Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (also Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf) (born 1940) is 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 earned him the nickname Comical Ali (an allusion to former Iraqi Defence Minister Ali Hassan al-Majid's alias, Chemical Ali). On April 7, 2003, seemingly totally untouched by the fact that the fall of Baghdad and the Saddam Hussein regime was imminent and obvious to everyone, and American tanks patrolling the streets only a few hundred meters from the location where the press conference was held, 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. 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 difficult to pronounce and somewhat forgettable Arabic name was often replaced by humorous nickames such as "Baghdad Bob," "Comical Ali," or "IIM" (short for Iraqi Information Minister). A popular site,, 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." Around April 11, 2003, the site was forced to be removed from the Internet, due to an unsuspected strain on its server, successfully pledging to readers to be back online on a new server within 24 hours. The site read: "If we had known it was going to be this popular we would have put it on its own server from the beginning." They boasted that at times, the site saw 4000 visitors a second.

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. At the time of initial publication the report carried no sources and has not been confirmed by military authorities. Later the same day Abu Dhabi TV reported that a member of al-Sahaf's family had contacted the station and said that al-Sahaf had not been captured. On June 26 al-Sahaf himself recorded an interview for the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news channel. al-Sahaf was quoted by the news channel as saying that he had turned himself in to US forces and had been the subject of interrogation by them. He was reportedly paid as much as $200,000 for the 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 regime and answered only "history will tell" when asked if the video clips shown during purporting to prove that Saddam Hussein was alive were genuine. He is now living in the United Arab Emirates.

It is important to note that 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 in resistance of the war, expressing their beliefs or at least hopes. This made the quick fall of Baghdad a total surprise, to the extent that for instance Syrian television did not send images from the events.

External links