The Iraqi Intifada already has a starting date: July 27. And guess who’s the rebel with a cause in charge? None other than Saddam Hussein. He seems to be alive, well and in hiding.
This is the crux of an intelligence report received by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and confirmed by a number of sources in the Middle East to the website Free Arab Voice. According to sensitive, formerly secret information, Saddam’s new leadership-in-hiding – where the number 2 is former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad – is getting ready to launch what had been largely advertised before the Iraqi invasion, by once deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz and minister of information Mohammed al-Sahaf, among others: a guerrilla war supposed to bog down the US in a replay of Vietnam. For this undertaking, Saddam can count on an army of 40,000.
Why July 27? According to the magazine al-Watan al-Arabi, because this is the anniversary date of the Ba’ath Party coming to power, and the day that Saddam became president of Iraq in 1979 – information also confirmed by the al-Bayan newspaper, published in the United Arab Emirates.
No one inside and outside Iraq has produced firm evidence that Saddam has been killed – be it in the famous “decapitation strike” in Baghdad that started the war, or afterwards. As of the end of April, sources were telling Asia Times Online that he never left Iraq, and might be around the Tikrit region, or in Taramiyya, 30 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. There have been a wealth of rumors regarding his family in the past few weeks, including one that son Uday was ready to give himself up.
Will it be a guerrilla war, a jihad, or both? No one knows for sure. But the new information suggests that Saddam may already posses all the ingredients necessary for waging a guerrilla war. He may still exercise some kind of power, and some kind of command and control over a number of his (disappearing) troops, and he has managed to access his network of hiding places in a number of central provinces. He and his new leadership may have access to weapons, ammunition, military supplies and foodstuffs, scattered in urban and also rural bases. And his new Iraqi jihadis may be totally enmeshed in the local population, acting like dormant cells, waiting for attack orders while carrying out reconnaissance missions and bringing intelligence from the leadership to the base. There’s a possibility that they are being helped by retired Russian guerrilla experts.
No Ba’ath Party or Iraqi army personnel are in the new secret, revamped leadership. It seems to be a very tight group. It includes of course the two sons, Qusay and Uday. It also includes Abdul Hamud and the notorious Ali Hasan al-Majid (none other than “Chemical Ali,” who may have succeeded in escaping from Basra and later disappeared). Other notable members are longtime Saddam ally Taha Yasin Ramadan, former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad, and Latif Nasif Jasem. Vice president Izzat Ibrahim has disappeared, as well as the commander of the Middle Euphrates, Mazban Khidr Hadi. The new secret leadership basically draws from Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul, and still seems to be Sunni-dominated.
Why July and not now? Saddam’s timing seems to coincide with what many Shi’ite clerics and leaders have been saying all along: we will give the Americans something like two months, and then we will draw our own conclusions. The Shi’ites are already losing their patience with what is widely considered by Iraqis as American arrogance, indifference or foot-dragging.
Take for example Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, who returned to the holy city of Karbala for the first time after 23 years in exile in Iran. Hakim heads the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), a former anti-Saddam opposition group that is arguably the strongest political force in post-war Iraq. The SAIRI holds one of the seven seats on the leadership council which the US is supposed to work with to set up a post-Saddam government.
Speaking at the Imam Hussein golden domed mosque, the holiest shrine of the 12 Shi’ite imams, Hakim asked, “Why is the running of the country and the government not transferred to Iraqis? Are they still minors who cannot govern their country?” Hakim is in favor of a government “representing all Iraqis” to be set up as soon as possible. “We reject occupation. We want and are working for an authority, an administration and a government which does not play with words.” He blames the Anglo-Americans for the still rampant lawlessness. In his view, the unfinished war “allows American and British soldiers to kill Iraqis at any moment under the pretext that they feel threatened. If they are not able to bring security, these young men can do it”, he said gesturing to his followers in Karbala.
Saddam will certainly be betting on unrest all over Iraq concerning the American occupation, but he will also be betting on new developments in the struggle between Sunni and Shi’ite forces to get more say on the new Iraqi government. Saddam’s strategy for his reemergence would be to keep the Americans guessing, while exploring breaches in their security machine, in the manner of legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, a favorite of Iraqi strategists.
It’s possible that the new secret leadership itself leaked some crucial data that ultimately led to former Ba’ath officials being arrested or surrendering to the Americans. From Saddam’s point of view, this surrendering en masse also keeps the Americans busy and diverts their attention from planning the immediate future of Iraq (not that Washington is in a terrible hurry to get things going).
The intelligence report received by the CIA describes a secret Monday, April 7 meeting chaired by Saddam – the day that American forces penetrated beyond the outskirts of Baghdad. At this meeting, Saddam apparently confirmed that he had been betrayed by the leaders of the Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard.
According to Free Arab Voice, “He spoke of a high-ranking military personality with deep hatred, and said that this person had known all the secrets, the methods of issuing orders, and their secret codes. This person was the one who led the act of treachery and issued the orders for the forces to withdraw, as if they had come from Saddam Hussein personally. It was in this way that immediate and sudden withdrawals took place from all positions at one stroke, their weapons being taken away. The withdrawal covered the Republican Guard, the Special Forces, and all the regular and semi-regular forces, leaving no one to defend Baghdad except a few hundred Arab volunteers who were not included in those orders and who were not integrated into the leadership’s chain of command.”
This matches what Asia Times Online reported on The Baghdad Deal on April 25, and the buying off of Iraqi generals so they would not fight has also been recently admitted on the record by General Tommy Franks, who headed the war in Iraq.
And the news agency Agence France Presse, in a report dated May 26 from Paris, citing a Le Journal du Dimanche report, says that Saddam was betrayed by one of his cousins, General Maher Sufian al-Tikriti, head of the Republican Guards, who, along with a 20-strong entourage of other Republican Guards, left Iraq aboard a US military transport aircraft on April 8, the day before US forces swept into Baghdad.
Seemingly, the “master of betrayal” – whether al-Tikriti or not – knew all of Saddam’s secret passwords and thus was able to issue the fake orders for the troops to abandon what would have been the Battle of Baghdad. One of the plot participants may have been the husband of Saddam’s youngest daughter, Halla, Jamal Mustafa al-Umar, who surrendered to the Americans. Saddam apparently now hates him with a vengeance.
A handwritten letter dated April 28 (Saddam’s birthday), said to have been written by the former president, addresses “the Iraqi people and the sons and daughters of the Arab nation and the Islamic world community, and to honorable people everywhere” and in effect calls all Iraqis to engage in an intifada against the American occupation forces, saying that it is the foreign occupation and not Sunni or Shi’ite that is the “only issue that your great Iraq is living today.”
The letter was authenticated by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper. As Saddam is living underground and in secrecy, all he can do, for obvious security reasons, is send letters. And to dream of a revolution. Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Afghanistan promised and delivered: the US is actually confronted by a guerrilla war in the Afghan Pashtun belt. What about Saddam of Arabia: is it delirium or just wishful thinking? The answer on July 27.