The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Stratfor analysis of US policy on Iraq

Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 20:02:57 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Iraq


Need to Know Something Fast?
Try STRATFOR's Find Facts Service
Or e-mail

Global Intelligence Update
Red Alert
March 2, 1999

U.S. Iraq Coordinator's Comments Exclude Shiites and Kurds


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.


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 

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 

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. 

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, 
or send your name, organization, position, mailing 
address, phone number, and e-mail address to

504 Lavaca, Suite 1100
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: 512-583-5000
Fax: 512-583-5025

This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email, NOT the
whole list. Archived at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]