Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Behind Saddam's Hold on Power ANALYSIS Series: THE GULF: ONE YEAR LATER. Second of Three Articles Appearing Today

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Behind Saddam's Hold on Power ANALYSIS Series: THE GULF: ONE YEAR LATER. Second of Three Articles Appearing Today

Article excerpt

THE United States's top priority may still be to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power, but its tactics - including a year-long embargo, a high-tech war and inciting the Iraqi people to revolt - have so far backfired.

Saddam seems to have consolidated his grip on the country, in large part because many Iraqis, and some of Iraq's Arab neighbors, are afraid to see him go. He has also taken steps to win popular support.

As economic hardships grow intolerable, say Iraqi officials and analysts, a popular explosion remains possible.

But both the intellectual elite of cities like Baghdad and many ordinary poor people - their standard of living dramatically lowered since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait - fear a sudden uprising. "In the Iraqi collective consciousness, the prospect of a revolution no longer presents hope, but fear of a worse future to come," says an Iraqi writer who was once an active member of the ruling Baathist party. Fears of change

Analysts say that Iraqi fears of change stem from the absence of a strong and credible alternative to Saddam's leadership, one that can hold the country together, prevent sectarian rule, and protect the country from being swallowed up by its strong neighbors - mainly Iran and Turkey.

When Saddam crushed Kurdish and Shiite rebellions last March he illustrated the power of his security apparatus and the powerlessness of the opposition. In an action that has tended to underscore this point, the Kurdish opposition decided to extend an olive branch to the Baghdad government and enter negotiations.

The intentions of the US aren't clear here. A majority of the leading Iraqi intelligentsia - at least in Baghdad - argue that the US is trying to starve the Iraqi people to pave the way to a pro-US government. "Then people, the American government believes, will be desperate and will welcome any government that will end their sufferings," says Dr. Wamidh Nazmi, a political scientist at the University of Bahgdad.

Some other academics have come to the conclusion that the US will not actively support a revolt here, unless it is sure that it can control the leadership and that it will not be a costly political process that might involve military intervention.

Saddam's government seems to be aware of the various scenarios and has pursued a combination of domestic and foreign policies that - so far - have successfully placated the population.

Even the most cynical Iraqis - and their numbers are rapidly increasing - are impressed by the relatively efficient and rapid reconstruction of power plants, buildings, and bridges that were destroyed by the allied bombing. Electricity has been totally or partially restored to most areas and some phone lines have been repaired.

The government is trying to cater to the needs of the various segments of the society in different ways. …

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