RealNews

Kurdish Ally of Saddam Defects to Odpposition

Saddam Hussein’s most important Kurdish ally has defected to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq in what officials in Arbil said on Sunday was an indication that the Iraqi president’s internal support was beginning to crumble. Jowhad Herki is chief of the powerful Herki tribe and has supported successive Baghdad regimes since the 1960s in putting down revolts by fellow Kurds. He arrived in northern Iraq via London after travelling there from Baghdad for medical treatment. He is a former member of the Iraqi parliament. “This is a major development that shows that they are abandoning the sinking ship,” said Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish leader in the northern autonomous zone. “It will have a major influence on other tribal leaders to close ranks because they have nothing to hope for from Saddam.” The Herki are the biggest of a number of tribes that allied themselves with Baghdad usually because of inter-tribal conflicts with rebel tribes – and are known collectively by Kurdish nationalists as Jash or “little donkeys”. Jowhad Herki stayed loyal to Mr Hussein even in 1991, when other Jash tribal leaders defected to the Kurdish rebel leadership during the uprising that followed the Gulf war. Kurdish officials say he has several thousand loyal fighters around the strategic city of Mosul, which lies inside government-controlled territory. Technically they are still on Mr Hussein’s payroll, but their loyalty may be in doubt now that their tribal leader has switched sides. Full Story

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