Two maps showing Iraqi military facilities and the range of Iraqi missiles and fighters yesterday inadvertently failed to credit the information to a report by Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The accompanying story misidentified the television program on which Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney was interviewed Sunday. It was ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley." (Published 8/23/90)

Iraqi forces in Kuwait, initially deployed along an invasion route to Saudi Arabia, have moved into a well-armed, largely defensive posture that indicates Baghdad will not lightly cede the newly annexed Kuwaiti territory, according to U.S. officials.

Officials studying the possibility of a military solution to the Persian Gulf crisis said that confrontation with these troops would lead almost certainly to significant American casualties, perhaps in the thousands, in any ground battle.

The reason is that Iraqi weaponry, while not as sophisticated as that of the U.S. and allied forces, is still numerous and powerful enough to inflict nearly as much damage as a modern European army, the officials said.

Ground combat with Iraq could "rival in intensity a battle against Soviet forces in East Germany because their army looks very much like a comparably sized U.S., Soviet or British force," due to Iraqi acquisition of sophisticated Soviet and Western arms over the past decade, a U.S. military intelligence expert said last week.

More than 160,000 Iraqi troops, including several combat units of the elite Presidential Guards, have poured into Kuwait since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's lightning seizure of the capital Aug. 2. The U.S. and allied force in Saudi Arabia is now smaller, but may swell to more than 200,000 in coming months.

"I see up on the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia the accumulation of enormous {Iraqi} military power," said Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" from Bahrain. He indicated that another 40,000 soldiers and hundreds of additional tanks are now deployed in southern Iraq, within a short striking distance of Saudi territory.

The Iraqi troops in Kuwait were initially arrayed in a column near one of the principal invasion routes to Saudi Arabia, a threatening posture that helped provoke the U.S. decision to respond with military force. But intelligence officials say most of the invading Iraqi troops have since been redeployed into a more defensively oriented arc surrounding Kuwait City.

These troops brought along some of their best antiaircraft missiles, armored fighting vehicles, multiple-rocket launchers and helicopters. More than 500 tanks, including Soviet-designed T-72 main battle models, are also in Kuwait, and Iraqi military engineers have erected earthen embankments around the capital and near the Iraqi border to help slow any attack by mechanized forces.

"This is not a Third World army. It's a Second or First World army," said Michael Klare, an author of several books on international arms sales and low-intensity conflict. Col. Andrew Duncan, an assistant director of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, said last week that a six-month buildup could be needed to amass a Western force sufficient to dislodge Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

President Bush does not now have "the political mandate to conduct a military attack on objectives inside Kuwait or inside Iraq," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) said Sunday. He added, however, that this could change if Iraq harms U.S. citizens in either country.

While intelligence experts now discount the likelihood of an immediate Iraqi advance into Saudi territory, they say such an attack could be mounted within roughly 12 hours. Because smaller Saudi and U.S. forces are now deployed at the border, the Iraqis would likely make substantial territorial gains despite plentiful advance warning in the West.

The Soviet T-72 tank "is not junk," the military intelligence official said. "It can beat many of the world's tanks." Iraqi troops also are said to have hundreds of high-quality armored personnel carriers made in Czechoslovakia and plenty of artillery and modern battlefield rockets from West European and Brazilian arms factories.

Several independent experts noted, however, that communications and sensors on the T-72 tank could be jammed by electronic warfare and that its ammunition is vulnerable to accidental ignition.

The U.S. strategy in attacking Iraqi positions or countering a ground attack would initially be to use massive air and sea power, possibly including sea-launched cruise missiles, to destroy sensitive Iraqi targets such as long-range missile launchers, air bases, communications centers and chemical weapon facilities, several officials said.

This approach is intended to minimize casualties among ground troops and emphasize the overwhelming U.S. and allied advantage in airpower, which includes advanced F-15, F-16 and F-117A fighters, A-10 attack aircraft in Saudi Arabia, F-111 bombers in Turkey and B-52 bombers on the nearby Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. But the strategy would be seriously complicated by any forced movement of U.S. and allied citizens to Iraqi military bases, as Iraqi officials have been threatening.

Military officials say U.S. aircraft should have little difficulty penetrating the Iraqi air defense network, which depends on French-made Roland missiles and a variety of Soviet missiles. The former are considered highly effective only against relatively unmaneuverable aircraft, and some of the latter are said to have performed poorly against Israeli aircraft. However, Soviet-made missiles of the type owned by Iraq were able to down two U.S. aircraft during a December 1983 U.S. raid on Syrian targets.

One early U.S. target, according to U.S. officials, would be Iraq's Al-Hussein and Al-Abas missile forces of modified, Soviet-designed Scud-B's, capable of flying more than 400 miles to reach targets deep in Saudi Arabia, including the capital Riyadh.

The Al-Hussein was fitted with conventional explosives for effective use in dozens of demoralizing attacks on Iranian cities in 1988, but damage caused by the falling rocket bodies evidently surpassed that caused by the warhead itself, according to Michael Eisenstadt, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Other experts said the relatively inaccurate missiles would have to strike sensitive portions of Saudi oil terminals almost by chance to do serious strategic harm.

U.S. anxieties about the two long-range missiles stem largely from uncertainty about Baghdad's ability to equip them with mustard gas or lethal nerve agents. At least four missile battalions, with roughly 15 missiles each, are being tracked around the clock by U.S. intelligence resources so they can be destroyed at the outset of any conflict, U.S. officials said. It has not been decided what to do if Americans are garrisoned nearby, however.

Other early U.S. targets would be Iraqi launchers for Soviet-made air defense missiles and military airbases for French-made Mirage F-1E and Soviet-made Su-24 fighter aircraft. Considered the best in the Iraqi air force, these fighters can reach distant targets in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East without refueling.

The F-1Es are particularly worrisome because they can fire potent Exocet antiship missiles from a great distance, as in the 1987 Iraqi attack on the USS Stark. Intelligence experts say Iraq has hundreds of Exocets, which can also be fired from French-made Super Frelon helicopters.

Iraqi pilots are considered mediocre by many Western military experts, however. A force of roughly 15 Iraqi Tu-16 and Tu-22 bombers, made in the Soviet Union, is also expected to fare poorly in combat due to their slow speed and poor maneuverability.

Other key targets would be the small Iraqi navy, including more than a dozen fast attack craft of Soviet design, and perhaps a dozen captured Kuwaiti vessels, including several equipped with Exocets. "Small fast motorboats. . . were found to be a threat to major U.S. warships" during the 1987 U.S. escort of Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, due to deficiencies in U.S. automatic cannon and missile defense systems, the General Accounting Office said last March.

However, some experts say U.S. ships can avoid an Exocet attack by jamming the missile's radars, using decoys or by switching off electronic emissions that attract Exocet homing devices.

An orchestrated U.S. air attack would be complicated by Iraq's decision last week to disperse its chemical weapons arsenal away from known storage and production sites. While U.S. soldiers have gear to defend against an attack with mustard gas or relatively perishable nerve agents, some U.S. intelligence analysts worry that Iraq has been working on a more long-lived and potent nerve agent that would render large areas of battlefield uninhabitable.