Former Saudi intelligence director Prince Turki Bin Faisal predicted in NBC’s Nightline Wednesday, October 30, that the moment America launches its military offensive against Iraq, Saddam Hussein will bring out his missiles and shoot them in all directions. One of his objectives will be to set the Persian Gulf oilfields ablaze.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence and counter-terror sources reveal another of the Iraqi ruler’s schemes which he may even carry out preemptively.
In the second week of October, he ordered positioned in their operational target areas two of his most secret weapons systems: One, his home-made cruise missiles, which he has pointed at Gulf oilfields and the American warships and carriers assembled for the assault on Iraq.
The second may be even more lethal: Seven intelligence 999 Units, which have been trained especially for large-scale terror and sabotage – not just behind enemy lines but inside the United States as well.
One of the seven is known as the “American Battalion”. It has been programmed to execute mass-murder operations in the United States and Canada. All its members are trained in activating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
The cruise missiles
Iraq began developing cruise missiles in 1992, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, on the strength of the lessons Saddam drew from Gulf War I. Three of the four types known to intelligence are designed to attack shipping and other floating targets – first, Iranian oil tankers in the Gulf, but then, in 1995, a series of test-firings indicated efforts to extend their range to reach American warships in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, particularly American aircraft carriers.
This was discovered at the end of 1995, when a large cargo of Russian-made gyroscopes, accelerometers and GIMBEL position indicators was uncovered at Jordan’s Alia international airport, following tips from various Middle East intelligence agencies. These items are used in sophisticated tracking systems as navigational aids for rockets and cruise missiles. They were imported from Russia as components labeled as parts for metal-working machinery to the value of $525 million, flown out by Jordan’s royal airline in electronic parts containers. Examination showed them to have been taken from missile guidance systems removed from disassembled Russian submarines. Those systems, of the type SS-N-18s Stingray, are designed to carry nuclear warheads across a distance of 6,400 km. They came with between three and seven MIRV warheads.
The only use the Iraqis could make of all this equipment was in constructing cruise missiles.
In 1999, the Iraqis took delivery of fresh supplies of cruise missile components from Russia – this time by sea. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources report that the parts were smuggled out of Russia mainly through Kazakhstan, Byelorussia and the Ukraine. They were transported by plane and ship through Iranian and UAE ports. So as not to arouse the suspicion of the American, British and Australian warships blockading Iraqi shores to prevent illegal arms deliveries, they were delivered to Iraq disguised as mechanical equipment. The same vessels picked up illegal Iraqi oil cargoes.
Those sources estimate that Iraq has completed the development of two new versions of the Ababil missile. This missile, which made its first appearance in 1989, was based on the Italian Mirach-600RPV to which an infra-red system can be fitted. The latest versions grew out of the Mach-3 missile which is equipped with GPS and believed capable of carrying chemical or biological weapons – and even perhaps a small nuclear device.
American intelligence has learned that Saddam informed the commanders of these missile units that he is putting in their hands a missile of the highest possible precision. Their job, he said, is to destroy US aircraft carriers.
The USS Abraham Lincoln and USS George Washington are now present in the Persian Gulf. The USS Harry S. Truman is due in December.
This arm is part of Iraq’s extensive and labyrinthine intelligence complex and answers only to Saddam Hussein and his two sons, Uday and Qusay. Its past operations include the penetration of the dissident Kurdish enclaves in northern Iraq and the destruction of CIA bases there in September 1986. This operation is rated the most successful action taken against an overseas CIA base since the end of the Cold War. When Desert Storm began in 1991, Unit 999 was assigned with abducting the US commander in chief, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, in Saudi Arabia and bringing him to Baghdad. This assignment failed.
In the early nineties, the unit had six battalions of 300 troops each, their targets indicated by their names: the Persian Battalion, the Saudi Battalion, the Palestinian Battalion (for combat inside Israel), the Turkish Battalion, the Naval Commando Battalion and the Opposition Battalion (for assassination missions against Iraqi opposition leaders around the world). All the units undergo instruction in the deployment of weapons of mass destruction
In 1996, the American Battalion was set up to attack strategic installations inside the United States. This unit is the most secret of the seven. To preserve its secrecy, the most efficient command crews and trainers of the other six were creamed off to man American Unit 999.
Each of its members, from the moment he is trained and given his assignment, has no contact with any of his fellows in the unit. They are taught how to hijack aircraft and multi-passenger vehicles and sites like trains, subways, railway stations and buses, to assassinate VIPs, and to stage mass suicide operations in town centers. Naval commando tactics are part of their instruction.
Members of the American Battalion of Unit 999 are given cover identities, speak English like natives of their target areas and are armed with genuine but stolen American or Canadian papers.
Until recently, US counter-terror authorities believed that no more than a handful of Unit 999 members had penetrated the United States, a command-logistic skeleton team ready for an intake of the rest of the battalion. Since mid-October, this appraisal has changed, following sightings of these undercover terrorist operatives in Iran, Turkey and Israel. It is now believed that between 60 and 80 Iraqi Unit 999 troops have been able to enter North America and begun preparing terrorist assaults and assassinations of marked politicians, army men and key business, industry and academic figures.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, on a visit to Riyadh this week, warned the Saudis against re-opening their long closed border crossing to Iraq at Ar’ar. He said the reopening would make it easier for Saddam to plant his Saudi Unit 999 battalion in the kingdom and smooth the way for the sabotage of Saudi and Gulf oilfields. The Saudis did not heed the warning. On Thursday, October 31, the Ar’ar border crossing was reopened for the first time since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991 and Saudi businessmen and trade officials trooped across.