How the Dissidents Fooled the Washington Hawks
Tuesday 1 April 2003
They Announced a Popular Insurrection.
For ten years one man has been promising the Americans a fast, definite, spotless victory. Ahmed Chalabi, a principal Iraqi dissident, counts for much in the faith of Donald Rumsfeld and of his assistant, Paul Wolfowitz, in a short easy war. Since 1993, Chalabi had predicted an insurrection in Basra and massive defections in the heart of the Iraqi military from the outset of hostilities. Only the "spark" was missing, he said, to enflame the whole country. His plan was finally closeted by the Clinton administration and the CIA. After twelve days of combat, it has been disproved once again by the facts.
These military reverses risk increasing the discredit of an opposition already weak and divided. Bush administration hawks believed the exiles who guaranteed a Shiite uprising and the fall of the brutal regime as soon as war was begun. Even the Republican Guard is no longer secure," a former general assured us this fall. "Saddam can count only on the Special Forces and his Fedayeen deployed around Baghdad". This high level officer, who took refuge in Great Britain in 1992, also announced the collapse of the Baath party.
Persecuted for decades, the dissident movement is a mirror of Iraq. Far from constituting a coherent national force, it is too often simply the sum of ethnic interests: Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomen, Shiites, Sunnis. In the course of the last few months, under pressure from Washington and its emissary, Zalmay Khalilzad, some rapprochements have been effected. In December, some 400 delegates meeting in London formed a committee of 65 members. Barely constituted, this embryo executive was denounced by the rest of the opposition as a simple alliance of convenience between Kurdish autonomists and Shiite Islamicists.
Saturday, a new lay and secular-inspired movement, "Independent Iraqis for Democracy" was created in London. Even if its founder, a former Foreign Affairs Minister, Adnan Pachachi, from the Sunni minority, enjoys great popularity among Iraqi exiles, it is difficult to evaluate how representative his party, composed of intellectuals and independent personalities, actually is.
It is equally impossible to measure the actual following of the two Islamicist groups which dispute the Shiite majority (about 60% of the population). Based in Teheran and under the strict control of the Guardians of the Revolution, Mohammed Bakir al-Hakim's Superior Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, claims ten to fifteen thousand soldiers regrouped in the Al-Badr brigade and tens of thousands of supporters. Less structured, its rival, Al-Da'wa has taken credit for numerous attempts against the regime.
In the south of Iraq, even more than in the political parties, traditional figures, religious dignitaries and heads of great family clans, are the ones who should play a key role once the Baathists have disappeared.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher
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