- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

DOHA, Qatar A defiant and threatening letter purporting to have been signed by Saddam Hussein in the past few days matches the style and content of the deposed dictator's known writing, Saddam's leading biographer Said Aburish said last night.
The handwritten letter was published yesterday in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, which received it by fax with no clues as to where it originated. A copy was made available to The Washington Times.
"The soldiers of Iraq will not allow the Americans to have peace," the letter declared, according to a translation provided by Mr. Aburish.
The letter also threatened an upsurge in violence against the U.S.-led coalition, saying: "The coming days will be beautiful days."
The Al Quds newspaper's editor, Abdel Bari Atwan, has published previous leaks from the Iraqi Ba'ath Party, including one that suggested Iraq would use chemical weapons in a war with the United States.
Mr. Atwan said yesterday he considers the letter genuine, partly because it reveals a degree of defensiveness and an air of sadness that would match the profile of a defeated despot.
He noted that the letter's language and sentiments were not typical of previous propaganda during Saddam's years in power, and said a letter forged by Ba'ath Party loyalists would likely have followed the old formula.
American experts were examining the letter last night, but the reaction at Central Command headquarters in Doha was noncommittal. "We don't chase those tails," said Navy Cmdr. Charles Owens.
The timing of the letter was significant: It was released on Saddam's birthday, which has been a public holiday. Rumors had swept Iraq that if Saddam was still at large he would use the occasion to stage some sort of armed response.
The Iraqi National Congress has reported sightings of the deposed leader and one or both of his sons in a region to the east of Baghdad extending toward the country's eastern border with Iran.
British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, on a recent trip to Basra also conceded that Saddam was probably alive somewhere in Iraq, while admitting, "We just don't know."
Mr. Atwan said the letter had certainly not been concocted by Muslim fundamentalists, as it used language typical of the secular Ba'ath Party.
He had received letters in a similar way from Osama bin Laden at a time when no one knew whether the al Qaeda leader was alive or dead, he said in a telephone interview from London. Those communications were later authenticated as genuine.
He said he expected more letters and perhaps audiotapes and videotapes from Saddam, suggesting the Iraqi would copy bin Laden's tactics in the hope of becoming a rallying point for anti-American Arab sentiment.
"My greetings to you, people of the glorious honest Iraq," concluded the letter. "The enemy will eventually flee from your country, and they will meet with nothing except the expected end. Eventually, the day of liberation and victory will arrive for you and for our nation."
Seeking to appeal to anger toward Israel, the letter also urges Arabs to force a Palestinian homeland that reaches the sea, eliminating Israel altogether.
"It could certainly have been written by Saddam," said Mr. Aburish, who once worked on a secret Iraqi project but later wrote a devastating biography of the deposed leader.
"If you ask me, though, whether a Ba'ath Party official close to him could have written it, too, I have to say yes."

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