Who's Who in the Iraqi Opposition?
As a war with the ultimate goal of regime change in Iraq seems ever-closer, the question of what government would succeed Saddam Hussein gains prominence. In December of 2002, a number of Iraqi opposition groups met to discuss post-Hussein Iraq included were Shia Muslims, Kurds, monarchists, Turcomans, Assyrians and others. Although no definitive plan was produced, these groups continue to stress to President Bush's representative Zalmay Khalilzad that the members of the opposition need to play a role in the rebuilding of Iraq from the outset. On February 13, 2003, THE ECONOMIST reported that those same groups are "dismayed at plans for an American occupation of Iraq."
Iraqi National Congress
The Iraqi National Congress (INC) was founded in Northern Iraq in 1992 at a meeting of opposition groups attended by the two main Kurdish separatist militias the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headed by Masud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headed by Jalal Talabani and other opposition groups of Sunnis, Shias and Christians. The meeting led to the election of a National Assembly. For three years the group held an area in Kurdish northern Iraq with a small army. Following a failed uprising in 1995, reportedly supported by the CIA and U.S. and British aircraft, the INC lost its stronghold. In 1996, many party leaders were executed and its remaining leadership, under Shia Muslim Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, set up a government in exile in London.
The INC and Dr. Chalabi have enjoyed strong support in the United States. The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (PL 105-338), passed by Congress, specifically selected the INC and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) (see below) as recipients of U.S. financial aid. Recently however, Dr. Chalabi has come under criticism from both U.S. intelligence and other opposition groups. He did not attend the December 2002 meeting with President Bush's representative Mr. Khalilzad, and has recently expressed displeasure with the CIA and the U.S.'s post-war plans for Iraq.
Iraqi National Accord (INA)
The Iraqi National Accord's membership is primarily made up of defectors from the Iraqi military and security services. The group's main goal has been to achieve a coup against Saddam Hussein from within the Iraqi army. The INA was founded in 1990 by an Iraqi Shia named Ayad Alawi and is headquartered in Jordan. It quickly gained support from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Great Britain. Believed to have heavy CIA involvement, the INA received a great boost with the defection of Saddam Hussein's own son-in-law in 1995. The following year a number of Iraqi officers were executed for reported INA ties.
Iraqi National Accord
The area known as Kurdistan encompasses parts of six nations: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Kurds compose the largest minority without a country in the Middle East. The Kurds of Northern Iraq are among the most visible victims of the Hussein regime with thousands killed in the notorious chemical gas attacks of 1988.
There are two main Kurdish players the older, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was founded in 1946. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) broke off from the KDP in 1976. Although both groups were members of the Iraqi National Congress, they fought bitterly in 1996 over control of Kurdish Iraq, the KDP even solicited assistance from the Iraqi army. Both the KDP and the PUK received financial support from the United States through the Iraq Liberation Act. Now the two groups jointly control the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in northern Iraq and are reported to have about 40,000 troops at the ready.
Some Kurdish leaders are wary of another conflict in 1991 many Kurds, encouraged to rebel in the wake of the Gulf War, were crushed by the Iraqi regime and over a million and a half fled the country. The Kurds lack of a homeland has exacerbated the troubled diplomatic situation between the United States and Turkey. With its own substantial minority of Kurds, Turkey fears the extension of Kurdish independence movements into its territory. On March 15, 2003, President Bush's envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, reportedly said that a $15 billion aid offer had been withdrawn due to Turkey's failure to pass a resolution allowing for U.S. military deployment on Turkish soil. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Turkey on March 16, 2003 that they should not contemplate their own incursion into northern Iraq.
Kurdistan Democratic Party
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq
The Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) represents the main religious opposition to Hussein's order in Iraq. The SCIRI is a Shia Muslim group. The Shia account for about 60 percent of Iraq's population Saddam Hussein is a Sunni Muslim. Because it is funded in part by the fundamentalist government of Iran, the SCIRI is viewed with trepidation by both the United States and Saudi Arabia. The SCIRI's guerilla network of 10 to 15,000 is not expected to play a major role in the upcoming conflict, but will undoubtedly play a role in any democratic process that follows Hussein's regime.
Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq
FRONTLINE: The Long Road to War
Arab Gateway: Iraq Opposition
BBC News Conflict with Iraq
BBC News Turkey Faces Iraq Decision
NEWSHOUR Extra: Intervention in Iraq