politician and diplomat: born Al-Awja, Iraq 1950;
Head of Intelligence 1968-83; Special Adviser to the President 1983-88;
Ambassador to the UN 1988-98; married Ahlam Kharaillah (died 1998; three sons, two daughters); died
Baghdad 15 January 2007.
When Saddam Hussein was plotting his way In the 1970s to take over
the Baath party that ruled Iraq, his younger half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was in charge of the intelligence service.
Barzan supported his half-brother's
underground activities without the knowledge of the government. Saddam, as
Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, was busy establishing
a network of secret organisations accountable to
no one but himself. The core was groups, styled decades earlier on the
model of Mafia gangs, that terrorised
the political and business worlds of Baghdad.
They raised money by extortion, blackmail and protection, kept in a fund
set up by Barzan in the mid-1960s.
Two decades later, as Iraq's
ambassador to the United Nations Geneva headquarters - where he was sent by
Saddam following a dispute - Barzan used the
fund, estimated at several billion dollars, to set up investments and
finance the secret buying of advanced weapons.
Saddam was taking Joseph Stalin as his model. As head of intelligence
Barzan suggested he procure books on Nazi
Germany. Impressed himself by the Nazi political/bureaucratic experiment,
he believed that Saddam might be interested in the subject, not for any
reason to do with racism or anti-Semitism (the Baath
had no need for tutors or models in this respect), but as an example of the
successful organisation of an entire society by
the state for the achievement of national goals.
The aim of fusing the state and Baath party
into one - which was complete by the late 1980s - was Barzan's
brainchild. In a printed manual he instructed "the special
apparatus" that their duty was to convince, by all means, Baath party members and the public in general that opposition
to the party and its leadership didn't exist.
According to historians and former CIA staff, Barzan,
who was barely 18, joined his brothers Sabawi, Watban and their elder half-brother Saddam and cousin
Ali Hassan al-Majid
(the future "Chemical Ali") at the gates of the presidential
palace in Baghdad
in the early hours of 17 July 1968. They used military passes provided by a
member of Iraqi military intelligence who was on the CIA payroll.
Their clansman Brig-Gen Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr had joined other officers from different political
affiliations for a coup headed by the military intelligence chief Abdul Razzaq al-Nayef to oust
President Abdul Rahman Aref.
Saddam and his Baathist gang hijacked the coup,
giving Bakr stronger bargaining chips. Barzan's cool calculation stopped Saddam from killing Nayef then because the latter wanted to negotiate
better deals with American oil companies. He was assassinated 10 years
later by Barzan's men in London.
In the early days of Baath rule Saddam and
his gang were despised by the middle-class leadership of the party. But
President Bakr, who knew nothing of the secret organisation or funds in Geneva, put Barzan
in charge of "the office of public relations" - a front for the
Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti was born in
1950 at Al-Awja village near Tikrit
to Ibrahim Hasan and Subha Tulfah. Saddam, aged
13, whose father had died before he was born, had already fled the village
three years earlier to escape beating and brutal treatment by his illiterate
and violent stepfather. But his mother kept the brothers Sabawi, Barzan and Watban close to Saddam, who lived with his uncle, her
brother Khairallah Tulfa,
a racist nationalist who was jailed by the British for joining a Nazi party
that backed a coup attempt during the Second World War.
He implanted ideas of national socialism in the heads of his nephews
and married two of his daughters to them, Sajida
to Saddam and Ahlam to Barzan.
Ahlam died of cancer in 1998 in Geneva.
Barzan was closer to Saddam than were the
other two half-brothers. But their relationship had ups and downs. Barzan was wary of the "yes men" who told
Saddam everything he wanted to hear but the truth, which he knew as head of
He had a complex personality, charming in civilised
conversation, showing a knowledge of culture and
art as he dined with international diplomats and financiers, but he could
also could be violent, tough and vengeful. He even exchanged fire with his
nephew, Saddam's son Uday, who married his daughter
Saja: she left her marital home, returning to Barzan, because of Uday's
In 1979 he instructed his elder brother Sabawi
Ibrahim - his deputy in the intelligence service
- to establish a network of European front companies to import unconventional
weapons and hire hit-teams to assassinate opponents or former officials who
knew too much.
After the fight with Uday, he fell out with
Saddam in 1988 because he objected to the marriage of Saddam's daughter Rana to Hussein Kamel Hassan. Although Saddam banished him to Geneva, Barzan remained in charge of bank accounts. He was
vindicated when Hussein Kamel defected with his
brother and Saddam's two daughters to Jordan in 1995, exposing the
weapons of mass destruction programme. When later
he returned to Iraq
he was killed by Uday and his cousin
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