Saddam Reportedly Sacks 1,500 Senior Officers In Purge
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Saddam Hussein has dismissed some 1,500 senior army officers in a new purge of his military as part of his struggle to keep power following Iraq’s Gulf War defeat, knowledgeable Arab sources reported today.
The sources, who have been reliable in the past, said at least 180 senior police officers also have been sacked and replaced with men Saddam considers more loyal to his regime.
There was no official word from Baghdad or immediate independent confirmation of the report.
But it came eight days after disclosures that Saddam had replaced his chief of staff and military intelligence chief in his fourth major command change since November and the third since the war.
The sources, who include travelers from Iraq, spoke on condition of anonymity.
They said that most of the dismissed army and police officers were pensioned off or moved to much lower positions in the security forces.
These reports and others citing unrest in some Iraqi army units have inevitably given rise to speculation that Saddam is increasingly nervous about his military following Iraq’s humiliation in the war and the Kurdish and Shiite Muslim rebellions that followed.
Most analysts believe that the only credible challenge to Saddam is the army.
U.S. and British insistence that U.N. trade sanctions remain while Saddam remains in power is widely considered to be a signal to his generals that the only way to end their country’s worsening plight is to oust him.
″The situation appears to be very tricky for Saddam now. It often looks like he’s secure, but too much has gone wrong,″ analyst Don Kerr said in a telephone interview.
″With the sanctions biting, the economy in ruins, the population’s health seriously at risk, the question now appears to be how long it will be before senior military officers get together and do something,″ said Kerr, formerly with London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies and now with a consultant.
There have been persistent reports that senior officers who opposed Saddam’s catastrophic Aug. 2 invasion have been purged, with some executed. There has been no independent confirmation.
Baghdad’s state-run Alif Baa weekly newspaper reported last week that Saddam dismissed his chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Hussein Rashid, and replaced him with Lt. Gen. Iyad Futiyeh al-Rawi, commander of the Republican Guard and a staunch Saddam loyalist.
Rashid, a former Republican Guard commander during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, was appointed defense minister in November.
The reason for his dismissal is not clear. He was considered close to Saddam and came from the Iraqi president’s hometown of Takrit, north of Baghdad, like most of Saddam’s close associates.
Diplomatic sources in Baghdad reported last week that the chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Wafiq Jassim Sammari, was arrested in early June for ″anti-regime activities″ only two months after he was appointed.
The sources said he was replaced by Brig. Gen. Abdul-Khader Salman Khamis, a former Iraqi military attache in London. Khamis, another Takriti, is believed to be married to a cousin of Saddam.
They said that the command changes stemmed from Saddam’s efforts to ″reorganize the system because of the military and political results of the war and their effects on the army.″
The Arab sources said Friday that several senior army officers were executed after al-Rawi took over as chief of staff and a former chief of military intelligence, Gen. Sabr al-Douri, was named head of the Mukhabarat, Saddam’s feared secret police.
In an effort to retain his hold on power, Saddam has pledged democratic reforms, given his troops generous pay hikes and bonuses and is even negotiating with Kurdish rebels on full autonomy for their home region in northern Iraq.