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Rumsfeld: Saddam regime 'starting to lose control'

More than 1,000 sorties flown

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "The confusions of Iraqi officials is growing."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is "starting to lose control of [the] country," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday, as U.S. and coalition forces unleashed a punishing air attack on Baghdad and northern Iraqi cities.

"The confusion of Iraqi officials is growing," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing. "Their ability to see what is happening on the battlefield, to communicate with their forces and to control their country is slipping away."

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, characterized the latest phase of the war in Iraq as a "massive air campaign" that will involve "several hundred military targets." So far, he said, coalition aircraft have flown more than 1,000 sorties and "dropped scores of precision-guided munitions" on Iraqi military targets.

Rumsfeld said he did not know the fate of Saddam or whether leadership had changed hands as he had only "scraps of information." In the first strike against Iraq Wednesday night, coalition forces targeted a residential compound in Baghdad where Saddam, his sons and other top officials may have been hiding, according to U.S. officials. An intelligence service headquarters and Republican Guard facility in the city also were hit.

"There's no question but that strike on that leadership headquarters was successful," Rumsfeld. "We have photographs of what took place. The question is: what was in there."

Rumsfeld said the United States hoped senior Iraqi officers would turn against Saddam after initial U.S. air strikes Thursday, and a U.S. and British invasion of southern Iraq.

"Apparently, what we have done thus far has not been sufficiently persuasive," he said.

The defense secretary said that until he had "good solid evidence" to the contrary, U.S. and allied forces assumed that Iraqi command-and-control was still "in place and functioning in one way or another."

Separately, administration officials told CNN that they believe the senior Iraqi leadership is in "complete confusion ... complete disarray" and that even if he is alive, Saddam is not exercising minute-to-minute authority over his military commanders.

Myers said U.S. Marines have secured the port city of Umm Qasr in the Faw Peninsula and have secured the main oil manifolds along the waterways there. He said Iraq's southern oil fields should be secured sometime Friday.

"We're basically on our plan and moving toward Baghdad, but there are still many unknowns out there," Myers said.

Both he and Rumsfeld urged Iraqi forces to lay down their arms. "The outcome is not in doubt," Myers said of the war in Iraq.

--Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.


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