Despite his imminent defeat (and perhaps his death), Saddam Hussein still has thousands of bodyguards and fighters ready to die for him. He has organized units that will fight to their death in his defense, including military intelligence, internal security forces, bodyguard details and youth militias. Also, volunteers are streaming into Iraq from other Muslim countries to defend Saddam, especially from Iran.

“Iraq has extensive military intelligence and internal security forces, and they are designed to force military units to be loyal to Saddam to the last,” says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Their success may be marginal in many areas, but some of these forces have combat elements, and many may feel their survival is tied to that of the regime.”

Palestinian volunteers are helping to defend Saddam’s regime as well. Militias of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian volunteers are the ones putting up most of the resistance against advancing U.S. troops in Baghdad. About 5,000 Palestinian and Arab volunteers are deployed around the city, firing at U.S. convoys, and they’re responsible for the suicide attacks. In some cases, volunteers detonated explosives belts as they pretended to surrender to coalition forces.

Despite vowing to remain neutral in the war, Iran’s senior leadership has sent paramilitary units across their border with Iraq to harass American soldiers. A CIA report says Iran’s Revolutionary Guard plan to wear Saudi and Kuwaiti military uniforms, in order to cause confusion on the battlefield. “This confirmed all of our suspicions that the Iranians are not our friends and not for peace in the region. They are in fact for a piece of the region,” says one U.S. intelligence official.

Hujjat al-Islam Hassan Rowhani, Iran’s national security adviser, says there will be no “happy ending to the way the Americans have chosen” to occupy Iraq. “The U.S. presence in the Middle East is worse than Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction,” he says.

Not satisfied with causing trouble in Iraq, Iran is backing a Palestinian insurgency group that’s making inroads into the Arab community in Israel, at a time when the U.S. hopes to promote peace talks there. Israeli officials have uncovered many links between the Islamic Jihad, which is financed by Iran, and Arabs in several Israeli communities. “This is a trend and we can no longer play it down,” says a senior Israeli security official.

One terrorist cell, started by Mahmoud Abdul Khalim when he was on a pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca in November 2000, is based in the Gaza Strip. “When Khalim returned to Israel, Islamic Jihad terrorists contacted him and asked him to establish a military cell in order to perpetrate attacks,” says the Israel Security Agency. “Khalim recruited Ibrahim Abdul Khamid and Mohammed Abdel Khamid, who agreed to work with him. The three planned to plant a bomb in a crowded place in the Haifa area and obtain weapons from Negev Bedouins.” The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, Jihad and other Islamic insurgency groups recruit Israeli Arabs during their religious pilgrimages to Mecca.

Is there hope for a peaceful future in the midst of so much hate? Maybe we all need the gift of understanding others around us.

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