The situation with the US anti-Hussain operation is still unclear. On one hand, Washington seems to intend to settle old scores with the Bagdad dictator, and, on the other hand, it is not clear how it will do this: whether counting upon anti-Saddam Iraqi opposition or by using its own army. However, in both cases, Washington could run across serious trouble. Because the opposition in Iraq is not a real force, the US army expects serious losses. In addition, the removal of Saddam cannot be accomplished merely by dropping bombs from the air.
However, in Iraq, there are armed groups on which the George Bush administration could stake. The question is about the Iraqi Kurds who live in the north of the country and have been fighting against Saddam’s regime for a long time. Are they really such a serious force?
Today, in Iraqi Kurdistan, two organizations are active: the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and thePatriotic Union of Kurdistan. The Democratic Party of Kurdistan is the oldest. Its founder and a long-time leader was Mustafa Barzani, who, in 1932, tried to organize a rebellion of the Kurds. Under his leadership, during WW II, one more rebellion broke out, which, however, was stifled by Iraqi troops like the first one. At that, the government’s troops were assisted by Englishmen. Barzani’s troops retreated in 1944 to the Soviet Union’s territory.
In the USSR, Barzani was treated very friendly. Soviet military advisers took upon themselves the training of Kurdish militants, while these militants’ preparations were overseen by People’s Commissary of Internal Affairs Lavrenty Beria and well-known specialist in diversionary actions Pavel Sudoplatov.
In 1946, Barzani’s troops returned to Iraq and continued their fight against shah Feisal II, who was still being supported by the English. At that time, the Kurds were a serious force, and they even managed to carry out the 1946 constituent congress of Democratic Party of Kurdistan in the very Bagdad, however, illegally.
On July 14, 1958, a military coup took place in Iraq: shah Feisal II was dethroned. General Abdel Karim Kasym came to power, who, as well as the shah, was backed by Englishmen, while the Soviet Union continued to support the Kurds.
However, in the political life of Iraq, one more force appeared that also could count on Moscow’s support. That was Party of Arab Socialist Revival (BAAS). Saddam Hussain was one of its active members. The new party became popular, including in the military. The terrorist methods of General Kasym’s government used on July, 17th, 1968, as a result of one more coup d’etat, BAAS came to power. Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakr became the country’s leader, while Saddam Hussain became the vice-president of Iraq. However, he soon became full master of the situation and replaced Al-Bakr. Since thae moment they came to power, the BAAS were actively backed by the Soviet Union, while the USSR stopped supporting the Kurds. As a result, Barzani started to receive powerful backing from the West, which, however, was kept back.
However, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan did not manage to avoid a split. In 1975, a group headed by Jalal Talabani withdrew from the party, but, as a matter of fact, the split was not a result of ideological discrepancies. The problem was that the clans of Barzani and Talabani are the most influential among Iraqi Kurdistan. The split was the result of a rivalry between these two clans. Moreover, after Mustafa Barzani’s death, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan was led by his son Masud, who did not have as much authority as his father and could not prevent the split. However, both groups continued to enjoy the West’s support, and after the 1980 Iran-Iraq war started, Iran’s support as well. In reply, Saddam Husain organized cruel operations against the Iraqi Kurds. In 1986 and 1988, poison gas was used against the Kurds, to be more precise, sarin gas. However, Saddam did not manage to fully overpower the Kurds. In the 1980s, he even had to proclaim Kurdish autonomy, which, however, was a poor decoration. To coordinate anti-Kurd activities between the governors of the Turkish and Iraqi border provinces, in 1986, an agreement was concluded, according to which both states’ armies could invade into territories of each other if they were following Kurds’ groups. In 1988, the agreement was confirmed on the governmental level.
In reply, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan tried to unit with Labor Party of Kurdistan, headed by the well-known Abdulla Odzhalan (who is now sentenced to death by a Turkish court). Though this cooperation did not last long. At that time, Odzhalan’s party was already included on the list of terrorist organizations, so Barzani and Talabani did not want to share his fate.
After the Desert Storm war in 1990, the Kurds tried to use the military defeat of Saddam Husain and organized a broad offensive in the north of Iraq. However, this operation was was a disaster. As a result, UN Security Council interfered in the case, which forbade the Iraqi army to enter territories over latitude 36 degrees North, i.e., where most of the Iraqi Kurds live. The decision was carried out by the US, Great Britain, and France.
In 1998, with Bill Clinton’s mediation, so-called Washington agreements were concluded between the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The essence of the agreements is that both organizations declared their intention to create a coalition government and parliament in the north of Iraq. The agreements also foresaw a joint fight against the Labour Party of Kurdistan, led by Abdullar Odzhalan; however, the agreements were never realized. Barzani and Taloabani never managed to come to an agreement, but their organizations started to fight against the Labour Party, for a banal reason: in exchange for this fight, the US renders serious assistance to them.
Recently, one more force appeared in Iraqi Kurdistan: Islamists. For the time being, nobody can say what the organization is and what is its structure. However, there are rumours about its connection with Osama bin Laden, but the source of these rumours could be found: the organizations of Barzani and Talabani, which want in this way to enlist the support of the West. Therefore, it is difficult to say how many Islamists there are in the north of Iraq and how influential they are. The example of Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq shows that there is no internal danger for Saddam Hussain. For Washington, would be comletely senseless to stake on the Kurds, Shiits in south of Iraq, or on some opposition represented by the Iraqi National Congress with Ahmed Chalabi at the head (based abroad). If even these “oppositionists” unite themselves, they will not be dangerous for Saddam Husain. They can only be dangerous if they are militarily backed by the US, including US solders. Will Washington dare to do it? We will know it in the nearest future.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/03/11/38098.html