LONDON (AFP) – Saddam Hussein’s former deputy, Tareq Aziz, on Friday accused the US president of “leaving Iraq to the wolves” by pressing ahead with a withdrawal of combat troops despite a recent upsurge in violence.
In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister said the United States should stay in the country to correct the mistakes it had made since the 2003 invasion.
“We are all victims of America and Britain,” he told the daily paper from his prison cell in Baghdad, in his first interview since he was captured shortly after the fall of Baghdad more than seven years ago.
“They killed our country in many ways. When you make a mistake you need to correct a mistake, not leave Iraq to its death.”
His comments came after Obama confirmed this week that the US would end its combat mission in Iraq as scheduled on August 31, despite figures showing July had been the deadliest month in the country for more than two years.
Aziz, the face of ex-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime on the world stage for many years, went on to say Iraq was now in a worse state than before the US-led invasion.
“For 30 years Saddam built Iraq and now it is destroyed. There are more sick than before, more hungry,” said Aziz.
“The people don’t have services. People are being killed every day in the tens, if not hundreds.
“I was encouraged when [US President Barack Obama] was elected president, because I thought he was going to correct some of the mistakes of Bush. But Obama is a hypocrite. He is leaving Iraq to the wolves.”
Figures released by the Baghdad government Saturday showed that 535 people died in July, including 396 civilians, 89 policemen and 50 soldiers.
That figure was the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence.
Aziz also launched a staunch defence of Saddam Hussein, insisting the West’s view of him was wrong.
“Saddam did not lie,” he said. “He did not change the facts. He is someone for whom I have a great respect and love. He is a man who history will show served his country.
“Saddam built the country and served the people. I cannot accept your [the West’s] judgment that he was wrong.”
Aziz, 73, turned himself in to US forces in April 2003 and is one of Saddam’s few surviving top cohorts.
He was appointed deputy premier in 1991, having previously served as foreign minister. In 2009, he was jailed for 15 years for murder and given a seven-year term in August 2009 for his role in expelling Kurds from Iraq’s north.
Aziz’s family has repeatedly called for his release on health grounds.