Magazine article The Nation

Deserter Storm

Magazine article The Nation

Deserter Storm

Article excerpt

Hussein Kamel al-Hassan, a frequent visitor to Amman while he was Iraq's chief procurer of arms and industrial materials, met there with Jordan's King Hussein just two weeks before his nowfamous defection on August 8. It is fair to presume that Kamel was there primarily to check out the King's hospitality.

"When I understood what was really happening in Iraq," the King later told an Israeli newspaper in his best imitation of Claude Rains in Casablanca, "it was a terrible shock to me." Any Jordanian truck driver working the Amman-Baghdad route could have told the King what was happening under the combined pressures of the U.N. embargo and the Iraqi regime's depredations--hunger, social trauma and a disintegration that may be irreversible. Iraqi villagers once "would offer us cold drinks and welcome us," one trucker told the Los Angeles Times. "Now, they offer us their wives and daughters for a dinar or two." The Iraqi dinar, worth more than $3 five years ago, is now trading at 2,050 to the dollar.

For years Amman has been headquarters for Western intelligence-gathering on Iraq, and the King's apparatus is one of the best in the region. So the appalling conditions most Iraqis live under was not news to the King. Neither was the serious rebellion that broke out against Saddam in mid-May in the fortified town of Abu Gharib just west of Baghdad, among troops of the Dulaimi clan, heretofore a key ally. One Iraqi observer told Le Monde at the time that even this would bring no change, as long as the 1 percent of the population directly benefiting from the regime remains cohesive.

That 1 percent, it seems, has begun to come apart. The fact that King Hussein quickly granted asylum to Hussein Kamel, his brother and chief of Iraqi palace security Saddam Kamel, their wives (both daughters of Saddam Hussein) and some fifteen other military and security officials means he has determined that the fall of Saddam Hussein, while it may not be quick, will now be only a matter of time. …

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