In the face of a probable attack by President George W. Bush, the government of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein remains defiant and threatens to inflict another Vietnam-type war on the U.S.
In a recent interview with the internationally known French news daily Le Figaro, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz stated that “each Iraqi village is a fortress … each Iraqi village will become another Vietnam jungle.”
“The Americans are deceiving themselves thinking that they will march in like a military parade,” said Aziz.
While the U.S. can point to the Iraqi army’s collapse during operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi government, according to the Le Figaro article, prefers to remember the 50,000 British soldiers who died in the military campaign to oust the forces of the Ottoman Empire from what is present-day Iraq during World War I.
Although it is generally assumed that the Iraqi army will not fiercely defend the present regime in Baghdad – Hussein does trust the army to change locations with loaded weapons – the Republican Guard may be another matter.
The Republican Guard will be the “first line of defense,” according to Le Figaro, and will fight “street to street,” and could inflict a “great cost in men.”
The Iraqi regime has adopted a “worst-case” scenario. With its leader unwilling to become a war-crimes defendant like Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic, Hussein has determined “to die in combat” and become, as the regime terms it, “a martyr,” according to Le Figaro.
While the thought of Hussein’s death appeals to many both in the Middle East and beyond, no one is sure what would happen following his demise.
The Hussein regime has been remarkably successful in destroying opposition to it, either by murder or by exile. Iraq’s intelligence service, operated by Hussein’s relatives, has a reputation for deadly effectiveness and has frequently infiltrated opposition organizations.
The position of those opposed to Hussein remains precarious and divided, with no discernible alternative leader on whom all can agree. Unlike the situation before and during the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the volatility of the region demands that all sides of the opposition know who will succeed Hussein as leader.
The clearest example of the need for certainty is seen in the Kurds. Although the Kurds are implacably hostile to Hussein, their leaders have stated that they can be of no assistance in overthrowing Hussein until they know who has been selected as the next Iraqi leader.
At present, the Kurds have their own autonomous state in the north of Iraq, protected by allied air cover. A change in government could put their position in jeopardy if a leader unfavorable to the Kurds appeared.
The Kurds also are reluctant to rebel against Baghdad, because of their previous three attempts since 1991. In each of the three attempts, the Kurds expected U.S. aid, and each time the assistance did not arrive.
The possibility of assassination is also part of the life of those opposed to the Hussein regime.
On April 2, two gunmen assaulted the house of the leader of the Kurdistan regional government and killed five of the leader’s bodyguards, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Iraq Report.
Although the identity of the gunmen remains unknown at this time, murder has become the trademark of the Hussein regime.
And despite the recent Arab League summit in Beirut’s “total rejection” of a U.S. attack on Iraq, the Baghdad regime, according to observers, remains an object of genuine hatred.
“Publicly, the Arabs demand that America halt its military,” said the report in Le Figaro, “but in private, they urge Bush to hasten the end of Saddam.”