Posted: February 15, 2006 in International, Politics

The Changed Baathist: Interview with Ali Ibrahim Al-Tikriti

By: Ryan Mauro

Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti was a southern regional commander for Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen militia in the late 1980s and a personal friend of the dictator. Units under his command dealt with chemical and biological weapons.  He was known as the “Butcher of Basra” due to his campaigns and defected shortly before the Gulf War in 1991. This interview aims to gain some insight into the current situation in Iraq.

RM: Is there a single incident that you can point to that made you regret your actions and turn against the Baath Party?

IT: The single incident was my wife being willing to stand before me, not as my wife but as an Iraqi, and before one of Saddam’s most brutal enforcers and question my tactics. This really made me think because no one has ever even considered to question the tactics of myself or any others and lived to tell about it. This courageous move made me think deep and hard.

RM: Do you still maintain good sources inside Iraq to draw information from?

IT:  I will maintain very close sources in Iraq and outside of Iraq. Some of Saddam’s key scientists are personal friends of mine as well as other key leaders in the former Iraqi military. I have helped draw information since my defecting to the United States government voluntarily and with the permission of these contacts. The only difference between many of them and I, is that I had the opportunity to defect and they didn’t.

RM: Many observers say the Syrian and Iraqi Baath Parties did not trust each other and were rivals until around 2000. How serious were the disagreements between Syria and Saddam Hussein?

IT: The disagreements were not as dramatic as many would lead you to believe. Yes they were deep enough that Iraq and Syria could never move in the direction of forming one pan-Arab nationalist state but both remained the closest of allies. The ideologies of both were identical in almost every respect but the biggest problem was with the fact that Saddam and Assad were so alike they couldn’t bear each other in terms of sharing power.

RM: What can you tell us about Iraqi sponsorship of terrorists, from Palestinian groups to Al-Qaeda?

IT: Iraq had sponsored Palestinian militant organizations for the longest time with logistical and some material support. Most of the material support came around after the first Gulf War in terms of buying munitions for the various terrorist organizations in the West Bank and Gaza. As far as Al-Qaeda is concerned this support was limited for a long time, mainly due to the fact that Al-Qaeda had the hopes of creating an Islamic empire while Saddam wanted a secular Arab nationalist empire. They only really came to terms in the mid-90’s due to the fact that both knew they shared the same short term enemy. Once they came to terms on this Saddam provided Al-Qaeda with intelligence support and whatever money or munitions they could provide. Saddam has had very long standing contacts in the black market as well as with Moscow and would provide whatever munitions he could through these contacts.

RM: In your experience, would either side (the Iraqi Baathists or radical Islamists) be able to put aside their differences to cooperate against the United States?

IT: Yes, as I have noted above they did and will continue to strengthen ties until both are defeated. If you look in Iraq today you are witnessing Arab nationalist terrorist organizations and Islamist terrorist organizations working together to fight the United States.

RM: Is it true the United States helped bring Saddam Hussein to power, as some allege, and then arm him with WMDs?

IT: This is absolutely ludicrous. I was in the Ba’athist Revolution who received support from the Soviet Union because of the socialist ideology behind it. The Soviet Union openly supported and backed the Ba’athist revolution in Iraq at the time and I am sure you can find news articles about it in European press agencies and others at the time. I was there helping with the revolution and worked on two occasions with Soviet KGB officials to help train us, much like the United States did with the Taliban during the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan. The United States never directly gave us any WMDs but rather ingredients. They were not mixed and these ‘ingredients’ could have been easily used for commercial use but were rather used to build low life chemical weapons.

RM: Why do you think Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are in Syria? Why didn’t he use them or simply destroy them before the war?

IT: I know Saddam’s weapons are in Syria due to certain military deals that were made going as far back as the late 1980’s that dealt with the event that either capitols were threatened with being overrun by an enemy nation. Not to mention I have discussed this in-depth with various contacts of mine who have confirmed what I already knew. At this point Saddam knew that the United States were eventually going to come for his weapons and the United States wasn’t going to just let this go like they did in the original Gulf War. He knew that he had lied for this many years and wanted to maintain legitimacy with the pan Arab nationalists. He also has wanted since he took power to embarrass the West and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. After Saddam denied he had such weapons why would he use them or leave them readily available to be found? That would only legitimize President Bush, who he has a personal grudge against. What we are witnessing now is many who opposed the war to begin with are rallying around Saddam saying we overthrew a sovereign leader based on a lie about WMD. This is exactly what Saddam wanted and predicted.  


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