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Pentagon: Iraq could flood Tigris for defense

Tactic was used to slow Iranian forces during Iran-Iraq War

Tactic was used to slow Iranian forces during Iran-Iraq War

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. military planners are devising strategies in case the Iraqi military causes the Tigris River to flood, the Pentagon said Friday.

If the Iraqi military were to release water into the Tigris from upstream reservoirs, extensive flooding could occur between Baghdad and Kut, to the south, the Pentagon said. Thousands of Iraqis could be displaced, adding to congestion on roads and requiring extensive humanitarian support.

The Pentagon said Iraq used flooding to deter Iranian advances during the Iran-Iraq War.

"Iraq's strategy could include releasing a small amount of water from major dams and canals to interrupt maneuvering units," said a U.S. statement released early Friday. "Iraq also could cause catastrophic flooding of portions of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, either by releasing large amounts of water from dams or by destroying them."

Although the latter could cause "major humanitarian crises in parts of Iraq, Baghdad would experience minimal damage," the statement said.

Parts of southern Iraq routinely flood in March and April because of heavy rainfall and snow melting in the north. Some areas that are already under water could be impassable for four to six weeks, even without additional flooding, the Pentagon said.

"The [Saddam] Hussein regime could incorporate the flooding into defensive preparations to slow the advance of coalition forces," the Pentagon said. "This tactic could force coalition units or displaced persons through flooded areas."

Primary water sources for such "strategic flooding" are the Qadisiyah Dam and its Hadiyha Reservoir, the Pentagon said.

Additionally, the release of water from five reservoirs -- Saddam, Dokan, Al Azim, Darbandikhan and Diyala -- could increase the flow rate of the Tigris. The rainy season is already expected to raise water levels in these dams, the Pentagon said.

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