AZIZ, Tariq

Iraqi politician, born in northern Iraq near Mossul, in the village of Tel Keif, in 1936, as Mikhaïl Johanna in a modest Assyrian Christian family. He followed courses at Baghdad university. His name was Mikhail Johanna but he later took the name Tareq Aziz, which does not show his Christian background. As of 1958 he worked as a journalist for different sections of the Baath party and later became editor of its main paper, Al-Thawra (The Revolution).

Tariq Aziz became Minister for Information in 1974 and Vice-Prime Minister from 1979 till 1983 (after which Saddam Hussein took most of the power for himself). He was Minister for Foreign Affairs between 1983 and 1991. As such he was the main Iraqi negotiator during the crisis following the occupation of Kuwait and the first Gulf war.

In March 1991 he was again appointed Deputy Prime-Minister and remained in this position until the fall of Baghdad in the hands of the US forces in April 2003 (April 9). As Saddam Hussain was himself President and Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz could then be considered as officially the second in command. He was also the only Christian within the Iraqi government in this period. The exceptional long period besides Saddam hussein could be explained by his lack of a solid political base within Iraqi society. Hence, he didn’t represent any direct threat to Saddam Hussein.

Nr 43 on the list of the most wanted Iraqi officials published by the US occupying forces, Tariq Aziz surrendered to them on April 25, 2003. Nothing has been heard about him since then.