Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:12 am (KSA) 21:12 pm (GMT)

Obama is "leaving Iraq to wolves": Tareq Aziz

Saddam Hussein's former deputy, Tareq Aziz (L) was the only Christian in Saddam's cabinet (File)
Saddam Hussein's former deputy, Tareq Aziz (L) was the only Christian in Saddam's cabinet (File)

Saddam Hussein's former deputy, Tareq Aziz, on Friday accused the U.S. president of "leaving Iraq to the wolves" by pressing ahead with a withdrawal of combat troops despite a recent upsurge in violence.

In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister said the United States should stay in the country to correct the mistakes it had made since the 2003 invasion.

"We are all victims of America and Britain," he told the daily paper from his prison cell in Baghdad, in his first interview since he was captured shortly after the fall of Baghdad more than seven years ago.

"They killed our country in many ways. When you make a mistake you need to correct a mistake, not leave Iraq to its death."

His comments came after Obama confirmed this week that the U.S. would end its combat mission in Iraq as scheduled on August 31, despite figures showing July had been the deadliest month in the country for more than two years.

Aziz, the face of ex-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's regime on the world stage for many years, went on to say Iraq was now in a worse state than before the U.S.-led invasion.

"For 30 years Saddam built Iraq and now it is destroyed. There are more sick than before, more hungry," said Aziz.

"The people don't have services. People are being killed every day in the tens, if not hundreds.

Aziz disappointed at Obama

"I was encouraged when [U.S. President Barack Obama] was elected president, because I thought he was going to correct some of the mistakes of Bush. But Obama is a hypocrite. He is leaving Iraq to the wolves."

Figures released by the Baghdad government Saturday showed that 535 people died in July, including 396 civilians, 89 policemen and 50 soldiers.
That figure was the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence.

Aziz asked Saddam not to invade Kuwait

Aziz also launched a staunch defense of Saddam Hussein, insisting the West's view of him was wrong.

"Saddam did not lie," he said. "He did not change the facts. He is someone for whom I have a great respect and love. He is a man who history will show served his country.

"Saddam built the country and served the people. I cannot accept your [the West's] judgment that he was wrong."

"Being a member of the government, I had a moral responsibility to defend the government," he said. "If you go back to the history, I asked Saddam Hussein not to invade Kuwait, but I had to support the decision of the majority.

"When the decision was taken, I said to him, this is going to lead to war with the U.S. and it is not in our interests to wage war against the US. But the decision was taken. I was the foreign minister of the country and I had to defend the country and do everything possible to explain our position. I stayed on the side of right."

Saddam knew US to invade Iraq:Aziz

He said that he and Saddam were convinced that the U.S. was going to invade by late 2002, and his job of escorting skeptical UN inspectors around Iraq was largely futile. "I was trying to prove a negative."

Aziz says the events of 9/11 were shocking to him and Saddam.

"We were against that at the time, but we were not speaking to the American government. Saddam Hussein called me and said he would like me to write a letter to Ramsey [Clark, a former US attorney general] and say that we condemn the attack. I did that."

Ramsey Clark was against the 1991 and 2003 conflicts with Iraq, and in 2002, Clark founded "VoteToImpeach", an organization advocating the impeachment of George W. Bush and several members of his administration.

"Some things became clear to both myself and the president as the world leaders increased their rhetoric against us. They were going to invade anyway.

"Bush and Blair lied intentionally. They were both pro-Zionist. They wanted to destroy Iraq for the sake of Israel, not for the sake of the U.S. and Britain."

Via his TV, Aziz monitors developments in Iraq, which he says will be better off if it is returned to rule by an Arab strongman. "There is nothing here anymore. Nothing," he says. "For 30 years Saddam built Iraq, and now it is destroyed. There are more sick than before, more hungry. The people don't have services. People are being killed every day in the 10s, if not hundreds. We are all victims of America and Britain. They killed our country."

Saddam kept Iran guessing over "WMD" not the US

When asked why Saddam kept the U.S. guessing about his weapons program, he confirmed the dictator's account to his captors that he had been playing to Iran, not to the west. "Partially, it was about Iran [the deterrent factor]," Aziz said. "They had waged war on us for eight years so we Iraqis had a right to deter them. Saddam was a proud man. He had to defend the dignity of Iraq. He had to show that he was not wrong, or weak.

"Iran was our biggest enemy. We had to defy them whatever the cost. Now Iran is building a weapons program. Everybody knows it and nobody is doing anything. Why?"

Ayad Allawi

"Tell Tariq Aziz that he is my friend and I think of him often," said Iyad Allawi, the lead candidate to replace Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq's prime minister, when told that the Guardian would soon be speaking to him. "He is a good man and I know his family well. I wish him all the best and it is wrong to lock him up like this for so long. He is an old man."

Aziz says he will not pass judgment on his former boss, Saddam, until the day when his freedom comes.

Aziz's influence after the 1991 Gulf war rose substantially, largely because of the loyalty he had shown. Through 12 years of sanctions and the lead up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, he claims he knew every one of the regime's secrets – including that there was no secret weapons program, and no will to resurrect one from the ruins of Iraq's three bombed nuclear reactors and adjoining research laboratories.

Aziz, 73, turned himself in to U.S. forces in April 2003 and is one of Saddam's few surviving top cohorts.

He was appointed deputy premier in 1991, having previously served as foreign minister. In 2009, he was jailed for 15 years for murder and given a seven-year term in August 2009 for his role in expelling Kurds from Iraq's north.

Aziz's family has repeatedly called for his release on health grounds.

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