Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri

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Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri
عزت ابراهيم الدوري
Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri portrait.png
Portrait of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri
Leader of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party
Assumed office
3 January 2007
Preceded by Saddam Hussein
Deputy Secretary of the Regional Command of the Iraqi Regional Branch
In office
September 1991 – 3 January 2007
Preceded by Taha Yassin Ramadan
Succeeded by Unknown
Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council
In office
16 July 1979 – 9 April 2003
President Saddam Hussein
Preceded by Saddam Hussein
Succeeded by Post abolished
Member of the Regional Command of the Iraqi Regional Branch
Assumed office
October 1966 – 9 April 2003
Personal details
Born (1942-07-01)1 July 1942
Ad-Dawr, Saladin Province
Kingdom of Iraq
Died 17 April 2015 (aged 72)
Tikrit, Iraq
(Disputed, see Allegations of death)
Nationality Iraqi
Political party Iraqi Ba'ath Party
Religion Islam (Naqshbandi)[1]
Military service
Allegiance Ba'athist Iraq

Iraqi Army (Before Invasion of Iraq)
Naqshbandi Army

(After Invasion of Iraq)
Years of service 1962–2003
Rank Iraqi field marshal Field Marshal
Unit Political Guidance Directorate
(Before Invasion of Iraq)
Commands 2nd Infantry Division
Leader of the Naqshbandi Army

Iran-Iraq War

1991 Iraq War

1991 uprisings in Iraq
2003 Iraq War
Iraqi Insurgency

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (Arabic: عزت ابراهيم الدوري‘Izzat Ibrāhīm ad-Dūrī; born 1 July 1942) is an Iraqi general and a commander of the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order. He was an Iraqi military commander and Army vice chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council until the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.[2][3]

Al-Douri is the most high-profile Ba'athist official to successfully evade capture after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and was the king of clubs in the infamous most-wanted Iraqi playing cards. Al-Douri continued to lead elements of the Iraqi insurgency such as the Ba'athist Army against the then-occupation forces and waged an insurgency against the current regime in Baghdad. Following the execution of former President Saddam Hussein on 30 December 2006, al-Douri was confirmed as the new leader of the banned Iraqi Ba'ath Party on 3 January 2007.[4] Al-Douri was reportedly killed in action—along with his nine bodyguards[5]—on 17 April 2015 in a large-scale military operation by Shiite militias and Iraqi forces near the Al-Alaas oil fields in Hemreen east of Tikrit.[6][7][8][9][10] The Shiite militant organization Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq has alleged to have killed him and transported his apparent body to Baghdad to confirm its identity.[5][11] According to the BBC, Shiite militias claimed to have killed him, but the Iraqi Baath party denies his death, and his death has not been confirmed.[12] A Kurdish news source also reported that Iraq did not have al-Douri's DNA to confirm his death.[13]



Born in 1942, al-Douri began his life in his hometown of Ad-Dawr, near the Iraqi town of Tikrit. Nicknamed “the Iceman” for his humble origins selling blocks of ice, he became involved in revolutionary politics in his late teenage years. He worked alongside Saddam Hussein. Both served in the early intelligence apparatus of the Ba'ath Party and participated in what would be known as the 17 July Revolution in 1968.[14][15][16]

During the Ba'ath Regime[edit]

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (left) with Abid Hamid Mahmud (centre) and Saddam Hussein (right).

Al-Douri was a senior member of the Ba'athist government under Saddam Hussein. This was due to the fact that both al-Douri and Hussein came from the same Tikriti tribal background. He became the vice chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council prior to 2003, giving him unprecedented amounts of power and influence within the Iraqi political sphere.[2][3]

As vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, al-Douri was involved in the wars against Iran and Kuwait. He was complicit in the invasion of Saudi Arabia and the attack on the town of Khafji in January 1991.[17]

In 1993, al-Douri was involved in the state-sponsored Return to Faith Campaign (al-Hamlah al-Imaniyyah), which sought to encourage devotion to Islam in Iraqi social life. This saw aspects of Islam fused into the Iraqi media, education system and judicial system.[18]

On 22 November 1998, al-Douri escaped an assassination attempt when visiting Karbala.[17]

Al-Douri, a member of the Naqshbandi Order, was able to use his position in the regime to leverage support to the Naqshbandi community within Iraq. This form of patronage would eventfully culminate in the rise of the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order during the Iraqi insurgency, of which al-Douri would play a leading role.[19]

Personal life[edit]

In a sign of loyalty, al-Douri consented to marry his daughter to Hussein's eldest son, Uday Hussein. Al-Douri’s influence with Hussein was so substantial that he could even levy a condition, that the union would not be consummated, and later made a successful petition that his daughter be permitted to divorce Uday.[20]

Al-Douri is believed to have suffered from leukemia and was said to have undergone blood transfusions every six months. In 1999, he visited Vienna, Austria for treatment. The Austrian opposition demanded that he be arrested for war crimes, but the government allowed him to leave the country.[21][22] His son was reportedly killed in Tikrit in July, 2014.[23]

Fall of the Ba'ath regime and disappearance[edit]

The 2003 invasion of Iraq[edit]

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri as the King of Clubs on the U.S Department of Defense Most-wanted Iraqi playing cards.

At the time of the invasion of Iraq, al-Douri, along with President Saddam Hussein and Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, was among the three surviving plotters who had brought the Ba'ath Party to power in a coup in 1968.[3]

On 20 March 2003, U.S.-led coalition forces invaded Iraq, leading to the toppling of the regime of President Saddam Hussein on 9 April 2003. Following the fall of Baghdad, al-Douri went into hiding. U.S. officials claimed that he was involved in the subsequent Iraqi insurgency against U.S. forces, directing and funding attacks, as well as brokering an alliance between Ba'athist insurgents and militant Islamists. In November 2003, the U.S-led coalition issued a U.S $10 million bounty for any information leading to al-Douri's apprehension by authorities in response to coordinating attacks against coalition forces. He was made the King of Clubs in the infamous Most-wanted Iraqi playing cards, making him the 6th most wanted member in Saddam Hussein's regime.[24]

In a June 2008 interview, al-Douri detailed his strategy, indicating that "any negotiations with the invaders without it represents a desertion and treason, and is refused by all national, Pan-Arab and Islamic factions of the resistance."[25] During the interview, al-Douri made the following demands:

  1. An official pronounced recognition of the armed and unarmed national resistance, including all its factions and (political) parties, as the sole legitimate representative of the people of Iraq
  2. An official declaration of unconditional withdrawal from Iraq by the U.S. leadership
  3. Declaring null and void all the political and legislative institutions, as well as all the laws and legislation issued by them, since the occupation, with the de-Ba'athfication law in the forefront, and compensating all who were adversely affected by them
  4. A stop to raids, prosecutions, arrests, killings and displacement
  5. Release of all prisoners of war (POWs), prisoners and detainees without exception and compensating all for their physical and psychological damage
  6. Reinstating the army and the national security forces in service in accordance with their preoccupation laws and regulations, and compensating all who were adversely affected by dissolving them
  7. A pledge to compensate Iraq for all the material and moral losses it incurred because of the occupation

Al-Douri was reportedly the head of the Iraqi rebel group Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order as well as the Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation based on his longstanding positions of leadership in the Naqshbandi sect in Iraq.[26] In 2009, General David Petraeus, who was at the time heading the United States Central Command, told reporters from Al Arabiya that al-Douri was residing in Syria.[27]

Iraqi insurgency and resurfacing[edit]

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri addressing the Iraqi people, January 2013.

On 10 November 2011, a man claiming to be Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri released an audio tape condemning a recent arrest campaign targeting suspected Ba'ath Party members.

The first visual evidence of his survival surfaced on 7 April 2012 when a video posted online[28] showed him giving a speech. In the shots, he is seen wearing an olive military uniform and glasses, denouncing the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and interference in Iraqi politics by regional Shia powerhouse Iran. "Everyone can hear the sounds of danger echoing daily and threatening this country," al-Douri says during the hour-long broadcast. Prime Minister Maliki's personal adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, said the tape had a propaganda function but that he doubted al-Douri was still in Iraq as he required extensive medical care for a number of illnesses.[29]

One Iraqi MP stated that he believed al-Douri was residing in Qatar.[30]

On 5 January 2013, a 53-minute video was released on YouTube in which al-Douri encouraged recent Sunni protests in Nineveh and Anbar provinces against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, saying that "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." The message, which showed the Ba'athist leader sitting behind a desk with a small Saddam era flag on it, was partially broadcast on the Al Arabiya news channel. In the video, released just before the Iraqi Army Day on 6 January, Douri claimed to be somewhere in Iraq's Babil Province.[31][32] Hours after the tape was released, Iraqi military intelligence arrested Abdul Rahman Mohammed Ibrahim, the nephew of al-Douri, in Saladin Province.[33]

In April 2013, the Iraqi government claimed to be closing in on al-Douri, who they claimed was moving between Tikrit and the towns of Hawija and Dour, which is alleged to be an area of strong support for al-Douri, and also where he is claimed to have owned a villa.[34]

The fall of Mosul and rise of ISIS[edit]

Al-Douri played a role in the Northern Offensive as commander of the Naqshbandi Army. Reports soon surfaced that he had links with the jihadist group ISIS, helping them take the city of Tikrit and coordinating attacks against Iraqi security forces.[35] On June 13, a Twitter account, @wikibaghdadi, claimed a "Meeting between ISIS and Naqshbandi Army near al-Qayara area south of Mosul had taken place with representatives from Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”[36] In July 2014, al-Douri issued an audio recording praising “the heroes and knights of al Qaeda and the Islamic State” forces in attacking Iraqi government positions within Saladin, Kirkuk, Diyala and Nineveh province. His connections with Islamist elements in Iraq is said to have emerged as far back as during Saddam's regime.[37] According to the Soufan Group, al-Douri had close ties with senior ISIS officials Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ayman al-Iraqi. Both men had served in the Ba'athist regime under Saddam Hussein, with al-Turkmani being a Lieutenant colonel and serving in the Istikhbarat and Special Republican Guard. Al-Iraqi had been a Colonel in Iraq's Air Defense Intelligence.[38]

Al-Douri has been pointed out as one of the main commanders responsible for successful takeover by rebel groups of North Iraq and the city of Mosul in June 2014.[39] The Naqshbandi Army, along with other groups led by former Ba'ath officers, are reported to have assumed an increasingly large role in the governance and administration of occupied cities. Militants were reported to have appointed fellow Ba'ath generals Azhar al-Obeidi and Ahmed Abdul Rashid as the governors of Mosul and Tikrit.[40] Shortly afterwards, reports emerged that the Ba'ath Party, under al-Douri's leadership, declared war on fellow rebel group ISIS.[41] Other reports still maintain a certain degree of cooperation between the two groups.[42] According to Global Security, a deal was struck in September 2014 aimed at reconciliation between ISIS and the Naqshbandi Army. Global Security alleged that in Anbar, Salaheddin and Diyala provinces the Naqshbandi Army the Mujahedeen army and Ansar al-Islam allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS and were supplied with weaponry, equipment and money by ISIS.[43]

In May 2015, an audio recording alleging to be that of al-Douri, criticized both ISIS and Iran. He also hailed the Saudi-led alliance targeting the Houthi militias in Yemen. On ISIS he stated “We do cross paths ... but what stops us from meeting is that even if we wanted to, they would not accept because they consider the Ba’ath infidels”. He used the word Daesh, an Arab acronym considered derogatory by ISIS, and claimed that the group was detaining a third of the Ba’ath’s command. Al-Douri then went on to claim the number of ISIS victims in Iraq “does not equal 1% of those killed by the militias”. On Iran, al-Douri called for the "Iraqis in Al-Anbar and Karbala to strongly fight the Persian criminal plan, which aims at swallowing Iraq." He stressed that Iran is the main player in Iraq and it is working through the Quds Force.[44][45]

Allegations of death[edit]

On 17 April 2015, al-Douri was alleged to have been killed during a military operation conducted by the Iraqi Army near Al-Alaas oil fields in Hemreen, east of Tikrit. Iraqi security forces and Shia militias opened fire at a convoy believed to be carrying al-Douri and nine bodyguards, resulting in a 25-minute firefight. General Haider al-Basri, a senior Iraqi commander, announced to state TV that the man believed to be al-Douri and his guards were killed.[7][8][9][10][46] The Shi'ite militant organization Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq has claimed to have killed him and said that his body is being transported to Baghdad to confirm the identity of the body.[5][47] Before delivering the body to Baghdad, Shi'ite militias did the DNA tests on the body and confirmed the results on 19 April.[48] The body was delivered to Baghdad on 20 April,[49] with the government starting the DNA tests a day after, on 21 April.[50] The governor of Salahaddin province, Raed al-Jabbouri, said that al-Douri was a “mastermind of Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS)” and that his death would be a blow to the group.[51]

On 24 April, The Iraqi Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Ziyad Tareq said: "The ministry does not have any DNA test (results) for any relative of Duri at the present time, and further efforts will be made to achieve a DNA result."[52][53][54] On 15 May, a Baathist TV channel released an audio recording purportedly of Douri, in which he refers to events that have happened since rumours of his death in April 17.[55]


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Party political offices
Preceded by
Saddam Hussein
Leader of the Ba'ath Party
Succeeded by
In post

External links[edit]