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Conflict with Iraq

Battle Lines
Tom Brown
Tom Brown
Battle Lines is an ongoing Web log (blog) dedicated to providing a broad perspective on the latest news and developments from the war in Iraq. Response and suggestions are welcomed.

Tom Brown has been an editor, reporter and software analyst for The Seattle Times for 20 years.

April 16, 2003

More impressions from Tikrit

The Washington Post reports that in much of the rest of Iraq, larger-than-life portraits of Saddam Hussein have been smashed, ripped up and shot with bullets. But not in Tikrit, where nobody dares to deface Hussein's portrait. "In a country where family ties matter, many here consider themselves Hussein's relatives, even if only through tenuous connections or tribal affiliations, enhancing the sense of loyalty to a man who may be dead, on the run or in hiding."

Speculation about Syria

Although the Bush administration insists it has no plans to invade Syria, many world newspapers are alarmed by the prospect and worry that an invasion of Iraq's neighbor is a real possibility, the Washington Post reports.

The Christian Science Monitor argues that what's far more likely is a strategic pause in the action as the administration tries to turn the Iraq victory into diplomatic leverage.

The Guardian in London sizes up the situation and concludes there's little chance that Washington would launch a Syrian invasion. The recent tough talk warning Syria not to accept fleeing Iraqi officials was a shot across the bow, aimed at dissuading the country from letting Iraqis across the border, the paper says.

Even if western journalists regard an invasion of Syria as unlikely, some Middle Eastern countries are jittery about the situation. The accusations against Syria are "like throwing oil on a fire or salt in a wound, as you say, and it makes the situation even more tense and precarious," said Hisham Youssef, spokesman for the Arab League, in a story in today's Washington Post. "Israel being involved is going to inflame the whole region. We have suffered enough."

The Lebanon Daily Star urges Syrians and Americans to sit down and talk.. "These are ominous signs that what many feared has come true: The Bush administration has been emboldened by the alacrity with which the Iraqi military collapsed and now feels confident that it can bring about similar results in other Arab countries that fail to heed its diktats."

Tracking down the faces on the cards

How many Iraqis might have fled to Syria? In Israel, there's a strong suspicion that "hundreds" of Iraqi officials fled across the border.

The Israeli site DEBKAfile claims that as early as Sunday, "small teams of American undercover troops were already inside Syria marking out the hideouts of Saddam’s close family, his top lieutenants, military leaders and the directors of his banned weapons programs." DEBKA has been reporting since early this month that numerous Iraqi officials fled Baghdad shortly after the invasion to stay in a 1,600-room luxury resort in Syria. with 600 meters of private sandy beach in the Mediterranean coastal town of Latakiya.

Is Saddam's first wife one of them? Yesterday, U.S. officials said Sajida Talfah has fled Iraq, but wouldn't say where they thought she was.

One thing's fairly certain -- Iraqis are probably not going to seek refuge in Iran.

Posted by Katherine Long at April 16, 2003 07:00 AM

Tom Brown Katherine Long, research editor at the Seattle Times and 18-year editor and reporter, substituted for Tom Brown the week of April 14.

April 2003
March 2003

Signing off
The Saddam Files
Demonstrations in Karbala
Building a government from scratch
Smoking gun?
The irony of freedom
Where are the weapons?
Cultural advisors quit over antiquities issue
Baghdad reality check


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