Ex-Saddam Aide Says Former Iraqi Leader Would've Stopped IDF Gaza Op

Most senior member of regime still at large says Israel 'wouldn't have dared launch attack' if Saddam still alive.

A former aide to Saddam Hussein said in an audio tape aired on Tuesday that Israel would not have dared to launch its current attack on Gaza if the Iraqi leader was still in power.

But Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the most senior member of the past regime still at large, said on the recording broadcast by Al Jazeera television that Iraqi insurgents would negotiate with Washington if the administration of president-elect Barack Obama withdrew from Iraq.

"The barbaric ... attack on our (Arab) people in Gaza is the natural result of the absence of Iraq, its national leadership and its leader ... the martyr Saddam Hussein," said Ibrahim, a leader of Iraqi insurgents.

Saddam, executed in 2006 after being deposed by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003, had launched missiles at Israel in 1991 during a war with the United States.

"We are with you on the battlefield ... and Gaza shall be victorious, God permitting," he said. The television did not say how it obtained the recording and its authenticity could not be verified.

Ibrahim also addressed Obama, whose opposition to the Iraq war was a major part of his election campaign, but who has also said he wants a responsible withdrawal.

"If you withdraw fully from Iraq and leave it to its people, free and independent, we will enter a dialogue with you immediately to set up the widest strategic relations with America," Ibrahim said, adding that Washington had "legitimate strategic interests" in Iraq and the region.

Under a security pact agreed between Baghdad and Washington late last year, all U.S. troops must be out of the country by the end of 2011.

Security in Iraq has improved over the past year and violence is now at its lowest level in more than five years, according to the U.S. military. But commanders have cautioned that the situation remains fragile.

Ibrahim, who was vice-chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, ranked sixth on a U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, with a e10 million reward offered for his capture.