In early November 1990, Havana sent a carefully-assembled team to Iraq to brief Saddam Hussein on the forthcoming US invasion. Key delegation members included Colonel Jaime Salas, the head of Army Intelligence; Deputy Foreign Minister Alcibiades Hidalgo, Rodrigo Alvarez Cambras, the Cuban doctor who had become Hussein’s personal physician, and Jose Ramon Fernandez Alvarez, Vice President of the Council of Ministers. Havana’s goal was to preserve Cuba’s strategic interests in the Middle East, save its ally from being defeated by the US, and deny the US a strategic military and political advantage in the region.
Havana had assembled an impressive intelligence presentation. Russian and Cuban Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), fused with Cuban Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and analysis, provided a highly detailed review of the US forces assembled for Operation Desert Shield. Colonel Salas identified estimated troop strengths and locations, readiness levels, and anticipated operations. He also briefed Hussein on both the latest developments in US amphibious and desert warfare operations and the US military’s unequaled dominance in high-tech weaponry. Grossly overconfident in his abilities and those of his regime, Hussein thanked the delegation members and told them the US and coalition forces would be crushed. Their mission a failure, the Cubans returned to Havana after which Granma announced the delegation’s return.