- 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
- 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
- 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
- An answer to this, according to DEBKAfile's counter-terror
sources, was received in Washington nine days before Saddam reached US
- 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.