Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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December 2, 2002

Iraqi Leadership Moves Discreetly to Conflict Locations

Exclusive. By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Analyst, GIS. Several key strategic developments took place in Iraq while the US was celebrating its Thanksgiving long weekend.

First, Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein suddenly left Baghdad to move to a fortified hiding place somewhere on the outskirts of Al-Habbaniyah (50 miles north-west of Baghdad), along with Latif Nasif Jasim; Ahmad Habbushi, and élite forces from the Army and the Air Force.

Concurrently, Pres. Saddam’s son and heir, Qusay, along with Taha Yassin Ramadan, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and Lt.-Gen. Kamal Mustafa moved together to another secret location just west of Baghdad.

No explanation was given for the sudden moves. According to Iranian sources, there has been no contact with Saddam and his immediate entourage. Consequently, Iraq was, by about November 29, 2002, effectively controlled by Qusay and the leadership team hiding with him.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein’s half brothers, Barzan and Watban (who control the family money hidden in the West and maintain Saddam’s emergency contacts with west European governments), arrived in Amman, Jordan, from their postings in western Europe. There, they met with emissaries of a few foreign countries to discuss emergency relocation of key family members and substantial amounts of cash.

These developments are noteworthy if only because the West’s worst-case scenario regarding the US-led confrontation with Iraq is based on an Iraqi surprise attack on Israel while the UN weapons inspectors are still in Iraq and thus constitute a human shield protecting Iraq against an anticipated Israeli retaliation using strategic weapons.