- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

Iraq is preparing to destroy its oil fields, food supplies and power plants and blame the destruction on U.S. bombs during a war, U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday.
The officials, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said they have evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has plans to wreck his infrastructure to foster a humanitarian crisis and turn international opinion against any U.S. and British advance into his territory.
Citing the need to protect intelligence sources, the officials declined to describe that evidence. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Several military specialists in Washington said this was a plausible scenario, given Saddam's destruction of Kuwaiti oil fields as he abandoned that country in 1991. U.S. defense officials also have said Saddam's forces once chopped off the top of a mosque to make it appear it was hit during a U.S. air strike.
"It's very likely Saddam will use scorched-earth tactics," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. "Any amount of destruction to protect his rule is justified."
Others said the course of the war will determine whether Saddam acts in this manner.
"A number of countries have prepared for operations like this in the past, but not executed them," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Virtually everybody who has watched Iraq in action and is familiar with their military tactics probably thinks that Saddam will not go gently into that good night."
The U.S. intelligence officials also predicted that Saddam will use his biological and chemical weapons if he believes he is about to fall. They predicted he would attack U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. allies Israel and Kuwait, and any native Shi'ite Muslims and Kurds who rise up to oppose him.
Iraq can deliver these weapons with missiles, aircraft-mounted sprayers and artillery shells, officials said. They expect Iraq to use disease weapons such as anthrax, poisons such as botulinum and ricin, and mustard gas. Saddam is not believed to have any nuclear weapons.
Iraq says it destroyed all of its chemical and biological weapons, and the intelligence officials acknowledged a lack of specific information about Saddam's weapons stockpiles.
Ivo Daalder, a Clinton administration National Security Council staffer, said the intelligence suggests a U.S. war on Iraq could lead to the very situation President Bush wants to prevent: Saddam attacking with weapons of mass destruction and wreaking havoc on his people.
"I think Saddam has every incentive to make a war as horrible for anybody he can," he said. "The easiest target is not the American people, or the Israelis, the Saudis, or even our troops. It's his own people."
Saddam has been preparing for a war with the United States and its British allies almost since the September 11 attacks, the intelligence officials said. But his military remains in worse shape than it was during the 1991 Gulf war, when U.S.-led forces crushed the vaunted Iraqi army.
Unlike the Gulf war, when Saddam engaged U.S. forces in the open desert along Iraq's borders, this time his military has prepared a multilayered defense, with Baghdad at the center. Saddam isn't expected to put up much of a fight for large southern cities such as Basra, instead preparing for urban fighting in his capital.

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