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U.S. Jets Bomb Kuwaiti Pipeline to Cut
Oil Flow

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 1991; Page A01

Post time line
Initial U.S. assessments of damage done by the first 10 days of allied bombing attacks against Iraq and Kuwait indicate that despite many successes, important parts of Saddam Hussein's war machine have not yet been significantly hurt, according to well-placed officials.

The Pentagon is not releasing details of these damage assessments because officials consider them "soft" and subject to daily changes, and because they are concerned that the first assessments might suggest incorrectly that the air campaign is not going well. But these details were being given to senior government officials in briefings during the last three days:

About 65 percent of the Iraqi airfields are still operational, though last week the Pentagon said 100 percent had been "neutralized" by air strikes or because U.S. air superiority was keeping the Iraqi planes on the ground.

Nearly all of Iraq's air defense radar was taken out in the first week of the war, but about 20 percent of it is now back in operation. The Iraqis are now using mobile radar units and have taken old radars out of storage.

As of Friday only eight of Iraq's 30 fixed Scud missile launchers had been damaged enough to fully disable them.

Officials believe some of the mobile Scud missile launchers also have been hit, but U.S. intelligence has not produced proof of that. "There is not one picture of the carcass of a mobile Scud launcher," one official said.

Pentagon officials repeatedly have said the Scuds are militarily insignificant but that Saddam is using them as a temporarily effective terror weapon. Almost daily synchronized Scud attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia launched from different locations in Iraq are one demonstration of Saddam's ability to maintain control among his military units, officials said.

Saddam has been able to maintain communication with his forces through a sophisticated network of command posts, some of them mobile, that use remotely placed antennas located far from his physical location so he cannot be pinpointed. "It turns out he has one of the most robust and redundant and modern communications systems in the world," said one official.

A senior official said yesterday the air attacks on the Iraqi communications systems are forcing Saddam to use less reliable means of communication, and that the attack plan directed at Saddam's command network is going according to schedule.

Iraq's capability to develop and produce nuclear weapons has been destroyed; about 50 percent of the country's capacity to manufacture new chemical and biological weapons has been destroyed.

Most Iraqi supply lines have been largely unaffected by the bombing so far, allowing food and ammunition to reach troops in the field. Supply lines have not yet been a top-priority target. "The simple fact is we do not have that many airplanes when targets are divided into the half-dozen major target groups," one official said.

The Iraqis have demonstrated an unexpected skill at restoring the runways at their 66 major airfields, most of which have been put out of action at one point or another since the war began. Specially trained crews have been been able to fix most damaged runways, though continued bombing from U.S. and coalition forces is planned. U.S. officials said that specific airfields can be rendered unusable at any time and noted that the Iraqi air force has been reluctant to emerge from well-protected bunkers to try to take off.

"The significant fact is that we have air superiority," one senior official said yesterday. "Not that many airfields could be used, because if he tried, we would eliminate his planes. . . . It is an abstract capability that does not worry us."

About 50 Iraqi air force planes are confirmed destroyed, and at least 39 have escaped to Iran; some 700 planes remain. Most of them are believed to be hidden in concrete and steel bunkers that were built to NATO standards by European contractors. The bunkers and their planes can be destroyed only by a direct hit from a laser-guided 2,000-pound bomb. Iraq is believed to have enough of these bunkers hidden and dispersed to shelter its entire air force. One senior official said, "At the end of the war, he {Saddam} may have a sizable air force."

Iraq's 8,000 to 9,000 pieces of high grade (20mm and above) antiaircraft artillery has been largely unaffected by the allied coalition air campaign so far. Iraqi antiaircraft artillery fire has brought down some U.S. planes, and this artillery fire has a definite psychological impact on allied pilots, officials said.

Eleven of Iraq's 12 major petrochemical facilities, including three refineries, have received moderate damage. It is not yet clear if the damaged facilities can function or whether they can be repaired.

Baghdad's normal electrical generating capacity has been destroyed.

Heavy cloud cover, particularly over Kuwait, has hampered some assessments of the damage to date. Officials also said it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to measure the impact of the air attacks on the dug-in and heavily entrenched 545,000 ground troops that Iraq has deployed in and near occupied Kuwait.

Officials said it was particularly hard to assess the damage done to the entrenched elite Republican Guard divisions in a 4,000-square-mile area of Kuwait and Iraq -- a high-priority target. There are scattered, anecdotal reports of ammunition storage dumps exploding and other damage. Two to three dozen of the Guard's 800 tanks have been destroyed, officials said.

Military officials point out that the full force of the U.S. air campaign has not yet been directed at the 110,000-member Guard, the mainstay of the Iraqi army. Some U.S. officials had hoped the initial bombing would cause the Guard to break and move.

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters in Saudi Arabia yesterday: "I would declare our campaign against the Republican Guard as highly successful, just based upon the delivery methods and the volume that we've been able to put on them. Being an infantryman, I certainly wouldn't want to be under that type of attack right now." He gave no specifics.

These and other findings from bomb damage assessments (BDA's in military jargon) have convinced officials that the air campaign should continue for weeks, and that ground forces will ultimately have to be used to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait. The initial hope -- held strongly in the Air Force and by some civilian officials -- that air bombardment might do most or even all of the job has been tempered by the results of 10 days of bombing, officials indicated.

Publicly, U.S. officials have declined to characterize the findings of bomb damage assessments. Asked about the effectiveness of the air war yesterday, Schwarzkopf replied, "I would say it varies."

Schwarzkopf said yesterday that the U.S. command will be "deliberately conservative" in reporting bomb damage. "We don't want to mislead anybody," he said. "We don't want to tell you we've done something we haven't done. . . . When we announce something to you that, you know, something's happened, you can take it to the bank."


© Copyright 1991 The Washington Post

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