Author’s Note: Apologies for breaking this post up into parts. I’m out of town for a day or two and writing time is limited. I’ll wrap this up on Saturday evening. Again, I’m very sorry.
As dawn approached it was evident to all Soviet diplomats and military officers presently in Iraq that Saddam’s much vaunted army would not be ready to march south into Kuwait for at least another eighteen hours. Despite the inflated assurances of Saddam Hussein, more time was needed. The core of the Iraqi invasion force, three Republican Guard divisions, was not fully in place yet. While their combat elements largely were, support units and the ever-critical logistical tails were still closing. If the coming Iraqi adventure was to halt at Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia, operations against Kuwait could begin at once. However, Saddam was sizing up the Saudi oilfields in much the same way a starving person would eye up a grocery store with no locks on the doors.
At the Soviet embassy in Baghdad, the commander of the 104th Guards Airborne Division Major General Viktor Sorokin agreed with the assessments concerning the readiness of Iraqi forces. Personally, he didn’t believe Iraq could sustain an advance, and offensive south of the Kuwait/Saudi border even without American units standing between Kuwait and the oilfields. Sorokin was the senior ranking Soviet officer in Iraq, an extension of Southern TVD’s headquarters in Baku and the theater commander. When he spoke, many senior officers and officials listened carefully, partly because of his experience and rank, yet also because his division was teetering precariously on the tip of the sword.
Sorokin agreed with the assessments of Iraq’s forces. More time was needed before they were ready to move into Kuwait. His concern right now was if Saddam Hussein moved his forces now the price would be paid by the men of the division Sorokin commanded. A regiment of the 104th Guards Airborne Division was slated to play a crucial role in the upcoming operation. It was to be dropped in eastern Saudi Arabia a short distance from the large oilfields and Aramco facilities with the mission of securing the airfield at Dhahran for follow-on units of the division to arrive. The overall mission of the 104th Guards would be to keep the attention of the American airborne units there away from Kuwait for as long as possible. The plan called for the 104th to hold out until the Iraqi Republican Guard columns arrived to rescue them within seventy-two hours of the initial drop.
The prospect of Iraq’s ground forces moving early and not making it to the Dhahran area in time was a lead ball in the pit of Sorokin’s stomach. The same held true at Southern TVD’s headquarters in Baku, and Moscow. The foreign ministry, on orders from the General Secretary himself, ordered the ambassador to request an audience with the Iraqi leader to explain the Soviet misgivings, and recommend a twenty-four hour delay on the start of operations against Kuwait. The ambassador was on his way to that meeting now as the sky outside brightened, heralding the beginning of a new day.