Saddam Hussein Maintained WMD Illusion to Deter Israel
Saddam Hussein kept up the illusion that he had WMD, especially, chemical weapons, to deter an Israeli attack, according to a report by Shmuel Rosner in Haaretz.
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein pretended to have chemical weapons because, among other reasons, he feared that Israel might attack if it discovered he did not. This is revealed in a recently declassified internal report by the American military. The report was compiled from many dozens of interviews with senior Iraqi officials and hundreds of documents captured by the American forces during and after the war.
Hussein made the above statement at a meeting with leaders of the Ba’ath Party, said Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali, to American interrogators. Ali was in charge of using chemical weapons against the Kurdish forces at the end of the 1980s. “According to Chemical Ali, Hussein was asked about the weapons during a meeting with members of the Revolutionary Command Council. He replied that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) but flatly rejected a suggestion that the regime remove all doubts to the contrary,” the report states. Ali explained that such a declaration could encourage Israel to attack, the report says.
Hussein did not believe until almost the last moment that the U.S. would send its forces into Baghdad, the report says. He was much more afraid of subversive elements in Iraq – mainly the Shi’ites and Kurds – and from regional powers – mainly Iran but also Israel – than of an American invasion. This is why he decided to leave the bridges leading into Iraq standing, believing he would need them, and to maintain ambiguity until close to the invasion, causing Western intelligence to believe he had WMDs.
“Many months after the fall of Baghdad, a number of senior Iraqi officials in coalition custody continued to believe it possible that Iraq still possesed WMD capability hidden away somewhere. Saddam attempted to convince one audience that they were gone while simultaneously convincing another that Iraq still had them,” the report says. Senior Iraqi officials told their interrogators that Hussein had no idea what the true state of the country’s weapons was, because everyone lied to him and refrained from giving him bad news for fear of being executed.
The Israeli angle is new and interesting. We already knew that Saddam maintained the appearance of a thriving WMD program and repeatedly defied inspections. The idea that he might have been lied to by his own people has also been circulating since the earliest days after his fall.