U.S. and allied troops face a tougher fight than they think, predict two men who claim ties to the Iraqi leadership. One says he was President Saddam Hussein's bodyguard and hired killer, and the other says he sold Iraq many of its weapons.
The bodyguard, who out of fear identified himself only as Capt. Karim, and the arms dealer, Sarkis Soghanalian, told CBS-TV in separate interviews that:
* Saddam has a secret underground base where he is hiding much of his air force.
Karim, who made this claim, refused to say where the base is, because this would injure "my country" and not hurt Saddam, who is "finished" anyway, Karim said.
* Iraq has superior artillery because it owns French howitzers altered to fire about 12 miles farther than allied guns.
Soghanalian, who made this claim, said the howitzers are zTC backed up by thousands of modified Soviet long-range cannon -- as well as advanced artillery pieces which he bought from South Africa for resale to Iraq by way of Austria.
The claims were aired on the CBS television show "60 Minutes." Karim was interviewed in Paris, where the Iraqi ambassador to France denied that Karim ever was a bodyguard to Saddam. CBS showed a 1986 Iraqi television tape, however, that it said seemed to confirm Karim's former occupation. The captain said he defected in September.
He said he fled because he feared that Saddam would kill him.
"I know too much," he said.
Karim said he had placed a bomb on a helicopter at Saddam's request and killed Saddam's sister's husband -- his defense minister at the time. The minister, Adnan Kharallah, who also was Saddam's cousin, died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 1989. Last December, Karim said on a French television show that a Hussein son-in-law had placed the bomb.