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Senior defense officials say one detailed plan for an attack has been presented to the president with different possible options. Military planners have a number of specific concerns. One that Saddam Hussein will use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops and will launch scud missiles loaded with those agents that can reach Iraq’s neighbors. And two, that the fighting will be pulled into big cities with Iraqi civilians in the way. But, overall the perception at the Pentagon and elsewhere is that Iraq’s military is much weaker.
For the past 11 years Saddam Hussein ineffectively tried to gain military strength.
Richard Perle, Former Assistan Secretary of Defense: "The striking thing about Iraq’s military today is that it’s about a third of what it was at the time of the Gulf War in ’91."
Here’s a breakdown of just how much weaker Saddam’s military is today:
As for the Iraqi Navy the bulk of it was destroyed during the Gulf War. 5,000 Iraqis try to keep a naval operation afloat. Iraq has no submarines and only a small number of in shore patrol boats are believed to be operational.
The Iraqi Air Force is also a shadow of its former self before the Gulf War. An estimated 30,000 Iraqis keep Iraq flying, but of the estimated 750 combat aircraft that were flying prior to the Gulf War, it is believed that only 90 are now operational.
Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (Ret.), U.S. Air Force: "Fundamentally they are able to stop anybody from uprising within the country, but they would be no match for a coalition force today."
Saddam Hussein’s Army is the most viable branch of his military structure, but it too has taken serious hits since the Gulf War. It is estimated that 350,000 soldiers make up the Iraqi Army. The Gulf War left the army hollow with serious equipment and personnel losses compounded by supply and morale problems. Based in Baghdad the Special Republican Guard is the branch of the army that is most pivotal to Saddam’s security. Reported to be supervised by Saddam’s son, this elite military force is designed to protect Hussein, the regime and Baghdad. The guard is armed extensively and even has air defense units to protect Hussein. With roughly 26,000 soldiers the guard is broken up into 12 battalions and has mobile patrols, as well as a chemical detection unit. Opposition leaders say, while there is a chance that some operation to overthrow Saddam could come from inside the Special Republican Guard would it be difficult.
Nabeel Musawi, Iraqi National Congress: "Even the Special Republican Guards are not aware of where Saddam is at any given moment. They are not aware that his is actually with them when they are somewhere. The group that can really compromise Saddam’s security would be his two sons and mostly the younger son."
Iraq is believed to have somewhere between 60 and 70 surface to air missile sites with many of them in and around Baghdad – are loaded with thousands of surface to air missiles. Despite extensive damage inflicted on those air defense systems by US and coalition aircraft patrolling the no fly zone – including two new strikes just yesterday in the south – Iraq’s air defense command is still showing resilience with new technology and equipment believed to be purchased from foreign governments and then smuggled into the country.
This report was filed by Pentagon correspondent Bret Baier.