Once again, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is talking out of both sides of his mouth, saying one thing while doing another. It seems to be a standard practice every time he gets in trouble. And he clearly is in trouble.
In a televised speech over the weekend - his first since the end of the Persian Gulf war - Saddam announced major political reforms for Iraq, including a new constitution, a new Parliament and a new Cabinet, plus more liberties, political parties and a free press.Unfortunately, this is not as revolutionary as it might seem. Saddam has made the same promise of democratic reform before, both during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and prior to the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
The so-called reforms have no timetable and would leave Saddam still in charge. The announcement is more likely a sign that the twin armed rebellion raging inside Iraq is going against the government.
Another sign is Saddam's declaration that Shiite rebels had been crushed in the south and Kurdish rebels in the north would soon be defeated. Any time Saddam blusters about how he is winning, the opposite is probably happening. Remember his cries of victory, even as his armies were being routed by U.S.-led forces.
Still another indication that the rebellion may be succeeding is the government's second extension of amnesty for army deserters, giving them until March 19 to report to their units. The move adds credence to rebel claims that deserters were fighting on their side.
A fourth sign that Saddam is in trouble was his statement that the Kurds were fighting to serve the interests of Israel - a ridiculous and shopworn claim that had little effect in the Persian Gulf war and has even less meaning when applied to the Kurds. Such comments have no connection with reality.
While Saddam was declaring victory in the south, rebels said they still controlled the Islamic holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. Both cities were reportedly under heavy bombardment with mosques and shrines being damaged. So much for Saddam's claim to be a defender of Islam.
In the north, Kurds have captured Mosul, 200 miles north of Baghdad. Mosul is the third-largest city in Iraq with a population of 1.2 million and is a center of Iraq's oil industry.
All the signs seem to indicate that Saddam is on very shaky ground, indeed. Talk of democratic reform and claims of victory only strengthen the belief that things are going poorly for the Iraqi tyrant.