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The final straw.

Jordan has gone out of its way to take a leading role in pushing to unseat Iraq's Saddam Hussein, five years after becoming a pariah state for refusing to fight the allied war against Iraq.

"The situation in Iraq must not be allowed to continue," said Jordan's King Hussein as he got on a plane for talks with the Iraqi opposition leaders in London earlier this year. The brutal death of the high profile defector General Hussein Kamel al Majeed and the male members of his immediate family only days after returning to an apparent pardon from the leadership has strengthened Jordan's resolve to act as the springboard for opposition movements to the Iraqi leadership.

After reducing the import/export arrangements with Iraq and strengthening ties with both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Jordan is expected to act as a bastion of anti-Saddam activities in the region. Jordan's role in destabilising the Iraqi regime was on the agenda in the talks, held between US President Clinton and King Hussein in March. Consultations with the governments of the Gulf States, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco have already taken place. "All that remains now - is the establishment of a US military base in Jordan to harass Iraq directly," said a disgruntled Jordanian official, who is wary of King Hussein's anti-Iraq stance.

Jordan, say some government insiders, is preparing to play a pivotal role in the post Saddam Hussein era in marketing Iraqi goods and playing middle man to a future peace between Iraq and Israel. While this is not public knowledge rumours abound in the capital of the Jordanian Kingdom. The King, using the strongest language to date to criticize the Iraqi leadership, said he was "disgusted" by the murder of the men for whom he had provided a safe haven since their defection last August. "Things cannot go on like that... I believe change in Iraq is inevitable," he said. Jordan's Prime Minister Abdul Karim al Kabariti called the murders a "premeditated criminal act".

Jordanian officials say there has been on-going discussion within the ranks of the Jordanian leadership as to what the country's role would be in the coming months, as economic and political conditions in Iraq worsen. Jordan plays a key role in U.S. backed plans to change the leadership in Iraq, say officials who refused to be named.

Although no Jordanian official will go on the record affirming Jordanian acquiescence to such plans, U.S. Defence Secretary William Perry told reporters in early February that the US was cooperating with Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries to topple the Iraqi regime. Last week an Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Accord, announced it was opening its regional headquarters in Amman. The movement, established in 1991, groups people opposed to the regime, some since the 1970's, as well as recent army defectors. Its spokesman, Dr. Iyad al Allawi, claimed there were army defectors in the "hundreds" streaming to the groups headquarters inside Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. The defectors, the groups claimed, want to join the movement and help build a qualified and capable army with the help of supporters from inside the Iraqi army.

Brigadier General Najib Mustapha Saiehi, who defected from the Iraqi army last November officially to join the ranks of the group, said that support for a change in the leadership in the Iraqi army was large and growing. "The Iraqi leadership is not working for the good of Iraq and the army will try to rid itself of this leadership," said the general at a recent press conference.

The group said Jordan would serve as an information and propaganda base for the opposition. The King had invited Iraqi opposition groups to set up its headquarters in Jordan since November 1995.

The late General Hussein Kamel provided the Jordanian leadership with the opportunity to open links with the Iraqi opposition after defecting to the kingdom last August. The King had been seeking such ties and the re-establishment of relations with Gulf countries since 1991, when Jordan became a pariah state for opposing the Gulf war.

The late General, considered the second most powerful man in Iraq next to Saddam between 1989 and his defection, provided the West with unprecedented information on the Iraqi weapons programme and capabilities. At the time, his defection was seen as the most significant crack in the Iraqi leadership since the Gulf War.

Kamel and his defector brother Saddam Kamel al Majeed were not only senior member of the Leadership, they were also cousins and sons-in-law to Saddam Hussein. But military distinction and relation through marriage could not save the men that exposed the secrets of the Iraqi leadership and called for its downfall. Revenge was swift once back in Iraq. Upon their return both the General and his brother, Saddam, were promptly divorced by their wives, Rana and Raghad, both daughters of Saddam Hussein.

Less than 24 hours after being divorced on the ground of "treason" they were gunned down by family members attempting to redeem their clan honour in the eyes of the Iraqi leader.

The two Majeed brothers as well as a third brother who had defected and their elderly father, who had remained in Iraq, were killed during a gun battle in their homes close to the Presidential palace in Baghdad. The men did not go to their death willingly, a gun battle that killed at least 7 other people left two of their assailant cousins dead. The leadership, while not claiming any responsibility for the murders, announced that the "traitors" were dead and gave a state funeral for the two assailant cousins killed during the attack. Both of Saddam Hussein's sons Uda and Kusay attended the funeral in their hometown of Takrit.

No one has been able to give a credible explanation as to why the Majeed brothers and at least half of their original 60 person entourage returned to Iraq and an uncertain fate. People close to the General said he spent the last few months confused and feeling abandoned in a hilltop mansion provided by the Jordanian monarch. His wife Raghad, Saddam Hussein's favourite daughter, is said to have pushed him to return and redeem himself with her father.

Today the fate of Raghad, her sister Rana and that of their five children remains unknown. The press in Amman claimed that the daughters and the two young sons Ali and Ahmad were also killed in the battle because "Saddam wanted to put an end to the male line of the al Majeed's of Hussein Kamel. "Whether Saddam had his own grandson's killed is not known, what is known is that he is a man that does not forgive.

"Hussein Kamel had been rejected by the Iraqi opposition groups who refused to let him join their ranks and he became insignificant - no one else offered him refuge - so he returned to Iraq to face the fate of any traitor," said Adel Ibrahim, the press attache at the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, one of the last people to see him before he left Jordan for lraq on 20 February. As Hussein Kamel was buried in an unmarked grave, the Iraqi opposition, which had distanced itself from him in life was left to ponder its future in the capitals of the Arab world and Europe, in the ligh of his premature death.
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Title Annotation:Jordan's King Hussein leads move against Saddam Hussein
Author:Shahin, Miriam
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Apr 1, 1996
Previous Article:For our children's children?
Next Article:Jordan gets a new, young government.

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