A former general and friend of Saddam Hussein who defected but maintains close contact with Iraq claims the regime supported al-Qaida with intelligence, finances and munitions and believes weapons of mass destruction are hidden in Syria.
Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti, southern regional commander for Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen militia in the late 1980s, spoke with Ryan Mauro of WorldThreats.com.
Known as the “Butcher of Basra,” al-Tikriti commanded units that dealt with chemical and biological weapons. He defected shortly before the Gulf War in 1991.
Last month, Saddam Hussein’s No. 2 Air Force officer, Georges Sada, told the New York Sun Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were moved to Syria six weeks before the war started. Sada claimed two Iraqi Airways Boeing jets converted to cargo planes moved the weapons in a total of 56 flights. They attracted little attention, he said, because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in 2002.
Discussing Saddam’s support of terrorism, al-Tikriti said the dictator’s regime sponsored Palestinian groups with logistical and material support.
For a time, support for al-Qaida was limited, the former general said, mainly because al-Qaida’s aim was to create an Islamic empire while Saddam wanted a secular Arab nationalist empire.
“They only really came to terms in the mid ’90s due to the fact that both knew they shared the same short-term enemy,” the general said. “Once they came to terms on this, Saddam provided al-Qaida with intelligence support and whatever money or munitions they could provide.”
Al-Tikriti said Saddam “had very long-standing contacts in the black market as well as with Moscow and would provide whatever munitions he could through these contacts.”
The secular Baathists and radical Islamists certainly are able to put aside their differences to cooperate against the U.S., he insisted.
“If you look in Iraq today, you are witnessing Arab nationalist terrorist organizations and Islamist terrorist organizations working together to fight the United States.”
Al-Tikriti dismissed the commonly heard claim that the U.S. helped bring Saddam to power, calling it “absolutely ludicrous.”
The Baathist revolution, he said, was backed by the Soviet Union because of the shared socialist ideology.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Al-Tikriti says he knows Saddam’s weapons are in Syria because of contingency plans established as far back as the late 1980s, in the event either Damascus or Baghdad were taken over.
“Not to mention, I have discussed this in-depth with various contacts of mine who have confirmed what I already knew,” he said.
Saddam, after lying for so many years, knew the U.S. eventually would come for the weapons, he said, and wanted to maintain legitimacy with pan-Arab nationalists.
Also, he had “wanted since he took power to embarrass the West, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so,” al-Tikriti said.
“After Saddam denied he had such weapons, why would he use them or leave them readily available to be found?” he said. “That would only legitimize President Bush, who he has a personal grudge against.”
What we are witnessing now, he said, “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.”
Al-Tikriti said he turned against the Baath Party after his wife stood up to him and questioned his brutal 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,” he said. “This courageous move made me think deep and hard.”
Al-Tikriti said he still maintains good sources inside 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,” he said. “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.”