News

USIS Washington File

28 October 1999

The Iraqi Opposition Consists of 27 Million People

(Senior Administration Official briefs on upcoming INC meeting) (350)
By Rick Marshall
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The Iraqi opposition is not just a handful of people,
but consists of upwards of 27 million people, a senior Administration
official said October 28 at a special State Department briefing.

Thus the U.S. is not merely interested in the removal of Saddam
Hussein, but the country's "transition to something better," he said.
This is something that virtually every Iraqi citizen in the country or
outside hopes for, too.

Beginning the 29th, some 350 members of the Iraqi National Congress
will meet in New York City in what will be the largest gathering of
the opposition since 1992. While most of the Iraqi National Congress
will attend, between a half and a third of those attending the session
will be new, the official said.

Many of those who will attend are facing direct threats to themselves
or their families from the Iraqi regime.

What form of leadership will emerge from the meeting is not certain,
but the official said he suspects that it will be a collective one and
representative of the many groups that make up Iraqi society. "We're
not directing this. We're supporting them and wishing them well," he
said.

Both Thomas Pickering, the under secretary of state for political
affairs, and David Scheffer, ambassador-at large for war crimes
issues, will address the INC meeting. Senators Robert Kerrey
(Republican, Nebraska) and Sam Brownback (Republican, Kansas) as well
as the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Ben
Gilman (Republican, New York), are expected to address them also.

The official also confirmed that four Iraqis -- three of whom will be
coming from inside Iraq -- will begin attending classes on
civil-military relations next week in Florida and that "more will
follow." The training will be paid for out of the money provided for
in last year's Iraq Liberation Act.

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