The New York Post September 20, 2002
BUTCHER'S EVIL RISING STAR
BY NILES LATHEM
WASHINGTON - The military officer with the handlebar mustache presenting Saddam Hussein with a sword last month is one of the most dangerous men in the world.
He is Abdul Tawab el-Mullah Howeish, Iraq's deputy prime minister and Military Industrialization minister.
In recent months, Howeish - a previously unknown figure - has made a sudden appearance on Baghdad's center stage, showing up in carefully managed photo ops of the Iraqi government in action. In some, his is the only face other than Saddam's that is clearly visible. It is a clear message Howeish is a rising star in Saddam's evil world and may have eclipsed Saddam's son Qusay as the second most important figure in Baghdad.
But to analysts at the CIA's Office of Leadership Analysis now studying every public gesture coming out of Saddam's secretive government, Howeish's sudden prominence is also a potentially ominous development.
Howeish's ministry is responsible for development and maintenance of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
"Saddam appears to be sending a message with these photo ops that this is the guy he is counting on in the coming months - that this is the guy who has his back," said a U.S. intelligence official.
"This is clearly a person of unusual importance within the Iraqi leadership, and while little is known about him, his presence in all these photo ops clearly demonstrates the importance of Iraq's special-weapons program," added John Pike of the defense think tank Globalsecurity.org.
U.S. intelligence agencies were told in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War that the Ministry of Military Industrialization had hidden chemical and biological weapons and were under orders to use them on U.S. forces if the Iraqi regime fell.
U.S. analysts say it appears Howeish is the man likely to be assigned to launching similar retaliatory attacks if Saddam is killed, captured or cut off from his military commanders in any new strike on Iraq.
U.S. officials are studying a range of options to deal with the threat, including Special Forces raids on sites suspected of holding weapons of mass destruction and use of psychological-warfare units.
Copyright 2002 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.