Friday, August 01, 2003

Saddam wanted out
According to a front-page story in today's Al-Hayat, citing "Arabic sources", Saddam Hussein recently sent his henchman, Abed Hammoud, to the Americans to cut a deal. It went something like this: that attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq would cease if Saddam and his family were allowed to leave Iraq. The Americans refused, assuming that Saddam made the offer because he was close to being captured, and promptly arrested Hammoud. A few days later Uday and Qusay were killed in Mosul.

The story is interesting for several reasons. However, what intrigued me was the fact that Hammoud, who will surely be put on trial by the Americans or by an Iraqi government, should have so willingly agreed to go on a mission that was almost certain to lead to his arrest. Why did he agree to do so? There are a number of possible explanations: he had no choice; the Al-Hayat story is false and Hammoud was captured; he was running interference for Saddam. A strange episode whichever way you look at it.

Al-Hayat also has another interesting front-page story from Iraq, reporting on a statement issued by a group of Kuwaiti Shiite clerics in which they complained that senior Iraqi Shiite clerics and their supporters in Najaf had been systematically attacked in the past two days by supporters of Shiite firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr. The Kuwaiti clerics also asked Coalition forces to intervene to restore order.

One question is whether those predicting an American quagmire in Iraq have sufficiently taken into consideration the fact that internal Iraqi divisions--indeed inter-sectarian divisions--have bought the U.S. more time to rebuild the country. If so, who's complaining?

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