Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (also Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf) (born 1940) was an Iraqi diplomat and politician. He came to wide prominence around the world during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, during which he was the Information Minister of the country.
Al-Sahaf was born in Hilla, near Karbala. He joined the Baath Party in 1963 and served as Ambassador to Sweden, Burma, the United Nations and Italy, before returning in Iraq to serve as Foreign Minister in 1992. The reasons for his removal as Foreign Minister in April 2001 are unclear, but his achievements in the position were often claimed to be less satisfactory than that of his predecessor, Tariq Aziz. At least one report suggests that Uday Hussein, son of Saddam Hussein, was responsible for the removal.
Al-Sahaf is probably most known for his daily press briefings in Baghdad during the 2003 Iraq War, where his lies, fantasies and colourful description of his enemies reached further heights as the war progressed and caused him to be nicknamed Baghdad Bob by commentators in the United States and Comical Ali (an allusion to Chemical Ali, the nickname of former Iraqi Defence Minister Ali Hassan al-Majid) by commentators in the United Kingdom. On April 7, 2003, he claimed that there were no American troops in Baghdad, and that the Americans were committing suicide by the hundreds at the city's gates, despite the fact that the imminent fall of Baghdad and the Hussein government was obvious to those aware of the progress of the war, and that American tanks were patrolling the streets only a few hundred meters from the location where the press conference was held. His last public appearance as Information Minister was on Tuesday April 8, 2003, when he said that the Americans "are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks. They will surrender, it is they who will surrender."
He gained something of a cult following in the west, appearing on T-shirts, cartoons, and satirical websites. His (Arabic) name, regarded as difficult to pronounce and somewhat forgettable, was often replaced by humorous nicknames such as "Baghdad Bob," "Comical Ali," or "IIM" (short for Iraqi Information Minister). A popular site, WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com, featured sound-bites of the minister, as well as Photoshop-type doctored pictures of him on the Star Wars Death Star, at The Battle of Waterloo and at the D-Day landings - in all cases maintaining that "everything is just fine." At its peak, the site claimed 4000 visitors a second.
Although appearing as obvious lies to a western public, the descriptions uttered by al-Sahaf were well received in parts of the Arab world most fiercely opposed to the war. Thus the quick fall of Baghdad was to some a total surprise, and Syrian television did not broadcast images of the events. Many in Arab countries who were interviewed later were incredulous, and were forced to conclude that Sahaf and their own media had been lying all along.
On 25 June 2003 the London newspaper the Daily Mirror reported that al-Sahaf had been captured by coalition troops at a roadblock in Baghdad. The report was not confirmed by military authorities and was denied by al-Sahaf's family through Abu Dhabi TV. The next day al-Sahaf himself recorded an interview for the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news channel. al-Sahaf said that he had turned himself in to US forces and had been interrogated by them. He was reportedly paid as much as $200,000 for the television interview, during which he appeared very withdrawn in contrast with the bombastic persona he projected during the war. Many of his answers consisted of a simple "yes" or "no". He refused to speculate on the causes of the downfall of the Iraqi government and answered only "history will tell" when asked if video clips purporting to prove that Saddam Hussein was alive were genuine, amid speculation at that time that Hussein had been killed during the war.
Although questioned by American occupation authorities, al-Sahaf was released, and there has been no suggestion of charging or detaining him for his role in the Saddam Hussein government. He is now living in the United Arab Emirates with his family.
- Profile of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (BBC News)
- We Love the Iraqi Information Minister A fan site with quotes, pictures and... T-Shirts
- Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf Fanpage
- Video Profile of al-Sahhaf (2:37, Sky News, in Windows Media Format)
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