, August 20, 2002
Saddam Decides Terror Pre-emptive Best Weapon
DEBKAfile Special Report, 18 August, 2002
DEBKAfile ís military sources report that the United States and Israel have wound up their preparations for a mass terror attack using unconventional
weapons. The latest DEBKA-Net-Weekly (Issue 71, August 16), reported perturbation in Washington and Jerusalem over the fresh intelligence assessment
that Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein had decided the only way he could beat a US offensive against Iraq was to strike first with weapons of mass
destruction. His preferred targets: Jordan, Israel and the United States.
This fresh diagnosis refutes the thesis long held by American and Israeli strategic thinkers that Saddam Hussein would resort to unconventional
weapons only if he was attacked first and believed his life and regime were in jeopardy.
DEBKAfileís military and intelligence sources explain Saddamís recent reversal by his realization that there was no way for Iraq to overcome American
spy satellite and aircraft resources by conventional means - or avoid its missiles being intercepted by the Arrow-2 anti-missile missiles Israel has
positioned in the Negev and central Israel.
Intelligence analysts also believe that Yasser Arafat is plotting a mega terror attack against an Israeli city center, with the help of his senior
lieutenant Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the West Bank security service and de facto commander of the al Aqsa Martyrsí Brigade. US and Israeli intelligence
services are trying to find out if Saddam and Arafat will be operating separately or in harness. Both services, as well as Jordanian intelligence,
have found signs of links between the Iraqi military intelligenceís terrorist arm and the security forces still activated by Arafat, notably the one
run by Tirawi. There are also reports of Iraqi-trained Palestinian agents being smuggled through to the West Bank from Jordan carrying unconventional
weapons that are to be activated upon a pre-arranged signal.
Not all parts of Israelís military and defense establishments subscribe to the reassuring words coming from certain circles in the offices of the
defense minister, chief of staff and the Shin Beit, which attribute the falling off of Palestinian terror attacks in recent weeks to the new policy of
deterring suicide killers by demolishing their family homes and expelling their relatives. Some military and defense officials are concerned by the
data coming in of mega terror attacks in the works. While Israelís deterrent measures may indeed be taking effect, it is also possible that the terror
planners are holding still so as to put Israeli security to sleep before for a major attack.
In the United States, the Bush administration announced plans Sunday, August 18, for speeding the evacuation of federal workers in Washington in the
event of an attack using weapons of mass destruction. Under the plan, the relevant authorities could order an evacuation of up to 350,000 federal
workers in Washington, DC and 1.8 million nationwide if an attack occurred or was deemed imminent. Operations centers have been set up allowing
round-the-clock communication with federal, state and local law enforcement. Workers will receive notice through a system of bulletins in 15 minutes
or less. This new protocol is designed to avoid the confusion that followed the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
A few days ago, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the world must accustom itself to the notion that at a given point in time a mass attack
will hurt several hundred thousand people.
While the US government informs the public every few days of preparations for a mass threat, in Jerusalem specific information is hard to come by.
Every now and then, fatherly assurances issue from the prime minister or the defense minister assuring the public that the IDF and the home front
command have studied the lessons of the Iraqi Scud attack in 1991 and are ready for any contingency. Pressed for specifics, Ariel Sharon told the
weekly cabinet meeting Sunday August 18, that there was no need for hysteria.
What most Israelis would like to hear is what perils are in store and what preparations their government has made. One lesson the average Israeli drew
from the 1991 Gulf War and the Palestinian suicide terror cycle is that the government tells the Israeli public as little as possible. No prior
warnings were issued, for instance, about a new brand of ultra-powerful explosive in Palestinian hands until it actually blew up in a cycle of
terrorist attacks that struck Haifa and Tel Aviv last Passover. This tight-lipped official policy in Jerusalem is more likely to engender hysteria
than allay it.