The Saddam Gambit
It's clear that Saddam Hussein's verdict was scheduled for Sunday to give the party in power a boost before the election. What's not clear is what the reaction in Iraq will be. The Iraqi government is nervous enough to go into emergency mode:
Iraq canceled leave Friday for all military officers two days before an expected verdict — and possible death sentence — in the trial of Saddam Hussein. For the second time this week, a top Bush administration official huddled with the Iraqi prime minister.
Many of Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs, along with some Shiites and Kurds, are predicting a firestorm of violence if the court sentences the ex-president to death, as is widely expected. Bloodshed is already high, with police finding the bodies of 87 torture victims throughout the capital between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 p.m. Friday.
But most Shiites, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are likely to be enraged if he escapes the gallows. Al-Maliki declared last month he expected "this criminal tyrant will be executed," saying that would likely break the will of Saddam's followers in the insurgency.
Cheers followed the death of Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay, as well as his capture. But that was an eon ago, and the sectarian strife was practically non-existent compared to now. The government has also set up new checkpoints and put the country under curfew for Sunday. If mass violence breaks out, would that be good for the Republicans? Would it have been worth it to time such an explosion before the election?