WASHINGTON – Iraqi opposition leaders, in Washington to meet with officials at the Defense and State Departments, said Thursday that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's latest show of defiance demonstrates the despot's calculating and cunning side.
"Saddam Hussein believes that he's going to be attacked by the United States. Internally, he is positioning himself so that there will be no significant battles in the field. He is preparing for streetfighting," Sharif Ali of the Iraqi National Congress said.
In a nationally televised speech Thursday, Saddam told his citizens that Iraq would be victorious against any attack.
In an obvious reference to the United States and Great Britain, Saddam said, "The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs, to die in disgraceful failure. If they wanted peace and security for themselves and their people, then this is not the course to take."
The speech comes as U.S. military planners refine preparations to take Saddam out of power, a move that has wide support from the public. According to the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, almost 70 percent of those polled favor U.S. military action against Iraq.
But as Saddam takes a stand on the one hand, he also continues to offer a wilted olive branch by suggesting that U.N. weapons inspectors may be allowed back into his country.
He made clear Thursday, however, that any access inspectors received would not be unfettered.
"(I)t's obvious once again that Saddam's comments are bluster from an internationally isolated dictator, demonstrative yet again that his regime shows no intention to live up to its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in response to the speech.
U.S. military planners at the Pentagon acknowledge that urban fighting will likely be a significant part of the next Iraq invasion and have set U.S. troops to train for the building-by-building, block-by-block fighting.
Analysts say that the gangland fighting will put U.S. troops and innocent civilians at greater risk, which could threaten to further erode international support. But U.S. support remains strong.
"No matter what you do there's gonna be collateral damage, there'll be civilians killed, there'll be buildings destroyed, streets full of rubble. Those are all visuals for the international community to look at on TV," Retired Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan said.
Ali said that he doesn't think that the U.S. military will have to stay in the country for long after Saddam is ousted, a direct contradiction to military analysts who say they believe that troops will be forced to maintain a peacekeeping force for as long as a decade.
But Ali acknowledged that the war in Iraq won't be over when Saddam leaves.
"The war doesn't end with the fall of Saddam. The war will continue, and that war is establishing democracy in Iraq," Ali said.
Fox News' Bret Baier contributed to this report.