CHEMICAL WARFARE? The Herald Sun reports Iraq has drawn a line in the sand:

ALLIED troops advancing on Baghdad have been warned Iraqi leaders have drawn an imaginary “red line” outside the city and are poised to unleash lethal chemical weapon attacks.

With the coalition already fearing a bloody battle for the capital, unnamed Pentagon officials were reported yesterday expressing fears Saddam Hussein had drawn up a last-ditch line of defence around Baghdad. In a desperate final bid to stay in power, Saddam has authorised elements of the elite Republican Guard to fire the weapons once the line was crossed by advancing British and American soldiers, US TV stations reported.

NBC said its information came from intelligence officials based on interceptions of Iraqi communications.

Of course, similar reports emerged in 1991. Still, it strikes me as quite conceivable that he will unleash his chemical arsenal. Our forces are equipped to handle that; the main casualties from such action would therefore be Iraqi civilians. My guess is we won’t retalliate in kind, either. There is very little military advantage for us in using chemical weapons and, since it would kill a lot of innocents, it would not only raise moral concerns but also be counterproductive to our war aims. To trained soldiers expecting and thus prepared for chemical warfare, it is mainly a nuisance rather than a major concern in terms of lethality.

Of course, this is purely theoretical, since we all know Saddam doesn’t actually have any chemical weapons. . . .

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.