Published December 20, 2002
WASHINGTON – Booby-trapped oil fields, exploding chemical and biological weapons and sabotaged food warehouses are all scenarios that Pentagon planners fear may be in Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's last-chance playbook.
Now, war planners are evaluating what they must do to prepare for combat if coalition forces go to war.
It wouldn't be a surprise, analysts say, if Saddam tried to take a defiant last stand. In 1991, at the end of the Persian Gulf War, Iraq torched Kuwaiti oil fields as his last act of vengeance in the face of imminent defeat against coalition forces.
With the U.S. statement Thursday that Iraq is failing to comply with U.N. demands for a complete declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, forces are one step closer to going to war and facing Saddam's treachery.
"It should be obvious that the pattern of systematic holes and gaps in Iraq's declaration is not the result of accidents or editing oversights or technical mistakes. These are material omissions that, in our view, constitute another material breach," said Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"Iraq is well on its way to losing its last chance," he added.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is supposed to report on Jan. 27 whether Iraq is cooperating with inspections — not just whether Iraq is providing access whenever and wherever inspectors want, but also whether Iraqi scientists have been provided to U.N. officials to speak freely about programs in the country, and perhaps even be allowed to go abroad.
The United States is preparing to give inspectors some of its intelligence information to clue in inspectors on what to ask for and where to look. Officials expect that more material breaches will be found by the January deadline, and Iraq's defiance will have reached a threshold for war.
Military planners predict an all-out victory against Iraq, but officials fear that on his way out, Saddam may set oil fields ablaze, disable electrical grids, contaminate water supplies and destroy roads, bridges and communications links.
Military analysts agree.
"If he suddenly looks up and thinks the military threat is so overwhelming that he's not going to be able to fight it, he's probably going to go ahead and destroy all those things," said retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Cowan, a Fox News analyst.
One former U.N. weapons inspector said that any of the possible methods of destruction won't help Saddam win the war.
"There is no tactical gain on the battlefield and there is certainly no political gain for those who participate. So this really can only be seen as an act of vengeance," said former inspector Tim Trevan.
Destruction of this magnitude, however, would distract troops during the war and make securing peace afterward much more difficult.
"[Saddam] is going to do things that impact terribly on a civilian population that's trying to survive in a war, and the responsibility for their survival will fall quickly on U.S forces," Cowan said.
This is only one of two worst-case scenarios. The other is Saddam's possible decision to use chemical and biological weapons against coalition forces, even if it means exposing unprotected Iraqi civilians.
"I don't see any scenario where he is going to give up willingly, and military planners, to be on the safe side, it's very important that they assume that those weapons are going to be used. If they're not used, then that's fine. If they are used and we're not prepared, we're going to pay a penalty," Cowan said.
War planners don't expect a chemical and biological attack in the early stages of war, but they do say that it could be a last act of deadly vengeance and defiance.
Fox News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.