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It was a deadly day in Iraq. A series of bombs ripped through Baghdad, targeting public places and killing at least 40 people.
Farther north, in Irbil, a car bomb exploded outside the U.S. Consulate, killing at least three and wounding five. In Ramadi, military forces fought back Islamic State militants trying to control the city. Local authorities warned the situation was critical.
In a striking victory, government forces claim they killed Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the king of clubs in the deck of playing cards given to U.S. forces to identify key figures in Saddam Hussein's regime. He became a leader of Sunni extremist groups and recently allied with the Islamic State group.
Late today, a Shia militia held a press conference showing what it said were images of al-Douri's body in an effort to confirm that he was dead.
For more on who he was and what this means for Iraq, I'm now joined by retired Colonel Derek Harvey. He was an intelligence and a special adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General David Petraeus. And he's now at the University of South Florida.
Colonel Derek Harvey, welcome again to the NewsHour.
So let's start out by reminding everyone who al-Douri was. What was his role under Saddam Hussein?
COL. DEREK HARVEY (RET.), Former Army Intelligence Officer: He was the vice president under Saddam Hussein and, importantly, he was responsible for the Islamic revival campaign that burnished the image of the regime and established Islamic Sunni credentials.
And that became the base of opposition to the U.S. presence, the Islamic opposition led by Izzat al-Douri.
So, after the regime fell, what did he do exactly?
COL. DEREK HARVEY:
Well, he immediately set up the mission of establishing the resistance, a Sunni Arab resistance, and it was based upon a number of different aspects, reestablishing relationships with military intelligence officials on one hand and then using the mosques, the religious elements in the society, to build a network of networks of opposition across multiple provinces, mainly based north of Baghdad in the Sunni heartland.
And what did that mean during that period for U.S. forces who were in Iraq?
Well, he organized across multiple provinces, along with others in the Baath Party, and with assistance from those that were in Damascus, a fairly decent network of opposition, in each province at the grassroots level and building up to political leadership.
And that provided the resilience that allowed them to withstand the U.S. occupation and then allowed them to continue the fight once we left.
And once the U.S. did leave, what happened then? And then we know at some point he became — started to work with the Islamic State group.
Well, it looks like he began to work with the Islamic State and al-Qaida in Iraq more aggressively in about 2012.
But Izzat al-Douri and his folks have been working with al-Qaida in Iraq from the very beginning. As early as I could tell, it was probably August or September of 2003 when Izzat al-Douri's organization was providing vehicle bombs that the al-Qaida network would then provide the suicide bombers to and they would deliver those into attacks into Baghdad.
So, he has been a key component in the resistance since 2003.
And so what does it mean? If it is confirmed that he is dead, that he's been killed, what does that mean for the Islamic State group and what they're trying to do?
Well, most recently, in the last few months, it looks like Naqshbandi and Izzat al-Douri's organization had started to fall away from the Islamic State.
And there had been different fights between these groups and Islamic State in Northern Iraq, where they most have their — most of their activity. He made some public statements a couple of weeks ago criticizing the Islamic State, so we started to see them fall apart from each other. And that was because they didn't have the same strategic objectives.
And, again, if it's confirmed that he is dead, what does it mean for the U.S., for efforts to stabilize Iraq?
Well, I think this is going to cause a void in the resistance of the Sunni Arab insurgency for a while.
It will lead to some competition to take the leadership mantle of the Sunni Arab resistance. He was the glue, in some ways. He understood the networks. He understood the people, the key players throughout these resistance groups. And because of that, I think lack of knowledge and the lack of his expertise and his network is going to create a void and create division and more divisiveness within the Sunni Arab community, which really does need to find a leader at some point in time to engage with Baghdad.
Well, we will certainly be following to see if is confirmed.
Colonel Derek Harvey, we thank you.
You're welcome, Judy.
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