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General Nizar Al-Khazraji and pals re-surface in Iraq Edward Teague
General Al-Khazraji was the field commander who led the 48-hour chemical weapons attack, which poisoned and burned 5000 Kurdish civilians in the northern town of Halabja in March 1988. He also, alleges one credible eyewitness who testified in video-taped evidence earlier this year, kicked a little Kurdish child to death after his forces entered a village during the height of the Iraqi repression in 1988.
According to US Ambassador David Mack, (who is said to have never met him) a senior official in the US State Department, who co-ordinates meetings of Iraqi opposition groups in Washington DC, said General Nizar al-Khazraji has ‘a good military reputation’ and ‘the right ingredients’ as a future leader in Iraq.
The most senior military officer to defect since 1990, al-Khazraji was Saddam’s chief of staff from 1980 until 1991, leading the army through the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. he was responsible for attacks upon the Kurds from Feb 23rd-Sept 6th in 1988 under the “Anfal” (Koranic section covering the spoils of war) in which 100,000 Kurds were made homeless and 10,000 are said to have died.
He left Iraq in 1996 and was granted political asylum first in Spain and then in Denmark, where he lived in Soroe, a quiet suburb of Copenhagen. There are claims he was reluctant to leave Iraq, but that the CIA tempted him with promises of a major political role after the overthrow of Saddam.
As a result, he has not been quiet about his plans to lead Iraq: he once described his future leadership as a ‘sacred duty’. Apparently the CIA were reluctant to hand him funds and allow him to spend them as he wished.
Apart from his apparent boastfulness, which has alienated many of his fellow travellers in the exiled opposition, al-Khazraji’s role in some of the worst abuses of Saddam’s regime poses serious problems in presenting himself as a future leader of Iraq.
A Danish newspaper investigating al-Khazraji’s role found he was the field commander during the Halabja operation, choosing the chemicals to be used and the intensity with which to drop them. Although al-Khazraji denies having had this role, the allegations were serious and detailed enough for the Danish ministry of justice to launch an official investigation, with the potential to bring war crimes charges against him. Eighty-nine Kurdish and human rights groups have issued a joint statement to demand his trial.
Both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have come out in support of al-Khazraji, while another group, the Kurdistan National Congress asked the Danish minister of justice to press for his prosecution. Still, there has never been an official investigation because the Danes had reached the conclusion that the whole issue was fabricated. With regard to the events at Halabcha, Al-Khazraji says it is Saddam Hussein and Ali Hasan al-Majid who bear responsibility for the massacre.
He had been under effective house arrest , guarded by four police officers. Despite this Al-Khazraji, 64, a Sunni Muslim like many of the current rulers in Iraq, says he has no doubt the Iraqi military is ready to rise up against Saddam. All it will take is a lot of American firepower, carefully targeted, and some organising by military exiles like himself. How can he be so sure? ‘I was the chief of my army and I know my men very well,’ he says.
It is claimed he is close to Wafiq-al-Samara’I ex head of Military Intelligence who defected and who lived in London. They are both said to have strong Saudi contacts. Brigadier-General Najib Al-Salihi a “rapidly rising star” was another ex army pal. He had meetings with the UK Foreign Office in March 2002 . Al-Salahi was Commander of an armoured division of Iraq’s elite Republican Guard in the Gulf war, and played a major military role in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. He was major force in putting down the Shia uprising against Saddam ‘s rule after defeat at the hands of the US-led forces. This repressive way in which this particular episode was handled caused 1.5 million people to flee their homes, the number slaughtered is unknown. Salihi went on to write a book about his crushing of the popular uprising, entitled Al-Zilzal, ‘The Earthquake’.
After defecting in 1995, Salihi defected to the side of his former enemies and began to co-operate with the US, where he recently lived. He headed the CIA- sponsored (and heavily funded) Iraqi Free Officers Movement.
David Pratt, The Sunday Herald January 24th 2003 “Saddam will try to escape, but he will find that he has nowhere to go,’ Salihi has said. ‘We will not be able to put him on trial. The people will get to him first.’ Cleverly, Salihi avoids giving the impression of power-hungriness and speaks of the ‘tough work ahead’ and the ‘bond of trust with the Iraqi people’. The same Iraqi people he so mercilessly crushed when they opposed Saddam. “
Julie Flint writes
And with remarkable foresight suggests
Seymour Hersh writing in the New Yorker in March 2002, said: “The CIA’s brightest prospect, officials told me, is Nizar Khazraji.”
Al-Hayat a London based and highly respected paper quotes Iraqi opposition sources in Damascus saying Khazrhani is “most favoured candidate”.
In July 2002 Wolfowitz the US Deputy Defence Secretary met the Turkish Chief if Staff Huseyan Kivrikolglu and stressed that the US did not want a move to a separate Kurdish state and that the oil rich areas of Mosul would remain Iraqi.
During the interview on BBC Radio 4 Today program in September 2002, he was asked about American support for his position, and claims about his involvement with the Halabji gassing. He was very evasive and non-commital and appeared to resent being called the Harmad Kazai of Iraq. He was attempting to be humble and say he was merely a military man and once Saddam was toppled it was down to the politicians.
The BBC reporter stated that he had travelled to Denmark to meet him. It struck me at the time, an unusual way to spend the licence payers money ˆ unless of course someone knew something, about Mr Khazraji‚s and his pal’s future job prospects.
An article in CBSNews.com March 12th 2002 said
Therefore it was surprising (or was it ?) to read Amid Tahiri in the Arab News 30th October 2004
OLD BOYS RE-UNION
There he is, Kazraji and his old pals Wafiq Al-Samarrai ex Head of Military Intelligence under Saddam back in harness. Najib Al-Salhi the man who led the suppression of the post Gulf War uprising of the Shia is back there as well. A bloodthirsty troika.
The US Administration has evidently taken heart in the ancient Arab proverb. My enemy‚s enemy is my friend. The De-Baatification undertaken by Paul Bremer to mirror the post war De-Nazification in Berlin is firmly in reverse gear.
The Kurdish – Sunni axis is in the ascendance awaiting the Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani to be shooed in head the Iraqi caretaker government when it replaces the Iraqi Governing Council.