Saddam Hussein Speaks: I Prepared Current Guerrilla War Ahead of Invasion. Syria Is Next
On December 16, the deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein was allowed to see his lawyer, Khalil Duleimi for the first time. With no one else present and no time limit, Saddam spoke his mind freely. Later, the lawyer went straight from Saddam’s cell to Amman to confer with the rest of the legal team, which Ramsey Clark, Lyndon Johnson’s attorney general, had meanwhile joined. Clark explained he felt the need to defend the former Iraqi president’s rights. He declare the special court set up by the interim Iraqi government to try Saddam was not legal and that the United States should be tried instead for its assault on Fallujah, abuse of Iraqi prisoners and responsibility for the death of thousands of Iraqis in the course of the war.
After briefing the legal team, Duleimi granted an interview to the Lebanese journalist Shahbana Khalil, who had been very close to the Saddam when he was in power. He conferred on her a number of decorations and gave her exclusive stories on happenings in Iraq and the Arab world.
debkafile‘s Exclusive Middle East sources reveal here the main contents of the Duleimi’s briefing to his fellow lawyers and the account of his conversation with Saddam to his journalist friend.
The ex-ruler is in good health, the lawyer reported, and says he is in even better shape physically than he was in March 2003 ahead of the war. Now and again he gets sharp twinges of pain in his left shin.
Saddam is confined to a cell of five by three meters with no window. Sometimes he is let out to a 15 by 5 meter unroofed hall where he can see the sky. The food he says is good. The American warders do not talk to him but the Iraqi officers who accompany them address him as “Mr. President.”
The former Iraqi dictator is cut off from the outside world. Despite some reports, he has no access to newspapers, radio or television. He has received only two letters from his close family, the contents of which were mostly deleted or cut out by the censors. He spends most of his time writing but would not disclose his subjects, except to say that some of it is poetry. Duleimi quoted a line of Saddam’s “verse:” “If you can’t be the head, don’t be the backside because there is nothing there but a tail.”
He had two main gripes. One was that the Americans will not let him shave his beard despite his repeated requests. He even offered to let a US military barber shave him, but they refused. His theory is that the Americans want to make sure that whenever he appears in public, as he did on June 30, 2004 before an Iraqi investigating judge, he will look confused, unkempt and too low in spirits to bother to shave.
His second complaint was against the Red Cross workers. He wanted their visits stopped because he said they are neither polite nor respectful.
Duleimi spent four hours talking to Saddam Hussein alone in his cell. The conversation was interrupted twice when the ex-ruler performed Muslim ablution rites and prayed. He said he had read the small Koran with him many times from beginning to end.
He also asked the lawyer for news from the outside world. He did not know that Spain had pulled its troops out of Iraq after the March 2004 Madrid rail attack, but was pleased to hear it. He had not known of Yasser Arafat’s death last November but made no comment.
After hearing Duleimi out, Saddam asked to convey his regards to three people: the American lawyer Ramsey Clark for joining his defense, Malaysian ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohammed, and independent British party leader George Galloway (whom the London Telegraph had to pay $150,000 in damages for reporting he was bribed to support Saddam Hussein).
He also asked to send his respects to the Egyptian journalist Mustafa Bakri who has a program on Arabic al Jazeera television. debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources reported in the past that, before the Saddam regime was overthrown, Bakri was in cahoots with Iraqi intelligence officials at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.
The next part of the conversation Saddam devoted to a long dissertation on the situation in Iraq, past and present. Recalling the Muslim adage advising believers to stick together and cling to Allah, he stressed that Sunnis and Shiites must not fight but join forces in order to muster strength to stand up to the American conqueror.
“Baghdad,” he said “did not surrender nor was it conquered by the Americans but was their captive.” He claimed they had attempted to kill him in the Azamaya district of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, but failed.
Two days later, he called together the military commanders serving in the capital and its environs. They informed him they had run out of troops for conducting the war. It was then, Saddam said, “I ordered the transition to guerrilla warfare. I told the commanders: the Americans will stretch out full length across Iraq like a viper. That will be the moment to attack and lop off each section one by one.” The deposed president bragged: “All the insurgency and guerrilla operations in progress are the fruit of my decision and my pre-planning.”
Saddam admitted that there had been treachery on the part of “a very small group of Iraqi military men and politicians.” However, those who needed to know did know that the real combat against the Americans would only begin after they entered Baghdad. “That is why I ordered all the office-holders of my regime to carry on with their duties, despite the difficulties.”
He went on to disclose that, during the six months leading up to the war, several offers came from Israeli and Western sources of a deal whereby sanctions against Iraq would be called off and diplomatic relations with Washington resumed if he extended recognition to Israel. But he claims to have refused, maintaining it was impossible and forbidden to relinquish holy land.
When Duleimi informed him that five million Iranians infiltrated Iraq in advance of the January 30 elections to register as voters, Saddam retorted: “This is nothing new as far as the Persian traitors are concerned. We always knew they wanted to grab southern Iraq and that this was the objective of the Badr Brigades. Now the Americans are discovering this for themselves.”
But, he added, in any case, the Americans and Allawi will not succeed in bringing the elections off. They will fail, he declared.
Finally, the former Iraqi president said: “I fear for Syria. I warned Bashar Assad that the Americans had not only targeted Iraq, but Syria too.”
debkafile‘s military sources add:
Saddam Hussein touched inadvertently on the most burning issue between the Bush administration and Iraq’s interim prime minister Iyad Alawi. Ever since the December 21 suicide attack on the US forward base in Mosul, when 22 Americans were killed, Allawi has been urging Washington to launch attacks from Iraq on points in Syria – singling out military locations known to intelligence as bases used to assist and train terrorists preparatory to their infiltration of Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister believes that without military action against Syria, three key goals will remain out of reach:
1. A general election on January 30 orderly enough to be a success.
2. An effective deterrent to Tehran’s meddling in Iraq.
3. Victory in the war against the guerrillas.
Sunday, January 2, US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage arrives in Damascus with a final warning from Washington. The Syrian ruler will be informed that the administration is closer than ever before to acceding to Allawi’s demand.