Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saddam Vows to Lead Crusade against U.S., Israel Iraq Forms Army to Free Jerusalem

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saddam Vows to Lead Crusade against U.S., Israel Iraq Forms Army to Free Jerusalem

Article excerpt

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Trying to work his way free of the U.N. sanctions against his country and back toward center stage in Middle East politics, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is again proclaiming himself the leader of an Arab crusade against Israel and the United States.

By linking U.S. air strikes on Iraq and Israel's suppression of the latest Palestinian uprising, Saddam can try to court other Arab leaders; appeal to Russia, France, China and other nations resentful of American dominance; and exploit ordinary Arabs' anger at Israel.

In his latest challenge to the United States and Israel, Saddam said more than 6.5 million Iraqis have volunteered to fight a holy war to liberate Jerusalem, and he said he has formed 21 army divisions to fight alongside the Palestinians.

Saddam said the Al Quds Al Sharif (Holy Jerusalem Army) started training last week in response to the American and British bombing of military sites near Baghdad on Friday. The air strikes have bolstered ties between Iraqi and the Palestinians, who in 1991 stood with Saddam against the U.S.-led alliance that forced Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

"We are both facing one enemy with two faces: Israel and America," said Muhammed Khaled Issa, 60, a Palestinian teacher who has lived in Baghdad for the past 10 years.

While it's impossible to verify his claims of millions of soldiers ready to march on Jerusalem, Saddam seems as defiant as ever after Friday's air strikes. Pentagon officials said Iraqi gunners tried to shoot down U.S. and British aircraft that were enforcing a no-fly zone over southern Iraq last weekend. The allies patrol the area to prevent Iraqi planes from bombing opposition forces there.

Saddam has been cultivating ties to the Palestinians since their most recent uprising began nearly five months ago.

At Saddam Medical City in Baghdad, 11 Palestinians are being treated for injuries they suffered during the intifada. They were in Baghdad on Friday when U.S. and British planes struck and they said it felt like they were being wounded over again.

"Our Iraqi brothers are just like our family in Palestine. Whatever happens to one people happens to the other. It is the same affair whether they are bombing Palestinians in Gaza or Iraqis in Baghdad," said Wisam Hamad Abu Namous, 18, who is from the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, an impoverished Palestinian area between Israel and Egypt.

"If the Arabs come together with all their might under the command of brother Saddam, we can succeed against the Americans and Israel," he said, sitting in a wheelchair under an enlarged photograph of Saddam with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Abu Namous and his friend Mahmoud Mansour Abu Rayeh, 16, have reason to pledge allegiance to Saddam. …

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