In a long talk with Nizar Hamdoon in May 2003, Saddam's long-time ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, I reported on his telling me that Saddam Hussein's remaining on the loose meant that "he was both fearful and still burdened with a sense of loyalty to his old patron." He emphasized that he would remain tied to his old boss until he was caught or killed. I had a hard time understanding this, but clearly other Sunni Iraqis shared this outlook, as evidenced by an Associated Press report today:
With Saddam Hussein in captivity, some tribal elders from his old power base are showing greater willingness to work with Iraq's American occupiers, realizing they must carve out a new political role for the Sunni Muslim minority that long ruled the country.
At a meeting this week between tribal leaders and U.S. commanders, a prominent elder from the village where the ousted Iraqi dictator was born made a dramatic acknowledgment that Saddam's era was over. "I told my people to tell their children that his time is gone," said Sheik Mahmoud Al Nada, leader of the powerful Al Nassari tribe from the village of Uja, near Tikrit, in a region that has been a stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance. "At first few people would listen, it was like a trickle of water but now, after Saddam is gone, it is becoming a river," said Al Nada, who has opposed the American occupation and even told commanders in the past Iraqis had the right to resist it.
U.S. officers have been meeting every week with the region's tribal leaders, but Al Nada was the first sheik who openly spoke against Saddam, said Lt. Col. Steven Russell, a U.S. commander in Tikrit. "He is a brave man, he needed a lot of courage to say something like that in Saddam's village," Russell said. All eight sheiks present at the meeting told the Americans they would not resist the occupation. (December 24, 2003)