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Intelligence Predicts Hussein´s Reaction to Attack - U.S. and British Analyses Are Highly Speculative, and Miscalculations Could Be Costly in Event of War (WASHINGTON POST) By Walter Pincus 12/26/02 Page A23) Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37825-2002Dec25.html WASHINGTON POST WASHINGTON POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
U.S. and British intelligence analysts are closely monitoring Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, watching as he appears publicly to embrace U.N. inspections while wooing Europeans and seeking to rally fellow Arabs in the face of the American military buildup.

As U.S. forces continue to strengthen in anticipation of possible war, the Western intelligence community is producing estimates for policymakers of the Iraqi leader´s potential actions, attitudes and intentions in the event of an attack. Because Hussein lives in a secluded and closely guarded environment, these analyses are highly speculative, senior administration officials said.

U.S. intelligence officials said they believe that although Hussein maintains a tight grip on his government, he could be overthrown by a military coup if U.S.-led ground troops were about to invade his country. "The expectation has been that the closer [Iraqi military leaders] perceive the end is near, the more people inside will be willing to raise their hands," one senior intelligence analyst said this week. He cautioned, however, that "it is unlikely to happen until after they hear guns start firing."

Past miscalculations on anti-Hussein coups have brought brutal retaliation, including death and torture, to hundreds and perhaps more than a thousand Iraqi officers -- even many never involved in any plotting, a former CIA case officer said. "Attacks on Baghdad from cruise missiles and dropping of bombs alone, won´t do the trick," the former officer said. "There have to be troops coming on the ground."

The intelligence community is also following Hussein´s rare public appearances. Last Sunday, he received a delegation from Belarus headed by Nikolai Ivanchenko, the deputy head of President Alexander Lukashenko´s administration. Belarus is one of the few countries accused by the United States of selling prohibited weapons to Baghdad, and Michael Kozak, the U.S. ambassador to Belarus, made the charge openly last month at a conference in Washington sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. He described Lukashenko as someone who has sold illegal arms to Iraq and, thus, chosen the wrong side in the war on terrorism.

Last spring, the State Department accused Belarus of training Iraqi forces to use antiaircraft systems, but at last month´s meeting, Kozak said U.S. details on Lukashenko´s arms transfers to Baghdad must remain secret to protect sources and methods of collection.

Previous U.N. inspections found that in the mid-1990s Belarus sold Baghdad machine tools capable of turning out components for missiles and high-speed centrifuges that Iraq could use to process highly enriched uranium used in bombs. In 1998, U.N. inspectors saw similar machines in Iraq, although they were said to have been used to make lenses for artillery shells.

At last Sunday´s meeting, according to Belarus radio, Hussein told the Belarus delegation that he was getting little help from other countries in his efforts to lift the embargo on this type of machinery because of accusations that he was still making weapons of mass destruction. "We already told the world that we don´t produce these kinds of ammunition, but the world doesn´t seem to care," Hussein was quoted as saying.

Iraq´s news service reported that Hussein then promised Ivanchenko "huge reciprocal cooperation" with Belarus in the future.

Last October, Baghdad moved to build up relations with Saudi Arabia, among other countries, playing host to Saudi businessmen for the first time since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Two weeks ago, telephone links between the two countries were reestablished, and this week Baghdad announced the awarding of $44 million in contracts for vehicles, milk powder and air conditioners.

Iraq´s trade minister, Mohammed Mahdi Saleh, appeared on Qatar-based al-Jazeera television earlier this week to call on all Arab nations to help his country. Echoing an approach that Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz took a week earlier, he said Washington, aided by London, wanted to divide and conquer the Arab world. "Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iran and Turkey will be the next targets of the Anglo-American plan to split up the Arab and Islamic world," Saleh said.

At home, however, preparations of the public as well as the military continue to be made for a possible war. Radio Free Iraq, which broadcasts into Iraq from Europe, reported that the Iraq Ministry of Commerce is planning to distribute six-month food allocations in one swoop, something not done during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. Some analysts said Baghdad was trying to reassure the public so that should war come they would be willing to fight rather than just turn to the invaders for food.

Iraq has even agreed last week, through the Red Cross, to open a new border crossing with Iran that would allow humanitarian relief financed by the U.N.´s oil-for-food program. The agreement came just weeks after Iraq exile groups met in Tehran with Iranian government officials.

Hussein´s recent moves to neutralize Kuwait and other Gulf states, however, have appeared to backfire.

An attempt earlier this month to "apologize" to Kuwait for his 1990 invasion caused a firestorm when he linked it to an appeal to Kuwaitis to oppose their leaders´ cooperation with Washington. Kuwait has since accused the Iraqi regime of attempting to divide the oil- rich emirate and incite additional terror attacks against U.S. troops stationed there since the Persian Gulf War.

Kuwaiti lawmakers blasted Hussein´s message as a "declaration of war" and vowed unequivocal support for the emirate´s rulers and the presence of U.S. troops there.

Khaled al-Razni, director of the Kuwait embassy´s information office, told reporters, "The apology reflects the desperation of Saddam Hussein to save his government and present his aggressive designs on Kuwait." The Arab League subsequently criticized the apology, as did the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group made up of leaders of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, most of which play host to U.S. military facilities. The council accused Hussein of "inciting violence and supporting and encouraging terrorism" and called on him to prove to U.N. inspectors that he has no weapons of mass destruction.

Since Hussein´s "apology," Iraq has moved on several fronts to ease the Kuwaiti anger. On Sunday, it was announced that Iraq told the United Nations that it is prepared to meet in Jordan next month to discuss the whereabouts of 605 Kuwaitis still missing from the 1990 war and at the same time return works of art stolen 12 years ago from the Gulf country. This came after Iraq returned in October other stolen Kuwaiti archives.

"The Kuwaitis are still not satisfied," a senior U.S. official said this week (© 2002 The Washington Post Company 12/26/02)

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