Al-Ahram Weekly Online   9 - 15 November 2006
Issue No. 819
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Ibrahim Nafie

The final call?

Saddam Hussein may have been sentenced to death, but Iraq's troubles are far from over, suggests Ibrahim Nafie

A special Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced Iraq's deposed president Saddam Hussein and his half brother Barzan Al-Tikriti to death by hanging for crimes against humanity. The judge of the revolutionary court under Saddam, Awwad Al-Bandar, received the same sentence.

The reaction was mixed in Iraq. In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, crowds took to the street to show their anger at the sentence. Saddam still has many sympathisers in most of the Sunni areas in central Iraq. But in the Kurdish north and the Shia south, the day of Saddam's sentencing was once of jubilation.

The sentence was to be expected. Saddam has committed crimes against humanity, not only in his country but across the borders. Saddam is allowed to appeal, but such action is unlikely to change his fate. Until the sentence is carried out, Saddam will continue to stand trial in Al-Anfal case, but his fate is already sealed.

Analysts have been speculating about the impact of the ruling on violence, armed resistance, national conciliation, and generally the future of Iraq as a key Arab country. I don't believe that Saddam's fate should be linked with that of the legitimate national resistance that is active against the forces of occupation and that do not target civilians. I believe that various Iraqi parties should cooperate, as Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki said, to bring stability back to Iraq and set a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

The reaction outside Iraq has also been varied. Arab officials have mostly remained silent. In Jordan, the official spokesman said Saddam's execution is an internal Iraqi affair and that Jordan hopes for stability to be restored in the country.

President George Bush said Saddam's execution was a sign that democracy was doing well in Iraq. The US president, who congratulated the Iraqi people on the ruling, was obviously trying to score points in the US mid-term elections. The Democrats have been using Iraq to upstage the Republicans, and some believe Saddam's sentence was timed to shore up support to the Republicans.

Saddam's sentence was no surprise. The deposed president was going to face the death sentence in either Dujail or Anfal cases. Still, we should not exaggerate the repercussions of the sentence. Saddam's execution is not going to make Iraq's security better or worse. What the Iraqis should focus on is to achieve national reconciliation, resume reconstruction, and draw a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation forces.

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