THE US Congress has been warned that President Bush’s proposed attack on Iraq
could escalate into a nuclear conflict.
An assessment of Iraq’s capabilities says that the US is unlikely to knock
out many, if any, of President Saddam Hussein’s mobile missile-launchers in a
first wave of airstrikes. It raises the possibility of Baghdad hitting an Israeli
city with a missile carrying biological agents, saying that Saddam is likely to
use chemical and biological weapons.
Israel’s likely reaction would be nuclear ground bursts against every Iraqi
city not already occupied by US-led coalition forces. Senators were told that,
unlike the 1991 Gulf War, when Washington urged Israel not to retaliate against
Iraqi missile strikes, Israeli leaders have decided that their credibility would
be hurt if they failed to react this time.
The assessment was written by Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon and State
Department official now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International
Studies. He was a witness before last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
and chosen to open a national debate on the looming Iraqi conflict. He queried
the ability of US forces to use pre-emptive airstrikes to cripple Iraq’s mobile
launchers, which would be used for chemical or biological weapons. Donald Rumsfeld,
the US Defense Secretary, has alluded to the problems of locating the launchers.
Referring to the Gulf War, Mr Cordesman said that, despite contrary claims,
the US had not detected most Iraqi chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
weapons and missile capabilities. US and British forces also had “no meaningful
success” in finding Scud missile sites, nor were the airstrikes of Operation Desert
Fox in 1998, after the departure of UN weapons inspectors, successful.
“It’s likely, therefore, that Iraq could succeed in launching some CBRN strikes
against US coalition forces, targets in neighboring states, and / or Israel.”It
could take days to characterize biological agents. “Even US forces would only
be able to firmly characterize dissemination by observing the lethal effects,”
Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd.