Though banished from Baghdad and in deep hiding, the deposed ruler of Iraq Saddam Hussein is determined to make his presence felt as painfully as possible by the Americans in Iraq, the provisional governing council preparing the country for its first democratic election and the Iraqi people at large.
First, he placed the US-appointed members of the governing council on a death list. His killers managed to assassinate Shiite woman member Akila al-Hashemi. They failed in their attempt on the life of oil minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloom.
Day by day, loyalist guerrillas backed by allies from terrorist organizations and Arab sympathizers target American troops for bombing, shooting and grenade ambushes.
However, the latest stratagem attempted by Saddam and his Baath strategists is political. They have wrapped up several weeks of consultation by setting up “a government” of their own. This appears to be a bid to demonstrate that, though Saddam has been exiled from his lavish palaces, he has not relinquished the pretensions of a ruler. Indeed, intelligence and Baghdad sources have revealed to DEBKA-Net-Weekly that Saddam actually signed what he called a “presidential decree” carving Iraq into six districts, each administered by a governor appointed either by the deposed leader or his Baath party.
An “Interim Command for Armed Activities against US and Zionist Forces” led by Saddam will have overall control of all six districts.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s exclusive sources reveal the structure of Saddam’s underground regime and name its districts and their governors. While US forces have captured most of their 55-card deck of the ex-ruler’s insiders, he looks as though he has left enough cards up his sleeve to stack a second deck.
Covers all of northern Iraq, including Kurdistan and its main cities: Kirkuk, Mosul, Baiji, Sulaimaniya, Haditha and the al-Qaim region.
Governor: General Nameq Mohammed.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report the 45-year-old Mohammed served as deputy chief of security for the Special Republican Guard and was particularly close to Saddam’s son Qusay, whom US forces killed with his brother Uday in Mosul in July.
Includes the cities of Tikrit, Samara, Baquba and Balaad.
Governor: General Ibrahim Abdel Satar.
A Tikrit native, Satar was chief of staff of the Special Republican Guard and is regarded as one of Saddam’s most loyal aides.
Includes the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
Governor: Zohair Rahamim.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources find this appointment particularly interesting because Rahamim was always perceived as the great mystery figure of Saddam’s inner circle.
Today, he is thought to command Iraqi resistance forces. In this capacity, he is in charge of integrating the foreign reinforcements infiltrating the country from Syria – chiefly, Hizballah, Palestinian, Yemeni, Saudi and Al Qaeda fighters – and attaching them to the various Iraqi guerrilla cells and networks confronting the US military.
His appointment as governor of Ramadi and Fallujah indicates that most of those fighters are now clustered in or around those cities.
Encompasses the capital, the large Habaniya airbase to the west and Baghdad international airport. It also covers the Salman Pak site about 15 miles (25 km) southeast of the city, where a large US military base has been established and several members of the interim government council installed in former presidential palaces and villas.
Governor: Colonel Nofal Saad Mohammed.
Commander of Saddam’s Praetorian Guard.
Includes the Shiite region of Iraq and the cities of Najef, Karbala, Sura, al-Hilal and Diwaniyah.
Governor: Mohammed Ali Abdel Jalil.
A pro-Saddam Shiite and former deputy governor of the Najef district, he is well acquainted with the local Shiite leadership and population.
By appointing Jalil, Saddam is signaling the Shiites that, despite the intense American drive to install its own leaders in the area, he still has enough clout to restore his man, the Shiite mainstay of the Baath provincial government, to power. The ex-president is also cautioning the Shiite population not to rush to cooperate with the Americans.
BASRA AND SOUTH
Includes the cities of Basra, Nassariya, al-Amra and al-Qut.
Governor: Daghar Mohammed Fadal.
He was deputy director of the Iraqi military industries and the man in charge of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons development program. David Kay, the CIA official leading the search for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, would like nothing better than to lay hands on him.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iraqi sources disclose that Saddam, seeking to give his “appointments” bite, has ordered two steps:
Local Baath activists have been instructed to spread word of the new governorships across Iraq. At the local level, Iraqis are permitted to approach local party representatives with problems or grievances and promised they will be put before the new district governor.
Saddam’s Interim Command for Armed Activities against US and Zionist Forces has attached an assassination squad to each governor to mark down Iraqis or foreigners cooperating with the Americans or their proxy Governing Council.
The Interim Command has circulated a hit-list among the district governors naming 15 Iraqis, including governing council member Abdel Aziz al-Hakim. His brother, the revered Shiite cleric and political leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, was murdered in a car bombing massacre in Najef in September. By targeting Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, Saddam and his henchmen are hinting they were behind the ayatollah’s assassination. Also on the death list are the two top men of the Iraqi Kurdish community, Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, as well as Barham Salih, prime minister of Kurdistan, and Ahmed Chalabi, head of the US-backed Iraqi National Congress.
Saddam’s bid to recover some standing in Iraq’s regions amid unrelenting American pursuit is a measure of his powerful self-confidence. He is undoubtedly encouraged by the effectiveness of the guerrilla campaign waged by his guerrilla forces, the fruit of professionalism in the selection of targets and solid intelligence work.