Bring on the
By Pepe Escobar
PARIS - Relatively subdued but still defiant,
Saddam Hussein showed up wearing a neat suit on Iraqi
television to celebrate the 34th anniversary of the
Baath Party's grip on power - and to reassure Iraqis in
no uncertain terms that he does not fear the "evil
forces" trying to unsettle him (you can only answer
American-made demonology with Iraqi-made demonology).
Meanwhile, in London, notorious rhetoric
contortionist Tony Blair was telling Parliament there's
no need for a United Nations resolution to justify an
attack on Iraq - although the operation must be in
accordance with international law. This obviously means
once again that the UN is worth nothing. So why should
Saddam listen to it?
Anyway, a much more
fascinating gathering - also in London, and also
concerning Iraq - took place last Sunday. About 60
former Iraqi generals and senior military officers in
exile, plus the main Iraqi opposition leaders, mustered
in Kensington's town hall to create a so-called military
council that will be engaged in toppling Saddam.
According to General Taufik Al-Yassiri, "The main
objective of this military council is to coordinate the
military aspect in the process of change." A "change of
regime" is how the US is officially defining the whole
operation to get rid of Saddam.
very close to Ahmad Chalabi, the less than pristine
leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) - the
opposition coalition supported by the US. The INC
supervised the London meeting - attended by a smattering
of Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. The only point that they
seem to agree on is to boost all their anti-Saddam
connections inside the Iraqi army - and hope that these
insiders can accelerate Saddam's downfall.
Easier said - in these cozy London fields - than
done. Asia Times Online learned from Republican Guard
sources in Iraq in April that an extremely paranoid
Saddam carries out a mini-pogrom in the army and
security services practically on an daily basis. He
fears a coup as much as he fears an American attack.
The Americans - the Pentagon and State
Department - were at the London meeting in full force.
It is heavily ironic that despite a lot of contrary
advice, the US insists on preparing the post-Saddam
political environment by applying the same formula that
has already backfired in Afghanistan.
intriguing character at the London meeting was
undoubtedly Jordan's Prince Hasan. He is reigning King
Abdullah's uncle. And most of all he was supposed to be
the heir of the Hashemite crown - but he was sidelined
at the last moment by his brother, the late King
Hussein. Following a carefully prepared script, he
behaved in London as just an innocent bystander: "I
don't have a program. I am not qualified to comment on
questions regarding Iraq's future. This question depends
entirely on the Iraqi people. I don't have any message.
I am not a member of the Iraqi government." Adding to
all the negatives, Amman felt obliged to distribute a
note stating that the prince was not an official
Jordanian envoy to the meeting.
Everybody in the
Arab world knows - and fears - that Washington's game
involves using Jordan as one of its military bases for a
strike against Iraq. Amman - as well as Ankara - keep
saying almost on a weekly basis that they are not part
of the plan.
Prince Hasan is the cousin of
Al-Sharif Ali Ben Hussein, the president of the
Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM) for Iraq, created
after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990. Ben
Hussein is the maternal cousin of former King Faisal -
the last Iraqi king, deposed and assassinated on July
14, 1958 by General Abdel Karim Kassem. Prince Hasan may
have taken a lot of pain to brush off any suggestions of
a restoration of the monarchy in Iraq - but he also
emphasized the "common roots" between the Jordanian and
Iraqi branches of the Hashemite dynasty, direct
descendants from the Holy Prophet Mohammed.
Prince Hasan may be playing the American card,
as well as that of the shaky opposition coalition. But
there are no assurances that conflicting, power-hungry
opposition factions will be capable of uniting.
Monarchists - supporters of Prince Hasan - are in favor
of a heavily-centralized government. Kurds are in favor
of a federation, totally decentralized. Most of all
there's absolutely no assurances that the exiled Iraqi
military would follow a code of honor and restore power
to civilians after Saddam's departure. And it's
impossible to forget history and underestimate the
fighting spirit of the people of Mesopotamia: it's
extremely unlikely that an Iraqi opposition installed by
American missiles would be able to hold onto power in
Saddam may be consuming planeloads of
sleeping pills because to counter all these foreign
machinations he can rely on absolutely no friends in the
Arab world. Middle East diplomats say in private his
newfound cozy relationship with Syria's Bashar Assad is
not really meaningful. His only real ally - since the
Lebanese civil war - is a beleaguered Yasser Arafat. The
Bedouins of the Arab peninsula hate Saddam. Iranian
Shi'ites - as well as Arabs - simply do not forgive him
for the massacres in southern Iraq in early 1991. And
Turkey fears a strong Iraq capable of attacking the
Kurdish autonomous zone in the north.
inscrutable mind may be calculating that the
pathological American obsession on getting rid of him
may be America's nemesis. The possibility of a political
debacle is immense. There are signs everywhere pointing
to the emergence of an Arab anti-American bloc. In the
event of an attack against Iraq, Hosni Mubarak's
repressive regime in Egypt may be facing the abyss.
Al-Qaeda will be handed over a priceless public
relations coup - and pro-Osama bin Laden sentiment will
reach the sky all over the Gulf countries and even in
Saudi Arabia. More suicide bombers will be even more
resolute in their strikes against Israel. Not to mention
the serious possibility of a revolution in Yemen. In the
end, Saddam's best allies may be US arrogance and
supreme indifference to the highly sensitive regional
context - and not a Hashemite has-been and a ragtag,
corrupt opposition in exile.
(©2002 Asia Times
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