Monday, April 21, 2003

Gotta run
According to an article in the Palestinian Al-Quds daily, citing American officials, the U.S. has provided the Syrian authorities with clear evidence that Iraqi officials have escaped to Syria. The paper also noted the Bush administration had given the Syrians a list of 9 names of ex-officials it wanted Syria to return to Iraq.

Among those on the list were Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, ex-vice-president of the Revolutionary Command Council; Abed Hammoud al-Takriti, Saddam's former private secretary and among the most powerful people in Iraq; Hani Talfah, the head of the Special Security Organization; Seifeddine Saleh, the former head of the presidential guard; Taher Jalloul, the former head of the Iraqi intelligence service (Mukhabaraat); Barzan Suleiman al-Takriti, formerly in chagre of internal security in Saddam's personal bodyguard; and Farouq Jamazi, the former external intelligence chief.

According to the American sources, the Syrians rejected the U.S. demands. However, yesterday Saddam's remaining son-in-law, Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, returned to Iraq from Syria. It is conceivable that this was a sign that Syria wants to solve the problem of the Iraqi exiles quietly: i.e. publicly stand up to the U.S., but privately begin sending people back. Or, it could be something more subtle: Syria's way of setting a limit on the level of officials it will protect, so that members of Saddam's family are off limits, but other former Iraqi officials are not.

As a footnote, Hammoud's alleged presence in Damascus raises questions. First of all, Hammoud was always where Saddam was and appeared in the footage of Saddam's two last public appearances in Baghdad--one allegedly as late as April 9. If Hammoud is in Syria, it could mean the Saddam footage was fake, since Hammoud presumably did not skip out of Baghdad on April 9, with Saddam still alive and U.S. forces surrounding the city, and run off to Syria. Or it could mean the U.S. list is simply mistaken. It could also mean other things that we have far too little information to speculate about.

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