Where Is Saddam? Everyone wants to know, nobody does, and there are numerous media theories to fill the vacuum. Some say Syria, others on route, and in Tehran the view of at least one analyst is that Saddam has been evacuated to Russia, a story seemingly confirmed on Al Jazeera by a Russian official.
Iraqi Leaders Are Nowhere To Be Seen
Forces May Be Protecting Figures Near Syria Border
By Dana Priest and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 10, 2003; Page A01
Secret CIA and military teams in Iraq and surveillance devices set up to monitor Saddam Hussein's inner circle reported yesterday that nearly the entire Iraqi leadership had vanished.
U.S. military commanders said they suspected that some leaders had headed to Hussein's hometown of Tikrit for a final bloody showdown and that others had fled to Syria. Dogged fighting by Iraqi forces at Qaim, near the Syrian border, has led some U.S. and British officials to suspect that Iraqi troops there may be protecting important Iraqi leaders or family members, although it was not clear who.
As Baghdad slipped from Hussein's control yesterday, covert CIA and Special Operations teams dedicated to killing or capturing the Iraqi president and senior leaders discovered that the Baath Party leaders, Republican Guard leaders, troops and high-level government officials they had targeted were not at their usual posts. Even the information minister, who had been briefing journalists with outlandish versions of daily events, did not go to work.
"All of a sudden, all communications ceased and the regime didn't come to work," was the way one senior administration official described what happened in Baghdad. "Even the minders for [foreign] journalists did not go to work," he added.
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Could Saddam Hussein be striking a last-minute
Al Jazeera English Edition
Iraqi president Saddam Hussein may be negotiating an eleventh-hour deal that could see him exiled to a safe country.
Speculation has rife as to whether Saddam Hussein is dead, alive, staying with his government or fleeing. In the last few minutes Lebanese television has reported that he is in the safety of the Russian embassy.
Al Jazeera's correspondent in Moscow reported earlier today that the Russian delegation that came under fire from US forces as it left Baghdad on 7 April may have been dealing with senior representatives of the Iraqi government in guaranteeing a safe exit for Saddam Hussein.
“This explains the lack of resistance by the Republican Guard and Iraqi forces,” a Russian general told Al-Jazeera on condition of anonymity.
Akram Khouzam, Al-Jazeera’s reporter in Moscow, reports that the general's claim may explain the absence of organised resistance in Iraq, even in the capital itself where communications could not have been disrupted completely.
Baghdad had been expected to put up stiff resistance to the US-led invasion but in the event it appears to have capitulated, with the Iraqi military putting up less opposition than in more poorly defended places such as Umm Qasr and Basra.
Russian intelligence has officially denied reports that diplomats who left Baghdad last week took with them Saddam’s secret archive, saying this allegation was being made to justify the US attack on the diplomatic convoy last week.
However, the Russian general speaking by phone to Al-Jazeera said his claims were based on the cooperation of Saddam and a group of his close officials with the United States during the Iran-Iraq war and encouragement for Saddam to invade Kuwait in 1991.
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Analysis: Is Saddam Waldo?
Iraq.ru - Roland Flamini/UPI
Suddenly, it was gone. Overnight, the regime of Saddam Hussein had vanished, leaving behind a dangerous mixture of euphoria, looting and pockets of resistance battling for a cause that was not so much lost as spirited away, as if in some magician's cloud of smoke.
Not only had Saddam himself vanished, but so had every other senior Iraqi official. Where was Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the smooth-talking front man of an oppressive regime, last seen with -- of all people -- Pope John Paul II? Where was Saeed al-Sahhaf, Saddam's fast-talking court jester and so-called minister of information, who only the day before had been assuring journalists that there was no danger of a U.S. breakthrough into Baghdad? Where were all the other middle-aged men in baggy uniforms who sat with Saddam in the news clips?
Analysts say Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was premature Wednesday in consigning Saddam to the "pantheon of failed dictators" along with Hitler and Romanian despot Nicolae Ceausescu. They do not believe that Saddam is buried under the rubble of a bombed Baghdad restaurant.
If Saddam is not found dead, or caught alive, it will be the worst of all possible closures for the war against Iraq. It will give hope to his followers, and once the euphoria has faded, will cast a threatening shadow over Iraq. This situation requires a corpus delecti -- and a recognizable one at that -- or a fallen leader to be sent to trial.
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By Parviz Esmaeili
Almost 10 days ago, there was a halt in U.S.-British operations in Iraq. However, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the chief of the U.S. Central Command, General Tommy Franks, in their interviews with the media never elaborated on the issue, but instead tried to mislead world public opinion in order to hide a greater secret decision from them.
Suspicions rose on the same day when U.S. troops, that had been stopped at the Euphrates, immediately were able to advance toward the heart of Baghdad without any significant resistance by Iraqi forces. Nobody asked why Tikrit, that was once called the ideological heart of Saddam's government and the last possible trench of the Iraqi army, was never targeted by U.S. and British bombs and missiles. Or why when the elite Iraqi forces arrived in eastern Iraq from Tikrit, the pace of the invaders advancing toward central Baghdad immediately increased. Also, it has been reported that over the past 24 hours, a plane was authorized to leave Iraq bound for Russia. Who was aboard this plane?
All these ambiguities, the contradictory reports about Saddam's situation, and the fact that the highest-ranking Iraqi officials were all represented by a single individual -- Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahhaf -- and the easy fall of Baghdad shows that the center of collusion had been Tikrit, where Saddam, his aides, and lieutenants from the Baath Party had been waiting for al-Sahhaf to join them so that they could receive the required guarantees to leave the country in a secret compromise with coalition forces.
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