New Iraqi Baath Leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri Wouldn’t Say No

The man elected general secretary of the Iraqi Baath party and commander of its guerrilla forces following the Dec, 30 execution of Saddam Hussein, is not against talks with the Americans. This, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iraq sources, is evident from the directives and instructions Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri issued to the Baath in the eleven days since his election.

Those instructions are revealing in more ways than one. He appears to have relocated his center of operations to Iraq instead of Syria or any other of Iraq’s neighbors.

One of the first actions of the executed ruler’s successor as leader of the Baath underground was to turn down an invitation from Yemeni president Abdallah Salah to attend a secret get-together of Iraqi insurgent leaders and American representatives.

Al Douri’s note of rejection came in two parts:

1. He is not ready to leave Iraq’s borders until he has completed his mission of liberating Iraq from occupation.

2. Before talks, the Americans must accept the basic condition which is standard for all the Sunni underground groups: a commitment to leave Iraq.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources have also learned that al-Douri has gone into action to merge all Iraqi Sunni insurgent factions under a new, unified command.

In this way, the former Iraqi vice president hopes to frustrate any American bid to re-enlist the head of the head of the Sunna Scholars Council (also called the Muslim Ulema Council) Sheik Harith al-Dari, as the keystone of the new Bush strategy for Iraq. This understanding was interrupted by Saddam’s execution. The new Baath leader is determined to win recognition as head of the entire Sunni insurgent movement and will do his best to prevent the revered sheik from assuming this role. He will therefore try to maneuver al-Dari into playing second fiddle when it comes to dealing with the Americans as representative of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs.

Tuesday, Jan. 9, US forces achieved a first-class feat in their war against the Sunni extremists. A special forces unit located and killed the head of the 20th Revolutionary Brigade Abdallah Kazim Zuabi in his hideout in Baled north of Baghdad. This Brigade was one of the largest and most important of the insurgent groups and Zuabi was notorious for targeting American forces.

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