Israel’s Foot-Dragging on WMD Counter-Measures and Saddam’s Passivity

On August 14, after repeated delays, the Israeli security cabinet finally held a special meeting to review the country’s preparedness for unconventional warfare. It decided to vaccinate 15,000 “first response” personnel against smallpox, as a first stage of a general vaccination campaign against a possible bio-weapons attack originating in Iraq or carried out by Saddam’s Palestinian proxies.
debkafile reports that work on even this limited project is sluggish, very much like the security fence to protect Israel against terrorist incursions – the subject of another formal government decision. Clearly the health authorities had no bottom-drawer plans prepared for this contingency and can hardly be said to have been galvanized into action. The Health Ministry spokesman Idan Hadari promises large-scale vaccinations for hospital and first aid personnel “between Yom Kippur and Succoth” (high Jewish festivals falling between September 16-20). He admitted on September 2 that there are as yet no detailed guidelines for the operation, but insisted “we are working on this around the clock”. debkafile, upon checking with the big hospitals found there is still a long way to go before the first 15,000 people are vaccinated against smallpox – let alone other blights, like anthrax. The hospital directors handed in lists of personnel requiring jabs to the Health Ministry but heard nothing further. In any case, members of the police and security forces, firefighters and Environment Ministry staffers are not on any list, Handing out anti-smallpox shots to these groups would, according to the Health Ministry spokesman, take several weeks.
So what’s going on? With a US offensive against Iraq round the corner and so much speculation about Israel’s vulnerability to unconventional weapons assault from Baghdad, why are the Israeli authorities so slow to institute counter-measures to protect the population?
debkafile refers to a special investigation carried out by its intelligence newsletter DEBKA-Net-Weekly (No. 74 on August 24) for a possible explanation for Israeli inaction. (See separate article on this page Saddam’s Mysterious Apathy.)
Israel’s high command and military intelligence evaluators appear to have concluded that Saddam’s missile capabilities are under-developed to the point that he will be reluctant to squander this sparse resource on hitting Tel Aviv, Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona or any of its cities in retaliation for an American offensive. They expect him to go after far more vital strategic objectives such as US bases in Qatar and Bahrain or the big Saudi oil port of Ras Tanura.
According to debkafile analysts, the number of missiles in the Iraqi arsenal may not be the deciding factor in the equation governing Israel’s susceptibility to WMD warfare.
How can anyone be sure that Iraqi military intelligence units known to have penetrated the West Bank have not armed Palestinian terrorist units with chemical, biological, or even “dirty” nuclear devices, for detonation on a signal from the presidential palace in Baghdad or Yasser Arafat’s government compound in Ramallah? It is for this threat that Israel must prepare without further delays.

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