Desperate but with a record of incompetence and duplicity, some of the Arab regimes and rulers think this is the way out for them. But it's highly unlikely they can pull it off; or that the US will let them. Such is the price of decades of 'client' status and incompetent, corrupt rule.
Arab states may ask Iraqi leader to stand down
By Roula Khalaf in London
FT - London - January 2 2003
Arab governments keen to avert another Gulf war will try to convince Saddam Hussein to step down if a US-led military campaign becomes imminent.
Saudi Arabia is already pressing Washington to allow the Arabs a last opportunity for a diplomatic breakthrough if Iraq is found in violation of its disarmament obligations after the January 27 report to the Security Council by UN inspectors.
Prince Saud al-Feisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said last week that the kingdom had not asked Mr Hussein to step down. But he also said that if war becomes imminent, "we hope that there would be an opportunity given to the Arab countries to mitigate the situation".
"One of the proposals on the table is that, after the UN report, a decision on war should not be hasty but that Arabs should be given another chance to look at the situation," said an Arab official. "One option is for [Mr Hussein] to depart. He's not thinking about it now, but it could be different when the Americans are serious about the alternative of war."
The US and Britain hope that as the pressure builds on Mr Hussein in the run-up to possible war, a military general or other regime insider would depose the Iraqi leader.
Former Iraqi officials say that although Mr Hussein has until now been "coup proof", the country's military will be encouraged to risk pushing him out should war become inevitable.
Arab officials cautioned that it remained too early to press Mr Hussein to relinquish power; inspections are proceeding smoothly and the Iraqi leader still believes he can buy time and save his regime.
But officials said an initiative offering Mr Hussein asylum might have a chance of success if he were convinced he could not avoid a war to topple his regime. Identifying a haven for Mr Hussein is a secondary issue. "If he accepts, there will be a land for him. Where he goes is not a big problem," said an Arab official.
Convincing Mr Hussein to step down will be a struggle. Officials in the region fear the Iraqi strongman may be more inclined to fight a desperate battle and resort to the use of chemical or biological weapons - if he has them - against US troops.
Mr Hussein would be more willing to hand over power to his younger son, Qusai, who appears to have been groomed for the succession. But replacing Mr Hussein with his son or anyone closely associated with his rule would not be acceptable to the US.
The UN inspectors' report on Iraqi co-operation at the end of this month is seen as a watershed.
The US has declared Iraq in material breach of its UN obligations after what was deemed an incomplete weapons declaration submitted by Iraq last month.
But in keeping with the letter of the November UN resolution on Iraq, most Security Council members favour the military action only if Iraq not only leaves gaps in the declaration but also fails to co-operate with inspections.
US officials expect Baghdad's co-operation to falter as the pace of UN inspections in Iraq is stepped up and information is gathered from interviews with Iraqi scientists, some conducted abroad.