Secret Israeli Documents Reveal Plan to Bomb Saddam's Iraq Over Chemical Weapons

A French air force technician at an air base in Saudi Arabia, on December 21, 1990. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

Documents never seen before by the public have revealed that at the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991, Israel was on the verge of bombing Saddam Hussein's Iraq amid fears the Iraqi dictator might deploy chemical weapons.

Israel's Ministry of Defense released documents held until recently in their Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Archive which disclose the intentions of then-defense minister Moshe Arens and IDF chief of staff Dan Shomron to bomb Iraq following a series of missile attacks.

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During the Gulf War, the Iraq military fired nearly 40 Scud missiles at Israeli cities, killing two people directly. Eleven others are believed to have perished due to a heart attack or asphyxiation connected to the strikes, The Times of Israel reported.

Israeli generals and politicians feared that Israel could be next, as had been the case when Hussein used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.

"The next missile could cause mass casualties, the next missile could be a chemical missile and the Americans aren't succeeding in stopping it, so we have to," Arens said in an interview contained in the documents.

Shomron developed plans for an attack on Iraq but opposed the move.

"If the government said to attack, we'd attack, but I recommended that we shouldn't," Shomron said. "If an hour later, a missile fell with poisonous gas that caused mass casualties, maybe I would recommend to attack. I wasn't saying no attacking from now until the end of time."

Among the target the Israeli military planned to hit in 1991 were Saddam Hussein's palaces and the Iraqi army's general staff headquarters.

Shomron also laid out concerns that Saddam would attempt to overwhelm the Middle East with a wider invasion: trying to invade Jordan and Syria, which the Israelis also prepared for.

The United States was opposed to Israel intervening in the war over concerns that Arab coalition members in the war wouldn't want to be seen fighting on the same side with Israel.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and a wide array of other nations intervened in Iraq in 1991 following Iraq's annexation of Kuwait. The war delivered its aims of liberating Kuwait but stopped short of regime change in Baghdad, allowing Saddam Hussein to continue his rule until the U.S. invasion in 2003.