Printer Friendly

IRAQ - Feb. 2 - Bush Gives Opposition The Go Ahead.

The Bush administration has given Iraqi opposition groups permission to resume their activities inside Iraq with American funding, marking the first substantial move by the Bush White House to confront Pres. Saddam Hussein. The decision allows the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella organisation for groups opposed to Saddam's government, to draw from $4m set aside by Congress in September 2000 for gathering information relating to Iraqi war crimes, military operations and other internal developments. Some of the money has already been used by the London-based INC for logistics and training outside Iraq. The decision now frees up funding for opposition operations inside the country for the first time since the US cut off similar financial support in 1996."We're saying to the INC, you're beyond the organisational phase", a State Department official says. "Now do something". (The move comes at time when top administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have been trying to thrash out their strong - and divergent - opinions on how best to confront Saddam. State Department officials say the decision to order the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to issue a licence for spending the money inside Iraq, which is required because of the economic sanctions on the country, moves US policy across a significant threshold. But the initiative does not yet reflect a wholesale reappraisal of Iraq policy. While more vigorous backing for the opposition has been endorsed by some, including Cheney and Rumsfeld, Gen. Powell and others have been more reticent in offering support, speaking primarily about reinvigorating the economic sanctions as a means to deter Baghdad's weapons programme. Pres. George W. Bush met at the White House on Jan. 30 with his top national security officials, discussing in particular Iraq policy. His administration is seeking to develop a policy that combines support for the Iraqi opposition with maintaining the economic sanctions that were imposed after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990). In remarks to reporters at the State Department, Gen. Powell says he has not determined whether it would be realistic ultimately to remove Saddam by funding opposition groups. He adds: "Iraq is a problem for its own people". He says his focus would remain on Saddam's refusal to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors. "I think we have to keep reminding everybody that this is an arms control problem". (But the decision to renew US-funded efforts inside Iraq was heralded by Ahmed Chalabi, a founding INC member, as a major reversal of US policy. Chalabi says: "For the first time ever, the INC has public US funding to operate in Iraq, and for the first time since 1996 there's any US support for operating inside Iraq". The US had provided covert aid to opposition groups in the years after the end of the Gulf war in 1991. But those efforts came to a tumultuous end when Saddam's military rolled into the US-protected "safe area" of northern Iraq, rousting the opposition. Critics said INC's battlefield performance had revealed it to be a paper tiger. Chalabi says a wide range of anti-government activities are permitted under the licence now granted. He adds: "What we want to do is bring out political information, information on the state of Iraq's military and enhance our contacts with our constituency inside Iraq". While the opposition is already involved in gathering information, an adviser to the INC says the funding would allow it to beef up operations inside Iraq in as little as two weeks. He says the money could pay for the efforts of about 40 of the group's members to collect information and get it out of the country. These activists would work with thousands of sympathisers inside Iraq, Chalabi says. A State Department official says funding is limited to the gathering of information, but the INC could put it to whatever use the group decides. This could include monitoring violations of the economic sanctions, providing evidence of any war crimes prosecution against Iraqi officials and building popular support for the organisation's ultimate goal of overthrowing Saddam's government).
COPYRIGHT 2001 Input Solutions
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Feb 3, 2001
Previous Article:IRAQ - Jan. 28 - Cheney Attack.
Next Article:ISRAEL - Jan. 30 - Arabs To Shun Barak.

Related Articles
Bush Has Arab Support To Target Saddam, But 'Smart' Sanctions Signal Climbdown.
IRAQ - Jan. 14 - Clinton Approves Aiding Opposition.
ARAB-EUROPEAN RELATIONS - Feb. 19 - Paris Hits Again.
ARAB-US RELATIONS - March 8 - Powell Hit As Being Easy On Iraq.
IRAQ - June 16 - Bush Wins Backing For Action Over Baghdad.
SAUDI ARABIA - Aug. 6 - Pentagon Briefing Depicts Saudis As Enemies.
NATO/EU Splits & Anti-US Positions Affect The Arab Cause.
Dire Situation.
IRAQ - Tehran Defiance.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters