Saddam Hussein believes the United States will have to seek his help to quell the bloody insurgency in Iraq and open the way for U.S. forces to withdraw, his chief lawyer said Sunday.
Khalil al-Dulaimi argued in an interview with The Associated Press that the former leader is the key to returning stability to Iraq.
“He’s their last resort. They’re going to knock at his door eventually,” the lawyer said. Saddam is “the only person who can stop the resistance against the U.S. troops.”
There is no indication U.S. officials have considered seeking his help. While Saddam’s once dominant fellow Sunni Arabs are the backbone of the insurgency, the Shiite Muslim majority and Kurds repressed by his regime would be enflamed by his presence.
The comments from Al-Dulaimi, the head of Saddam’s defense team, portrayed a deposed leader who seems to hold out hope he can bargain his way out of trials that threaten him with the death penalty.
Al-Dulaimi said Saddam brought up the topic during a meeting Tuesday, and indicated he would be willing to help the United States — “for the sake of saving both peoples — the Iraqis and Americans.”
He quoted Saddam as saying:
“These puppets in the Iraqi government that the Americans brought to power are helpless. They can’t protect themselves or the Iraqi people. The Americans will certainly come to me, to Saddam Hussein’s legitimate leadership and to the Iraqi Baath Party, to rescue them from their huge quandary.”
Although he would not say exactly what Saddam might ask in return for helping, al-Dulaimi said it would not necessarily involve being reinstated as president of Iraq — a nation he ruled brutally and plunged into three devastating wars.
Verdict a bargaining chip?
The lawyer suggested, though, that Saddam might be willing to negotiate such help by making the verdict in his trial a bargaining chip.
Saddam and seven of his former officials are on trial in the deaths of 148 people during a crackdown on a Shiite village, and Iraqis widely expect the ousted leader to be sentenced to be hanged. He also is due to begin a second trial that could end with the death penalty.
When Saddam mentioned he expected the Americans to seek his help, al-Dulaimi said he asked the former leader if he would really be willing to help the country who toppled him from power.
Saddam replied that he would, said al-Dulaimi, a Sunni who considers Saddam to remain Iraq’s legitimate president.
“We will do that for the sake of preventing more bloodshed, for the liberty of all Iraqis,” al-Dulaimi quoted Saddam as saying.
Saddam predicted Iraq would “flourish within five years,” saying that was the time that would be needed for reconstruction that would transform the country into the envy of the region, the lawyer said.
He said Saddam also believes he will be given the death penalty in the current trial, which began in October. The prosecution summed up its case last Monday, and defense lawyers are to begin their final arguments July 10, after which the five judges are expected to take several months to reach a verdict.
Al-Dulaimi claimed the outcome of the trial has already been determined.
“The ongoing trial and verdict, which are already decided by Washington, are expected to result in the death penalty,” he said.
“The death penalty is political blackmail to pressure President Saddam to help the American forces out of their predicament in Iraq and to rescue it from the mess it created there.”
Al-Dulaimi said Washington also should look to Saddam as the only person who can stop the growing influence of Iran and radical Shiite Muslims in the region.
Pointing to Saddam’s 1980-88 war with Iran — a conflict in which the United States and others backed Iraq — he said Saddam served as a counterbalance to Iranian power.
The Bush administration should recognize the “hard reality” that the U.S. invasion of Iraq delivered the mostly secular Arab nation into the hands of Shiites strongly sympathetic to their larger Iranian neighbor, the lawyer said.
“Iran is the enemy of Arabs, Islam and the United States, and the only person who can stand in the face of Iran is Saddam Hussein,” he said.