How much will it matter?
Saddam Hussein's capture may not end attacks by insurgents. But for a day, Iraqis celebrate.
The streets of Baghdad erupted with celebratory gunfire Sunday as news of Saddam Hussein's capture spread, marking the end of an eight-month manhunt - and what some Iraqis are calling the true beginning of the nation's renaissance.Skip to next paragraph
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Jubilant Iraqis honked car horns, waved flags, and gathered on the streets. "This is a birthday for all 25 million Iraqis. We have suffered terribly under Saddam Hussein but now the country is complete," said Hadi Jassem, one of several Shiite marchers brandishing flags.
Coalition officials and senior Iraqis hail the capture as removing a deep-rooted fear among many Iraqis that the man who ruled here for 24 years could one day return to power. It's also a major blow to the morale of Baathists in the Iraqi insurgency. But military analysts warn this isn't yet the end of the attacks on US troops and its allies.
"This is a huge morale boost for the US and coalition and does lop the head off the Fedayeen and others who work in Saddam's name," says Paul Beaver, a British military analyst, adding that there are other groups at work. "We won't see an end to the violence. But this could be the beginning of the end."
Hussein may provide some intelligence about his role and that of the other leaders of the insurgency campaign, including Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, once vice chairman of the Baath Party's Revolutionary Command Council and Hussein's closest confidant.
"If we get intel from him, it will certainly give a boost to rounding up the die-hards, and stemming the funding," says Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert and former US government analyst. But the arrest won't end the resistance: "It's not a magic wand. The insurgency now is more broadly grounded."
It may be too soon to judge the impact of the capture on the resistance, since the exact makeup remains unknown. A recent Congressional Research Service report lists 15 separate groups battling US-led forces in Iraq, from Hussein loyalists to Al Qaeda operatives.
"The anecdotal evidence of those who have actually met them [the insurgents] suggests that the resistance is self-generating," and was barely directed by the ousted Iraqi leader, says Tim Ripley, at the Center for Defense and International Security Studies at Britain's University of Lancaster. "It doesn't paint a picture of them worshiping Saddam Hussein every day."
Most of the insurgents are Sunni Islamists, foreign fighters, and ordinary Iraqis who simply have tired of the United States-led occupation, say analysts.
Larry Seaquist, retired US Navy warship captain and Pentagon strategist, says that the US-led coalition may find that the security challenge will get harder in the days ahead. "Now that Saddam is in custody, there is no one to blame for the problems in establishing security and restoring the economic infrastructure. Thus the frustration with the Americans - and the concomitant attacks on them - may well escalate."
Michael O'Hanlon, defense expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, says: "On a scale of 1 to 10, as single events go, this is close to a 10 in importance - but single events don't win counterinsurgencies or hearts and minds."
Indeed, almost forgotten amid the jubilation and back-slapping over Hussein's capture was a suspected suicide car-bomb attack hours earlier against a police station in Khaldiyeh, 50 miles west of Baghdad, in which at least 17 Iraqis were killed and another 33 wounded. Sunday, a gasoline truck exploded in central Baghdad and an American soldier also was killed while attempting to defuse a roadside bomb.