Saddam, the 'incurable optimist,' is unlikely to abdicate

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ability to survive two wars convinced him that "he is uniquely lucky and that his fortune will never forsake him," according to a new report by the Brookings Institution.

Therefore, despite the offer of safe haven and immunity from war crimes prosecution from Arab and European Union states, he is unlikely to abdicate and enter exile.

The report said Saddam does not regard the relinquishing of power as an option. Saddam would rather demonstrate greater cooperation with the United Nations search for Iraqi missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

[On Tuesday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily reported that U.S. special forces have entered Baghdad and carried out a series of sabotage operations against government installations in the Iraqi capital. The newspaper said the explosions were not major, but prompted numerous arrests in Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported.]

"Saddam Hussein always believes that things are going to turn out in his favor, no matter how bad they might look to others," the report, authored by Amatzia Baram, an Israeli professor who has served as a consultant to the United States on Iraq, said. "Saddam's insurmountable optimism rests on his life of achievements in the face of overwhelming odds."

The report said Saddam's "incurable optimism" has led him to underestimate his adversaries and jeopardize his rule. Baram cited the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980 and his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The report said the Iraqi president continues to hope that anti-war sentiments in Europe will stop any U.S. attack on Baghdad.

The report said the Arab and European offers of asylum for Saddam, his family and aides have only bolstered the belief of the Iraqi president that his regime will survive. So far, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have discussed an offer of save haven for the Iraqi leadership.

"Indeed, the offers of asylum from foreign leaders and the stream of anti-war activists to Baghdad in recent weeks almost certainly have further convinced Saddam that Americans do not want to go to war and are desperately looking for a way out," the report said.

Baram said Saddam would consider abdication only when he and his aides are certain that the United States is about to launch a war for the destruction of his regime. But the report cited Saddam's rejection of a 1982 Iranian offer for him to resign as a way to end the Iranian offensive that threatened Baghdad.

"If and when he ever decides to adopt such painful decisions, though, this may be too late," the report said, "because the degree of certainty he would be needed to persuade him might only be achieved when the bombs start to fall on Baghdad, and maybe not even then."

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