Last week, after Iraq announced it would halt U.N. weapons inspections, U.S. officials accelerated plans to dynamite Saddam Hussein into compliance. As the Pentagon refined its strategy, Defense Secretary William Cohen and National Security Adviser Samuel Berger hit the road to sell the plan to Arab and European leaders. While they got a frosty public response, officials say the private message was a tacit green light. Result: President Clinton may decide to hit Iraq without a U.N. vote, something that has bottled up attack plans in the past. The strike could come this week.
Chances of a bombing were enhanced by the fact that the Pentagon has compiled a sobering list of targets, including many of the 63 missile sites, 120 chemical-weapons sites, 91 biological-weapons sites and more than 100-odd nuclear-weapons sites where Iraq may be engaged in banned weapons work. "These are militarily measurable objectives," said a Navy officer. "If you destroy half of his missile factories, you can conclude you’ve destroyed half of his missile-building capability." With the U.N. sitting quietly by, Iraq may be too target-rich to resist.