Military planners and analysts say they believe that much of Iraq's military might is still unused and that Saddam Hussein's strategy is to prolong the war as long as possible.

For all the drama of continuing Scud attacks and the torching of oil facilities in Kuwait, these experts said yesterday that graver threats may remain. Some of them regard with anxiety the untapped potential of the world's fourth-largest war machine.

"So far it's been a little too easy," said a Marine official with access to intelligence digests. "What's he got up his sleeve? Are we that good, is he that bad, or has he got a plan he has yet to unveil?"

Some specialists on Iraq and its military say Saddam's strategy is already clear. At bottom, they say, it is premised on an assessment that he can withstand punishment longer than the alliance can preserve its will to fight.

"His strategy is to prolong the war as long as he can," said Phebe Marr, an Iraqi scholar at the Pentagon's National Defense University. "He's going to try to hunker down, save as much {of his military machine} as he can and dream up surprises for us."

The Scud attacks, these analysts said, are openly intended to draw Israel into the war and place America's Arab allies -- Saudi Arabia in particular -- in an untenable coalition with the Jewish state. Setting fire to Kuwaiti oil facilities, they said, menaces import-dependent Europeans with a long-term disruption of supply. Above all, they said, the husbanding of a formidable military apparatus is aimed at exacting a gruesome toll on U.S. troops in ground war to come.

The official Pentagon view, on the other hand, doubts the efficacy of Saddam's waiting game.

"I see that some feel he's holding back for a major offensive that will come on later," Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Kelly said at a briefing yesterday. "That doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense since he's being attrited while he's doing all this waiting."

Saddam is deeply conscious of America's trauma in Vietnam. He alluded to it in a conversation he had with U.S. Ambassador April C. Glaspie a week before Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

"You Americans," Saddam said, in an Iraqi government account never verified by U.S. officials, "cannot bear a war in which you suffer 10,000 casualties. The American people would have no stomach for it."

In contrast to Vietnam, however, Saddam's Iraq suffers several disadvantages. Isolated diplomatically as Hanoi never was, Iraq has no functioning port; no sanctuary for troops and supplies comparable to Laos or Cambodia; no apparent source of replacement for military hardware; and no triple-canopy jungle in which to hide from American bombers.

Saddam, several analysts said, probably thought the Bush administration would not fight. Now that the war has begun, they said, he appears to place his hope in drawing American ground troops into a grinding war of attrition.

Though Iraqi forces have shot down 9 U.S. and 6 allied planes, fired Scud missiles at Israel and eastern Saudi Arabia, laid at least 19 mines in the Persian Gulf and lobbed artillery rounds toward allied forces, U.S. commanders and analysts agree that Saddam has made little more than symbolic use of a military apparatus that is still formidable. In particular, they said yesterday, he has withheld from serious combat an air force of perhaps 700 planes and a large stock of chemical weapons.

U.S. pilots in Saudi Arabia, who braced for dogfights with Iraq's jet fighters, professed bafflement.

"We haven't been able to fire a shot in anger yet, because we haven't found anybody," Lt. Col. Jeff Brown, executive officer of an F-15C fighter squadron, told reporters there. "It's terrible."

Ground troops near the border with Kuwait reported desultory assaults from Iraqi rockets.

"Either they're really bad shots or they have no idea where everything is," said Marine Lt. Jim Tuemler. "They've been very inaccurate if they're aiming at us."

During Iraq's eight-year war with Iran, Iraqi artillery was used to devastating effect. Iraqi forces typically aimed their fire at enemy troops bogged down in what Western analysts describe as "kill sacks" bounded by sand berms, minefields and trenches. Specialists who have studied the war, including Stephen C. Pelletiere and Lt. Col. Douglas V. Johnson Jr. at the U.S. Army War College, describe Iraqi forces as "superb on defense."

Beginning in 1983, according to Dilip Hiro, author of the book "The Longest War," Iraq not only used chemical weapons as instruments of terror but integrated them effectively into combat tactics. Its forces became proficient at delivering chemical loads against enemy artillery positions, command elements and logistical lines -- all of which lost efficiency even when fully protected in chemical suits.

Iraq's air force, which appears to remain largely intact, may pose more of a threat to allied ground troops than to allied planes -- which may be one explanation for their sparse use so far in aerial combat. One U.S. flag officer said yesterday that Saddam might employ the planes, perhaps in combination with chemical payloads, in suicide attacks against ground formations.

"Could he get a bunch of pilots pumped up and pull a kamikaze?" the officer said. "Probably. If he runs out of Scuds, I think he'll go for 'manned Scuds.' "

Said Hiro, in reference to the planes: "As long as the instrument is there, you can find something to do with it."

Staff writer Stephen C. Fehr in Saudi Arabia and U.S. pool correspondents contributed to this report.