There will NOT be a war
The game of chicken and Las Vegas odd-makers

By Tagi Sagafi-nejad
March 7, 2003
The Iranian

The drumbeats of war, the noise, the rhetoric, the inspectors' barging into suspicious locations across Iraq, the State of the Union address, and the squabbling within NATO, and the massive troop build-up all sound ominous. President Bush has been engaged in a frenzied attempt to rally American -- and world -- support for his war on Saddam Hussein.

He is taking us to the brink of war, and anti-war protesters wonder: Where is the smoking gun, the evidence to justify a unilateral invasion? Wall Street remains stuck in its tracks. And the rest of the world wonders if we are mad. It is high anxiety time.

Let me give you a prediction up front: There will not be a war! I have been sensing for some time now that the White House/Pentagon strategy, with which Powell must go along, is to kick up as much dust, make as much noise and rattle the cage so hard that Saddam Hussein is shaken up and spooked. It's like a game of chicken, with President Bush hoping Saddam will blink and swerve, and will not call his high-stakes bluff.

And there sits Saddam Hussein, touting his rifle, presiding over his cabinet and his military officers, puffing away at his cigar, calm, cool, and collected. So far!

But we know now that Egyptians, Jordanians, Russians, Saudis and others have been working behind the scenes to arrange for a retirement home away from home. These initiatives have been going on longer than the public realizes. That they have not borne fruit may have more to do with Saddam's stubbornness than the availability of accommodations in exile. Many places are ready to embrace dictators, potentates and corporate crooks -- so long as they come with money.

But Saddam is not crazy. He may be driven by a sense of historic mission or destiny, of wanting to be the Saladin of 21st century Arabs, that he is destined to stand up to the infidels and all that. The Islamic world has seen many such Messiahs during the ages. The last one to appear was the Mahdi in the Sudan in the 19th century. His Messianic dreams did no more for the Sudanese (still mired in a protracted civil war) than will Saddam's dreams.

Or, more likely, Saddam is just a bully, a thug, who has terrorized his people, soldiers, and even generals into submission through sheer terror and intimidation and has been allowed to get away with it -- up to now.

In the final analysis, he is a survivor. He knows that, if war comes, not only will he be killed but the very historic accomplishments that he is dreaming about will most likely turn into the worst nightmare of Iraq and the region. He would have to be totally out of touch with reality -- a reality that came so close to his nose in 1991 - not to realize that he is inviting devastation of unimaginable magnitude.

Surely, President Bush must also realize the incalculable costs of a war unpopular at home and abroad, costly in material human terms, and likely to have untold and unforeseen consequences for America, the Middle East, and indeed the rest of the world.

So, what will Saddam do? And what will Bush do? One of the following scenarios is likely:

1. He will sit tight up to "one minute before midnight", before taking off for St. Moritz, Yalta, or Odessa! That would give him solace that he had stood up to the world's most powerful military might in history for such a long time. OK, it's not ultimate victory, but he is known to turn defeat into victory, as he did in the eight-year war with Iran. That was his first gross miscalculation. Drawing America into another war will be his third -- and by far the most calamitous - blunder.

2. One of his Generals, henceforth petrified in the face of his brutality, will make a deal with the Iraqi expatriate coalition that has been emerging (and has had the support of the US as well as Iraq's neighbors) musters the courage to stage a coup. Saddam is dragged into the street as was his predecessor Abdul-Karim Ghassem three decades ago, and would be hanged in Baghdad's public square, in front of one of the many statutes of him. Or he slips away in the dark of the night, cloaked in an abaya, destined for his retirement home.

Under the first scenario, Saddam blinks, the game of chicken is over. Under the second, he is toast. Either way, war is averted one minute before midnight. President Bush is the hero of the day, with his second term victory more likely than a protracted, messy war.

In either case, there will not be a war.

If you don't think this prediction will to come true, ask the Las Vegas odd makers, of whom there are many, taking bets as you read these words. After all, they are the aggregators of the opinion of people who are willing to put their money where their judgment is. The odds they are working with could perhaps be the best predictor of whether or not there will be a war.

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