Shaikh Zayed asked me to meet Saddam Hussain after the latter expressed to him that he had reservations towards me.

I met Saddam. The talk between us began with courtesy. Then he hit me with a sentence: “I have reports that say you were supporting Iran.”

He placed the reports in front of me.

I replied: “If you mean weapons, then I dare you to prove it. But, yes, if you are referring to food shipments. Our ships sail to Iran and Iraq, and I will never stop any humanitarian aid from reaching people.”

Sadam was surprised at my courageous words.

He is used to hearing only from men who satisfied his ears.

After this confrontation, we became friends.

Until the invasion of Kuwait, but we kept a thread of a relation.

And 2003 came.

I knew the invasion of Iraq was one of the goals of George Bush, the son.

We tried to persuade him not to do it: I personally asked him to invest the money to be spent on war instead on the people of Iraq.

To build schools, hospitals and infrastructure. But the decision was already taken.

I went to meet Saddam myself. We had a five-hour talk. An honest and candid one.

We discussed matters that we agreed upon and a lot of others that we disagreed on.

I reminded him of the war and its coming skeletons.

And it was evident that he would not win a war against the Americans; and that Iraq would lose everything.

At one point, I whispered to him: “You can leave the presidency of Iraq for the sake of Iraq. Dubai will always be your second land and you’re welcome anytime.”

He looked at me and said: “But Shaikh Mohammad, I’m speaking about saving it and not myself.”

He grew in my eyes after that.

Saddam left our five-hour meeting, four times breaking protocol. He terrified everyone in that room, even his personal secretary Abed Hamoud.

Saddam wouldn’t sit in the same place for a long time.

He was afraid of being bombed or shot. He knew he was on the hit list of many enemies.

At the end of our meeting, he walked me to the car, and opened the door for me.

It was something he never did, as I later came to know.

Saddam miscalculated the war.

And because his men were terrified of him, no one dared to be honest with him and tell him the real capabilities of his army.

They opted to let him believe that they can fight the Americans.

No one can truly win with the weapons of fear for a long time. Saddam paid the price of his convictions.

After the invasion, Iraq did not remain as it is. Neither did the region stay the same.

I warned the Americans of the invasion, and told them: “Do not open the closed box; it has a lot of surprises.”

Iraq lost many of its sons, decades of development.

The Americans lost more than a trillion dollars and thousands of its men.

The region also lost decades of development and peace.

From Iraq, terrorist groups were born and terrorised the world.

Just like what history tells us over and over again: “No one ever wins a war.”

"50 stories in 50 years"

Sheikh Mohammad Ibn Rashid

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