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Tariq Aziz: profile

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Tariq Aziz: profile


“We were born in Iraq, we will die in Iraq either as martyrs which is a great honour, or naturally.”

A month after speaking those words in 2003, Tariq Aziz surrendered to the Americans.

For more than two decades, a rare Christian in Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, was the public face of the Iraqi regime.

When Saddam officially took power in 1979, the English literature student turned journalist was already a long-standing member of the ruling Ba’ath party.

Saddam decided that Aziz’s language and communication skills made him the best man to go about drumming up Western support for a war against Iran. Aziz became the diplomat, the man to talk to about doing business with Iraq.

He was behind the normalisation of ties between Baghdad and Washington in 1984 but he was just as comfortable in Soviet Moscow and Paris.

Things became trickier for Aziz with the invasion of Kuweit in 1990, which again he was charged with justifying to the world.

Officially he was Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Unofficially he was the mouthpiece and negotiator for a regime that for most of the rest of the world had become unpalatable.

After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and the hunt for the regime’s leaders, Aziz was close to the top of the list.

It is not thought he formed policy and ordered murder or torture but he voted to support it. After all, keeping Saddam happy was often a matter of life and death.

It was his loyalty to Saddam, whatever drove it, that made him such a hate figure for many Iraqis and brought the death sentence upon him.

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