Neighbors, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars

By Dilip Hiro | Go to book overview

3

A SHATTERING BETRAYAL, THEN LUCKY BREAKS FOR SADDAM

Leaving Iraq on the night of August 7-8, 1995, in an Amman-bound convoy of black Mercedes, ostensibly on his way to sign an important contract in Sofia, Bulgaria, was a clever move by 41-year-old Gen. Hussein Kamil Hassan, August 8 being an Iraqi national holiday to celebrate Baghdad's victory over Iran in the First Gulf War. Steeped in a celebratory mood on that day, the regime would be slow to react to his master-stroke - leading a large group of defectors, consisting of his family, and that of his younger brother, Col. Saddam Kamil Hassan, and their aides - he must have reckoned.

Though their flight from Iraq was sensational when it happened, in retrospect it emerged more as a natural progression than a dramatic event, with Hussein Kamil escaping with millions of dollars in cash, and crates of sensitive documents. In essence, his defection had to do with the rising star of Uday (b. 1964), the elder son of Saddam Hussein - variously described as arrogant, avaricious, brutal, overambitious, unpredictable, and a psychotic playboy - who, having brought down other leading figures of the regime in the spring and early summer of 1995, was planning to bring about Hussein Kamil's dismissal or demotion.

Uday, a child of average intelligence, had been pampered by his father. Soon after his graduation from Baghdad University's Engineering College, Saddam tried to groom him for public life. To indulge his love of sport, Saddam had him elected director of the Iraq Olympic Committee with its headquarters in an impressive eight-story building. But in November 1988, after he had murdered Kamal Hanna Jajo, a food-taster and bodyguard of his father, in a drunken bout, Uday fell from grace. Uday's reason for murdering Jajo at a party was that he had been the intermediary in his father's affair with Samira Shahbandar (the divorced wife of Nour al Din al Safi, the general manager of Iraq Airways), whom he later married and by whom he had a son, Ali. Uday was imprisoned and then banished to Geneva in disgrace. But not for long. He returned home and soon became re-elected as director of the Iraq Olympic Committee. By 1990, he was also into the food processing business. Saddam included him in the Iraqi delegation that met Kuwaiti Crown Prince Saad al Ahmad al Sabah in Jiddah two days before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

-90-

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