First in a two-part series

ARLINGTON, Va. — Saddam Hussein will use weapons of mass destruction if U.S. troops attack Iraq, possibly as early as the first day of the campaign, U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday.

“Saddam is preparing a scorched-earth policy,” a U.S. intelligence officer told Pentagon reporters. “He believes that whatever we say at this point, [the U.S. military] is coming to kill him.

“Whenever he believes he’s about to die, he’ll use [weapons of mass destruction, or WMD],” the official said. “If that’s on Day 1 [of a war], if he believes he’s going to fall, he’s going to use it.”

Not only will Hussein use WMD inside Iraq, “we believe he may use them against Israel and other Arab States, with Kuwait as a very likely target,” the official said. “He hates Kuwait, and this is not only about defending his regime, it’s about revenge.”

The official making this assessment was one of two U.S. government intelligence officials who provided reporters with an unclassified, highly detailed description of Iraq’s current military capabilities, including conventional and nonconventional forces, and assessments of how Saddam Hussein may use those forces if attacked.

The U.S. government’s most senior officials have heard the same briefing, with the addition of classified details, said one analyst.

U.S. intelligence analysts are convinced that Saddam Hussein has significant biological weapons capabilities, as well as chemical weapons, and the means to deploy both.

“Our estimate is that there is a lot of stuff near the forces that would use them in central Iraq,” one official said. “We don’t have the smoking gun, but that’s beside the point.” The United Nations “has already laid out the facts that Saddam has the gun.”

That “gun” includes 50 conventional Scud warheads, which could be converted to deliver chemical or biological agents; 16 botulin-toxin Scud warheads; five anthrax Scud warheads; 157 biological bombs to include anthrax, gas gangrene and botulin toxin; and more than 6,000 chemical and biological munitions; and 550 mustard-gas shells, all of which Iraq admitted to owning, but told the U.N. in 1991 they were destroyed.

Iraq never provided evidence that destruction actually occurred, the official said. “No photos, no fragments, nothing.”

The analysts don’t believe Saddam has managed to put together a working nuclear weapon, but has most of the components in place, minus the key — enriched uranium.

“Fissile material is the long pole in the tent,” one official said. “If they get that, they can make one in a year or less.”

Delivery methods for chemical and biological agents “would run the gamut,” the officials said.

First, “Saddam is hiding a covert Scud missile force,” an official said.

Most of the Scuds are al-Husseins, with an effective range of 400 miles, “but he may have 900-kilometer [560-mile] al-Habas, which could hit Israel from the outskirts of Baghdad,” one official said.

In addition, Saddam has violated U.N. rules and developed two new missiles in the past year, one with an effective range of 125 miles and a second whose range “is perhaps as much as 300 kilometers [187.5 miles],” the official said.

Each variety of the new missile totals “a small number of launchers and about a dozen airframes, all of which are WMD-capable,” one official said.

Recently, Iraq also developed a new unmanned aerial vehicle that can deliver chemical and biological agents, one of the officials said.

In Part Two: How Saddam will fight. U.S. intelligence estimates of Iraq’s battle strategy and conventional forces — who they are, where they are and what their capabilities are.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now