Clan members previously most loyal to Saddam Hussein led brief mutiny

June 18, 1995|By New York Times News Service

PARIS -- The brief mutiny by Iraqi army units against President Saddam Hussein that was reported to have occurred last week, while insignificant in military terms, seems to reflect tribal fault lines among Sunni Muslims, the core of political support for the Iraqi government since the Persian Gulf war.

Iraqi opposition figures in Europe and Arab diplomats say that the rebellion Wednesday was led by the very Sunni clansmen who fought for President Hussein four years ago when other Iraqis -- Kurds and Shiite Muslims -- rose up to try to oust him after the gulf war.

The Iraqi government Friday ridiculed U.S. government reports of the mutiny near Baghdad, describing such reports as "impetuous wishes rather than reality."

The troops who mutinied last week, part of Mr. Hussein's elite Republican Guard, were said to have acted more out of wounded tribal pride than a desire to overthrow him.

They were reportedly avenging the execution in mid-May of 12 clansmen who had been charged with plotting a coup.

Mr. Hussein's practice of ostracizing an entire clan for the crime of one of its members appears to have led to this latest revolt and to an uprising last year by another tribe, said figures from the Iraqi National Assembly, an opposition group based in London.

Led by Gen. Turki Ismail Dulaimi and by men from the Dulaimi clan, the troops reportedly exchanged fire with forces loyal to Mr. Hussein near a radio station in the Ar Ramadi area, 25 miles west of Baghdad.

Like scores of other Sunni Muslim clans, including the Jabouris, Majids and Hassans, the Dulaimis have been nurtured by the government as an essential pool for recruits to fill command posts in the army, intelligence and Mr. Hussein's bodyguards.

Mr. Hussein is himself from the village of Tikrit on the Tigris River 100 miles northwest of Baghdad. After he came to power in 1979, the Iraqi leader picked many of his ruling coterie from that area, and they came to be called the Tikritis.

Since the gulf war, Mr. Hussein, who is a Sunni, restructured his inner core of supporters around his family clan, followed by circles of other loyal Sunni clans and Republican Guard units from these same families. Inevitably this alliance has suffered from rivalries.

"The military significance of this revolt is debatable," said Ali Zaki of the Iraqi National Assembly. "But the fact that those who were breathing life into it are elders and members of the Dulaimi clans is far more significant."

An Arab diplomat said the mutiny and a similar uprising by the Jabouri clan last year indicate widening problems for Mr. Hussein. He said they also showed that the Iraqi leader plans to fight to solidify his core of loyalists.

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