|A divided opposition heads
By Sanjay Suri
A visibly divided Iraqi opposition leadership is heading
back to take up political life in the name of the
people. The divisions emerged on Tuesday even before
confirmation of the fate of Saddam Hussein. A group of
opposition leaders sat together at a news conference in
London and frequently contradicted one another.
Members of the Iraqi opposition groups seemed to
agree only that they will meet in the southern Iraqi
city of Nasiriyah on Saturday. "We hope all opposition
groups will be represented," Dr Ghassan Atiyyah, editor
of the publication Iraqi File, told media
But if the differences that
arose in London are anything to go by, they seem set to
be multiplied in Nasiriyah. "The majority want the
monarchy as the best guarantee of the return of
democracy," said Sharif Ali Hussain, a cousin of the
former king and now head of the Monarchist
Constitutional Movement. He did not say how he had
assessed this to be the majority view. Not even the
majority on the panel seemed to agree.
Ali said opposition groups have been working closely
with the US government for a long time. This will
continue for some time, he said. "In the immediate phase
the British and American forces will be in charge on the
ground, arresting people, fixing the water supply etc,"
he said. "Then an internal authority will be created."
Later the Iraqis will elect their own
government, he said. In the immediate term the US and
British forces "are under a legal obligation to take
care of the welfare of the Iraqi people". He said the
interim phase when the Americans and the British take
charge "could be a few months, it could be two years".
Atiyyah immediately challenged him. "The
Americans are planning everything, but they have not
dealt yet with the Iraqi opposition and Iraqis as a
whole as partners," he said. "We hope that this
situation will be rectified in the near future."
Iraqis will have to find a new constitution, he
said, "but not under the authority of Americans
occupying our land". He said that if in any way the
Americans and the British "try to recolonize Iraq, the
people of Iraq will oppose them, and the move will be
Syed Mohammad Bahr Uloom, a
leader from the Islamic Ahl al Bayt Foundation, said the
US forces must leave immediately after the military
operation. "We do not accept governorship by the
coalition forces," he said. "Right after they have
finished their military work, we will tell them thank
you, it is time now for the Iraqi people to rule Iraq."
Dr Latif Rashid, representative of the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in London, said, "We will not
accept a US general ruling over us for a long period of
time." The US forces must stay "for a short period of
time to establish peace and security and then hand over
to a broad-based national coalition government".
If there was one thing that seemed to unite the
Iraqi opposition leaders, it was their sensitivity to
exploitation of oil resources by British or US firms.
"Iraqis do not need foreign expertise in production,
surveying, refining or marketing oil," said Dr Salah
Shaikhy of the Iraqi National Accord. "We have been
running our own oil sector for 33 years. The Americans
did not bring more than 100,000 troops to Iraq because
our oil sector was not doing well. Their declared aim is
to search for weapons of mass destruction."
areas as oil, banking, finance and agriculture "should
be left to Iraqis and to Iraqis alone", he said. "We are
quite capable of running our country." Sharif Ali said
the Americans will have to "be careful in appointing
people to handle sensitive positions like oil".
The Iraqi National Congress (INC) is inevitably
more aligned to the United States. "It would be too
optimistic to say that we can begin to exercise
democracy from the day after," said Riyad Al-Yawar from
the INC. "They [Americans] have a role as an occupying
force, there are many duties and obligations they need
to fulfill," he said. "We do not want premature
democracy. If a baby is delivered before the end of a
normal pregnancy term, the baby will suffer."
INC leader Ahmad Chalabi, who is close to the US
administration, is being prepared to play a major role
in Iraq. Chalabi and a force of 500 are already in
southern Iraq to provide local assistance to US troops.
Chalabi is among many opposition leaders who have
already begun to campaign for a place for themselves in
Shi'ite leader Abdel Majid
al-Khoei and tribal leader Youssef al-Khairallah are at
least two other leaders also preparing for leadership of
sorts in Iraq. Now the exiled leaders from London are
headed for southern Iraq to join the fray. The leaders
all say they speak for the people of Iraq, but the
people of Iraq have still not spoken.