Regime not about to collapse, war planner concedes
Two weeks into the war in Iraq, some senior military commanders are beginning to admit that American understanding of the Arab world is limited and that they still have to convince the Iraqis that they are liberators, not occupiers.
In one of the most low-key assessments of the war so far, a high-ranking American officer said it would be "unrealistic" to expect Baghdad to fall within days.
"There is a big cultural difference between the US and the Arab world. That makes it hard," said the highly experienced officer, who has been closely involved in the planning of the war.
"We Americans are not very good at judging what a totalitarian regime is like, looks like and acts like. There is an information psychology front that we are trying to push but we are probably not as sophisticated about it as we would want to be."
The officer described the Iraqi regime as "resilient" but said it relied on immense pressure to maintain loyalty. Iraqis would turn against their government "sooner or later", he said.
In a rare departure from the intense campaign run by the Pentagon and Central Command in Qatar to present the motives for war in the best light, he accepted that many Iraqis were still not convinced that the US and British forces on the ground were coming as liberators.
"Are we getting the message across to the educated people? We are. But to the people that want to be moved by emotion and believe that there are no good motives and think that the US are here for oil and only for oil we have got to get the message across better," he said.