CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Strike on Iraq: Military Analysis
Aired March 22, 2003 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm joined by two much smarter people than myself who are going to walk us through what lies ahead as best as they see it. Screen left, David Grange, retired general, U.S. Army, screen right, Don Shepperd, retired general, U.S. Air Force. We've got two significant services covered here, as we continue coverage of this march toward Baghdad.
We've been talking about what has happened and what may lie ahead. And I want to take you down into the Basra region, and ask both generals about these surrenders, and what that portends. First of all, let's take a look as we zoom in on the Basra area. We know, for example, that there was a lot of activity in that area called Umm Qasr, which is a port where fueling and oil shipments are brought in and out of the country. And then onward into Basra, and what the U.S. and British forces discovered there was really absolute, mass surrenders.
David Grange, that sounds great on paper, but it does carry a downside with it. Tell us about it.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), U.S. ARMY: Well, it sure does. They want to take the smallest number of prisoners as possible, just because it takes a lot of resources to take care of them. Once you seize a prisoner, take his surrender, then you have to take the weapon, segregate them, silence them, move them, protect them and shelter and feed them. And so, what they're trying to do is to get as many to go back to their homes as they can. So maybe they just pile up all of their weapons, run over them with a tank or something and keep moving.
O'BRIEN: Don Shepperd, do you have the sense they have prepared for mass surrenders such as this or could this really bog the whole campaign down?
MAJOR GENERAL DON SHEPPERD (RET), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, Miles, of course, it could bog it down. Depending on, as General Grange said, how they handle the prisoners. But I think General Franks has war gamed this and he's prepared to do both the small surrenders and both the quick releases and the interment of those after interrogation that he thinks are really important to information about either weapons of mass destruction, oil field destruction, or al Qaeda perhaps.
O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about the other side of this. Is that you're not seeing complete and total surrenders. You're also seeing a lot of small skirmishes. David Grange, as you get in this part of the world, the military probably did not anticipate the most dedicated, hardiest of troops in the Iraqi army. But those skirmishes are still going to pose problems and put troops in harm's way, right?
GRANGE: That's right. And so, what the soldiers and Marines have to do on the ground is they have to determine which prisoners or quitters, those that just surrender but they don't want to take into custody -- you have to determine which one pose a threat. And so, what you do is you have to segregate that somehow, make a decision on the spot because you don't want this person to pick up a weapon later and snipe at your resupply column. In the same time, if you have someone who has rank, like the 51st Division commander or someone like that, you want to grab them and get them to the rear right away for debriefing to get some critical battlefield information.
O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk a little bit about the armored advance on Baghdad. I'm moving our earthviewer.com digital globe imagery up to an area called Nasiriya, which is along the Euphrates River and is part of the general route that we're talking about as those armored divisions march onto Baghdad. And I'm just going to fly over this terrain and have you talk, David Grange, a little bit about the terrain and how it changes as they progress north.
GRANGE: Right. Now, keep in mind, around both of these rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, is a lot of irrigation, a lot of canals. And a lot of canals are obstacles. It's just not the rivers themselves but canals and some have some substantial banks to them. Also, there's some areas in here that are still very marshy, wet, which makes it tough to go through it with heavy vehicles like an Abrams tank.
Also, at each place that there's a -- for instance, a bridge -- location of a bridge or a major irrigational area that's growing crops, you have a village that you have to get through. And then, you have wires in the area. And so, these chock points are obstacles as you're moving north toward Baghdad -- towards Baghdad.
Now, a lot of the area you can see from the photographs is that it's drained. The area's been drained so the ground is firmer, which gives you the opportunity to move on the ground, off-road, but then there is a series of roads running north and south that you would want to take advantage of as well.
But a lot of choke points, a lot of obstacles. As you move up towards Baghdad, and then the builtup areas, the number of villages in the suburban areas of Baghdad, begin to increase as you're going north.
Now, on the top of your screen, you'll be seeing as you move north, you get -- you'll be getting to several lakes soon, which are west of Baghdad, and these are significant obstacles that obviously would keep forces either enemy forces or friendly forces from moving either West or East towards or out of Baghdad. So these lakes are significant. There they are right now. And they're to the west of Baghdad. So again that limits approaches a certain way. So though Iraq it looks like a vast desert, it's much different than that as you get closer and closer to the city of Baghdad.
O'BRIEN: Don Shepperd, the other thing you have to consider is not just the terrain changes as you get closer to Baghdad and also the caliber of the adversary, correct?
SHEPPERD: Indeed. The units of the Iraqi army are not the good forces. We often think of Iraqi army as a rag-tag army. Not so, they have good divisions in the Republican Guard and some very experienced commanders and even some good generals who have survived all of the coups. The problem is they here in a siege mentality from their Iran- Iraq war, and I think they may not understand what will come at them. I don't think anything they can do will change the final outcome, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Tell us about the types of troops. Talking about Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard. There was a time, a dozen years ago, the term elite was carried with them quite a bit. I think that probably was a bit of an overstatement, but tell us about these troops, and how they are equipped. First of all, Republican Guards, 60,000 troops. Better equipped than the Iraqi regulars, but how motivated a force are they, David Grange?
GRANGE: They are well motivated because they get benefits, they get paid regularly; the other troops don't get paid most of time. They have the most modern equipment, the T-72 tank, say, as an example, instead of the older t-55s. They get more information. They get passes to see their family and get these titles thrown on them like special, which may not mean a lot on how well -- of how special they really are, but to them they are special. And so they are more motivated to support Saddam.
O'BRIEN: And I guess, Don Shepperd, we should point out talking about potentially of people who are defending their homes and no matter what you say whether they are special or not or paid or not or passes at home, home is something you defend in a very innate way, right?
SHEPPERD: Yes, indeed Miles. We can't really predict what the fighting reaction of all of these forces will be. And as we have already seen, some people will surrender without fighting. Others will fight a little bit and surrender. Others may fight to the death. And probably the closer you get to Baghdad and the closer you get to the Special Republican Guard, which is the inner circle, you are going to have tougher and tougher slugging. So we have potentially some real tough fighting to do and ugly things coming.
O'BRIEN: David Grange, Don Shepperd, we will leave it there. Top three list of problem areas that we were talking about. We didn't get into the areas of weapons of mass destruction, and the possible use of those. We will be talking about that a little later. Next time we get a chance. Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Miles, that wraps it up for our 1:00 hour of CNN's "Strike on Iraq." For my colleagues Wolf Blitzer, Judy Woodruff and Leon Harris, I am Paula Zahn. I'll be back at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow. Now back to Leon Harris at CNN Center in Atlanta.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, Paula, we will see you in the morning.
Hello, folks, I am Leon Harris here at the CNN newsroom here in Atlanta. And here is what's happening this hour in the strike on Iraq.
Smoke continues to pour into the skies above Baghdad from sources that are still somewhat of a mystery to us hours later. Live pictures over the skyline over Baghdad. Sirens and explosions were heard around dusk there, but that smoke appeared hours earlier. There it is, as you see it there. Iraqis saying coalition raids have wounded 200 civilians in the capital alone. CNN has not been able to confirm that.
Now at this hour, six coalition troops have confirmed or reported killed in combat since hostilities began. All of them American. The most recent deaths of 4 U.S. soldiers are being reported by Britain's Sky TV in central Iraq. Nineteen troops have died so far in two helicopter crashes. Fourteen of those were British, five American. The POW count by coalition estimates stands at several hundred, perhaps as many as 2,000, with thousands more Iraqis having given up, abandoning their weapons and turning around and going back home. Yesterday, an entire Iraqi division just gave up south of Basra. That was 8,000 men giving up at one time.
Centcom says only nine out of hundreds of southern Iraqi oil wells have been sabotaged and help is apparently on the way. Source in Kuwait says U.S. troops will escort 22 Kuwaiti firefighters in the area sometime tomorrow. Down the road experts from Texas are expected to move in as well.
And peace demonstrators have gathered once again in New York, London, Washington, Atlanta, and elsewhere around the world. In New York, tens of thousands of marchers filled a Broadway area for dozens of blocks. So far, no arrests reported there.
And now, CNN's coverage of strike on Iraq continues.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Coalition forces on the move headed closer to Baghdad. Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live tonight from Kuwait. Miles O'Brien and Judy Woodruff will be joining me shortly. Along the road to Baghdad, resistance of small groups of Iraqi troops. That's only expected to intensify once U.S. and British forces try to reach the Iraqi capitol. In the past few hours, we've heard even more explosions in Baghdad. Those bombing raids continue. And those in charge of the military campaign say it promises to be unlike any other in history. The air campaign, of course, was very evident about this time yesterday. This is what the CNN crew who was there at the time saw as it was packing up to leave Baghdad by order of the Iraqi government.
CNN has access to several posts throughout the military during the strike on Iraq, they're called embedded reporters from the land to the sea to the skies. No one has the resources, of course, like CNN does. Let's turn now CNN's Gary Tuchman, he's in an air base here in the Persian Gulf -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, on a relatively cold and windy night, coming to from you the largest fighter and attack wing in the Persian Gulf. We are at an air base under the Pentagon rules that allow us to live and work here right now. We can't tell you exactly where it is, we can't tell you what country we are in. What we can tell you is right here on the Iraqi border, there are more than 8,000 U.S. Marines, U.S. soldiers, U.S. airmen who are here right now. Behind us the 810 Warthog airplane. This is the plane, the attacker that provides close air support for the troops on the ground, and with us right now is one of the pilots who just came back from a mission over Iraq. This is Lieutenant Colonel Mike Webb. He is with the Idaho Air and National Guard. And in real life he is a Boise, Idaho policeman, but now he is flying war planes over Iraq. Just came back, first of all, how do you feel right now.
LT. COL. MIKE WEBB, IDAHO AIR NATIONAL GUARD: I feel great. I am proud to fight a good fight and stay the course for my country to remain true and to do what is flight this conflict.
TUCHMAN: We realize there are certain things you can't tell us, but tell us about the mission you just through in -- that you just flew in your A-10?
WEBB: I flew a daylight mission earlier today. I was part of the Shock and Awe campaign that is ongoing in Iraq. I spent a mission near a town called Nasiriyah where they shot surface-to-air missiles, at A-10 pilots. Thank god I was successful and not shot down.
TUCHMAN: You were telling us you knew a missile was shot in your direction?
WEBB: I do. And it's a very fearsome thought when you hear that sound going off in your headset when you have launch audio of a suffered air missile being fired at you.
TUCHMAN: What did you do to avoid the missile?
WEBB: Well, I do lots of things that include long years of training but put out chaff and flairs and three dimensional maneuvering.
TUCHMAN: Now on every mission you don't drop your ammunition, you drop your bombs, did you on this mission?
WEBB: I did drop munitions on this mission, yes, sir.
TUCHMAN: For what purpose?
WEBB: The purpose was to destroy military targets that were in noncompliance, that were not capitulating, surrendering and we made 100 percent that there were no none combats or special forces or Army troops in the immediate vicinity.
TUCHMAN: Do you provide close air support for the troops, do you see the ground troops with your eyeballs? WEBB: I did not see the ground troops with my eyeballs. They were several clicks to the south. I was working north of their position.
TUCHMAN: Were you scared?
WEBB: There is a time when you are very fearful in an airplane, by many years of hard training and experience and a faith in a higher cause can carry you through it many times.
TUCHMAN: Colonel, thank you thank you very much for talking with us.
WEBB: Thank you very much.
TUCHMAN: We appreciate your time.
WEBB: You bet.
TUCHMAN: The first 24 hours of this air war, more than 2,000 sorties were flown from this facility alone we're standing right now, about 250. So that gives you an idea of how much is taking place where we are standing right now. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: And Gary, it sounds like it's going to be a pretty active air base in the coming hours and days?
TUCHMAN: No question about it, Wolf. What we have seen over the last two hours is a number of planes coming up and down these runways increasing. We have about every five minutes between two and five planes taking off. The a-10s the f-16 fighters, are the two main aircraft that fly out of here. As we speak right now, I will give you a look. I will walk around this direction if I can. It's a long look around. But give you a look at one of the A-10s right over in this direction. You can see coming down the taxiway right now. The taxiway has if a southerly direction and will go down to the end of the taxiway, turn around and take off on the runway heading north, heading towards the nation of Iraq, which is only about a 20 to 45 minute flight. We don't want to narrow it down too much, but a 20 to 45 minute flight away from here and that's where that A-10 is going as we speak -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Gary, that A-10 is called a Warthog, it's an ugly plane but it's a powerful plane. Describe to our viewers precisely its mission.
TUCHMAN: Its mission very simply, is to provide close air support for the ground troops that are on the ground. And as the colonel just told us, he had his bombs, his missiles. He doesn't always use them. If he sees dangers, that if he sees things out there that could affect the troops in the long run, that's when the Warthog drops ammunition. The altitude varies, it could fly as high as 30,000 feet. He can fly as low as 3,000 feet, but his job is to protect the members of the army and the marines who are on the ground right now in Iraq.
BLITZER: Gary Tuchman, he's in an air base here in the Persian Gulf, not far from the Iraqi border. Gary, thanks very much.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr is now in the control of U.S. and British forces. Umm Qasr has served as the center of the U.N. oil-for-food program over these many years and is reportedly a well-known den of smugglers. CNN's Jason Bellini is embedded with U.S. Marine unit in Umm Qasr right now. He is joining us live via videophone -- Jason.
JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm coming to you again is from indoors. We're not allowed to do this outside, because they are practicing very strict light discipline. Meaning you can't have flashlights, can't have any type of light on, and that's why we're having to do it in here. Actually going to be sleeping tonight. From what we can gather, this is the Administrative Office, probably one of the top administrative offices here at the port.
You see a picture behind me of Saddam Hussein. We have Marines in here earlier who were doing their rummaging and discovered some flags, the Iraqi flags taking home as souvenirs. What we learned today is the allies were yesterday as describing this port as contained. Turns out more work to be done today, and that there was more potshots being taken at them from inside the port and from also the town of Umm Qasr. Today, though, they say they have this place thoroughly contained. That they have the situation under control on the colonel of the marine -- of the Marine expeditionary unit, the unit where we're embedded, said that they finished mopping up and that it took them a little bit longer than they would have liked to finish this job.
I can tell you right now as we have been hearing planes coming over, we heard some rumblings in the background, it sounded like bombs. It's hard to tell exactly where they are or how far away they are from us. Early we learned today from the colonel is they have collected now between 400 and 450 any prisoners of war. Most of them housed right here in the port on the old in the new port of Umm Qasr inside a warehouse. Fifty of them came by boat from the British who dropped them off here at the port. The colonel also said that most of these -- or many of these individuals they picked up were not in military dress. But some of them had underneath their clothing, they had underneath their clothing, military uniforms or had with them military uniforms.
They also suspect that a number of people showed up here at the port, a number of Iraqi military men showed up here after they learned that the Marines were here. Came here to try to put up a fight. But now, those fights have been put down -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jason, now that the U.S. and the British forces have Umm Qasr under control, is the port there operating relatively normally, or is it shut down?
BELLINI: It's still shut down, it's still a ghost town. But they said they would like to have this port up and running again in 72 hours, and we're taking steps towards that. Beginning with, having experts come in, who are going to be searching the port for booby traps and also for mines and bring in people who are running ports, maybe taking over this office where we're sleeping tonight. Coming in here and trying to get this up and running. It's a big priority for them for food aid to be coming in and to send that message to the Iraqi people. Must not forget that the allies are here to help them to bring the humanitarian aid and not here as occupiers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jason Bellini, he is in Umm Qasr right now under the U.S. and British military control. That key critical important port facility. Jason Bellini, thanks very much. Hopefully you can get a good night's sleep that office where you are right now. Judy, back to you.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. Well, as Operation Iraqi Freedom ends the third day, there are problems and there is progress to report. And we want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr now. Barbara, one of the strikes that we want to talk about with you is the target that was hit by coalition forces in the Kurdish control part of Northern Iraq. This is an area widely perceived to be friendly to the U.S., but not in one particular location.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Judy. There has been for some time up there a suspected chemical weapons compound. It's a very unusual, unique site. it is said to be run by a radical Kurdish group called Ansar al-Islam that operates in that particular region of Northern Iraq, controlled by the Kurds and that group Ansar al-Islam by the Bush administration has been having ties with the al Qaeda.
We are told an initial strike in recent hours against that compound, and they will go back, look at the damage assessment, see what they have accomplished and possibly strike it again. But just to sort of wrap up some of the statistics as to where things stand at the moment. Pentagon officials are saying since Friday, yesterday when they officially began the air campaign, they have flown some 2,000 missions. About 1,000 of them being combat missions over Iraq.
Now, where they say we're at the moment is in the initial -- the U.S. military is at the moment is in the initial phases a three to four day air campaign against fixed targets. The leadership targets that we have all seen struck in Baghdad. That was the first goal. See if they could get the Iraqi regime to capitulate to surrender. Clearly they have not. As this three day to four-day period goes on, we will see things begin to in shift we are told into the next phase. And that's the phase against Iraqi ground forces, searching, looking for emerging targets. Looking for Iraqi forces on the move. Trying to shut down their communications, their means of operating.
That's what is likely to emerge, we are told, in the next several days. It's all part of the effort to keep the action going across Iraq, which is still ongoing that action, much of it now taking place outside of the view of those TV cameras in Baghdad which have been keeping around the watch. Some of those operations around Iraq really are very far flung. We talked about it with the northern front. We know that ground forces are moving along the south. There has been activity out in the west. Air Force A-10 aircraft, not only doing the close air support for ground forces that Gary Tuchman talked about, but also now also going on Scud hunting missions in the west. Patrolling the skies, seeing any evidence if Saddam Hussein's military has moved any of their Scuds. No reports of that yet we are told, but all of that action does continue -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Barbara, you mentioned the Scuds. We know during the first Gulf War, Desert Storm 12 years ago, the Scuds were among the most feared weapons that the Iraqis had. Why is that there seem to be many fewer them this go around?
STARR: Well, no one knows exactly how many Scud missiles and Scud launchers are still in the possession of Iraq. But ever since the Gulf War, there has been a general consensus in the intelligence community amongst the United Nations that maybe they still have something like two dozen. There is a sense amongst the intelligence community that those have mostly been placed in western Iraq, possibly to threaten Israel. So in this campaign, one of the very first goals was to put special forces in western Iraq, have them participate on the ground in watching for any possible movement of scud activity, and then be able to call in early air strikes right the bat, provide that hedge or that feeling protection for Israel so that nothing would happen there. And so far, no evidence of any scud activities.
WOODRUFF: Barbara, just quickly, getting back a point that Miles was making with the two generals a moment ago and that is the expectation that the Iraqis are going to be in some way fortified, the Special Republican Guard around Baghdad. Is the Pentagon at this point saying anything about what they expect when they get close to Baghdad?
STARR: Their planning scenario at the moment as they get closer to the Baghdad, the U.S. military says they are going to be as cautious as ever. They say that the area where they have been moving through so far, southern Iraq, they have mainly been encountering regular Iraqi army units. These are conscripts mainly, very poorly cared for. No real expectation. They would put up more of the sporadic fighting that has been seen.
A lot of concern is closer here to Baghdad, about the Special Republican Guard, said to be the most loyal to Saddam. Said that they are very willing to fight. There is a belief that some of them may have been equipped with chemical munitions. That's an assessment by the intelligence community. Not hard evidence at this point. So U.S. military forces will be very cautious, as they begin to approach and that is the reason for what we will see in the coming days, which is more activity against Iraqi ground forces. Basically, to soften up all of the opposition before the U.S. forces get too close to them.
WOODRUFF: And Barbara, clearly no timetable on that?
STARR: No, they assess -- they are currently -- the military, the U.S. military currently is still assessing the bomb damage assessment from the first two nights of the campaign, trying to take a look at what they feel they might have accomplished, what they are still watching for is any sign that the Iraqi leadership is ready to surrender ready to capitulate, as of several hours ago, they say they've had no sign of that. The surrenders they have seen so far still with that regular Iraqi army, no indication of any surrenders by senior leadership or republican guards but I must actual, they still tell us at the Pentagon that the U.S. government and representatives of the U.S. government are in private communication with Iraqi leadership. No indication of the success of those talks yet.
WOODRUFF: Well, it's one thing, one of the many things we are all waiting to hear about. All right, Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon. As we have been telling you all day, President Bush monitoring this first weekend of the operation Iraqi freedom. From Camp David, the Presidential Retreat. The president is there to get some exercise, but this morning, he spent time with his war council. White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins us now from the White House, and Suzanne, the last time I talked to you, there were anti-war protesters nearby, something the president left behind.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely, Judy. You may hear those helicopters above, still out in full force across the street from the White House. What is really been incredible is the police presence. We're talking about Secret Service, U.S. Park Police, D.C. Police. We have seen law enforcement officers on foot, on horseback, even in riot gear. So far it has been peaceful. That's the way they want to keep it, but President Bush away from all of this, he is at Camp David, where he met about 90 minutes with his full war council, as it's called -- his top advisers, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the head of the CIA, among others to talk about the strategy of the war to talk about the progress as well.
President Bush also put in a call, about 30 minutes, to British Prime Minister Tony Blair to talk about the course of the critical humanitarian aid that is going to be necessary in the days and the weeks to come. And the president is really trying to is sell this war to the American people. In his radio address, he said, quite frankly, that the U.S. does have international support, that there are more than 40 countries that are backing it up. That the United States is trying its very best to appreciate civilian casualties, and that it's really going to be a robust effort. We also heard from General Tommy Franks, who is the head of U.S. Central Command, and he quite frankly, admitted that they do not know where Saddam Hussein is.
But senior administration officials have been saying that the Iraqi leadership is in total disarray. Franks saying that it's going to take the Americans' patience to see this thing through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: This will be a campaign unlike any other in history. A campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen. And by the application of overwhelming force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And Judy, General Franks also emphasizing not about one personality or one man, he also said as well that they are encouraged by some signs of Iraqi forces surrendering. Some thousands of troops he said that are laying down their weapons -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. President Bush as we have been saying at Camp David. Meeting with all of his advisers from Vice President Cheney on down, but very much following the events and the action in this war. Let's go back to Kuwait City now and to Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Judy. Quiet night here in Kuwait City. No air raid sirens so far. Let's hope to stays that way. There's certainly a lot going to in northern Iraq, and conflicting reports about Turkish troop movements there. Our Jane Arraf is in Dohuk, that's in northern Iraq. She is joining us now live -- Jane.
JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the small number of Turkish troops said to have crossed into northern Iraq last night are keeping a low profile. So low fact that Kurdish officials and Turkish officials claiming they haven't come in at all. Now, U.S. defense and British officials, though, are saying that a small unit does appear to have crossed.
Now, we have to remember it's a very long border with Iraq. About 250 kilometers, and it's really quite easy for 1,000 troops or so to get lost in that, to keep the low profile that they are keeping. Kurdish officials have said that they could expect a fight if they did come into large numbers but presumably nobody is trying to escalate the situation and they are keeping it calm.
Along the line of control near Mosul, one of Iraq's biggest cities, we were seeing Iraqi soldiers patrolling a ridge, everything relatively normal, about 400 meters from a Kurdish position. There were soldiers armed with heavy machine guns and rifles patrolling the ridge and stopping for prayer at midday. Interesting, Wolf, emergency officials here are saying they are downgrading their estimate of how many refugees they might see from the Mosul area. That's presumably because they expect when it falls, it will fall relatively easy and not result that flood of refugees that they had been preparing for here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's amazing because as you probably remember, Jane, a dozen years ago during the first Persian Gulf war, tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees that fled not only into turkey but Iran. That doesn't seem to be taking place anywhere near those numbers rights now.
ARRAF: I think you are absolutely right. Those are those terrible images that everyone remembers. Families freezing in the mountains. But Kurdish officials point out it's a everywhere different region. After the 1991 Gulf War, during the war, people were fleeing Iraqi forces. And they were fleeing as far North as they could get towards the Turkish border, towards the country that was unprepared to deal with those kinds of numbers.
Now, Kurds say, they have an infrastructure in place. They've been building up this region for the past 12 years. And they're well- equipped to take care of people. We aren't seeing people fleeing from Iraqi places because Mosul has not fallen nor has other cities. And that escape route has closed down. When it does happen officials are now saying expect it to happen in more limited numbers and much more resources here in northern Iraq to be able to take care of them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we all remember Operation Provide Comfort that occurred at that time a dozen years ago in northern Iraq and in Turkey, neighboring Iran, as the U.S. and the coalition tried to provide comfort to those tens of thousands, if not hundreds and thousands of refugees. Jane Arraf in Dohuk in northern Iraq.
So far, three days of war, no sign as I say of that exodus of Iraqi refugees. Neighboring Jordan is hoping for the best but so far preparing for the worst. CNN's Matthew Chance is at the Iraqi- Jordanian border. He is joining us live, by a videophone -- Matthew.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. That's right, although that expected refugee influx, not just to Jordan but to other countries and other regions surrounding the area of Iraq controlled by Saddam Hussein has not materialized as yet. It's still very much early days in this U.S.-led invasion. And officials together with the agency here in Jordan, certainly preparing for the worst.
What we have been seeing coming out of Iraq over the past 72 hours or so since this campaign started is several hundred third country nationals, people from Saddam and Somali who had been studying or working inside of Iraq along with their families and had taken this opportunity to escape to the relative safety of neighboring Jordan while they still could through the border checkpoints. They have been housed in makeshift desert camps that have been set up by the Jordanian authorities in conjunction with the various aid (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Whether it being fed and giving shelter, before they moved on to their home countries. But, as to the point you were just making, in that previous report week, have not seen the wide- scale influx of Iraqi nationals into these Jordanian camps, indeed into the other neighboring countries Iran-Iraq. So far Jordanian officials hoping it won't materialize -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Matthew, Jordan has an incredible stake in this entire situation with Iraq its neighbor, of course. So much of Jordan's exports and imports go through Iraq. How are Jordanian officials dealing with the sensitive aspect on the one hand, they want to have a good relationship with the United States, on the other hand, they have enormous economic ties with Iraq?
CHANCE: Yes, it's a very difficult situation for the Jordanian authorities. There are these very close economic ties that you mentioned with Iraq. They get all of their oil from the Iraqi oil fields at a discounted price. In exchange for that, Iraq provides the biggest market for Jordanian products, outside of its own domestic market. So it's on the a crucial economic relationship and people in Jordan are very sensitive to that, but there is something more important perhaps, and that's political opposition amongst the majority of the Jordanian population. Many here just like across Arab world, see that it's double standards. They see this as double standards. United States basically supporting a regime, rather, supporting action in Israel. Supporting Israeli government, and at the same time, carrying out this action in Iraq. That angers a lot of ordinary Jordanians.
BLITZER: But we heard from King Abdullah yesterday, and he provided a much more balanced message.
CHANCE: That's right. King Abdullah trying to walk the line between the very difficult relations that he has to maintain between the United States and the rest of the Arab world, particularly his own population. He's made it clear that to sort of reassure his own population. That he will not allow U.S. forces at this stage to launch an attack on neighboring Iraq from Jordanian territory. Still the official position and he's hoping very much at least to placate his very angry population.
BLITZER: CNN's Matthew Chance in Jordan on the border in Iraq. Matthew, thanks very much.
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