BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Saddam Hussein is hiding in Iraq with a small group, probably including his sons, and issuing orders to trusted supporters as he plots a return to power, according to former Iraqi generals returned from exile. The generals, who were in exile for years and now play a key role in working with U.S. forces to purge the Iraqi public service and security apparatus of Saddam die-hards, said the deposed president had ordered a name-change for his Baath party.
Maj. Gen. Tawfiq al-Yassiri told Reuters that Saddam had changed its name in the last few days to “Auda,” meaning return.
“Saddam used his authority as the secretary-general of the party. He is hiding with a small group that probably includes his two sons,” said Yassiri, who helped lead a rebellion against Saddam in 1991.
Saddam was trying to spread chaos in Iraq, which is now under the control of the U.S. forces that ousted him last month after three weeks of war.
“Saddam Hussein prepared for every eventuality, including the total collapse of his regime. He does not leave anything to chance and has ample means of communication,” Yassiri said.
“He uses different tools at his disposal to issue orders for his followers to spread chaos.”
The general said most old Baath leaders were gone, but a new generation, including sons of the old guard, was helping Saddam.
Iraqi Maj. Gen. Saad Obeidi, a psychological warfare specialist now working with U.S. forces, said Saddam’s success would depend on how the U.S.-installed administration ran Iraq.
“Time has always been the backbone of Saddam’s strategy. He is a man who knows the psychology and sociology of Iraq. The looting and disorder we see now fall in his favor,” said Obeidi, a psychological warfare specialist.
“Americans have to act fast. People will forget all about the Baath Party if order and prosperity return.”
The Baath party, whose name means resurrection, was founded in Damascus in the 1940s by three Arabs educated at the Sorbonne university in Paris. It came to power in Iraq in 1968 and used force to crush all opposition.
Earlier this month U.S. forces banned senior members from holding office in Iraq and said it had been dissolved.
Speculation about the whereabouts of Saddam and sons Qusay and Uday has swirled since Baghdad fell. Several top aides are in U.S. custody and Washington has said it is confident he will be found if he is still alive.
Earlier this month a close associate was quoted as saying Saddam was safe in Iraq and organizing resistance. And pro-U.S. Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi said in remarks published a week ago he had credible information Saddam and his sons were alive and in Iraq.