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Almost 10 days ago, there was a halt in U.S.-British operations in Iraq. However, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the chief of the U.S. Central Command, General Tommy Franks, in their interviews with the media never elaborated on the issue, but instead tried to mislead world public opinion in order to hide a greater secret decision from them.
Suspicions rose on the same day when U.S. troops, that had been stopped at the Euphrates, immediately were able to advance toward the heart of Baghdad without any significant resistance by Iraqi forces. Nobody asked why Tikrit, that was once called the ideological heart of Saddam's government and the last possible trench of the Iraqi army, was never targeted by U.S. and British bombs and missiles. Or why when the elite Iraqi forces arrived in eastern Iraq from Tikrit, the pace of the invaders advancing toward central Baghdad immediately increased. Also, it has been reported that over the past 24 hours, a plane was authorized to leave Iraq bound for Russia. Who was aboard this plane?
All these ambiguities, the contradictory reports about Saddam's situation, and the fact that the highest-ranking Iraqi officials were all represented by a single individual -- Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahhaf -- and the easy fall of Baghdad shows that the center of collusion had been Tikrit, where Saddam, his aides, and lieutenants from the Baath Party had been waiting for al-Sahhaf to join them so that they could receive the required guarantees to leave the country in a secret compromise with coalition forces.
This possibility was confirmed by the Al-Jazeera network, which quoted a Russian intelligence official as saying that the Iraqi forces and the invaders had made a deal. The Russian official told Al-Jazeera that the Iraqi leaders had agreed to show no serious resistance against the U.S.-British troops in return for a guarantee that Saddam and his close relatives could leave Iraq unharmed.
The question now is whether the U.S. would prefer Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to be dead or wants him alive to be tried. There may even be a third alternative that the White House is looking far. It seems that U.S. officials would welcome a solution where Saddam was found, either dead or alive.
First of all, the White House hawks and U.S. President George W. Bush would definitely not be saddened to hear that reports claiming that Saddam was killed, which were highlighted by the U.S. media on Tuesday after a missile attack on an underground restaurant in Baghdad, have been verified.
This is because they do not want the Iraqi people to ever find out about the secrets of the clandestine political cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq. On the other hand, Saddam's death would mean that the weak Iraqi regime has been completely defeated, and this may to some extent satisfy Washington's feeling of militarism.
However, an inactive, defeated, and exiled dictator can definitely be beneficial to the White House, provided that he is under Washington's control. Look at what happened to Mullah Muhammad Omar and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Is there any sign that the U.S. is interested in finding them and wiping them out? One should know that these two, as U.S. henchmen over the past decade, provided enough pretexts for the White House to dominate Afghanistan, even though they are still at large. This automatically justifies the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
Therefore, Washington benefits from its inability to find the Taleban and Al-Qaeda leaders. The same holds true with Saddam, and the U.S. failure to find Saddam, or Washington's efforts to withhold news of his death, provide the best pretext to stay in Iraq.
Secondly, in the event that Saddam survives the U.S.-British attacks on Iraq, the White House will have to devise new policies and approaches to make the best use of this. There is no doubt that Saddam knows many of the secrets of U.S. strategy in the region over the past three decades. If he were put on trial in an international and open court, he might reveal much evil about the U.S. that would expose the real image of the White House hawks to the world. This is the reason why the Fox news network has taken the lead in reminding the world that an international tribunal would lack the authority to put the Iraqi president on trial, given that neither Iraq nor the U.S. have joined the International Criminal Court. Fox has thus proposed three alternatives to deal with Saddam in case he saves his skin in the U.S.-led attacks: living underground, changing his identity, or travelling to the beautiful beaches of Guantanamo!! Needless to say these alternatives will make Saddam harmless for the White House, even if he is not of any use to the U.S.
These stances clarify the fact that the rumor on the possibility of Saddam seeking political asylum in Syria is only a red herring because any attempt by the Iraqi president to flee the country without coordinating with the U.S. is absolutely impossible. Therefore, if there had been any kind of compromise between the U.S. and Saddam, the Iraqi president would take refuge wherever the White House ordered him to.
Even dictators have to respect a hierarchy. A minor dictator like Saddam is like a puppet that has danced for a lifetime to the tune of a certain major dictator like the U.S. and cannot act on his own. Saddam did whatever the White House wanted him to do for years. Therefore, the simple answer to the question "Where is Saddam?" is nothing but "Wherever the U.S. desires!"
Copyright Tehran Times 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .