DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources find Iraq’s operational war plans remarkably similar to the ones drawn up in Washington for toppling Saddam Hussein. A senior US officer familiar with the plans said: “You might have said Saddam Hussein had the US operational plans before him when he drafted Iraqi counter-measures.”
Like the Americans, Saddam is not planning to deploy large-scale units, since he does not trust the loyalty of the bulk of his army and knows American agents are subverting some of his elite units. Appreciating that he cannot win a conventional war against the United States, he does not propose to be drawn into one.
In mid-June, therefore, according to our military and intelligence sources, Saddam reached three strategic decisions:
1. His tactics against an American assault will be to hit the attackers with suicide units, kamikaze pilots, short-range cruise missiles and Scud missiles loaded with a wide range of nuclear, biological and chemical ordnance, including nuclear or radiological – “dirty” – bombs. The nearer the moment for military decision-making on the Iraqi front, the closer US intelligence comes to believing that Saddam has nuclear bombs or a large quantity of radiological bombs that can contaminate wide areas with radiation.
Washington also estimates that Iraq has bombs, warheads or artillery shells, for delivering mustard and other nerve gases, such as sarin, tabun and VX, as well as biological agents that include botulinal toxin, anthrax, ricin and aflatoxin, which is a natural carcinogen.
2. These weapons systems will also be unleashed against Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states that support the United States.
3. Iraq will attack Saudi Arabia in the event of a US offensive, a decision Saddam made just recently after receiving intelligence information indicating the United States may be planning to wrest Iraq’s southern and northern oilfields from Baghdad’s control. (This plan is referred to in the Turkoman Strip article.)
Against Saudi Arabia too Iraq will wield its suicide units, kamikaze aircrews and missiles carrying nuclear, biological and chemical warheads. They will be launched mainly against the oil fields of the Saudi kingdom and such Gulf countries as Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. Saddam aims to put most of the Persian Gulf’s oil fields out of commission and contaminate their surrounding environments for years to come, to pay America back for laying hands on Iraqi oil resources.
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction – nuclear and chemical – will also hit broad regions of the Middle East, from the Mediterranean to the Gulf, including Iraq itself.
In case he decides to beat the Americans to the punch – thereby throwing off the American timeline by at least six months – Saddam is concentrating his army in three main areas:
Iraqi armored divisions have been deployed in the north along the eastern banks of the Big Zab and Little Zab Rivers across from the border with Turkey.
A second force is arrayed around Saddam’s hometown of Ikrit and Samara. Saddam suspects the word the Americans are spreading that they intend focusing on Baghdad is intended to divert attention from proposed US attacks on those two towns. Striking Saddam’s family clan in Tikrit would spell his eclipse and provoke the rest of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim tribes into withdrawing their fealty from his regime in Baghdad. He is therefore determined not to let the Americans cut this ground from under his feet.
The third area in which Saddam has disposed military strength is Baghdad and its environs: the Azimiya and Kadhimaih regions to the north and the satellite towns of Salman, Shaikh Bagir and Zaidan to the west and Khan Azad to the south.
He is also buttressing his defenses on the Euphrates and Tigris river banks lest US Marines land at strategic invasion points for jumping into the Iraqi heartland. Saddam is now weighing ordering the armored divisions, he has positioned on the Big Zab and Little Zab river banks, to cross those waterways and reach the Turkish border zone, there to wipe out the US special forces and CIA personnel training anti-Saddam Kurdish units – as well as those units.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, Iraqi intelligence has gathered enough data from the optic fiber equipment the Chinese installed in Iraqi air defense systems early last year (and first reported in DEBKA-Net-Weekly No. 4 on March 8, 2001) to convince Saddam that neither the Americans nor the British can muster enough air power to halt an Iraqi armored thrust.
The optic fibers provide real-time information on any intrusion of Iraq’s air space by planes or missiles. By tracking US and British over-flights of no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq, Iraqi air force commanders discovered that neither has the resources for round-the-clock surveillance. They break off patrols for 16 to 24 hours several times a week. At first, the Iraqis used these breaks for secret movements of men and equipment. Now Saddam proposes to use these gaps for surprise operations against the Americans.
All eyes are therefore fixed on the Iraqi divisions in the north. If they are ordered to move, the war with the United States could flare before September.