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Stratfor.com's Global Intelligence Update - 20 July 2000 __________________________________________ Know your world. Warning: Chechen Terrorist Threat in Russia Rises http://www.stratfor.com/CIS/commentary/0007192240.htm Milosevic Gets His Way - Again http://www.stratfor.com/CIS/commentary/0007192304.htm _________________________________________ The Iraqi Opposition Falls on Hard Times Summary Iraqi opposition groups are claiming that they are increasingly the targets of operations by Baghdad's intelligence service. Reports in Arabic-language newspapers and by individual opposition figures claim that colleagues are being assassinated in Iran, in particular, with the approval of the Tehran government. The reports themselves seem to reflect only a fragment of the truth: Sponsors in both Washington and Tehran have cast the opposition adrift, feuding has probably turned to infighting and Baghdad's security services are taking advantage of increasing targets of opportunity. Summary Iraqi exiles are claiming that Iraqi intelligence agents are mounting significant operations against opposition groups in Iran, with the apparent approval of the Tehran government. Reports of these operations cite apparent assassinations, including one case in which several opposition figures were poisoned. The reports have been aired both by individual opposition figures and the newspaper, Al-Zaman, an organ of the London-based Iraqi opposition movement. These reports are among many signs that the Iraqi opposition - once viewed by Tehran and Washington as key to overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein - is falling apart at the seams. It now appears increasingly unlikely that the opposition can pose a credible threat to the Iraqi regime. Credit, ironically enough, goes chiefly to the United States and Iran, whose support has flagged significantly. The Baghdad regime is likely taking advantage of the fragmented state of the opposition. ________________________________________________________________ Would you like to see full text? http://www.stratfor.com/SERVICES/giu2000/072000.ASP ___________________________________________________________________ The Iraqi opposition has always been a colorful mix of political, ethnic and religious groups: Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Arabs, Turkics, Assyrians, monarchists, communists, liberals and former military officers. Most of these groups meet and coordinate through the umbrella Iraqi National Congress (INC). The opposition was moderately successful immediately after the Gulf War, when rebels reached the Baghdad suburbs. But since then they have been limited to defending territory covered by the northern and southern no-fly- zones enforced by the United States and Great Britain. Generally prone to feuding and without a coherent strategy by either of its most important sponsors, Washington and Tehran, the opposition has fallen on excruciatingly hard times in the last month. One of the most active militant groups was the Supreme Council of the Islamic Movement in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shiite group backed by Iran that claimed responsibility for Katyusha rocket attacks against the Iraqi presidential palace in May. But Iraqi intelligence services are allegedly acting against the SCIRI inside Iran. The exiles claim that the Iranian government approves of these operations. The claim may be a little far- fetched; Iraq and Iran have a long history of animosity. But someone does appear to be cracking down on the SCIRI. It is entirely possible that Iran is suppressing the Iraqi Shiites in order to gain greater control over the opposition groups. Al-Zaman reported June 10 that the rank-and-file of the SCIRI is pushing the Iranians to allow the group to select its own leader without Iranian interference. Kurdish forces in the north of Iraq - perhaps the most militarily capable of all the opposition parties - are also facing problems. The three strongest Kurd factions have spent as much time fighting each other as they have fighting Iraqi forces. Besides historic clan-based rivalries, the main bone of contention is the tens of millions of dollars in customs fees that comes from control of the border. _______________________________________________________________ For more on Iraq, see: http://www.stratfor.com/MEAF/countries/Iraq/default.htm __________________________________________________________________ U.S.-sponsored talks between two of the factions, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), ended on July 3 - without an agreement between the two. Admittedly, the American-sponsored effort got off on the wrong foot after reciprocal car bombings in early June. KDP forces were blamed for killing two in a July 12 attack on the headquarters of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, a smaller opposition member. And one of the few remaining PUK members of the KDP-dominated Kurdish parliament was shot July 18. The umbrella organization, the Iraqi National Congress isn't faring much better. Representatives of the INC met with U.S. officials in Washington before traveling to a July 7 meeting in London. They got some support from Congress and Vice President Al Gore, but weren't able to shake loose any of the $97 million authorized by the Iraqi Liberation Act. Once in London, more than a third of the Central Council boycotted the meeting. Some cited the INC's lack of democratic process while others, such as the former military and security officers of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), were frustrated with the INC's inability to act. The remaining members spent much of the rest of the meeting arguing over resources and admitted that much of the next year would be spent forming an administrative backbone - not toppling the regime in Baghdad. Although the INC isn't much of a threat, Al-Zaman reports that Iraqi intelligence operatives were finishing a plan, nicknamed "Hawk-1" to assassinate dissidents with car accidents and poison. Baghdad has also reportedly directed supporters who had been lying low in Europe to start working in support of the regime, according to the Iraqi Communist Party. Both stories are unconfirmed, but plausible. Iraq has assassinated dissidents in the past. The alternative explanation is even worse; that the dissidents are plotting against each other and blaming the government. This much is clear: Iraq's opposition certainly appears to be unraveling, and is doing so in the midst of a transitional period for Iraq and for the Middle East. Three of Iraq's longtime foes are in a state of flux. New leadership has arisen in Syria; Baghdad and Damascus have made cautious entreaties toward one another. The United States is hardly supporting the opposition at present, and is unlikely to do so for the next six months. The current administration wants to deflect attention away from Iraq, and the next president is unlikely to put the issue at the top of his agenda. Meanwhile, Iran is preoccupied by its own political and economic instability, and has even cooperated with Iraq - helping it smuggle oil out of the Gulf. In the absence of oversight by outside sponsors, the Iraqi opposition appears to be breaking up under its own internal pressures - and Iraqi security services may be hastening their demise. If their leaderships so desire, the United States and Iran can use this pause to officially withdraw support from the opposition and make a gesture of some kind toward the Baghdad regime. Saddam may reject any gestures, or the United States may decide to redouble its efforts at toppling the regime. In both cases, the opposition will receive renewed support - but only much farther down the road. Things will get worse for the opposition before they get better. _______________________________________________________________ For more on the Middle East & Africa, see: http://www.stratfor.com/MEAF/default.htm __________________________________________________________________ (c) 2000 Stratfor, Inc. _______________________________________________ SUBSCRIBE to the free, daily Global Intelligence Update. 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