July 23, 2003

The Death of Saddam's Sons

The Death of Saddam's Sons

When the Independent is describing a "major breakthrough" for Americans in Iraq you know it has been a good day for the coalition in Iraq. Of course, the death of Saddam's two sons certainly provides some much needed unambiguously good news from Iraq. And lends further blows to deposed ruler Saddam's dwindling psychological hold on that country. As Haaretz points out:

"The fact that former senior Ba'ath members will express no sorrow at their deaths, will, for most of Iraq's citizens, come as a big revelation." Indeed.

Still, don't expect a major dimunition in guerrilla activity. It's unlikely Saddam's sons were involved in coordinating such actions--they were most likely in full-blown hiding mode.

Also a possibility, per Haaretz:

"In fact, in the short term, the manner of their deaths could boost more resistance operations against U.S. troops: unlike other Iraqi leaders who turned themselves in, Uday and Qusay fought until the bitter end against the enemy, which
turned them into shahids (martyrs)."

Some bitter dead-enders and Baathist loyalists might indeed transmogrify Saddam's sons into martyrs and help stoke reinvigorated jihadist instincts in the short term based on such misguided mythologies. But the bottom line is that their deaths lend further severe blows to the possibility of the Baathists presenting a middle-to-long term threat to the coalition. Should the father have been killed first their continued presence would still have loomed as a threat per notions of succession.

At the present juncture, aside from new figures in the post-war Iraq scene antagonistic to American interests, the coalition now needs to focus like a laser on Saddam. Once he is apprehended or killed we will likely hear less about the dwindling morale of U.S. troops and more about the slackening of morale among Baathists loyalists. And, assuming we can then start winning hearts and minds in the "Sunni Triangle" and reach accords with moderate Shi'a that marginalize Sadr and the like, autumn in Iraq could prove a significantly better season for coalition efforts than the difficult summer we have confronted so far.

Worth noting too--any segments of the Iraqi population that mythologize such reprehensible personages like Uday or Qusay won't find much fellow-feeling or succor in the population at large--given the brutalities they visited on the Iraqis for so many long years. Thus the celebratory gunfire that broke out in Baghdad upon news of the death of these two loathsome figures.

UPDATE: The WaPo on shifting intelligence tactics being employed to capture or kill Iraqi fugitives and the "gang of 9,000".

Also take a look at the competing WaPo and NYT mastheads. The former is titled "A Good Day in Iraq" and describes how the death of Saddam's sons could represent a turning point for coalition efforts in Iraq. The latter dampens any cheer and speaks of unanswered questions in the wake of their deaths related to what role, if any, the sons had in the guerilla-style activities of the past months.

The WaPo better understands the current state of play when it writes:

"An opportunity exists for the United States to make this a turning point for the postwar administration. As it happened, the successful operation by troops of the 101st Airborne Division coincided with the first appearance of the new Iraqi Governing Council before the United Nations Security Council, another step by that body in establishing its authority and credibility. The occupation authority under L. Paul Bremer showed flexibility in agreeing to grant the Iraqi council more powers than originally intended. The Pentagon has also embraced one of the Iraqis' ideas in forming militia units that can take over some of the patrol and guard duty now done by Americans. This process of replacing American with Iraqi faces and modifying U.S. plans to accommodate Iraqi initiatives should be accelerated in the coming weeks."

UPDATE: Gosh, maybe I've got a NYT issue. Even Andrew Sullivan is giving them a pass on this masthead!

Posted by Gregory at July 23, 2003 01:51 AM
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