The CIA has drafted plans for a major program of sabotage and subversion against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials say.
Four prior covert operations, involving everything from radio propaganda to paramilitary plots, have failed to dislodge the Iraqi leader, just as smart bombs, cruise missiles and stiff economic sanctions have failed.The CIA's new plan, months in the making, must still be approved by President Clinton. That approval is by no means certain, and some of his key advisers are skeptical of the plan.
The debate over the need for new covert action has intensified in the last few weeks, with senior members of Congress openly calling for the CIA to destabilize Saddam. But some of the president's advisers consider the new plan no more likely to succeed than the agency's earlier efforts, and they are likely to argue against approving it, the officials said.
The plan, still in the draft stage, has not yet been put into final form for a decision by the president. The fact that officials are disclosing it shows the depth of their doubts.
The plan calls for enlisting Kurdish and Shiite agents to destroy or damage key Iraqi pillars of economic and political power, like utility plants or government broadcast stations, the officials said. At the same time, the plan calls for increasing political pressure on Iraq through propaganda programs like a "Radio Free Iraq" broadcast to Baghdad.
The plan aims to try to undermine Saddam by showing Iraqi citizens that he is not invincible, strengthening his opponents inside Iraq and trying to ignite a rebellion within his inner circle.