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Saddam Seeking Face-Saving Way Out of Debacle

Iraqi leader's announcement of withdrawal rejected by coalition; ignores their conditions

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SADDAM HUSSEIN said it would be the ``mother of all battles.'' Instead, for him the allied ground invasion of Kuwait may be the mother of all debacles. To say the fighting is going poorly is an understatement. US and coalition units are sweeping through Kuwait and Iraq as if they were on an exercise. Politics isn't going well, either. As of this writing, Iraqi attempts to unilaterally accept a Soviet peace plan and withdraw are being coldly rejected by the allies.

Saddam said Tuesday that he had ordered withdrawal of his forces from Kuwait. ``Today we will complete the withdrawal of our forces, God willing,'' he said in an address on Baghdad radio.

Iraqi Republican Guards might yet put up stiff resistance. But even these crack troops must realize their unenviable position. On one side of them are allied gun barrels moving forward at 50 m.p.h. On the other is a leader who appears to now want nothing more than to turn the clock back to the day before he invaded Kuwait.

Allied troops appear well on their way to completely encircling Iraqi forces in the Kuwaiti theater of operations. Once this trap clangs shut, it is unlikely the United States-led coalition would agree to any terms allowing Iraq to withdraw with substantial amounts of military equipment.

Destruction of much of the Iraqi army wasn't explicitly mentioned in any United Nations resolution on the Gulf crisis, but it appears to have become one of the coalition's war aims. ``War has its own momentum,'' notes former National Security Council official Ray Tanter.

As of early Tuesday morning, US and allied units were tightening their grip around the key objective of Kuwait City. Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division were reportedly holding positions near the city's airport, while US Marines of the 2nd Division were reported in the city suburbs.


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