The most wanted in Iraq, maybe

Of course, most think I am referring to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, commander of the dreaded al-Qaida of Iraq.

    I am not. One's first clue is the disclaimer, "maybe," inasmuch as nearly the entire news media assign al-Zarqawi with the dubious distinction of being the most hunted man in Iraq.


    My candidate for that role is the king of clubs in the US deck of cards, the rather simplistic system coalition commanders used in the early part of the Iraqi war to enable soldiers to capture key members of the Saddam regime.


    He is the highest-ranking member of that regime to, so far, escape capture or death. His name ... Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.


    "The insurgency was led by Saddam Hussein up until his capture in December 2003. It's been led, in part, by his No 2 or 3, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, since then.


    "He had a well-deserved and well-known reputation as a killer. As vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, he was complicit in launching two wars of aggression against Iran and Kuwait, invading Saudi Arabia and attacking the town of Khafji in January 1991.


    "His daughter was briefly married to Uday, the older son of President Saddam Hussein."


    The source of this information is the website of


    I must make an admission before my detractors do. Vice-President al-Douri's leadership of the resistance today is purely speculative on my part.


    However, based on known facts, it is a reasonable supposition to make, not a fanciful one. His whereabouts is, obviously, unknown. The vice-president has been remiss in not providing his itinerary to coalition authorities.


    While his current status within the resistance is relegated to conjecture and his location a mystery, what do we know about this man?


    As we have seen, al-Douri was intimately involved in some of Saddam’s more notorious military ventures.


    Command and control of the resistance movement is itself self-evident due to the number of incidents during any given hour on any given day in Iraq - in other words, multiple coordinated attacks.

    During the Saddam regime, it appears as though he gained some of the president's trust. That was not easy with Saddam due to the dichotomy of his dictatorial rule, or any other autocratic leader for that matter.


    Paradoxically, the most competent, intelligent, and aggressive leaders under a dictator are often times purged in one form or another because, in the mind of a dictator, such a worthy underling is a rival.


    This would account for Iraq losing some of her best and most qualified people during Saddam’s rule, but al-Douri proved the exception.


    The fact that he has eluded capture or death and, arguably, is attempting to provide command and control to the resistance efforts, makes his enormous capability self-evident.


    Command and control of the resistance movement is itself self-evident due to the number of incidents during any given hour on any given day in Iraq - in other words, multiple coordinated attacks.


    According to Global Security, the red-haired Ibrahim was born in 1942 near Tikrit, the same clan area as Saddam.


    Having no power base of his own, he posed no threat to Saddam. He and Saddam were among the leading planners of the 1968 coup, which returned the Baath Party to power.


    There are some reports that he is not a well man, suffering from leukemia. Other reports suggest that these are rumours fostered by Ibrahim to lessen the enthusiasm of coalition forces to capture him.


    Ibrahim was vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and northern region commander. He also served as deputy secretary-general of the Baath Party Regional Command and deputy commander of the armed forces.


    After the 1991 Gulf war, he was frequently sent abroad to represent Iraqi interests. More recently, in March 2003 he commanded military forces in the north of Iraq during the US invasion.


    In October 2003, captured members of Ansar al-Islam had said that Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was helping to coordinate their attacks on US occupation forces. In November 2003, coalition forces offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or extinction. There have been false claims of his arrest, and members of his family have been arrested, but Ibrahim continues to defy coalition and Iraqi security forces.


    And the trial of Saddam Hussein and the passage of the referendum regarding the Iraqi constitution may only make matters worse, not better, for an uncertain period of time.


    This is evidenced by the bold abduction and murder of Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, one of two lawyers representing Awad Hamed al-Bander, one of Saddam’s co-defendants.


    Saddam's trial involving seven other co-defendants, which has been predictably postponed (Three options, each is repugnant), will not change matters.


    Knight Ridder reporter Nancy Youssef writes: "US and Iraqi officials hope that the trial will weaken the insurgency, made up in part of former members of Saddam's Baath Party who remain loyal to him."


    Right. Placing the man the Sunni resistance feels is the legitimate president of Iraq will weaken them - or fill them with resolve? Logic dictates the latter. Only dreaming suggests the former. And dreaming is not a recommended practice in governance or military planning.


    The same holds true regarding the passage of the referendum regarding the Iraqi constitution. Many fear the resistance will adopt the attitude that they attempted to achieve their goals by political means and failed; it is now time to lock and load and carry on the fight against the invader.


    American and Iraqi military experts regard the resistance as a resourceful enemy, and he will not be defeated by the ballot box. The Bush administration along with his American news media cohorts insist that the political process aimed at involving the Sunni minority will, if successful, somehow neutralise resistance forces.


    And the trial of Saddam Hussein and the passage of the referendum regarding the Iraqi constitution may only make matters worse, not better, for an uncertain period of time.

    This stance baffles American military strategists and defies military logic. American and Iraqi army commanders know that the enemy will not be defeated by the ballot, only by the bullet.


    They feel any assertion to the contrary is absurd, and it matters little to them that the abysmal theory comes from President George Bush and his minions.


    While military logic of command succession, along with his status as a Saddam confidant, suggests that al-Douri is playing a key role in the command and control of the resistance, locating Hani Abd al-Latif Tilfah, the king of hearts, the former director of the daunting Special Security Organisation (or Amn al-Khas), could also prove to be an interesting endeavor.


    The SSS had two primary responsibilities, protecting the lives of the Baath leadership and maintaining surveillance on people in Iraq who had highly sensitive responsibilities, personnel in the intelligent services as an example.


    He, too, may be playing a key role in the resistance. David Newton, director of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Iraq Service, reported, "... it is more likely that Tilfah might be organising the attacks. He was much closer to Hussein."


    The Centre for Strategic and International Studies reports that only 4% to 10% of the 30,000-strong resistance is comprised of foreign fighters, mostly from Algeria and Syria and mostly becoming members of the deadly al-Qaida in Iraq led by the aforementioned al-Zarqawi.


    While not necessarily endorsing the 30,000 figure, believing it to be an underestimate, this report does suggest that the resistance is a force at least nine times larger than al Qaida in Iraq.


    Does it make any sense that al-Zarqawi retain the unenviable status as being the most wanted man in Iraq? There have been reports that he has been branching out. The Jordanian may not even be in Iraq.


    In October 2003, captured members of Ansar al-Islam had said that Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was helping to coordinate their attacks on US occupation forces.

    The distinct possibility exists that not all resistance forces are under a central command, but under local control only.


    Nevertheless, the ferocity, coordination, and intelligence of many attacks suggest an overall command structure. The most logical choices to fill that role are al-Douri and Tilfah. Global Security reports: "Following the capture of Saddam Hussein he [al-Douri] became the most wanted man in Iraq."


    So, what has changed? Not a whole lot since December 2003, other than the unalterable fact that things have gotten worse. In my previous article, I suggested the Third Option, an overall offensive against the resistance by coalition and Iraq security forces to stop the bloodletting, to stop the killing of civilians including far too many children, and to stop the assassination of teachers.


    I am asking my commander-in-chief to lead, just this once. This is a very serious problem of your own making, Mr President. Don't do what is popular among voters. Do what is right. We need to end this thing.


    Sandy Shanks is the author of two novels, The Bode Testament and Impeachment. An avid historian, he is also an experienced columnist, specialising in political/military issues.

    The opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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