U.S. Special Forces Hunting For Saddam
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U.S. UNITS ON HUNT TO TRACK SADDAM
By Jack Kelley
January 19, 2003
JORDAN-IRAQ BORDER As the Bush administration moves into what officials
call the last phase of the showdown with Iraq, the United States is
undertaking a vigorous military and intelligence effort to track, and
possibly kill, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The effort involves, among other things, small teams of U.S. special
operations forces and CIA paramilitary units inside and around Iraq,
satellite imagery, radio intercepts and airborne reconnaissance, U.S.
intelligence officials say.
The activities are part of a strategy designed to pressure Saddam to depart
or disarm and, if he won't, pave the way for a U.S.-led invasion to oust
him. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he would support
exile for Saddam and his family as a way to avoid war. But national security
adviser Condoleezza Rice said it is "unlikely" the Iraqi dictator would go
voluntarily as the confrontation enters "the start of a last phase."
In advance of a possible war:
Nearly 100 U.S. special operations forces and more than 60 CIA operatives
have been conducting reconnaissance missions in Iraq's deserts and outside
its major cities since September, senior U.S. and Arab intelligence
officials said, confirming a Boston Globe report earlier this month. The
missions include monitoring troop movements at army bases used by Iraqi
Republican Guard, Saddam's most loyal defenders. The U.S. forces are also
scouting landing strips for U.S. and coalition aircraft and training
opposition Kurdish and Shiite leaders to fight against Saddam.
Nearly 35,000 feet above Iraq, a converted Boeing 707 is flying 10 hours a
day, every day, recording conversations of top Iraqi officials and
pinpointing the location of those calls to within a mile.
Two spy satellites, code-named Micron and Trumpet, are intercepting calls
and walkie-talkie transmissions from Iraqi military sites, Saddam's
motorcade, his palaces and other areas. A U.S. official in the region said
Saddam is aware of such efforts.
The U.S. Central Command in Tampa, which oversees military operations in
Iraq, and the CIA in Langley, Va., declined to comment officially. "We don't
talk about current operations," Central Command spokesman Maj. Bill Harrison
Last year, President Bush directed the CIA to undertake a covert program to
topple Saddam, senior U.S. officials say. The presidential order directs the
CIA to work with U.S. special operations forces, which include Army Green
Berets, Navy SEALs and other specialized military units.
Despite Rumsfeld's comments about exile and renewed international efforts
over the weekend, few U.S. officials believe that Saddam will flee Iraq or
seek asylum. The U.S. diplomat in the Middle East said the goal is to oust
Saddam and, under Bush's directive to the CIA, U.S. forces can kill the
Iraqi leader if they believe their lives are in danger.
Saddam, 65, is a master of deception who has managed to elude the world and
internal coup plots through his 24-year reign. "Saddam knows what America
would like to do to him, so he rules from the shadows," said Wafiq
al-Sammarai, a former chief of Iraq's military intelligence who defected in
1994. "He is one of the most paranoid, but also one of the best-defended,
leaders in the world. He will make it hard, maybe even impossible, for
America to get him."
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