The Israel Defense Force chief of staff has been quoted as telling a Knesset committee that Iraq no nuclear or chemical weapons to use against the State of Israel.
Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak also told the committee that Iraq probably had no Scud missiles and “a very select few” missile launchers, according to an official present at the hearing.
Shahak was also quoted as saying that without a threat from Iraq, Israel would not have an “eastern front.”
His remarks came in the wake of an interview broadcast on Israel Television last week in which a member of the Iraqi opposition said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had 37 scud missiles remaining in his arsenal.
Should Hussein’s regime collapse, his parting shot would be to load the missiles with chemical and germ warheads and launch them at Israel, the Iraq official said.
Shahak also reportedly said that Israel looks forward to gaining information about Iraq’s unconventional weapons program in the wake of the Aug. 10 defections to Jordan of two high-ranking members of Hussein’s regime, both of whom are Hussein’s sons-in-law.
One of the defectors, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan, was the head of Iraq’s weapons programs. He was responsible for the development of Iraq’s arms industry, particularly chemical and biological weapons, in the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Shahak’s assessments came as U.N. weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus held a four-hour meeting in Amman on Tuesday with Hassan.
Ekeus was attempting to verify what he had described as significant new information about Iraq’s weapons program he had received during a visit to Baghdad earlier in the week.
Israel Radio reported that after meeting with Hassan, Ekeus had decided to meet with him again and that he was expected to remain in the Jordanian capital until Thursday.
Ekeus heads the U.N. special commission in charge of disarming Iraq under the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire agreement.
During his appearance before the Knesset committee, Shahak praised the efforts of Ekeus’ U.N. inspection team.
After the defections earlier this month, there was much speculation that Hussein’s regime was on the verge of collapse.
The Pentagon said Tuesday that Iraq was continuing a pattern of unusual troop movements, but that the United States did not believe that Iraq was on the verge of invading any of its neighbors.
Responding to those movements, the Pentagon launched an operation it termed “Vigilant Sentinel.’
The operation included sending a troops and warships closer to the Persian Gulf, joint military operations with Jordanian forces and plans to hold a military exercise in Kuwait later this month.
Israeli security sources were quoted in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv as saying that the American show of force would provide an adequate deterrent to any aggressive steps Saddam Hussein might consider taking.
The source added that Hussein’s regime is not about to collapse.
They also said the Iraqi leader was not about to launch an attack on Jordan or Kuwait, and that he was far from taking any final, desperate measures.