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.
This possibility was confirmed by the Al-Jazeera network, which quoted a Russian intelligence official as saying that the Iraqi forces and the invaders had made a deal. The Russian official told Al-Jazeera that the Iraqi leaders had agreed to show no serious resistance against the U.S.-British troops in return for a guarantee that Saddam and his close relatives could leave Iraq unharmed.
The question now is whether the U.S. would prefer Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to be dead or wants him alive to be tried. There may even be a third alternative that the White House is looking far. It seems that U.S. officials would welcome a solution where Saddam was found, either dead or alive.
First of all, the White House hawks and U.S. President George W. Bush would definitely not be saddened to hear that reports claiming that Saddam was killed, which were highlighted by the U.S. media on Tuesday after a missile attack on an underground restaurant in Baghdad, have been verified.
This is because they do not want the Iraqi people to ever find out about the secrets of the clandestine political cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq. On the other hand, Saddam's death would mean that the weak Iraqi regime has been completely defeated, and this may to some extent satisfy Washington's feeling of militarism.