Tariq Aziz was born into a modest Chaldean Catholic family near Mosul in Tell Kaif, Iraq, in April 1936. His original name was Mikhail Yahunna.
In the late 1950’s, he joined the Ba’ath Party as one of its early members. The Party was founded in 1947 with the aim of unifying various Arabic States into one common nation. It was at this point that he changed his name to Tariq Aziz, meaning “Glorious Path”.
Tariq Aziz first met Saddam Hussein through their common involvement in the then outlawed Ba’ath Party.
Following the Ba’ath coup in 1963, he was hired as editor of the Ba’ath party newspaper. Subsequently he was sent to Syria in connection with his work, and from then onwards Tariq Aziz rapidly accumulated roles and positions within the government and the Ba’ath party.
He became a member of the Regional Command in 1974. Following this, he was a member of the national leadership prior to becoming Ba’ath party leader in 1977.
From 1974 to 1979, Tariq Aziz was Minister of Information. In 1977, he was elected to the Revolutionary Command Council. From 1979, he was Deputy Prime-minister and from 1983 to 1991, in addition to a brief spell in 2001, he was the Iraqi Foreign Minister.
In April 1980, he was the target of an assassination attempt, but escaped unharmed.
In 1984, Iraq and the US officially restored diplomatic relations after a meeting at the White House between Tariq Aziz and President Reagan.
Tariq Aziz managed to obtain American support for Iraq in its eight-year conflict with Iran. He was also instrumental in forging strong economic ties with the Soviet Union and France.
In 1990 it became his primary mission to defend Iraq’s attack on Kuwait which took place in August of that year.
On 23 March 1991, he was relieved of his position as Minister of Foreign Affairs to re-assume his previous position as Deputy Prime Minister.
In 1992, 42 merchants were accused of profiteering by speculating on the prices of food products during the time of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It is widely known that these merchants were arrested and then executed following summary proceedings and that their goods and property were confiscated.
In December 2002, the US government publicly accused Iraq of concealing weapons of mass destruction. In this respect Tariq Aziz claimed that what the US wanted was not “regime change” in Iraq but rather a wider “region change”.
In the months leading up to the U.S. led invasion, Tariq Aziz, as Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, repeatedly denied that Iraq possessed or was developing any weapons of mass destruction.
On 19 March 2003, several sources reported that Tariq Aziz had been shot dead whilst trying to enter the Kurdish held part of the country. The rumour proved to be unfounded when Tarek Aziz held a public press conference. On the fall of the regime, Aziz was removed from all his positions. His home and possessions were ransacked and looted.
He surrendered to the American forces on 24 April 2003.