Coup Attempt Against Saddam Fails

  • Share
  • Read Later
BEIRUT: Some 50 Iraqi military officers were arrested recently under suspicion of a conspiracy against Saddam Hussein in the latest attempt to overthrow the Iraqi leader since the end of the Gulf War. Iraqi dissidents said all the suspects are Sunni Muslims -- a group commonly considered to be Hussein's main base of power -- and included several trusted officers from Tikrit, Hussein's hometown. Last week, in possibly another planned attack, a former head of army intelligence claimed that several Republican Guard officers were charged with planning to assassinate Saddam and his two sons. The general, Wafiq al-Samarra'i, told the Arab media that Hussein responded by reorganizing the elite force that protects him and his family. The reports point to the mounting pressures on the leader and increasing dissatisfaction among the Iraqi people, says TIME Beirut bureau chief Lara Marlowe. "Under the circumstances, there is a lot of tension within the society," Marlowe says. "People are starving to death in this enormous prison state. The only way out of the country is to drive 12 hours across the desert to Jordan. And Saddam keeps a hangman on duty 24 hours a day." Marlowe also cautions that there are at least three reported coup attempts each year, many of which are unfounded rumors floated by Saddam's enemies to create an air of instability. "We try to take these reports with a grain of salt. The Iraqi dissidents have a vested interest in getting word out that the country is destabilizing," she says. For now at least, the leader seems to be effectively keeping a tight grip on the country. -- Jenifer Mattos