The Iraqi Opposition Groups

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Posted by Jeff (repost from AIna) Fred Aprim ( on January 19, 2002 at 14:48:27:

The Iraqi Opposition Groups

Posted by Fred Aprim on Friday, 18 January 2002, at 11:03 a.m.

The following is a summary about the Iraqi Opposition Groups and the INC from the prospective of Michael Gunter, author of ?The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq: A Political Analysis,? 1999, pages 32-50. First lets have a brief summary of the Shiites? and Kurds? recent political activities since many of us are unaware of that and since they make the majority of the INC.

The Shiites

Much of the religious opposition to the secular Ba?athists has been concentrated among the majority Shiites in the south. Indeed, the Shiite clergy established the al-Dawa al-Islamiyah (Islamic Call) originally in the early 1960s. In 1979, the success of Khomeini?s Islamic revolution in Shiite Iran helped transform the Dawa into an opposition organization to Saddam?s secular rule. In November 17, 1982, Iran helped to establish the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) as an umbrella group for all the Iraqi Shiite parties. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim?a prominent Shiite religious figure whose father, Muhsin al-Hakin, had been the leading ayatollah of Iraq in the 1960s?became the new organization?s chairman.

The Kurds

The Kurds in Iraq have been in a constant state pf revolt ever since Britain artificially created Iraq following WWI. At times they have been bitterly divided among themselves. In November 1980, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Jalal Talabani, joined with the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), led since 1964 by Aziz Muhammad who himself was a Kurd, and the Social Party of Kurdistan in Iraq (SPKI), led by Rasul Mamand and Mahmud Othman, to form the Democratic National and Patriotic Front (DNPF). The KDP was purposely omitted. Thus, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Masoud Barazani, responded by excluding the PUK when it joined with the partners of the PUK in the Democratic National Front (DNF) a few weeks later. Yet a dissident, former Baathist general Hassan Mustafa Naquib created another front in July 1981. This organization was known as either the Islamic National Liberation Front (INLF) or the Iraqi Front of Revolutionary, Islamic, and National Forces (IFRINF). Although considerable publicity was given to these three fronts at the time, they accomplished little. Arguably, however, they did set precedents for the delicate Kurdish unity that was finally achieved in the late 1980s with the creation of the Iraqi Kurdistan Front (IKF) and for the Iraqi oppositional unity itself that was formed in the early 1990s by the Iraqi National Congress.

The Iraqi National Congress (INC)

The INC maintains ?the rule of Saddam Hussein has been a national tragedy of unprecedented proportions for Iraq and her people ? [that] has destroyed civil society ? and brought the country to the brink of destruction. The INC vision was that by uniting all opposition forces to work towards ? saving the Iraqi people. INC provides ?full representation of all groups and communities within the population, including Sunni, Shiites, Kurds, Christians and all other minorities.? In so doing, however, ?INC does not endorse a particular political program or alignment.? Rather, it functions as a type of umbrella organization that ?provides an institutional framework so that the popular will of the Iraqi people ? can be democratically determined and implemented.? ?INC?s immediate goals are to establish itself as a responsible and credible authority with a base on Iraqi soil, to provide for the humanitarian relief of the Iraqi people ? and to enlist the support of the international community.? In accomplishing the latter, INC ?continues to stress the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 688 (1991) that demands the end of the repression of the Iraqi people, as well as UNSC resolution 712 (1991) calling for aid to the Iraqi people? from Iraqi oil sales. All of this is to be done while ?ensuring the territorial integrity and independence of the nation under a democratic, constitutional, parliamentary and pluralistic structure.?

The Beirut Conference

The immediate roots of the Iraqi National Congress were planted by the agreement of a Joint Action Committee at the end of December 1990 and at a conference held in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 9-11, 1991. At this latter event approximately 300 delegates from some 20 groups formed the Free Iraqi Council chaired by Saad Salih Jabr, a Shiite and son of a former prime minister. Unity within the group proved difficult, however, as ?it was consumed by disputes over who represents whom, what percentage and share should each faction?s voting rights are.? By its own admission, the opposition suffered from ?the narcissism of parties that numbered in the dozens, each having no more than 10 or 20 members in most cases.? With the sudden defeat of the Shiites and Kurds, as well as the latter?s refugee exodus, their return to the allied-protected safe haven, and their entrance into negotiations with Saddam over their future relations with the government dramatically weakened the opposition. The failure of the Kurd?s negotiations however brought them back to the fold. In 1991, Saddam imposed an economic blockade upon the northern region along with withdrawing government officials, in an attempt to break them. These actions instead had the effect of hardening Kurdish resolve and helped lead to the creation of a de facto, regional Kurdish government in 1992.

The Vienna Conference

Early in 1992, planning was begun for a second opposition conference. The following 25 ?influential elements, parties, and personalities? were reported as comprising the preparatory committee: SAIRI, Dawa, IKF, Socialist Arab Baath Party-the Iraqi Command, ICP, Iraqi National Accord (INA), Free Iraqi Council, Independent Organization (major General Hassan Naquib), Dr. Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, Islamic Action Organization (IAO), Iraqi Democratic Grouping, People?s Democratic Party of Kurdistan, Union of Iraqi Democratic-London, United Democratic Party (Ahmad al-Habbubi), National Reform Movement in Iraq, Supreme Council of Iraqi Tribes, Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkomen (IUIT), Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), Socialist Party (Mubdir al-Wis), Dr. Abd-al-llah al-Nasrawi, Islamic Movement in Kurdistan, Free Officers Movement, Islamic Forces Grouping, Socialist Party of Kurdistan, and Democratic Union in the United States and Canada. The second Iraqi opposition conference was held in Vienna, Austria, from June 16 to 19, 1992. Some 160 delegates representing numerous different liberal and democratic opposition groups living in London attended, including the Kurds. Despite their reported presence in the preparatory work of the conference, however, important Islamic groups such as the SAIRI and Dawa only sent observers, apparently because of their suspicions concerning Western influence over the proceedings and traditional reservations over joint actions with secular groups. The conference established a national assembly of 87 members in which the Kurds were allocated 22 seats, tentatively broached the idea of federalism for the Kurds. The Kurds, however, upset a number of the Arab opposition groups at Vienna by demanding that the conference recognize their right to self-determination and that Iraq?s unity was voluntary in return for the Kurd?s continued participation within the opposition. Jawad al-Maliki, the chairman of the first opposition conference in Beirut and, as a member of the Dawa party leadership, not present at the Vienna conference, rejected this Kurdish demand ?as a step toward secession.? Recognizing that the factions that did not participate are fundamental forces in the Iraqi opposition, INC members began to try to correct the situation.

The Salah al-Din Conference

On October 27, 1992, some 234 delegates representing as many as 90 percent of the Iraqi opposition groups began to gather for the first time on Iraqi soil in the ton of Salah al-Din, north of Arbil. The conference here was able to create INC?s basic institutions. The national assembly membership was expanded from 87 to 234. Then it created a three-man presidential council that gave equal representation to the Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis, consisting of: (1) Sayyid Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, (2) Massoud Barzani, (3) major General Hassan Mustafa Naquib. Finally, a 26-member executive council was created ?to manage the daily operations of the struggle against Saddam.? Ahmad Chalabi was chosen as the president of the executive council (a Shiite), Hani al-Fekaiki, (a Sunni, died recently), Latif Rashid, (Talabani PUK group), and Sheikh Humam Hamudi (SAIRI) were chosen as vice presidents of the executive council. Dr. Abd al-Husayn Shaban, an independent democrat, was picked as the council?s secretary, although he resigned in 1994. Five other Kurds were chosen: Sami Abdurrahman (KDP); Hoshyar Zebari (KDP); Mohsin Dizai (independent but pro KDP); Kamal Fuad (PUK); Mula Ali Abdul Aziz (Islamic Movement of Kurdistan). Various Arab Islamics included Sami al-Askari (Dawa); Nizar Haydar (IAO); Jasim Hasan and Muhammad Ali (independent Islamists); Fulayh al-Samarai (Islamic Bloc); Muhammad Jabbar (Islamic cadres); Izzat al-Shabandar (IFG); and Talib al-Bayati (SAIRI).

Other Arab leaders included Amir Abdullah (Communist); Riyadh al-Yawar (Arab Nationalist); Ayad Allawi (Former Iraqi intelligence, heads INA now); Aziz Ailyan (Democrats Union); Talib Shabib (former Iraqi Foreign Minister, currently independent); and Sheikh Sami Azara al-Majoun (Arab Tribes). Muzafar Arsalan (leader of the National Turkoman Party of Iraq); and Albert Yelda (ADM) were also appointed to the executive council. Bayar Jabr of SAIRI and Abd al-Sattar al-Duri, independent, were original members who were no longer serving on the council by late 1994. The external headquarters of INC was established in London and its Iraqi base was fixed in Salah al-Din. In 1996, the latter location was abandoned when Saddam attacked it.


Although approximately 90% of the more than 70-odd Iraqi opposition groups at one time or another reportedly participating in INC, Admad Chalabi admitted even at its height, ?some major opposition forces are still not in it.? Chief among them have been at times the Islamic groups SAIRI, Dawa, and Islamic Action. Although all three participated in the Salah al-Din conference, they did so with reservation concerning Shiite representation. Specifically, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the leader of SAIRI, turned down membership on INC?s presidential council because ?Iraqi Shiites make up well over 65% of Iraqis. Why then do they have only one-third representation in the presidency committee?? More consistent in their opposition?although less important in their size?have been as many as 16 nationalist groups that tend to take a pro-Syrian position, including the Arab Baath Socialist Party, Iraqi Command; the Independent Group; the Iraqi Socialist Party; the Arab Socialist Movement; the Unionist Nasserite Grouping; the Iraqi Democratic Grouping; the Iraqi Democrats Union; the Democratic Pan-Arab Grouping; and national Reconciliation Group. These groups have been referred to by such names as the ?national Action Bureau,? the ?Coordinating Committee for Nationalist and Democratic Action,? and the ?Pan-Arab Action Coordinating Committee,? among others. This group believes that pro-western elements were in control of INC and trying to partition Iraq.

INC and the Military

The military plays the single most important role in INC?s strategy to overthrow Saddam: INC ?encourages the truly patriotic elements of the Iraqi military to further isolate Saddam?s regime.? Tangible accomplishments in this area, however, have been few. Details concerning the military option emerged in the fall of 1994. INC had established three camps in the Shaqlawa region to train former militiamen and civilians to become disciplined soldiers. In late 1994, Ahmad Chalabi claimed that INC?s military force now numbered ?about 4,000 Iraqi deserters.? In March 1995, Staff Major General Wafiq al-Samarra?i claimed ?brilliant success? from a combined INC-PUK mini-offensive that sought to capture Kirkuk and ignite a ?rolling coup? against Saddam. The KDP, however, declined to strike at Mosul, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) withdrew its support. After Saddam?s intervention of August 1996, INC ceased to maintain any military force.

INC Finance

Although figures in the neighbors of $50 millions float around as monies contributed by the US Government to the INC, the author stated that Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, one of the three members of the INC?s presidential council, had declared that neither him nor any member of the INC leadership had any knowledge of any U.S. funds paid to the INC. Although the need for secrecy and al-Ulum?s inexperience in dealing with covert U.S. support probably explains his incoherence on this matter. Others though had mentioned that it is for Chalabi to answer all details regarding these funds. Chalabi himself had stated that the U.S. was giving the INC about $320,000 per month at the height of the U.S. support. From the high of $40 millions in 1992, the Clinton administration scaled back its contribution to less than $20 million for lack of results. The CIA meanwhile proposed to spend $15 million the following year. In April 1995, the New York Times published an article in which it specifically identified the INC as one of the recipients of the funds. In the following years the U.S. continued to fund the INC, but never with amounts sufficient for their success, said the author.

Defections from INC

By the summer of 1995, INC seemed to be falling apart. Civil war erupted between Kurdish KDP and PUK groups, while internal rifts in INC itself over personalities, tactics, and finances were leading to wholesale defections. Protesting the way INC was making decisions and professing lack of any knowledge of CIA financing, Bahr al-Ulum suspended his membership in May 1995. The following October he chaired a meeting of Iraqi opposition groups in London seeking to form a new political front for those opposing INC. SAIRI and Dawa, however, did not participate in this new venture. Three months after Bahr al-Ulum?s defection, Naquib became the second member of the INC?s three-man presidential council to quit, declaring that INC ?no longer represents Iraqi patriotic forces and has become the company of Ahmad Chalabi,? Naquib even charged that Barzani had raided his home in Salah al-Din and tried to assassinate one of his top aids. Thus he would no longer be living in north of Iraq. Wafiq al-Samarra?i, the former Iraqi military intelligence chief who had defected to the opposition in November 1994 and by the summer of 1995 headed a miniscule group he called the Iraqi national Movement, went even further by accusing Barzani of having actually tried to assassinate him and of acting as ?an agent of the Saddam regime.? Specifically, Samarra?i accused Barzani of concluding an agreement with Baghdad to prevent the opposition from attacking Mosul the previous March, attacking Talabani when the PUK leader sought to mass his forces against Saddam, and expelling Arab opposition elements from the area under the KDP?s control. In response, Barzani questioned Samarra?i ?suspect role? in the opposition, and accused him of being one of the perpetrators of the genocidal Anfal campaign in late 1980s in north of Iraq. Al-Hakim, al-Ulum, and then even Naquib came to Barazani?s defense.

The Unravel of INC and the London conference

The INC began to unravel; Syria started to encourage an alternative emanating from Damascus and made up of nationalists, Islamists, democrats, and Kurds. Mahdi al-Ubaydi, a spokesman for these groups, suggested that they should create an alternative to INC and declared, ?among the first tasks of this front will be to initiate field action in coordination with the military and popular leaders inside Iraq which are in sympathy with the opposition forces, to overthrow the regime.? At the end of August 1995, some 50 opposition leaders representing 18 Iraqi opposition groups met in London to consider the unfolding events, including the recent defection of Saddam?s son-in-law, Husayn Kamil. These were the groups that attended the London meeting: SAIRI, Iraqi National Accord, PUK, ICP, Iraqi Socialist Party, Iraqi Democratic National Accord Grouping, Iraqi National Reform Movement, Islamic Cadres Movement, Iraqi Independence Organization, Islamic Movement in Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkomen Democratic Movement, Assyrian Democratic Movement, Iraqi Democratic Grouping, Iraqi Democratic Union, Iraqi Democratic Islamic Grouping, Committee for Coordination Iraqi Democratic Tendency Forces in Britain, Democratic Pan-Arab Grouping, and World Assyrian Union. Prominent individuals reported in attendance included: Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, Mahmud Othman, Shakh Husayn al-Sha?lan, Nuri Talabany, Abd al-Sattar al-Duri, Rahim Ajinah, Ismail al-Qadiri, Sami Faraj, Sa?d Abd al-Razzaq, Muhammad Hamawandi, Majid al-Hiti, Nabil Yasin, Riyad al-Zuhayri, and Ali Salih. Notably absent were Ahmad Chalabi and representatives of the Barzani?s KDP. The participants stressed the need ?to prevent the regime from escaping its outcome,? a reference to the defection of Husayn Kamil. They then emphasized ?the need to develop field action inside the homeland until the regime is gotten rid of completely.? The future regime ?should guarantee pluralism, the peaceful rotation of power, and the judiciary?s independence,? as well as ?the legitimate rights of the other nationalities and minorities.?

More opposition groups

In London, Sharif Ali Bin al-Husayn (Prince Ali), the claimant to the Iraqi throne and leader of the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, claims to have strong relations with all Iraqi opposition factions. His supposed aim is to topple Saddam and establish an alternative acceptable by the Iraqi people through a free referendum.

Nabil Janabi, the leader of the opposition Democratic national Party argues that King of Jordan is the legitimate heir to the Iraqi throne and should become the head of a federated constitutional monarchy joining Iraq and Jordan. King Hussein of Jordan did indeed broach the idea of moving the Iraq opposition group from London to Amman, from where it could work to establish a Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish federation in Iraq joined in confederation to Jordan.

Reference Michael M. Gunter ?The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq: A Political Analysis?

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