Saddam's prodigals risk road back to Baghdad

Iraq's most famous defector, Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel al-Majid, made a mistake immediately after he fled to Jordan last August. As the man who had been in charge of Iraq's arms procurement programme, and the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, he had unique knowledge of the plans of the Iraqi leadership. He could have bartered their secrets for a comfortable exile.

Instead, he told everything he knew about Iraq's nuclear and chemical weapons in the first days after he reached Amman. Once the US and its allies had questioned him, they had no reason to let him leave Jordan. The general was forced to remain, with his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Saddam Kamel, and their wives, Raghda and Rana - the daughters of Saddam Hussein - in a palace belonging to King Hussein.

It became obvious within days of the exiles' arrival that they were not their own masters. General Hussein Kamel was in effect controlled by Jordanian security, which prevented him giving interviews. He was rejected by the Iraqi opposition as being part of President Saddam's regime, and the man who had been in overall charge of the bloody repression of the uprising in Kerbala and Najaf, two Shia Muslim cities, in 1991.

The general could have played his hand better. "The problem," said one Iraqi with first-hand knowledge of his recent behaviour, is that "he is a complete jerk". He owed his authority to his relationship with Saddam Hussein; Iraqi propaganda in the 1980s had portrayed him as the founder of the elite Republican Guards, but he was deeply unpopular in the officer corps. And his personal incapacity became more obvious the longer he stayed in Amman. He had hoped to be received in Syria and Saudi Arabia, but both visits were cancelled. It also became clear that King Hussein was keeping his distance.

But what kind of future will General Hussein Kamel face in Iraq? Iraqi officials say he is covered by an amnesty issued last year. The general and his brother fled in August because of threats from Uday, Saddam Hussein's elder son, who shot his uncle Watban in the leg at a drunken party in Baghdad; the regime has said that Uday's power would be curtailed.

General Hussein Kamel is, therefore, probably in no immediate danger, although he was denounced by the Iraqi media immediately after his defection, when a semi-literate note he had sent to Saddam Hussein, obsequious even by Iraqi standards, was published in the Iraqi press.

In fact, the return of Saddam's daughters and their husbands will be a propaganda coup for the regime. When General Hussein Kamel fled, covert parties were held in Baghdad, the revellers hoping that the family around Saddam Hussein was beginning to fragment. Their hopes were in vain.

It could all have been so different. If the general and his brother had refused to reveal their secrets until they were in London or Washington, it would have been difficult to turn them down. Instead, they gave away their only card. They became pariahs in Amman whom nobody - Jordanians, Americans or Iraqi opposition - wanted to know. The road to Baghdad began, once again, to look attractive.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Consultants - OTE up to £35,000

£15000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Franchise Operations Manager - Midlands or North West

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The position will be home based...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent publishing and...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue