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CIA Agent Who Grilled Saddam Hussein Claims ISIS Wouldn’t Be Around If The Dictator Was Still Alive

CIA Agent Who Grilled Saddam Hussein Claims ISIS Wouldn’t Be Around If The Dictator Was Still Alive

An official who interrogated Saddam Hussein after his capture claims that if the Iraqi leader were still around ISIS wouldn't exist

Mischa Pearlmen

Mischa Pearlmen

It was 11 years ago today that Saddam Hussein was executed after the Iraqi Special Tribunal had convicted him of crimes against humanity - specifically for the murder of 148 Iraq Shi'ites in the town of Dujail in 1982, which was retribution after an assassination attempt against him.

Now, thanks to the Chilcot report, we all know that Tony Blair lied about there being weapons of mass destruction. Many would also argue that George W Bush used 9/11 to further propel the country's military-industrial complex by waging war against an ill-defined, unseen and nebulous enemy known as 'terrorism'.

After all, Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on New York's Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Depending who you ask, it was either Saudi Arabia - that's the official version now - or an inside job perpetrated (or at least enabled) by the US Government.

Either way, the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein greatly destabilised the Middle East. There's no doubt he was an evil, treacherous man who had indeed killed many innocent people, but he also ensured that fringe terrorist groups in the region had very little power.

Credit: PA

The ultimate irony, of course, is that his capture and execution - as well as the extended war in Afghanistan fighting Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda - seems only to have increased terrorism.

In fact, according to CIA agent John Nixon, the agent chosen to interrogate Saddam Hussein when he was captured in December 2003, there would be no ISIS if the Iraqi despot were still alive.

Speaking exclusively to LADBible, Nixon says: "I do not think the rise of an organisation like ISIS would be possible under Saddam. Yes, he was distracted by other pursuits near the end, but he very rarely took his eye off of regime security.

"He did many things poorly, but he kept a tight lid on threats from religious extremists. You would not see the spread of Iranian influence throughout the region the way it has recently. Saddam's Iraq was the greatest hedge against Iran. When we removed him, we did Iran a big favour."

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Nixon actually goes as far as to praise Saddam Hussein's character, calling him 'one of the most fascinating individuals' he had ever met.

"He could be funny, charming, polite, and self-deprecating at times," Nixon says. "He could also be rude, sarcastic, and downright scary at other times. He could size people up quickly and he was charismatic.

"He was also the most suspicious and secretive person I ever met. This made the interrogation so hard because you always felt he was lying."

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That's something that Will Bardenwerper, writer of the book The Prisoner In His Palace, agrees with. Bardenwerper's book tells the inside story of the American soldiers who were tasked with guarding Hussein after his capture.

"Saddam came across to the soldiers as a more complicated individual than he was often assumed to be in the West," he tells LADBible.

"While he was most certainly guilty of countless crimes against humanity, he was more than the one-dimensional, almost cartoonish villain he was sometimes depicted as."

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Nixon also told us that Hussein was surprised at the USA's reaction to Iraq after the 9/11 attacks and that he powerfully misjudged what George W Bush's response would be.

"He thought that the 9/11 terrorist attacks would lead the US to reconsider its policy toward Iraq," says Nixon,

"Because he assumed that the US would see that America and Iraq had the same enemy: Sunni Islamic extremism. He assumed incorrectly. Saddam believed that the greatest threat to his regime came from Sunni extremists, not Iran, not the US."

While the rest, as they say, is history and cannot be undone, Bardenwerper is also adamant that the world as we know it today - not least the high tensions between the West and the Arabic states, and the significant growth of radical Islamic terrorism - would be different.

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"It surely would be different, though of course we cannot know how exactly it would be. It does seem like the invasion of Iraq has triggered a cascade of events that has led to much of the region in ruins, hundreds of thousands dead, and tragically with very little good to show for the loss of so much blood and treasure," says Bardenwerper.

"As someone who served there, and who lost friends there, this saddens me. I still hope for a better outcome, though I am not optimistic we will see anything that will justify such sacrifice and loss."

ISIS - which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - has been increasingly active in recent years and has claimed responsibility for a huge number of terrorist attacks both in Iraq and other countries. In the UK, the group claimed responsibility for the May 2017 attack at Ariana Grande's Manchester Arena concert as well as the tragedy in London the following month, where a van drove into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men started stabbing people in nearby bars and restaurants.

Officially, ISIS began life in 1999, pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces, the terrorist group participated in the Iraqi insurgency and soon began to grow in force, spreading into Syria. While its stronghold in that region has weakened in recent months, ISIS continues to carry out terrorist attacks around the world.

John Nixon's book 'Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein' is out now. Will Bardenwerper's book 'The Prisoner in his Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid' is also available now.

Preliminary reporting by Chris Ogden

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: CIA, iraq, 9/11, World News