One rat ratting out another rat:
Tariq Aziz, once Saddam Hussein’s most trusted lieutenant, has agreed to testify against the ousted dictator during his forthcoming trial for war crimes, according to his lawyer and American officials.
In return for his co-operation, Aziz, 69, Iraq’s foreign minister during the Gulf war and deputy prime minister throughout Saddam’s 24-year rule, will have the most serious charges against him dropped and be allowed to spend his dotage in exile.
The outline plea agreement, under which he will plead guilty to minor charges, was reached after more than two years of delicate negotiations during which Aziz also revealed important intelligence information. It could mean him walking free almost as soon as the trials of Saddam and his cohorts are over.
The man regarded as the Ba’athist regime’s chief mouthpiece to the outside world will not, however, be called to give evidence against his former master this week. The deposed Iraqi leader is due in court in Baghdad on Wednesday accused of murdering 143 Shias in the town of Dujail, north of the capital, after a failed assassination attempt in 1982.
Saddam, 68, who is in American custody in Baghdad, has been linked to hundreds of thousands of killings but the Dujail case is being heard first because prosecutors believe it will be simple to link him directly to acts of murder.
He will eventually be tried on further charges of crimes against humanity, for which he will be sentenced to death if found guilty. It is in these more complex cases – involving the sanctioning of mass executions – that Aziz’s evidence could prove crucial.
Badie Izzat Arief, Aziz’s lawyer, said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that his client had “given them facts, well known facts” during more than 300 interviews with United States officials, including, he suggested, members of the CIA and FBI.
During the interviews, Aziz was questioned repeatedly about whether Saddam had signed execution orders. “They asked him whether the executions were decided by Saddam Hussein or the court,” said Mr Arief. “He said that Saddam had the right to ratify or not. It depended on him.” His client, he confirmed, would be prepared to state “facts” in his own trial and those of other senior regime figures.
He said that Aziz, who was “tired” and suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes, was kept in a 12ft by 12ft cell and now wore a tracksuit. He had expressed a desire to move to Europe and to write an autobiography. Mr Arief expected the former Iraqi foreign minister to be sentenced to “time served” – about three years – and freed.
“He told me, ‘If I am released, please take me straight to the airport’ and, ‘When I’m free I will write a book about the whole matter’. For humanitarian reasons he should be granted a visa in Europe because he has been attacked many times by the Iraqis now ruling this country.”
Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic, changed his name from Michael Yuhanna to Tariq Aziz, which means “Venerable Path” in Arabic, at the outset of his political career. He has been viewed with suspicion by Sunni rejectionists since he surrendered to US forces following the invasion and formally identified Saddam after his capture in December 2003.
“Saddam should never have put a Christian in his government,” said Saddoun Hail al-Aani, a former Iraqi army colonel who remains loyal to the former dictator. “He made a dirty deal with the Americans because he is a crusader like them. He is a spy, a traitor and a servant of the occupiers.”
Maybe he can become a CNN correspondent.