The Pentagon is poised to increase military pressure on Baghdad early in the new year by nearly doubling the number of U.S. forces in the Gulf region.
Pentagon officials stress that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not yet signed off on the new deployment order. But these officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say some 50,000 fresh U.S. troops are likely to be sent to the Gulf, probably in January.
These will be in addition to the nearly 60,000 military personnel already in the area, scattered across bases in several countries and at sea.
It is the latest move designed to step up the pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is facing the threat of a new war because of his country's efforts to develop so-called weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Iraq denies having any. But U.S. officials insist it does and say Baghdad's recent declaration on its weapons program to U.N. inspectors is incomplete and deceptive.
In another recent move to increase pressure on Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military has begun propaganda broadcasts directly into Iraq in an evident bid to discredit the Iraqi leader and to turn his troops and people against him.
The broadcasts, made from airborne transmitters, accuse Saddam Hussein of betraying soldiers and civilians alike, making such charges as "Saddam lives like a king while his soldiers are underpaid and under equipped" and "Saddam has built palace after palace for himself and has purchased a fleet of luxury cars all at the expense of the Iraqi people."
The broadcasts also focus on the danger of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and note Saddam's past use of chemical weapons against his own people.
U.S. intelligence officials are predicting that if American-led coalition forces attack, the Iraqi leader will use chemical and biological weapons if he believes he is about to fall from power.
These officials also believe Saddam Hussein will try to destroy his country's own oil fields, power plants and food supplies - all in an effort to trigger a humanitarian crisis and turn international opinion against the United States.