Ongoing threats in southern Iraq prompted U.S. strategists Tuesday to change their immediate priorities from pushing toward Baghdad to securing supply lines.
Despite sandstorms, some progress was made in the advance, and air strikes hit enemy missile sites and Republican Guard positions near the city.
But the need to protect troops carrying fuel and ammunition to the front lines prompted a revised plan. The push to Baghdad could take a few more days.
A good example of the coalition's problems occurred late Tuesday, when a substantial battle broke out east of Najaf, about 100 miles south of the capital. The Army's 7th Cavalry Regiment came under attack from Iraqis using rocket-propelled grenades. No American fatalities were reported; the Iraqis took substantial losses in the counterattack.
Far to the south, Basra remained a city in chaos, with no electricity and little water. The coalition plans to be more aggressive in rooting out enemy forces—both regular and rogue troops—so that humanitarian aid can be delivered to Basra. The coalition was investigating reports that residents had staged an uprising against Iraqi troops. That could be the kind of civil rebellion that the anti-Saddam forces have hoped would aid their cause.
Along the road north to the capital, coalition troops tried to control the enemy in Nasiriyah, the scene of fierce firefights. Some 170 paramilitary troops were captured there by U.S. Marines. But snipers continued to plague allied soldiers going past the town.
CASUALTIES TO DATE (APPROXIMATE)
U.S. military: 25 dead
British military: 19 dead; two members of a tank crew died Tuesday near Basra when their unit was targeted mistakenly by another British tank.
In Baghdad: No report available from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In Amman, Jordan, and around the country, busloads of Iraqi expatriates are returning home to help fight the U.S.-British forces. They aren't necessarily planning to join the military, but want to fight on their own.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal said he had tried to broker a peace agreement to end the war. He said the proposal remained alive.
In London, a survey in the Guardian newspaper found that 54 percent of the public backs the war, compared with 38 percent a week ago. Some experts suggest that the British are steeled against the casualties of war because of the long battle against terrorism in Northern Ireland.
In Seoul, South Korea, the National Assembly delayed a vote on sending the promised 700 non-combat soldiers to help the U.S.-led alliance. Popular opposition to the war may be growing in South Korea.
President Bush asked Congress to act expeditiously on his $74.7 billion emergency spending request for the war.
But the Senate denied his wishes on a proposed $726 billion tax cut, slicing it in half. Federal deficits and war costs were cited. The House of Representatives approved its own version of the budget Friday with the full set of reductions; the House and Senate will have to compromise when they OK a final budget.
The president said he would meet Wednesday night at Camp David and Thursday at the White House with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
AROUND THE UNITED STATES
In New York, the New York Stock Exchange banned reporters from Al-Jazeera, the Arab TV network. The exchange said it needed to give credentials to other journalists. Al-Jazeera had angered many viewers by showing American prisoners of war and close-ups of bodies of U.S. soldiers. Also, hackers crashed the network's new English-language Web site (http://english.aljazeera.net).
In Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California and Nevada state lines, there has been a surge in weddings. Many of the newlyweds have been members of the military, eager to marry before war derailed their plans. In February, the clerk of El Dorado County in California issued 474 marriage licenses, compared with 269 the month before.
WEATHER IN BAGHDAD
Wednesday: Partly cloudy, with severe weather easing
High temperature: 59
Low temperature: 43
"Smart weapons are perhaps a tremendous advance in military action, but I fail to see how a smart weapon is going to distinguish between a good Iraqi and a bad Iraqi."
_Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.