Why would they do that?|
They were frightened that this is an Islamic revolution, that this is a carbon
copy of the Iranian Islamic revolution, because it is a Shi'ite rebellion. I
think that, now, they admit that it was a mistake.
And was it a Shi'ite and Islamic revolution?
It was an Iraqi popular uprising, in which Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis all took
part. It was a reaction of the Iraqi people against oppression once they had a
chance to move against the regime. They thought they'd be supported by the
world to free their country.
And when Saddam survived that uprising, what was his reaction towards the
people--the Shi'ites and the Kurds who rose up against him? How did he treat
your people after that?
Saddam killed more than 500,000 people after the uprising of 1991. There were
summary executions, mass graves, and all kind of repression.
In the 1970s, when he was still vice president, to what extent was he
running and controlling the security within Iraq?
He was the head of the assassination team responsible for all the executions
and assassinations that took place after the coup to get rid of all potential
opposition. Saddam became powerful because he was the head of that
intelligence apparatus. He was responsible for the killings that occurred
before he became president in 1979.
What was your group's view of America's policy toward Iraq and the
opposition around 1992, when the INC began to work?
In 1992, the Americans realized that the liberation of Kuwait wasn't enough to
topple the regime. They started to reconsider their policy, and chose to
support some faction of Iraqi opposition. Iraqis start to establish and build
an organization for the different groups. We had a conference in 1992 in
northern Iraq. The Iraqis taking part in this conference established a united
national congress, the INC [Iraqi National Congress]. After that, the
Americans adopted the dual containment policy, thinking they could topple the
regime through sanctions, and through supporting Iraqi opposition in northern
But we believe that the Americans were not serious about toppling the regime.
They were not allowing any kind of popular movement against the regime. There
were many examples where America stood against any popular movement. In 1995,
the INC agreed to move against Baghdad. There was some kind of agreement with
American officials that their move would be supported. But they received a
message at the last minute that their plan was in compromise. They chose to
continue for themselves. Then all kinds of promised support wasn't fulfilled.
So later on, the movement stopped.
We believe that the policy of the American government was always to contain the
regime through the sanctions, through isolation, and then to hope for a coup.
At the time of this conference in 1992, was there a feeling of hope within
the opposition, in what the Americans were telling you regarding their policy?
Were they saying that they were serious, and that they wanted to overthrow
Saddam through the INC?
I can't verify whether it was really direct promises from the Americans. Some
Iraqis at the conference who had contact with the Americans said there were
such promises--that the Americans would support Iraqi opposition work inside
Iraq. The INC had some military activity in northern Iraq in 1996, which was
At that time, the regime arrested and executed more than 100 people from the
INC troops. The regime crushed all the offices, and confiscated all the
equipment, the computers and documents. It was a big setback for the INC work
in northern Iraq.
In the early 1990s, did the American State Department and the CIA talk to
From time to time, we had some kind of contact with the American administration
through the embassy in London. But we don't have such strong relations
afterward, because of all the sensitivity from our side and from their side.
So we didn't have a direct contact. The only direct contact was very limited,
in which we exchanged views about what the situation in southern Iraq. But we
never had a time where we discussed real business with the Americans.
What is the sensitivity?
The Americans always feel that we are an Islamic movement based in Tehran, and
that our activity could be controlled or influenced by the Iranians. The
Americans were actually frightened that, even if something happened inside
Iraq, it would be under the influence of the Iranians. From our side, the
Iraqi people feel betrayed by the Americans, who brought Saddam to power,
supported Saddam, and didn't take him when they have the chance during the
second Gulf war. Even when we had the popular uprising, the Americans stood
with Saddam, rather than with the Iraqi people. So, after that in 1995, 1996,
the Iraqi people are sensitive about the American attitude. Iraqis feel that
the Americans still want Saddam to stay, and they don't want him to go. So it
is very difficult for us to convince Iraqi people that we can work with the
Americans to topple the regime.
America has been concerned that you may be an Islamic group or a
revolutionary group. Is there any truth to that? Should America be concerned
about your group's views?
There is no doubt that we are an Islamic movement. We are not trying to hide
anything, and we have nothing to be afraid of. Iraqi Shi'ites are Iraqis
first, Arabs second, and Shi'ites third. The fact that we are from the same
sect as the Iranians doesn't mean the Iranians control us. We are an Iraqi
organization. We have Iraqi leadership, and we take our own independent
decisions. Yes, we have good relations, not only with Iran, but with most of
the region's countries.
Are you fighting the regime now?
We are fighting the regime. We've been fighting the regime for over 30 years,
and we continue to do so as long as it takes us.
What kinds of things do you do?
We do a lot of activities. We have secret cells all over Iraq. We distribute
leaflets, we write slogans on the walls and in the streets, and we do military
activities against the regime all over Iraq, including Baghdad.
What kind of military activities do you do?
We attack mainly military installations and intelligence centers, which
actually play an important role in crushing our resistance and fighting the
Iraqi people. We would like to break the circle of fear among Iraqi people.
By doing that, we would like to encourage Iraqi people to oppose and resist the
Do you have any sense of whether your attacks are having an effect? Is
Saddam getting weaker because of them?
Of course, we think that Saddam is much weaker because of our resistance. The
south is out of the regime's control, especially at night, which was actually
admitted by Saddam's son-in-law when he defected to Jordan. Saddam's
government instructed Ba'ath Party members, officials, and military units not
to be out after five o'clock in the evening, because of the danger from the
resistance. It's a clear indication that we are able to control the south of
The Iraqis took us to Basra and said, "Look, we control this country. This
is normal, life is going on here, and the people will support the regime."
What's your view of that?
When you conduct guerilla war, you attack and run--you don't take the ground.
If you take the ground, you will be crushed. Saddam will use all kinds of
weapons to crush the area we control. So we attack and run. We have secret
cells inside Iraq. We don't confront the region's forces, because the
situation is not balanced. They have tanks, missiles, and all kinds of mass
destruction weapons. We have only light arms.
When the regime is there, we are not there. We hide. We get our chances to
attack the regime at the time and the place that we choose.
What are you hoping to achieve?
We hope to eventually overthrow the regime, when we coordinate with other
opposition groups, such as the Kurds in the north, army units, and tribes who
are opposing the regime all over Iraq.
What kind of support do you hope to get, or want, from outside?
We need the protection of Iraqi people according to United Nation resolutions.
What is happening is against Security Council resolutions. We would like to
see the international community work to protect Iraqi people, as it did in
Kosovo, Bosnia, and in other parts of the world.
Has there been a change in the past year or so, in the way the U.S.
administration deals with your group? Are they more willing to talk, and are
they less concerned about an Islamic revolution inside Iraq?
The Americans realize that the Supreme Council is an Iraqi organization, with
independent decisions, and is not under the control of any country in the
region. So the Americans decided to deal with the Supreme Council. We feel
that the American administration is now more serious about the situation inside
Iraq, but not as serious as we wish them to be. They talk about the oppression
of Iraqi people in the south, and about what happened in the south. We
reported that Saddam raided villages, and they released some kind of satellite
image, which proved what we said--that this village was there, and that it was
razed to the ground.
However, we think they are actually short in facing the Saddam regime,
especially in the United Nations and in implementing Security Council
resolutions. The only resolution they talk about is the human rights
resolution, which unfortunately isn't compulsory under the United Nations
charter. It doesn't authorize the United Nations to use force against the
regime, unlike the resolution in 1994, when the UN resolution authorized force
to prevent the regime from sending troops and tanks to the Kuwaiti border.
Last year, television showed that Saddam sent troops, tanks, and artillery to
the south. But because they were not a threat to Kuwait, and they were only a
threat to Iraqi people, the world turned a blind eye to it. So we think that
it is time for the Americans to talk about Iraqi people's rights, not only
about weapons of mass destruction or neighboring countries. We feel strongly
that the world should protect neighboring countries, and should work on weapons
of mass destruction. But we would like to see them talk as much about Iraqi
So, I can conclude that the Americans are little bit more serious about that.
With a letter from President Clinton, the Americans indicated that they want to
deal with the Supreme Council. However we have our reservations about all the
material aid that America would like to give to the Iraq opposition.
Throughout the 1990s, there was this policy of dual containment regarding
Iraq and Iran. Has there been a change in U.S. policy towards Iran regarding
the future of Iraq? Has Iran been receptive? Is there a convergence of
interest between Iran and the U.S. regarding the Iraqi regime and its future?
Unfortunately, there are some contradicting messages. In one statement,
American officials say that they would like to talk to Iran. On the latest
tour by Secretary Cohen to the Gulf, he said that our troops are against Iraq
and Iran. So, we are confused. We don't know if the Americans have really
changed the dual containment policy--if they've given up on toppling the regime
in Iran--or if they are thinking of working against the Saddam regime, or if
they will keep following the same policy.
Do you get any practical logistical support from the U.S. for your
No, we don't, and actually we have reservations about receiving any kind of
material support. We believe that America should play its role as a permanent
Security Council member, to force the Iraqi regime to implement all
resolutions, especially those regarding human rights, and to stop the
oppression of Iraqi people according to the UN charter. This is a legitimate
international body, and nobody will have reservations about implementing those
When we interviewed Tariq Aziz, he said that the INC is not serious, nor
effective. He says the only effective opponents to the regime are the Shias in
the south, and the Kurds, and that the other people are irrelevant. What do
you think of that?
The Kurds and the Shi'ites are the major opposition groups. There are some
smaller other groups. We deal with everybody; we work with everybody. But the
Kurds and the Shi'ites are very effective inside Iraq, and you know it's very
difficult to work inside Iraq. Those groups have secret cells, and they have
fighters. If we talk about thousands of fighters, then we are talking about
the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ites in the south.
Do you want help from America? Are they willing to give it?
We need the United States to implement the UN resolution to prevent the
Iraqi regime from oppressing Iraqi people--preventing Saddam from using his
Republican Guards, his tanks, and missiles against Iraqi people in the south.
If this resolution were implemented, the Iraqi people are capable of having
their own plan to overthrow the regime.
Do you need a logistical support from the U.S.?
I don't think we need any kind of material support. We need political and
moral support, and the implementation of UN resolutions. This kind of
protection for Iraqi people will give them the chance actually to do
We have other options, like indicting Saddam and members of his regime as
war criminals. This was done with Milosovic, other Serb war criminals, and
with war criminals in Rwanda and Cambodia. Saddam has committed war crimes.
Genocide, crimes against humanity, torture and all these war crimes are
actually a good reason to bring Saddam to international trial, and then to
indict him and his regime. This is another way of isolating Saddam and
We've talked to several people in various administrations, officials and CIA
people who say that actually the situation right now is probably about as good
as we can get. Saddam is contained, he's not threatening anybody outside of
his borders and he probably can't, immediately. They said the policy is
effective, that we may not like it, but if he's contained, then we've got a
good policy. What do you think of that?
Saddam has never been contained. He continues to produce weapons of mass
destruction. He sacrificed billions of dollars because of the sanctions to
keep his weapons. He played a game of cat-and-mouse with the United Nation
teams for eight years. He's going to keep those weapons, and those weapons are
a danger to Iraqi people, neighboring countries, and to world peace. As long
as Saddam stays in power, he will be a danger for us, for the regional
countries, and for the whole world. Saddam is very well known for getting
revenge on people who oppose him and stand against him. Sooner or later,
Saddam will take revenge from regional countries, and then from the whole
world, by using these weapons of mass destruction.
Why does Hussein's regime film torture and beatings?
Some of the footage is filmed and distributed by the regime to deter people,
to frighten people from opposing and resisting the regime. It plays an
important role in frightening people. When the Kurds went to negotiate with
the regime after the uprising of 1991, they were shown footage of oppression in
the south. They were told that the same thing would happen with the ,f the
Kurds chose to resist the regime. It is a policy of frightening people and
deterring them from opposing and resisting the regime.
We talked about America hoping for a coup at various times. Do you think
that hope has changed, or is America hoping and possibly working for a coup
rather than some kind of popular resistance?
The Americans feel it is time to realize that the coup is not the only hope.
That is why they try to explore other methods and options. However, I don't
think they would support a popular movement against the regime. They are
thinking of it, but they're still hesitant to support any kind of popular
movement. They still hope that a coup will take place one day, whether
supported by themselves, or whether it's an internal Iraqi movement by Iraqi
officers who are fed up with Saddam's policies, who then decide to move against
him. We think that this hope will not come through, and they will wait a long
rime before any coup is actually successful in Baghdad.
Do you think they're actively working for a coup?
The intelligence service always work for a coup in Iraq. We don't know how
many people they have in Baghdad, or what sort of contacts they have in
Baghdad. But from previous experiences, yes, they were working with the
military officers directly or indirectly to stage a coup against the
How difficult is it for any outside intelligence services, particularly the
CIA, to penetrate Saddam's military?
It is very difficult for any country outside Iraq or an intelligence service
to infiltrate Saddam's regime, because he took all the measures to prevent that
kind of thing. Any officers who move alone will be faced with all these
surveillance measures in Iraq. And if a single officer starts to talk to other
officers to join him, then he will be discovered, because Saddam put spies on
each single officer in the Iraqi army, especially high-ranking officers.
The Americans resist supporting a popular resistance movement against the
Iraqi regime, because they fear that if Saddam falls down, we will have a civil
war, or Iraq might disintegrate. Saddam tries to distribute those fears to
show the world that he's the only person who can keep Iraq as one country, and
stable. We feel that, if Saddam stays in power, then Iraq will actually
disintegrate. Northern Iraq is basically outside the control of the central
government. There are pockets of resistance in the south, and the Shi'ites
will never be satisfied with the regime in Baghdad.
The only solution we have is to get rid of Saddam--then the Iraqis will be
united in the future. We don't think there is a risk of a civil war. All
Iraqi opposition groups agree that we have one country, and that we will have
some kind of democratic system in the future. The only hope for the Iraqi
people and the Iraqi opposition is to have direct elections, and to have a
constitutional, parliamentarian regime in the future.
America is also concerned that another kind of regime could have
implications beyond Iraq. Other American allies in the region that are not
democratic might be uncomfortable with such a regime in Baghdad.
It's possible that the Americans are frightened that such a regime will
affect some other countries in the region. But the fact is that this is the
choice of the Iraqi people. The only hope for Iraq is to get rid of Saddam--to
have peace and stability inside Iraq and the region--so we think that everybody
should support this choice. And at the end of the day, America claims to
support democracy in the world, and to support human rights.
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