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Iraq's Opposition and Regime Change

(Washington, DC--June 14, 2002) Most Iraqi opposition groups will come to support a U.S.-led regime change in Iraq, when the U.S. presents them a final plan, an expert on Iraq recently told an RFE/RL audience.

Kamran Al-Karadaghi, Deputy Director of Radio Free Iraq, said that "all Iraqi opposition groups have public and private positions," and though only two groups, the Iraqi National Congress and the Iraqi National Accord, have publicly agreed so far to support a U.S.-led attack against Saddam Husseyn's regime, the rest would follow because "all will want to find a place [for themselves] in the future Iraq."

Al-Karadaghi noted that within Iraq it is difficult to identify potential leaders for a regime change because over the last three decades Saddam Husseyn has imprisoned or killed any opponent or perceived opponent to his regime. "No one knows what Iraqis really think because of the totalitarian dictatorship of Saddam Husseyn -- no one in Iraq speaks his mind," Al-Karadaghi said adding, "That is the nature of totalitarian regimes; people get used to saying what they are expected to say."

The Iraqi opposition has been in exile since the 1970s, said Al-Karadaghi, and four main currents of that opposition remain today: the Islamic, the Kurdish, the Nationalist, and the Patriotic Democratic. Despite differences among the groups, Al-Karadaghi said, they "all support a model of federalism" for a post-Saddam Iraq. He said the main players in any military action would be: the Kurdish parties, both large and small; the INC; a "Group of Four" founded by the KDP, PUK, SCIRI and INA; the well-organized Communist party which "has members throughout Iraq"; the Chaldeans; and the Assyrians.

After the fall of Saddam Husseyn, Al-Karadaghi warned that "there will be chaos because the brutality of the last decades will lead to revenge killings--there are accounts to be settled". Therefore, a key concern should be an effort to minimize the chaos. In the North, he said, "you could maintain stability because 10 years of self-rule by the Kurds has helped mature both the society and political leadership." Al-Karadaghi credited the U.S. for this, saying U.S. engagement gives the Kurdish groups "focus" and promotes a united effort. Nonetheless he cautioned that "Kurdish Islamists can cause lots of problems if they receive support from Iran."