WASHINGTON – For now, no one knows whether Saddam Hussein is dead, alive or wounded.
One day after coalition forces staked outposition less than 100 miles of Baghdad, Saddam issued another televised message, seeking to rally his people. In full military dress, he assured Iraqis "victory will be ours soon."
Dressed in full military uniform, Saddam tried to inspire his soldiers and made references to Umm Qasr and Basra, where coalition troops have recently faced resistance. But the address did not include telling details that might indicate whether the speech was being carried live or if it had been recorded recently.
Senior U.S. officials told Fox News that they believe it is, in fact, Saddam -- but that the message was likely taped before the war began, in part because Saddam praises troops who surrendered to coalition forces early on. Saddam also mentioned units that were not engaged in the fighting at all, or at least, not yet. There were also jump-cuts in the tape indicating some 67 edits were made, suggesting the video was edited, possibly to cut out references that were even more dated or off the mark.
Military analysts also said that due to the strategic placement of locations such as Umm Qasr, Saddam would have known for some time battles there were inevitable in the event of a coalition invasion.
Ultimately, both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer say there is no way to know when the tape was made.
What is absent in the videos is a specific reference to events since Saddam was targeted, according to officials close to the analysis of the messages. The references he has made are general enough that they could have been pre-recorded, officials say.
Still, there is little to suggest the recordings aren't what they are billed to be: recent recordings of Saddam leading his country in war.
Some American officials say a number of intelligence reports suggest Saddam survived the strike that opened the war, perhaps with injuries. Other officials say the information is inconclusive -- some intelligence points to him being alive; other information suggests he died.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described a growing suspicion within U.S. intelligence agencies that Saddam had pre-recorded several messages to air during the fighting.
Saddam also mentioned several specific military units and fighting at Umm Qasr.
But some of those military units have not engaged in combat, U.S. officials said. And it is easy to assume any ground invasion of Iraq would include fighting at Umm Qasr, near the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border.
"If he gets on the air and gives the score of last night's Maryland-Xavier game, then we'll know," said one official.
Officials say it is highly unlikely Saddam would use a double to give a speech; the Iraqis know such a ruse would probably be detected. Look-alikes, officials said, are more useful in motorcades and similar functions that don't require public speaking.
Still, his appearances on television would lead many Iraqis to believe he is alive. A U.S. defense official predicted Monday that some Iraqi troops would keep fighting as long as they thought he was alive.
"We continue to see evidence of confusion, of not a real solid grip on the command and control aspects that you would expect at this time," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters at the Pentagon. As for Saddam, she said, "Who knows?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.