- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

DOHA, Qatar Brutal irregulars loyal to President Saddam Hussein's elder son, Uday, who ran an extensive smuggling network out of Umm Qasr, are believed to be leading the resistance that has stalled the delivery of tons of humanitarian aid to southern Iraq.
Coalition forces say the potential humanitarian crisis stems not from the fighting, but from Iraq's manipulation of food and water supplies to force public reliance on the regime.
Uday Hussein earned a reputation for cruelty and repression, especially after he fell from favor in Baghdad as successor to his father and was instead given extensive latitude to conduct "business" and security activities in the south.
Saddam's Fedayeen fighters are playing a disruptive, guerrilla-style role, attacking allied troops between Kuwait and Baghdad.
These black-robed irregulars, which number about 30,000, have won praise from Saddam, who calls them all his sons.
In Umm Qasr, Iraq's only deep-water port, the Fedayeen are under Uday Hussein's command and the docks are his fiefdom, according to allied officials and human rights activists familiar with the region.
Yesterday, allied forces battled to open the port for a British ship with relief supplies that they hoped would land by tomorrow.
In Washington, President Bush emphasized the need to move quickly.
"This nation and our coalition partners are committed to making sure that the Iraqi citizens who have suffered under a brutal tyrant have got the food and medicine needed as soon as possible," Mr. Bush told top military brass at the Pentagon.
The president's call came amid warnings from United Nations officials of humanitarian emergencies in areas cut off by the advance of allied troops.
The International Committee of the Red Cross was working to restore interrupted water supplies in the southern city of Basra. A U.N.-run oil-for-food program was suspended after the war began last week.
Eighty percent of the imports under the oil-for-food program came through Umm Qasr, where Uday Hussein's men previously had their own rake-offs from the trade and in the process made Uday Hussein rich.
There, and in Basra, the Fedayeen would impose their will through intimidation that included amputation of limbs for those who challenged their sway, according to reports by the human rights group Amnesty International.
In each street, a Fedayeen spy would report on the degree of loyalty displayed by his neighbors.
Yesterday, the Fedayeen had faded into the background.
"We hope to have cleared a few berths at least so that ships can dock in the next couple of days," said Lt. Cmdr. John Herriman of the British Royal Navy's U.K. Fleet Diving Group.
Facilities were largely undamaged in fierce fighting that raged around the vast ports of Umm Qasr on Iraq's only strip of coastline on the Persian Gulf.
But the U.S. and British forces say the harbor and sea lanes may have been booby-trapped with mines, and they are sweeping the area.
The war has been billed by Washington and its allies as a campaign to rid the world of the threat posed by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and to free Iraq's 24 million people from a regime that has left nearly two-thirds of the population dependent on food aid.
But nearly a week into the campaign, many of Iraq's people are probably worse off than they were before.
Water and electricity supplies to towns and cities have been cut, farmers have fled their fields in the face of the advancing forces and rural residents beg at roadsides for food and water.
In Umm Qasr, where the Fedayeen appear to have lost their power, the locals were afraid last night to show their true feelings.
Embedded reporters in the town say they were told by locals that the Fedayeen were still around and watching.

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