Tariq Aziz

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Tariq Aziz
طارق عزيز
ܡܝܟܐܝܠ ܝܘܚܢܢ
Aziz cropped.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq
In office
July 16, 1979 April 9, 2003
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
November 11, 1983 December 19, 1991
President Saddam Hussein
Succeeded by Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Member of the Revolutionary Command Council
In office
16 July 1979 9 April 2003
Member of the Regional Command of the Iraqi Regional Branch
In office
1 August 1965 9 April 2003
Personal details
Mikhail Yuhanna

(1936-04-28)28 April 1936
Tel Keppe, Iraq
Died5 June 2015(2015-06-05) (aged 79)
Nasiriyah, Iraq
Cause of deathHeart attack
Political party Arab Socialist Ba'ath (until 1966)
Baghdad-based Ba'ath (1966–1982) (Ba'ath – Iraq Region)
Spouse(s)Violet Yusef Nobud
ProfessionJournalist, politician

Tariq Aziz (Arabic : طارق عزيزṬāriq ʿAzīz (28 April 1936 – 5 June 2015) was Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister (1979–2003) and Foreign Minister (1983–1991) and a close advisor of President Saddam Hussein. Their association began in the 1950s when both were activists for the then-banned Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. Although he was an Arab nationalist he was in fact an ethnic Assyrian, and a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church. [1] [2] [3]

President of Iraq position

The President of Iraq is the head of state of Iraq and "safeguards the commitment to the Constitution and the preservation of Iraq's independence, sovereignty, unity, the security of its territories in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution". The President is elected by the Council of Representatives by a two-thirds majority, and is limited to two four-year terms. The President is responsible for ratifying treaties and laws passed by the Council of Representatives, issues pardons on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and performs the "duty of the Higher Command of the armed forces for ceremonial and honorary purposes". Since the mid-2000s, the Presidency is primarily a symbolic office, and by convention since 2005, usually held by a Kurdish Iraqi.

Saddam Hussein Iraqi politician and President

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was President of Iraq from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and its regional organization the Iraqi Ba'ath Party—which espoused Ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and socialism—Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to power in Iraq.

Activism efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, religious, economic, or environmental change, or stasis

Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society. Forms of activism range from mandate building in the community, petitioning elected officials, running or contributing to a political campaign, preferential patronage of businesses, and demonstrative forms of activism like rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, or hunger strikes.


Because of security concerns, Hussein rarely left Iraq, so Aziz would often represent Iraq at high-level diplomatic summits. What the United States wanted, he averred, was not "regime change" in Iraq but rather "region change". He said that the Bush Administration's reasons for war were "oil and Israel." [4]

After surrendering to American forces on 24 April 2003, Aziz was held in prison, first by American forces and subsequently by the Iraqi government, in Camp Cropper in western Baghdad. [5] He was acquitted of some charges on 1 March 2009 following a trial, but was sentenced to 15 years on 11 March 2009 for the executions of 42 merchants found guilty of profiteering in 1992 and another 7 years for relocating Kurds. [6]

Camp Cropper was a holding facility for security detainees operated by the United States Army near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. The facility was initially operated as a high-value detention site (HVD), but has since been expanded increasing its capacity from 163 to 2,000 detainees. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was held there prior to his execution.

Profiteering is a pejorative term for the act of making a profit by methods considered unethical.

On 26 October 2010, he was sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, which sparked regional and international condemnation from Iraqi bishops and other Iraqis, the Vatican, the United Nations, the European Union and the human rights organization Amnesty International, as well as various governments around the world, such as Russia. [7] On 28 October 2010, it was reported that Aziz, as well as 25 fellow prison inmates, had begun a hunger strike to protest the fact that they could not receive their once-monthly visit from friends and relatives, which was normally set for the last Friday of each month. [8]

Holy See Episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy

The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, refers to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, which includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome with universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, as well as a sovereign entity of international law.

European Union Economic and political union of European states

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. Its members have a combined area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated total population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

Amnesty International London-based international human rights organization

Amnesty International is a British non-governmental organization focused on human rights. The organization claims it has more than seven million members and supporters around the world.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani declared that he would not sign Aziz's execution order, thus commuting his sentence to indefinite imprisonment. [9] Aziz remained in custody the rest of his life and died of a heart attack in the city of Nasiriyah on 5 June 2015, aged 79. [10]

Jalal Talabani Iraqi politician

Jalal Talabani was an Iraqi Kurdish politician who served as the 8th President of Iraq from 2006 to 2014, as well as the President of the Governing Council of Iraq. He was the first non-Arab president of Iraq. He is known as Mam Jalal in the Middle East. The surname Talabani means 'scholar' in native Kurdish.

Nasiriyah City in Dhi Qar, Iraq

Nasiriyah is a city in Iraq. It is situated along the banks of the Euphrates River, about 225 miles (370 km) southeast of Baghdad, near the ruins of the ancient city of Ur. It is the capital of the Dhi Qar Governorate. Its population 2003 was about 560,000, making it the fourth largest city in Iraq. It had a religiously diverse population of Muslims, Mandaeans and Jews in the early 20th century, but today its inhabitants are predominantly Shia Muslims.

Early life and education

Aziz accompanies Saddam Hussein during a visit on 19–20 December 1983 from Donald Rumsfeld, then Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East. Rumsfeld later became the American Secretary of Defense and led the coalition forces against Iraq in 2003.

Mikhail Yuhanna (Syriac : ܡܝܟܐܝܠ ܝܘܚܢܢ Arabic : ميخائيل يوحنا) was born on 28 April 1936, in the Chaldean Catholic town of Tel Keppe in northern Iraq, [11] to an ethnic Assyrian family. He studied English at Baghdad University and later worked as a journalist, before joining the Ba'ath Party in 1957. He changed his distinctly Christian name in Syriac to the more Arabic sounding Tariq Aziz to gain acceptance by the Arab and Muslim majority. In 1963, he was editor of the newspaper Aj-Jamahir (al-Jamaheer) and al Thawra, the newspaper of the Ba'ath party. [12]

Syriac language dialect of Middle Aramaic

Syriac, also known as Syrian/Syriac Aramaic, Syro-Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic of the Northwest Semitic languages of the Afroasiatic family that is written in the Syriac alphabet, a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet. Having first appeared in the early first century CE in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Syriac was once spoken across much of the Near East as well as Anatolia and Eastern Arabia. Syriac originated in Mesopotamia and eventually spread west of Iraq in which it became the lingua franca of the region during the Mesopotamian Neo-Assyrian period.

Tel Keppe Place in Nineveh, Iraq

Tel Keppe, is an Assyrian town in northern Iraq. Its name means "Hill of Stones" in Syriac. It is located in the Nineveh Governorate, less than 8 miles north east of Mosul. The town is a historic farming town consisting of a densely populated core, surrounded by farm land outside the city.

Assyrian people Ethnic group indigenous to the Near East

Assyrian people, are a Semitic ethnic group indigenous to Assyria, a region in the Middle East. Some self-identify as Syriacs, Arameans, and Chaldeans. Speakers of Neo-Aramaic languages as well as the primary languages in their countries of residence, modern Assyrians are Syriac Christians who claim descent from Assyria, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back to 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.

Political career

Ronald Reagan hosts Aziz at the White House, 1984 Ronald Reagan and Tareq Aziz November 26, 1984.gif
Ronald Reagan hosts Aziz at the White House, 1984
Aziz with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on 26 July 2000. Vladimir Putin with Tariq Aziz-1.jpg
Aziz with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on 26 July 2000.

He began to rise through the ranks of Iraqi politics after the Ba'ath party came to power in 1968. Aziz became close to Saddam Hussein who heavily promoted him. He served as a member of the Regional Command, the Ba'ath Party's highest governing organization from 1974 to 1977, and in 1977 became a member of Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council. [13]

In 1979, Aziz became Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, and worked as a diplomat to explain Iraq's policies to the world. In April 1980 he survived an Iranian-backed assassination attempt carried out by members of the Islamic Dawa Party. In the attack, members of Islamic Dawa Party threw a grenade at Aziz in central Baghdad. The attack killed several people. [14] It was part of the casus belli of the Iran–Iraq War. [15]

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Aziz served as the international spokesman in support of the military action. He claimed the invasion was justified because Kuwait's increased oil production was harming Iraqi oil revenues. He condemned Arab states for "subservience to the United States' hegemony in the Middle East and their support for punitive sanctions." [16] On 9 January 1991, Aziz was involved in the Geneva Peace Conference which included the United States Secretary of State, James Baker. The goal of the meeting was to discuss a possible resolution to the occupation of Kuwait. [13]

Iraq war

In October 2000, the then-junior Minister for Foreign Affairs from Britain, Peter Hain, set up a secret war avoidance team to carry messages back and forth between himself and Aziz. [17] After initial cooperation, Aziz rebuffed the delegations. [17]

On 14 February 2003, Aziz reportedly had an audience with Pope John Paul II and other officials in Vatican City, where, according to a Vatican statement, he communicated "the wish of the Iraqi government to co-operate with the international community, notably on disarmament". The same statement said that the Pope "insisted on the necessity for Iraq to faithfully respect and give concrete commitments to resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, which is the guarantor of international law". [18]

Weapons of mass destruction

Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush claimed Aziz as one of the Iraqi regime who was responsible for hiding Iraqi WMD: [19]

President Bush expressed unshakable confidence Saturday about finding banned weapons in Iraq and complained that Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein's closest deputies, is not cooperating with U.S. forces who have him in custody. Bush said the deputy prime minister, the most visible face of the former Iraqi government other than Hussein, 'still doesn't know how to tell the truth.'

USA Today , 3 May 2003


He voluntarily surrendered to American forces on 24 April 2003, after negotiations had been mediated by his son. [20] His chief concern at the time was for the welfare of his family. At the time of his surrender, Aziz was ranked number 43 out of 55 in the American list of most-wanted Iraqis despite a belief "he probably would not know answers to questions like where weapons of mass destruction may be hidden and where Saddam Hussein might be." [20]

Before the war, Aziz claimed he would rather die than be a U.S. prisoner of war: "Do you expect me, after all my history as a militant and as one of the Iraqi leaders, to go to an American prison – to go to Guantanamo? I would rather die", he told Britain's ITV. [21]

Defense witness

On 24 May 2006, Aziz testified in Baghdad as a defense witness for Ibrahim Barzan and Mukhabarat employees, claiming that they did not have any role in the 1982 Dujail crackdown. He stated that the arrests were in response to the assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein, which was carried out by the Shiite Dawa Party. "If the head of state comes under attack, the state is required by law to take action. If the suspects are caught with weapons, it's only natural they should be arrested and put on trial". [22]

He further testified that the Dujail attack was "part of a series of attacks and assassination attempts by this group, including against me." He said that in 1980, Dawa Party insurgents threw a grenade at him as he visited a Baghdad university, killing civilians around him. "I'm a victim of a criminal act conducted by this party, which is in power right now. So put it on trial. Its leader was the prime minister and his deputy is the prime minister right now and they killed innocent Iraqis in 1980," he said. [22] The Dawa Party is now a party in the Shiite coalition that dominates the Iraqi government. The party's leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was prime minister until mid-May, when another leading Dawa Party figure, Nouri al-Maliki, was picked and he was able to form a new government before the end of May 2006. [23]

In his closing remarks, he stated that "Saddam is my colleague and comrade for decades, and Barzan is my brother and my friend and he is not responsible for Dujail's events." [24]


On 29 May 2005, the British newspaper The Observer published letters (in Arabic and English) from Aziz written in April and May 2005, while he was in American custody, addressed to "world public opinion" pleading for international help to end "his dire situation": [25] [26]

It is imperative that there is intervention into our dire situation and treatment ... We hope that you will help us. We have been in prison for a long time and we have been cut from our families. No contacts, no phones, no letters. Even the parcels sent to us by our families are not given to us. We need a fair treatment, a fair investigation and finally a fair trial. Please help us.

Tariq Aziz, prison letter, April 2005

In August 2005, Aziz's family was allowed to visit him. At the time the location of Aziz's prison was undisclosed; his family was brought in a bus with blackened out windows. [27]

For security reasons he was later moved to Camp Cropper, part of the huge US base surrounding Baghdad airport. [28] His son said that while his father was in poor health, he was being well treated by prison officials. He could make 30 minutes of telephone calls monthly and had access to US Arabic-language radio and television stations. Every two months his family could send a parcel containing clothes, cigarettes, chocolate, coffee and magazines. [28]

The spiritual leader of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic community, Emmanuel III Delly, called for Aziz's release in his 2007 Christmas message. Aziz was acquitted of crimes against humanity. [29]

On 17 January 2010, Aziz suffered a stroke and was transferred from prison to hospital. [30] On 5 August 2010, The Guardian released his first face-to-face interview since his surrender. [31] On 22 September 2010, documents were released that he had given an interview about how he had told the FBI that the dictator Hussein was "delighted" in the 1998 terrorist bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa but had no interest in partnering with Osama bin Laden. [32]


Aziz was set to appear before the Iraqi High Tribunal set up by the Iraq Interim Government, but not until April 2008 was he brought up on any charges. [29] This changed when, on 29 April 2008, Aziz went on trial over the deaths of a group of 42 merchants who were executed by the Iraqi regime in 1992, after the merchants had been charged by the Iraqi regime with manipulating food prices when Iraq was under international sanctions. [33]

The charges brought against Aziz were reported by The Independent to be "surprising" as the deaths of the 42 merchants had always previously been attributed to Saddam Hussein. [34] Nevertheless, on 11 March 2009 the Iraqi High Tribunal ruled that Aziz was guilty of crimes against humanity, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. [35] On 2 August 2009, Aziz was convicted by the Iraqi High Tribunal of helping to plan the forced displacement of Kurds from northeastern Iraq and sentenced to seven years in jail. [36] After these judgments had been passed, BBC News stated that "there was no evidence that a Western court would regard as compelling that he had anything like final responsibility for the carrying out of the executions" of the 42 merchants and "there was no real evidence of his personal involvement and guilt" with regards to the displacement of Kurds. [37] That same year, he was acquitted in a separate trial which concerned the suppression of an uprising in Baghdad during the 1990s. [35]

On 26 October 2010, the Iraqi High Tribunal handed down a death sentence against Aziz for the offense of "persecution of Islamic parties," [38] amongst them the serving Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, following a crackdown on a Shia uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. [28] The Associated Press reports that "the judge gave no details of Aziz's specific role" in the crackdown. His lawyer stated that Aziz's role in the former Iraqi government was in the arena of "Iraq's diplomatic and political relations only, and had nothing to do with the executions and purges carried during Hussein's reign." [39] His lawyer further stated that the death sentence itself was politically motivated and that timing of the death sentence may have been aimed at diverting international attention away from documents released by WikiLeaks, which detailed crimes in which Maliki government officials have been implicated. [40] His lawyers had 30 days to lodge an appeal, following which the court would have another 30 days to look into the appeal; if the appeal is turned down the sentence would be carried out after another 30 days. [40] On 26 October 2010 the Vatican urged the Iraqi government not to carry out his execution, and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stated that Aziz's execution would be "unacceptable and the EU will seek to commute his sentence." [41] That same day, the human rights organization Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the use of the death penalty in this case, as well as for the cases of two other former Iraqi officials; the statement also expressed concern regarding the manner in which trials may have been conducted by the Iraqi High Tribunal. [42] On 27 October 2010, Greek President Karolos Papoulias and the Russian Foreign Ministry both released statements urging the Iraqi government not to carry out the death penalty against Aziz. [43] [44] Also on 27 October 2010, a spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was reported to have "stressed that the UN is against the death sentence and in this case, as in all others, it is calling for the verdict to be cancelled." [45] On 28 October 2010, it was reported that some Iraqi Bishops and many ordinary Iraqis also condemned the death penalty for Aziz. [46] Furthermore, according to The Wall Street Journal , "several international human-rights groups have criticised the procedures and questioned the impartiality of the court." [47]

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), his family stated that Aziz, along with 25 fellow inmates, had been on a hunger strike following the sentence to protest the denial of their once-monthly visits with family and friends, but an Iraqi court official has denied this. [48] According to AFP, Aziz and the other prisoners were "still at the site of the court in Baghdad’s Green Zone and had not been transferred back to prison where they could have received their monthly visit."

On 17 November 2010, it was reported that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had declared that he would not sign Aziz's execution order. [9] [49] On 5 December 2011, Saad Yousif al-Muttalibi, an adviser to the Prime Minister, had claimed the execution of Aziz would "definitely take place" after the withdrawal of American forces. [50]


In 2001, his son Ziad was arrested for corruption. In January 1999, Ziad was accused by his former mistress of using the official position of his father (mostly his cars) to facilitate smooth crossing of the Jordanian border with contraband, attempted murder of her husband and family, as well as for corruption involving French and Indonesian companies. He was arrested and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Aziz resigned from his post but Hussein did not accept his resignation. [51] Ziad was eventually released from prison when Hussein decided that Aziz had paid enough for his mistakes. [52]

Ziad Aziz now lives in Jordan with his wife, four children, and Tariq Aziz's two sisters. Tariq Aziz's wife and another son live in Jordan. [53]


Tariq Aziz died on 5 June 2015 in al-Hussein hospital in the city of Nasiriyah, at the age of 79. [54] According to his lawyer, he was being treated well in prison but suffered from ill health and simply wanted an end to his "misery". The incarcerated Aziz suffered from depression, diabetes, heart disease, and ulcers. [55] Aziz's daughter, Zeinab, claimed his body was stolen at Baghdad International Airport en route to Jordan by unidentified men on 11 June, but it was recovered the day after. Jordanian authorities said the body had not been stolen, but merely delayed until the relevant paperwork was filled out. [56] [57] [58] Aziz was buried in Amman. [56]

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Political offices
Preceded by
Nasser al-Hani
Foreign Minister of Iraq
Succeeded by
Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf