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Iraq Report: Al Douri flips on al Qaeda

As Coalition and Iraq troops continue the hunt for al Qaeda throughout Iraq, a senior Baathist who threw in his lot with al Qaeda in Iraq several years ago, has flipped. Izzat Ibrahim al Douri, the former vice president of Saddam's revolutionary council and No. 6 on the "deck of cards" of the 55 most wanted, has "decided to sever ties with al-Qaeda and sign up to the programme of the national resistance, which includes routing Islamist terrorists and opening up dialogue with the Baghdad government and foreign forces," Abu Wisam al-Jashaami told Adnkronos International. "In return, for cooperating in the fight against al-Qaeda, al-Douri has asked for guarantees over his men's safety and for an end to Iraqi army attacks on his militias."

Al Douri swore bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda in Iraq's former commander, sometime in early 2004 according to an Internet posting on a jihadist website intercepted by The SITE Institute. The bayat ceremony was described as follows:

The Mujahideen had made preparations to greet them until it was possible to bring them together with Zarqawi, and the "Heroes' meeting" took place. ... In an atmosphere full of enthusiasm and high spirits for everybody, with the company of his three sons and a number of Mujahideen, Izzat Ibrahim Al Douri took off to meet with Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. At their arrival, the Mujahideen greeted them amidst calls of "Allah Akbar" (3 times) [God is Greater]. Then the sound of gunfire was heard as Zarqawi rushed out, surrounded by the Mujahideen, covered by the dust of their blessed journey," according to the network. It added that, at the sight of Zarqawi, Izzat Ibrahim shouted: "You are the commander and we are your soldiers." His son Ahmad handed him a copy of the Quran. His father took it, placed his hand and the hands of his sons on it, and they made an oath to God, pledging allegiance to Zarqawi in the Jihad until victory or martyrdom, in good and bad times."

Al Douri maintained the Baath Party was still in operation and criticized al Qaeda in Iraq and the Zarqawi's tactics of creating sectarian strife in an e-mail interview with Time in 2006. "I participate with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in his belief in faith and the unity of God, but I differ from him fundamentally in the style, method, and path through which he expresses his faith," al Douri said to Time. "I harbor great respect and appreciation for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and I rejoice in his courage, the strength of his faith, and the sacrifices of his fighters, [but] I call on him and his fighters to direct their jihadist struggle against the enemy that has invaded the land of Arabdom and Islam. Let none of us be drawn into the occupying enemy's game of igniting hateful sectarianism."

While it is unclear how much influence al Douri possesses with former Baathists turned al Qaeda operatives, or how much of Saddam's money he controls, his turn against al Qaeda serves as an indicator of how actors in the insurgency view the situation on the ground. Al Douri clearly sees the Coalition and Iraqi government have momentum against the insurgency and al Qaeda.

Reconciliation with the likes of al Douri will be difficult, if not impossible. He was just placed at the top of the list of the Iraqi government's most wanted individuals. Al Douri was viewed by some to be Saddam's successor, and he was a ruthless operative directly responsible for the murder of Shia and Kurds during Saddam's rule. His subjugation to al Qaeda during the insurgency only compounds his past crimes. The Iraqi government will find it almost impossible to reach some sort of agreement with al Douri, but must work hard to split any remaining al Douri-led factions from al Qaeda in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iraqi and Coalition forces maintain the relentless pressure against al Qaeda in Iraq's network. A raid targeting al Qaeda-allied terrorist networks in the Owesat and Fetoah areas on August 20 resulted in the capture of 13 suspected terrorists. Twenty-four al Qaeda operatives were captured during raids in Samarra, Tikrit, Baghdad, Bayji, and Anbar province on August 21 and 22. Another five al Qaeda operatives were killed and 11 captured during operations in Baqubah, Mosul, and Tikrit on August 22.

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