From the Financial TImes (London)
Iraqi resistance surprises allies
By Andrzej Rybak on the Kuwait-Iraq border
Published: March 25 2003 4:00 | Last Updated: March 25 2003 4:00
Although US and British troops pushed further towards Baghdad yesterday, back close to the border with Kuwait they were encountering persistent resistance that surprised the allies.
Soldiers are not being welcomed as liberators but often confronted with hatred.
One British officer said of Saddam Hussein: "It seems as if many people do not even want to get rid of this brutal dictator. This is not what we expected."
US military units withdrew from the border town Umm Qasr yesterday in favour of British marines more used to street fighting.
"The situation in this town reminds me of Northern Ireland," a UK soldier said. "The snipers wear civilian clothes but then they bring out their hidden weapons and slam."
A vegetable farmer from Abdaly on the border asked: "If it is possible for the small Umm Qasr to resist for five days, how long will it then take to seize Baghdad?"
In Basra, Iraq's second largest city, the Shia majority had been thought to be among the keenest to see the overthrow of Mr Hussein. But there were no signs of an uprising against him.
And in the border town of Safwan, the attitude of local people was at most lukewarm.
"How would you like it if we tore down portraits of [US President George W.] Bush in your home town?" an old man asked. During the first day of war, US soldiers had pulled posters of the Iraqi ruler from the walls.
Others that might have reasons to complain about crimes of the dictator from Baghdad kept silent. "There is no guarantee that Saddam really will be overthrown," one woman said. "I do not want to be killed by his folk."
There were no signs that the war would be only a matter of days, as some US or UK army representatives had suggested.
Chris Vernon, UK military spokesman, had already invited American and British television crews to go to Basra, "at most 48 hours" after the start of a war.
"The Americans have completely underestimated the enemy," several British soldiers said.
Unlike during the 1991 Gulf war, the morale of Iraqi troops is good.
Moreover, Iraqi commanders have changed their approach.
Traditionally soldiers were trained only for big battles but now the army has switched to guerrilla tactics in the cities.
In the desert they only seem to attack supply troops.
"It is exactly the scenario we have tried to avoid," one British officer said.
Faced with this strategy, the allied forces were not able to use their technological superiority.