BAGHDAD / Reuters
A rallying cry to Iraqi Sunnis from former President Saddam Hussein’s top surviving aide aims to bolster the old ruling Baath party’s 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’s Sunni-led rule when US troops stormed Baghdad in 2003. Reuters could not authenticate it but analysts said it seemed genuine judging by his appearance and speech.
Douri, a wiry man with a ginger moustache, evaded capture during the 2003-11 US occupation and Iraqi and US officials accused him of organising an insurgency by minority Sunnis against US troops and the new Shi’ite led authorities in 2005-7. In a previous audio message, the former top official in Saddam’s secular Baath party urged Sunnis to join those who had “liberated” half the country, referring to IS, 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 avoid being burnt by the Persian fire.”
The latest message follows major gains by the government and its US-led backers against IS and coincides with a push to drive the hardline militants from Mosul, the largest city in their self-proclaimed caliphate.