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Report: Hussein was obsessed with Iran, his legacy

By Associated Press
Published October 7, 2004

WASHINGTON - Saddam Hussein was obsessed with his status in the Arab world, dreaming of weapons of mass destruction to pump up his prestige. And even as the United States fixated on him, he was fixated on his neighboring enemy, Iran.

That is the picture that emerges from interrogations of the former Iraqi leader since his capture in December, according to the final report of the chief U.S. arms inspector, which gives a first glimpse into what the United States has gleaned about his hopes, dreams and insecurities.

The report suggests that Hussein tried to improve relations with the United States in the 1990s, yet basked in his standing as the only leader to stand up to the world's superpower.

It says he was determined that if Iran was to acquire nuclear weapons, so was Iraq.

And it says he was a narcissist who cared about his legacy, making sure bricks were molded with his name in hopes people would admire them for centuries.

Weapons hunter Charles Duelfer had access to information from U.S. interrogations of Hussein over several months. The former Iraqi dictator apparently talked because he was concerned with his legacy.

Much of his motivation in the quest for weapons of mass destruction came from Iran and the two countries' "long-standing rivalry over the centuries."

"From Saddam's viewpoint, the Persian menace loomed large and was a challenge to his place in history," the report says.

"This was an important motivation in his views on WMD - especially as it became obvious that Iran was pursuing the very capabilities he was denied," said the report.

Hussein has been out of sight since his capture near Tikrit in December, except for an appearance in July at a preliminary hearing in Baghdad.

Officials have said that interrogations of Hussein, first by the CIA and then by the FBI, have yielded little helpful information about weapons programs and the insurgency in Iraq. But the report shows they have provided new insight into his thinking.

Despite years of hostility with the United States, Hussein had mixed feelings about the Americans and through the 1990s tested U.S. willingness to open a dialogue, the report said.

At the same time, Saddam got a boost from America's hostility.

"He accrued power and prestige far beyond his inherent weight by positioning himself as the only leader to stand up to the last superpower," the report said.

[Last modified October 7, 2004, 00:30:24]

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