Indications Are Saddam Was
Being Held Prisoner
His Own People Were Trying To Collect
The $25 Million Reward

DEBKAfile Special Report

A number of questions are raised by the incredibly bedraggled, tired and crushed condition of this once savage, dapper and pampered ruler who was discovered in a hole in the ground on Saturday, December 13:
1. The length and state of his hair indicated he had not seen a barber or even had a shampoo for several weeks.
2. The wild state of his beard indicated he had not shaved for the same period
3. The hole dug in the floor of a cellar in a farm compound near Tikrit was primitive indeed - 6ft across and 8ft across with minimal sanitary arrangements - a far cry from his opulent palaces.
4. Saddam looked beaten and hungry.
5. Detained with him were two unidentified men, two AK-47 assault guns and a pistol, none of which were used.
6. The hole had only one opening. It was not only camouflaged with mud and bricks - it was blocked. He could not have climbed out without someone on the outside removing the covering.
7. And most important, $750,000 in 100-dollar notes were found with him - but no communications equipment of any kind, whether cell phone or even a carrier pigeon for contacting the outside world.
According to DEBKAfile analysts, these seven anomalies point to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein was not in hiding; he was a prisoner.
After his last audiotaped message was delivered and aired over al Arabiya TV on Sunday November 16, on the occasion of Ramadan, Saddam was seized, possibly with the connivance of his own men, and held in that hole in Adwar for three weeks or more, which would have accounted for his appearance and condition. Meanwhile, his captors bargained for the $25 m prize the Americans promised for information leading to his capture alive or dead. The negotiations were mediated by Jalal Talabani's Kurdish PUK militia.
These circumstances would explain the ex-ruler's docility - described by Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez as "resignation" - in the face of his capture by US forces. He must have regarded them as his rescuers and would have greeted them with relief.
From Gen. Sanchez's evasive answers to questions on the $25m bounty, it may be inferred that the Americans and Kurds took advantage of the negotiations with Saddam's abductors to move in close and capture him on their own account, for three reasons:
A. His capture had become a matter of national pride for the Americans. No kudos would have been attached to his handover by a local gang of bounty-seekers or criminals. The country would have been swept anew with rumors that the big hero Saddam was again betrayed by the people he trusted, just as in the war.
B. It was vital to catch his kidnappers unawares so as to make sure Saddam was taken alive. They might well have killed him and demanded the prize for his body. But they made sure he had no means of taking his own life and may have kept him sedated.
C. During the weeks he is presumed to have been in captivity, guerrilla activity declined markedly - especially in the Sunni Triangle towns of Falluja, Ramadi and Balad - while surging outside this flashpoint region - in Mosul in the north and Najef, Nasseriya and Hilla in the south. It was important for the coalition to lay hands on him before the epicenter of the violence turned back towards Baghdad and the center of the Sunni Triangle.
The next thing to watch now is not just where and when Saddam is brought to justice for countless crimes against his people and humanity - Sanchez said his interrogation will take "as long as it takes - but what happens to the insurgency. Will it escalate or gradually die down?
An answer to this, according to DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources, was received in Washington nine days before Saddam reached US custody.
It came in the form of a disturbing piece of intelligence that the notorious Lebanese terrorist and hostage-taker Imad Mughniyeh, who figures on the most wanted list of 22 men published by the FBI after 9/11, had arrived in southern Iraq and was organizing a new anti-US terror campaign to be launched in March-April 2004, marking the first year of the American invasion.
For the past 21 years, Mughniyeh has waged a war of terror against Americans, whether on behalf of the Hizballah, the Iranian Shiite fundamentalists, al Qaeda or for himself. The Lebanese arch-terrorist represents for the anti-American forces in Iraq an ultimate weapon.
Saddam's capture will not turn this offensive aside; it may even bring it forward.
For Israel, there are lessons to be drawn from the dramatic turn of events in Iraq:
First - An enemy must be pursued to the end and if necessary taken captive. The Sharon government's conduct of an uncertain, wavering war against the Palestinian terror chief Yasser Arafat stands in stark contrast to the way the Americans have fought Saddam and his cohorts in Iraq and which has brought them impressive gains.
Second - Israel must join the US in bracing for the decisive round of violence under preparation by Mughniyeh, an old common enemy from the days of Beirut in the 1980s. Only three weeks ago, DEBKAfile's military sources reveal, the terrorist mastermind himself was seen in south Lebanon in surveillance of northern Israel in the company of Iranian military officers. With this peril still to be fought, it is meaningless for Israelis to dicker over the Geneva Accord, unilateral steps around the Middle East road map, or even the defensive barrier.
Certain Israeli pundits and even politicians, influenced by opinion in Europe, declared frequently in recent weeks that the Americans had no hope of capturing Saddam Hussein and were therefore bogged down irretrievably in Iraq. The inference was that the Americans erred in embarking on an unwinnable war in Iraq.
This was wide of the mark even before Saddam was brought in. The Americans are in firm control - even though they face a tough new adversary - and the whole purpose of the defeatist argument heard in Israel was to persuade the Sharon government that its position in relation to the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat is as hopeless as that of the Americans in Iraq. Israel's only choice, according to this argument, is to knuckle under to Palestinian demands and give them what they want. Now that the Iraqi ruler is in American custody, they will have to think again.



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