Saddam Hussein gave orders to his subordinates to launch missiles with chemical warheads at Israel should he start to lose power during the First Gulf War, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Friday, citing tapes from the late Iraqi president’s archives.
According to the report, Hussein dispersed missiles armed with chemical weapons at bases across the country and gave orders to have them launched at the Jewish state should his regime collapse or he be cut off from his general staff. The list of strategic Israeli targets was drawn up and included, curiously, Haifa’s leading high-tech university, The Technion.
A professor from the university recounted in the report that a Jordanian official who visited the school told him that Saddam insisted the Technion be added to the list of strategic targets because a teacher at the school had spoken ill of him.
Hussein tape-recorded many of his meetings with senior Iraqi officials and foreign dignitaries. The trove of audio archives was captured by the United States in 2003 and some were analyzed by Avner Golov of the Institute of National Security Studies, a think tank at Tel Aviv University.
According to Golov, Hussein ultimately never launched biological or chemical weapons at Israel “because he never thought he had reached the point that he felt his regime was under threat.”
Hussein did fire 39 Scud missiles armed with conventional warheads at Israel during the First Gulf War, killing one Israeli. Fears that he might use chemical warheads on the Scuds led to the Israeli authorities distributing gas masks, and ordering the populace into sealed rooms when the Scuds were heading toward Israel.
On one of the tapes broadcast on Friday night, the Iraqi dictator told the visiting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in April 1990 — four months before Saddam invaded Kuwait — that “Iraq has chemical weapons it successfully used against the Iranians” during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, “and Iraq won’t hesitate to use them against Tel Aviv.”
In another recording from 1991 broadcast by the news outlet, Hussein orders Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his vice president, to launch missile strikes at Israel at night. When al-Douri asks whether he means military targets, Hussein replies, “I consider every city in Israel a target.”
Analysis of Hussein’s tapes showed that he considered chemical weapons a trump card, “to be held in reserve to deter American or Israeli use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and to prevent coalition forces from marching on Baghdad” in 1991, according to Foreign Policy.