A day after battering Baghdad and other Iraqi cities with aerial strikes of an intensity never seen before, US President George W. Bush has made it clear that the war will go on in full throttle. There will be "no half-way measures" and the only way to limit the conflict's duration will be to "apply decisive force".
Bush, moving to his weekend retreat in Camp David with his war cabinet in tow, asserted in a radio address on Saturday that the US's cause was "just" and its mission "clear". Washington, as he put it, has "entered this conflict reluctantly, yet with a clear and firm purpose".
He sought to discount reports suggesting an early end to the war because of quick Iraqi capitulation. "A campaign on harsh terrain in a vast country could be longer and more difficult than some have predicted. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable, and free country will require our sustained commitment," he said.
US officials, however, have begun to see many helpful signs. Washington believes that the sheer ferocity of Friday's aerial bombardment has unnerved the Iraqi establishment, giving a fillip to negotiated surrenders. Top functionaries believe that Iraq's command and control structure is collapsing.
"The confusion of Iraqi officials is growing. Their ability to see what is happening on the battlefield, to communicate with their forces and to control their country is slipping away," commented Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
General Tommy Franks, who leads the Iraq war operation, said on Saturday that Iraq's command and control structure "is not exactly what is being advertised on state television". He confirmed that a "dialogue" was going on with senior Iraqi officials to bring about a surrender.
The Bush administration has set out eight parameters to define the success of the Iraq operation. The tasks are:
*Get rid of the Saddam Hussein regime in a decisive fashion
*Identify, isolate and eventually eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
*Search, capture and drive out terrorists who have found safe harbour in Iraq
*Collect intelligence related to terrorist networks in Iraq and beyond
*Collect intelligence on the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction activity
*End sanctions and deliver humanitarian relief
*Secure Iraq's oil fields and resources for Iraq's development
*Help create conditions for a rapid transition to a representative self-government.