Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Anti-war protestors may be sincere in their desire to help the Iraqis, but they are actually playing into the hands of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein - if he is still alive, an Israeli expert said on Friday.
Anti-American, anti-war demonstrations erupted in cities throughout the world after the U.S.-led war on Iraq began early Thursday, Iraqi time. Many countries also expressed their disapproval of the U.S. decision to go to war.
University of Haifa Professor Amatzia Baram, considered a leading expert on Iraq, said he is not certain that Saddam is still alive, but regardless -- the strategy of the Iraqi regime is to create enough Iraqi civilian casualties to provoke a world outcry that would stop the war.
"If he's still alive -- I'm not sure he's still alive -- he really should appear today on Iraqi television," Baram said. The Americans have intentionally not destroyed the Iraqi ability to broadcast, he said. "If today he doesn't appear, he has a serious problem."
The attack on Iraq began Thursday with a targeted missile attack on the suspected hideout of Saddam and other top leaders. U.S. officials have said they do not know if Saddam was hit or not.
In a press conference on Friday, Iraq's information minister admitted that one of Saddam's residences was hit: "They rocketed the residence of his household. But thank God they are all safe," Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Sa'eed al-Sahhaf said Friday morning. "God protected them," he said.
Shortly after the raid, Iraqi television broadcast the Iraqi leader delivering a fiery speech. But there is speculation that the speech was either pre-taped or delivered by a look-alike.
Baram said he is certain that Saddam himself delivered the speech shown on Iraqi television but he believes it was taped a day or two prior to the attack.
"He won't run away but he's hiding all the time," Baram said in a telephone interview. "He and his sons are in Iraq. If he's alive he's conducting the battle as best as he can."
If Saddam is dead, it would be a major blow to the morale of Saddam's elite Republican Guard and make the conquest of Baghdad easier, Baram said, but he said Saddam's son Qusai could take over for him -- if he is still alive. Baram expressed doubt that Saddam's other son, Uday, would succeed his father.
According to Baram, Saddam's strategy remains the same: "To delay as much as possible the American advance, extend as much as possible the war... and increase American casualties [and what is] much easier make sure that there are many Iraqi casualties."
He'll do this by trying to suck allied troops into the towns and villages on the way to Baghdad and draw them into street battles where many civilians will be killed.
"The idea is to splash red in all the TV screens in the world," he said, in the hope of provoking a worldwide outcry that would stop the war.
Baram said that while some American and European protesters may actually be pro-Saddam, most of them are probably decent people who just don't want war and don't understand how dangerous Saddam Hussein is.
"[They] are helping Saddam Hussein a great deal," he said. "His elite troops will not surrender [if they think there is] an end to the war [and] they can continue to rule, keep their privileges and pillage. These people are raping Iraq.
"The anti-war protestors are making an end to the war much more difficult. The road to hell is paved with good intentions," he added.
While there are differences between them, he said, Baram likened Saddam to Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler and anti-war protestors to those who opposed America's entrance into World War II before 1941.
"His adventurism [and] and big time gambling [are] just like Hitler," Baram said. "[If he is not stopped] Saddam will be a little Hitler armed with nuclear weapons. [One] cannot stop the process as long as the man is there.
"These demonstrators are lengthening the war...lengthening the suffering of the Iraqi people," he said.