News

USIS Washington File

28 October 1999

Iraqi Opposition Calls for Greater International Support

(INC to hold meeting in New York to discuss Iraq's future) (650)
By William B. Reinckens
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- "We are united; we have a plan and a vision for the
future of Iraq," said Salah A. Shaikhly, spokesman for the Iraqi
National Congress (INC) at an October 28 breakfast news briefing on
the INC's meeting in New York City this weekend.

The meeting, which will be the INC's first in seven years, is expected
to draw 350 delegates to affirm the Iraqi opposition's unity, define
their vision for the future of Iraq and set plans for a new initiative
to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

"The regime is much weaker today than it has ever been in the past,"
said Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, leader of the Constitutional Monarch
Movement, who also spoke at the briefing.

"What we don't want to see is Saddam benefit from oil funds,"
al-Hussein said, referring to the ongoing debate about the economic
sanctions the United Nations Security Council has imposed on Iraq
since its 1991 invasion of Kuwait. He added that the Iraqi opposition
has been advancing ideas to the United Nations about the sanctions and
how they should be applied to Iraq.

"The suffering of the Iraqi people is deliberately caused by the Iraqi
regime," he said. Revenues for humanitarian assistance from the
UN-sponsored Oil-for-Food program are at their highest levels ever,
and "the Iraqis are still suffering." Al-Hussein also noted that Iraqi
ships have been intercepted carrying food and medicine that Baghdad
has been illegally re-exporting.

"It is incumbent upon all Arab nations to come to the aid of Iraq, in
particular, the Arab media," said Shaikhly, blasting Arab and Islamic
states for hiding behind historical and ideological rationalizations.

"We must stop the effort by some countries to normalize relations with
Iraq," he continued, adding that the Iraqi opposition would like to
see Saddam Hussein indicted as a war criminal by the United Nations
Security Council, as was in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Over the
next few months, the Iraqi opposition will be actively supporting an
international campaign to bring Saddam Hussein before the court, he
said.

Shaikhly warned that international companies which do business with
Saddam Hussein will receive a letter stating that once the regime is
removed their contracts will not be valid.

The INC and other opposition groups "have not been sitting around"
doing nothing to oppose the regime in Baghdad, Shaikhly said. "There
have been a number of attempts within and outside to change the
regime."

"What we need is a new organization," he stated, one that is
streamlined and better able to communicate a plan for Iraq's future.
"We will not make the mistakes as we did before," he said pointing to
failures to unseat Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War and in 1995. At
the time, Iraqi forces pushed into northern Iraq and fighting occurred
between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Democratic
Party.

Hamid Bayati, the London-based representative of the Supreme Council
for the Islamic Revolution, who was scheduled to attend the briefing,
sent a letter in support of the goals of the INC's New York meeting.

Shaikhly was asked about the Clinton Administration's support for the
Iraqi opposition. He noted that the first non-lethal equipment
authorized under the Iraq Liberation Act is being delivered. Under the
terms of the Act, the opposition is eligible for up to $2 million in
office supplies and an additional $3 million in military training.

The New York Times today reported that the U.S. Air Force Special
Operations headquarters would soon be training four Iraqi opposition
leaders, two of whom were former officers in the Iraqi armed forces.
It said they would attend a 10-day course on civil-military affairs.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)