Former Saddam aide seeks to reshape Sunni insurgency

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 6:56 PM

The footage purportedly featuring Ezzat al-Douri was released on Thursday, the anniversary of the fall of Saddam'south Sunni-led regulation when U. S.

A rallying cry to Iraqi Sunnis from former President Saddam Hussein'south top surviving aide aims to sustain the elderly ruling Baath party'south appeal with Sunni Muslims fearing new reprisals by Shi'ite militias, experts said.

The footage purportedly featuring Ezzat al-Douri was released on Thursday, the anniversary of the fall of Saddam'south Sunni-led regulation when U. S. troops stormed Baghdad in two thousand-third. Reuters couldn't verify it but analysts said it seemed genuine judging by his appearance and speech.

Douri, a wiry man with a ginger mustache, evaded capture during the 2003-11 U. S. occupation and Iraqi and U. S. executive accused him of organizing an insurgency by minority Sunnis against U. S. troops and the new Shi'ite led authorities in 2005-7.

In a previous audio message, the former top official in Saddam'south secular Baath party urged Sunnis to connect those who'd "liberated" half the country, referring to Islamic State, which declared a caliphate in large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

This time Douri called on the "sons of Iraq ... to rally behind the flag of the Arab coalition led by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to avert being burnt by the Persian fire."

The latest message follows major gains by the government and its U. S.-led backers against Islamic State and coincides with a thrust to drive the hardline militants from Mosul, the largest city in their self-proclaimed caliphate.

"Douri and the Baath have number military importance now, but as Daesh (Islamic State) is weakening, the Baath appears to look a role as portion of the Saudi-led alliance against Iran," said Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based security analyst.

The U. S. invasion effectively handed power to Iran'south allies in Iraq'south Shi'ite majority community, and Tehran'south influence became predominant when the American troops pulled out in two thousand-eleventh, leaving the Sunni community feeling marginalized.

That marginalization and revenge attacks by Shi'ite militias were seen as contributing to the rise of Islamic State.

A Shi'ite militia has declared it'll connect the fight to drive Islamic State from Mosul, which has stalled: Iraq'south top Sunni official has urged the government not to authorize militia to join.

TURN BACK THE CLOCK

The clip appeared to indicate Douri, who'd presently be seventy-three, near up wearing his elderly green military uniform. Its tribute to Sunni power Saudi Arabia was a new development because the kingdom was a long-time rival of Saddam who'd his own regional ambitions.

Carried on Saudi-owned al-Hadath TV, it was unclear when it was recorded as the only time indication was a reference to the Saudi-led campaign against Yemen'south Iran-backed Houthis which started in March two thousand fifteen.

"The video is meant to prove that the Baath party'south leadership still exists and has a program," said Hashimi. But "Iraq changed radically over the past thirteen years and it'll be impossible for the Baath to turn back the clock."

Iraqi authorities said in April 2015 that Douri had been killed in a military operation and showed pictures of a body that resembled his. An Iraqi government spokesman didn't reply to requests for comment this week.

Sitting behind a desk and wearing glasses in the video, the man appearing to be Douri read a statement from a pile of papers clutched in both hands that accused the "U. S. administration for everything that Iran is doing in Iraq with its agents, its militias and its security and military services".

The message, said Ihsan al-Shammari, politics Prof at Baghdad University, was aimed at stirring sectarian fears to attempt to bring the Baath party back to the fore.

"But democracy is emotional forward in Iraq, far from Douri and the Baath," al-Shammari said.

For a profile of Douri click on

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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