The latest intelligence from the U.S. and Britain says Saddam may have lived through two bunker bombs. “This is a man who has spent a lifetime trying to avoid and evade assassins and military coups,” says Richard Clarke, who was a national security adviser at the White House until recently. “There’s really no explanation anyone has to this moment about how he survived.” After the recent restaurant bombing, “American covert agents or special forces saw him get out of the car and go into the restaurant or the house next to it,” says Clarke. “Apparently someone saw what looked like Saddam Hussein being taken out of the restaurant by his bodyguards.”
It’s now thought that Saddam and his ministers may have escaped to his hometown of Tikrit or to Syria, where we now know that many members of his family are staying. “We’re getting intelligence saying Syria’s been cooperative in moving people out of Iraq to Syria,” says Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “They are moving from Syria to still other places.”
“He is always looking for his bolt hole,” says Vince Cannistraro, a former senior intelligence officer. “Whatever action he takes, he’s always looking the next step ahead: ‘What if something happens here. Where do I go next?'”
After the second Saddam bombing, leadership communication signals disappeared, which is a sign that Saddam’s son Qusay, who was in charge of the defense of Baghdad, had been killed. “There’s been no sign he’s been active since that Monday evening bombing,” says Cannistraro.
Russian officials deny that Saddam took exile in their embassy in Baghdad, although he was trying to negotiate such a deal. The Russian ambassador to Iraq, Vladimir Titorenko, returned unexpectedly to Baghdad after leaving on Saturday. This was shortly after a visit to Moscow by U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “This type of statement is not in any way true,” says Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko. “This is another attempt to place our embassy in Baghdad under threat.”
Russian media reported that CIA teams have failed to find the archives of the Saddam regime, which are believed to have been transferred to the Russian embassy in Baghdad. Iraqi intelligence agents have seized documents in several foreign capitals, to prevent them from falling into coalition hands.
Saddam’s biographer Com Coughlin says he would want to make his final stand in Tikrit. He says, “It is in Tikrit that he has his tribesman. He has proper support. People will conceal him; they won’t betray him. I think Saddam will stay in Tikrit, even if he means he dies in Tikrit.”
Mohammed Al Douri, Iraqi envoy to the United Nations, says, “The game is over.”
Whether he has 9 lives or not, Saddam will soon find himself part of the afterlife.
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