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In Air, on Ground Coalition Forces Press Forward in Iraq

Aired March 22, 2003 - 07:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Paula Zahn.
In the air, on the ground, coalition forces press forward in Iraq.

This is a view of war like most of us have never seen before. Some 1,500 bombs and missiles falling on Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities in the first day of what's come to be called Shock and Awe, the A-Day bombing campaign that began yesterday.

Iraq's foreign minister says more than 200 civilians were wounded in Baghdad. Is Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, losing his grip on power? We're hearing word of negotiations for a mass surrender.

And once again, Bill Hemmer joins us from Kuwait City. Good morning, Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, good morning. Welcome to yet another day.

Let's check the latest developments in and around the Persian Gulf area. To the north of us, inside of Iraq, significant action today. Around Iraq's second-largest city, that's the town of Basra, population about 400,000, reports there of a tank battle west of the city.

Also today, British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon says regular Iraqi troops now are leaving the city. There are reports again today a possible deal might be in the works to get Iraqi soldiers in and around the area of Basra to surrender. But when we get more on that, we'll give it to you.

Meanwhile, CNN's Walter Rodgers embedded with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, reports that the column has stopped now, more than 100 miles into Iraq. This while artillery and air strikes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what he says is a stubborn Iraqi detachment that fired back at them.

CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel now reporting that Iraqi ex-pats now acting as go-betweens in negotiations between some senior commanders of the Iraqi Republican Guard and also CIA operatives. Ultimately, the objective here is to achieve an Iraqi surrender.

All that happening again today. ZAHN: Thanks so much, Bill. A lot to take in.

We have our eyes and ears of all parts of Iraq. Here is a big picture of the war as it stands right now. We've been waiting to hear from the U.S. commander in charge of coalition forces. Today we will. General Tommy Franks will give his first news briefing this morning at 9:00 Eastern. We'll cover it live.

And we'll be hearing from our embedded reporters' position with military units. Martin Savidge is seeing sporadic fighting as Marines run through Southern Iraq. Walt Rodgers is with the Army's 37th advancing on Baghdad. Christiane Amanpour is in Kuwait after going to the scene of the fighting there yesterday.

Now, U.S. Marines this morning came under fire outside of Basra, Iraq. They were destroying disabled Iraqi tanks when a rocket- propelled grenade forced them to take cover.

Martin Savidge was there when it happened. Here is part of his report that aired live just about an hour or so ago.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those are secondary blasts coming. This is a -- the demolition of the tanks, G-55 tanks along the line here. What they're doing is hurriedly setting charges. They're using both C-4 and other explosive devices as well as the ammunition that's on board the tank itself.

What they've done is, they've blown it up, essentially. Now you're hearing the secondary explosions. That would be coming from the rounds inside.

They want to make sure they don't leave anything behind that could be used by, say, follow-on soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, that might be in hiding right now. The moment they find armor, the moment they find any tanks, they're blowing it up. And that's exactly what is taking place in the background here.

There's another one that's going to be going very shortly.

Go ahead.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Martin, do you know how many tanks are in the distance, and if they're manned?

SAVIDGE: No, these tanks this morning were found to be abandoned. They did find in the area about 13 people that they now call EPOWs. They believe that these tanks were abandoned after the heavy force of military came into this region.

I'm going to keep looking over my shoulder, because there is a lot going on in this situation right now.

COSTELLO: Martin, can your cameraman... SAVIDGE: They're moving up. This is a Mark-19. See this? This is a Mark-19 grenade launcher. They're keeping in track, obviously, of something around the corner. Smudge (ph), if you'd come over here, you can see the Marines are taking shelter by the earthen berm. That's our other cameraman, Scott McQuinney (ph), out there. They're clearly not feeling all that secure at this particular moment.

Again, those are just secondary explosions.

That wasn't. We're not sure exactly what's gone on now. We're getting ready to possibly move and move in a hurry. It may have been what they call an AT-4. An AT-4 is a rocket launcher. It's fired off the shoulder. What they're trying to do is, again, demolish this stuff as quickly as possible.

Well, I think we're going to get ready to move here, because we're not feeling all that secure. So we'll get back to you.

COSTELLO: OK. OK, Martin, you stay safe and put on that helmet.


ZAHN: And we're going to try to establish contact with Martin (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Savidge. We hope to have him on the air this morning.

One of the other things he reported during the night is the challenge of trying to discern Iraqi soldiers from the crowds of villagers who have been waving to them. The townspeople generally curious. That is a huge problem for the Marines. They don't know who the enemy is. They have loudspeakers blasting messages in Arabic, telling these people to stay away.

It is a huge challenge, Bill, trying to decipher the bad guys from the more -- what would you call them, tame villagers.

And the other problem, Bill, of course, which, as you've reported, in a number of cases the Iraqi soldiers have civilian clothes over their Iraqi soldiers' uniforms.

HEMMER: Yes, moving through Southern Iraq, very precarious now, Paula. I can tell you that Marty and his crew have moved away from that village, last check about an hour ago, indeed they were OK.

Meanwhile, Southeastern Iraq, Christiane Amanpour is going to join us in a moment there for the latest on what's happening in that area known as the Faw Peninsula, the town of Umm Qasr.

Before we get to that, though, late last night CNN's Ryan Chilcote, embedded with the 101st Airborne Division, called in letting us know that he had moved into Southern Iraq. And earlier today, the 101st on the move yet again. Here's Ryan by way of videophone to update us now on his status at this point. Ryan, hello.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) FYI, I'm not hearing programming. I am hearing the control room. HEMMER: All right. Ryan Chilcote, embedded with the 101st Airborne Division. Ryan, we're on the air. I don't know if you can hear me right now, but if you can, go ahead. What's the latest there from your position?

CHILCOTE: I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the 101st Airborne, 101st Airborne now inside Iraq. Sorry for the delay there, couldn't hear. Hundred-and-first Airborne inside Iraq on the move. This is the 101st Airborne 3rd Brigade. We're now pulled over on the side of the road. The convoy taking a break for other vehicles to catch up.

Just 24 hours ago, the 101st Airborne was in an assembly area in Kuwait. That's all changed. The troops are now on the move. The environment here, the welcome, I would say, pretty friendly. No enemy contact, pretty desolate area. But some interaction with the local population, with Iraqis.

We happened to pass by one small town. A lot of Iraqis had come out and were waving to the troops as they passed by, or at least watching the troops as they passed by, a lot of young children also watching, also holding onto MREs that the soldiers had tossed to them. MREs are meals ready to eat. That's what the soldiers eat when they're out in the field. I guess they passed them on to the children as a token of our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a goodwill token to them.

Now, I do not have an ability to hear you, so I'll have to say goodbye at that. But the 101st Airborne is on the move.

HEMMER: Chilcote, 101st, now moving into Iraq. Ryan, thanks for that.

Back here in Kuwait, Paula, the news breaking several hours ago in the waters above the Persian Gulf, two British helicopters collided earlier today. As a result, six Brits dead in the water and one American died as a result, seven total, as a result of that collision.

More in a moment, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Bill.

Military commanders say they've wrapped up capturing the Iraqi port town of Usar (ph) Umm Qasr. Let's join Christiane Amanpour, who is along with British forces in that northern part of Kuwait. Christiane, what's the latest?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, we just came back from Umm Qasr, and we saw there that the port, the new port, the main port that they want to have, is secured now, and it's full of U.S. Marines and some British forces.

This was an interesting operation, because it was U.S. Marines, specifically the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, under the command of British Royal Marines, known as Three Commando.

In any event, they've got that port, and they've got it intact, in other words, there's no damage, so they can use it just as soon as there is humanitarian aid to bring in.

However, there are also still some disturbances north of that port. There are still pockets of resistance. The colonel in charge of the Marine division here, the Marine unit, told us that it wasn't massively serious, and they thought that they would have it out by the end of the day. But it is going slower than they had expected.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so far, it's gone quite well. I mean, we did meet some resistance, and for the most part, the plan that we had, we executed pretty much without any major changes. But it's probably not going as quick, perhaps, as we had thought.


AMANPOUR: So they say they've met resistance. Some are in Iraqi army uniforms, some are in civilians. But they think they may be military who's taken their uniforms off. Some have mortars. There's some artillery and machine guns. But again, the Americans confident that they and their British -- the British marines as well have much superior skills and firepower, so they expect to have it wrapped up by the end of the day.

In addition, they have had several hundred surrenders. We heard the number 450 from the Umm Qasr region and Al Faw region. And those were being kept in a warehouse there. But while we were there, we saw them shipped off and headed to a collection point where they will be under the control of the British while they are processed.

So that is the scene at Umm Qasr, but in general in Southern Iraq, the main economic and strategic targets, we're told, are secured by a combination of U.S. and British forces -- Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane, please stand by. We'd love to get back to you to get more details on how they continue to secure that area.

Now some breaking news out of the Pentagon, from our own Barbara Starr. Is it true a Tomahawk missed its target?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Paula, CNN has learned that top military officials this morning, both in the Persian Gulf and here at the Pentagon, are investigating what they believe may be very credible reports that a Tomahawk cruise missile missed its target and has impacted somewhere in Southwestern Iran close to the Iraqi border.

Now, officials are emphasizing to us, this, of course, is the unmanned Tomahawk cruise missile guided to its target by satellite. Officials are emphasizing they do not have final word.

But one official saying to me just a little while ago, We believe we are going to be able to confirm this, that a Tomahawk cruise missile did land in Southwestern Iran.

What they are doing now is going back through the tasking orders, the pilot reports, the battle damage that they have and trying to figure out if they can match up every munition fired with its impact point, with its target in Iraq. And they believe that at least something has gone astray. It's going to take them some time. It's not clear whether we will ever get public confirmation of this.

But another official saying, leading to the indication that they believe this has happened, Well, if it happened in Southwestern Iran, it was in a place that it didn't cause a lot of damage.

So a lot of very early word circulating around here, but at least there are credible reports, they say, that they are investigating that a Tomahawk cruise missile did impact in Southwestern Iran, Paula.

ZAHN: Barbara, now for the very latest on what we can expect in this first 24 hours of the Shock and Awe campaign, what is left to come?

STARR: Well, they are going to continue with what they're doing. I think the critical thing they're looking at right now is what they can expect when they do begin to encounter the Republican Guard. There have been these skirmishes, of course, that Walt Rodgers, Marty Savidge, and others have reported throughout the morning.

They expect more of that. They expect it to get a lot nastier when they do finally encounter the Republican Guard, unless there are more surrenders. The surrenders that have occurred so far have only been in the regular army units. There have been no major Republican Guard encounters or surrenders at this point.

So their concern is that. They are still trying to assess as well the status of the Iraqi command and control system, whether the -- essentially, whether or not the lines of communication are still open between Baghdad and units in the field. They have now struck several key fiberoptic communications facilities that they believe were the major communications transmission routes between commanders in Baghdad and units in the field.

But there's a lot of redundancy in the Iraqis' communications system, so what they're not sure about is whether there are other paths in which orders might be communicated. So they're going to, as they approach the Republican Guard territory, officials here tell us they're going to be very cautious. They're going to be prepared to encounter some stiff opposition.

And when they go downtown Baghdad again, there is still a lot of concern. There are air defenses around Baghdad. They have managed to strike several key radar facilities, several early warning radars, but they know there's still plenty out there, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Barbara.

We do need to point out that the video you just saw, of course, was during the air strikes yesterday. They came at about 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, the beginning of what is expected to be some 1,500 precision-guided bombs and missiles raining on not only Baghdad but other cities in Iraq as well. Now we're going to go to the White House to get the very latest on what a lot of people find intriguing this morning, Suzanne Malveaux, and that is the ongoing negotiations between U.S. military officials, Iraqi defectors, and leading members of the Iraqi military command.

What do they expect to get out of these exchanges?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, that's a very good question, and Barbara brought up a very good point, and that is, really, whether or not you're going to see Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard put down their weapons and actually put up a good fight.

This is a key question, because, of course, as you know, those soldiers heading their way to Baghdad, whether or not they're going to see a real intense, fierce fight here. Senior administration officials today, of course, are going to be evaluating, assessing the military as well as the political status of this bombing campaign.

Still a number of unanswered questions, key questions, whether or not Saddam Hussein is dead or alive. Senior administration officials say that at least for the senior Iraqi officials, that they are not in control of the country, that the critical members, Saddam and his two sons, that this is in complete disarray.

But as you -- as mentioned before, there are talks that are going on. Secretary of State Colin Powell saying that, yes, between the Kurds as well as the Iraqi dissidents and those generals, whether or not they are going to give up and put down their weapons.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: There are a number of channels open to Baghdad. There are a number of individuals in countries around the world who have been conveying the message to the Iraqi regime that it is now inevitable that there will be a change.

Coalition forces are doing very well, the operation is going, I think, in a very fine manner. And in order to prevent any loss of life beyond that which may have occurred already, it would be wise for Iraqi leaders to recognize that their day is over, and that this is going to happen.


MALVEAUX: So, of course, that's the big question, and it will change the political landscape as well as the military landscape dramatically if we see those generals actually surrendering in mass numbers.

Now, President Bush today is at Camp David. He's going to be holding a meeting with the full war council, including the vice president, as well as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, among others. They're going to be assessing the damage and how to move forward, Paula. ZAHN: Suzanne, even as we speak, we are told that air raid sirens are sounding in Baghdad. I guess the question I have for you this morning, we already know that 8,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered near the town of Basra. What would it take to stop what is considered to be the first 24 hours of this Shock and Awe campaign?

MALVEAUX: Well, Paula, it's a good question. We don't know what it would take to actually stop a campaign, but we certainly know what it would take to actually create a pause, because the -- a pause that happened from the initial onset of the war planning, and that is, when there was an indication that perhaps generals would put down their weapons, that they would surrender in huge numbers.

That's why you saw that pause before the Shock and Awe actually began. That would prevent something like that from happening as well.

But so far, there are no signs that there are these mass numbers of generals who are willing to put down their arms.

ZAHN: Suzanne, we continue to look at the live picture from Baghdad. We know the air raid sirens have sounded. We can't tell you what that smoke in the distance, where it exactly it is coming from. As soon as we can get to some clarification, we will let you know. It should come as no surprise, though, to our audience that this strike will continue.

We were told by the Pentagon that the first part of the Shock and Awe campaign would last about 24 hours. It would include some 2,000 sorties and some 1,500 bombs or missiles would rain not only on Baghdad but in the towns of Kirkuk and Mosul as well, which we saw get struck yesterday.

We're going to go to Bill right now in Kuwait City as we try to get you more information about what we're looking at right now on that screen out of Baghdad -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, Paula, as we watch this on our live picture here in Kuwait City last night, absolutely thunderous as the beginning of that campaign began. There is a seven-minute stretch that captivated everyone, just to watch and to listen, especially to hear the sounds of the bombs hitting central Baghdad.

We're going to hear from Tommy Franks, head of Central Command in Qatar for the first time since this campaign began, 9:00 your time back in New York. We'll have that live for you, and certainly a lot of questions right now about the past three and a half days and what's happening or going to happen in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Major General Don Sheppard says watching this on TV is essentially giving us a straw, in looking at central Baghdad through the eye of a straw. Clearly it is difficult to get the big picture there. But for more on this, let's head to CNN Center and Renay San Miguel, who is watching things there with the general and has more now for us. Renay, hello, good morning.

RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Bill, and a lot to talk about over the last just 12 hours of the ground war.

But to get a reaction on some of these recent developments that have just been reported here over the last five minutes, we are joined by CNN military analyst Major General, retired Major General Don Sheppard.

General, the idea of a Tomahawk missile going off course here, these are, you know, amazing examples of military technology, but they do malfunction. What would cause something like that?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPARD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, yes, there's one rule of military operations, Renay, and that is that whatever can go wrong, will, and it'll go wrong at the worst possible time.

There's one country over there you don't want to hit, and it's Iran. So naturally we reportedly had an impact in Iran now.

We've had this happen before. Many years ago when we had missiles released on a Turkish boat in the Mediterranean, causing a big political problem for us. During the Kosovo campaign, we impacted the Chinese embassy, the one building in all of Belgrade that you sure did not want to hit, and it happened.

So these things happen. Sometimes they're human error, sometimes they're malfunction. Hopefully this did not injure anyone, and we can apologize to Iran and get on.

SAN MIGUEL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) again, we understand it did go down. We are investigating whether it went down in Southwestern Iran.

And as we see the video right now from Baghdad, air raid sirens sounding, some smoke there. The idea that this would be an around- the-clock bombing campaign, not just having to wait for nighttime but to do this in daytime, the strategy behind that.

SHEPPARD: Well, basically you want to keep pressure on the military wherever it is, and the leadership wherever it is, so you have to do that around the clock. Now, the reason for using the night over Baghdad is, you can use Stealth airplanes and not be seen at night until you get the air defenses down, then you can deploy -- you can employ all types of airplanes even during the daytime.

In the other areas of Iraq that are not heavily defended, these strikes are going to go on by all types of nonstealthy airplanes. So you use the entire clock, and you use -- be very careful about air defenses.

SAN MIGUEL: The idea, maybe, that this is also an indication that maybe the air defenses around Iraq -- Baghdad, the Iraqi air defenses, have been degradated -- degraded enough that maybe you could use not just cruise missiles but also aircraft to launch those missiles?

SHEPPARD: Yes, but I don't think it's -- I think it's too early to say that there have been severe degradation. I've watched the triple-A fire, the antiaircraft fire, around there, and it would be very dangerous during the daytime to bring nonstealthy airplanes into that environment, because you could have both the missiles that are left and the antiaircraft fire that could be -- that could see the airplanes during the day.

Now, you can even see the Tomahawk missiles and shoot those down during the daytime. So there's some more night work to be done in Baghdad.

SAN MIGUEL: I remember from the '91 campaign, there was shots of cruise missiles flying over Baghdad, video catching those in the daylight.

I don't know if we're going to be able to go to our map, but we want to show on our map table right now here some of the events that have been going on, especially in the south. We've seen the video, the compelling video, from Martin Savidge with the Marines destroying some of the tanks there near Basra. The idea here is to make sure that those do not come back and haunt you later on.

SHEPPARD: Indeed, yes. What's happening is they're cleaning up pockets, both in the port of Umm Qasr down here. You see the British and the Americans working on cleaning up those pockets. And there are also some -- reportedly some heavy fighting going around Basra. You've got to stop and you've got to really take care of these things so that you don't have them shooting you in the back as you move forward.

SAN MIGUEL: Got you. We want -- need to go back to Paula Zahn. General Sheppard, thank you so much. Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Renay. I'm actually going to throw a couple questions at the general now as we keep our eye on the screen now, live pictures out of the Baghdad. We have been told that the air sirens have sounded in downtown Baghdad.

General, we know that yesterday that a lot of the targets that were hit were considered symbols of the power of Saddam Hussein's regime, the Republican Palace was at the heart of the bombing. Some buildings, we are told, so secret that the Iraqis don't even know, or didn't even know they existed.

In addition to that, the Peace Palace and the Flowers Palaces hit, the Iraqi information minister saying they were turned into ruins. My question to you, what is left to hit in Baghdad...

SHEPPARD: Well, there's a...

ZAHN: ... that is of strategic importance?

SHEPPARD: Yes, there's a lot left, even in this small area of Baghdad. Reportedly, at least from the Iraqi standpoint, there were 19 impacts in downtown Baghdad. It looked like a lot more than that to me, but we'll have to let the CentCom briefing take care of that. But there's still a lot to hit in the military and government area, and a lot of it's underground, Paula. There'll be some restrikes in the same area, and then we'll go against air defenses in and around Baghdad also.

ZAHN: The other thing I want to ask you about, some of the reporters left on the ground described the pinpoint accuracy of these weapons. And I want you to share with us some information on that, because they found it shattering that they could watch from the top levels of a hotel a half-mile away, and of course feel the convulsions of the ground, but nothing more than that.

SHEPPARD: Yes, indeed. It indicates that they are certainly not being targeted in these outlying areas. It's confined to this small area on the west bank of the Tigris River. The accuracy of these bombs is up to about nine feet, is a -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nine -- anywhere from nine to 15 feet. Some of them do go errant, so I would be very careful about watching from anywhere, just like the Tomahawk missile in Iran. We can have errors around there.

But the -- for the most part, they're very accurate, everything dropped in downtown Baghdad was a precision-guided weapon, either guided by satellite guidance or infrared laser guidance.

ZAHN: Of course, we just heard the breaking news from the Pentagon from Barbara Starr that the Defense Department is now confirming that an errant Tomahawk missile might have gone into Iran. If that is true, what might be the repercussions of that?

SHEPPARD: Well, I think you'll (UNINTELLIGIBLE) having us making an apology and an explanation to the Iranian government. These are errors. Hopefully no one was injured in this. It happens in every military operation, things that you don't plan on happen, and they screw you up, and you have to work with it, Paula, it's part of military operations.

ZAHN: And general, if you can give us some insight as to what Saddam Hussein must be thinking right now, if he is alive. We know, according to what we heard from news briefings yesterday, that they are working with the assumption that he is still alive, but they do believe he was in that small complex of buildings with his sons the first night of the attacks, the attacks that came before the Shock and Awe campaign got under way.

SHEPPARD: Yes, my guess is, not knowing what he's thinking, my guess is that Saddam Hussein is saying, How do I communicate with my top generals, and how do I keep their confidence? And it's going to get tougher for him every minute of every day, Paula.

ZAHN: The other thing I'd love for you to talk to us a little bit about are these ongoing negotiations that are going on between Iraqi defectors and members of the top Iraqi military leadership right now, as well as some of the CIA's operatives. How do you see that playing out?

SHEPPARD: Well, that's very important negotiations. Hopefully we will have surrenders and switching of sides and not have to go into downtown Baghdad. If we have to go into downtown Baghdad, the U.S. forces will. But it could be a very, very nasty fight, and so these negotiations make a lot of sense to keep any aspect of weapons of mass destruction from being deployed against our forces or Iraqi civilians, and avoiding a fight in downtown Baghdad.

ZAHN: I know even though those of you who have witnessed a lot of wars, a lot of military campaigns, are really struck by the breadth of this campaign. You have this campaign involving some 38 different locations, including 30 air bases in the Middle East, England, and as far away as Whiteland (ph) Air Force Base in Missouri. Just a broad thought on that, and how complicated it is to pull this all together.

SHEPPARD: I can't overemphasize the complicated nature of how difficult it is to orchestrate this and time this so it all comes together in a seven-minute bombardment in a confined area and not hit the rest of the city, and you do it not only with United States forces but with coalition forces, special operations, United States forces working with British forces, using combined equipment, air support from the United States Air Force.

This is all very difficult. It's very joint. And it comes from years and years of practice and lots of money spent, Paula.

ZAHN: Finally, general, before we get to back Bill Hemmer, who has some news out of Kuwait City, it would not surprise you, as we're looking at this picture of the screen from downtown Baghdad, that there might be some strikes launched during daytime hours? Once again, the air raids sirens have been sounded. We saw some much thicker black smoke about a minute and a half ago. It seems to be receding into the skyline there.

SHEPPARD: No, I see that we'll have continual pressure throughout the daytime, and some of it will be because of targets of opportunity, some of it will be restrike on important targets that we need to take out. And so we can't wait until nighttime. So all of this is just the way an air campaign is conducted. We will use the night for reasons of protecting our Stealth aircraft until the air defenses have been degraded to our satisfaction, Paula.

ZAHN: General Sheppard, if you don't mind standing by, we're going to need to lean on you for your wealth of information and expertise all morning long. Thanks so much.

Back to Bill now in Kuwait City.

HEMMER: Paula, south of town here, I'm going to take you to a briefing under way right now, British army, Chris Vernon now talking with reporters about the situation in and around Basra and also the fate of these POWs.

COL. CHRIS VERNON, BRITISH ARMY SPOKESMAN: We (UNINTELLIGIBLE) timelines on any of this. One of the things I keep having to stress it toward you, there is not a blueprint, a timeline saying that ID plus seven so-and-so, you know. If this takes two weeks, it takes two weeks. If it takes two months, it takes two months.

QUESTION: Did you notice any ships in Umm Qasr or (OFF-MIKE)?

VERNON: No, I would say Umm Qasr looks to me like a pretty decrepit port. There's the odd modern crane there, but, I mean, it's -- it doesn't look like a huge (OFF-MIKE) port. (OFF-MIKE), I'm leading to (OFF-MIKE), but no, not the port.


VERNON: No. No more than the statement that's put out that there was a collision over international waters, resulting in the deaths that have been reported.

QUESTION: Colonel, you mentioned that there was sporadic resistance in Umm Qasr. You mentioned that there were militia present over there (OFF-MIKE). Have they hit any American tanks or British units, British forces in that region? Have they reported anything (ph)?

VERNON: Yes. One U.S. Marine has been killed.

QUESTION: Other than that, (OFF-MIKE)?


QUESTION: The Iraqis are saying (OFF-MIKE).

VERNON : No. I can -- there were only four in there to start with, so they got the mathematics (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

QUESTION: Can you tell me (OFF-MIKE)?

VERNON: Sorry? I would -- that's what I'm referring to, is 51 Division. I would say combat ineffective. It's very difficult to ascertain which bits (ph) have surrendered, which bits (ph) just have just dissipated and which bits (ph) didn't turn up, et cetera, et cetera.


VERNON: No. I mean where is that coming from? OK -- great.


VERNON: No, namely (ph)?


VERNON: Name? No, not on the plans so far, not achieved so far.


VERNON: It's very easy to defend a town and a dockyard, which is why we would not to choose in urban built up areas if we had to. It just fools into the hands of a man with a gun. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris Burns, let's get away from this in Kuwait City. They're talking about Umm Qasr is a pretty decrepit port. We know there are pockets of resistance in and around the area. But earlier, we were also told that the British and the U.S. military, that they feel pretty secure right now about getting occupation of both the old and the new ports.

Talked about one Marine dead in the past 24 hours. Just to update you now on what we know in terms of numbers on the American casualty side, four Marines as a result of that helicopter going down in Northern Kuwait. Two Marines killed in combat in Southern Iraq yesterday. And one American on board one of the British helicopters dead as a result of that collision above the Persian Gulf waters earlier today.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon now has more for us. Barbara, what do you have? Good morning, again.

STARR: Good morning, Bill. Well, officials believe now that it is very likely that at least one Tomahawk cruise missile during these recent attacks in the last several hours has misfired and landed in Southwestern Iran. They have not gotten final confirmation. We must emphasize that.

They do not have final confirmation, but officials saying they do believe it is very likely based on their own intelligence and the Iranian press reports that they have seen in recent hours that at least one Tomahawk missile did land in Iran. This would not be totally unexpected during Tomahawk cruise missile attacks when they fire dozens and dozens of them, even though they are precision weapons. Even though they are guided to their target by satellite coordinates, it is not completely unusual that sometimes these missiles do misfire and land where it is not expected. So that's going to be something they're going to be looking into quite a bit over the next several hours.

Now in terms of these pictures we're showing of daylight attacks over Baghdad, also quite expected. This is what we had been told would begin to happen. "A rolling campaign," as one official said here yesterday. He said you would not see lulls. There would be around-the-clock attacks.

That has certainly been part of the war plan all along. But now that we are seeing daylight attacks over Baghdad, it's really a very clear indication the U.S. believes that it has taken out, that it has eliminated key air defenses and key communications in the area. It feels much more confident that it can fly in the daylight hours -- Bill.

HEMMER: Barbara, when they talk about battle damage assessment, it's something that goes on literally 24 hours a day. Have you gotten much of an indication yet as to what they truly believe may have taken place during that first 7-minute campaign last night when the thunderous roar rang out throughout Baghdad last evening, 9:00 local time?

STARR: You know there are a couple of indicators that officials have offered. Some of the clouds that you have seen, the plumes, the debris coming up from some of the explosions in this central area of Baghdad against these government buildings and these presidential palace facilities are indications to weapons targeteers that they have made a spot-on target hit. That they are hitting their targets exactly.

They are looking very closely at the plumes that they actually see being broadcast on TV. And it's an indication to them when they see these huge plumes in a certain fashion, these sort of mushroom clouds, that that is a good hit. That they have hit their target exactly, that the right overpressure has been created when you see these clouds of debris and smoke come up.

So that's one indication. But I think perhaps the biggest indication that they've really managed to do what they intended is this first round of daylight raids today. It's an indication that they feel confident flying over Baghdad in the daylight hours and that it's going to continue.

HEMMER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, we will check in many times throughout the day here. Back to Paula now in New York -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Bill. Coming up: an all-out air assault on Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Does it push Saddam Hussein and his top aides to the brink? A live report from Baghdad straight ahead.

And the advance of coalition forces. Live updates from our embedded reporters tracking troop movements. Plus, voices of opposition. Anti-war demonstrations in the U.S. and overseas.

We'll have that and much more coming up in the next hour. Now back to CNN's Brent Sadler. He has some new information to share about U.S. Airborne troops heading into Northern Iraq. He joins us now live from Iraq. Brent, what is the latest from there?

BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Thanks. Yes, Paula, information coming from the Kurdish military intelligence sources here that the United States, exasperated with difficulties with Turkey over the past several weeks in the buildup to the invasion and the ongoing invasion, that the U.S. is now in the process of re-digging (ph) a deployment for U.S. forces in Northern Iraq here. And I understand that the plan is to put, first of all, U.S. Special Forces units into Jordan, and that they would then fly from Jordan across Iraq's western desert and land in an airfield about two hours from where I'm standing.

This operation could begin, I'm told, as early as 48 hours from now. Perhaps as many as 200 Special Forces in an initial wave, to be followed up by a deployment of Airborne forces. Total numbers in the initial phases, I'm told about 6,000. This, because of problems, conditions being applied by Turkey for the use of Turkish airspace for U.S. aircraft.

So that re-digging (ph) is going on. Perhaps it might tie up the many loose ends in this northern enclave. Now what you see -- I'm actually wearing for the first time in the past three days -- a protective jacket, because there was some fire, some gunfire just a few moments ago. There's also an unconfirmed report we have that on the road to Kirkuk, which is one of the two major northern cities here under Saddam Hussein's control, that one of the guards of a U.S. network, our colleagues, Fox, one of their guards has been shot. Still waiting for complete confirmation of that, but it gives you an idea of the way things are getting a little tense as each goes by, with these loose ends still flapping in a diplomatic gale as a result of problems with Turkey.

Just a quick update: a bunch of targets that were hit by coalition air strikes overnight in Kirkuk and Mosul, behind me Mosul in that direction. Mosul took hits I'm told to an Iraqi army barracks, the headquarters of military intelligence, and one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. In Kirkuk, the major oil-producing area of Northern Iraq, three more targets there. An airbase -- a huge airbase -- I saw that back in 1991 after the Gulf War cease-fire when the Kurds were rebelling against Saddam Hussein. They took that airfield for a brief spell.

It's a huge airfield. It could be very important for further deployment of U.S. forces if a northern front gets underway. Final target: Iraqi military intelligence in Kirkuk.

That's the latest from here. Back to you, Paula.

ZAHN: Brent, before we let you go, Kevin Sites, who is on the ground not too far from where you are, reported that it was not clear exactly why the Iraqis were firing this shot. Perhaps as to send a message to the Kurds that they are still there. What are they really capable of doing at this point, these Iraqi soldiers?

SADLER: Well, if I can just tell you what's along the front lines, but a 500-mile front line separating Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein's command and control with the Kurds. Three Iraqi army corps, 120,000 men, found a lot (ph), found strong. But, according to intelligence sources on the ground here, they're not very well equipped. The army is about 70 percent Shiite, not loyal of course to Saddam Hussein.

But the officer corps, that's what's important. The officer corps handpicked by Saddam Hussein from the Sunnis (ph) heartland from places like Mosul, Tikrit, Viela (ph) and of course Ramardi (ph), just north of Baghdad. And it is the intentions of those commanders who control those three army corps along this Kurdish line into Northern Iraq that's really important.

I understand that U.S. Special Forces are working very closely with their Kurdish counterparts on the ground, trying to probe the intentions of those Iraqi army commanders in the hope that Kirkuk and Mosul, there will not be a battle for those two major oil cities. And also, a battle that could result in the torching of those very vital Iraqi oil wells in the Kirkuk and Mosull areas. So those are the kinds of things, Paula, that are going on behind the scenes right now.

ZAHN: Brent Sadler, thanks so much. We'll get back to you a little bit later on this morning.

In the meantime, I want to call your attention to what you see unfolding on the screen. Live pictures out of Baghdad. We're keeping an eye on this cloud of black smoke that continues to hang over the city. General Shepherd, our expert, gave us a sense that it would not surprise him if we see part of this air campaign continued in this first 24 hours of Shock and Awe.

Now, traditionally, Bill, we talked about pilots not wanting to fly during daylight hours. But, once again, General Shepherd said that it might be a tactic that is used to continue to keep the Iraqis off guard -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes. We also know in and around Baghdad the Iraqi air defense are quite formidable. And a guy who knows all about that is Ken Pollack. He wrote a book called "The Threatening Storm: The Case Against Saddam Hussein."

But prior to being an author, Ken was a CIA analyst. At the time when he wore that hat, he was in charge of examining the Iraqi military. Ken, welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

Let's talk about Basra first. Getting indications right now the 51st division of the regular Iraqi army, about 8,000 strong, may be in the process of surrendering. Perhaps they've done it already. But even they're not part of the Special Republican Guard, even the Republican Guard, why would this division be so critical, Ken?

KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: Well, it's the first big division that we're coming across. It was the division south of Basra that Saddam was using to defend the southern approaches to the city. It's also very important because it's one of Iraq's six heavy divisions. The Iraqis have three armored divisions and three mechanized. And the 51st is one of those mechanized divisions.

And beyond that, this could send a very important signal to other Iraqi forces throughout the country. If they see a big formation, like the entire 51st Mech, surrender to the United States, then you might have other formations. The 11th Infantry, that's going to be the one facing our 3rd Infantry Division, or the 6th Armored Division just up the road, they may all decide, well, you know what, if the 51st was able to surrender and get away with it, maybe we can, too.

But by the same token, we shouldn't push it too far, Bill. Because we've got to remember this is really not a terrific division. It's actually a very mediocre division. It was demoralized, last call for equipment and spares and all that other good stuff.

And so from Saddam's perspective, he was never expecting the 51st to put up much of a fight. And probably expected that they might surrender (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So while it's helpful for us, it's not necessarily something that he's going to be too concerned about.

HEMMER: Yes. We know the Iraqi military of 12 years later not nearly rebuilt the way they were in late of 1990. What is your evaluation right now about how defensive the posture could be in and around Baghdad, once it gets to that point?

POLLACK: Well, Bill, that's -- you're really focusing on what the critical issue is. Because the truth of the matter is that the regular Iraqi armed forces, which are deployed out in the periphery of the country, these are really not first-class troops. As I said, they're poorly equipped, they're mostly pretty demoralized, they tend not to be paid on a regular basis, not to have a whole lot of food or other perks from the government. And, as a result, no one, probably not even Saddam Hussein, expected them to put up much of a fight.

The real issue is going to be when we get to Baghdad. That's where Saddam has got his three big Republic Guard armored divisions. That's half the Republican Guard. They are dug in around the city. And Saddam is betting that they are going to put up a fight with us.

They are the best troops in Iraq. They have the best training. They have the best equipment. They're also the most motivated and committed.

And you may remember that, in 1991, during the Gulf War, when the Iraqi regular army wasn't surrendering and running away, the Republican Guard stood and fought. They didn't fight well, but they fought very hard, and they often fought to the death. And what Saddam is hoping is that in the urban environment around Baghdad the willingness of the Republican Guard to stand and fight and die will maximize their effort, and we won't want to be willing to get into a fight in the city, in the built-up environment around Baghdad with Republican Guards who are actually willing to fight for Saddam.

HEMMER: Put some numbers on it. How many it could be if indeed the force is at full strength.

POLLACK: Sure. Well, the Republican Guard all together comes to about maybe 80,000 men. There are probably a little bit more than half of those around Baghdad. So put it at around 30,000, 35,000 men, Republican Guards around Baghdad.

In addition to that, behind the Republican Guard you have the Special Republican Guard. Now the Special Republican Guard is only about 20,000 to 25,000 men. And while they are soldiers, and they dress like soldiers and they're equipped like soldiers, they're not really trained like soldiers. The Republican Guard are trained like conventional military forces.

The Special Republican Guard, they are mostly thugs. They're Saddam's goons. They're the bully boys who he uses to keep control over the city itself. So people expect them to put up somewhat less of a fight just because they're not as good as the Republican Guard. Remember the Republican Guards themselves aren't nearly as good as our troops are.

But what the Special Republican Guard has going for them is they're tremendously loyal to Saddam. They're all recruited from Saddam's own tribe or a few other tribes that are fiercely loyal to Saddam. They are brought as young men to Baghdad. They are trained -- basically they're brainwashed by Saddam, and essentially believe that Saddam is the great savior of the Arab world.

They really believe it. And the expectation is that, while they may not fight as well as the Republican Guard, they will fight hard. They will fight to the death. And they're sitting there in Baghdad. So you've got to add them, another 20,000, 25,000, to the 30,000 or 35,000 Republican Guards.

And then finally, beyond that, there will also be members of Saddam's various security services. And he's got about a dozen of them. And there may be another 30,000 or 40,000 members of his security service in Baghdad.

Now they're also not trained soldiers, so they know about fighting even less than say the Republican Guards do. But they, too, are very closely tied to the regime. And, in particular, they're the ones that Saddam uses to slaughter the Iraqi people. They are deeply implicated in Saddam's war crimes, and they are probably going to be willing to fight for Saddam just because they probably believe that if Saddam goes down, they're going with him.

HEMMER: You know, Ken, having the will to fight sometimes can be a completely different matter when it comes to having the means to fight. What sort of weaponry, how well equipped are they?

POLLACK: They're not terribly well equipped, especially by our standards. The Republican Guard has the best equipment. They've got reasonably modern Soviet stuff. T-72 tanks, BMP 1 and 2 (ph) armored personnel carriers, even some self-propelled guns. Even, believe it or not, some American self-propelled Howitzers, which they captured from the Iranians.

And that's reasonably good equipment. But, by the same token, what we saw in the Gulf War was our modern equipment can slice through the old Soviet stuff pretty easily.

As for the Special Republican Guard and the security services, they don't even have that. They mostly just have a few armored vehicles, not even tanks. They've got small arms. Again, Russian equipment. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) assault rifles, mortars, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) machineguns, light infantry weapons, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons, nothing particularly heavy. In truth, nothing that our Army and Marines can't handle.

HEMMER: Ken Pollack, author of "The Threatening Storm," former CIA analyst, thank you for being with us yet again today. When we talk again, Ken, I would like to look at this point: to this point in this conflict, there is no evidence that we know of or have been shown to us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Then the scenario goes to this one: what if they are never found or discovered throughout this conflict or even after that? Let's consider that scenario next time we talk.

In the meantime, Tommy Franks is going to talk today for the first time since the conflict began. He's going to brief reporters at Central Command in Qatar. You'll see it live on CNN 9:00 AM Eastern Time -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Bill. We want to bring your attention back to that picture coming out of Baghdad live. That black cloud of smoke still creating a lot of haze in that city. We don't know what the source of that smoke is, although General Shepherd said it wouldn't surprise him if we did see some daylight air strikes.

We have been led to believe that this first stage of the Shock and Awed campaign will last some 24 hours, which would take us to about 1:00 PM Eastern Time today. We'll get you posted on that.

Right now, though, military leaders continue to be very concerned about approaching sandstorms to the region. Chad Myers standing by in CNN's Center with the very latest on that. How bad could it get, Chad?


ZAHN: Turkey and its actions continue to be our big story at this hour. The Turks allowed yesterday for the U.S. to potentially start using its airspace. Now Kurdish sources are telling CNN the U.S. may bypass that altogether and fly over Jordan. The latest on all that after this very short break.


ZAHN: Good morning, and welcome back to our Strike on Iraq coverage. There are conflicting reports this morning about whether Turkish troops have actually crossed the border into Iraq. Coalition forces attacked a radical Islamic group along Iran, the Iran-Iraqi border yesterday. That is according to Kurdish sources.

Fredricka Whitfield is live by way of videophone from Silopi, Turkey with the very latest. Fredricka, good morning.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello there, Paula. Well, still some conflicting messages coming in now from various Turkish sources. Some who are saying that Turkish troops have already crossed the border. Some 1,500 commandos have crossed the border into Iraq. Others are now saying that there has been a holdup and none of the Turkish troops have crossed the border.

At the same time, all of this comes when the U.S. and Turkish governments are battling over the issue of the appropriateness of whether those Turkish forces need to be in Iraq and the northern territory. American sources are trying -- or the American government, rather, are trying to tell the Turkish government it's not necessary. That it would, in fact, be "unhelpful." Those are the words of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

He says potentially because you may have Turkish forces conflicting with Kurdish troops, Kurdish troops who are working in concert with U.S. Special Forces. And then, consequently, you might have Turkish forces conflicting with American forces. And then, beyond that, Turkish forces conflicting with possibly Saddam's troops, who may be making their way into the northern territory to try to get to some of those rich oil fields.

Now meantime, this all comes about as part of a package deal that the Turkish parliament agreed upon last Thursday, saying that in exchange for the American fly-overs to be able to take place, that Turkish troops would be able to come into the northern territory of Iraq. Well, meantime, there has been no American flights as we know of going over Turkish airspace.

Originally, this is how it would have worked. From the northern corridor, bombers coming from Bulgaria or even Hungary would be flying south over Turkish airspace between Istanbul and Turkzan (ph). And then flying further south into the northern territory of Iraq. And then on the southern corridor, fighter jets coming from the USS Truman or Roosevelt, flying through the Mediterranean, heading north. Just avoiding the Syrian airspace and then curling around the southern Turkish border and into Northern Iraq.

We're only -- here in Silopi, Turkey -- about six or seven miles from the Iraqi border. And it's presumed that we would likely hear any kind of fire jet or bomber activity going on overhead. We haven't heard that, and none of our sources are telling us that any air activity involving the U.S. has indeed happened.

Now remember the reason why the Turkish forces want to go across border, or possibly have already made it across border, is because the Turkish government said it wants to protect its national interest. It wants to somehow avert any kind of Kurdish refugee crisis like it saw during the Gulf War, when 500,000 Kurds crossed the border, causing a major refugee crisis here. As well as, Turkish sources say, they want to protect any sort of rich oil field, and in addition to that they want to avert any of the Kurds already in this autonomous Kurdish region of Northern Iraq to declare independence and eventually statehood -- Paula.

ZAHN: Fredricka Whitfield, we'll have you on standby throughout the morning. Thanks so much for that important update. Once again, a lot of confusion surrounding those reports as to whether 1,500 commandos have left Turkey and entered Iraqi space.

We are keeping an eye on that picture out of Baghdad, where we see a large black cloud of smoke hanging over the city. We're not too sure what the source of that smoke is.

Air raid sirens sounded just as evening prayers were being called in Baghdad. As soon as we have a better sense of what this is all about we will let you know. But, Bill, once again, General Shepherd is reporting that it would not surprise him if we do see some air strikes during daylight hours today.

Once again, the first 24 hours of this campaign are supposed to drop some 1,500 cruise missiles and bombs, some 2,000 sorties. And if what we're being told is true, that campaign would wind up -- or at least the first 24 hours -- about 1:00 PM Eastern Time, Bill.

HEMMER: Yes. That would be about five or six hours from now, Paula, 9:00 local time in Baghdad. They're plus eight, relative to the clock in New York. So it's something that we shall track. And then you have to ask the question as to whether or not you go into an additional 24 hours. Perhaps Tommy Franks will give us some better insight when he meets with reporters about an hour from now. Kelly McCann, CNN security analyst now back with us live in D.C. Kelly, welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Thanks for coming in on a Saturday for us as well.

I want to talk about the situation surrounding Baghdad. At some point it's going to come to that, where there could be this military engagement. But before I get to that -- and I know it's early, Kelly. Only three and a half days into this conflict right now.

But what if there is no evidence found by the British and U.S. forces as to weapons on mass destruction in Iraq? Have you considered that scenario? And, if so, what then?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know it's an interesting question, Bill. And it goes to that whole (UNINTELLIGIBLE) kind of thought process of a stable Mesopotamia cultured society that gives a stabilizing influence throughout the Middle East. And we used the weapons of mass destruction argument to get in.

If, in fact, we don't find significant weapons of mass destruction stockpiles, it will be an interesting shift in reasoning. I'm not sure that we have gone through the process of thinking that eventually is a possibility, because the bottom line is, is it is anticipated that he may use them around Baghdad. And I think that that's where it all points.

If we move to Baghdad and if he does have chemical weapons, it is most likely that he would throw them into the mix at that point to induce that asymmetrical battlefield we talked about the other day. So the jury is still out.

HEMMER: Yes. And one cannot get complacent as the move to the north does continue. Kelly, listen, we're out of time this hour, but we'll certainly get back to you a bit later. Kelly McCann in D.C.


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