20 years after the Iraq war: Hussein yacht attracts tourists
An monuments of the reign of terror of Saddam Hussein is not lacking in Iraq. Day after day, government buildings and palaces remind Iraqis of the tyrant who was overthrown in the course of the American-led invasion 20 years ago. In Basra, in the south of the country, there is another special relic: the rusty wreck of a superyacht that has capsized in the Shatt al-Arab river.
On the anniversary of the invasion, which began on March 20, 2003, it’s back in the headlines. Al-Mansur is the name of the 121-meter-long prestige object, a symbol of power that translates to “the victorious”; it is a name also borne by the second caliph of the Abbasid dynasty, the founder of today’s capital, Baghdad. The yacht, with a banquet hall for 200 guests and a helicopter hangar, was bombed by American fighter jets in 2003, but she did not sink. Iraqi looters later got rid of the luxurious interior.
Today the yacht is a tourist attraction and a picnic spot for fishermen. The past governments of the corrupt Iraqi state have not managed to salvage the wreckage, which hurts some Iraqis. “This yacht is like a precious jewel, like a rare masterpiece to keep at home,” a naval officer from Iraq’s Ministry of Transport told Reuters. “We’re sad it looks like this.”
Another superyacht had survived the war because the Iraqi tyrant had had it shipped to Saudi Jeddah many years before the American invasion. He never set foot on board. This yacht, which is rumored to have cost $25 million, was also intended to be a symbol of his power. She was also christened with a name steeped in history: Qadissiyat Saddam; this is an allusion to a major seventh-century battle of victorious Iraqi Arabs against a Persian force. Iraqi propaganda used the same reminiscence in connection with the Iran-Iraq war, which began in 1980, the year before the ship was launched.
The yacht was brought to safety in 1986 from Basra to Saudi Arabia from Iranian forces. Today it is called Basra Breeze. Reports of a missile defense system and a getaway submarine have been denied by credible sources as exaggerations. Boat International website interviewed the former director of an Iraqi marine research center to which it was handed over in 2014. One of the students, he reported, accidentally activated a mechanism that opened the door to a secret room. Anyway, a nice memory.