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Saddam Sentence Makes History

But what are likely to be the consequences of this verdict? Would Saddam's execution bring peace to war-torn Iraq, or would the contrary -- fear of more violence and deepened sectarian divisions among Iraqis?
by Samar Kadi
Beir (UPI) Nov 07, 2006
Saddam Hussein will enter history as the first Arab head of state to be tried and sentenced to death after being deposed by a foreign invasion. Until now Arab leaders have either ruled for life or been ousted by coups d'etat. The death sentence handed to Saddam, once a powerful, albeit brutal leader during his three-decade rule is indeed a first. His sentencing, however, remains questionable since Saddam was deposed by foreign occupation forces and not by Iraqis themselves.

Moreover, the tribunal that Sunday sentenced him and two of his aides, including his half brother Barzan Takriti, for crimes against humanity in the massacre of Shiites in the town of Dujail in 1982, was established by the U.S. authorities -- raising doubts among some Iraqis on its integrity.

Libyan law professor Ahmed Khalifa expressed the views of many in the Arab region when he described the death sentence against Saddam as "a political verdict" and not a judicial one.

"This Court was set up since the beginning to convict the man," Khalifa told United Press International.

It was no surprise that Arab leaders refrained from commenting on Saddam's death sentence -- another embarrassing issue they prefer to ignore. Official reactions were restricted to Kuwait and Jordan

Kuwaiti officials welcomed the verdict against the man who sent his troops into the oil-rich tiny emirate in 1990, claming it was part of Iraq. They described the death sentence as "a just punishment for the tyrant" who committed many crimes against Kuwait and his own people.

"Saddam's verdict is a normal end for a man who harmed his own people, Kuwait and the whole world," Parliament Speaker Jassem al-Khorafi said shortly after the verdict was announced.

Jordan, another neighbor of Iraq, whose anti-U.S. public opinion is largely sympathetic of Saddam, adopted a more cautious stance.

"We consider the rulings as a strictly domestic Iraqi matter ... There is a standing regime in Iraq, an elected parliament and government as well as special judicial procedures," government spokesman Nasser Jawdeh said Monday.

Jawdeh said Jordan's main concern is "Iraq's unity, safety and security and the need to end the ordeal of the Iraqis."

But what are likely to be the consequences of this verdict? Would Saddam's execution bring peace to war-torn Iraq, or would the contrary -- fear of more violence and deepened sectarian divisions among Iraqis?

The Sunnis denounced the sentences as being dictated in advance by the U.S. occupant with the trial being nothing more than a fašade or a charade. Shiites and Kurds rejoiced at the verdict which they believe Saddam deserved as punishment for ruling Iraq with an iron fist and tyrannizing the majority Shiite community and Sunni Kurds for almost three decades.

"It would have been beautiful if the tyrant was convicted for what he has committed while Iraq is living a real democracy," wrote Ghassan Sharbel, editor in chief of pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. "It's beautiful that the dictator is brought to justice.... But something is disturbing the celebration ... Maybe it's the feeling that the death sentence was carried out against Iraq before being carried out against Saddam."

According to Sharbel, sentencing Saddam to death by hanging was justified because of what he had committed inside and outside Iraq. "But there is no justification for celebration... We are witnessing the disintegration of a state ... and post-Saddam Iraq seems more dangerous to itself and its neighbors than the Iraq ruled by Saddam which was extremely dangerous."

Sharbel said in a front-page editorial Monday that those who rejoiced and danced when Saddam was deposed did 10 times more than he did and "their responsibility in the assassination of Iraq exceeds that of the occupation."

He warned that "sectarian divisions and killings and turning Iraq into an open battleground for the occupants on one side and those who flocked in under the pretext of fighting occupation is tantamount to putting Iraq to death."

In Amman, Jordanian political analysts sounded the alarm about the fallout of the death penalty, which they said will undoubtedly fuel violence between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq.

"There is no doubt that the decision to execute Saddam Hussein will fuel sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites and increase violence to unprecedented levels. Chances for national reconciliation will be extremely weakened," analyst Fahed al-Khaytan told United Press International. Another political analyst, Jameel al-Nimri, agreed that Saddam's execution will have "extremely dangerous repercussions" on Iraq in the short term, especially in aggravating sectarian divisions in the country. Furthermore, al-Nimri warned that if the court of appeal approves the death sentence, reconciliation efforts and reported negotiations with armed Sunni groups are bound to collapse.

Among the murmurs being spoken in the Arab street is that Saddam may be facing the fate he deserved, but who would judge the killers of tens of thousands of Iraqis slain since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003. Would they ever be brought to justice?

"The fear is that we wake up one day in an Iraq crowded with one thousand Saddams in a Middle East floating in civil wars, darkness, despotism, unknown corpses and arsenals," concluded Sherbal.

(Oraib al-Rintawi in Amman and Sadek al Tarhouni in Libya contributed to this report)

Source: United Press International

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A one-time Pentagon adviser, staunch neoconservative and one of the original architects of the war on Iraq, admitted that the Bush administration has turned the situation in the war-ravaged country and U.S. policy on Iraq into a disaster. Richard Perle, who in the early days of the Bush administration chaired a Pentagon advisory committee that was instrumental in convincing the president for the need to invade Iraq, told Vanity Fair magazine if he had been able to see how the war would turn out, he probably would not have pushed for the removal of Saddam Hussein.

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