Analysis: Saddam's Execution: It's all in the timing

The Muslim world woke up at dawn on the first day of Id al-Adha to find that Saddam had been executed.

saddam 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
saddam 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
From early on it was obvious that dealing with carrying out the execution of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein would not be an easy task, and that the main problem would be timing. Although it was widely known that this week was not considered an appropriate time for the execution of a leader, the Muslim world woke up at dawn on Saturday, December 30 - the first day of Id al-Adha and a few hours before the Id prayer - to find that Saddam had been executed, despite the fact that Iraqi law forbids executions on holidays. Many thought that the Iraqi government, headed by Nouri Elmaliki, acted too hastily in executing Saddam so quickly, despite the fact that the Iraqi court allowed a period of one month to act on the verdict, which was published on December 26. The majority of reactions in the Arab world, even from moderate countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and others, focused on the argument that the Iraqi government breached the holiness of the Id. Moreover, televised scenes of the execution show that guards called out words of support for Shi'ite leader Muqtada Alsadr and the Shi'ite cleric Muhammed Baqer Alsader, who was executed by Saddam in 1980, suggesting that the execution was seen as a Shi'ite revenge and just another part of the ongoing struggle between Shi'ites and Sunnis in Iraq. As such, it would add fuel to the fire of sectarian violence and hinder the future unity of the divided country. Observers in the Arab world who compete to analyze the timing of the execution and its ramifications on future relations in Iraq believe the Iraqi government tried to make a determined stand, especially in light of the Baker-Hamilton report, in a desperate attempt to curb violence. The execution is also being perceived by those in the Arab world as a clear message sent by the American administration through the Iraqi government to the countries surrounding Iraq, mainly Syria and Iran, that the United States is not yet leaving the area. Furthermore, the execution sends a firm and clear-cut message that Washington and Baghdad will not accept bargains like the one suggested by Sunni leaders in Iraq, which would have them stop violence in return for the release of Saddam. Another explanation common in Iraq is that the execution was part of a policy of clearing the table before entering a new phase starting from the beginning of 2007. This leaves the main question open: What will be the future of Iraq after Saddam's execution? It seems that the accepted scenario is that the execution will not have an effect on the tragic situation in Iraq and will not pave the way to achieving the target of a free, secure Iraq. In practice, say pundits in the Arab arena, the execution and its timing will not change the negative attitude towards the US in Iraq.