IRAQI President Saddam Hussein's unexpected acceptance of an unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait is a last-minute attempt to save the country as it became clear to him that the United States might not stop at liberating Kuwait, according to Iraqi analysts here. His decision, they say, was also directed at preparing his people to defend Iraq should the US and its coalition partners pursue military, political, and economic pressures to topple the regime or to strip Iraq of its military power.
Ordinary Iraqis, in general, appear to welcome this decision although some express concern that without international guarantees Iraq might be in jeopardy.
``Thank God. I hope the destruction will end,'' sighed Zinab, an Iraqi woman, upon hearing the news. Iraqi workers at the Rashid Hotel congratulated each other, hopeful that the United Nations Security Council would not allow the bombardment of Iraq to continue.
On Feb. 26, Saddam addressed his people directly on radio to explain the decision to them. The Iraqi leader expressed no regret for invading Kuwait, but explained that the international balance of power did not allow Baghdad to keep it.
Repeating Iraqi historical claims to Kuwait, the Iraqi leader said that Aug. 2, the date when the Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait, would go down in history as the date when Iraq restored part of its territory.
Saddam said that the international balance of power, especially after the collapse of the communist bloc, did not allow the Iraqis to make their historical claim to Kuwait at this stage.
Iraqis on the street did not wait for Saddam to complete his speech to express their joy. Women yodeled out of windows and on the roof tops, while members of the popular army started shooting in the air with their Kalashnikov machine guns in celebration. Some were literally jumping and dancing.
Although many Iraqis agree with their president that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq, they had long reached the conclusion that it was the wrong time to restore Kuwait, let alone keep it. Furthermore, many argue that the goal of keeping Kuwait was not worth the sacrifices that the country and the people were expected to make.
``My father has always accused a new generation of not having the courage to restore Kuwait. In his mind Kuwait was, and will remain, part of Iraq,'' said Said Bazzaz, editor-in-chief of Jumhuriyyah newspaper.
But Saddam told his people that their sacrifices were not wasted. According to the Iraqi leader, Iraq achieved three objectives, which he did not claim were on his agenda when he sent troops to Kuwait.
The whole episode, Saddam said, exposed what he called ``the treacherous Arab regime.'' He implied that he did not believe that in the postwar era Arab people would accept those governments which had joined the coalition against Iraq.
The Iraqi press published an appeal by the Iraqi Baathist national leadership to the Arab people to revolt against the pro-US Arab governments.
``We call upon the Arab parties and masses to revolt against the treacherous regimes,'' the Feb. 26 statement said. The appeal reflected widespread Iraqi disappointment in Arab reaction.
But analysts here say that Saddam might still be betting on a last-minute Arab popular upheaval against the Arab governments which are taking part in the US-led coalition.
Anti-US demonstrations have already taken place in Egypt, while reports indicate that Saddam enjoys popular support in Syria (See related story, Page 4).
The Iraqi president must also be hoping that the Soviet Union - which he said did not do enough to prevent the war - and Iran will now back Iraq now that it has started implementation of the UN Security Council resolution concerning complete withdrawal.
The second achievement that Saddam claims Iraq realized was to trigger Arab opposition to foreign domination and to the US-advocated ``new world order.'' His message to the Arab people was: Iraq has done and is doing its part in fighting American domination. Now the Arab people should take part.
The third goal Iraq says it has achieved was to open a door to resolving the Palestinian problem.
``You [the Iraqi people] have knocked on the closed doors for a solution of the Palestinian problem,'' Saddam said.
Although the Iraqi leader was evidently trying to cover his withdrawal from Kuwait, at the same time, the fact that he has emerged as the first Arab leader who promised and did strike Israel is expected to lend credibility to his claim, at least among the Palestinians.
This article was censored by Iraqi officials.