagging subtext of the Bush administration's declared war on terrorism. The administration clearly recognizes there is a problem here, and it may truly want to help. But with rebuilding Iraq, confronting North Korea, and addressing the American economy already on its agenda, this conflict may never rise to the level of a top priority, certainly not enough of one to justify the political risks involved in dragging the antagonists along the route outlined by the road map - particularly during the coming presidential election year. It would be much easier, some experts say, for the White House simply to create the impression that it is trying. (New York Times)
  • Talking Points:

    High-Level Team Drawing Up Alternative to Quartet Peace Plan - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

    • A blue-chip panel established by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is drawing up a plan for an Israeli diplomatic initiative that could serve as an alternative to the Quartet's road map for peace in the Middle East. The committee, headed by National Security Advisor Ephraim Halevy, includes Mossad head Meir Dagan, Shin Bet head Meir Dichter, and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon.
    • According to Halevy's plan, the Palestinians are to abandon their demand for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to pre-1967 Israel even before Israel agrees to a Palestinian state with provisional borders.
    • The plan also stipulates that Israel's agreement to a Palestinian state will be conditional on the Palestinian agreement to declare an end of the conflict with Israel.
    • Both the right of return and the end of conflict clause are considered by many to have been what doomed the Camp David talks in the summer of 2000.


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