Expression of concern over possible terrorist attacks against the United States in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere increased dramatically last week, but analysts doubt that Iraq President Saddam Hussein would dare employ terrorist tactics.
The view among experts on terrorism is that Saddam recognizes that a terrorist attack backed by him against U.S. installations in Saudi Arabia, where most of the Americans are concentrated, or anywhere in the gulf region, would be the springboard for a U.S. attack against Iraqi forces in Kuwait and against Iraq itself."The Iraqis believe that the Americans are just waiting for such a pretext," said Yahya Sadowski, an analyst on Middle Eastern affairs and terrorism at the Brookings Institution, a Washington study group.
A major concern among U.S. forces deployed in Saudi Arabia is an attack similar to the suicide truck bombing of the Marine barracks at Beirut Airport Oct. 23, 1983, in which 241 American servicemen died.
Despite its repeated warnings and expressions of concern in the past week about the possibility of terrorist strikes against U.S. or allied interests, the State Department has been careful to note that it has not received terrorist threats "that are both specific and credible."
But it is clear that the United States would retaliate for a Saddam-supported terrorist act.
"The United States would view with utmost seriousness any Iraqi-sponsored terrorist attack," the State Department has said more than once.
"Utmost seriousness" means there would be a U.S. counterattack.