WASHINGTON, April 1 (UPI) -- Russian military advisers have told Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his government that the main Allied drive on Baghdad will not take place until mid-April and will then come around the west of the city, Russian journalists and analysts with strong links to Russian military intelligence now claim.
Strikingly, the Russian analysts, whose work appears on the iraqwar.ru Web site, believe that U.S. and Allied forces are still overwhelmingly likely to win the war and that they are performing in a highly impressive manner. The reports are described as "based on the Russian military intelligence -- the Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU -- reports."
A March 31 report on the site revealed that Iraq was receiving analytical advice from Russian officials. "Russian military analysts are advising the Iraqi military command against excessive optimism," it said.
The Russian analysts stated that "There is no question that the U.S. 'blitzkrieg' failed to take control of Iraq and to destroy its army. It is clear that the Americans got bogged down in Iraq and that the military campaign hit a snag."
But they then went on to caution the Iraqis, "The Iraq command is now in danger of underestimating the enemy. For there is no reason to question the resolve of the Americans and their determination to reach the set goal -- complete occupation of Iraq."
And they continued, "Despite some obvious miscalculations and errors of the coalition's high command, the (Allied) troops that have entered Iraq maintain high combat readiness and are willing to fight. The initiative in the war remains firmly in the hands of the coalition."
Indeed, in a March 30 report the Russian analysts predicted, "The coalition is already planning a new large scale operation that will utilize the new forces currently being deployed in the region."
Russian intelligence believed "this large scale operation will be launched from the general vicinity of Karabela and will develop into a wide maneuver around Baghdad from the west ending in the area of the Tartar lake east of al-Hadid -- or east of the Tartar lake at Samarrah," the Russian analysts' report said. "From this point a part of the force will continue advancing toward Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit and from there it will turn towards Baghdad from the north through Samarrah and Baahkuba; meanwhile the rest of the force will strike the rears of the Iraqi forces fighting in the north near Kirkuk and Mosul."
"Such an operation would require up to 60,000 troops, no less than 300 tanks and 200 helicopters," the Russian analysts concluded. "It is believed that such forces can be put together by April 15 and by April 18 they should be ready for to attack."
It remains to be seen, of course if the war will indeed follow this highly detailed prediction. Current reports indicate that U.S. forces are slowly closing in on Baghdad and probing for weaknesses in Iraqi defenses already.
What is certainly the case is that Iraqi resistance has been impressive and prolonged and that contrary to universally held U.S. media assumptions -- and the confident expectations of Defense Department war planners -- the Iraqis have succeeded in holding up and preventing U.S. conquest and occupation of all major cities to this point, almost two weeks into the war. The main -- and bloodiest -- clashes of the war are clearly still ahead.
With this in mind one other, sobering conclusion of the GRU analysts may prove significant. The March 30 report concluded, "Russian military analysts believe that the critical (point) for the U.S. duration of the war would be over 90 days" -- in other words, after mid-June -- "provided that during that time the coalition will sustain over 1,000 killed. Under such circumstances a serious political crisis in the U.S. and the world will be unavoidable."