Maybe Saddam really is in Syria (see Saddam update: Has the regime already changed? at right).
The Iraqi dictator made two appearances on Iraqi TV Friday. The person in the tapes appears to be him (not a double), indicating that he survived the "decapitation" bombing of one of his compounds on the night the war started.
However, the only specific incident Saddam mentioned in his brief address to the Iraqi people Friday night was the downing of a U.S. Apache helicopter March 24. A lot has happened since then. Why didn't he mention any of the battles that the Iraqi information ministry blathers about daily?
For a possible answer, we return to our report by the Israeli site DEBKAfile that on March 23 the Iraqi regime rented an entire 1,600-room luxury resort on the Mediterranean in Syria and that high Iraqi government figures are sequestered there. Saddam could have gone there after the 24th.
In his other appearance on Iraqi TV, Saddam was shown mixing with supposed civilians in a "spontaneous" demonstration. The tape had some "contemporary" aspects in that there was smoke in the sky, presumably from oil-filed trenches. But those were ignited before March 24.
Also, analysts of Friday's tapes were puzzled that many of those around Saddam at the demonstration were wearing sweaters and coats, hardly the dress one would expect on days when the temperature is exceeding 100 degrees. It was much cooler in Baghdad 10 days ago.
So it's possible that both tapes were shot sometime around, say, March 25 or 26, and that Saddam left his minions in charge of the final phase while he looks out at the blue Med.
As we've noted, the U.S. has been harshly critical of Syria in recent days, accusing it of allowing the transit of night-vision goggles, GPS jammers and Russian-made Kornet anti-tank rockets, all banned under U.N. sanctions. But weapons smuggling is a fact of all wars, and the scale of it in this one clearly hasn't affected the course of battle.
So we have to wonder: Could there be something far bigger at stake here?