TIME Exclusive: Arab leaders hope to head off a war with a plan to facilitate Saddam’s overthrow by his own generals.
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003
Convinced that President Bush is serious about invading Iraq, Arab leaders hope to avoid war by orchestrating a coup in Baghdad. Well-placed sources have told TIME that Saudi Arabia is vigorously pursuing a concrete plan to encourage Iraqi generals to overthrow Saddam and his clique.
Western and Arab diplomats say the Saudi proposal requires a UN Security Council resolution declaring amnesty for the vast majority of Iraqi officials if they orchestrate a transition of power in Baghdad. Such an amnesty would extend to all but 100 to 120 of the most senior Baath Party officials, including Saddam, his sons, close relatives and others who have long formed part of the ruling circle. It would be offered immediately prior to the outbreak of war as a signal to Saddam’s generals that the time had arrived to save their own skins with a U.N.-guaranteed amnesty. And, the Saudis believe, it could well bring the traditionally coup-proof dictator tumbling down.