US troops in Iraq say they have killed an al-Qaeda leader who masterminded the attacks on a Shia shrine that led to a major escalation in sectarian violence.It's likely most of the major news outlets will omit this man's previous career as a member of Saddam's Special Republican Guard. So what, you say? Just doing what he had to survive back then, you say? Well, maybe. But keep in mind he wasn't in the Iraqi Army or even the Republican Guard, his unit was, well, special:
Officials say Haitham al-Badri was behind the 2006 and 2007 attacks on the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, which destroyed its golden dome and minarets.
Key regime protection assets, such as the Special Security Organization and the Special Republican Guard, largely recruited from Saddam's al-Bu Nasir tribe and other nearby tribes that had good relations with the al-Bu Nasir. The SRG was filled with recruits drawn from Tikrit, Baiji, al-Sharqat and small towns south and west of Mosul and around Baghdad -- areas and clans noted for their loyalty Saddam's person and regime.Hey, Jamil Hussein was also a former "army officer". Now he's working for the AP.
The Special Republican Guard, also known as the "Golden Division," was paid higher salaries and accorded priority in getting food and prescription drugs. The Special Republican Guard bridged the capabilities gap between the regular Army and the security apparatus. The primary mission of the Special Republican Guard was to work with the Special Security to protect Saddam, and the two units together became known as the Organization of Special Security (OSS).
It's a confusing region. In the backdrop of the above and with news last week of a multi-billion dollar arms deal with the Saudis, what should we make of these comments from the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information about the real culprits of the Mosque attack? The world is chocked full of nuance these days.
Speaking of nuance, Regime of Terror included Badri on a long list of insurgency figures with connections to the former regime who allied themselves with al Qaeda-linked groups after the invasion. The top dog in that kennel is still on the loose, despite some occasional loud barking.
And lest you think this confirms the Juan Cole version that we created these alliances by invading Iraq, think again. We were told by folks like Cole and middle east analysts within CIA that Saddam and AQ were incapable of working together. Ever.