US officials say they see signs of renewed control by Baghdad of military and security forces around Iraq, but say they don't know whether that leadership is provided by Saddam Hussein or by his senior chiefs.
The partial revival of Iraqi command comes as US forces close in on Baghdad. Already, air strikes are hitting the armored vehicles of the Republican Guard units guarding the city's outer reaches.
American war strategists are proceeding on the assumption that Saddam is alive even though intelligence on his fate remains inconclusive, Bush administration officials said yesterday.
Saddam survived last week's air strike aimed at the Dora Farms complex in Baghdad where he slept.
Officials speaking on condition of anonymity say some evidence suggests he was wounded. Others, however, continue to say the information about his status doesn't lead to any clear conclusion. Iraqi officials say Saddam is alive and well.
After the strike, intelligence and military officials described the Iraqi leadership as in disarray. In the field, that seemed apparent too, as some Iraqi combat units fought and others fled or did nothing. But now, officials are seeing more coordination among fighting forces.
Officials have predicted the Iraqi government could crumble without Saddam. That it appears to be holding onto power is taken as another sign he is alive.
U.S. Officials acknowledged that a speech by Saddam aired Monday on Iraqi television swayed some toward believing he was alive. But there was nothing in the speech that US intelligence regards as conclusive that it was recorded after the strike aimed at killing him.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he believes Saddam is alive.
"I've found credible the statements that he has made since then" as proof he is alive, he said.