Is a dead president’s daughter more dangerous than ISIS?

By failing to include Baghdadi, the Iraqi authorities were ridiculed on Arab news outlets and on social media.
Sunday 25/02/2018
A 2007 file picture shows Raghad Saddam Hussein, daughter of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, speaking at a memorial service for her father in Sana’a. (Reuters)
Guilty by association? A 2007 file picture shows Raghad Saddam Hussein, daughter of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, speaking at a memorial service for her father in Sana’a. (Reuters)

Iraq has published a list of 60 individuals wanted on terrorism charges, including alleged members of either the Islamic State (ISIS) or al-Qaeda terrorist organisations or the Ba’ath Party, which was deposed by the US-led invasion in 2003.

The list features names of 28 suspected ISIS militants, 12 alleged al-Qaeda members and 20 Ba’athists, detailing the roles they allegedly play in their respective organisations, the crimes they are accused of having perpetrated and, in several instances, photographs of the suspects.

“These are the terrorists most wanted by the judicial authorities and the security services,” an Iraqi official said. “This is the first time we publish these names, which until now were secret.”

Most intriguing about the list are two names — one present and the other conspicuously absent.

Despite Baghdad’s claims that the list represented the names of the 60 most dangerous fugitives wanted on terrorism offences, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not feature at all. He is neither listed under his nom de guerre nor by his formal name, Ibrahim Awwad al-Samarrai.

While several of his lieutenants are on the list, Baghdadi’s absence was jarring, particularly considering the global frenzy surrounding the elusive leader whose operatives conquered one-third of Iraq and large parts of Syria and killed hundreds of people around the world.

Taking into account Iraq’s more-than-three years of war against ISIS, suffering hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of damage with millions of lives affected, one would think that Baghdadi should have appeared as the first name on the list.

Instead of Baghdadi, however, the list included Raghad Saddam Hussein, daughter of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Raghad has been living in exile since the US-led invasion, preferring to keep a low profile in Amman.

No security assessment before or after the 2003 invasion flagged Raghad as a potential terrorist mastermind. However, Iraqi law has criminalised any affiliation with the Ba’athists and classified the entire party as a “terrorist organisation,” which shows that Raghad is being found guilty by association rather than because of any actual involvement with terrorism.

By failing to include Baghdadi, Iraqi authorities were ridiculed by Arab news outlets and on social media. After all, how could the Iraqi authorities forget to add one of the most-wanted men on the planet?

Sensing the PR disaster and chafing from the global mockery the Baghdad government was facing, officials published a new list of “most-wanted terrorists” two days after the first. This time, however, ISIS’s pretender caliph featured front and centre.

A security official who spoke to Agence France-Presse said the list that featured Baghdadi represented people who “are more dangerous than those who appeared on the first list… and they are wanted internationally, whereas the others are wanted only by the Iraqi courts.”

This is a weak excuse designed to save face, as al-Qaeda and ISIS operatives are wanted the world over and the first list is full of hard-core terror suspects. If the first list represents those wanted by the judiciary, you would expect Baghdadi to feature twice, rather than be included as an afterthought.

It would have been better for them to admit they made a serious error of judgment and sack the officials responsible. As it stands, it seems that Baghdad’s latest rulers fear the daughter of a long-dead former president far more than they fear a man who almost captured their capital three-and-a-half years ago. If that is not indicative of the Green Zone regime’s conscious insecurity over its inability to rule, I don’t know what is.