|Vol. 1 No. 10|| |
The long-awaited general assembly of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) is scheduled to convene in New York on October 29 to elect a new leadership and discuss plans for toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. An estimated 300-400 delegates are expected to attend the four-day meeting, making it the largest gathering of Iraqi dissidents in recent years.
The primary focus of the meeting will be to overcome the inharmonious relations between different opposition groups which have crippled efforts to coordinate resistance against the Iraqi regime in the past. The INC was created in 1992 as an umbrella organization representing the major Iraqi opposition groups, but many of the original participants had since broken away from it. Most of these groups recently returned on the condition that a new leadership be elected which represents the political and ethnic diversity of its member organizations.
Participants in the conference include:
Ahmad Chalabi, who headed the INC prior to the establishment of the collective leadership.
Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
Dr. Ayad Allawy, head of the Iraqi National Accord
Shareef Ali bin al-Hussein, the leader of the Movement for Constitutional Monarchy
Hamid al-Bayati, the London Representative of the Teheran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)
Dr. Mohammed Bahr al-Uloom of the Ahl al-Bayt Center
SCIRI, which occupies one of the seven seats on the interim leadership committee, had previously refused to take part in previous meetings but decided to send a representative at the last minute. The relatively unknown Ahl al-Bayt Center was apparently given a seat on the interim committee after Muhammad Abdeljabbar's Islamic Cadres Movement withdrew from the INC last month. There have been conflicting reports as to whether Adnan al-Pachachi, a former foreign minister of Iraq who heads the Democratic Centrist Current (DCC), will be in attendance.
U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering sent a letter to the seven opposition leaders in which he praised their willingness to set aside political differences. The letter hinted that the U.S. may consider recognizing the INC as a government-in-exile of Iraq. "The Iraqi people still have no effective or legitimate government to represent and to serve them," said Pickering. "That is precisely why we Americans who wish to support Iraqi aspirations are so eager to support the rebirth of a strong, unified liberation movement and organization."
INC sources said that the Clinton Administration will soon begin supplying the group with military assistance as stipulated by the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which allocated $97 million dollars worth of aid to the Iraqi opposition. The sources said that senior INC officials had recently been asked to submit a list of candidates for military training in the U.S.
1 "Iraqi opposition Opts for New York as Venue of Oct. 22-25 Assembly," Mideast Mirror, 14 September 1999© 1999 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.