Iraq has an arsenal of formidable long-range missiles, which may include the Soviet SS-12 "Scaleboard" missiles that the Soviets agreed to destroy under the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Soviets made the missiles to carry nuclear warheads, but it is unlikely that if the SS-12s were given to Iraq, the Soviets would have been foolhardy enough to include the nuclear warheads. Top-secret Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency reports say that a Soviet diplomat in Baghdad has secretly warned both Turkish and U.S. diplomats there that the Scaleboards were given to Iraq. The transaction predated the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The Scaleboards and other Iraqi-produced missiles have the capability of dropping chemical and conventional warheads on American troops in Saudi Arabia and on Saddam Hussein's most hated enemies, Israel and Syria.The only bright spot in the alarming reports is that Iraq has such a limited number of missile launchers for its several hundred missiles that it is currently trying to jury-rig flatbed trucks as launchers. One classified estimate says Iraq has no more than 60 fixed launch pads and 36 mobile launchers. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze has confidentially told U.S. officials that the Soviets never gave Iraq any SS-12 missiles. And given the glowing Soviet record of nuclear non-proliferation, it is extremely unlikely that any nuclear warhead changed hands.

But the recent warnings from lower-level Soviet diplomatic channels are puzzling. At first, a Soviet diplomat in Baghdad told the Turkish military attache there that Iraq had received SS-12s. Presumably, the Soviet wanted Turkey to pass the word to its strong ally, the United States. Then, the same Soviet diplomat set up a meeting with a U.S. diplomat in Baghdad and repeated the message directly. The SS-12s, according to a secret Defense Intelligence Agency report, have a range of more than 500 miles and could give the Iraqis pinpoint accuracy that they don't have with other long-range missiles.

Even without the SS-12s, the Iraqi missile stockpile is formidable. Iraq builds its own at the $200 million Saad-16 complex north of Baghdad. It was designed by an Austrian firm. Another $400 million complex near the town of Mosul, code-named "Project 395," is used to build and assemble rockets and develop the warheads to go with them.

Rocket fuel and other components are made at two sites south of Baghdad. At one of those sites, Eskanarya, a huge explosion occurred in August 1989, reportedly killing hundreds of workers. A British journalist who tried to find out what happened there was arrested by Iraqi police and hanged earlier this year as a spy.