Izzat al-Douri: Last survivor of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle who allied with … – Telegraph.co.uk

As a boy, Douri had scarcely any formal education and earned a living by selling blocks of ice. During his time as Saddam’s deputy, he was still rumoured to be illiterate.

According to most accounts, Douri first met Saddam in 1963 after an abortive Ba’athist coup in Baghdad. Most of the party’s leaders, including Saddam, found themselves behind bars after this failure.

Douri’s rise was aided by his good fortune in managing to keep out of jail. He led a special unit charged with murdering enemies of the Ba’athists, mainly members of the Iraqi Communist party.

Al-Douri with Saddam Hussein

When the Ba’athists seized power in the revolution of 1968, Douri was among their inner circle. Before his 30th birthday, he was made interior minister, allowing him to continue his speciality of hunting down the regime’s opponents.

When Saddam seized the presidency in 1979, Douri was one of the prime movers behind the plot. Days later, Saddam celebrated his achievement by having 66 colleagues led out of a party meeting and shot. Douri, loyal and ruthless to a fault, helped to frame the unfortunate targets with trumped-up charges of treason.

The alliance between the two men was sealed in true dynastic fashion with the marriage of Douri’s daughter, Suha, to Saddam’s eldest son, Uday. The union was predictably disastrous, for Uday Hussein counted wife-beating among his array of personality defects.

But from 1979 onwards, Douri found his niche as deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, the apex of the Ba’ath party structure. Over and again, Saddam entrusted him with the regime’s most sensitive tasks.

Douri helped to mastermind the “Anfal” campaign against the Kurdish minority of northern Iraq, which claimed at least 100,000 lives in 1987 to 88. He was on the committee that ordered scores of gas attacks, including the assault on the town of Halabja in March 1988 when 5,000 died.

Bodies of a man and child, slain in the gas attack on Halabja in 1988

Afterwards, Douri gloated over the slaughter. When the Kurds rebelled again in 1991, he told them: “If you have forgotten Halabja, I would like to remind you that we are ready to repeat the operation.”

During the countdown to Saddam’s overthrow, Douri stood before the world’s press and announced the result of a referendum on the tyrant’s rule in October 2002. He blithely declared that 11,445,638 Iraqis appeared on the electoral roll and, of these, 11,445,638 had voted “Yes” to Saddam.

“It is heartfelt referendum, a spiritual one and a principled one,” said Douri. “Those who are not familiar with the people of Iraq will not believe it – but this is a real, truthful figure.”

His last public appearance came two weeks before the Anglo-American invasion in March 2003, when he held a slanging match with Kuwait’s foreign minister during a summit in Qatar. “Shut up you minion, you American agent, you monkey,” Douri told him. “A curse be on your moustache!”

Now that Douri’s career in bloodshed seems finally to have ended, his Kuwaiti antagonist must be wearing a wry smile.