A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, April 20, 2015

Last Face Card in the Deck: Was it Really ‘Izzat Ibrahim?

Late last week the Iraqi Government announced with considerable pleasure that the last of Saddam Hussein's top officials, ‘Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, former Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and the senior Ba‘athist official of the Saddam era still at large (and King of Clubs in the famous US "wanted poster" deck of cards) had been killed in a battle with Islamic State forces in northern Iraq. I withheld immediate comment because I recall Saddam's use of doubles of himself and his sons, and he's been reported dead before.

This time there are pictures, though I'm not going to reproduce them here, because some are fairly gruesome. It's more respect for the dead generally, not particularly any respect for this blood-soaked killer.

What can be said is that the picture of the corpse on the battlefield (the gruesome one) and of the body in a glass-enclosed coffin, are credible. Some have argued the shape of the ears is wrong; the face looks right, though he has added (due to his new-found Islamist friends?) a beard to his well-known mustache. His famous red hair (actually an odd shade of orange, but at 72 he may have been helping it along) is very much in evidence.

I assume the Iraqis took blood and tissue samples; I wonder if the CIA or others have his DNA from the occupation, perhaps from medical records?

It was never fully certain what the links were between this old secular Ba‘athist and the ultra-jihadists of ISIS, save for common enemies in the US and Shi‘ites. The link was supposedly through the Army of the men of the Naqshbandi Order (JRTN), odd in itself since jihadists generally hate Sufi orders. See my earlier posts here and here.

But I'd like to see he DNA. I don't trust this guy.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

In the late 1970s, when I was a "Belgian diplomat" in Baghdad, an Iraqi intel agent assigned to keep an eye on me told me that the piety of "Abu al-Izz" was a subject of amusement to most of Saddam's inner circle. As the war with Iran ground on, Saddam turned to religion. I can't say whether it was genuine or just a cynical ploy to maintain national morale by putting Allahu Akbar on the Iraqi flag and other symbolic acts of piety. How ironic that Izzat Abrahim outlasted so many rigidly secular Ba'athis!