Saddam 'will fall in nine months'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
PATRICK COCKBURN

Amman

"King Hussein thinks Saddam Hussein will go within the next nine months," says a Jordanian political specialist. The king's belief that the fall of the Iraqi leader is imminent has been growing since April when Baghdad rejected a plan, which Jordan had backed, for the sale of Iraqi oil under UN supervision. It crystallised on 8 August when General Hussein Kamel Hassan, President Saddam's son-in-law, fled to Amman.

King Hussein is involved in a delicate and possibly dangerous manoeuvre. He wants to conciliate the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, with whom he has been at odds since the Gulf war, by helping remove President Saddam from power and replacing him with a regime sympathetic to the Gulf war allies. He also wants to avoid rousing the hostility of Iraq or those in Jordan who still sympathise with the Iraqi leader.

Jordan denies that it is simply changing sides, but it may not look that way from Baghdad. On the Iraqi side of the border, the security on the road to Amman has been taken over in part by Fedayeen Saddam, the private militia of Uday, the son of President Saddam.

The presence of General Hussein Kamel in Amman makes Jordan for the first time central to the opposition to Iraq, but this attracts the suspicion of Jordan's neighbours. Saudi Arabia worries about the ambitions of the Hashemite dynasty - King Hussein's family - to return to power in Iraq, which it ruled until the last king was killed in 1958.

Syria fears a pro-American regime allied to Jordan taking over in Baghdad. Egypt is openly furious at being pushed to one side by King Hussein in deciding the future of Iraq.

Hussein Kamel may prove a dangerous guest in Jordan. His ambition is to get Saudi Arabian backing. He does not want to look like a Jordanian cat's-paw and would like to become a focus of opposition to Saddam Hussein.

King Hussein praised General Kamel extravagantly last week during a television broadcast, in which he denounced President Saddam for the first time. The following day the general gave three interviews to Arab papers over the phone, since when he has fallen silent.

King Hussein could close Iraq's last window on the world by sealing the border. This would cut Baghdad's last lifeline. Every day it sends up to 70,000 barrels of oil on road tankers to Jordan and in return is supplied with food and other goods worth $400m (pounds 258m) a year. A diplomat said: "He might shut the border if he thought Saddam was about to fall in the immediate future, but not otherwise."

Jordanians do not want to join the embargo but President Saddam has lost the popularity he had before the Gulf war, when his picture was displayed everywhere. Now it is only seen at an Iraqi trade centre in Amman.

Comments