Resurgent Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein presided on Sunday over a massive military parade in Baghdad under the name of the "Al-Aqsa Call" and intended to show support for the Palestinian uprising.
During what was perhaps the largest military review since the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam greeted army units by repeatedly firing a rifle into the air. The parade displayed sophisticated surface-to-surface and anti-aircraft missiles, artillery and over 1,000 modern, Russian-made tanks as well as infantry units. Formations of jet fighters and helicopter gun-ships hovered over central Baghdad as forces representing all Iraqi military units, including the navy, infantry and paramilitary Saddam commandos, flowed past. Missiles in the four-hour parade were the Al-Samoud, Al-Fath and Al-Raad, all with ranges under 95 miles that do not violate UN arms-control restrictions.
Last month, Saddam attended a parade in Baghdad by nearly two million Iraqis volunteering to fight with the Palestinians against the Israeli army. That parade capped a month-long training campaign called by Saddam "for volunteers willing to launch Jihad (holy war) to liberate Palestine." Saddam said that 6,607,306 Iraqis including 2,051,791 women had volunteered.
Saddam said in October that Iraq was ready to "put an end to Zionism" if Arab rulers did not move to defend the Palestinians against Israel. In addition, Saddam has given $10,000 to the family of each "martyr" in the Palestinian uprising, including the families of the 13 Israeli Arabs killed by Israeli forces in the Rosh Hashana riots in early October. Saddam remains a highly popular figure in Palestinian areas, with demonstrators at funerals for martyrs in Judea/Samaria and Gaza regularly holding up Iraqi flags and posters of the Baghdad despot.
Meanwhile, US President-elect George W. Bush has given the Iraqi resistance new hope of toppling Saddam by tapping Donald Rumsfeld as his Secretary of Defense. Last Thursday, Bush gave Rumsfeld the nod as the next Pentagon chief, a position he held under previous Republican administrations. He is an ardent supporter of the Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella group for Iraq's often disunited rebels, many of whom live in exile, but who strongly believe that American training and weapons are all they need to spark a revolution in Baghdad.
On Feb. 19, 1998 Rumsfeld signed along with most of the Republican Party's neo-conservative foreign policy brain trust a letter urging the US to, among other things, recognize the INC as Iraq's government in exile. The letter says, "Iraq today is ripe for a broad-based insurrection. We must exploit this opportunity," and outlines a series of steps the government should take to aid the INC including positioning "U.S. ground force equipment in the region so that, as a last resort, we have the capacity to protect and assist the anti-Saddam forces in the northern and southern parts of Iraq."
The Bush presidency is inheriting several headaches in the Middle East from the outgoing Clinton administration, including the Palestinian uprising and Saddam Hussein, who survived in power after the 1991 Gulf War when President George Bush the senior opted against marching on Baghdad.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.