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.

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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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rick DeMent says:

    He did a good job too, sure suckerd in the Bush adminstration. They bought it hook, line and sinker.

  2. LJD says:

    So it was the evil Israelis that caused all this! Poor wittle Saddam was just a scared wittle boy…

    Well at least we have another angle on the case for war. We can use the Democratic explanation. We were lied to! Deceived I tell you!

  3. Fivish says:


    He had WMD. He bought them from the USA and others. He used them on his own people.
    They didn’t evaporate, they were moved to Syria two days before the war started. This is well known by the CIA who have satelite photos of the convoys. Dr Kay had maps of the locations.

    Why continue to lie about Saddams WMD?

  4. Jack Ehrlich says:

    Unlike past dictators, who left a trail of their crimes, Saddam learned. It will be informative to watch liberals put more faith in what Saddam has to say than our American President. I wonder which invasion route Saddam thought Israel planned to use. The one through friendly Syria? Or maybe a trek trough Jordan? Israel has had success fighting from its own borders, but not much of a history of attacking nations any distance away with the exception of the strike on the Iraqi nuclear plant. I find it difficult to believe Saddam was more afraid of Israel with its limited ability to project force, than of the United States who had massed thousands of troops on his borders. It is no wonder the enemies of this country love the left. They are so gullible. They will not be able to see through what Saddam is trying to feed the world.

  5. If Fivish and Ehrilch can stop bashing liberals long enough to actually listen to someone other than themselves, they might learn something. Primarily, that their information is suspect and probably inaccurate. The latest US intelligence reports, based on interviews with Saddam and other former Iraqi military, has led them to conclude (that’s our guys, not theirs) that Saddam got rid of his WMDs shortly after the first Gulf War. Israel had bombed a nuclear power plant hundreds of miles from the Israeli border and he was as concerned with his enemy on the other side as well, Iran. He figured if Israel or Iran thought he had WMDs this would deter them from invading him. He thought the CIA knew he didn’t have WMDs so he figured all this stuff going on in the UN was about harrassing/humiliating him and Iraq. He didn’t understand that our spies really thought he might have them. He thought the CIA was better than it actually was. His bluff, and that’s what it was, backfired on him. Bush was looking for any excuse to topple Saddam so he believed the Iraqi dissidents who, we now know, were also lying. The real question now is who was the bigger fool?Saddam for running this bluff, Bush for swallowing it hook, line and sinker, or red-state Americans for letting King George have another four years to make everything worse. As for WMDs going to Syria, that’s based on the word of one Iraqi general who got it second hand from an Iraqi pilot he won’t name. So, rather than believe the American intelligence officers now reaching these conclusions, you guys want to believe yet another Iraqi with probably every reason to lie. Well, I guess a people really do get the government they deserve. For a complete analysis see Bob Drogin’s article in the Washington Post or go here

  6. Sorry that link didn’t go through. Here it is