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Pentagon: Iraqi TV 'sporadic,' but operational

Republican Guard 'significantly degraded'

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke during a news conference Friday.
Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke during a news conference Friday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Coalition forces have degraded -- but not eliminated -- Iraq's ability to broadcast television images and messages, the Pentagon said Friday, adding that the regime of Saddam Hussein continues to use the medium to exercise control over the population.

"It has a very redundant system," said Maj. General Stanley McChrystal, when asked at a Pentagon briefing why coalition forces have not succeeded in shutting down the television signal in Iraq. He said the television signal emanates both from fixed sites and mobile vans.

McChrystal, vice director for operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that maintaining the television signal was a priority for the Iraqi regime. "The regime determined early on that one of its primary mechanisms for controlling the population and exerting coercion was through its media," he said.

Questions about Iraqi broadcasts followed Friday's airing of footage of what appeared to be Saddam walking the streets of Baghdad. Earlier Friday, Iraqi television also broadcast a taped message from what appeared to be Saddam. In it, the Iraqi leader exhorted his followers to fight the U.S.-led invasion "with what you have available."

McChrystal said the broadcasting capability in Iraq was "sporadic at best."

He added, "We find it interesting that Saddam Hussein, if he is alive, feels the need to walk in the street to prove that. What we don't see is effective command and control from his level."

McChrystal said coalition forces would further try to "limit" the ability of the Iraqi government to air television broadcasts.

With coalition forces closing down on Baghdad and what McChrystal described as a "substantial number of forces" holding the city's international airport, Pentagon officials described steady progress in their campaign to topple Saddam's government.

Saddam's Republican Guard units -- consisting of his best trained and most loyal fighters -- have been hit hard. McChrystal described two of the six divisions -- the Baghdad and Medina divisions -- as "missing" and said the other four are "significantly degraded."

McChrystal said coalition forces are prepared for all possibilities on the battlefield, even the possible use of chemical weapons by Iraqi forces. Iraq's information minister said Friday that U.S. forces will face "something that is not conventional" -- although he said Iraq would not use weapons of mass destruction.

"We went into the operation expecting the unexpected," McChrystal said, adding that even if Iraq used chemical weapons it would not deter coalition forces.

"We still have some tough work ahead," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said. "As I said, as we close in on Baghdad, we have great concern about whether or not they would use WMD (weapons of mass destruction), for instance. We realize that some of the fighting from a desperate, dying regime could be pretty intense. But that's what we're focused on."

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