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Not for the Sake of Saddam - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The execution of Saddam Hussein will fuel the sectarian war between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shia, whether Nuri al Maliki and Mouwaffaq al Rubaie like it or not and whether they declare national reconciliation or not.

Regrettably this is what happened in Saddam Hussein’s trial, particularly in its final chapters, during which the ousted president himself became a problem and his fate and trial became issues that could well contribute to steering the political and security situation in Iraq between the warring parties, whereas Saddam’s trial could have been the opportunity to turn over a new page in a new Iraq, a page that is written by all Iraqis without being confined to the Shia or Kurds; after all, Saddam killed and oppressed all Iraqis and not one party over another.

Saddam has been executed and what has happened has happened.

In fact, as the execution took place, Saddam Hussein appeared composed and fearless and adhered to his ideas and statements until his last breath.

The question is what now?! And before that, who is practically benefiting from Saddam’s execution in this odd way and even stranger at this timing – Eid ul-Adha?!

When Saddam was sentenced to death on November 5, I wrote “If it had been my decision, I would have chosen a life sentence over a death sentence for Saddam Hussein,” in order for Iraq to develop a new methodology and completely turn over a new leaf, in disagreement with al Maliki or al Rubaie. This is not for the sake of maintaining the life of Saddam Hussein, since he committed horrific crimes, but for the sake of removing the terms ‘killing’ and ‘counter-killing’ from our political life. Sublimity lies in rising above the language of revenge and ceaseless hatred. Interviewed by a US satellite television channel, National Security Advisor Mouwaffaq al Rubaie said that he was personally tortured and imprisoned under Saddam Hussein, which portrays al Maliki’s government, which ratified the ruling, as directly and personally interested in killing Saddam Hussein. At this point, we are faced more with individual or partisan acts of revenge rather than superior thinking that stems from the responsible political sense.

In this respect, we remind those who executed Saddam Hussein and those who said his execution would turn over a new leaf in Iraq of both near and distant history. Execution, killing and revenge have never been a cure-all for security. Saddam killed the comrades of yesterday, deposed al Bakr and staged a coup against Arif, who staged a coup against Qassim, who staged a coup against the monarchy.

This conjures up an old/new story in Iraq of when Musaab Ibn al Zubair defeated and beheaded Mukhtar Ibn Abu Ubaid al Thaqafi and the head was brought before Ibn al Zubair, just as the head of Abdullah Ibn Ziad, who killed Hussain Ibn Ali, was placed before Mukhtar, the head of Hussain was brought before Ibn Ziad, and the head of Musaab Ibn al Zubair himself was placed before Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, and so on and so forth – a vicious circle of killing.

Now, we ask: who will benefit and what next?!

Firstly, one who is rational or aware of what Saddam did can defend neither him nor his actions; the man perpetrated many crimes and deserved punishment. However, the problem is that the Saddam issue came to resemble a share at the Iraqi stock exchange. The Sunnis, perhaps with the exception of Al Qaeda, regard Saddam as their only symbol in light of the sectarian and ethnic alignments in Iraq. Everybody is intimidating there and has a “legitimate” militia, from the Shia to the Kurds. The Sunnis, however, have no symbolic figure, and if any, they are non-convincing figures or unlawfully recognized hard-line hawks such as Harith al Dari.

Therefore, in light of these givens and with Saddam’s protracted trial, rhetoric, defiance of the court and with the spiraling violence against the Americans and al Maliki’s government at the hands of Baathists or Sunni resistance groups, an evident need for a leading symbol emerged and it is at this point that Saddam Hussein became the object of hope. On one hand, the accelerating of his execution by Nuri al Maliki and the Shia political class was intended to get rid of any ideas of rehabilitating Saddam Hussein, or transforming his fate (by keeping him alive) into a bargaining chip that can be played by his supporters from Sunni and Baathist resistance. On the other hand, the ruling Shia political class in Iraq believes that executing and taking revenge is a “fateful” issue and a dream that motivates the partisan mobilization machine for the Shia bases. Even all the symbolic figures of this class, such as Hussein al Shahristani – whose memoirs about his imprisonment under Saddam are a must-read – Mouwaffaq al Rubaie, Nuri al Maliki, Jaafari and Solagh, envision Saddam as a new “Shamir Ibn Dhi al Jawshan” or Yazid Ibn Muawiyah, the icons of evil in their minds. Perhaps the Americans leaked to them that there was controversy and talk surrounding the fate of Saddam and thus handed him over to them, prompting them to seize the opportunity and proceed to execute him to impose a fait accompli.

But were the Iranians aware of that? Did al Maliki and the ruling Shia class consult their sponsor, Iran, in this respect?!

Undoubtedly, they would not have made a decision without permission from or informing Iran, which represents their “strategic depth”. Iraq’s new men, such as Massoud al Barzani, know that al Hakim would sometimes leave the room whilst drafting the constitution to phone Tehran to receive instructions!

Nevertheless, what is the Iranian interest in agitating the Sunnis and executing Saddam in this manner and at this time?!

The answer is vague, and we know nothing for sure. There is one opinion that Iran wants to set Iraq ablaze and burn it under the feet of the Americans and make the task difficult for regional countries, especially Saudi Arabia, by triggering a real civil war to show that ‘only we, the Iranians, are able to pacify the Shia and neutralize the violence; either you acknowledge our capability of influencing events as we possess the key to both heaven and hell in Iraq, or we will ruin all your projects and ultimately you will resort to us.’ Iran’s internal political motivation in Iraq is to show the Shia that Iran is taking vengeance for them and healing their wounds.

There is yet another opinion that says, “Iran will not benefit from Saddam’s execution in this manner as Saddam, to them, was finished practically for a long time and Iran sought to appear non-sectarian to the Muslim world. The killing of Saddam Hussein by the executioners who chanted the names of Muqtada al Sadr and Muhammad Baqer al Sadr, who headed the Dawa Party, will certainly provoke the Sunnis, not only in Iraq but throughout the whole world, against the Shia, which will compel Iran, the Shia protector, to defend them. At that point, Iran will find that it is not the leader of the Muslim world, to which its leaders and mullahs aspire to be, but a mere sectarian state that protects Shia groups in the east and west. Perhaps this explains the recent angry comments of Ayatollah Khamenei who said that whoever reiterates the term the “Shia crescent” betrays the Muslim nation.

The upcoming days will reveal the nature of the Iranian contribution to this issue. However, what is strange is the American role; why did the Americans hand over Saddam to the Dawa Party and the followers of al Sadr and al Hakim? Were the Americans unaware that Saddam’s execution in this gloomy atmosphere would aggravate the civil war in Iraq?!

Is this yet another blunder in the series of mistakes committed by the Americans in Iraq? Is it that Bush suffers from a severe condition of “deficiency” and is in dire need of victories so through the execution of Saddam, the “new Hitler,” he intends to send a powerful message within America, which is on the verge of elections, to show that he is doing something great in Iraq?

Or is it that the Americans want to involve the Iranians and Shia in confrontation with the Sunni extremist trend and abandon such confrontation using the proxy-war tactics?!

We do not know either; however what is certain is that Saddam’s execution on the day of Eid ul-Adha is a message of which only some of the lines are visible, and the remainder of which will only be understood in the future.

Another thing that is certain is that the state of confrontation between the Iranian ambitions and the Saudi-led Arab camp is evident. Saudi Arabia, which issued a prompt statement condemning the “premeditated” act and the Egyptian statement, will make the next period one heated by conflict.

It is only natural that one feels concerned over the growing sectarianism and the danger of the Iranian expansion. What raises even more concern is that sectarianism will grow in defiance of us, and many will fall prey to this tremendous fermentation.

Apparently this fermentation will subside only when Iran returns to the limits of its internal borders and gives up its ambitions in the region.

We have a new appointment with tension, war and sedition. He who believes that what happened in Iraq was the climax is mistaken, as there are higher peaks that are yet appear! The fire of such sedition will ruin everything – security, peace and development, as well as religious tolerance.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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