Iraq’s military divisions continued during this week to pour into Saddam’s Iron Triangle of Baghdad, Ar Ramadi and Tikrit (whose creation DEBKA-Net-Weekly 97 reported on February 14, 2003).
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report the deployment was so swift that by mid-week Iraqi forces had been drawn in from most outlaying parts of the country and were ready to make their stand in the defensive enclave. From February 18 on, a US or other foreign invasion from any of Iraq’s frontiers would have encountered no Iraqi troops blocking their path. The only defenders forces deployed outside the Iron Triangle are the units commanding the main highways of southern and northern Iraq.
In the north, they were seen at road junctions near Sinjar, Dahok and Mosul; in the south, they guarded the road links between the Shiite cities of Karbala, Al Kufah and An Najaf. Rather than repelling invaders, these units were deployed to suppress open Shiite and Kurdish insurrections against Baghdad and their possible advance on Iraq’s main Sunni cities.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources, on Monday, February 17, Saddam told the Iraqi general staff in their daily briefing that the military’s immediate task is to
head off any such uprisings lest they hurl hundreds of thousands of minority rebels in a surge against the Iron Triangle – even ahead of the US military onslaught.
Saddam was alerted to this threat, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence and military sources, by the news from Iraqi intelligence that heavy supplies of automatic weapons, machine guns, light mortars, hand grenades and ammunition were recently smuggled to various armed Shiite groups for the purpose of stirring up a Shiite insurrection. Some of the munitions came from Iranian sources; some were air-dropped by the Americans.
The Iraqi ruler named Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, to his military commanders as their biggest threat. He predicted that the 50,000 fighters the PUK fields in northern Iraq would be thrown into the war against Baghdad, while the 45,000 men commanded by Mustafa Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, would not, concentrating instead on defending Barzani’s fiefdom in the western half of Kurdistan.
US intelligence analysts are reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources as concurring in this reading of the Kurdish scene.
However, Saddam will not content himself with a purely defensive strategy.
Framing US with massacres
For the time being, he has set aside his plan to unleash chemical, biological or nuclear warfare against the US and British forces ranged against him, according to the latest intelligence reaching US General Tommy Franks’s forward headquarters. Instead, he opportunistically seized on the anti-war demonstrations last Saturday, February 15, which brought an estimated 2.6 million protesters out in hundreds of the world’s cities, to develop a new plan of campaign.
A. Public sensibilities in the West to civilian casualties will be grist to his mill. The Iraqi ruler has devised a plan to augment the casualties incurred in a concentrated US air and ground offensive in Iraq’s crowded cities by massacres in the poor slums of those cities to be carried out by his own troops. The frightening death toll will then be blamed on the American attackers.
Some Arab and European media teams are already in place in Baghdad and accessible to Iraqi official spokesmen. They will be invited to record horrific scenes of the “bloodbath” and broadcast them around the world, bringing many more millions out on the streets to demand that America stop the war. Saddam is building his strategy on this prediction.
B. He found great encouragement for using the protest card in the large Muslim component of the anti-war demonstrations
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources cite the local police forces, homeland security authorities and counter-terrorism agencies in countries where the marches were staged as taking note of the high percentage of Muslim marchers. In Paris, they represented between 42 and 47 percent of the protesters, in Germany about 36 percent and in London some 22 percent of the rally estimated as 600,000 strong.
Not all of them turned out spontaneously.
Funds poured into many local Muslim organizations, some with links to intelligence agencies in Arab countries, including Iraq, to leaven the response. Contributions came from government and private sources in the Middle East and Gulf, some through certain Arab embassies, to defray the costs of transportation, food and drink for the Muslim protesters. Saddam believes a greater backroom effort can further swell this movement. In future, he plans to deploy Iraqi intelligence agents to mass more Muslim protesters on the streets of France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and other European cities first, convinced that the streets of the United States will catch the anti-war contagion.
C. This rising groundswell will impel the governments opposed to US military action, such as France, Germany, Russia and China, to clamor for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to curtail the action before it is more than one or two days old. They will table a resolution obliging the United States and Britain to cease hostilities against Iraq immediately. If it is vetoed by Washington or London, the motion’s sponsors will demand that the UN General Assembly be convened. It will continue to sit as long as the allied offensive continues, providing a constant stimulant to anti-war activism.
D. Saddam has come to believe that with the help of this movement, he can not only survive, but actually triumph over American and British leaders. His latest scenario as put before his inner circle and military chiefs opens with a massacre of his own civilians, brought to a world audience in graphic, gory detail to incriminate America and allies. He will strengthen the shock-effect by inflicting massive US troop casualties in the first stage of the war. The two events combined he believes will overwhelm the US President George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair, forcing them to resign. Once they are out of office, the allied attack campaign will come to a halt and US-UK troops be forced to pull out of Iraq.
Missile estimate upped to 70-80
E. Not content with a propaganda offensive and massacre of his own people, Saddam is planning in the early stage of the war to stage long-range Iraqi missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Israel. Saddam told his cronies that Riyadh has not pulled the wool over his eyes. Saudi leaders may have publicly refused America bases for its assault on Iraq but, privately, he knows the bases were made available, albeit only for the first leg of the offensive. Saddam wants the princes of Riyadh punished for their duplicity.
But punishment will not suffice; he seeks to undermine the stability of the Saudi throne. To this end, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources report, he will orchestrate his missile blitz to coincide with the solidarity terror campaign al Qaeda plans to launch against targets in Saudi Arabia in the first hours of the American push into Iraq.
(See HOT POINTS below for more on joint Iraq-al Qaeda operational plans for the Persian Gulf and Middle East)
Reliable intelligence estimates now put Iraq’s long-range Scud B and Scud D missile stock as high as 70 to 80, up from previous estimates of 50 to 60.
This figure was adjusted, according to exclusive DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, after intelligence sources in Yemen revealed that North Korea had smuggled at least 45 long-range missiles into Iraq over the past two years.