Deal with Iraqi Commander Opened Baghdad to Marines

Saddam’s scientific adviser and liaison with the UN arms inspectors, General Amer Hammoudi Al-Saadi, was not the first Iraqi general to turn himself in to American forces. Just before closing its last edition on April 11,DEBKA-Net-Weeklyreceived the first fragmentary reports from its intelligence sources of another general who trod the same secret path before him.
Those reports shed partial light on the ease with which the US 1st Marines Expeditionary Force was able to reach the heart of Baghdad on Wednesday, April 9, without encountering substantial Iraqi resistance. In one case, the Republican Guards supposed to defend the Diyala River bridges and keep American forces out of east Baghdad suddenly stopped shooting and deserted their posts. In general, large sections of the elite SRG divisions charged with defending Baghdad melted away without inflicting or suffering casualties.
In this sense, the keys to east Baghdad were handed over by the high commander of Iraq’s elite
Special Republic guards, General Maher Safian Al-Tikriti, another of Saddam Hussein’s cousins. This was the upshot of discussions that took place between him and US special forces and CIA officers deployed undercover in the Iraqi-controlled parts of Baghdad.
General Takriti agreed to let US forces roll into central Baghdad unopposed across bridges that were not blown up in return for an American guarantee of safe exit from the city for his troops and a promise they would not be pursued..
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Twenty-four hours after American troops entered Baghdad, American B-52 bombers carried out a “bunker-buster” raid against the presidential bunker command system underneath the Dora district of southern Baghdad. It was the US bombers’ second sortie against the same site. The first attack on March 19 was the war’s opening shot, described as a “raid of opportunity” against a leadership target. American bomb experts were much better prepared for the second bombardment; they had discovered by then that Saddam’s subterranean edifices can only be destroyed by repeated pounding that eventually crack the walls until they cave in.
On the whole, US commanders know much more about the vulnerabilities of these underground command posts and the movements of senior Iraqis through their subterranean passageways than they did on March 19. The question is does this knowledge come from intelligence data gathered by US special forces teams operating on the ground? Or the product of deals, ad hoc or not, with Iraqi commanders?
The deal with Safian Al-Tikriti was one of four transactions pulled off at the same time.
Kirkuk-Mosul:Neither of those oil-rich northern cities was taken by bombardment or battle but through surrender deals negotiated between US special forces and the Iraqi commanders charged with defending the towns and their oil installations. The Iraqi units agreed to hold the fort and hold their surrender in abeyance until US forces arrived to take over. As it happened, the Kurdish militias jumped the gun and entered the oil cities before receiving a signal from the Americans, who had no choice but to give them air cover.
Al Amara:While looters were rampaging and setting fires in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul, the Iraqi 4th Corps quietly withdrew from its positions at the strategic town of Al Amara on the Iraq-Iran border and made way for a single US Marine battalion. The deal here was for the Iraqi 10th Armored Division, the backbone of the fighting force, to be allowed to head north without interference. These Iraqi troops are gone from Al Amarnah – but no one knows where they ended up.
General Al-Saadi:Saddam’s scientific adviser turned himself in Saturday, April 12, taking with him some of Iraq’s WMD secrets. He sat quietly at home waiting to be picked up as arranged in his secret exchanges with the Americans before the war. debkafile‘s intelligence sources add that for some reason no one came to collect him – possibly because a trap was suspected. In the end, he took the initiative and escorted by a German television crewman presented himself to the US generals in Baghdad, keeping his side of the bargain.
All these secret deals – especially the one with General Takriti – raise two important questions:
1. Was the Baghdad transaction the only one closed with Safian Al-Tikriti ? Or was it part of a package?
2. Were this and any other trades approved in full or in part by Saddam Hussein or his sons? If so, what did they get in return? Does it mean that the decisive battle will take place in Tikrit after all? This would depend on whether General Al-Tikriti dealt with the Americans with the knowledge of Saddam and his sons or betrayed him – not merely to save his men but to keep the town of Tikrit and his clan’s homes safe. If that is what happened, then Tikrit, like Najaf, al Kut, Karbala and Baghdad, will fall to the Americans without much real opposition.

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