Released: 8 Jan 1999
WASHINGTON -- Missile and bomb damage inflicted upon Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Fox was greater than expected, according to the commander of U.S. Central Command.
The four-day operations set back Saddam Hussein's military operations by one to two years according to Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, commander of U.S. Central Command. He added that the Air Force will also send eight more F-16CJ aircraft to bolster forces patrolling the southern no-fly zone.
The Marine Corps general made those announcements Jan. 8, stating that U.S. defense officials had "upped the amount of time" from their original estimates of when Iraq could expect to recover from four nights of coalition attacks in December.
He said that several buildings thought to have been empty now appear to have held "some unique pieces of equipment" essential to the Iraqi military. These include test stands for missiles and other production equipment destroyed during the attack.
Besides the visible bomb damage, Zinni said Hussein seems increasingly isolated, with signs of disarray among the Iraqi military seen most starkly in recent executions of military leaders and civilians.
"The most remarkable thing in my mind," Zinni said, "was the Army Day speech by Saddam." Delivered Jan. 5, Saddam Hussein called for the overthrow of neighboring governments that failed to support Iraq.
"This shows a desperation we've never seen before," Zinni said. "It was shocking. It shows his isolation."
Since Desert Fox, Zinni said there have been 40 violations of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. The general said these are "individual acts," some including "multiple warplane intrusions." In most incidents, Zinni said, the intruders "stick their nose in" the no-fly zone and then turn tail and run.
One intruder apparently ran away so fast in the face of a missile attack, the general said, that he apparently took his eyes off the fuel gauge, ran out of gas and crashed.
"We're not seeing a great deal of enthusiasm to engage directly," Zinni said of Iraqi pilots. He said it is clear that the pilots are using "cheat and retreat" tactics.
Such lack of enthusiasm apparently exists among Iraq's ground forces and has cost at least several high-ranking military leaders their lives.
"We've seen executions in the south (of Iraq)," Zinni said. "One division lost its commander and some of his staff." He added that the killings were the likely "result of not obeying orders. There is some confusion among the ranks of who to answer to."
Some civilians in the south have also been executed, Zinni said. He would not speculate "how serious or how extensive" such executions are, "but we have seen it."
The general said that, collectively, the facts show that Saddam Hussein's firm grip on his forces has lessened just a bit.
"There is enough circumstantial, and some hard, evidence out there to show disarray, "Zinni said. "I do believe personally that (Saddam Hussein) is shaken ... The signs are there that there's some degree of loss of control."
With the prospect of a desperate regime taking desperate measures, Zinni said coalition pilots have adjusted their tactics while patrolling the no-fly zone. However, he said, after flying more than 140,000 sorties since Desert Storm in 1991, coalition forces "always consider it a dangerous situation" over Iraq.
The general also said Central Command has asked for more forces to protect coalition aircrews. The request includes eight additional F-16CJs for Southern Watch forces.
"We want to make sure we have robust capacity in the area," Zinni said. "Prudence tells us to add capacity to protect our forces."
* Response to Iraq Air Force Link special
* F-16 Fighting Falcon
* U.S. Central Command
* U.S. Marine Corps