- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

(The following is a five-part series by United Press International analysts on the crisis in Iraq.)


Analysis: Extracting Saddam not easy


WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) — Would Saddam Hussein consider abdicating and willfully disappear into exile if he realized there was no other way out of the current conundrum facing him?

As international pressure on Iraq's strongman continues to mount daily, and an armed assault on his country by the United States appears imminent, diplomatic sources say that Arab, Turkish and Russian initiatives are underway for him to leave peacefully and avoid a war.

However, different analysts offer varying opinions. Having enjoyed absolute power over Iraq for nearly a quarter of a century, many believe that a peacefully negotiated departure of Saddam is highly improbable.

"It's unlikely that this man (Saddam) is going to come down in any other way than to be forced," said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sunday morning.

Some Iraq watchers believe Saddam will go down with a gun in his hand, fighting to the last man and the last bullet. They say he might retrench in his native town of Tikrit, where he will resist to the bitter end, along with his most-trusted inner circle of supporters, defended by units of his Special Republican Guard, mostly fellow Tikritis. Possibly emulating Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler, he could commit suicide rather than allow the U.S.-led coalition capture him and face the humiliation of an international war crimes tribunal, as did Yugoslavia's former dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

Still others believe that once Saddam realizes the jig is up, and on condition that he is able to negotiate a safe withdrawal for himself, his immediate entourage of family and cronies, as well as for his closest supporters, he might well opt for banishment and leave Iraq.

Faced with similar international pressure, other absolute rulers have done as much in the past; the shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, to name a few.

But assuming that Saddam does negotiate safe passage to a friendly Arab state, or agrees to live his days out in a fancy villa in Turkey, Russia, Belarus or some other exotic paradise where he would be granted asylum and immunity from prosecution, extracting him along with several thousand supporters will not be an easy task.

First of all, there is a question of logistics and timing.

Extracting Saddam and his immediate family alone, might not be realistic, if a bloodbath is to be avoided. The minute Saddam leaves Iraq, there is bound to be a race to seek revenge by many of those his regime has wronged over the years. And they are indeed many. Members of his dreaded secret police will be hunted down by mobs and slaughtered in the street, as happened in several cities in southern Iraq 12 years ago.

Believing that the U.S.-led coalition was about to continue its push north after liberating Kuwait during the 1991-92 Gulf War, thousands of Shiites in the south rose up in open revolt against Saddam.

Some Baath Party officials and members of Saddam's security services were defenestrated, mobbed and lynched by rampaging crowds. Of course, their victory was a short-lived one.

Once Saddam realized the coalition stopped its advance and was not about to come after him in Baghdad, he lost no time fighting back. He ordered his attack helicopters and units of his Special Republican Guards to immediately quell the rebels and to show no mercy. Thousands were hunted down, arrested, jailed and killed, including prominent and top religious Shiite leaders.

Memories run long in that part of the world, and given the opportunity to avenge their dead, the Shiites in southern Iraq will not likely pass up on the chance to hit back. Violence may not be limited to the Shiites, or the south, either.

Saddam's henchmen know this well. They are also quite aware that with Saddam gone, it will not take long for his formidable security pyramid to crumble, opening the gates to retribution. Many would want to leave at the same time he does, which would constitute a logistical nightmare for whoever is orchestrating his departure.

As it is more likely that only top echelon officials and their families would be extracted and offered political asylum, lower-ranking members of his security forces would try to flee the country to avoid retribution. Chaos could ensue.

To avoid a repetition of the 1992 slaughters that followed the brief Desert Storm uprising, Saddam's exodus from Mesopotamia would have to be carefully choreographed. His departure from Baghdad would have to coincide with the immediate replacement of his security apparatus by a force capable of maintaining security and preventing the spilling of more blood.

Regardless of whether Saddam goes peacefully or is removed by force, the transition of power in Baghdad may still cause much blood to be shed.


Analysis: What will the allies do?

By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Chief International Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Even as the Bush administration tries to fathom the thinking of Saddam Hussein and the complex diplomacy of the United Nations, it is now also trying to work out what its allies really intend to do.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair talks like America's staunchest ally in the Iraqi crisis, the one loyal friend whose troops and warplanes can be relied on. Thirty-one thousand — one-quarter of the British Army — are in the Gulf or on their way. But he faces a threatened revolt among his own Labor members of Parliament, and opinion polls that say four out of five British voters do not want to go to war without a new U.N. resolution.

So far Blair is holding firm with the Bush administration, but nobody in Washington nor London can predict what he would do in the new situation that now looms — of a U.N. Security Council majority against war. Blair's aides have already been murmuring off-the-record of giving the inspectors more time to do their job. So will Blair risk his job by going to war alone with President Bush — and risk his relations with his partners in the European Union — or will he play for time by demanding more U.N. inspections?

Meanwhile in Paris, President Jacques Chirac said this week that "France and Germany's approach and vision concerning Iraq are identical and of the same nature" — and the German government has said it won't fight even with a U.N. mandate. And now at the United Nations, France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is threatening to use France's veto against a war.

But the newspaper Le Figaro reported this week that France's armored regiments are painting their tanks and armored personnel carriers in desert camouflage, and the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier in Toulon harbor is on alert to sail for the Gulf. Can France really afford not to be in at the kill — or at least at the division of the spoils — if Saddam Hussein's regime is overthrown and the oil concessions of country with the world's second biggest oil reserves are up for grabs?

The intention of the Turks, a crucial ally is Iraq is to be faced with the threat of a second front in the north, is also hard to read. The new moderate Islamist government of the AK (Justice and Development) party is insisting that no decision on access for U.S. troops can be made without a vote in Parliament, which cannot be scheduled until the last week of January. But 150 U.S. survey troops, checking Turkish bases as jumping-off points for an attack by up to 80,000 American troops, were admitted last Sunday and have been at work for a week.

The gap between the civilian government and the military looks to be wide.

"We hope the United States will wait for at least a second resolution," deputy Prime Minister Ertugrul Yalcinbayir declared last week.

But Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, deputy chief of the General Staff, countered in a news statement that the United States had first asked for Turkish assistance six months ago, and it was growing understandably impatient.

"A northern front would be decisive both politically and militarily," he said. "With such a front, it would be far quicker and less risky for the U.S. to achieve its goal."

British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon warned the Turks last week that Ankara's current ambivalence could mislead Saddam into a miscalculation that could itself provoke war, and General Buyukanit noted that at the least "there is a need for deterrent cooperation with the U.S."

There is a confusion between rhetoric and reality among all of Washington's allies. Even senior U.S. State Department officials acknowledge privately that they have no idea whether the United States would fight alone, with the British, or find itself at the last minute thronged with allies eager to share the glory of victory, or at least the pickings of the oil fields.

Washington has been confident of at least strong diplomatic and political support from Italy and Spain, two NATO allies led by right-of-center governments who support Bush. But the latest poll in Italy by the Cirn Institute shows 61 percent of Italians against the war and 30 percent in favor — a sharp decline in support that reflects the strong anti-war stand taken by the pope. Once the preserve of the Left in Italy, the anti-war vote has been swollen by devout Catholics and many priests are taking an active role in the anti-war movement. In Spain also, the pope's latest appeal for peace has strengthened the anti-war polls.

The common factor among the NATO allies in Europe is that there are strong majorities against war without a new U.N. mandate, but small majorities would reluctantly accept war if the U.N. Security Council voted again after the Jan. 27 report by the inspectors that Iraq was violating its pledge to disarm.

Ironically, the decision at the United Nations would have to be taken by many of the governments that are carefully watching their own public opinion. Four European countries, all NATO members, are currently among the Security Council's 15 members. Britain and France are permanent members, with a veto, and Spain and Germany hold one rotating chair each. Their vote — along with the strength of the evidence from the U.N. inspectors — could sway the opinion among their own citizens.

There is a further irony. Just as it took the threat of unilateral U.S. military action in November to win a unanimous vote on Resolution 1441, the United Nations will again be mindful of Washington's threats to launch an attack alone — if it must. None of America's allies wishes to offend the Bush administration — and undermine NATO — if Washington is resolved. Equally, they would prefer to be on the winning side, particularly when a post-Saddam Hussein government is considering how to share out the spoils of oil concessions.

France and Russia have already negotiated development contracts, to be activated as and when U.N. sanctions against Iraq are lifted. Britain and Italy, and U.S. oil corporations, would be eager to get their share of the development potential of the country with the world's second-largest reserves of oil. The sharpest divisions between the United States and its traditional allies might not come at the United Nations before a war, but in the oilfields after a victory.


Analysis: Who will replace Saddam?

By ROLAND FLAMINI, UPI International Editor

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) — Last week top members of the Bush administration, including — for at least part of the time — the president himself and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, held two long meetings about an aspect of the Iraq crisis that could cause Washington more problems than the military action itself — what happens in Iraq after Saddam goes.

"It's a tough question and we're spending a lot of time on it," Rumsfeld admitted to a convention of military reservists Tuesday. To pave the way for a smooth transition to a stable government, Rumsfeld said, the Pentagon has appointed retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jay Garner "to begin the process of thinking through all of the kinds of things that will be necessary in the early period."

Rumsfeld suggested that Garner, who in 1991 had been part of Operation Provide Comfort protecting Kurdish refugees from Saddam Hussein, was drawing up plans for setting up a civil administration in post-Saddam Iraq, and for bringing humanitarian aid to its deprived and suffering people.

Waiting in the wings is a collection of exiled Iraqi politicians who are suddenly seeing their dreams of returning to their homeland come closer to reality. The leading group is the U.S.-supported Iraqi National Council, an umbrella organization combining a number of political personalities and factions with differences greater than their similarities, but united in their enmity towards Saddam Hussein.

If the INC is generally looked upon as secular and pro-Western, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is a fundamentalist Shiite Islamic movement based in Iran that has in the past called for Tehran's theocratic regime to be replicated in Baghdad. Settled in the north are some 2.3 million Iraqi Kurds mostly belonging to one of two organizations with a long history of mutual enmity.

There is also a monarchist party that nurtures hopes — discounted by most analysts — of restoring a Hashemite king in Baghdad, in the person of Prince Hassan of Jordan, brother of the former King Hussein. The monarchy ended in 1958, when King Faisal I of Iraq — a cousin of King Hussein — was assassinated in a military revolt.

In Nov 2001, the Bush administration pushed, elbowed and cajoled rival Afghan politicians into attending a conference in Bonn, Germany, to shape that country's political future in the wake of the defeat of the Islamic Taliban regime. A year later, Washington adopted similar tactics to force unwilling members of the Iraqi opposition to come together to start planning for a post-Saddam Iraq.

Despite years of political disputes and personal grudges representatives of the INC, the Iranian-based SCIRI, the Iraq National Coalition — an umbrella group for former Iraqi military officers — and the two major Kurdish parties, the PUK and the KDP — met in London on Dec. 14-15 to discuss their respective visions of a future Iraq.

Predictably, no consensus emerged from the talks, but a standing committee of 75, weighted to reflect the size and importance of each political group, was cobbled together to continue working on a future structure. The parameters have already been set for them by Washington. Rumsfeld outlined them Tuesday.

"Whoever succeeds (Saddam) will not want weapons of mass destruction," he said. "Is not going to threaten their neighbors, is going to keep a single country and not allow it to be broken up in pieces, and is one that migrates in a way toward something closely approximating representation by a number of elements of the country. And something that we might call democracy, but which is respectful of minority rights, and certainly not a U.S. template or a U.K. template or another type of democracy template. It will have to be something that's uniquely Iraqi."

Top members of the administration would like to see Ahmad Chalabi, the powerful head of the Iraq National Council emerge as the leader of a democratic Iraq — although Chalabi also has his opponents in Washington. Rumsfeld gave the impression that the choice will depend on the Iraqis. "Just as in any political process: some people will strive to be leaders and fail; others will strive to be leaders and demonstrate the kind of skills and capabilities that wins support from others," he said. "They'll find the right tone and tempo to progress towards an Iraqi government."

That government, experts say, should be a mix of exiled politicians and others who remained in Iraq either by choice or by force as political prisoners. The United States and its allies should avoid handing over power to the opposition from overseas. "A government made up exclusively of exiled politicos coming from comfortable lives in Europe and the United States is likely to stir resentment, and would be like a form of colonization," said one European diplomat in Washington.

Some analysts predict that the INC, for example, would at first fare badly in a restored Iraqi democracy, but would regain ground as they established political roots in the country.

Rumsfeld made it clear Tuesday that he foresaw no early military disengagement from Iraq after Hussein's removal. After Saddam, he said, "there will be an immediate task for the U.S. military and the Coalition military." Another government source said the "liberation" of Iraq would divide into four phases.

In phase one, troops will be needed to prevent a total collapse of law and order, with armed bands of deserters roaming the streets, and an anticipated wave of vengeful acts against known Saddam stalwarts. Hopefully, units of the Iraqi army can be co-opted by the occupying force and given an increasingly greater role.

In phase two an interim administration is put in place, combining military and — gradually — civilians. Because the roots of the ruling Ba'ath party penetrate deep into Iraqi life, a line of immunity needs to be drawn and enforced so that a working bureaucracy can function, and — for example — oil production will not be interrupted.

In phase three, internationally supervised elections for local government are held, followed by a constituent assembly that will draft a new constitution and submit it for public approval through a national referendum. If the Afghan experience is any indication, the process could take up to two years. In the case of Afghanistan, from the Bonn conference to Loya Jirga took five months, and elections for a new government are not expected for another year.

In phase four — assuming the constitution is ratified — national elections are held for a new Iraqi government.

Which may be where Chalabi comes in. Or not.


Analysis: Post-Saddam Iraq as murky as present

By HUSAIN HINDAWI, UPI International Editor

LONDON, Jan. 23 (UPI) — Iraqis, and Arabs in general, believe that the U.S.-run war to oust President Saddam Hussein's regime is imminent despite the return of the U.N. inspectors to search for weapons of mass destruction in line with the latest Security Council resolution.

In a televised speech to mark the 12th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War — in which he compared President Bush with the 13th century Mongol leader Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan — Saddam said his country has mobilized to confront any U.S.-British attack. But, he said, the situation was different today from when Hulagu swept across his country in 1258, and the U.S. attackers would find Iraq fully prepared.

But it may not prove so different. Few expect the Iraqi army, its fighting capacity reduced to less than half what it was in the 1991 Gulf War, to resist long in case of a large-scale U.S. invasion. Iraq lacks a unified internal front, and, despite public demonstrations of support in the Arab world, is isolated both in that same Arab world and internationally.

Baghdad has strongly denied news reports that Saddam might step down and go into exile to prevent a U.S. war against his country. So Iraqis wait for all hell to break loose, which they believe will happen sometime after Feb. 20, following a final report from the U.N. arms inspectors mission on their findings.

Whatever it says, Washington will insist that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction posing a threat to the United States and the whole region.

Saddam's regime is not expected to resist for long a massive U.S. attack, and the post-Saddam should come suddenly and quickly. But the question is what kind of post-Saddam?

The answer remains unclear, but the possible scenarios put forward by analysts include a U.S. military occupation, an international civilian administration similar to the one operating in Kosovo, a transitional government grouping Iraqi opposition factions, and a military government following an Iraqi army coup d'etat.

The scenario of a U.S. military occupation will not be accepted by the majority of Iraqi opposition groups, including Washington's allies, according to Iraqi political observers. They argue that even Saddam's staunchest enemies will dread the prospect of having their country under foreign occupation for a long time.

One extreme view of some observers is that a U.S. occupation might prove worse than Saddam's regime itself. Iraqis with a sense of history remember that Iraq formed an alliance with Britain against Ottoman rule in 1916, only to end up under British mandate.

At the root of the problem is the fact that even Iraqi opposition groups allied to Washington don't entirely believe U.S. promises to install democracy and a multi-party regime in post-Saddam Iraq. "The United States is motivated by its own private interests to oust Saddam, and it serves our interests to see him out," a political observer said Thursday. "That's the only thing we have in common and we have to thank them for their assistance. But we should not allow them to occupy our country or to rule us,"

He argued that Washington would win the Iraqi people's gratitude and respect if it helps them get rid of Saddam and install democracy without direct military occupation — but this seems unlikely.

Another possible scenario, according to political observers, is a take over by the army in a military coup d'etat that would end Saddam's dictatorship and prevent Iraq's occupation. A majority of Iraqis would back such a scenario, though with reluctance. It would at least prevent a disastrous war with the United States.

The same observers ruled out an Arab administration under the supervision of the Arab League. "It is most naive to expect the Iraqis to accept Arab tutorship to install democracy in Iraq since the Arabs have no clue about democracy," one observer said.

The fourth scenario, namely a transitional government representing Iraqi opposition groups, appears to be the likeliest and most appealing to the Iraqi people. Opposition groups held a congress in London last December, reaffirming their commitment to set up a democratic, parliamentarian and federal system in Iraq to preserve the people's unity and the country's territorial integrity and independence.

But the Iraqi opposition is without proper leadership, marred by internal divisions, and lacking popular backing at home. There are other internal difficulties, too, which makes it inevitable that changes on the ground will have to be implemented by U.S. forces.

Moreover, the Iraqi opposition, largely dependent on Washington, is weakened by the lack of any clear U.S. vision for its future role.

All scenarios are possible, but what is most definite is that any post-Saddam regime will have to be pro-United States, at least during the transitional period that might stretch on for an indefinite period of time.


Analysis: Unintended consequences may be worse than conflict

By ROLAND FLAMINI, International Editor

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) — "Everything we know about violence gives two clear lessons," writer and Middle East specialist Helena Cobban said recently. "First, the use of force always has unintended — often quite unpredictable — consequences. And second, war in the modern era always disproportionately harms civilians."

As the prospect of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq looms larger almost daily, warnings of the danger of "spillage" also proliferate. One American congressman — Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas — actually warns, on an anti-war Web site, that the Bush administration's planned invasion of Iraq, if it happens, "could ignite a worldwide conflict big enough to be called World War III."

Administration officials are confident that fallout from the war would be limited because the offensive would be quickly over. They predict a military operation lasting days rather than weeks to remove the cancer of Saddam Hussein and his repressive regime followed by a sequence of political steps modeled on the recent Afghan experience — an interim administration to pave the way for a stable government combining political exiles and opposition politicians who remained in Iraq.

Some observers find this scenario much too rosy. They say the ripple effect from the war will be felt throughout the region, and perhaps beyond it.

The most ominous predictions involve Saddam's own end game. Nobody can predict how Saddam will act once he realizes that the game is up. According to published reports, the CIA has warned that war with Iraq could cause Saddam to unleash on his neighbors any of the lethal chemical or biological weapons Washington is trying to stop him from using.

Some sources also fear that he may already have plans in place to set fire to Iraq's oil fields, as the defeated Iraqi army did in their withdrawal from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War.

U.S. war plans are said to include the immediate occupation of the oil fields to prevent such an action. But oil experts fear that Saddam could still go our in a blaze of infamy by lobbing missiles into the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and neighboring Kuwait, thus creating a serious oil shortage on the world market.

A break-up of Iraq into smaller, independent entities along ethnic or factional lines is another real danger. The Iraqi Kurds may take advantage of the confusion — particularly in a prolonged war — to fulfill their dream of an independent Kurdish homeland in northern Iraq.

Since 1991 the Iraqi Kurds have held the north as an autonomous region, protected from the air by U.S. and British combat planes patrolling a "no-go" zone to discourage any attacks by Baghdad.

But Turkey will oppose the establishment of an independent Kurdistan on its northern border. There are reliable reports that Turkey has moved a large military force to its border with Iraq.

Analysts say the troops could serve a dual purpose. They could provide support for a U.S. northern front in the war, but they are also there to discourage any attempt by the Kurds to set up their own independent state.

Shiite Muslims in the areas contiguous to Iran could either seek a separate state or try to integrate with fellow Shiites in Iran. The U.S. government would not be the only one to oppose either option: Iraq's Arab neighbors would feel the same way.

Outside Iraq itself, the conflict would provide tempting opportunities, observers believe. "It's not unlikely that Israel may seize the chance to intensify its pressure on the Palestinian West Bank in a sort of ethnic cleansing to encourage them to move to Jordan and elsewhere," says one European official in Washington. The faster rate of growth of the Palestinian and Israeli Arab populations compared to the Jewish population is one of Israel's inhibiting concerns in coming to an agreement over the establishment of a Palestinian state.

An incursion into south Lebanon to attack the Iran-backed Hezbollah militants may also be a tempting prospect to the newly elected government in Jerusalem — if for no other reason than that Hezbollah could be tempted to do the same thing and attack northern Israel.

"The balance of power in the Middle East has always been delicate," Paul observed recently, "and outside interference serves only to destabilize." Though Iraq itself is a secularist Arab state, Western analysts expect the war to give a boost to Islamic militancy with the United States as its prime target. Americans can therefore brace themselves for an upsurge in terrorist attacks.

But Arab regimes allied to Washington would also be at risk. Senior British officials, for example, are worried that a war in Iraq could result in a palace coup in Saudi Arabia by members of the royal family sympathetic to the al Qaida terrorist movement, London's Observer newspaper reported recently.

Finally, after the war, the Bush administration faces the dilemma of how to time the pullout of its troops. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said recently that U.S. troops would have to remain in Iraq when the conflict ended to help restore order. He gave no indication how long a U.S. "occupation" would be.

A long drawn military presence is not likely to be popular either in Iraq itself or at home in the United States. In any case, the Bush administration has no enthusiasm for "nation building." A hasty pullout, on the other hand, could produce the consequence everyone dreads: that Saddam's removal will be followed by political chaos.

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