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TV Speech Indicates Saddam Remains in Control, say Analysts - 2003-03-24

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein addressed his country Monday lauding his troops and his people and promising they would be victorious. Political analysts in Cairo agree that the speech indicates Mr. Hussein remains in control of his government and his troops, but one analyst says the speech also suggests he recognizes he will be defeated.

In a speech broadcast on Iraqi television, Saddam Hussein urged his people to resist coalition forces and promised certain victory to those who believe in God.

He mentioned several Iraqi cities where fighting and bombing are taking place and told Iraqis his troops were causing the enemy to suffer and lose every day.

Mohammed Kamal, who teaches political science at Cairo University, says President Hussein's speech was intended to show the world that he remains in control of his government and maintains the support of his military and the population of Iraq.

"I think Saddam's speech proves he's still alive, he's in charge, the chain of command in Iraq hasn't collapsed, it's still operating," he said. "And it also proves there is resistance from the Iraqi army to the U.S. forces."

U.S. President George W. Bush has said coalition forces are attempting to end the Iraqi leader's regime, destroy the Iraqi military's command and control centers and liberate the Iraqi people.

Mohammed Kadry Said, a former Egyptian army general who now heads the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said the speech and the battles being reported show that there is little reason to believe that Mr. Hussein will be overthrown by his own people. And the longer the battles last, Mr. Kadry says, the stronger the protests will be in the Arab world.

"I think this imagination that the Iraqis aren't loyal or will make a military coup against Saddam is now, I think, forgotten and we are entering a new situation, in my view, this will inflame the street movement more than before," he said.

Throughout the Iraqi leader's speech, he evoked the name of God and told his people that those who fight would be rewarded with paradise and be welcomed by God.

To Hala Mustafa, an expert on Islamic fundamentalism at the al-Ahram Center, the speech by the Iraqi president, for all its bravado, shows he is aware he is facing certain defeat and is now hoping to generate greater military resistance by appealing to the religious side of Iraqis and Muslims throughout the Arab world.

"This type of discourse had been used by Saddam Hussein during the second Gulf war," she said. "And I think it becomes something usual or common in the Arab world that resort to Islam as a last line of defense and radicalize the religious discourse to serve political aims, because it's easier to mobilize the people in the Middle East and Arab and Muslim world, in particular, of course, through religion."

Ms. Mustafa also said that Iraqis do not enjoy many freedoms and suggested that some of them may have decided to take up arms against coalition forces because they fear certain death at the hands of Iraq's military forces if they do not.