Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraqis Cope with High Prices, Fears of Losing Sons in Battle

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraqis Cope with High Prices, Fears of Losing Sons in Battle

Article excerpt

WE have learned to be patient," said an old woman wearing a long black robe, as the news of the ground war reached the streets of Baghdad.

On downtown Rashid Street and in the traditional souks of Sharjeh, Iraqis gathered around radios Sunday to listen to a short message from President Saddam Hussein. The speech came as no surprise. For the last four days, the Iraqi leadership had been preparing its people for the toughest round of the battle.

But many Iraqis, it seems, had been pinning hopes on the last-minute Soviet diplomatic initiative and on the United Nations Security Council meeting. "We were more than surprised by the ground assault. The US did not even give a chance for the Security Council meeting," said an Iraqi at the souk.

In his strongly worded 10-minute address, Saddam asked his people to put up a brave fight. "Fight them! Invoke all of the values that they have inherited from your history," he said.

In his address, Saddam tried to explain that he had done his best to avoid the ground battle. "We supported the Soviet initiative,... but (US President) Bush and his despicable agent (Saudi King) Fahd have stabbed us in the back," he said.

At the same time, the speech marked two important shifts in the Iraqi leadership's approach to the confrontation:

- Saddam made no reference to Arab nationalism or to the Palestinian cause. Instead, he told his people that they were fighting for their survival and that they should have no illusions about Arab and international help or sympathy.

- Unlike earlier announcements, the address was made only to the Iraqi people, and sent no signals to the international community. Saddam, it appears, had given up on diplomatic maneuvers and was relying on his people and Army to defend the country.

Weary of the prolonged suspense over the last week, Iraqis were generally relieved that it had finally broken. …

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