Saddam Hussein’s initial riposte for an American strike was meant as a surprise.
Instead of using his scarce missiles for hitting Riyadh or Tel Aviv, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources report he intended saving his long-range missiles for the last stage of the war. Instead, while the Americans invaded Iraq from Kuwait in the south and from Jordan in the west, Iraq intended a comeback from the rear. Its L-29 planes fitted with spray canisters laden with chemical and biological agents were to head for the Red Sea, striking the US warships firing up to send cruise missiles against Baghdad and Tikrit and the Israeli and Jordanian ports of Eilat (50,000 population) and Aqaba (75,000 inhabitants).
To this end, Iraq concentrated its fleet of L-29 craft far from potential American front lines, relocating them to Jal al Batn, in southwest Iraq, on the 30th latitude opposite the Saudi frontier. They were tucked into specially built underground sheds, to each of which a short runway is attached.
Saddam intended to send them over Saudi Arabia by night to cross the roughly 450 miles to target. He counted on the Saudis not allowing American and Israeli aircraft to intercept the Iraqi planes in mid-flight. He believed that a fall of poisonous substances on the Jordanian port of Aqaba would cut off the American supply route by sea to the Western and central fronts and force the Americans to fall back, willy-nilly, on Israeli ports.
Upon receipt of this intelligence information, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report American fighter and surveillance craft units sped to the Sinai air base at Sharm al Sheikh, from which to provide the American Red Sea fleet with air cover. Anti-air missile batteries, including improved Patriots, were deployed at Aqaba, while the Israelis next door, provided the resort town of Eilat and neighboring communities with a protective air defense screen made up of missiles of various types and self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery. More Israeli air force fighter squadrons were deployed at air bases near Eilat.
At the moment, therefore, the Red Sea ports of Aqaba and Eilat at the southernmost tips of both Jordan and Israel, which are normally reserved for sun-lovers, deep sea divers and pleasure seekers, turn out to be the most heavily protected holiday resorts in the world.