Baghdad did not fall -- it was handed over
The Arabic media is rife with speculation that the Saudi regime brokered a
secret deal between the White House and Iraq's ruling party.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Jalal Ghazi
April 14, 2003 -- Arabic media are speculating that a "safqua" -- Arabic for
a secret deal -- was arranged between the United States and Iraq's Baath
regime to hand over Baghdad. Although nobody can pinpoint the exact terms,
there are three clear outcomes. First, the lives of many American and
British forces as well as most senior Baath officials were spared. Second,
Baghdad itself did not turn into the blood bath widely anticipated by
military experts. Third, the war was shortened dramatically, saving the
region -- especially Saudi Arabia -- from catastrophic consequences.
The following clues, gleaned from Arabic and U.S. media, suggest why the
fall of Baghdad was premeditated.
1. None of the seven rescued POWs was hurt. On the contrary, all seven were
found in good condition. All were found dressed in pajamas rather than the
standard uniforms for prisoners of war, indicating that they were being
treated as guests rather than as POWs. Usually, Arabs give pajamas to guests
who sleep over in their houses. Arab reports point out that POW Jessica
Lynch was similarly treated; she was kept in the cleanest room in an Iraqi
hospital until she was rescued on April 2. In both cases, American forces
were tipped off about the location of the POWs by unknown Iraqi citizens.
Kuwaiti prisoners, by contrast, who were captured during the Iraqi invasion
of Kuwait more than 12 years ago, are only now being discovered.
To date, none of the seven war prisoners has spoken directly to American TV
reporters, unlike U.S. soldiers injured in the fighting, who became instant
media sources. We are told the seven POWs were taken to Kuwait for medical
treatment and intelligence debriefing.
2. American tanks rolled into Baghdad with very little resistance while
Basra, nowhere near as heavily fortified as Baghdad, sustained almost three
weeks of fierce resistance. The fall of Baghdad was so sudden that it left
many of the Arab and Muslim volunteers who went to Iraq to fight the
coalition forces in total disarray. Initially given weapons and uniforms,
thousands of these volunteers -- who came from Yemen, Egypt, Syria,
Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere -- wound up having no one to tell them
what to do. Al-Jazeera reports that some are now still fighting U.S. forces
while others are actually attacking Iraqi civilians.
3. Baath forces refrained from destroying a single bridge in Baghdad, which
could have blocked U.S. tanks access to the city, at least temporarily.
Moreover, only a handful of Iraq's oil fields were set on fire, leaving the
vast majority intact almost in accordance with Bush's demands.
4. None of the senior Baath officials has surrendered to date, with the
exception of two high-level scientists. Instead, tens of thousands of Baath
operatives managed to disappear without a sign of internal divisions. This
strongly suggests that the departure of the Baath regime was ordered from
the most senior levels and was highly organized. It also explains why most
of the Iraqi forces, including the Republican Guards, were nowhere to be
found when U.S. forces entered Baghdad.
5. Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Al-Douri, a high-level
Baath functionary, was quoted in both American and Arabic media as saying,
"The game is over," and that he had not been in contact with Saddam Husssein
for weeks. When asked why he used the word "game," the ambassador replied,
"The war is over." Meanwhile, al-Jazeera reported that Al-Douri has been
allowed to travel to Syria and that he may be asked to represent the new
Iraqi government at the United Nations.
While Arabs all over the Middle East now routinely talk of the deal that
saved Baghdad, they also speculate that the same deal may have saved Saddam.
Unlike the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, which preoccupied U.S.
forces for months, the hunt for the dictator no longer appears to be the top
priority for U.S. forces in the wake of Baghdad's fall.
Where could Saddam be if he is still alive? Some Arab media experts
speculate he may have sought refuge in Mecca, the most sacred Islamic place
in the world. No non-Muslims ever lived in and very few have even set foot
in this holiest of Muslim cities.
If it turns out that Saddam is indeed in Mecca, it would be one further clue
that the architect of the "safqua" or deal between the Baath and the United
States was Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah -- a trusted intermediary of the Bush
family and the only Arab leader invited to President Bush's Crawford ranch.
For the Saudis, as well as for many other Arab leaders, the deal offers the
one hope of sparing the Middle East the consequences of a bloody and
prolonged war of resistance in Iraq. For the Americans, the deal offers a
chance of stabilizing postwar Iraq and its neighbors, leaving the door open
for what Bush calls the road map to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
* Pacific News Service associate Jalal Ghazi monitors and translates Arab
media for New California Media, a project of PNS and WorldLink TV.