As the Iraqi opposition masses in London to plan strategy, senior officials in Washington and London confirm that the plan to oust Saddam Hussein has been given the go-ahead and that the sell-by date has been stipulated at the next six months, January or February being forecast as the most likely dates for an all-out campaign.
It is the scope of the campaign which is at present causing more ink to fly. On one hand there are the military sources stating that a US force of 250,000 troops based in Turkey and Kuwait (possibly also Jordan), together with a 25,000-strong British force and auxiliary Australian and New Zealand special forces is to launch a three-pronged attack while political sources claim that covert operations this time would provide a much greater chance of success with fewer risks being involved.
The military attack currently being planned at US Central Command in Florida, should it come, is expected by experts to be launched next January or February. In the north, US forces based around the Turkish bases of Incirlik and Dujarbakir would link with the Kurdish forces (around 50,000 men under arms) and take Mosul airbase to use as an advanced control centre. This would be used against the 100,000 Iraqi troops stationed in the area, while in the south, an attack could be launched from the Persian Gulf, or the bases of Ali Al-Salem (Kuwait), Muharraq (Bahrain) or Al-Udeid (Qatar), to face a similar force of 100,000 Iraqi army troops. Both army groups would then launch a two-pronged attack from north and south at the 100,000 Republican Guard crack troops stationed around Baghdad.
Last time around, during the Gulf war in 1991, Saddam Hussein did not use his weapons of mass destruction on condition that he would not be removed from power. This conflict was an old-fashioned question of authority to rule over territory and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, however obnoxious this country’s oil policy had been, at the instigation no doubt of third parties, as it openly stole Iraqi oil in cross-drilling practices, was repelled.
Any conflict nowadays would have another motive, if not a legal basis for action: the removal of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath regime from power in Iraq, an action which would defy the logic of Baghdad not using Weapons of Mass Destruction both against Israel and against its neighbours as the regime went down.
However, the question remains open as to whether the rumours of a military campaign are anything more than this. A senior White House source stated recently to the British daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, that “American personnel are supporting the Iraqi opposition and working with dissatisfied elements within Saddam’s regime, even though he has killed quite a few of these people. Britain is involved too”, while at the same time admitting that “The thing people need to remember is in addition to the possibility of another Desert Storm, there are less visible things we can do”.
In the London meeting, and outside it, can be seen the forces which would be expected to appear in a post-Saddam scenario in Baghdad, although Hoshyar Zebari, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, confirmed that “we do not take any of this seriously. It is a big joke”, adding that there have been plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein for over a decade, which have all come to nothing. Until now, the two big INCs, the Iraqi National Congress, led by businessman Ahmad Chalabi but which also squandered congressional funds, and the Iraqi National Coalition, led by Generals Tawfiq Al-Yasiri and Saad Ubeidi, have been seen as the main contenders for the throne.
However, a new coalition loosely called the “Group of Four” (The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Massoud Barzani, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Jalal Talabani), the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (linked to Teheran) and the Iraqi National Accord Movement (Iyad Al-Allawi, who ominously has links to the CIA) are hailed as a new political grouping which, like the suspect band of political animals, warlords and drug traffickers currently ruling Afghanistan, could be financed into a viable yes-man administration in this oil-rich nation.
This would not be ruling out a US-sponsored monarchy, under Prince Hassan Ibn Talal, the Jordanian brother of ex-King Hussein, or the Crown Prince Adil Mohammed Ibn Faisal, heir to the Iraqi throne but currently in a Moroccan jail.
The great question lies, as always in Arab politics, in the unity of and credibility among the numerous factions involved and this even includes the standing and credibility of the United States of America. Massoud Barzani (KDP), remembering George Bush Senior’s campaign in which the Kurds were instigated to revolt against Saddam Hussein and were subsequently abandoned as thousands were massacred by a Republican Guard which had been spared the rigours of combat, has posed the question of the American President: “What if his son were to behave like his father?”
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru