- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is planning attacks on his own people in the event of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and his top operative, a general nicknamed "Chemical Ali," has been put in charge of southern Iraq to quell any civilian uprisings, U.S. officials say.
The Pentagon is communicating with Iraqi military commanders, both through leaflet drops and private e-mails, to discourage them from carrying out Saddam's orders. The Iraqis also will be given instructions on how to surrender.
"They are being communicated with privately at the present time," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. "They will be communicated with in a more public way. And they will receive instructions so that they can behave in a way that will be seen and understood as being nonthreatening."
U.S. military officials say there are increasing indications that Saddam will kill his own people and blame the atrocities on invading American forces.
Bush administration officials reported last week that Saddam was planning to dress Iraqi forces in coalition uniforms and order them to kill innocents.
Mr. Rumsfeld suggested yesterday that Saddam is considering shelling civilians with deadly chemical weapons, as he did in 1988, killing up to 100,000 Kurds in northern Iraq.
"His regime may be planning to use weapons of mass destruction against its own citizens, and then blame coalition forces," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
He recalled that during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, authorities ordered civilians into military command bunkers. In one instance, on Feb. 13, 1991, the U.S. forces bombed the Amiriyah bunker in Baghdad.
Later, the United States discovered that Saddam's deputies had sentenced scores of civilians to their deaths by placing them on the bunker's upper level, above a command center. Baghdad displayed the dead bodies to the international press.
"When his regime begins claiming once again that coalition forces have targeted innocent Iraqi civilians, if that's to be the case, we need to keep his record in mind," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Saddam "will seek to maximize civilian deaths and create the false impression that coalition forces target innocent Iraqis, which, of course, is not the case," the defense secretary said.
President Bush, who is weighing a decision to order an invasion of Iraq, said last month that Saddam has authorized his most loyal troops, the Republican Guard, to use chemical weapons against coalition forces.
A U.S. military official said that at least two Republican Guard divisions are believed to be armed at this moment with chemical artillery shells.
The belief among military planners is that Saddam has nothing to lose in unleashing weapons of mass destruction, as the goal of the coalition troops is to capture or kill him and oust his hard-line Ba'ath party regime.
A sign that Saddam is serious about attacking civilians comes in reports from inside Iraq that Gen. Ali Hassan al Majid, or "Chemical Ali," has been placed in charge of military activities in southern Iraq.
Considered a war criminal by human rights groups, Majid commanded the 1988 chemical weapons attacks on the Kurds.
He also oversaw the brutal occupation of Kuwait in 1990 and 1991. After the 1991 war, he commanded the Republican Guard divisions that brutally put down a rebellion by Shi'ites in Iraq's southern marshlands.
"He is a senior adviser to Saddam. He is known as an enforcer for the regime," said a U.S. intelligence official, who asked not to be named. "He is used to put down uprisings and maintain order."
This official said Saddam typically carves up the country into three or four regions during crises and then appoints hard-line lieutenants to maintain order.
In Majid, Saddam has a loyal commander and his own blood relation they are cousins to watch over the southern oil fields around Basra and stamp out any Shi'ite rebellion.
U.S. military officials report that it appears that Iraqi operatives have affixed explosive charges to southern and northern oil fields, in the same way that they sabotaged oil wells in Kuwait before fleeing the country in 1991.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said the military will install a screening process to determine which Iraqi officers harm civilians.
"The vetting process will reveal those who participated in war crimes and those who didn't," Gen. Myers said.
Also yesterday, the United States continued to negotiate a deal with Turkey to allow in American ground troops to support a northern front against Baghdad, or, at least, to let U.S. combat jets fly over Turkey.
Military analysts say it looks increasingly unlikely that the Army's 4th Infantry Division will deploy from Texas in time to open the northern front, as had been planned. Instead, Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of U.S. Central Command, will use airborne troops to attack from that direction.
"I'm not going to talk about the operational ways of doing it, but just be assured there will be a northern option," Gen. Myers said.
Gen. Myers echoed Gen. Franks' statement at the Pentagon last week that U.S. forces are ready to carry out an order to topple Saddam. He said there are more than 225,000 U.S. troops in the region. Britain has sent more than 40,000.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide