The CIA analyst who interrogated Iraq's Saddam Hussein upon his capture in December 2003 believes if the dictator had remained in power, then ISIS would not exist as it does today.
In his upcoming book “Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein,” former CIA analyst John Nixon chronicles the debriefing he had with Saddam upon his capture in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“You are going to fail,” Hussein said to Nixon during the interrogation, according to an adaptation from Nixon’s book printed in TIME. "You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq. You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.”
The interrogation took place after Nixon had been up for 27 hours and was “flat-out exhausted,” according to a book excerpt published in the Daily Mail.
Saddam had been found hiding in a hole in the ground, and Nixon was tasked with identifying that the man captured was in fact the wanted dictator, and to find out where the weapons of mass destruction were.
“Iraq is not a terrorist nation,” Saddam said during the interrogation. “We did not have a relationship with (Osama) bin Laden, and did not have weapons of mass destruction... and were not a threat to our [neighbors]. But the American President [George W Bush] said Iraq wanted to attack his daddy and said we had ‘weapons of mass destruction.’”
“We never thought about using weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “It was not discussed. Use chemical weapons against the world? Is there anyone with full faculties who would do this? Who would use these weapons when they had not been used against us?”
In the TIME excerpt, Nixon comments on the current state of the Middle East and how President Barack Obama’s military efforts against ISIS have made progress, but President-elect Donald Trump will have to create a revised strategy.
Given that ISIS has gained power in the Middle East, Nixon suggests that the militant group could have been stopped if Saddam had been left in control of Iraq.
“…If Saddam had remained in power, Iraq would have eventually gotten out from under international sanctions -- which had already been crumbling by 2001 -- and he would probably be in charge today, preparing one of his sons to take over after his death,” he said.
“Saddam’s leadership style and penchant for brutality were among the many faults of his regime, but he could be ruthlessly decisive when he felt his power base was threatened, and it is far from certain that his regime would have been overthrown by a movement of popular discontent,” Nixon wrote.
Nixon then remarks on how Saddam felt threatened by Islamist extremist groups and would have worked to stop any from taking control.
“It is improbable that a group like ISIS would have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they have had under the Shia-led Baghdad government,” he wrote. “Saddam felt that Islamist extremist groups in Iraq posed the biggest threat to his rule and his security apparatus worked assiduously to root out such threats.”
Nixon said he found Saddam to be “thoroughly unlikeable,” but that he respected him for the way he was able to control Iraq.
“Before me, there was only bickering and arguing," Saddam told Nixon during the interrogation. I ended all that and made people agree!”
Nixon thinks Trump can shape a new regional order in the Middle East if he makes tough decisions and recognizes that “we may have to deal with people and leaders that we abhor if we want to help bring stability back to the region and limit the scope of terrorism’s reach.”