CBSN

What Hasn't Happened In Iraq

IRAQ: An oil pipe fire burns south of Basra, Wednesday April 2, 2003. Members of 32 Royal Engineers, attached to 7 Armed Brigade, helped Iraqi oil workers try to extinguish the fire using a combat tractor to pour tons of sand on the burning oil.
AP
War planners thought Iraq might fight with poison gas and germs. So far, it hasn't. U.S. officials worried that hundreds of oil wells, instead of fewer than a dozen, would be set on fire. Israel braced for incoming missiles that never arrived.

From the start of the war, Saddam Hussein has been portrayed as a leader who would stop at nothing to keep his regime alive. Yet, as the war winds down, none of these darker scenarios has happened.

There have been no terrorist attacks on America. Iraq hasn't demolished holy sites and blamed the destruction on the West. And while Iraqi soldiers have disguised themselves as civilians, the Pentagon says there have been no reports, as initially predicted, of troops donning look-alike U.S. and British uniforms to commit atrocities against Iraqis.

The United States and Britain might have overestimated the resolve of Iraq's leaders, military experts say. Or, the coalition might have rendered Iraqi troops impotent with a speedy roll to Baghdad. It's also possible that Saddam was incapable, for whatever reason, of being as ruthless as he's been depicted.

"I think Saddam is as evil as we thought, but we may have assumed that he had greater freedom of action than he actually did," said historian and retired Army Lt. Col. James Carafano.

An authoritarian regime, by definition, requires centralized control, he said. It's possible that the Iraqi leadership gave orders to torch oil wells, launch chemical weapons or fire missiles at Israel, but that the commands were ignored.

"At the end of World War II, Hitler was sitting in a bunker, moving around these divisions, vigorously defending Berlin," Carafano recalled. "Nobody had the guts to tell him: `Those divisions have evaporated and the Russians are at the door.'

"You might have had the same dynamic here."

Carafano said he's seen reports that suggest Saddam decided against pulling his Republican Guard divisions back into Baghdad because he feared a coup. Maybe he was just afraid to have them "too close to the throne," he said.

Military analysts say there are numerous reasons why Iraq didn't deploy chemical or biological weapons. Saddam's forces could no longer get to them, never had them, didn't want to give the coalition justification for the invasion, lacked the means to disperse them, or destroyed them when UN inspectors came looking.

Also, facing stiff counter fire from coalition forces, it's doubtful that Saddam would have been able to fire enough chemical weapons to make a difference, Carafano said.

"He could have maybe shot a couple of rounds, but not the thousands of rounds needed to accomplish anything," he said.

Phil Anderson, a 23-year veteran of the Marine Corps and fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war, but Saddam was afraid to use them.

"Saddam Hussein was or is a coward," he said. "This is not someone who is willing to martyr himself, not somebody who is fearless."

It's possible that the coalition troops rendered Saddam's troops incapable of using these kind of weapons.

"Allied air power probably paralyzed any efforts to recover most such weapons and certainly destroyed many potential delivery systems," Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a brief released Thursday that outlines the first lessons of the war.

Another fear was that Iraq would fire a barrage of missiles into neighboring Kuwait.

When the war began, civil defense sirens blared in Kuwait and televisions flashed "Danger, Danger." People ran into bomb shelters. Police went on the highest alert. Then the panic subsided.

Some of the 20 missiles Iraq fired at Kuwait fell harmlessly into the Persian Gulf or the desert; others were intercepted by Patriot missiles. Only one caused minor injuries when it landed in front of a Kuwaiti shopping center.

Israel feared a repeat of the first Gulf War when Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles, causing damage in Israel, but few casualties. Missile attacks against Israel may have been averted this time when special coalition forces seized two airfield complexes believed to house Scuds capable of reaching Israel.

Special operations units disrupted Iraqi command and control, seized oil fields and took hold of the airfields in western Iraq where Scud missiles might have been launched at Israel, said Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. They also provided intelligence on the whereabouts of Iraqi leaders, which permitted the attacks against Saddam, he said.

"These operations were brave, creative and effective," O'Hanlon said. "They also prevented some of the war's worst nightmare scenarios from coming to pass."