- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

Iraqi generals who might be tempted to heed calls from U.S. and Arab officials to mount a coup against President Saddam Hussein could be dissuaded by recalling one fellow general's name: Kamel Sachet.
In 1998, Saddam ordered Gen. Sachet's execution, reportedly because Gen. Sachet had been unlucky enough to receive a letter from a former Iraqi chief of staff who had become an outspoken critic of his old boss after finding refuge in Denmark.
With such tactics in addition to ensuring his top men are implicated in his worst deeds and by stacking his military command with close relatives and members of his clan Saddam may believe he is coup-proof.
Saddam's survival for a quarter of a century has depended on a ruthless response to any hint of dissent. Some have been executed for plotting against him, and Saddam is believed to have killed scores of army commanders after his spies in their ranks reported signs of disloyalty.
Among the loyalists are Saddam's son Qusai, who supervises the elite Republican Guard. A cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, is a member of the Revolutionary Command Council. The secretary-general of the army's general command is Gen. Hussein Rashid Tikriti, a member of Sadam's clan based around Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.
Arab officials are considering offering amnesty to all but 100 or so of Saddam's closest aides to encourage generals to revolt. Saddam's generals surely have taken notice of colleagues who managed to break away from the Iraqi leader only to be hampered by their reputations.
Gen. Nizar Khazraji, the former chief of staff who reportedly wrote Gen. Sachet, faces accusations that during his tenure, the Iraqi army used chemical weapons against Kurds. Gen. Khazraji says Saddam, not he, controlled the chemical stockpiles, and some Kurdish opposition groups have defended the general.
Gen. Khazraji, under house arrest while Danish authorities investigate the chemical weapons accusations, was a powerful figure back in Iraq. He was a hero of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. Following the Gulf war, Saddam sent him to help crush a Shi'ite rebellion in the south in 1991. Gen. Khazraji was wounded, captured and treated by the rebels, who later released him.
Many believe Saddam suspected that the rebels spared the general because he had spoken out against the regime, and that Gen. Khazraji lived in fear until he was able to leave Iraq in 1995. The general says he left because he had had enough of Saddam's dictatorship, and has outlined plans for regime change under which the army would take over temporarily until a new government can be elected.
In recent Iraqi broadcasts apparently aimed at rallying the population in a time of crisis and sending out the message that Saddam remains in firm control of the military and civilian leadership, Iraqi television has regularly shown Saddam conferring with military commanders and senior lieutenants.
Saddam, wearing a crisply tailored dark suit and puffing a cigar, is seen cordially chatting with the top officers and even asking them to drink their tea before it gets cold. The senior commanders chant pro-Saddam slogans in a sharp departure from military discipline and the strict protocol Saddam used to maintain.
Iraqi writer Haroun Mohammed, who watches Baghdad affairs from his London exile, says the broadcasts' effect may be the opposite of what Saddam intends. Mr. Mohammed reads in them signs of weakness and a need to try to shore up support in the military.
Iraqi dissidents abroad say they have been approached by top army and government officials as well as tribal chieftains who say they will join a revolt against Saddam once the war starts.
In a broadcast this week, Saddam warned his commanders to be vigilant against any signs of treachery in the army's ranks. "Treason … reflects man's renunciation of his humanity," Saddam said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide