Report: Saddam's number two, alleged leader of insurgency, wants to be friends

Via Weasel Zippers, it’s garbage with 99.9% certainty but so intriguing that it’s worth a post anyway. Remember this turd? He co-founded the Iraqi Baath party with Saddam in 1968 and was his right-hand man at the time of the invasion, earning him the not-at-all coveted spot on the king of clubs. Since then he’s been rumored to be either dead or directing the non-Wahhabist elements of the Sunni insurgency from locations unknown, probably inside Syria. Until now?

The leader of Iraq’s banned Baath party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, has decided to join efforts by the Iraqi authorities to fight al-Qaeda, one of the party’s former top officials, Abu Wisam al-Jashaami, told pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

“AlDouri has decided to sever ties with al-Qaeda and sign up to the programme of the national resistance, which includes routing Islamist terrorists and opening up dialogue with the Baghdad government and foreign forces,” al-Jashaami said.

Al-Douri has decided to deal directly with US forces in Iraq, according to al-Jashaami. He figures in the 55-card deck of “most wanted” officials from the former Iraqi regime issued by the US government.

In return, for cooperating in the fight against al-Qaeda, al-Douri has asked for guarantees over his men’s safety and for an end to Iraqi army attacks on his militias.

How likely is it that he’d turn on AQ? Read this Weekly Standard piece from 2005 about the good relations he enjoys with fanatics stemming from Saddam’s campaign in the early 90s to bolster Baath support by exploiting religious sentiment. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be the first instance of a prominent Saddamite severing ties with Al Qaeda: insurgent apologist Mishan al-Jibouri, who allegedly operates the jihadi satellite channel al-Zawraa, did so earlier this year. In fact, al-Douri himself — or someone claiming to be him — expressed some misgivings about AQ last March when he conducted a written Q&A with Time magazine:

TIME: What is your opinion of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Is he working for or against Iraq? [The question was sent in March, three months before al-Zarqawi’s death.]

Al-Douri: I participate with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in his belief in faith and the unity of God, but I differ from him fundamentally in the style, method, and path through which he expresses his faith. Our religion is the religion of submission to God, and of peace, security, safety, freedom, self-liberation, truth, justice, progress and coexistence. Those who are recalcitrant or take up arms and stand in the way of Islam’s civilizational and humane course — as the American administration, its agents, henchmen, and spies are doing — we are ordered to fight such people by the Koran. In accordance with our faith, we only fight the occupation forces and their treacherous apostate agents who fight us. I harbor great respect and appreciation for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and I rejoice in his courage, the strength of his faith, and the sacrifices of his fighters, [but] I call on him and his fighters to direct their jihadist struggle against the enemy that has invaded the land of Arabdom and Islam. Let none of us be drawn into the occupying enemy’s game of igniting hateful sectarianism. I also affirm that any exposure of citizens and their assets [to harm] will inevitably serve the occupation.

Al-Hayat is a fairly respectable Arab paper as far as I know but it’s also owned by a Saudi prince and the Saudis are under pressure from the U.S. to do what they can to tamp down the jihad. A report that the insurgent-in-chief, who was formally named Saddam’s successor earlier this year by the remnants of the Baath, might suddenly be interested in playing ball is a little too conveniently demoralizing to the true believers. It’s also absurd to think he’d be willing to talk to the Iraqi government: he is, quite literally, public enemy number one to them, with an Interpol warrant for his arrest having been issued only three days ago. He’s also widely suspected of war crimes against the Kurds during his time as Saddam’s deputy, up to and including the use of chemical weapons. Maliki might be willing to reverse the debaathification program with respect to lower officers but there’s no way they’re going to extend it to this animal. Nor should they. Read this and you’ll see why.

Here’s Michael Yon’s latest from Anbar. Not exactly hopeful but not exactly bleak, either. “They are not suddenly blood allies. This is business, and that’s fine, because if there is one thing America is good at, it’s business.”