Skip to comments.Saddam's alleged go-between with Muslim militants a longtime Islamizer
Posted on 10/30/2003 5:16:16 AM PST by Oldeconomybuyer
BAGHDAD, Oct 30 (AFP) - Former Iraqi number two Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, accused by Washington of masterminding an unholy alliance between Saddam Hussein loyalists and Islamic militants, was the prime mover behind the ousted regime's adoption of Islamist rhetoric through the 1990s.
A religious conservative regularly filmed worshipping at Baghdad's main mosques during his years in power, Ibrahim oversaw the Baath party's abandonment of its secular principles in the years after the 1991 Gulf war in favour of the language of anti-US fundamentalism.
Special prayer rooms were kept for him at two of the capital's largest Sunni mosques -- the Abdel Kader Gilani and Abu Hanifa -- and Ibrahim oversaw large state subsidies for Islamic causes.
Public funds were poured into a new Saddam University for Islamic Studies, and religious schools across the Sunni belt of western and north-central Iraq.
It is that region that now lies at the centre of the deadly unrest dogging the US-led occupation which coalition commanders suspect him of orchestrating though an alliance with Islamic militants from abroad.
A trusted aide of Saddam since the very beginnings of his rise to power, Ibrahim would be a natural choice for the sensitive mission of leading such an underground resistance network.
The survivor of successive purges, he is the only Iraqi official still at large to have taken part alongside Saddam in the 1968 coup that brought his Baath party to power.
Born, like the ousted strongman, in the Tikrit district north of the capital, Ibrahim also has tribal connections in the Mosul region further north through his daughter-in-law's family.
Not a military man by training, Ibrahim was nonetheless given the honorary rank of lieutenant general and made deputy commander of the armed forces and commander of the northern region.
Kurdish officials say he has maintained close ties with a network of former army officers and loyalist militiamen who have been carrying out attacks across north-central Iraq.
From lowly origins like his boss, Ibrahim was always one of the hard men of the old regime and remains feared enough by ordinary Iraqis to remain in hiding with little fear of being betrayed.
In 1988, he formed part of the special security team that oversaw the repression of an Iranian-backed Kurdish uprising through the use of chemical weapons.
When the build-up to the Gulf war sparked expectations of a renewed Kurdish rebellion, he did not hesitate to remind the Kurds of the poison gas and other agents his men had sprayed on the rebel-held town of Halabja.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, Ibrahim was charged with the eradication of Shiite Muslim rebels from the marshlands of southeastern Iraq.
Long before the United States made him a top figure on its most wanted list, his record of brutality had already brought him to the attention of both human rights watchdogs and the Iraqi opposition.
In 1998, he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Karbala.
The following year he was nearly arrested for war crimes while receiving medical treatment in Vienna.
Like the regime itself, Ibrahim has always been capable of taking pragmatism to almost cynical lengths.
At an Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, when Iraq was wooing the international community, he shook hands with Kuwait's foreign minister in what was hailed as a rapprochement between the longtime foes.
But at an Islamic summit in March this year when it had become clear that the US-led invasion was all but inevitable, he described another Kuwaiti diplomat as a "stooge" and a "monkey".
On August 17 the Al-Arabiya news channel said it had received a letter purportedly from Ibrahim promising to avenge the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons in a US attack.