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Saddam hangs on?

I have just received this briefing, courtesy of Stratfor. Since a hefty subscription fee is required in order to link to the article, here is an excerpt:

“Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, reputed to be a personal friend of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, made a lightning visit to Baghdad on Feb. 23. The purpose and results of the meeting are shrouded in secrecy, apart from a statement by Moscow that Hussein was asked — and agreed — to cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Reliable Stratfor sources within the Russian government say Hussein indeed has promised to cooperate with the inspectors’ demands — including that Baghdad scrap its al Samoud 2 missile program by March 1, an announcement that sources expect to be forthcoming within days.”

It seems that this ’11th hour offer’ also includes an invitation for Western oil companies to recommence business in Iraq and a blanket promise from Hussein to ‘play nicely’. The offer is being heavily sponsored by the French, the Germans and the Russians and is expected to be received warmly by HMG.

But the real test is whether or not it is accepted in Washington. It could be acceptable if it could then be presented as having only be achieved by the credible threat of force. However, the policy goal in Washington is regime change in Iraq and not status-quo.

Rejection of the offer by Washington could see Mr.Primakov flying back to Baghdad to broker yet another offer, although what more Hussein could possibly put on the table is hard to imagine.

12 comments to Saddam hangs on?

  • Larry

    Is this ethical to repost copyrighted material without permission?

  • Larry,

    Whoops!! You are quite right, it is copyright material so reprinting is both unethical and illegal (I think I may be okay with just an excerpt).

    Thanks for the timely reminder.

  • Guyjean

    Ooops……..looks like old Saddam just gave Primakov (and Stratfor) a Bronx cheer. He ain’t giving up his illegal missiles.

  • ‘what more Hussein could possibly put on the table is hard to imagine.’

    Not to difficult to imagine – his head for starters.

    It may be past the point that Primakov will be able to exert any influence, if his influence is truly to avert Saddam from doing something stupid. Did anyone with useful input get listened to during the last week or so in that bunker in Berlin? Doubtful. Refusing to destroy the missiles would fall into that category (stupid). The shuttling reminds one of the ‘last ditch’ diplomacy attempted by Eduard Scheverdnadze about 12 years or so ago…

  • Given that one resolution will be tabled by US/UK/Spain and the the other by the ‘Axis of Peace’ (the Guardian’s nomenclature), the endgame is hopefully in sight: three weeks versus five months.

    The first point is the fickle reporting in the media. Another resolution has been tabled so it is unlikely we will go to war according to Today’s summary on R4. The war will go ahead, with or without the UN.

    The second point is Yevgeny Primakov’s visit was a return to the shuttle diplomacy that marked the six month build up to the first Gulf War. It didn’t work then and it won’t now.

  • Dave Farrell

    Saddam has always told people what they want to hear. Promise them anything, as long as they get off my back, is his way of dealing with pressure.

    With disarray in the Security Council, he knows exactly how to spin out the situation for as long as it takes to manufacture “proof” that he has destroyed his huge stocks of anthrax and VX, among other poisons. Hans Blix told Time this week that he finds Iraq’s claim that it has mislaid documentation on the destruction details as “not believable” from probably the most efficient bureauracy in the Middle East. (Even the systematic genocidal drive against the Kurds was discovered to have been tracked by a meticulous mountain of documentation, a la Nazi Germany’s Final Solution.)

    Whether or not he destroys the missiles, after a show of reluctance, is irrelevant. They are a McGuffin. Everyone’s thinking missiles, while somewhere (perhaps on three mysterious ships sailing around aimlessly in the region)
    enough biochem material remains to wipe out the population of the planet.

    That is Saddam’s ace in the hole, the one big weapon that keeps him in the big game. He isn’t about to admit to it, let alone destroy the stocks.

  • nickmallory

    Can we just get on with it?

    No-one’s going to change their mind about anything here, Saddam’s not going to change, we can’t surrender, the die is cast.

    If we postpone the tough decisions we’ll just be faced with making them a few months more down the line when France and Germany etc will still oppose any action. If they want to send troops to defend Saddam then let them. If they don’t then what’s it got to do with them anyway?

    The USA should have proposed a very tough resolution with the word WAR underlined about twelve times. The security council would reject it, we’d go to war anyway and win before the French have come back from lunch. If the UN is merely a talking shop to prevent action against the threats we face then the sooner it collapses into irrelevence the better. The UN needs the USA far more than the US needs the UN.

    I’ve no doubt that Saddam will announce that he’ll unilaterally disarm, no really, this time I mean it, thirty seconds before the stealth bombers lift off. It doesn’t matter. This is all a charade, as is the current ‘debate’. If the war is successful everything will be fine, if it isn’t then there’ll be trouble. The only thing that matters is the outcome of the war, not the endless diplomatic shuffle before it.

  • Kevin Connors

    I’d really like to read that whole article. I have several friends with a different set of ethics than David’s; I wonder if any have a (incrediblly expensive) Stratfor subscription.

    With Stratfor and Fox (AP) at odds, I’d go with Stratfor. Assuming the report is correct, America will not be able to simply dismiss the offer out-of-hand, I would expect a counter-offer Saddam will find untenable, such as a non-Iraqi weapons distruction squad backed up by troops.

  • Martin Adamson

    On the copyright issue, I believe that quoting up to 10% of an article is recognised as being a legitimate amount.

  • I’m sure Martin’s right – The size of the excerpt David included is well within the boundaries of normal copyright-waived quoting.

    I really don’t know which way this one will go. It sounds as if Hussein is a sociopath, but is he the same kind of sociopath as the stubborn Milosevic?

    If Iraq’s current ruler suddenly grovelled at the eleventh hour and offered total submission, would the US accept a peaceful change of leadership – moving him to a third country, etc? It could be an embarrassing situation, surely?

  • This is an interesting junction. A few months back the rhetoric from Wash was “regime change”, more recently it has been “disarmament”. Sadaam would not be able to survive politically, if he were truely disarmed. Wash has 200,000 troops (including reservists) ready to go. For Wash it would be a political loss if the crisis was resolved with Sadaam in power. Wash holds most of the cards, they can move forward at their pace.

    Russia, et al, are manuevering, but Russia has the least to loose of any of the actors regardless of the outcome. Primakov may be acting on behalf of some Russian businesses more than an agent of Putin’s. The diplomacy is becoming so frantic because the end is in sight. I think Sadaam has resolved to fight, loss of power (exile) would be just as bad as death for him. If he wanted peaceful coexistance (or existance on US terms), he has had plenty of opportunity in the last 10 years much less last year.

  • Sandy P.

    There’s nothing on the table except a piece of paper. We want the goods.

    And Matt Yglesias made the point that while Blix asked that the missiles be destroyed, the facilities and a testing ramp which could handle larger motors was not included. Why leave the capability there to make more?