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Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 20:02:57 -0600 (CST) From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: Iraq ________________________________________ Need to Know Something Fast? Try STRATFOR's Find Facts Service Visit http://www.stratfor.com/findfacts/ Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ________________________________________ Global Intelligence Update Red Alert March 2, 1999 U.S. Iraq Coordinator's Comments Exclude Shiites and Kurds Summary: The newly appointed U.S. special representative for transition in Iraq, Frank Ricciardone, was quoted in the Turkish newspaper "Milliyet" on March 1 as saying that Saddam Hussein will be toppled through a military coup. "Most probably, there will be a military coup... All I can say is that it will be very sudden and without warning," said Ricciardone. At first glance, Ricciardone's statements seem like nothing is new; after all, the U.S. has stated explicitly that it is actively seeking to support the overthrow of the current regime in Baghdad. What is interesting about this statement is that it included an apparent snub to Shiite and Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq, coming as it did within a few days of a significant policy change by the Shiite Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Their new policy amounted to a call for an explicit U.S. involvement in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the creation of autonomous regions in Iraq. While Ricciardone's statement, which appeared in a Turkish newspaper, was probably meant to alleviate Turkish fears of a Kurdish state created out of northern Iraq, it may serve to undermine efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Analysis: In an interview published on March 1 in Turkey's Milliyet newspaper, newly appointed U.S. special representative for transition in Iraq, Frank Ricciardone, said that he expected Saddam Hussein to be overthrown in a military coup. "Most probably, there will be a military coup," said Ricciardone, adding, "It will be very sudden and without warning." Then, after warning of the coup that will come without warning, Ricciardone admitted that "The United States does not have a candidate [to replace Saddam]... A military regime will be in power for some time after the coup." So Saddam won't get a warning, except this one, and the U.S. has no candidate, except for a military junta. This alone should have been enough to irritate the Shiites and Kurds, who Washington has been attempting to recruit to a coordinated effort against Saddam, but Ricciardone had a few more abrasive remarks. Specifically, when asked if the U.S. effort in Iraq would lead to a division of the country, Ricciardone said, "The chances that Iraq will be divided are almost zero." Apparently recognizing that the Shiites and Kurds would not be entirely satisfied with another Sunni military officer taking control of all of Iraq, Ricciardone acknowledged, "Of course, there will be a power struggle for some time. But it is much more risky not to do anything." The U.S. has been trying for some time to cobble together a coalition of Iraqi opposition groups, including multiple Shiite and Kurdish factions, with the aim of overthrowing the current Baghdad regime. The U.S. Congress has allocated $97 million to be distributed to qualifying opposition groups for that purpose. Thus far, none of the major Kurdish or Shiite groups have accepted U.S. aid, likely in part because of conflicting agendas and in part because the U.S. has already left the Kurds and Shiites to fend for themselves in the wake of previous attempted uprisings. The situation has changed in recent weeks, for two reasons. First, the Turkish government's arrest of the leader of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK),and its ensuing military campaign against the remnants of the PKK in northern Iraq, has not only allowed Iraq to concentrate on defending against the other Kurdish groups, but it has raised questions about Turkey's continued cooperation with the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). Second, following the murder of the outspoken Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr in the city of Najaf, and the subsequent riots that ensued in over twenty cities, the Iraqi army deployed heavy weapons to Shiite areas and cracked down on dissent. After these riots were quelled, the chairman of SCIRI Hojjat ol-Eslam Muhammad Baqir al Hakim announced SCIRI's intention to engage in a coordinated effort with U.S. to overthrow Saddam. Hakim was quoted in the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica" on February 24 as saying, "We are willing to negotiate with the United States to guarantee our people international protection and to overthrow the Baghdad regime." In that interview, Hakim also called on the U.S. to extend the no-fly zones to include all of Iraqi airspace. When asked about SCIRI's past unwillingness to cooperate with the U.S., Hakim stated, "We have reservations about this act of Congress, because it does not make explicit reference to Saddam's repressive regime. But we do call for international protection for our people... We ask that that which is being planned for Kosovo be applied to Iraq." What is being planned for Kosovo is what already happened in Bosnia. That is, NATO has tentatively drawn up occupation zones in order to monitor the peace agreement. The similarities between Bosnia and Kosovo would probably go further than that. It is important to note that the current Implementation Force (IFOR) deployment in Bosnia is along ethnic boundaries. If a similar plan should be implemented in Iraq -- as Hakim has requested -- what would result is essentially the creation of semi-autonomous states, guaranteed by international monitors. In addition to the creation of a semi-autonomous Shiite area in southern Iraq, Hakim's vision could potentially be extended to include a Kurdish state in the north. If this interpretation of Hakim's statement is correct, then U.S. involvement with SCIRI would be tantamount to an endorsement of the breakup of Iraq albeit under international supervision. Such a maneuver would leave Turkey the loser, as it would in all likelihood result in an independent Kurdish state, with the Shiites and their allies in Iran the major winners. Hence, Ricciardone's statement serves simultaneously as a direct snub to SCIRI for having called for a semi-autonomous Shiite zone in a post-Saddam Iraq and, as it was quoted in a Turkish newspaper, alleviates Turkish fears regarding an independent Kurdistan. If the U.S. has decided to squash dreams of the trifurcation of Iraq, thus risking losing any cooperation from the Kurds or Shiites, or their sponsors, it must have high hopes for the Iraqi military. There are regular reports of dissent within the Iraqi army, including coup attempts, the most recent coming just last week. The Associated Press reported on February 25 that Saddam Hussein had foiled one of the most serious attempts to oust him since the Persian Gulf War, and in response his regime executed at least one person. The coup attempt allegedly involved exiled Iraqi army commanders who contacted current Iraqi generals with a plan to oust Saddam. The plot was uncovered after two of the generals who were contacted informed on the other leaders of the coup. The Iraqi government did not comment on this report, but opposition sources within Iraq indicated that this coup attempt seemed to draw on broad support within the army. The same opposition sources also mentioned that the coup attempt was to take place during a future military standoff with the U.S. and Britain. Under the plan, the generals -- specifically the ones who leaked the information to Saddam -- were to start building support among disgruntled commanders of army divisions stationed near Baghdad. They would then have moved to control key government installations, taking advantage of a confrontation with U.S and British forces. The London-based "Al-Zaman" newspaper later confirmed on February 26 that Lt. Gen. Kamel Sachet, who was contacted by the former officers and apparently failed to inform Saddam, was executed on January 26 after being convicted of treason. The idea of a military coup occurring under the umbrella and confusion of a U.S.-U.K. air attack is not new. On January 6, STRATFOR reported on the possibility that the U.S and British air operation during Desert Fox was in fact a cover for an attempted coup. We also reported that a number of officers in Iraq's Republican Guard and 3rd corps were summarily executed and Iraq's military was reorganized in what was an apparently an attempt to defend Baghdad from the Iraqi army, just as the aerial bombardment began. That bombardment proceeded to target the Special Republican Guard and Air Force units Saddam relies on for his personal defense. If this was an example of a coup attempt inspired and supported by the United States, it obviously failed. With Saddam repeatedly demonstrating his ability to uncover and dismantle coup attempts from within his military and security apparatus, Ricciardone's statement prompts us to wonder what he intended. Why would the U.S. scuttle relations with the Kurds, the Shiites, and the Shiites' sponsor, Iran, in favor of Sunni officers with a propensity to end up blindfolded and against a wall? Of course the U.S. and its regional allies would prefer a secular, Sunni dominated Iraq over a piecemeal cluster of Iranian client state, Kurdestan, and rump Iraq, but Ricciardone himself said, "It is much more risky not to do anything." One possibility is that Ricciardone's statements simply represent naivete on his part, as in doing little more than attempting to assuage Turkish concerns, he failed to realize the impact of his comments on anti-Saddam forces. Not only could Ricciardone's comments alienate the Shiites and Kurds, but they could allow Saddam to focus greater attention on purging his military. Maybe that was the goal. A second possibility is that the U.S. is attempting to bluff Saddam -- claiming to reject the Shiites while tacitly coordinating activity with them. But this is highly unlikely as it would mean that the U.S. is prepared to disregard Turkish interests in having the Kurds remain divided among the dominant powers of the region, and to jettison some Arab support in exchange for Iranian involvement in the Shiite cause. Therefore, the third and most likely possibility is that his assertion represents a further "clarification" of U.S. policy. The U.S. has continued to assert that Iraq must remain intact given the geopolitics of the region. By the same token, due to its internal politics, Iraq needs to have a military regime to keep the country together. This leaves the U.S. with two options. The first is to continue with the status quo -- Saddam remains in power. In the meantime, the U.S. strategy of raiding Iraq's air defenses seems to be a cost-effective means for containing his power. However, international pressure applied by the emerging Franco-Sino-Russian bloc may ultimately erode U.S. capability to continue that strategy, and the U.S. will find it hard to come to a post-bombardment diplomatic settlement with the man it has demonized for nearly a decade. The only option remaining is to provide support for a military coup; however, the problem with this strategy is that Saddam is quite aware of these options and has moved to quash coup attempts before they begin. Ricciardone's statement serves only to highlight the simple fact that, when it comes to developing a coherent policy toward Iraq, the United States is caught between a rock and a hard place. ___________________________________________________ To receive free daily Global Intelligence Updates, sign up on the web at http://www.stratfor.com/mail/, or send your name, organization, position, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address to email@example.com ___________________________________________________ STRATFOR, Inc. 504 Lavaca, Suite 1100 Austin, TX 78701 Phone: 512-583-5000 Fax: 512-583-5025 Internet: http://www.stratfor.com/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html