The Survival of Saddam
the kurds

The Survival of Saddam
Air date: January 25, 2000

The Survival of Saddam

Written, Produced and Directed by Greg Barker

SAID K. ABURISH, Author, "Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge": He never sleeps in the same place.

ANNOUNCER: He is everybody's enemy.

SAID K. ABURISH: You never know where he's having dinner.

ANNOUNCER: And nobody's friend.

SAID K. ABURISH: His immediate purpose now is to survive, but survival is a victory.

ANNOUNCER: Nine years after the Gulf war, why is he still in power?

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi Opposition Leader: Saddam is a far better plotter, a more accomplished plotter, than the CIA will ever be.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight FRONTLINE investigates The Survival of Saddam.

NARRATOR: June, 1996. Washington is determined to get rid of Saddam Hussein. The White House orders the CIA to organize a coup d'etat.

FRANK ANDERSON, CIA Near East Division Chief (1991-1994): It's frequently the case that the CIA is called upon to develop some kind of a covert action program in response to intractable and maybe even insoluble problems that confront the government.

NARRATOR: In Baghdad, a special unit of Iraqi intelligence has studied every coup of the 20th century. Saddam Hussein is ready.

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi Opposition Leader: Saddam is a far better plotter, a more apt and accomplished plotter, than the CIA will ever be. He is good.

NARRATOR: Saddam believes he knows who will betray him even before they know it themselves. The CIA thinks it has recruited officers within Saddam's tight inner circle.

TARIQ AZIZ, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: They don't know the officers in the army. How could they manage a coup d'etat, a military coup d'etat? Whom do they know? Hmm?

NARRATOR: The plotters have been told that America would recognize them as Iraq's new leaders. They have been given special mobile phones with direct lines to the CIA. But Saddam had penetrated the coup. His agents burst into homes across Baghdad. They torture and execute hundreds of officers.

Then they find the CIA's phones. An Iraqi agent intelligence officer places a call. An American agent answers. He is told, "Your men are dead. Pack up and go home."

FRANK ANDERSON: We ignored the history of tyrants. If you take a look at what it took to get rid of Adolf Hitler, if you take a look at the fact that Joseph Stalin died in his bed- with the exception of the leaders of the Eastern Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, it's generally been the case that somebody who's on top of a totalitarian system stays there until he dies.

NARRATOR: Every night, Iraqi television broadcasts one of its "Saddam Hussein music videos."

SINGER: [subtitles] Our father, indeed Saddam is our father. With him at home, there is no fear. Our father, the kind Saddam, is our father. With him at home, there is no fear. He spreads his love equally among us. Has the world ever seen anyone like our father?

NARRATOR: In the last decade, Saddam Hussein has survived everything the world has thrown at him: the onslaught of half a million troops in the Gulf war, a popular uprising that almost broke his grip on Iraq, economic sanctions controlling all trade into the country, assassination attempts on his ministers, U.N. arms inspectors bent on destroying his strategic weapons, CIA-sponsored coups and a major insurrection.

Today American jets continue to bomb Iraq. In the past year alone, they have flown more sorties over Iraq than NATO flew during the war in Kosovo. Nothing has worked.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: So long as Saddam remains in power, he will remain a threat to his people, his region and the world. The best way to end the threat that Saddam poses to his own people and the region is for Iraq to have a different government.

TARIQ AZIZ: Maybe they are dead serious about changing the government, I don't know. But the means which they are using are doomed to fail. And they will not succeed.

NARRATOR: Saddam's survival continues to mystify and frustrate Western leaders. But Saddam has always been misunderstood and underestimated by the outside world. This is the story of what made Saddam Hussein a master survivor.

The key to Saddam Hussein's survival lies in his past. He once had a vision that galvanized his nation and attracted true believers.

SAID K. ABURISH, Author, "Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge": We supported him because we wanted one Arab country to move ahead and be strong economically and militarily. And we saw Iraq as that one country. That's why we supported him. We were not blind to what he was.

NARRATOR: Said Aburish, author of a new biography of Saddam and a consultant to this program, worked closely with Saddam's government. Like many educated Arabs of his generation, Aburish - a Palestinian - looked to Saddam for leadership.

Beginning in the mid-'70s, Aburish was a go-between for Western arms manufacturers doing business with Iraq. He was part of Saddam's secret plan to acquire chemical weapons and an atomic bomb.

SAID K. ABURISH: I don't think there was any Arab in the '70s who did not want Saddam Hussein to have an atomic weapon. Israel had atomic weapons. The Arabs wanted an Arab country to have atomic weapons.

The scale tipped in other directions. He became more dictatorial with time. He eliminated more people with time. And he stopped delivering the benefits to the Iraqi people with time. This sounds like a German talking about aiding and abetting the rise of Hitler. It is pretty much the same, but he represented potential, and we loved the idea of him being there.

NARRATOR: Saddam Hussein came from nowhere, a tough, ambitious kid stuck in a remote village.

SAID K. ABURISH: He was from a very poor family. As a young boy, he had to steal so his family could eat. He heard that his cousin could read and write and demanded that he be afforded the same opportunity.

NARRATOR: As a teenager, he moved to Baghdad and later became an enforcer for a new revolutionary movement known as the Ba'ath, or Renewal Party. Political violence was Saddam's ticket to a better life. The party leadership needed a hit man. They were planning to assassinate Iraq's strongman, General Abdul Kareem Kassem.

SAID K. ABURISH: What they needed is just a gunman, and they remembered this fellow who had already been accused of murdering someone in his village. So they said, "Will you join in the killing of Abdul Kareem Kassem?" And the reaction, of course, was ecstatic. "Yeah. Well," you know, "let's go for it."

NARRATOR: The assassination would happen here, on Baghdad's main street. Years later, Saddam hired a James Bond director to reenact his attack on General Kassem's motorcade.

The assassination attempt was botched. Saddam was slightly wounded. The next morning, Saddam escaped in a daring swim across the river Tigris.

SAID K. ABURISH, Author, "Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge": The created just a monumental legend around this incident. You know, "I am a member of a hit squad which tried to assassinate the head of this country." This made him proud.

NARRATOR: Now an exile, Saddam became the leader of the Ba'ath Party's student cell in Cairo. The Ba'ath Party had sparked the interest of the CIA, and Saddam reportedly became a regular visitor to the American embassy.

SAID K. ABURISH: The visits to the American Embassy by Saddam Hussein and other members of the Ba'ath party had one purpose and one purpose only: to cooperate with the Americans towards the overthrow of General Abdul Kareem Kassem in Iraq.

JAMES AKINS, U.S. Diplomat in Baghdad (1963): Iraq clearly was very strongly under the influence of the Soviets. And I think that we decided that something should be done.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: The storied city of Baghdad, capital of Iraq, has been the scene once more of bloody revolt that has seated a new government-

NARRATOR: With CIA help, the Iraqi Ba'ath Party seized power in 1963. General Kassem was killed in the coup. The CIA provided lists of suspected communists for Ba'ath Party hit squads, who liquidated at least 800 people. Saddam Hussein rushed home to join in as a interrogator, torturer and killer.

JAMES AKINS: We were very happy. They got rid of a lot of communists. A lot of them were executed or shot. This was a great development.

SAID K. ABURISH: The head of the Ba'ath party started referring to Saddam after he got to know him as Gabadii´, "My tough guy." And he helped to promote Saddam's cause in the party because he thought what the party needed to move forward was a tough guy.

NARRATOR: Saddam moved fast. He made himself indispensable to the party leader, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, a distant uncle. After Bakr became president in 1968, he made his 31-year-old protege vice president. A rising star in a rabidly anti-communist party, Saddam once led some visitors into his private library. They were shocked to see shelf after shelf devoted to Saddam's role model, Joseph Stalin.

Dr. MAHKMOUD OTHMAN, Kurdish Negotiator: When we went in, actually, and we saw those books, I was amazed, you see. And I asked him, "Are you a communist, reading all those books, and so on?" Well, he say "No, but even Stalin, was he a real communist?"

SAID K. ABURISH: Everything Saddam did had Stalinist overtones. Stalin is his hero. Saddam Hussein models himself after Stalin more than any other man in history, consciously and very, very deliberately. He admires the man.

NARRATOR: With Stalin's methods, Saddam believed he could control and modernize Iraq. And like Stalin, he coveted his mentor's office.

TARIQ AZIZ, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: Saddam Hussein is a patient man. He does not jump, you see. He served under the presidency of Al-Bakr very, very faithfully and honestly. But then President Al-Bakr, you see, became older and older. He became ill.

NARRATOR: Saddam's time had come. In July, 1979, he staged a palace coup and named himself president. He summoned the party leadership to a meeting. He said there were traitors in their midst. He read out their names. One by one, they were led out, never to be seen again. Adnan Hamdani had been Saddam's close friend for 20 years. He tried to object. Saddam allowed no debate.

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi Opposition Leader: And this drama, where you either get a reprieve from the life-giver or you get a finger by the devil, who would then- and the thugs would come, and they would beat this man up and take him away to be executed. The whole thing was bizarre, but very characteristically Saddam.

NARRATOR: After sending some of his closest friends to their deaths, Saddam wept. Tapes of the meeting were sent throughout the country. Saddam wanted the elite to know what kind of man was now ruling Iraq.

Secure at home, Saddam was ready to step onto the world stage. In 1972, as vice president, he'd visited Moscow. There he persuaded Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to give him military aid.

TARIQ AZIZ: We were friends with the Soviet Union, and we wanted to be friends with the Soviet Union. But we didn't want to be a part of the Soviet bloc, and we kept our independence very, very carefully and very, very sharply.

NARRATOR: Saddam got his military aid. All the Soviets got from him was a friendship treaty. Saddam was manipulating the rivalry between the superpowers so that he could turn Iraq into the Arab world's most advanced and modern nation.

TARIQ AZIZ: You know, at that period development was our main obsession. This is our dream, you see.

NARRATOR: The Soviets applauded Saddam when he nationalized Iraq's oil industry. They were astonished when he used the oil money to attract American companies into Iraq.

JAMES CHRITCHFIELD, Former CIA Near East Division Chief: We were obviously impressed that the Iraqis were greatly ahead of the rest of the Arab world, and so, of course, we thought that Saddam Hussein might be brought along in that sense.

NARRATOR: On Saddam's orders, 5 percent of Iraq's oil income was siphoned into Swiss bank accounts. Throughout the '70s and '80s, Saddam used the money to buy weapons from both the West and the Soviet bloc. Each side wanted to control Saddam. Neither realized he had a secret plan to build chemical and nuclear weapons and become the undisputed leader of the Arab world.

JAMES CHRITCHFIELD: This was Saddam Hussein being totally pragmatic. And when he was interested in how to make a bigger and better missile or a bomb, he wasn't interested in it as to increase American influence in the region. He was interested purely in increasing his own influence.

NARRATOR: In 1979, Saddam saw his great opportunity. The Iranian revolution had toppled the shah, America's ally in the Middle East.

JAMES CHRITCHFIELD: Saddam probably figured that he benefited by the break in the shah's relation with the United States when he left Iran, that this left him the opportunity to replace the shah. [ Read the full interview]

NARRATOR: Sixty percent of Iraqis are Shia, the same Islamic sect as Iran. Religious fundamentalism was a direct threat not only to Saddam, but to all Arab governments. Saddam decided to take a huge gamble and go to war with Iran. But first he needed the financial and logistical support of his neighbors. He made secret visits to the leaders of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

SAID K. ABURISH, Author, "Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge": There is absolutely no doubt that Saddam discussed his plans to invade Iran with King Hussein. He was protecting his back with conservative regimes, with pro
-West regimes.

NARRATOR: Some Middle Eastern intelligence sources believe Saddam also had a face-to-face meeting with CIA agents in Amman to secure U.S. approval for his plan to invade Iran, a charge the U.S. and the Iraqi governments steadfastly deny.

Col. MOHAMMED ABDULLAH, Retired Officer, Jordanian Special Forces: As far as the American participation in the visit to Jordan is concerned, very few people in the world can answer this question for you. And I would be reluctant to put myself in that position, but all the evidence shows that that visit was the crucial visit.

WHITLEY BRUNER, CIA Baghdad Station Chief (1979-1982): Reading it again with 20-20 hindsight, I think you can certainly say that he signaled his intentions in some way. I doubt he laid out the battle plan. I doubt he made it clear that he was going to do as much as he did. And I think many were quite surprised by the stroke, when it came.

NARRATOR: On September 22nd, 1980, 200,000 Iraqi troops poured across the Iranian border in one of the largest ground assaults since the Second World War. This was Saddam Hussein's great power play. If he could crush the Iranian revolution, he believed America and the entire Arab world would be beholden to him.

Saddam had counted on a quick victory. Khomeini declared a holy war and ordered a massive counterattack. Soon both sides were bogged down in trench warfare. It was a stalemate that suited Washington.

WHITLEY BRUNER: An Iraqi colossus was no better than an Iranian colossus. Therefore I think there was kind of a feeling in Washington that "A pox on both your houses." You know, "If you bleed each other white," you know, "in this war, gee, that's"- you know, that's a disaster on a humanitarian level, but it weakens two states that are of real concern to America on a strategic level.

NARRATOR: By 1982, America feared Saddam might actually lose the war. Washington offered Iraq a helping hand.

TARIQ AZIZ, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: Iran was an enemy, a proclaimed enemy of the United States. We were not the enemies of the United States. So, in such circumstances, of course, you have some- some things to talk about.

NARRATOR: Over the next six years, a string of CIA agents went to Baghdad. They hand-carried the latest satellite intelligence about the Iranian front line. They passed the information to their Iraqi counterparts.

WARREN MARIK, Retired CIA Officer: We would go to an office, and we would sit down with our Iraqi military friends, and they would give us tea and sometimes a nice lunch. And they had no illusions about us, and we had- certainly had no illusions about them. We played our card of giving them help in any way we could within the limits that the United States government thought the limits should be.

NARRATOR: Washington gave Iraq enough help to avoid defeat, but not enough to secure victory.

TARIQ AZIZ, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: So we had normal relations, and it worked, you see. It worked for a while.

NARRATOR: Then in 1986, the relationship began to disintegrate. In war-torn Beirut, pro-Iranian terrorists had seized American hostages. To secure their release, the White House secretly sold arms to Khomeini's government. When the Iran-contra scandal broke, Saddam discovered that behind his back America had been helping his mortal enemy.

NIZAR HAMDOON, Iraqi Ambassador to U.S. (1984-1990): At the time when you're trying to improve ties, all of a sudden you discover that somebody in this government was betraying you. It wasn't easy for Iraq to learn about this betrayal.

NARRATOR: His war with Iran had forced Saddam to rely on America. After Iran-contra, he vowed never to trust the U.S. again. In 1988, Saddam Hussein's war ended in stalemate. It had cost 100,000 Iraqi lives. His use of chemical weapons against Iran and against a Kurdish village in northern Iraq had made Saddam Hussein a pariah in the West.

TARIQ AZIZ: The American press was hostile against us- "Saddam Hussein, the most dangerous man in the world," "Saddam Hussein, the enemy number one of the people." Why? Whom did Saddam Hussein threaten in the United States? [ Study U.S.-Iraq relations]

NARRATOR: Desperate to claim some kind of victory, Saddam built an immense war memorial in Baghdad. The hands wielding the scimitars are modeled on Saddam's own. Saddam still had the largest army in the Middle East, but his country was nearly bankrupt. Saddam needed help, but was wary of the new Bush administration.

BRENT SCOWCROFT, National Security Adviser to Pres. Bush: We were prepared to reach out to Iraq to try to test whether or not Saddam could be turned into a reasonably responsible international citizen.

NARRATOR: In the spring of 1990, Robert Dole led a Senate delegation to Baghdad. They reassured Saddam that public outrage over his human rights abuses would not be allowed to distort American foreign policy. But Saddam suspected another double-cross.

NIZAR HAMDOON: The trust in Baghdad was lacking on whatever America could come up with given the whole Iran-contra episode, which I think has broken the backbone of the understanding between the two capitals.

NARRATOR: Saddam felt equally betrayed by his fellow Arab leaders. He believed they owed him for Iraq's sacrifices in containing the Iranian revolution, but his neighbors feared Saddam's desire to lead the Arab world. Saddam complained that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were squeezing Iraq by driving down oil prices while at the same time demanding immediate repayment of the billions of dollars they'd loaned him to fight his war.

TARIQ AZIZ: We felt that that was a plan to undermine Iraq, to- to- a conspiracy against Iraq, to put it in clear terms, you see. It was a conspiracy against Iraq.

NARRATOR: And so again, Saddam Hussein went to war. On August 2nd, 1990, his troops occupied Kuwait. For the first time, Saddam's ambitions directly challenged America's vital interests.

SAID K. ABURISH, Author, "Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge": He invaded Kuwait, and thought, "Good. I have Kuwait. I'm going to bargain with the United States." Well, the United States made its position clear: "There is no bargaining about the withdrawal of Kuwait. Fella, you get out of Kuwait. No conditions, no rewards, nothing." That he couldn't understand, and he was caught.

NARRATOR: The full might of American power was unleashed against Saddam. Saddam left the draftees in his conscript army to bear the brunt of the attack. By the time American forces liberated Kuwait, Saddam had withdrawn his elite Republican Guards safely back into Iraq. But Saddam, too, would survive. President Bush decided to end the war and not send troops to Baghdad.

BRENT SCOWCROFT: We knew how to do what we had planned to do. We didn't know what the consequences of occupying Iraq would be.

TARIQ AZIZ: To reach Baghdad, which means that they have to fight alongside 500 kilometers of territory. And then what would he do if he drives towards Baghdad? Occupy Baghdad, run Baghdad?

NARRATOR: Believing America would help them, the Iraqi people rose against Saddam. Within two weeks, 15 of the country's 18 provinces were in rebel hands. Saddam's grip on Iraq was crumbling.

BRENT SCOWCROFT: We thought that probably the army would rise against him. And again, our Arab friends said "He can't survive a defeat of this magnitude." Well, he did.

NARRATOR: Saddam's Republican Guard had stayed loyal. He sent them to crush the uprisings. They killed over 50,000 Iraqis. Saddam's own cabinet ministers were videotaped beating and executing rebel leaders. Once again, the tapes were distributed throughout Iraq. Saddam wanted to remind his people of the high price of betrayal.

At the end of the Gulf war, Saddam claimed victory. He was still determined to dominate the Middle East, and the key, he believed, was to keep his weapons of mass destruction. Deep in the desert, Iraqi scientists had been developing anthrax, smallpox and other biological agents that could kill millions.

BRENT SCOWCROFT: He has been steadfast in pursuing military build-up, including nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, for 25 years without cessation.

NARRATOR: America and the U.N. demanded that Saddam disarm. U.N. arms inspectors were sent to destroy Iraq's strategic weapons. Until their job was done, tight economic sanctions would remain in place. But biological weapons are notoriously easy to hide, and for four years the inspectors searched in vain.

Saddam had entrusted the security of his strategic weapons to his own son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. But in 1995, a family quarrel cracked Saddam's wall of secrecy. On August 7th, Hussein Kamel suddenly left Baghdad with his brother and their wives, Saddam's two daughters. They drove across the Iraqi desert. Twelve hours later they arrived in Amman, Jordan. Saddam's own family had defected.

At a press conference, Hussein Kamel spoke openly about Saddam's security apparatus.

HUSSEIN KAMEL: [through interpreter] I work before in the establishment of the special security machinery-

NARRATOR: In private, he told the chief U.N. arms inspector exactly where Saddam had hidden his biological weapons.

SAID K. ABURISH: All of a sudden, there is Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, standing in front of them and saying, "I have a document that can prove to you that your inspection has not uncovered everything Saddam has."

NARRATOR: Armed with Hussein Kamel's information, the U.N. raided Iraq's main biological weapons plant. They destroyed the equipment, but eight tons of anthrax were never found. Nine months later, Hussein Kamel was still hiding in a safe house in Amman. Western intelligence agencies had no more use for him. Then one day he received a phone call from his father-in-law.

SAID K. ABURISH: Saddam told his sons-in-law that if they came back to Iraq, they would be completely safe, and they foolishly believed Saddam

NARRATOR: The moment they crossed the border, Saddam's daughters were separated from their husbands. Hussein Kamel and his brother went home to wait. For three days they hid inside an armed compound. On the third night, heavy firing broke out. The gunfight lasted 13 hours. Hussein Kamel and his brother were about to die at the hands of their own relatives.

SAID K. ABURISH, Author, "Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge": They were captured, and they were killed. Saddam said, "I didn't go back on my word. This happened according to tribal tradition. The family had to avenge itself. The family had to recover its honor."

NARRATOR: For three more years, Saddam continued to frustrate the U.N. arms inspectors.

IRAQI OFFICIAL: What is your justification for this?

SCOTT RITTER, U.N. Arms Inspector: I have to provide you with no justification. Security council resolution-

NARRATOR: Then in December, 1998, he accused the U.N. of spying and said what he called his "cooperation" was at an end. The U.N. pulled out its inspectors. President Clinton responded with Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombardment on Baghdad and key military installations. But when it was over, the inspectors would be gone and Saddam would still have his weapons. Safe inside his bunker, he broadcast to his nation.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [radio address] [subtitles] Tonight the evil ones bombed our country again, thinking they could destroy your will and determination. They do not dare come fight you face to face, but rely on the long arm of technology, which does not represent a standard for courage.

NARRATOR: As they had during the Gulf war, the U.S. targeted buildings and bunkers where they thought Saddam might be hiding.

SAID K. ABURISH: He never sleeps in the same place. You never know where he's having his dinner because dinner is prepared in five or six different places. There are two or three people who know of his movements, and it's his sons and one other guy who's his secretary. He has a food taster. The hats, they're all bullet-proof. Even the straw hat that he wears occasionally is lined with kevlar. And he looks more sturdy than he is, he looks rounder than he is, because he's wearing a bullet-proof vest. But that's if you got to him. The business is getting to him is almost impossible. [ Read the full interview]

NARRATOR: Ever since the Gulf war, America has been trying to drive Saddam Hussein from power. All its efforts have failed.

Kurdistan, northern Iraq. In March, 1995, the CIA was advising and financing a rebel group that was on the point of attacking Saddam's front lines.

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi Opposition Leader: We were there to fight Saddam. We had a sole purpose. We felt we had reached a level which would enable us to challenge Saddam.

NARRATOR: But on the eve of battle, the CIA agents told the rebels' leader, Ahmad Chalabi, that the White House had had second thoughts.

AHMAD CHALABI: They came and told us, "You are on your own." They thought they're going to face a Bay of Pigs situation where Saddam would massacre us, and then they'd look bad.

WARREN MARIK, Retired CIA Officer: I think the U.S. government panicked, so they were off the hook. They didn't have to defend the opposition if the Iraqi army and the Republican Guard moved north. And it was one of those cover-your-butt sort of operations from Washington.

NARRATOR: Then a year later, columns of dust were seen outside the rebel stronghold. Saddam had launched his counter-attack. President Clinton learned of the offensive while campaigning for reelection.

Pres. BILL CLINTON: I have placed our forces in the region on high alert, and they are now being reinforced. It is premature at this time - and I want to emphasize that - entirely premature, to speculate on any response we might have.

NARRATOR: The rebels begged for American air cover. None came. Saddam's troops captured and executed over 100 rebel leaders.

Sen. ROBERT KERREY, (D-NE), Senate Intelligence Committee: They felt like they were let down, and the feeling that they were let down was justified. We didn't follow through. We weren't ready and weren't prepared to go the final mile.

NARRATOR: Believing America would never act, the largest Kurdish group struck a deal with Saddam. In exchange for some autonomy, they would help Saddam beat the economic sanctions. They open their border checkpoints to Turkey. Every day a stream of trucks smuggles food and supplies down to Baghdad. [ More on the Kurds' situation]

Saddam has effectively neutralized his opposition in the north. But in southern Iraq, he still faces a serious threat from the Shia Muslims. The city of Basra appears calm enough, but when night falls, no road into or out of the city is safe from Islamic guerrillas. This night raid on Saddam's military was videotaped by the rebels.

HAMID AL-BAYYATI, Supreme Council, the Islamic Revolution in Iraq: We are fighting the regime. We've been fighting the regime for over 30 years. We'll continue to do so as long as it take us.

NARRATOR: More smuggled footage shows an attack on an Iraqi army barracks. Here a car bomb nearly kills Saddam's former prime minister. Operating from bases inside Iran, this rebel army is the biggest and best equipped Iraqi opposition group. But Saddam knows these Shi'ite fighters do not trust America.

HAMID AL-BAYYATI: Iraqi people feel betrayed by the Americans. They supported Saddam. They didn't take him when they have the chance during the second Gulf war. They feel that the Americans still want Saddam to stay and they don't want him to go.

NARRATOR: The U.S. Congress says it wants Saddam to go. In November, 1998, it authorized $97 million of "lethal aid" to overthrow him.

Sen. ROBERT KERREY: We have not given up. Saddam Hussein is a threat, and now we've changed our policy and set to say that we're going to replace the dictatorship for democracy. That's a huge change.

NARRATOR: But after one year, virtually the only concrete result of the law has been a three-day meeting of the Iraqi opposition in a New York hotel. Every main Shia group boycotted the conference. U.S. attempts to unite the opposition have failed.

AHMAD CHALABI, Iraqi Opposition Leader: Saddam lives on the contradiction of his enemies. The neighbors of Iraq and the United States each have a vision of how Iraq should be ruled. There are contradictory visions. Saddam ends up, by default, being everybody's second choice, and that has been the major brunt of our struggle.

NARRATOR: Forty years ago, after he failed to assassinate Iraq's strongman, Saddam Hussein made his first great escape by swimming the river Tigris. Not long ago in Baghdad, they reenacted that event. But now Saddam himself is a target for assassination, and so the man who swims the Tigris this day is Saddam Hussein's double.

SAID K. ABURISH, Author, "Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge": You are not going to get Saddam Hussein alive. Forget about that. Saddam Hussein will only leave Iraq as a dead person. He's not going to go into exile in the Rivera or some other place like that. He's gone beyond that point. He knows, you know, that he is dead the moment his regime is over.

NARRATOR: Today, nine years after the Gulf war, American planes still patrol the skies over Iraq. Every other day, on average, Saddam orders a radar site to lock onto U.S. jets, and every time they do, America bombs the radar sites.

SAID K. ABURISH: He is still telling the people "You cannot fly over my country." Saddam Hussein is standing up to the West. He has survived for nine years. He's a hero. He's not winning, but the mere fact that he survives, that he continues, is enough to make him a hero.

NARRATOR: For more than a year, there have been no U.N. arms inspectors inside Iraq. Recent reports indicate that Saddam Hussein is still actively developing his strategic arsenal.

SAID K. ABURISH: For Saddam to have biological and chemical weapons is protection. In the final analysis, if pressed, if he's surrounded in Baghdad, he will threaten to use them. And he's capable of that. This is sort of a Samson complex, if you wish. You know, "If you push me too hard, I'll bring the house down on myself and everyone else."

NARRATOR: Saddam Hussein once dreamed of leading the Arab world. Today he is rarely seen in public and talks only to a handful of close aides. The United States has contained Saddam, but for nine years it has been unable to remove him from power. Few expect it to happen any time soon.

FRANK ANDERSON, CIA Near East Division Chief (1991-1994): Life's difficulties kind of break down into problems which you can solve and issues with which you must cope. And frankly, Saddam's regime is an issue with which we must cope. And we'll probably have to cope with it for a very long time.




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