Tahir Jalil Habbush

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Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti is the former head of Iraqi intelligence.

Habbush was appointed head of Iraqi intelligence in 1999, shortly after an assassination attempt on Uday Hussein which may have been related to the death of his predecessor.[1]

The Iraqi first emerged as a public figure in the early '90s, when he was the governor of Dhi Qar, a province in southern Iraq that historically had given Saddam's regime trouble. By the mid-'90s, Habbush had moved into the ministry of the interior, where he was undersecretary for security affairs, and worked as the country's police chief prior to taking over as head of Iraqi intelligence in 1999. His predecessor, Rafi Dahham al-Tikriti, died under mysterious circumstances, most likely killed on orders from Saddam. Habbush took over as head of the Iraqi intelligence service, or the Mukhabarat, as it's commonly known. Like many of Saddam's senior officials, he had blood on his hands. Saddam respected those who would kill on command. Habbush was such a man.[2]

Habbush was reportedly responsible for an approach to the CIA's former head of counter-terrorism, Vincent Cannistraro in December 2002, in an attempt to avert an American invasion.

"I was approached by someone representing Tahir al-Tikriti - the Iraqi intelligence chief also known as [General] Tahir Habbush - who said Saddam knew there was a campaign to link him to September 11 and prove he had weapons of mass destruction," said Mr Cannistraro. "The Iraqis were prepared to satisfy those concerns. I reported the conversation to senior levels of the state department and I was told to stand aside and they would handle it," he said. He later heard the Iraqi offer had been "killed" by the Bush administration.[3]

According to author Ron Suskind, Habbush met with British intelligence early in 2003:

At the beginning of 2003, weeks before the invasion of Iraq, MI6 sent Michael Shipster, one of its senior officers, to Amman, the Jordanian capital, to meet Tahir Jalil Habbush, the head of Iraqi intelligence. Sir Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, described the secret mission as an "attempt to try, as it were, I'd say, to defuse the whole situation". He said the "Cheney crowd" was in too much of a hurry and Bush did not resist them strongly enough.
Nigel Inkster, a former MI6 officer, confirmed that Habbush told Shipster there were no banned weapons in Iraq. Rob Richer, a former CIA officer, said Britain wanted to avoid a war, but Bush wanted one.[4]

Inkster subsequently claimed that: "I was in no position to comment on the substance or significance of any dealings with [Habbush] since I had not been privy to the detail of what had taken place."[5]

Habbush was one one 14 officials reportedly blacklisted by the US in the run-up to the Iraq War in January 2003.[6] He was the jack of diamonds in a deck of cards produced by the US in April 2003 featuring wanted members of Saddam Hussein's regime.[7] Later that month, members of Iraq's Dulayn tribe reportedly contacted former CIA officer Robert Baer in an attempt to arrange a meeting between Habbush and the US.[8]

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  1. Death of intelligence head linked to Uday assassination attempt, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, October 16, 1999.
  2. Tahir Jalil Habbush, Ron Suskind, The Way of the World, accessed 12 August 2008.
  3. Saddam's desperate offers to stave off war, by Julian Borger in Washington, Brian Whitaker and Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, 7 November 2003.
  4. Angry denials are not enough, by Richard Norton-Taylor, guardian.co.uk, 6 August 2008.
  5. Angry denials are not enough, by Richard Norton-Taylor, guardian.co.uk, 6 August 2008.
  6. IRAQI OPPOSITION SOURCE ON US "BLACKLIST" OF BAGHDAD WAR CRIMINALS, BBC Monitoring International Reports, January 10, 2003.
  7. Who's Who in Iraqi Most Wanted Deck, Associated Press Online, April 11, 2003.
  8. Saddam's intelligence chief tried to arrange meeting with US: report, Agence France Presse, 22 April 2003.