Sunday, June 28, 2015

A00062 - Tariq Aziz, Top Aide to Saddam Hussein

'Aziz, Tariq
'Aziz, Tariq (Tariq 'Aziz) (Mikhail Yuhanna) (Tareq 'Aziz).  Iraqi politician and foreign minister.  

Tariq Aziz, also spelled Ṭāriq ʿAzīz, original name Mikhail Yuhanna   (b. April 28, 1936, Qaḍā Talkīf, Iraq — d. June 5, 2015, Al-Nāṣiriyyah, Iraq), was an Iraqi public official who served as Foreign Minister (1983–91) and Deputy Prime Minister (1979–2003) in the Ba'thist government of Saddam Hussein.

Mikhail Yuhanna, later and more popularly known as Tariq Aziz or Tareq Aziz, was a close advisor of former President Saddam Hussein for decades. Their association began in the 1950s, when both were Ba'ath party activists, while the party was still officially banned.

Since Saddam Hussein was both Prime Minister and President of Iraq, Aziz often played the role of Iraq's de facto head of government. Because of security concerns, Hussein rarely left Iraq, and Aziz in turn would often represent Iraq at high-level diplomatic summits. What the United States wanted, he averred, was not "regime change" in Iraq but rather "region change". He summed up the Bush Administration's reasons for war against Iraq tersely: "oil and Israel."

He was born in Mosul.  In 1950, he joined the Ba’th Party as one of its early members.  In 1958, he received a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of Arts at the University of Baghdad.  During this year he also started working as a journalist on a Jumhuria newspaper.  In 1963, following the Ba’th coup, he became editor of al-Jamahir newspaper, the mouthpiece of the party.  In 1964, he worked in the press office of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party in Syria.  In 1966, he moved back to Iraq and, in 1969, he became editor in chief of the new al-Tawra newspaper, established by the Ba’th Party.  In 1972, he was appointed as a member to the Revolutionary Command Council.  In 1974, he became deputy chairman of the Bureau of Culture and Information for the Ba’th Party, a position he would hold until 1983.  Later that year, he was elected as candidate member of the Iraqi Command of Ba’th party, and on November 11, he was appointed as Minister of Information.

On January 10, 1977, 'Aziz was elected as member of the Iraqi Command of the Ba’th Party, a position involving more power than a cabinet post.  On September 4, 1977, he was appointed as member of the Revolution Command Council.  On October 8, 1977, he was elected as member of the Ba’th National Leadership.  On October 15, 1977, he was discharged as Minister of Information to assume the functions of Ba’th party leadership.

On July 16, 1979, 'Aziz was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister.  In April 1980, 'Aziz was the target of an assassination attempt by Islamist militants, but 'Aziz survived the attempt without any injuries.

On January 14, 1983, 'Aziz became Foreign Minister of Iraq, getting the difficult position of defending Iraq’s attack on Kuwait in August the previous year. On March 23, 1983, 'Aziz was discharged as Minister of Foreign Affairs and began working full time as Deputy Prime Minister.  In this position, 'Aziz was Iraq’s top negotiator with the dealings with the United Nations after Iraq’s surrender to the allied forces at the end of the Gulf War.

On April 18, 2001, 'Aziz was appointed Foreign Minister for the second time.   

Throughout his career, 'Aziz proved to be talented in keeping cordial contacts with foreign powers especially the Soviet Union, France, and the United States.  However, with the strong negative reactions from Western powers following Iraq’s attack on Kuwait in 1990, he lost the propaganda war in Western media.  

'Aziz is a Chaldean Catholic, a fact that often was used against him both by Iraqi Muslims and leaders of neighbor Muslim countries like Iran.  But as he remained loyal to Saddam Hussein, Hussein also remained loyal to 'Aziz.  'Aziz was married and had two daughters and two sons.

'Aziz was captured in April 2003 as a consequence of the United States invasion of Iraq.  

He was acquitted of some charges on March 1 2009 following a trial, but was jailed for 15 years on March 11 2009 for his role in the executions of 42 merchants found guilty of profiteering in 1992.

Like other senior Baʿthists, Aziz was tried on numerous charges, and in October 2010 he was sentenced to death for crimes against Islamic political parties during Saddam’s reign. His death sentence was never carried out, however, and he died in prison in 2015.