Zinni Says Saddam's "Shaken, Desperate"
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 1999 Desert Fox has left Saddam Hussein shaken and desperate, according to Marine Corps Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who headed the December operation.
The four-day air campaign did more damage and was far more effective than initially estimated, the U.S. Central Command chief said. "We've upped our estimate on the time it would take Saddam to repair the damages from Desert Fox from one to two years," Zinni said at the Pentagon Jan. 8.
Further analysis has shown that structural damage was severe; facilities are beyond repair in some cases. The strikes hit one- of-a-kind items available only outside Iraq -- critical equipment necessary for Saddam's missile development program.
The bombs and missiles did not hit empty buildings as first reported, Zinni said. "In some cases, especially in the first night's strikes, [Saddam] didn't have the opportunity to disperse critical equipment within," he reported.
Unconfirmed reports estimate Republican Guard casualties at 600 to 2,000, including senior leaders. "We're trying to confirm those reports as to who they were and what positions they held," Zinni said. The strikes damaged the guard's infrastructure, command and control, yet they're still being given internal security missions that they'll have to execute under some tough conditions, he said.
"There are some brigades and divisions right now that are operating out of tents," Zinni said. "They don't have barracks to go back to. They don't have a headquarters or [communications] equipment. They have communications problems because we hit communications nodes. To replace all that and re- establish that kind of capability within the Republican Guards - - critical to the security of the regime -- will take quite awhile."
Along with the physical destruction, Desert Fox reportedly has caused some instability within Iraq and unrest in the Iraqi army, Zinni said. "We've seen a number of unusual things internally that clearly demonstrate that [Saddam] was shaken and the regime was shaken," the commander said. "We have seen executions in the south. One division, in particular, lost its commander and several staff members."
Allegedly, the executions resulted from a failure to obey orders, Zinni said. Prior to Desert Fox, he said, Saddam divided Iraq into fourths and put ruthless people in charge, including those responsible for attacks on Iraq's Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south.
There appear to be two chains of command -- the regular military leaders and those put in place by Saddam -- and that's creating resentment and problems of loyalty as troops wonder who they answer to, Zinni said.
Saddam displayed his state of mind Jan. 5 in a televised Army Day speech that clearly reflected his isolation, Zinni said. The Iraqi dictator called on all Arabs to rise up against their leaders for "pandering to Western interests."
"His attack on all the other leaders in the region showed a degree of desperation that we hadn't seen before," the general said. "To us that speech was shocking." Other leaders in the region "bristled at this attack on them," he added.
Signs of unrest and some loss of internal control are clear, but not their extent, Zinni said. And what might a desperate Saddam do under the circumstances? According to the general, the Iraqi leader is capable of anything.
"He's capable of not only doing things irrationally, but of miscalculating," Zinni said. "He's made a profession out of miscalculation. He hopes for a propaganda victory. He obviously doesn't value the lives of his own troops. He doesn't care about his own people." That track record and those attitudes make him dangerous, he said.
The United States has contingency plans should the Iraqi dictator move toward Kuwait, fire missiles at his neighbors, and other possible scenarios. "We have plans for everything," Zinni said.