The Freeland File
Aerospace & Defense
Global Market Data
Lucy P. Marcus
The Great Debate
Macro & Markets
Lipper Awards 2012
Personal Finance Video
Photos of the week
Our top photos from the past week. Slideshow
Best photos of the year 2012
Download our Wider Image iPad app
Quake measuring 7.5 strikes off Alaska
"Nobody helped us for an hour": Indian rape witness
Obama says U.S. can't afford more showdowns over debt, deficits
China chills hit 28-year low, trapping ships in ice
GM recalls more than 69,000 vehicles that could roll away
04 Jan 2013
”Fiscal cliff” tumble looms despite Senate efforts
Gun purchasers set new record in December: FBI
House Republicans weigh last-ditch challenge to fiscal deal
Our day's top images, in-depth photo essays and offbeat slices of life. See the best of Reuters photography. See more | Photo caption
Portfolio: Mike Cassese
A showcase of the best images from Reuters photographer Mike Cassese, who passed away on December 27, 2012. Slideshow
A dozen devout Jewish men meet weekly for yoga at a studio near Jerusalem. Slideshow
Fugitive Saddam deputy lends support to Iraq Sunni protests
Islamists pursue own agenda in Iraq's Sunni protests
Fri, Jan 4 2013
Suicide car bomber kills 27 Shi'ite pilgrims in Iraq
Thu, Jan 3 2013
Bombs kill 23 across Iraq as sectarian strife grows
Mon, Dec 31 2012
Sunni protesters attack Iraq official's convoy, guards wound two
Sun, Dec 30 2012
Iraqi Sunnis stage big anti-government rallies
Fri, Dec 28 2012
Analysis & Opinion
Islamists push own agenda in Iraq’s Sunni protests against Shi’ite power
Will this be the year that Israel goes to war with Iran?
Middle East Turmoil »
By Raheem and Salman
Sat Jan 5, 2013 10:25am EST
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The most senior member of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's entourage still at large has urged Sunni Muslim anti-government protesters to stand their ground until Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is toppled.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri heads Saddam's Baath party, which was banned after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that overthrew the Sunni strongman and empowered majority Shi'ite Muslims.
Over the past two weeks, tens of thousands of Sunnis, some waving Saddam-era flags, have staged demonstrations in a show of anger against Maliki, whom they accuse of marginalizing their community and monopolizing power.
"The people of Iraq and all its nationalist and Islamic forces support you until the realization of your just demands for the fall of the Safavid-Persian alliance," said Douri, addressing the protesters in footage broadcast on Alarabiya television.
Safavid is a reference to the ruling dynasty of Shi'ite Iran from the 16th to 18th centuries that at times also controlled parts of modern-day Iraq.
Since Maliki came to office in 2006, Iraq has edged closer to neighboring Iran, which wields strong influence over several Iraqi Shi'ite parties.
Surrounded by men in military uniform, Douri said the Baath party leadership was considering launching a campaign to "justly and decisively" punish civilians and soldiers who supported what he described as Iran's "Safavid project" for Iraq.
"It is a clear plan to destroy Iraq and annex it to Iran," he said. "We warn those traitors, agents and spies ... who support the dangerous project ... that the national resistance will confront them before Maliki and his evil alliance".
The authenticity of the video could not be verified. Douri said he was speaking from the Iraqi province of Babil.
CAPTURE (OR KILL)
Influential Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a rival to Maliki who has voiced support for the Sunni rallies, said Douri and his followers were agents of the United States and Israel and urged protesters to denounce him.
"If the government is not able to seriously and urgently capture (or kill) him, this will be our job, we the soldiers of God upon earth," he said in a statement on his website.
Douri, seldom seen since 2003, was the deputy head of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council under Saddam, and took over the Baath Party leadership after Saddam was executed in 2006.
After the 2003 invasion, he was ranked sixth on the U.S. military's list of 55 most wanted Iraqis and a $10 million reward was offered for his capture. U.S. officials accused him of organizing the insurgency that peaked in 2005-07.
The conflict in neighboring Syria, where a Sunni-led insurgency is fighting to remove a leader backed by Shi'ite Iran, is whipping up sectarian tension across the region and straining a precarious political balance between Iraq's Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish factions.
That has raised concern about a relapse into intercommunal slaughter in Iraq just over a year since U.S. troops withdrew.
A car bomb parked near a vegetable and fruit market in the town of Kanaan in Diyala province killed two people on Saturday, police said, in an attack the mayor blamed on Baathists seeking to ignite sectarian strife by targeting mixed areas.
The protests in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland pose a new challenge to Maliki, who is already at odds with the autonomous Kurdish region in the north.
Iyad Allawi, the head of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc, on Friday called on Maliki to resign and for an interim government to be formed until early elections.
Failing that, Maliki's alliance should select an alternative prime minister and form a government that would respect the constitution, Allawi said in a statement.
"The continuation of this government will not produce anything except more crises and waste of public money."
The latest crisis gathered pace just hours after President Jalal Talabani, seen as a steadying influence On Iraq, suffered a stroke and was flown abroad for medical care.
Talabani's medical team said on Saturday the 79-year-old Kurd was responding very well to treatment and had "passed the difficult stages more quickly than expected", but gave no details about his health or whether he is able to communicate.
(Addition reporting and writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Middle East Turmoil
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Be the first to comment on reuters.com.
Add yours using the box above.
Back to top
New York Legal
Support & Contact
Connect with Reuters
Our Flagship financial information platform incorporating Reuters Insider
An ultra-low latency infrastructure for electronic trading and data distribution
A connected approach to governance, risk and compliance
Our next generation legal research platform
Our global tax workstation
About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.