By Lt. Colonel Rick Francona
Saddam Hussein’s rule affected virtually everyone in Iraq. Everyone has a story. Here’s mine:
In 1995 and 1996, I was involved in the CIA’s covert operations to overthrow Saddam Hussein, operating from several Middle East countries bordering Iraq, as well as inside the Kurdish-controlled area of Iraq itself. One of these operations was to support of the Iraq National Accord (INA) under Dr. Iyad Alawi. One of Alawi’s key colleagues was a retired Iraqi military officer, General Muhammad Abdullah Al-Shahwani. Al-Shawani had relocated outside Iraq, but his three sons were serving in the Iraqi Army Republican Guard.
General Al-Shahwani was in contact with his sons and others in the Iraqi military; together they planned a coup to overthrow Saddam Hussein. By mid-1996, we believed that a coup had a chance of success. We began the infiltration of Iraqi agents we had recruited and trained to support the coup attempt.
Unfortunately, one of the agents was detected inside Iraq. Under severe interrogation, he revealed what information he knew and the whole operation was compromised. Iraqi security officials arrested virtually everyone involved in the coup attempt; most were executed.
As part of the team working directly with Al-Shahwani, I spent a lot of time at his home. I was with the general and his wife when word came that their three sons had been arrested. I was with them when one of their sons was allowed to make a phone call to his mother just prior to his execution.
I told Mrs. Al-Shahwani that someday Saddam would pay for his crimes. Finally, that day is here.