Will Saddam Trade His WMD Secrets for His Life?

President George W. Bush was careful to sidestep specifics in his apparently candid answers to the questions showered on him by newspersons in the White House Monday, December 15. Calling the captured Iraqi dictator a “torturer” and “murderer”, he said he had his own views about how “Mr. Hussein” should be dealt with, but insisted “my personal views aren’t important in this case.” The President never once referred to a possible death sentence although the views for the former governor of Texas are no secret.
Mr. Hussein, in contrast, has been reported as “wiseassing” his interrogators at some undisclosed US military facility, offering a runaround rather than real intelligence cooperation.
In the view of debkafile‘s intelligence experts, the only time the Iraqi ex-ruler made himself clear was when he said in English to the US troops who hauled him out of the hole near Tikrit on Saturday, December 12: “I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, and I want to negotiate.” Since then, the wily former dictator has been feeling his way round to find out what the Bush administration deems negotiable in terms of conditions of detention, place of trial and what will happen to him after he is convicted.
On Monday, Bush pointedly swept aside suggestions that the captive might have much to contribute in the interrogations that the Defense Department and the CIA have begun, especially on weapons of mass destruction.
mg class=”picture” src=”/dynmedia/pictures/SADBRO.jpg” align=”left” border=”0″>”I don’t believe he’ll tell the truth,” said Bush. “He didn’t tell the truth for over a decade. I just can’t believe he’s going to change just because he happens to be captured.”
debkafile has gained an outline of the picture unfolding in the early stage of the interrogation from conversations with sources in Washington, some of whom are trying to build up a psychological profile of Saddam Hussein as a subject of questioning.
Clearly, the US president’s views on his prisoner’s truthfulness were meant to reach the captured man’s ears. The bargaining has begun with move one and counter-move. In response to Saddam’s opening gambit, the White House laid down the first ground rule: The captured dictator if he wants to negotiate must first demonstrate his veracity, notably on the issue of his prohibited weapons.
This issue is vitally important – and not only for the obvious reasons: the Bush re-election campaign, the credibility of US, British and Australian leaders in going to war against the Saddam regime. Most of all, clearing up this mystery will determine US strategy in the war on global terrorism, present and future.
debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources reveal that Washington and Dr. David Kay, senior US and coalition WMD hunter in Iraq – far from groping in the dark for Saddam’s prohibited weapons, as conventionally believed – have a very good idea of where they are hidden.
The search has narrowed down to a section of the Syrian Desert known as Dayr Az-Zawr in Syria’s 600 sq. mile Al Jazirah province, which is wedged between the Turkish and Iraqi borders. The missing weapons systems are thought to be buried somewhere under these desert sands. This area is now probably the most keenly watched area on earth – from its outer periphery. At its eastern edge, US special force units, Predator drones and reconnaissance airplanes and satellites make sure no one steps into this ultra-sensitive patch of desert. Turkish special forces, intelligence and air force units are guarding it from the northwest. The Syrians are nowhere to be seen, acting as though the target-area does not concern them.
debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly have consistently reported that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction were removed from the country and secretly buried in Lebanon and northern Syria with the connivance of Syrian president Bashar Assad.
But short of tearing up hundreds of miles of sand, the American hunters have reached an impasse in their searches. What can Saddam Hussein contribute to breaking the standoff?
debkafile‘s intelligence experts evaluate the situation thus:
If the ex-dictator continues to prevaricate instead of giving straight answers to questions, the US president has two options:
1. To bring crushing leverage to bear on the Syrian president and force him to order his engineering corps to dig up the hiding places marked on his charts and quietly hand over the wanted weapons to the Americans. For the present, Assad is tossing off any such demands with complete nonchalance.
2. To let American military and engineering units loose on the targeted miles and burrow until the weapons are found.
mg class=”picture” src=”/dynmedia/pictures/Mig07.jpg” align=”left” border=”0″>(As shown in picture, the burrowing operation to unearth hidden Iraqi Mig fighters, was easy compared with digging up large tracts of the Syrian Desert.)
That course could bring American and Syrian armies into a major collision, a development that would rock the Middle East no less than the American invasion of Iraq.
But there is a third option.
It is that Saddam hand over to his American interrogators the details of the arrangements he worked out with the Syrian president for the transfer of the weapons of mass destruction to their present hiding places. He would have to name the Iraqi and Syrian officials who handled the operation. With this information in hand, President Bush could turn the heat on Assad and demand his cooperation in locating the buried items. If Assad continued to shrug the demands aside, then the evidence against the Syrian president would be laid before the UN Security Council and an international operation mounted to bring the prohibited weapons to light.
For now, the captured Iraqi dictator holds the means to fully vindicate President Bush in going to war against his regime in Baghdad.
What will the captured man demand for giving the Bush administration its final triumph?
According to debkafile‘s intelligence experts, Saddam Hussein has never forgotten the terms of the deal offered him by his old friend, former Russian prime minister and KGB chief Yevgeny Primakov, to prevent the war. One month before the American invasion, Primakov visited Baghdad and advised the Iraqi ruler to take himself and his family into perpetual detention in one of the presidential palaces. They would be kept under lock and key for life under international custody – albeit in sumptuous circumstances. The only proviso for averting war and saving his life was that the Iraqi president surrender his forbidden weapons systems to the United Nations.
The Iraqi dictator turned the offer down, certain that the Americans if they attacked would be defeated at the gates of Baghdad. However, he told his Russian visitor that he reserved the right to come back to the proposal in the future.
This was the deal that may have kept Saddam going in the hole in the ground where he was found and which was behind the first words he said to the US troops who came to get him, namely a offer to negotiate. The entire deal is hardly likely to be available to the former ruler reduced now to wretched circumstances. But Saddam will no doubt apply all his guile and play every card in his deck to save his life. He will be lucky if he can trade his weapons of mass destruction for incarceration for life in Iraq – the Primakov formula minus the palace.

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