Author`s name Ольга Савка

Is Tariq Aziz New Iraqi Leader?

Former vice-premier may be useful to the Americans
The vice-premier of Saddam Hussein's government, former Iraqi minister of foreign affairs and one of the most famous members of the former regime, Tariq Aziz, has surrendered to Americans. No details about the event have been reported yet. On the whole, the events that occurred in Baghdad on Wednesday cannot exactly be called a "capture."

On the basis of information received from the Iraqi capital, we can draw the conclusion that the problem of Tariq Aziz' surrender had been discussed for several days with the participation of some undisclosed third party. Probably, the former vice-premier was promised some definite guarantees and decided he had had enough troubles. Although Tariq Aziz was on the wanted list consisting of 55 figures of the former Iraqi regime issued by the USA, nothing awful threatens him now. And it is highly likely that, if Tariq Aziz answers America's pressing questions concerning the whereabouts of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction, he will be left completely alone. And it may happen that Tariq Aziz won't just be left alone, but even will be offered a high position in the new administration.

This idea is not strange at all. Tariq Aziz actually was one of Saddam's closest associates, but in fact he wasn't involved in the crimes of the previous regime. He didn't poison Kurds with gas and didn't torture convicts in prisons. Under Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz performed the role of a so-called "civilized representative" of the regime, the man with whom foreigners could deal. Isn't it possible that he may continue performing the same role, certainly taking into account the fact that the situation has changed?

It may seem to be a trifle, but actually it's an important fact that Tariq Aziz speaks English wonderfully; as a student, he studied English literature. So, it won't be a problem for him to establish contacts with the occupation authorities.

Then, we may well see the former vice-premier at the head of some transitional government. After all, even before the war in Iraq, the Americans themselves said they would probably cooperate with the middle rung of the Ba'ath party. (Tariq Aziz has been a member of the party since 1957.) In so far as Tariq Aziz enjoys authority among people in the party, it will be easier to establish contacts between Ba'ath members and the American administration.

Some time ago, Tariq Aziz said he would prefer death to capture in Guantanamo. Nowadays, circumstances change rather quickly. It is highly likely that Tariq won't go to Cuba, in the near term at least. It is still too early to write Tariq Aziz off as a politician: He may be useful to the Americans.