DEBKAfile Intelligence Summary

War To Begin 24 Hours After Azores Summit

17 March 2003

Washington advises UN arms inspection teams to begin leaving Iraq

Iraq war commander General Tommy Franks in Kuwait Monday to inspect troops designated for two invasion routes: Overland to Nasariyah and landing from sea at Shatt al-Arb and Faw Peninsula for Basra

Missing Trans-Israeli Highway project surveyor turns up safe at site near Ir’on junction in Wadi Ara

In advance of US president’s address to American Monday night, nonessential US diplomats and embassy dependents are ordered to leave Kuwait, Israel and Syria.

Same order issued to British nonessential personnel and citizens. UN arms inspection team in Iraq is progressively reduced.

Israeli authorities will decide on civil defense instructions to public after Bush address

Israeli hospitals told to complete sealing process of wards and facilities by Monday morning. Sunday noon, Israel’s First-Aid rescue service Magen David Adom moved command and communications centers to bomb-proof shelters

DEBKAfile’s Military Sources: Full-scale US-British offensive against Iraq is scheduled to begin Monday, 24 hours after Azores summit

First stage: Combined bomber-missile strikes against strategic targets, including government centers, military and civilian communications systems, radio and television broadcasting centers, transport hubs.

Preparations wind up Sunday night to fly and parachute ground troops into Iraq from launching bases in and outside Middle East. US 82nd Airborne Division will be flown in from Afghanistan

At Azores summit, Blair promised Bush British 1st armored division would take part in assault on Basra, vitally augmenting allied southern advance

World has another 24 hours to see if diplomacy will work – Bush at end of Azores summit Sunday with British and Spanish prime ministers. Three leaders declared Security Council Resolution 1441 provided last opportunity for Saddam Hussein to disarm or face serious consequences.

Blair pledges protection of Iraq’s territorial integrity. He declared natural resources will remain property of people of Iraq

DEBKAfile Exclusive from Iraqi underground sources: Attempt on life of Saddam’s elder son Uday was made on March 8 at al-Jadariya Boating Club on Tigris River. He is believed to have escaped with injuries from this second assassination attempt, but his three bodyguards were killed.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals: Also on March 8, former Lebanese president Gemayel took US colonel to Saddam’s palace on secret mission to persuade him to leave and prevent war:

If you don’t leave, we’ll target you,” said US Colonel. Saddam replied:”I’ll send you home in a box” and “I’m not afraid to die.” Read resume of conversation and Gemayel mission below

Saddam puts Iraq on war footing day Bush meets British and Spanish premiers for emergency summit in Portuguese Azores. Takes personal command of air and surface-surface missile forces. Four military districts ordered to “destroy any foreign aggression”. Younger son Qusay in command of Baghdad

High terror alert prompts Israel’s closure of Palestinian areas Saturday midnight, 24 hours before Jewish Purim festival begins night of March 17