More on Operation Desert Fox and the Apparent Coup Attempt
The conventional time line for Operation Desert Fox begins around
December 10, when UN inspectors were embroiled in their last
round of standoffs with Iraq over access to disputed sites in
Iraq, including Ba'ath party headquarters in Baghdad. The next
point on the conventional time line occurred on December 16 when,
only hours after chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler issued
a report stating that Iraq was continuing to be uncooperative,
the UN withdrew its inspectors from Iraq and U.S. cruise missiles
began striking Iraq. Three other incidents prior to the launch
of Desert Fox caught our attention, however.
The first two events occurred on December 14. A Saudi soldier
was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant in a vehicle
near an Iraqi border post near the Saudi town of Arar.
Speculation at the time was that smugglers may have been
responsible, which is an altogether possible explanation. Also
on December 14, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region were put
on Defense Condition Charlie, ostensibly due to a heightened
threat of terrorist actions from militants linked to Osama Bin
Laden. That, too, may have been the case, but we're not
convinced there wasn't more at work.
The most significant incident occurred just before the air
strikes on December 16, when Saddam Hussein announced a dramatic
restructuring and redeployment of the Iraqi armed forces. This
may have been merely coincidental and somewhat bad timing, but it
certainly wasn't initiated by forewarning of the U.S. cruise
missile attack. Our speculation, based on subsequent events, is
that Saddam's Presidential Decree Number 98, rearranging the
Iraqi armed forces, was prompted by Saddam uncovering a U.S.
sponsored coup plot. Moreover, it is possible that the discovery