Reported dead of leukemia and repeatedly claimed captured, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, King of Clubs and No. 6 on the US most wanted list, has re-emerged as large as life running a new Baathist guerrilla campaign against US forces in Iraq.
Former vice president of Saddam Hussein‘s revolutionary Council and Northern Region commander, al-Douri became the most wanted man in Iraq after his boss was caught.
And not only by the American forces.
He proves not only to be very much alive but has resuscitated the sanctuary and funding pipeline, which Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay established for the benefit of a new Iraqi Baathist insurgent network in Syria before the war.
His emergence at the head of this network is the ominous of four distinct processes at work in Iraq today as discerned by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iraqi sources:
1. President Masoud Barzani of the autonomous region of Kurdistan has replaced the red, white and black national flag flying over state institutions with a Kurdish flag.
Counter-attacking Iraqi Arab critics, Barzani stood up before the Kurdish regional parliament in Arbil and said: “They are losers. They can’t run their own regions and want to make Kurdistan fail like theirs. The time of threats is over; no one can force his will on the Kurdish people any more.”
The national flag is seen as a symbol of Arab nationalism and of Saddam Hussein’s evicted Baath regime. Barzani claimed he decided to raise the Kurdish banner after consulting with Iraq president Jalal Talabani (a fellow Kurd) and prime minister Nouri Maliki (a Shiite). However, Maliki responded by ordering the Iraqi flag hoisted “over every inch of Iraqi soil until a decision is passed by parliament.”
The Kurdish leader’s action clearly signifies the further strengthening of secessionist tendencies in the oil-rich Kurdish region of northern Iraq at the expense of the authority of national government in Baghdad.
An embarrassing delay in US military handover
2. Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani in a dire warning to the national assembly: “We have three to four months to bring about reconciliation and stem ethnic and sectarian civil war…” If the country does not survive this, it will go under.”
The Speaker expressed the sense of despair prevailing in Iraq that the time to save the country is running out fast.
3. US diplomatic and military authorities and some Iraqi politicians continue to protest that a built-up, US- trained Iraqi security force is the key to halting the bloodshed and will be able to take over from the US-led coalition army.
Thursday, Sept 7, after what a US official called an “embarrassing” delay of five days, the US military formally handed over command of the national forces to the Maliki government. A dispute over the wording outlining the new working relationship between the US military and the Iraqi armed forces had to be resolved first Iraqi defense ministry spokesman Muhammad al-Askari explained.
But how will this symbolic act stem the surging violence which this week jumped 51 percent, with 90% of the dead the victims of Sunni and Shiite tit-for-tat killings?
4. The reappearance of Izzat Ibrahim Douri is accompanied by the strengthening of the Baathist and Sunni insurgent groups and their incipient grouping under a unified command, which calls itself the Iraqi Army-General Command of the Armed Forces.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources disclose that this movement is moving into the vacuum left in the wake of Abu Musab al Zarqawi‘s death, which was followed by divisions, splits, defections and disputes in the ranks of the Sunni insurgency. In particular, al- Zarqawi’s successor Abu Hamze al Mujahar discovered the door locked on Zarqawi’s war chest and he could not pay al Qaeda fighters.
The new insurgent coalition, consisting of five terrorist groups, is closer to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Baath than the Islamist jihadis led by Zarqawi.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources name them as: The 1920 Revolt Brigades; the Rashidin Army Which Walks the Straight Path; the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Mujaheddin; the Asair Brigades and The Brigades of the Strong.
Al-Douri rallies despairing Sunnis to his old-new flag
Red-headed Izzat Ibrahim turns out to be the grey eminence behind this resurgent movement.
From his safe haven in Syria, he is furnishing the new Baathist-Sunni insurgency with copious funds, fighters, arms and explosives, as well piles of propaganda materials, especially videotapes, which are pulling in Sunni Muslim supporters.
Young Sunnis are joining the underground Sunni movements and their community is rediscovering its sympathy for the bygone Iraq Baath party, its activists and military leaders.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iraq sources disclose that American officials and Iraqi government leaders view al Douri’s reappearance with great trepidation – and not only because he is a Saddamist. His clan is associated with the Iraqi Sufis which some Muslim experts estimate as numbering two million adherents, some many more.
The Sufis are mystics who believe in personal deeds rather than prayer for bringing the believer close to Allah. Their movement, whose beliefs are diametrically opposed to al Qaeda Salifism, has until now sat on the fence of the anti-American, anti-government insurgency and sectarian warfare against rival communities, such as the Shiites or Christians. But in August, they changed.
It was then that the largest Sufi order, the Qadri, announced the formation for the first time in his history of a militia for fighting the Americans, to be called after its founder the Jihad Brigades of Abd Qader Jiliani. With that proclamation Abd Rahim Qadri, aged 55, went to ground and has not been seen since.
The US military and intelligence command fear he will surface only when his Sufi partisans carry out their first attack on American targets.
There is plenty of cause for concern. Abdel Rahim Qadri hails from the northern oil city of Kirkuk where he commands a large following. The situation in that heavily mixed city is already too precarious to withstand the advent of a new Sunni terrorist movement. Furthermore, the new Sufi organization boasts for the first time in the Iraqi insurgency a woman commander, deputy to the leader.
She also happens to be the daughter of al-Douri and was once briefly married to Saddam’s elder son Uday,
American intelligence sources in Iraq believe that this woman acts as the trusted conduit for her father’s supplies of war materials and cash to the new Sunni-Sufi underground.