Sultan Hashim: Saddam's top general dies in Iraqi prison

The former defence minister was ordered by Saddam Hussein to surrender to US forces in the 1991 Gulf War

Sultan Hashim Ahmad during his trial in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on 10 October 2006. David Furst/AFP  
Sultan Hashim Ahmad during his trial in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on 10 October 2006. David Furst/AFP  

The Iraqi general famous for surrendering his army to US forces in the 1991 Gulf war, Sultan Hashim, has died in prison in the country’s south.

Hashim was regarded among the few competent officer corps personnel who had survived Saddam’s purges. He was defence minister when Saddam fell in 2003.

Twelve years earlier, in March 1991, Hashim entered the Safwan military airfield in southern Iraq. Saddam’s military was just dealt one of the heaviest defeats since World War II and the airfield was surrounded by US forces. Hashim, along with six subordinates, accepted US terms for surrender from Gen H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

Hashim died of a heart attack on Sunday at the age of 74 in Nasiriyah Central Prison in southern Iraq, local media reported.

He was listed as number 27 on the US’s most-wanted list and was assigned the eight of hearts in the infamous US government-issued deck of cards listing prominent officials.

Hashim, who is from a prominent family in Mosul, surrendered to US forces after the 2003 invasion following negotiations and was later tried in an Iraqi court and sentenced to death in 2007. There were efforts by members of parliament, including then speaker Salim Al Jabouri, to secure a pardon for the former military head.

His sentence was meant to be carried out at 3am on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks but, the US failed to hand him over. Officials cited then-president Jalal Talabani’s public disapproval of the sentence. Talabani, who was opposed to the death penalty, had also taken a moral stance against the execution of Saddam.

However, there were reports that the US move was also due to Hashim secretly negotiating with the US prior to the invasion. Indeed, when the invasion came the Iraqi military largely melted away with little opposition to the encroaching international troops.

In September 2003, Hashim handed himself in to the US commander in Iraq’s north David Petraeus, who went on to lead international forces in Iraq and later become CIA head. In exchange, the US dropped him from the most wanted list.

"I offer you a simple, yet honourable alternative to a life on the run from coalition forces in order to avoid capture, imprisonment and loss of honour and dignity befitting a general officer. I officially request your surrender to me. In return, I will accept this from you in person," Gen Petraeus said a letter given to Hashim at the time.

"Although we find ourselves on different sides of this war, we do share common traits. As military men, we follow the orders of our superiors. We may not necessarily agree with the politics and bureaucracy, but we understand unity of command and supporting our leaders in a common and just cause," said Gen Petraeus.

"However, the collapse of your regime necessitates your thoughtful reconsideration of support. I am concerned that your perceived resistance to the coalition's efforts to bring back this country's honour is detrimental and will result in further and needless loss of lives."

Updated: July 21, 2020 09:10 AM

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