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Saddam Execution May Take Toll on Situation in Iraq

Lawyers for Saddam Hussein made last-ditch attempts to save his life Friday as news surfaced that the former dictator could be executed at any time. A reporter and a professor discuss the likely impacts of the execution.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And for more on all this, we now go to Diane Orentlicher, a professor of international law at American University, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of a book about the occupation called "Imperial Life in the Emerald City." He's an assistant managing editor at the Washington Post, formerly the paper's Baghdad bureau chief.

    Welcome to both of you.

    RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, Author, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City": Thank you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Rajiv, what's your analysis of the confusion today and what looks like a rush to an execution?

  • RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN:

    Well, I'm not sure it had to be this confusing. It all got started with some of Saddam's lawyers telling the wire services and television networks that he'd been transferred to American custody. And this may just be a big semantic issue here.

    All along, Saddam has been technically in the custody of the — well, he's been held and guarded by Americans. He has been in the legal custody of the Iraqis. I'm sorry if I misspoke earlier. Saddam's lawyers said he had been transferred to Iraqi custody, in anticipation of an execution.

    So there might not have actually been anything happening other than American officials saying to his lawyers, "Well, we can't say when you can come and see him or deal with these final issues, because that's up to the Iraqis to decide." And I think it sort of snowballed out of proportion.

    But it is very clear that Saddam is in his last hours: The final preparations are being made. They have issued a red card to him, which is one of the last steps before somebody is sent to the gallows.

    I think Iraq's current government really wants to move with alacrity here, because I think they believe that this will be an important symbolic moment.

    And Prime Minister al-Maliki's government is facing some uncertainties back in Iraq, their efforts to try to cobble together a new political coalition. He's facing some dissension from members of his party, most notably a political bloc headed by Muqtada al-Sadr.

    This will certainly be an event that he hopes I think will galvanize the country, particularly the Sunni and Shiite communities, and even some moderate Sunnis there, and the Kurds. So I think that's why you've seen this kind of quick movement toward an execution, even though there's sort of a 30-day window in which this can take place.

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