Saddam likely rattled: US
By Bill Gertz
WASHINGTON: The US missile and bomb attack on Thursday on a leadership compound in Baghdad has shaken Saddam Hussein, and there were intelligence reports suggesting that Saddam himself might have been hit.
The immediate public indications were that Saddam survived — he appeared in a television message a short time after the first strike of the war against Iraq. But the videotape is “still being evaluated,” one US official said. “At this point, we don’t know” whether it was Saddam or a double.
In addition, according to American officials, US intelligence reports confirm that Saddam Hussein was in the building, and the only doubt is whether he had left 30 minutes before the strike, which came at 5:30 a.m. Baghdad time. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters that the televised message may have been fraudulent.
“There is debate about that. I have no inside information,” Mr Rumsfeld said, noting also that there is no information that Saddam’s son Uday has taken over the country. The White House also sounded a skeptical note about the Iraqi television broadcast. “Is it Saddam Hussein or not? We’ve reached no conclusions,” Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. “Was it pre-taped, pre-canned? We’ve reached no conclusions.” In case Saddam survived the attack, the administration renewed calls for his exile.
“We continue to hope that Saddam Hussein will leave Iraq,” Mr Fleischer said. “We continue to hope that Iraqi generals will not follow orders. It is not too late for them to do that.” US intelligence agencies are conducting voice analysis of the broadcast to compare it with earlier broadcasts of Saddam, as well as examining Saddam’s appearance.
“There is technology in terms of voice matching and also looking at images,” the official said. “That’s under way.” The Iraqi leader appeared in thick, horn-rimmed glasses and looked pale as he read a prepared speech on a stenographer’s notebook. In his message, he called President Bush a “criminal” for undertaking military action.
Other US officials said there are signs that communications among the Iraqi leadership were disrupted by the attacks Wednesday and on Thursday. “This is a guy who’s preoccupied with his security and personal safety, and after last night he has to be obsessed with it,” one official said. “In terms of whether or not he can trust anybody in his inner circle and also concerns about any activities he undertakes, where he goes, who he meets, who he communicates with, where he decides to spend the evening, he’s got to be extremely concerned about his personal safety.” The targeting of Iraqi leaders — including Saddam, sons Uday and Qusai, and other senior officials — is part of a deliberate military strategy aimed at disrupting the Iraqi military and political leadership, defense officials said.
The early-morning missile and guided-bomb attack was based on detailed information that US officials said was specific enough to have allowed a pinpoint strike on a meeting of senior Iraqi leaders. The officials said it was a rare case of having “actionable” intelligence for the military strike.
Pentagon war planners calculated that opening the military offensive against Iraq with a pinpoint attack designed to kill top leaders would speed the hoped-for capitulation of Iraqi military forces. Attacking the Iraqi leadership in the past was very difficult because of the security measures used by Saddam. For example, in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Saddam would employ up to 20 white Mercedes when he traveled so that anyone trying to follow his movements would be confused, an intelligence official said. —TWT
Iraq confirms strike on Saddam’s home
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s information minister acknowledged Friday that one of Saddam Hussein’s homes was hit in the US bombardment, but said no one was hurt. “They rocketed the residence of his household,” Mohammed Sa’eed al-Sahhaf said at a news conference. “But thank God, they are all safe.” Al-Sahhaf lashed out at the “criminal George Bush and his gang.” “They are superpower of villains. They are superpower of Al Capone,” he said. “We will not allow them to get out of this quagmire which we trapped them in. They will see their end there.”
A semblance of normalcy returned to Baghdad after Thursday night’s bombing. There was a great deal of traffic on the streets, many shops were open and many people were out on the street. But there was still a heavy security presence, including armed members of the ruling Baath Party, security forces and police, and pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns. The official Iraqi News Agency said 37 people were injured in Thursday night’s raid at heart of Baghdad and in other locations in and around the city. Standing next to Al-Sahhaf at the news conference was Interior Minister Mahmoud Diab al-Ahmed, carrying a Kalashnikov rifle and ammunition and wearing a military uniform and flak jacket with a knife in the pocket and a pistol on his hip. “Some of you might may be wondering why do I have a Kalashnikov in my hand and wearing a flak jacket,” he said. “Because we have all in Iraq pledged never to relinquish our weapons until the day of victory.” Sahhaf also denied any US-led advance into Iraq and argued that TV images of Iraqis surrendering were fabricated.
“Those are not Iraqi soldiers at all,” he said. “Where did they bring them from?” —AP