Saddam’s Bluff

Haaretz reports on a soon-to-be-declassified American military report on Saddam’s multiple deceptions relating to his weapons of mass destruction:

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.

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.

“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.

The report details Hussein’s reasons for deciding to continue deceiving the international community into thinking that Iraq had WMD, despite the fact that such deception could increase the chances of a military attack on the country.

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, on the other hand, seems to contradict Ali’s account:

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.

And, of course, many still think that some WMDs did exist:

Many in Israeli intelligence still believe Hussein had chemical weapons, which were transferred to Syria before the war. Israel discussed this with the Americans, but the latter no longer believe that Israeli evidence is conclusive on the matter.

All of which emphasizes, I think, the importance of the documents and tapes that are finally being made available to the public.

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