FOR SADDAM, TO DISARM IS TO GIVE UP POWER; IN INEVITABLE WAR, ARMY
WILL NOT FIGHT FOR SADDAM
Sharif Ali bin al Hussein, the ''pretender'' to the throne in Iraq and
a proponent of constitutional monarchy, is a leading member of the Iraqi
National Congress, the main opposition exile group based in London. Sharif
Ali, who fled Baghdad at age 2 after his first cousin King Faisal II was
assassinated in 1958, is favored by the United States as part of the new
regime in Iraq after Saddam Hussein. He spoke with Global Viewpoint editor
Nathan Gardels in London on Nov. 13.
NATHAN GARDELS: Saddam Hussein has, at least nominally, accepted
the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq. What does it mean for his hold
on power if he is disarmed?
SHARIF ALI BIN AL HUSSEIN: If Saddam disarms, it will be almost
impossible for him to hold on to power. He has been working on building
weapons of mass destruction since the 1970s, spending hundreds of billions
of dollars to obtain them and forgoing billions more in oil revenues during
the 1990s (because of sanctions) to achieve it in secret. They are integral
to his regime.
Saddam regards the acquisition of a nuclear weapon as vital to his survival.
It is the great equalizer for him. He knows if he has such a weapon he
will be untouchable.
If he gives up this weapon's card now, he is nothing. He can't exist without
it. The entire raison d'etre of his regime is tied up in this pursuit.
In short, to disarm him of these weapons is to disarm him of power.
Saddam has chemical and biological weapons. He has a nuclear program.
At some point these will be discovered. His risk in being forced to accept
the new disarmament regime is that he doesn't know just how much America
and its allies know about what he has. There are traps for him, especially
in the 30-day disclosure demand.
If he discloses, nobody will believe that is all he has. If he doesn't
disclose, maybe there will be evidence to prove he is a liar.
A key issue concerns the right of the U.N. inspectors to remove scientists
and their families from Iraq so they can be questioned without fear. If
he says no, that is a powerful trigger for a military attack. Logically,
it would seem to me, the first thing the inspectors will want to do is
take out the top 100 scientists and say, ''What do you have?'' What will
Saddam do? Will he execute them rather than hand them over?
GARDELS: So you are certain war is coming, sooner or later?
SHARIF ALI: Unfortunately, I don't see how Saddam can back off
and maintain power. He won't back off and will lead the country into yet
GARDELS: One Pentagon scenario is to launch 1,000 airstrikes the
first day of an attack, thus frightening the Iraqi army into immediate
surrender because they fear ''the front'' more than ''the rear.'' Some
believe the war will end in two weeks.
Do you share this view of the weakness of Saddam's army and their lack
of allegiance to him?
SHARIF ALI: Absolutely, and even more so. There is nobody in the
Iraqi military willing to fight and die just to keep Saddam in power.
The Iraqi officer corps has been humiliated, tortured, executed, arrested.
Their heroes have been murdered. They've been dragged into two disastrous
wars and now a third. Nobody in the officer corps has any motivation to
protect Saddam with their lives. This is not a war against Iran or to
occupy Kuwait. This is a war purely to keep Saddam in power. There is
no willingness to do this.
Also, the Iraqi military commanders today are quite aware of the high-tech
firepower of the United States. In 1991 during the Gulf War, the officers
in the field didn't have a clue what would hit them. Now they know that
the United States can pick them off from thousands of meters away. They
don't know from where or how they are being destroyed. Fifteen tanks will
be sitting in a row, then the first two will be obliterated from out of
nowhere. The others will just have to sit there not knowing how to escape.
Who are the tank commanders going to fear more: the next missile out of
the blue or Saddam? So, the army will collapse. There will be no resistance.
Not only is there no will to resist. What we are hearing directly from
Iraqi officers is that, given the opportunity, they will actually turn
Their worry, of course, is what will happen to them. They want to know
from the United States what will happen if they turn against Saddam during
battle. Will they still be targeted? This is the message we've been passing
on to Washington. And I think the message has gotten through. We've been
told that the United States will only attack Iraqi units behaving in an
aggressive manner toward them.
This campaign will not be along traditional lines -- obliterate the enemy
army. No. It is going to be a very focused campaign where certain units
are targeted -- especially the Republican Guards, along with the headquarters
and agents of repression -- but other units won't be. The army is expected
to melt away. This in turn will give an opening for a political uprising.
That is what happened in 1991. The regime just disappeared. But this time,
the United States will be there to be sure the rebellion is not crushed.
GARDELS: Because of the credible threat of imminent American attack,
do you see the possibility of a coup before the war begins?"
SHARIF ALI: It will be extremely difficult to pull off a coup before
a U.S. strike -- not impossible but difficult. The officer mentality is
this: Since everyone expects an attack, why risk a coup not succeeding
now when you can be certain it will succeed once an American strike begins?
We'll wait for the Americans.
GARDELS: There is great concern that once a strike is imminent
or begins, Saddam will turn on the Kurds and Shias in Iraq who would most
readily participate in a rebellion, killing thousands of civilians or
more. After all, when the United States started bombing Serbia, the killings
of Muslims in Kosovo escalated. Do you share that fear?
SHARIF ALI: Yes, I do. In trying to figure out how he is going
to survive, Saddam is not likely to try to gas U.S. troops or Israel because
he knows that will not stop them, but only redouble their determination
to destroy him.
Since there is no point in denying that he has weapons of mass destruction
once he is caught red-handed, the most logical thing to do from the standpoint
of his survival is to use them on Iraqi civilians because he knows that
alone may cause the American campaign to pause. Undoubtedly, someone on
the U.N. Security Council will call ''cease-fire, cease-fire'' to avoid
This is a terrible possibility of which Saddam is entirely capable of
perpetrating. Our hope is that the officers concerned will just not execute
such a command.
Iraq is not Kosovo. There is no communal hatred of that kind. The army
doesn't want to use gas on the Kurds because it doesn't hate them.
GARDELS: The discussion in Washington now is whether there should
be a U.S. occupation as in Japan or Germany, or an ''interim government''
after Saddam is removed. What is your view?
SHARIF ALI: Military occupation is unwarranted and unwise. Iraq
is not an enemy country. Once Saddam and his weapons are gone, the military
is no threat. Iraq's population does not need to be dominated and ''de-Nazified.''
Iraq is not Japan or Germany, but is, in fact, France after World War
II -- a country that is being liberated.
Iraq is not emerging from a civil war, with its institutions in tatters.
It has fully functioning national institutions -- an economy, a government
and administration. Iraq is a country that works. It is just a problem
with the political leadership.
It is not like coming into Somalia or Afghanistan, where there is nothing
but rubble. We have 1 million civil servants in Iraq working every day
to run the country. All we need to do is change the top level by putting
in a new interim leadership and the country will function.
I can't imagine what a U.S. occupation would mean: A U.S. major as the
minister of agriculture? An Air Force colonel as minister of transportation?
What about law and order? Are American troops going to fire on rioting
Iraqis if they have to keep order?
The Americans are not the British during the empire. They don't have personnel
to run other countries.
Truly, this occupation idea is inadvisable. In a flash, it will turn the
Americans from liberators into occupiers. The best thing is for the Americans,
as soon as possible, to withdraw from the urban areas and hand over to
the Iraqis the running of their own affairs.
I know people get hung up about a ''power vacuum.'' But, really, we're
talking about 24-30 people at the ministerial level taking over and running
the government for an interim period while we go through the political
process of elections, constitutional convention and referendum and so
on. The key issue is to ensure a balance between the opposition leaders
and groups who are public but outside country, and those who are on the
GARDELS: Finally, what do you foresee as your own role as constitutional
SHARIF ALI: In a constitutional monarchy, the monarch would not
get involved in the day-to-day running of affairs. The problem with the
republics in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, is that whatever political
party takes over the government uses the resources of the government to
maintain its own power.
A monarchy would break that cycle. It would not be dependent or biased
on special interests, but have the confidence and respect of all parties
The role of the monarchy would be as guarantor of the constitution and
ensure the independence of national institutions, including the army.
It would be protector of civil liberties to be sure that the majority
doesn't suppress the minority or vice versa. And it would enable the political
parties to engage in a competitive democratic political process without
damaging the state.
Governments have a natural shelf life. No matter how good they are, they
make mistakes, and it is time for them to go. We need an institution that
ensures that when a new government comes in not everybody would be purged
and the new cronies brought in.
The role of a high guarantor of national institutions is particularly
important in Iraq, which has such a multitude of political parties that
no one group is going to be dominant. For the foreseeable future (after
Saddam), there is going to be a series of shifting coalitions in parliament.
Above that fray, so to speak, there needs to be a national unifying role.
That is the function of the monarchy I would hope to see in Iraq's future.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 11/18/02)