In reported statement: Aziz says Saddam was sure he would survive the war
The ousted Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, refused to order a counterattack against the American forces when war erupted in March 2003 because he misjudged the initial ground thrust as a ruse and had been convinced earlier by Russian and French contacts that he could avoid or survive a land invasion, former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz has told interrogators, according to U.S. officials, cited by The Washington Post.
Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. authorities on April 24, has also said Baghdad did not possess stocks of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons on the eve of the war. Yet, Saddam personally ordered several secret programs to build or buy long-range missiles in defiance of international sanctions, according to Aziz's reported statements.
Aziz has told interrogators that French and Russian intermediaries repeatedly assured Saddam during late 2002 and early this year that they would block a U.S.-led war through delays and vetoes at the U.N. Security Council. Later, according to Aziz, the Iraqi president concluded after private talks with French and Russian contacts that the United States would probably wage a long air war first, as it had done in previous conflicts. By hunkering down and putting up a stiff defense, he might buy enough time to win a cease-fire brokered by Paris and Moscow.
Saddam emerged from these contacts convinced that the USA would not launch an immediate invasion of Iraq, according to Aziz, as U.S. officials described his statements, according to The Post. Even as U.S. and British forces massed on the Kuwaiti border, the Iraqi ruler was so sure of himself, Aziz reportedly said, that he refused to order an immediate military response when he heard reports that American ground forces were pouring into Iraq, concluding that the crossing was some sort of feint.
US interrogators asked Aziz whether Saddam was also trying to bluff Iran, fearful that his hostile neighbor might be developing weapons of mass destruction. Aziz replied, according to the senior U.S. official familiar with his interrogation reports: "Every time I brought up the issue with Saddam, he said, 'Don't worry about the Iranians. If they ever get WMD, the Americans and Israelis will destroy them.' "
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)