Radical Moqtada Sadr Backed by Iran Hijacks Saddam’s Last Moments

No official in Baghdad – whether US or Iraqi – was able to explain how Saddam Hussein’s execution at Khadimiya prison north of Baghdad Saturday, Dec. 30 came to be degraded into an ugly shambles by a bunch of taunting, jeering thugs in masks. Among them were cell phone photographers, who flashed the demeaning footage across the Muslim world, from where it was picked by the world media before the end of the day.

Prime minister Nouri al Maliki, facing domestic and international outrage over the uncouth scene, ordered an investigation Tuesday, Jan. 2. One of the photographers, “an Iraqi official”, was arrested.

US military spokesman Gen. William Caldwell kept on repeating in a special news conference that neither his government nor the multinational military could be held responsible for the nasty spectacle. “We would have done things differently,” he stressed.

According to our sources, the Americans did what they could to persuade al-Maliki to delay the execution until after the Feast of Sacrifice, which began Saturday for Sunni Muslims and Sunday for Shiites. Maliki argued that if the deposed dictator was not dispatched summarily, Baath guerrillas would stage a mass abduction to break him out of custody.

This argument was hardly convincing when nothing of the kind had taken place during the months of Saddam’s trial. The mass abductions which are part of the Iraqi sectarian landscape were never accompanied by any such ransom demand.

The Americans finally gave up 10 hours before the event when sensitivity over Iraqi sovereignty became an issue.

It was then over to the Iraqi government.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Baghdad sources report that the most damaging fact of all is undeniable: the Iraqi tyrant spent his last moments on earth trapped with the followers of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, their rasping curses consigning him to hell and interrupting his last prayer.

The Sadrist Mehdi Army militia is held responsible for most of the death squad sectarian killings of Sunni Arabs in Iraq as well as actively fighting the Baghdad government and the Americans. The firebrand cleric’s close circle includes Iranian and Syrian intelligence agents and Hizballah terrorists.


The US omitted to obtain identities of the officials in charge


In other words, Moqtada Sadr, the bitterest enemy of the Baath, the Americans and central government in Baghdad, whose father Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr and aunt, Aminah Haidar as-Sadr, were put to death after cruel torture by Saddam Hussein in 1980, was assigned the historic role of executing the former dictator.

Iraqi officials said at the time that about 25 people attended the execution, including an official party of 14 nominated by Maliki, guards and five executioners. Only three of those present were named: Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the senior prosecutor at his trial, Munqith al-Faroon, and a Shiite lawmaker Sami al-Askari.

The pirated footage from the death chamber shows that the condemned man knew who his tormentors were and faced them with some dignity and courage. At one point, he asked them if they behavior was manly. At another, he asked for his body not to be put in the hands of any Arab ruler, indicating he wanted to be buried in Iraq.

Theoretically, had Prosecutor al-Faroon left the chamber in protest against the degrading scene, the execution would have been held up. Under Iraqi law, it must be attended by at least one member of the prosecution. However in the feverish atmosphere of hate in the death chamber, his walkout may have gone unnoticed.

The procedure might have gone differently if the US military holding Saddam had stipulated that his handover to the Iraqi interior ministry be subject to the receipt of a detailed rundown from the prime minister of the execution procedure, including the identities of the officials in charge of the condemned man and the hangmen.

US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the generals who negotiated Saddam’s transfer could have activated a supervisory mechanism for interrupting the execution should the Iraqi government fail to stand by its word.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Baghdad sources, no such stipulation was laid down. And so Saddam was moved into the last stage before the gallows on Friday, Dec, 29: the Iraqi interior ministry handed him to the Baghdad police, which is more deeply penetrated by Shiite militias and death squads than any other Iraqi force.

This omission left the Shiite militia chiefs free to fight each other for the privilege of putting the ex-dictator to death. They were aware that the victor gained enormous leverage outside Iraq: he would be the one to send an explosive charge rolling round the Shiite-Sunni fault line in the Muslim world at large.


Tehran is the winner


And the more radical and pro-Tehran the victor, the more Iran would profit from another scalp on its belt, to hang alongside what most Muslims see as Iran’s unstoppable march of successes – Israel’s failure to win the Lebanon war against its proxy, Hizballah, America’s inability to halt the ayatollahs’ progress towards a nuclear weapon and its spreading influence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the event, the Sadrists were able to beat to the draw the two larger Shiite factions, SCIRI and the prime minister’s Dawa, and it was they who controlled Saddam’s execution.

Some of the Western agencies monitoring events in Iraq find no explanation for how Sadr came to walk off with the prize.

The most plausible theory, coming from Saddam’s own loyalists, is that the Americans and Iraqi national security adviser al-Rubaie, who was present at the hanging, connived to place this plum in the radical Shiite cleric’s lap to win his cooperation in the new strategy US president George W. Bush has charted for Iraq and has yet to unveil.

(An exclusive curtain-raiser appeared in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 283 on Dec. 22: A Federal Baghdad, a Fragmented Iraq, and Oil Revenues All Round.)

The cornerstone of the Bush plan is the pacification of Baghdad. This cannot be realized as long as Sadr’s unruly Mehdi Army terrorists have free rein in one-third of the capital. Some Baathist sources suggest that Sadr demanded control of the Saddam execution as his quid pro quo for his guarantees deposited with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to support the Bush plan for Baghdad.

That theory is as good as any other until – and if – the fiasco is independently investigated.

After the event, Rubaie reported that everyone present in the death chamber had been carefully screened and searched twice – first in Baghdad’s Green Zone government center before they were flown to the site of the execution and again before they went in. Rubaie’s only explanation for the infiltrated mobile phones was: “The guard was not one of ours.”

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