Viewing cable 02AMMAN5490

02AMMAN54902002-09-24 12:43:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Amman
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 005490 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2012 
Classified By: Ambassador Edward W. Gnehm.  Reasons 1.5 (b,d) 
¶1. (C) USINT Baghdad Chief Krzysztof Bernacki, in meetings 
with the Ambassador and other Embassy officials on September 
23, provided his latest impressions of life in Baghdad. 
Bernacki, who returned to Baghdad September 6 after a month's 
leave, said the Iraqi regime, and average Iraqis themselves, 
are taking steps to prepare for U.S. military action.  More 
security forces have appeared on the streets of the capital 
and Iraqis have begun stockpiling provisions.  Those with the 
means to do so are making plans to leave the capital when 
military operations begin.  Bernacki noted that Iraq's recent 
West Asian Football Championship victory provided an 
opportunity to see (and hear) how widespread private gun 
ownership is in Baghdad and how undisciplined Iraqi soldiers 
can be.  After Iraq won the championship, the city was ablaze 
with all variety of gunfire: "I thought the war had started," 
he said.  Finally, he passed on a rumor making the rounds in 
Baghdad diplomatic circles that after the President's UNGA 
address, the Saudis offered asylum to Saddam and his family 
-- an offer Saddam turned down.  End Summary. 
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Security on the Streets; Preparations to Get Out of Town 
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¶2. (C) Bernacki said that he had noticed a significant 
increase of Iraqi security forces -- both uniformed and 
plainclothed -- on the streets of the capital.  While ever 
present before, "one or two are now stationed on every street 
corner."  Security around government buildings and ministries 
has also been beefed up somewhat, from an average of four per 
building to six or eight.  He also reported having seen a 
noticeable increase of individuals he assumes to be 
intelligence officers positioned on the street and in 
buildings near the U.S. Interest Section.  Those increases 
notwithstanding, Bernacki said he has not seen any large 
concentrations of troops moving or otherwise present in the 
center of Baghdad, nor any visible signs of dissent or 
anti-regime behavior (graffiti, etc.) anywhere. 
¶3. (C) Bernacki said that many people appear to be making use 
of the double rations the government has been distributing 
for the past 2-3 months to stockpile provisions.  He has also 
heard rumors that "people are looking for ways to get out of 
the city when fighting begins.  They are building shelters in 
the countryside."  Asked about how he thought most Iraqis 
would respond to a U.S.-led military action, Bernacki 
predicted that most would neither fight for the regime or 
join an uprising.  They would stay inside their homes and 
when it's over "will come out and cheer.  People are fearful 
about what regime change will bring -- whether fighting will 
be swift or prolonged, about the uncertainty of it all -- but 
not about regime change itself." 
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Has War Begun? No, That's Just A Cheer for the Home Team 
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¶4. (C) Bernacki passed on a vignette about Iraq's September 7 
victory in the West Asian Football Championship that provides 
a vivid example of the extent of private gun ownership in 
Baghdad and the level of discipline (or lack thereof) of the 
Iraqi military.  After the Iraqi team won, "the whole city 
was out firing anything they had.  It went on for about an 
hour an a half."  Bernacki said he saw and heard heavy 
machine gun fire, pistols and other small arms.  He even saw 
anti-aircraft batteries firing wildly into the air: "for a 
minute, I thought the war had begun!  Then I found out it was 
about the game."  Bernacki noted that there is a standing 
Presidential order forbidding anyone from firing weapons into 
the air for celebration, an order that was widely ignored the 
night of the game.  Offering his own interpretation of what 
he had seen and heard, Bernacki observed that "after all they 
have been through over the years, Iraqis badly want to be on 
the winning side.  They want a success." 
Saudi Offer of Asylum? 
¶5. (C) Finally, Bernacki passed on a rumor that has been 
making the rounds in Baghdad's diplomatic community. 
According to Russian and Spanish diplomats there, the Saudis 
-- through an envoy dispatched to Baghdad immediately 
following the President's UNGA speech -- supposedly offered 
asylum to Saddam and his family in Saudi Arabia.  Saddam, to 
no one's great surprise, turned the Saudis down.