February 14, 2003 No.

The Iraq Crisis (3): Saudi Newspapers Call on Saddam to Abdicate or Commit Suicide

The Iraqi regime, symbolized and personified by Saddam Hussein, has in recent weeks come under increasing criticism[1] from the Saudi media. Going beyond the criticism of Saddam and his regime, there are mounting calls on Saddam Hussein by Saudi newspapers to spare the Iraqi people the disasters and destruction of war by abdicating the presidency and seeking asylum outside Iraq. The following are excerpts from such articles:

Under the heading "Abdication in Lieu of War," Ms. Huda al-Husseini, a columnist for the London-based Saudi paper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, deplores Saddam's talk of yet another "victorious" war and concludes that Saddam's resignation is preferable to any war.[2]

In another London-based Saudi daily, Al-Hayat columnist Abd Al-Wahab Badr-Khan writes under the title "Scenario for Abdication" that Saddam is preparing himself for a second "Mother of All Battles." Having lost the first one, Saddam continues to believe it was a victory that allowed him to stay in power. Badr-Khan argues that for all practical purposes the regime has collapsed and all of Saddam's calculations have proven wrong. The only way to save the country from total disaster is for Saddam to abdicate.[3] The first columnist who raised the possibility that Saddam might be forced into asylum was Al-Hayat's senior columnist Jihad al-Khazen many months earlier.[4]

In an editorial titled "The Anticipated Historic Decision," the Saudi daily Okkaz suggests that in order for Iraq and its people to avoid the tragedies and disasters of war it would be wise for the Iraqi president "to take a courageous, responsible and historic" decision that would give priority to the future of his country and people over the future of a regime that it is difficult to defend or to sustain.[5]

Quoting King Abdallah of Jordan that only a miracle can save the area from war, Irfan Nidham Al-Din writes in Al-Hayat about dreaming that Saddam and the central figures of his regime would abdicate and hand over power to a transitional team that would resolve the pending issues of weapons of mass destruction.[6]

In a highly unusual step, a number of Arab intellectuals have circulated a petition calling on Saddam to abdicate.[7] To avoid a catastrophe in the Middle East, the petitioners: "Call upon public opinion in the Arab world to exercise pressure for the dismissal from power of Saddam Hussein and his close aides in Iraq in order to avoid a war that threatens with catastrophe the peoples of the region. [They also call] for the rule of democracy in Baghdad and for the stationing across Iraq of human rights monitors from the United Nations and the Arab League to oversee the peaceful transition of power."[8]

All these exhortations pale in comparison with an article in the Saudi daily al-Jazeera.[9] After analyzing the Saudi Kingdom's four options with regard to the war on Iraq, D. Ali bin Shuwail al-Qarni, Chairman of the Board of the Saudi Society for Information and Communications and Associate Professor for Information at King Sa'ud University, calls on Saddam to commit suicide:

"As far as Iraq is concerned, the change [in regime] is inevitably coming with or without a war. But what will be the destiny of Saddam Hussein? Will His Highness abdicate his authority to prevent bloodshed and save the vital interests of Iraq as well the region's interests?"

If Saddam chooses not to abdicate he has no other choice to save the world of a disaster, says al-Qarni, "but to reach out to the suicide revolver and fire the shot of mercy to finish the tragedy which he has started."[10]

[1]Utilizing the "Writers' Forum" in the Saudi daily al-Riyadh, columnist Badriyah al-Bashar writes with sarcasm that Saddam deserves an award for the interview with Tony Benn: "He deserves an award because he initiated two wars, one with Iran and one with the occupation of Kuwait and his subsequent expulsion. Saddam deserves an award because he imagined that the history of Baghdad has started only thirty four years ago, the day he took over power in the country and destroyed Baghdad's culture… He deserves an award because he caused the flight of Iraq's writers and scientists and silenced the cry of the Kurds with chemical weapons." Al-Riyadh, February 9, 2003.

Under the title "The Lesser of Two Evils" Al-Hayat's columnist Daoud Al-Shiryan laments the dilemma forced upon the Iraqi people by Saddam. They have to choose between supporting America which would save them from "a despotic and authoritarian regime" that has wasted the national wealth and "practiced a historically unprecedented political savagery," or they can stay and fight a lost battle in the trenches of Saddam. Al-Hayat, February 1, 2003.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, January 10, 2003.

[3] Al-Hayat, January 4, 2003.

[4] Al-Hayat, July 19, 2002.

[5] Okkaz, January 25, 2003.

[6] Al-Hayat, February 10, 2003.

[7] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, January 5, 2003.

[8] The Daily Star, February 6, 2003.

[9] Al-Jazeera, January 25, 2003.

[10] Interestingly enough, a similar sentiment was expressed a few days ago by the Egyptian government daily Al-Gomhorriya. Writing under the heading "Après moi la deluge" the daily says that Saddam will not go into exile "unless the whole Iraqi people are exiled." It is then and only then "that Saddam will consider whether he himself will depart from the country… to enjoy the wealth and pleasures." January 9, 2003.