While Saddam goes underground (permanently?),his family finds safe haven in Syria

Geostrategy Intelligence

April 15, 2003

Syria has granted asylum to the family of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Saddam's wife, Sajadeh, has settled in the Syrian port city of Latakia. Western intelligence sources said she was joined by most of her children and grandchildren. Many of them arrived in a convoy from Baghdad to Damascus last week. Saddam and his two sons, Qusay and Uday, are still in Iraq. Before the April 7 U.S. strike on a bunker where Saddam was said to be meeting with his top aides, the intelligence sources said the Iraqi leader and his sons planned to escape Baghdad and return to Tikrit, home of Saddam's clan and the stronghold of the regime. So far, there are no signs that Saddam and his sons plan to flee Iraq and they are said to remain in control of a significant number of special forces.

The resilience of Saddam has surprised some Pentagon officials and intelligence analysts. They expected Saddam to either flee the country or at least lead a glorious battle to the death. Saddam has done neither. Instead, he has taken a leaf from Osama Bin Laden's book and is waging a resistance from underground. It appears Saddam has a core of people who feel they have nothing to lose and are ready to die for him.

The problem is that most of Saddam's troops have largely left him. Those fighting in Baghdad are mostly Al Qaida insurgents and Arab volunteers who were recruited to conduct suicide missions. These people are not fighting for Saddam; they are fighting the Western coalition and fully intend to take over Iraq if they succeed. It's the second stage of Al Qaida's war against the West, only the stakes are Iraq.

The Muslim fight against coalition forces is largely a Sunni affair. But Shi'ites are expecting such allies as Iran and Hizbullah to intervene.

In the end, the prospect of a Sunni-Shia war in Iraq looms large.


Iraq's air and missile force believed hidden in underground bunkers

U.S. intelligence officials have been unable to find much of Saddam's military. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Where are the missiles? Where are the fighter-jets?

How do you hide 100 combat jets?

Intelligence officials said Saddam has done his homework. Since the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam has been preparing bunkers for his air force. Then, he spread the aircraft in underground hangars around Iraq, a territory the size of Texas.

It could take the United States or anybody else years before the MiG-29s and MiG-25s are found.

The missiles were also believed to have stored in the mountainous areas between Iraq and Syria. Many of the missiles and launchers have been hidden in tractor-trailers inside Syria.


Until end, Saddam nurtured his bond with Russia's defense industry

Even today, Saddam has friends. And his best friends continue to be the Russians.

Last month, on the eve of the war, Saddam honored two ex-Soviet generals. They were Vladislav Achalov and Igor Maltsev, purged from the Soviet military for supporting the abortive August 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. They had no future with either Gorbachev or his successor, Boris Yeltsin. But the generals had plenty of friends and supporters in the military, parliament and particularly the defense industry.

Over the past few years, Achalov and Maltsev were believed to have helped Iraq procure weapons and training for Saddam's forces. The two ex-generals made a series of trips to Baghdad to help Saddam prepare the Republican Guard for the war against the United States.

On the eve of the war, Saddam wanted to show his appreciation. On March 10, Saddam personally honored the two ex-generals in a secret ceremony. For Saddam, this was almost unprecedented.

Russian President Vladimir Putin probably didn't know anything about these trips. But other officials and those in parliament knew about the ex-generals. The Russian defense industry and military have long had a large foothold in Iraq and scores of Russian advisers helped Saddam prepare the army for the current war.