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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Saddam's son 'becomes Shia'
Uday Hussein
Uday: Watching his brother's rise with resentment
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

For months there have been reports of a growing rift between the two sons of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay.

Now it is being alleged that his elder son, Uday, has taken the extreme step of converting to Shia Islam.

What is not in doubt is that the struggle to succeed Saddam Hussein is already under way - and that his younger son, Qusay, is winning it.

Saddam and Qusay Hussein
Qusay Hussein (right) is winning in the battle to succeed his father
For some time there have been signs that Saddam himself, now 64, is seriously ill - perhaps with cancer - and that he is grooming Qusay to take his place.

The 34-year-old Qusay now has a senior position within the ruling Baath Party and overall responsibility for both the army and the security forces.

Resentment

Uday, two years his senior, has watched his brother's rise with growing resentment.

The reports that Uday has taken the step of converting to Shia Islam are being taken seriously by experienced Iraq-watchers in London.

In a country where a Sunni elite has traditionally ruled over the Shia majority, the sectarian divide is a highly sensitive issue.

One Iraqi analyst told the BBC he sees Uday's action as a form of symbolic protest at his marginalisation.

However, if this is indeed Uday's intention then - given the Saddam family's long history of repressing the Shia - it is likely to prove a hollow gesture.

The Iraqi Shia have little incentive to play the role of pawns in a power struggle between two men they hold in equal contempt.

See also:

01 Dec 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Saddam steps up defiance
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
Gulf War: Iraq's legacy of pain
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