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Iraqis Against Saddam Irked At US Attacks

Opposition fears strategy only strengthens his grip, complicates its own efforts

By Jim MuirSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / January 20, 1993


PRESIDENT Bush is going, but his archenemy, Saddam Hussein, stays on, firmly in power in Baghdad and as defiant as ever despite the punishment meted out by coalition jets and missiles.

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Those Iraqis most dedicated to bringing about Saddam's downfall have few illusions about the prospects of unseating him soon - and many are bitterly critical of the current Western campaign, fearing it will only strengthen his grip and complicate their task.

"If the allies continue like this, I wouldn't be surprised if Saddam is still there in four years' time, when Clinton's term expires," says Haidar Abbas, spokesman for the radical Iranian-backed Al-Daawa party, one of dozens of Iraqi opposition factions.

Not only Islamic radicals like Al-Daawa, but also many of the traditionally and strongly pro-Western liberals and democrats who make up the middle ground of the exiled Iraqi opposition, are dismayed by the latest coalition moves.

"What is the objective of all this? Is it to destroy a few Iraqi missiles here or a factory there, or to kill a few civilians, in order to `frighten Saddam into line'? He will never, never give up; the man is beyond redemption," says Walid al-Tamimi, a leading member of the Association of Iraqi Democrats.

"I am shocked when I hear Bush or [British Prime Minister John] Major saying they are delivering Saddam a message," he adds. "Saddam couldn't care less about Iraqi people's lives and property. They are the most disposable items he possesses. If you destroy a factory he built or a weapon he bought, he isn't going to be upset, he's going to use it to his advantage. And that's just what he's doing." `In fact it hinders'

"This kind of operation by the allies doesn't really help us; in fact it hinders," adds Sabah Kathim, senior adviser to Gen. Hassan al-Naqib, one of the few prominent Sunni Muslims and ex-Army men in the opposition. "Unless they really do something serious about removing Saddam himself, two or three days of bombing will make little difference. They should either bomb Saddam seriously, or let the opposition work without these hindrances."

Saddam's successful defiance, many opposition sources argue, encourages those around him to believe he will survive and that they had better stick by him. Weaning such people away from him is one of the key objectives of the opposition's strategy.

Many also assert Saddam triggered the current crisis because of mounting domestic economic discontent resulting from the international embargo, and that the West has played into his hands by letting him externalize the crisis.

"Before this happened, he had a lot of internal difficulties, but now he has distracted attention to something outside Iraq, to the allies, the Americans," says Mr. Abbas of Al-Daawa. "The raids encourage people to rally 'round him, and those close to him stay put because they think the man is not going to fall."

But there are also optimists who disagree and who see advantage in the current situation.