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Saddam Hussein Will Remain Defiant, Predict Mideast Experts - 2003-03-17


The general consensus in the Arab world is that U.S. and British forces will attack Iraq sometime this week. Hopes of reaching a diplomatic solution are all but gone, short of Saddam Hussein announcing the resignation of his regime. But Sunday, the Iraqi leader vowed to stay and fight.

With hopes of a diplomatic solution to the Iraqi crisis quickly evaporating throughout the Arab world, many political leaders and analysts in the region are calling for Saddam Hussein to resign.

The head of Jordan's al-Quds Center for Political Studies, Uraib el-Rantawi, said the resignation of the Iraqi regime is the only way Baghdad can avoid war. "The only initiative which can empower the area to avert the war, is having Saddam Hussein stepping down from power," Uraib el-Rantawi said. "This is the only way, nowadays, at this point, to avert the war."

But Mr. el-Rantawi, like most people in the region, believes the Iraqi leader will stay and fight. "He still hopes, I think, that he can make serious casualties among the Americans," he said. "He can make the war be longer than the Americans planned. A long war with serious casualties will bring out, maybe, an Arab reaction, demonstrations, terrorist attacks, violence in the whole area, interference here and there."

Late Sunday, Saddam Hussein said he would wage battle against the United States and Britain "wherever there is sky, earth, and water anywhere in the world." He promised to inflict big losses among those who would fight Iraq.

But given his own history, which includes an unsuccessful fight against a coalition of international forces during the Gulf war in 1991, many people are wondering why the Iraqi leader would remain so defiant when he knows his depleted military remains completely overmatched.

"This is the psychology of any tyrant," explained Mohammed Kadry Sa'id, a former general in the Egyptian army who heads the military unit of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "The answer can be found in history books.

"It looks like others, like Mussolini, Hitler and others," he continued. "So it is time for him to make his last battle. He will go to the end of the road, and this is not the only story like that. I think it is repeated in history many times."

Arab public opinion expert Sa'id Sadek Amin says Saddam Hussein's prediction of military victory is just part of the language of fascist regimes.

"The rhetoric in Iraq is like that we will kill, we will cut, we will destroy," Mr. Amin said. "The words are exceeding the capability to deliver. The rhetoric of this kind of regime is a populist, fascist regime. This is their language. This is their discourse. It is usually revolutionary. Talking big."

Senior government officials in Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and officials of the Arab League have privately told VOA that the resignation of the Iraqi president is now the only way for Baghdad to avoid war. But Arab leaders have continued to publicly support the inspection process as the only peaceful alternative.

Arab states have long held a tradition of not publicly interfering in each other's internal affairs. And while the spokesman for the Arab League, Hisham Yousef, acknowledges there is growing sentiment in the region for Saddam Hussein to resign, he says there will be no public discussion of it.

"It is not our business to discuss issues pertaining to changing regimes. We discuss the implementation of Security Council resolution 1441, period," said Hisham Yousef. "As far as we are concerned, we talk about inspection, we talk about the implementation of Security Council resolutions and progress toward achieving this goal. We believe that inspectors here have been making progress and we still believe that they should be given time."

But President Bush says time is just about up. U.N. weapons inspectors have been advised to make preparations to leave Baghdad. And there is every indication armed conflict will soon erupt in Iraq, unless Saddam Hussein does what he has said he will never do, announce his resignation.