Free Iraqi Resistance Calling on Jewry For Support in Quest to Depose Saddam
Allies of Chalabi Meet Ambassador Gold, Warn of White House Folly
By SETH GITELL FORWARD STAFF
WASHINGTON - With Senate Majority Leader Lott pushing for $10 million in new funding for the Iraqi opposition, supporters of the free, democratic Iraqi National Congress are calling upon Israel and members of the American Jewish community to get behind their quest to depose Saddam Hussein.
An adviser to INC chairman Ahmad Chalabi, Francis Brooke, and a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, David Wurmser, met with Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations, Dore Gold, last Friday to begin the process of getting Israel to back the INC. Representatives of the group have also met with a spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu, David Bar-Illan.
Domestically, the INC advisers believe that the core of America's organized Jewish community could rally the requisite amount of political support for the Iraqi opposition group to enable it to successfully challenge Saddam Hussein. In international terms, pro-Israel, pro-INC policy analysts envision a Middle East where Turkey, Israel, Jordan and the liberated portion of Iraq confront the dictatorial, anti-Western nations of Iran and Syria.
The Clinton administration, however, is renewing relations with a Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, who once allied himself with Saddam Hussein to spite a rival. Congressional sources said Senator Lott was attempting to obtain $10 million in new funding for Iraqi opposition groups; Congress authorized $10 million in anti-Saddam Hussein funding last Spring.
"I went to speak to [Ambassador Gold] just to say that I think it's in Israel's best interest to help the Iraqi people get this thing done," Mr. Brooke said. "The basic case I made was that we need help here in the U.S. to get this thing going."
For his part, Mr. Gold said Israel had no current plans to ally itself with the INC. "We're always interested in hearing impressions from people around the region, and Middle Easterners from many countries are always willing to share their perspective with us," Mr. Gold said.
A resident fellow at the AEI, Richard Perle, is calling upon both Israel and the American Jewish community to support the INC. "Israel has not devoted the political or rhetorical time or energy to Saddam that they have to the Iranians. The case for the Iraqi opposition in Congress would be a lot more favorable with Israeli support," said Mr. Perle, who was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during the Reagan administration.
With regard to the American Jewish community, Mr. Perle said: "There's no question that the Jewish community's been at the forefront with the legislation with regard to Iran. One can only speculate what it might accomplish if it decided to focus its attention on Saddam Hussein."
Mr. Wurmser said an INC-controlled region in the north of Iraq is the missing piece to complete an anti-Syria, anti-Iran block. "If Ahmad extends a no-fly, no-drive in northern Iraq, it puts scuds out of the range of Israel and provides the geographic beachhead between Turkey, Jordan and Israel," Mr. Wurmser said. "This should anchor the Middle East pro-Western coalition."
Mr. Wursmer also cited a July 1997 speech where the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, called for a Syrian-Iraqi alliance to form an anti-Israel "Eastern front."
Mr. Chalabi attended an American Enterprise Institute conference with Messrs. Gold, Wurmser, Perle and Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan in Turkey several months ago. Mr. Chalabi also attended a June AEI event in Beaver Creek, Colorado, where he met President Ford and others.
A spokesman for the National Security Council, P.J. Crowley, defended the administration's desire to work with Mr. Barzani. "We want to prevent repetition of the way Saddam has divided and suppressed the Kurds," Mr. Crowley said. "Bringing them here is the best way to keep them working in ways which support our national interest."
Mr. Wurmser said the administration is "being duped."
"This is a problem. Barzani's working with Saddam. They just cannot engage in these internal Iraqi politics cleverly," Mr. Wurmser said.
Many Jewish groups hesitated to give their public support to the INC. The executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said, "It's a very sensitive and serious issue - the internal politics of this are very serious."
An official at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who declined to be named, would only say, "It is not a matter we have a policy about."
The executive director of the National Jewish Coalition, a group of Jewish Republicans, Matt Brooks, said, "I have not studied that."
The executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Tom Neumann, however, praised the opposition group. "It is a good idea for the American Jewish community to do anything it can to change the government of Iraq," Mr. Neumann said. "We can't dream of military coups, what we can dream of is the INC."
Butcher of Baghdad Is Preparing to Attack Israel, Warns President of Iraq's Democratic Opposition
Senators Lott, Helms Write Clinton Seeking Overthrow of Saddam's Regime
By SETH GITELL FORWARD STAFF
WASHINGTON - The leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi, is calling on President Clinton for support and is warning that Saddam Hussein poses an immediate threat to Israel.
Mr. Chalabi, the president of the executive council of the INC, spoke to the Forward from the London office of his free, democratic opposition group. Mr. Chalabi and other opposition leaders met in London with the head of the State Department's Iraq desk, Andrew Morrison, the day America launched Operation Desert Fox.
Unless America follows up its four-day air attack with an effort to replace Saddam with a democratic government, the dictator could be more dangerous than ever, Mr. Chalabi said. At stake are the political map of the Middle East and Israel's security. For the resistance, the Anglo-American strike has created a unique window of opportunity during which opposition efforts can succeed.
"Saddam is preparing to attack Israel," Mr. Chalabi said. "Israel should be very concerned about Saddam. He thinks he can gain a great deal of support in the Arab world and from some of the Islamic fundamentalists. He also gained support among radical Palestinian groups," he said.
In the middle of the American attack, Saddam railed against "the American devils and the devil that is Zionism." That same day, Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz decried as "Zionists" Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of Defense Cohen and the national security adviser, Samuel Berger. Meanwhile, demonstrators in the Palestinian Authority set alight American flags provided for Mr. Clinton's visit only days before, while members of Yasser Arafat's cabinet denounced the American attack.
Asked why Saddam's speech was so significant, Mr. Chalabi said, "He doesn't say these things idly. He's hit Israel with missiles in the past. The way he said it was very, very ominous in Arabic."
As for Operation Desert Fox, Mr. Chalabi said he had learned that the attack had hurt the regime. "It was an attack which hurt Saddam a great deal. His Republican Guard had very severe damage to them. His missile manufacturing capabilities were also hit very badly."
The airborne effort prompted rebel groups in the south of Iraq to rise up. Mr. Chalabi said that the insurgents could not sustain their move, however, and he called for the implementation of federal legislation authorizing Mr. Clinton to give money to the Iraqi opposition. "There should be a plan. They should implement the Iraq Liberation Act. We are in discussions with the State Department on this," Mr. Chalabi said. "We believe they are moving to do something, but the ship of state is difficult to turn."
Mr. Chalabi praised a letter signed by the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott; the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Helms; the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Shelby, and by Senators Kyl, Lugar and Brownback, all Republicans active on national security issues. The senators called upon the president to follow through with his commitment to help opposition groups.
"Despite the State Department's announcement of support for the convening of the Iraqi National Congress, INC officials have held no meetings above the assistant secretary level," they wrote. "Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of Defense Cohen and National Security Adviser Berger have not met with retired General Wayne Downing - whom they know has spent considerable time preparing detailed plans to equip, arm and train opposition forces."
Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations, Dore Gold, said that the American attack did not raise any special concerns. "Since 1991 Iraq has been trying to draw Israel into its struggle with the world community. Iraq's problem is that it is systematically violating United Nations Security Council resolutions," Mr. Gold said. "This is a problem between the world community and Iraq, not Israel and Iraq."
A research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, David Wurmser, said Israel was mistaken in ignoring Iraq. "Saddam does have a tradition of telegraphing his intentions. I think the Israelis have demonstrated a curious lack of concern over a major threat," Mr. Wurmser said, noting the alliance between the Iraqi dictator and Mr. Arafat over the years. "Saddam's words signal to me that he is preparing the people intellectually to transform this conflict with the U.S. to a conflict with Israel."
The State Department confirmed reports Tuesday that Saddam Hussein's forces have been arresting dissidents en masse and killing some of them in Basra and Amara.
The executive director of the Iraq Foundation, Rend Francke, said the timing of the attack undermined resistance efforts in the south. "They were aghast because they were unaware of it. They had no notice to get things ready. The U.S. did nothing to suggest to the Shia that they should do something," Ms. Francke said at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy lunch. "This was a wasted opportunity. It could have been linked to a much broader political purpose.
A senior military fellow at the Washington Institute, Michael Eisenstadt, gave the administration "favorable marks [for demonstrating] a degree of purpose."
That said, Mr. Eisenstadt called the missile strikes "half measures with partial results."
But the director of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Eliot Cohen, said even if the INC got American dollars from Mr. Clinton, it might not help. "I don't trust the Clinton administration not to do a Bay of Pigs," he said.
A State Department official said America was preparing to give to Congress in January a list of opposition groups America can work with. "We're trying to strengthen their effectiveness, and we're engaged in a wide-ranging effort to do that, but it's up to them to change things in Iraq," said the official, who would speak only on condition of anonymity.