Pentagon spokesmen swear that Saddam Hussein is not one of their targets in Iraq. That's true. The U.S. government would not be so crude as to bomb Saddam into oblivion and make a martyr out of him.

Instead, the current secret U.S. plan is to let Saudi Arabia take care of Saddam -- to kidnap him and then lop off his head, according to Islamic law that other Arab nations would find hard to dispute.

Central Intelligence Agency and other Bush administration sources have told us that all the talk about putting Saddam on trial for "war crimes" is not the plan U.S. officials have agreed upon.

The CIA and security services of two friendly Arab countries instead are in the process of planning the kidnapping, which would be followed by a by-the-books trial of Saddam in an Islamic court for crimes against Allah. The penalty is death by beheading. But first they have to catch him, or hope that he falls into allied hands during the war.

For security reasons, our sources declined to identify the two groups that will, or already have, infiltrated Iraq using Iraqi double agents cultivated over the last five months. But a close working relationship between the CIA and the Saudi spy agency is key to the plan.

The plot is not a pipe dream. "We believe we have a better-than-even chance of succeeding in the next month," one of the key officials knowledgeable about the plan told us.

The groundwork has already been laid publicly, but went largely unnoticed by the Western news media. On Jan. 16, the elderly man who is Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling Saddam "an enemy of God."

Sheik Abdulaziz bin Abdulla bin Baz, a blind cleric in his 70s, heads the Council of Ulema. He ruled in the fatwa that "the jihad {holy war} that is taking place today against the enemy of God, Saddam, the ruler of Iraq, is a legitimate jihad on the part of Moslems and those assisting them." In an unusual move, he added a request for Allah's blessings on the non-Moslems involved in the conflict.

The sheik further said that Saddam has "wrongly transgressed and committed aggression against and invaded a peaceful country." It was not just wartime propaganda, but the first step in an Islamic legal process to bring Saddam to trial. The fatwa fell short of calling for Saddam's death, but sources tell us that will be the next step if Saddam is captured.

Under the current plan, the Saudi high court, which operates under Islamic law, would charge Saddam with a capital crime -- most likely "waging war with Islam." Witnesses would be called and Saddam would be allowed to mount a defense, but our sources predict the whole affair would last only about a week.

If convicted, Saddam would be sentenced to die by beheading in a public square, probably in Riyadh. But if the Saudis wanted to do it up big, they would take him to the holy city of Mecca. By law, executions must be public, but the Saudis probably would prevent crowds from gathering.

To the Saudis, beheadings are neither gruesome nor abhorrent. On the average, over the last several years, they have beheaded about one criminal a week.