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News, 19-26/02/03 (4) IRAQI OPPOSITION/COLLABORATION * Iraqi Opposition Figures Delay Meeting * Iraq Shi'ite group [SCIRI] denies troop build-up in N.Iraq * Shiites ready to fight, but on their own terms * Al-Sharif Ali movement boycotts Irbil meetings * US rule in post-Saddam Iraq 'would bring terrorist attacks' * Iraqi Opposition Leaders Gather * Iraqi Dissidents Get Military Training * U.S. drill sergeants train Iraqi exiles on remote base * Regional Squabbling Scuttles an Iraqi Opposition Meeting * U.S. Said to Doom Iraqi Opposition Conference IRAQI OPPOSITION/COLLABORATION http://cgi.wn.com/?action=display&article=18753568&template=kurdishpost/inde xsearch.txt&index=recent * IRAQI OPPOSITION FIGURES DELAY MEETING Associated Press, 19th February IRBIL, Iraq (AP) ‹ A long-planned meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders in northern Iraq has been delayed "three or four days" because of complications caused by weather, a Kurdish opposition leader said Wednesday. Hoshyar Zebari, foreign relations chief of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said many opposition figures based in Washington have been unable to travel because of a snowstorm that shut down the region's airports. Snow in Iran also impeded travelers. "The opposition leadership is determined to make this happen," Zebari told reporters at a news conference. "It looks like now it will happen in three or four days." The meeting is expected to bring together delegates elected during a London opposition conference in December to map out a framework for a future Iraqi government if Saddam Hussein is overthrown. It has been delayed several times. The goal of the meeting is "to speak with one voice to the outside world," Zebari said. Fawzi Hariri, a Kurdistan Democratic Party spokesman, said they were trying to attain a quorum of at least 40 of the 65 member steering committee elected in London. Representatives of the United States, Turkey, Britain and France are planning to attend. Russia also has expressed an interest in attending, as have several Arab countries. Also Wednesday, a group that represents ethnic Turks in northern Iraq said they would file a formal complaint with the United Nations charging that their security chief was illegally arrested over allegations he intended to disrupt the opposition meeting. Abdul Amer Izzat Abdulla, 36, the security chief of the Iraq Turkoman Front, was stopped and arrested by armed members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party on Feb. 11. The front, a small opposition group claiming northern Iraq for Turkey, said Abdulla has not been heard from since his arrest. The party has prepared a draft letter they plan to present to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, said Sanan Ahmet Aga, president of the party. The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which rules the western half of the autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, alleges Abdulla was part of a Saddam-backed plot to sabotage the meeting. http://biz.yahoo.com/rm/030219/iraq_sciri_troops_1.html * IRAQ SHI'ITE GROUP [SCIRI] DENIES TROOP BUILD-UP IN N.IRAQ Yahoo, 19th February MEYDAN, Iraq, Feb 19 (Reuters) - A Tehran-based Iraqi opposition group on Wednesday denied a report that it had sent around 5,000 of its troops over from Iran into the Kurdish enclave of northern Iraq to prepare for a possible war. Quoting unnamed Iranian officials, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), had sent up to 5,000 of his Badr Forces troops into northern Iraq with the aim of securing the frontier. "I strongly deny this Financial Times report," a SCIRI spokesman in Tehran told Reuters. He said the Badr Forces had recently planned to hold a parade of about 5,000 men near the southern Iranian city of Ahwaz. The parade, to which Tehran-based media had been invited earlier this month, was postponed at the last minute and has yet to be rescheduled. Al-Hakim's Badr Forces, believed to number around 10,000, are thought to have been equipped and trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The Shi'ite cleric has been based in Tehran since 1980 and enjoys a close relationship with Iran's clerical leaders, provoking concern in some Washington circles that his armed militia could act as a proxy force for the Iranian government inside Iraq. A SCIRI commander in Meydan, an Iraqi Kurd village close to the high peaks that mark the Iranian border, also denied that thousands of Badr Forces troops were now based in northern Iraq. The commander said the Badr Forces had other bases inside northern Iraq but declined to say where they were. Villagers in the area close to a SCIRI military base in northeastern Iraq said they had seen a large number of trucks bringing SCIRI troops from Iran in recent days. Meydan residents said trucks carrying SCIRI forces had come to the village, which is on the road from the Iranian border, but then moved on to other parts of northern Iraq. A Reuters reporter in Meydan saw at least 200 of the Shi'ite Muslim SCIRI's Badr Forces, wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles. Iraqi opposition leaders were gathering in the Kurdish-controlled enclave on Wednesday to hold a meeting aimed at presenting a united front which could play a leading role in a post President Saddam Hussein Iraq. Opposition leaders have expressed alarm that Washington may replace Saddam with a transitional military administration before the creation of a civilian government. Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/050/nation/Shiites_ready_to_fight_but_on_t heir_own_terms+.shtml * SHIITES READY TO FIGHT, BUT ON THEIR OWN TERMS by Elizabeth Neuffer, Globe Staff, 2/19/2003 Boston Globe, 19th February TEHRAN -- Should the United States decide to attack Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi tank brigade commander Mohammed al-Taie vows he will not be far behind. Taie said he hopes to leave his home in exile in Iran and join with thousands of fellow Iraqis ready to revolt against their repressive leader. They have been rallied to do so by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a major Shiite opposition group based in Iran. "We are confident we have the numbers and the strength inside Iraq to act, " said Taie, 47, the Supreme Council's liaison with its mujahideen in Iraq. "As a military man, I think Saddam is weaker than anyone can imagine." When Iraqi opposition leaders convene this week in northern Iraq to map out a post-Hussein future, members of this key Shiite opposition group -- which once advocated an Islamic state in Iraq but is now calling for democracy for its homeland -- will be among them. With membership drawn from Iraq's Shiite religious majority in exile, the Supreme Council is likely to play a pivotal role if Hussein is toppled, analysts say. And with troops based in Iran and supporters in Iraq, the Supreme Council could also aid in battling Baghdad should war occur. Headquartered for more than 20 years in Iran, the Supreme Council has waged numerous cross-border guerilla attacks against Hussein's regime. But council leaders say they also draw strength from their Badr Brigade -- reportedly 10,000 strong -- poised to wage war from inside Iraq and from bases in the bordering Iranian province of Khuzestan, should Iran allow them to cross. Years of hostilities between Baghdad and Tehran, including a brutal war during most of the 1980s, have restricted movement across the border. Council leaders say they have hundreds of additional members they have courted over the years inside Iraq, with sympathizers even among Hussein's top forces, the elite Republic Guard. "For 22 years we have been waiting for this relief; this day of ease," said Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al- Hakim, the group's spiritual leader, when asked about the prospect of Hussein's ouster. ShiiteMuslims represent about 60 percent of the Iraqi population, but it is the country's Sunni minority that hold power. The white-bearded Shiite cleric, whose black turban marks him as a descendant of the prophet Mohammed, has been in exile in Iran since 1980, one year after Hussein came to power. But Hakim and his family have long been the target of Baghdad's ire: Hakim himself was tortured and imprisoned, and five of his brothers, and 50 of his relatives, have been killed. Harbored by Iran's conservative Shiite elite, Hakim once envisioned Iraq's liberation from Hussein as the chance for the birth of an Iranian-style Islamic state in Iraq. Now Hakim, 63, said there should be "freedom, and a democratic government that represents all the sects of Iraq." Today, however, Washington's plans for a post-Hussein Iraq, not its future religious leanings, have Hakim most concerned. His representatives are now in Iraq's northern Kurdish enclave to attend a meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders -- a session called after US State Department officials floated the idea of US military rule before a civilian government in Iraq. Iraqi opposition groups resoundingly oppose a US military administration. "The Americans say they want to liberate Iraq," the cleric said. "But how, with whom, and for how long they will stay in Iraq -- this is ambiguous, and for this reason the Iraqi people are anxious." Hakim will also host a meeting of Shiite opposition groups next week in Tehran to discuss what role the Shiites will play in a post-Hussein Iraq. Iran's official news agency IRNA said yesterday that representatives from the Islamic Amal Organization of Iraq and the Islamic Hizb al-Dawa of Iraq will take part. But of the Shiite opposition groups, the Supreme Council appears to have the most clout. Hakim's brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, was among the Iraqi opposition group leaders who met with Bush administration officials in Washington last year. Hakim, the Supreme Council's military advisor, said he gave the administration documents obtained from a "high-ranking military authority" in Hussein's regime that revealed Baghdad still harbored banned chemical weapons. Even now, he says, the Supreme Council has informants and allies in Baghdad's highest circles, including members of Hussein's regime. Inside Iraq, the council draws support from Shiite communities in the south and west of Iraq that have long been persecuted by Baghdad. The group also draws support from those who remember Bakr, Hakim's late father, the former grand ayatollah of Iraq's Shiites who is known for issuing a fatwah against Hussein's Ba'ath Party. For that reason, analysts say the Shiite group is a force to be reckoned with and possibly in a position to assume control in southern Iraq should Hussein's government collapse. "Aside from the Kurds, SCIRI is the only Iraqi opposition group that clearly has popular support and armed supporters inside Iraq," said Peter Galbraith, a professor at the National War College in Washington, D.C. Outside Iraq, the opposition group draws its membership from former Iraqi military commanders, many of whom are not Shiite. Former tank commander Taie is a Sunni. "We have far more military in exile and more on the ground in Iraq," said Taie, speaking at the group's headquarters, where windows were covered with bullet-proof grates and doors guarded by Kalashnikov-toting guards. "The other groups are more political." Many of the Supreme Council's loyalists are survivors of a failed uprising against Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War. They believe the United States allowed the Iraqi leader to crush their revolt immediately after the war. Should Iran allow them to cross into Iraq, they want to battle the Iraqi regime on their own terms, which could complicate the Pentagon's military plans. "I will fight Saddam but not under the American umbrella," said Hamid al-Jobori, an Iraqi tank commander who defected to join the 1991 uprising and later escaped to Iran. The Shiite opposition group also draws followers from the thousands of Iraqi exiles in Iran who have transformed one corner of southern Tehran into a tiny Iraqi enclave. There, sweetshops offer delicacies not found in Iran. Every street has a traditional, ornately decorate Shiite meeting hall, or husseiniyah. These exiles were victims of Hussein's regime. Some were deported. Others escaped. Many fled the Republican Guard, who took revenge on Shiite strongholds such as the holy city of Najaf and villages in the southern Iraqi marshlands after the failed 1991 rebellion against Hussein. "We were 30,000 who left. They were detaining anyone who participated, and doing mass killings," said Ali Alaway, a 33-year-old pastry chef. Now, he and others here live for only one thing: to go home. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/030221/2003022112.html * AL-SHARIF ALI MOVEMENT BOYCOTTS IRBIL MEETINGS Arabic News, 21st February A group representing the Iraqi opposition announced it will boycott the already postponed meeting for the Iraqi opposition which was due yesterday in Irbil, a main Kurdistani city. Also another group intends not to take part in this meeting of the follow up and coordination committee of the Iraqi opposition which was expected to be held since weeks in Kurdistan, north Iraq, to discuss the aftermath of the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The leader of the movement for "Constitutional Monarchy," al-Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, said from London that the movement whose aim is to restore the monarchy to Iraq after its toppling in 1958 "will not take part in Irbil meeting." He announced that his movement opposes the measure not to form a preliminary committee to draw a timetable for the follow up committee which was formed at the London's opposition conference in December 2002. Meantime, the Hawalati paper which is issued in Irbil said that the "movement for constitutional monarchy and the movement for national understanding" will boycott Irbil meeting because they support the formation of an American military government after toppling Saddam Hussein regime. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1045511010419&p=1012571727172/ * US RULE IN POST-SADDAM IRAQ 'WOULD BRING TERRORIST ATTACKS' by Tony Walker in Tehran Financial Times, 21st February Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, one of Iraq's exiled leaders, has warned of terrorist attacks against US "infidels" if the Americans establish a military protectorate in Iraq. In a pointed warning to the US, Ayatollah Hakim, leader of the exiled Shia community, said any attempt to impose US rule on Iraq in the post-Saddam period would be "very dangerous". "This will create a kind of popular sensitivity among the Iraqi people, who will refuse foreign domination," Ayatollah Hakim said in an interview at his heavily barricaded headquarters in central Tehran. "Iraqi Muslims will consider an occupying force as infidels on Arab territory. This will result in violence and resistance." But as war comes nearer, he appeared to soften earlier warnings against military action, saying President Saddam Hussein caused the "real problems for the Iraqi people", and this needed to be "solved". Ayatollah Hakim's remarks coincide with preparations for a meeting of opposition groups in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. His warning reflects growing anxiety among these factions over US plans for a post-Saddam era. Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a largely secular body of Iraqi exiles, this week described any proposed US military administration as "unworkable and unwise" because it was "predicated on keeping Saddam's existing structures of government, administration and security in place". A conference in London last December established a 75-member "co-ordinating committee" to work on a power-sharing strategy, but the Iraqi opposition is riven with differences. Ayatollah Hakim repeated the standard refrain that a post-Saddam administration must be representative of "Iraqi sects and groups", but he made it clear that he expected Islamic law to be "the main source of legislation in Iraq". He did not exclude the possibility of running for elected office as leader. Ayatollah Hakim's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) is the most visible of the Shia resistance groups, but it does not go unchallenged. Shias comprise 60 per cent of Iraq's 23m people and their representatives will expect a decisive say. The other main opposition groups include - apart from Sciri and the INC - the Iraqi National Accord, another Shia group, and the two Kurdish factions: the Kurdistan Democratic party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistans. Kurds account for about 20 per cent of Iraq's population. Speaking Arabic, Ayatollah Hakim, who has been in exile since 1980, said that Sciri had traditionally opposed war against Iraq but if there was no other way, force would have to be used provided it was sanctioned by the United Nations. He likened moves to rid Iraq of Mr Hussein to a "police exercise" and said that the Iraqi leader should be tried by the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague like Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav dictator. He described Mr Hussein as "worse than Milosevic". Ayatollah Hakim, who says he lost up to 50 family members at the hands of Mr Hussein's security apparatus, called for implementation of resolution 688, passed after the 1991 Gulf war. It provides for sanctions against Iraq in the event that violence is used against civilians. http://cgi.wn.com/?action=display&article=18825683&template=kurdishpost/inde xsearch.txt&index=recent * IRAQI OPPOSITION LEADERS GATHER Associated Press, 22nd February IRBIL, Iraq (AP) ‹ From the most radical communist to the most pro-American figures, Iraqi opposition members gathering here to discuss the country's future expressed deep reservations Saturday about reported U.S. plans for an Iraq after the potential ouster of Saddam Hussein. Criticism of an American proposal to replace the Baghdad government with a U.S.-led military government runs deep and wide. Many of the delegates assembling here also said they felt betrayed by U.S. President George W. Bush's administration, which they perceive to be ignoring the Iraqi opposition. "We don't think an American occupation will work," said Mowaffak al Rubaie, a Shiite Arab delegate to the opposition meeting expected to begin next week. "The people will see Mr. George Bush as an occupier. The people of Iraq will take to the streets. There will be rebellion," he said. American postwar plans, first outlined to Kurdish opposition figures in Turkey this month, were presented at U.S. congressional hearings. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman said in early February that the administration's plans include the "liberation" of Iraq ‹ not a long-term U.S. military occupation, and maintenance of the country's territorial integrity. A final goal will be elections based on a democratic constitution, he said, predicting that Americans would be in charge of Iraq for two years. Even the traditionally pro-American Kurds, who run the autonomous northern enclave here under the protection of U.S. and British air patrols, have lashed out against the Americans because of reports the United States is considering a plan that would allow the Kurds' longtime enemy Turkey to send up to 80,000 troops into Iraq as part of the U.S.-led invasion. "Its a nightmare for me to wake up and see Turkish tanks outside," said Nasreen Sideek Barwari, the U.S.-educated Kurdish reconstruction minister. She says she's unable to visit her ancestral home at the northern edge of Iraq because of the Turkish military presence already there. "If they came here, there would be demonstrations. There would be resistance," she said. Turkey, which appears ready to allow U.S. troops to launch an invasion of Iraq from Turkish territory, is demanding that its troops be allowed to go into northern Iraq to maintain stability. Many Turks fear a war could prompt Iraqi Kurds to declare an independent state, which might encourage Turkey's own, restive Kurdish minority in their separatist goals. At a news conference Saturday, representatives of Iraq's ethnic Turk and Christian minorities all voiced doubt about the U.S. plans. "We would not support any military regime in Iraq, whether by Americans or anyone else," said Romeo Hakari, of the Assyrian Democratic Party, which represents some of Iraq's Christian community. "We would not like to replace the current regime with another general." The Kurds say they would be willing to head into the mountains and actively fight any Turkish incursion, but have said they would only be constructively critical of any U.S. proposal to occupy Iraq. Other opponents of the American plan warned that they would fight any long-term occupation. Such critics include the Kurdistan Communist Party, which polled 10 percent of the vote in Irbil municipal elections last year and has military bases in several northern Iraqi cities. Shaphol Fathi Kareem, editor of Regai, the party's weekly newspaper, said the communists had fought for 30 years against the party that now rules Iraq. "We're definitely, 100 percent ready to sacrifice more lives," he said. At the fancy Chwar Chra Hotel, figures from a 65-member Iraqi opposition steering committee said they would defy what they perceived as U.S. slighting of the Iraqi opposition groups. Delegates held a two-hour "exploratory meeting" Saturday afternoon in Salahuddin, before the oft-delayed conference, now slated to begin no sooner than Monday in the mountaintop stronghold of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which rules this section of the Kurdish autonomous area. Iraqi opposition figures insist the meeting will not wind up declaring a provisional post-war government with ministerial titles. "For now everything is in the air," said Husham Al Husainy, a Dearborn, Michigan-based Shiite Arab cleric and member of the 65. "We'll come down later and we'll determine who's taking what." http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/feb/23/022302840.html * IRAQI DISSIDENTS GET MILITARY TRAINING by Pablo Gorondi Las Vegas Sun, 23rd February TASZAR AIR BASE, Hungary (AP): Hakim was so eager to help overthrow Saddam Hussein, he sold a successful business in California, drew up a will and bade farewell to his American wife and children. Oppression under Saddam's regime is "like Hitler's, but multiplied 10 times or more," the Iraqi dissident said. Flashing a steely determination, he added: "My mission is to assist in creating a free and democratic Iraq." Under heavy security, Hakim and other exiled opponents of Baghdad intent on liberating their homeland are undergoing U.S. Army training on a Hungarian air base to prepare for volunteer duty as guides, translators and guards in case of war. At a corner of the based dubbed "Camp Freedom, they spoke for the first time to The Associated Press of their hopes and fears for the future. The Hungarian government authorized the United States to bring 1,500 trainers and up to 3,000 Iraqis for sessions at the base 120 miles southwest of Budapest, provided the dissidents do not receive combat training. Though the first group included only about 50 Iraqis, the Army says more have arrived and will begin training this week. "I've been very surprised and very impressed at what an optimistic and enthusiastic group this has been," said Maj. Gen. David W. Barno, commander of the American training task force. Hakim, whose last name and age were withheld for security reasons, left Iraq in 1974 at the urging of his mother after several family members were killed for opposing the dictatorial regime. "I have eight brothers and sisters, and she told me, 'Go, I don't want to lose all of you,'" Hakim recounted Saturday in an interview. Dressed in a U.S.-issue camouflage uniform bearing the insignia "Free Iraqi Forces," Hakim - his eyes misty and voice quavering - said he had not been in direct contact with his family in Iraq since his escape nearly three decades ago to the United Arab Emirates, a journey which later led took him to the United States. A holder of university degrees in mathematics, petrochemical engineering and business administration, Hakim blames Saddam for "destroying a culture which was the cradle of civilization and a gift to the world." His goal, the Shiite Muslim said, is a regime change "where everybody has dignity and a good life regardless of religion or race." Mohammed, another California resident, has a 9-year-old daughter and sold computers before coming to Taszar. He shared Hakim's frustration when asked about recent worldwide demonstrations against war in Iraq. "People really don't know what's going on in Iraq. If they knew Saddam, there would be no demonstrations," said Mohammed, who dismisses the notion that America is only after Iraq's plentiful oil. "Saddam is willing to give all the oil in Iraq just to stay in power," he said. "Anyway, Iraq has to sell to the United States or to Europe. People can't drink the oil." The chief U.N. inspectors and key European countries are holding out hope that war is not inevitable. But Mohammed said he believed the current showdown, unlike the 1991 Gulf War, would not end until Saddam is deposed. "I think this time America is very, very serious. I don't think they would send 150,000 soldiers to the Gulf if they were just playing the same game as before," he said. Life on the base is austere compared to what most of the trainees left behind in the United States, Canada and other countries where they've sought refuge. They're not allowed to leave the base, and they sleep on cots with foam mattresses inside tents the size of several basketball courts. Barno, the U.S. training commander, said a deliberate decision had been made to have representatives of as many ethnic and social groups as possible from all parts of Iraq, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Trainers said one of the biggest challenges of working with the volunteers was getting them used to teamwork and acquiring the discipline essential for surviving in a hostile environment. "It seems they've put down a lot of personal grudges" stemming from their varied social and religious origins, said Sgt. Eric Kraft, a first aid instructor. "They have a common goal here." U.S. officials would not confirm speculation that the Iraqis being trained at Taszar could form the core of a postwar administration in Baghdad if Saddam is deposed. Although Washington reportedly is considering a plan under which the Baghdad regime would be replaced with a U.S.-led military government, American officials have said there is no desire for a long-term occupation of the country. Taszar's trainees said they were confident that ordinary Iraqis, once out from under Saddam's tyranny, eventually would get used to living in a democracy. "I have faith, but you have to be realistic," Hakim said. "If you take a person from total dictatorship and switch him between day and night to democracy, it's got to be supervised." "But the seed is there," he said. "There's a love for freedom and dignity in Iraq, of that I have no doubt." Hakim, who first learned about the training program from a friend while drinking coffee in a Starbucks cafe near his California office, said he felt it was only a matter of time before international support for U.S. policy in Iraq grew. "America has taken the initiative, just like it did in the first and second world wars," Hakim said. "When the rest of the world understands, it will line up behind it." "It is the time for this mission. I cannot take my mind off of it," he said. http://www.mlive.com/newsflash/business/index.ssf?/cgi free/getstory_ssf.cgi?f0021_BC_WSJ--FreeIraqiForces&&news&newsflash-financia l * U.S. DRILL SERGEANTS TRAIN IRAQI EXILES ON REMOTE BASE by Greg Jaffe Ann Arbor News, from The Wall Street Journal, 25th February TASZAR AIR BASE, Hungary -- Behind spools of razor wire, black sniper screens and knee deep snowdrifts at this former Soviet air base, about 60 shivering Iraqi exiles assembled in front of a U.S. Army drill sergeant. "Left face! March!" the sergeant yelled. The ragtag recruits, ranging in age from 18 to 55, pivoted and stepped in time with the barrel-chested sergeant's boot-camp chant: Yellow bird with a yellow bill Sitting on my window sill. Lured him in with crust of bread And then I crushed his little head. The recruits, many of whom speak no English, repeated the unfamiliar syllables -- "leered heem een with crost of brood" -- while breaking ranks to avoid stepping in ice-encrusted mud puddles. Here at "Camp Freedom," the U.S. Army is preparing hundreds of exiles over the coming weeks and months to assist U.S. troops in an invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. The U.S. military has long trained foreign armies and even guerrilla fighters to assist U.S. troops. But the effort here marks the first time that the military has deployed drill sergeants to instruct civilians. The Pentagon has concluded that it must work closely with what's left of Iraq's ailing civilian infrastructure during and after a possible war to avert chaos. Many of the recruits, all living in the U.S., have shut down their businesses and left behind wives and children to come to this frigid air base. Most suffered under Saddam's rule and have scars from bullet wounds and prison beatings to prove it. They are eager to transform Iraq into a democracy, but they are also determined to exact some revenge on their tormentors. Talib, a 52-year-old Iraqi Kurd who owns a vehicle-inspection company outside San Diego, reported for duty in late January expecting to find himself among future generals and government ministers. Instead he saw an 18-year-old fellow exile slumped in a corner listening to rapper Tupac Shakur on his headphones. "At that moment I wanted to go back," he says. "When I saw this kid I thought it's not worth it." Drill sergeants quickly named the young recruit "Tupac." Also at the camp: his older brother, known as "Three Pack," and his beer-bellied father, dubbed "Six Pack." (The Pentagon allowed The Wall Street Journal access to the camp and recruits last week on the condition it not report recruits' last names.) The Pentagon has no illusions that these volunteers, many of whom are too overweight or too old for combat, can be shaped into a credible fighting force. Although the recruits dress in green U.S. Army camouflage uniforms, the only weapons training they get is a few days of instruction on how to shoot a 9mm pistol. Rather, the U.S. hopes the "Free Iraqi Forces" -- which could number in the low thousands -- will help in a potential invasion by identifying sensitive holy sites, ferrying food and shelter to displaced civilians and, eventually, advising U.S. commanders as they work with mayors, electric-plant operators and hospital administrators to stabilize and rebuild the country. Getting this training off the ground was a struggle. To demonstrate it wasn't a unilateral U.S. exercise, Pentagon officials wanted an ally to host the training. Many countries in Europe and Africa refused. Finally, Hungary agreed to open an empty corner of this remote air base about three hours southeast of Budapest that was used by U.S. forces during the Bosnia peacekeeping mission in the 1990s. After that, the U.S. gave the Iraqi expatriates four days notice to report, at U.S. taxpayer expense, to Fort Bliss in Texas. There, the Iraqis were screened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency before being shipped abroad in windowless gray C-141 cargo planes. Enforcing military discipline at the camp has been a challenge. Drill sergeants were prepared for infighting among Iraq's fractious ethnic groups but say there's been little of that. There has, however, been a lot of arguing. "They argue about everything. How cold it is. How to say 'wake up' in Arabic," says Sgt. Major George Duncan, the senior enlisted soldier charged with overseeing the camp. The constant infighting convinced drill sergeants they needed to bear down on recruits, so they unplugged the television and declared the base game room off limits. That improved things a bit. But then it became clear that imposing too much discipline on these recruits -- so different from the U.S. Army volunteers the instructors are used to training -- could also backfire. Frustrated that some were taking too long to clean their bunks, 1st Sgt. David Williams took away their 30-minute evening coffee break. Saib, a civil engineer in his 40s with a daughter in college, was furious. The owlish-looking recruit with thinning hair and wire-rim glasses refused to eat three straight meals. "He'd just stare at me. For two days he stared," says Sgt. Williams. When Sgt. Carl Debose told another recruit that his bunk wasn't made properly, the Iraqi responded angrily: "I am well educated and I don't think that you are," Sgt. Debose recalls. To avoid losing the recruits, Sgt. Maj. Duncan urged drill sergeants to be "more polite" and to praise the troops more often. The month-long training is divided into two-week sessions. The first covers military skills such as marching, shooting and identifying land mines. The second focuses on classroom instruction on topics such as handling refugees, prisoners and Army defectors. After breakfast one day last week, the troops marched to a class on dealing with civilians forced from their homes by war. The discussion quickly veered from the general to the specific. Thamir, a 30-year-old Shia Arab, wanted to know who should be held responsible for the brutal mistreatment he says he and other Shia received in Saudi Arabian refugee camps after the Gulf War. "What the Saudis did to you and your people sounds like it was wrong," said the teacher, Maj. Edward Eversman. Not satisfied, Thamir retold his story to his drill sergeant after class. The drill sergeant seemed unsure what to say. Then Thamir called out to another volunteer, who hiked up his shirt and pulled down his pants to reveal a long brownish white scar on his lower back. "This is from the refugee camps. This is where the Saudis shot him," Thamir told the drill sergeant. When they returned for the second half of the class, a recruit named Tom, who fled southern Iraq when Saddam's troops crushed a 1991 uprising there, asked what will happen to Saddam's enforcers if they're spotted. That decision will be made by U.S. policymakers, not by soldiers like me, Maj. Eversman said. Tom was irked. "How do you feel if you see someone walking down your street and he killed your cousin, your brother, your sister?" demanded Tom, who works as a fry cook in Lincoln, Neb. "As a soldier, it is my job ... " Maj. Eversman began. "No, no, tell me not as a soldier. Tell me as a man," Tom interrupted. After the class Tom concluded, "I don't believe that major understands what has happened in Iraq. He doesn't understand how we Iraqis feel." Maj. Eversman said that street justice in Iraq wouldn't be the answer. "I can't give them the answer they want," he says. "They don't like the fact that some of these guys are going to receive humane treatment." For all the interruptions, the troops did seem to be picking up the lessons. Before they headed off to the mess tent for dinner, Maj. Eversman gave them a map and told them to locate assembly areas and temporary refugee camps for civilians driven from their homes by a two-day tank battle in the region. The recruits placed the camps away from main roads, which are likely to be used by U.S. forces. They also knew instinctively from their own refugee experience to locate the camps near rivers and water towers. In recent days, drill instructors say there have been fewer arguments among recruits. Despite earlier conflicts, most recruits are full of praise for their Army trainers. The volunteers, who are paid about $1,200 a month, will graduate in late February, exchange their green camouflage uniforms for desert camouflage, and then head to the Persian Gulf region. Another group, likely to number slightly more than 100 and drawn mostly from Europe and the Middle East, is expected before the end of February. One night after officer training, Saib, the engineer who left behind a good job and a wife and three children in Missouri, admitted that being a soldier has never been his dream. "My dream is a free Iraq. If it takes being a soldier for that to happen I will be a soldier," he said. "I have dreamed of this day for 10 years. I wish we could go tomorrow. I am ready." At 10 p.m. he and his fellow recruits returned to their bunks and the drill sergeant cut off the lights. Most slept fitfully, unaccustomed to sharing a room with 35 other men. At 5:30 a.m. they rose and stumbled out onto the muddy dirt road, dubbed "Freedom Boulevard," that bisects the camp. "Left face. Forward march!" the drill sergeant screamed. Off they went into the bitter cold Hungarian morning, still stepping gingerly around the mud puddles. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/25/international/middleeast/25OPPO.html * REGIONAL SQUABBLING SCUTTLES AN IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETING by Judith Miller and David Rohde New York Times, 25th February NUSAYBIN, Turkey, Feb. 24 [.....] Just down the road today, indications of how badly things can go awry emerged yet again. An effort to showcase cooperation between Turkey and the Kurdish parties in northern Iraq ended in the chaos and recriminations that have typified so many aspects of behavior on all sides as they anticipate Mr. Hussein's ouster. About 150 foreign journalists who were hoping to cover the first meeting of the Iraqi opposition on Iraqi soil in nearly a decade were loaded onto six buses bound for the border. Seven miles from the promised land, a lone Turkish soldier blocked the road and ordered the buses to return to Silopi, a nearby border town. The reasons were unclear and the recriminations among reputed allies against Mr. Hussein were bitter. Kurdish officials accused the Turkish government of organizing the tour as a subterfuge for allowing Turkish special forces, disguised as media guides, to enter the region. "We will not allow any Turkish government buses to cross our territory," Fawzi Hariri, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, told the dejected reporters by telephone. "We don't want you used as a pretext for any intervention in our region." The Kurdish leaders insisted that the meeting would take place on Tuesday, as planned, but without the Turkish media guides and their frustrated journalist wards. Turkish officials, for their part, dismissed Kurdish claims with disdain. "Whatever the K.D.P. says doesn't matter," said Unal Cakici, sub-governor of Silopi. The meeting, he announced, had been postponed until Friday, at the earliest. In other parts of Turkey, rumors spread quickly that the conference had to be delayed because of the absence of the small American delegation led by Zalmay Khalilzad, President Bush's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition. A White House spokesman said he could not discuss Mr. Khalilzad's whereabouts for security reasons. But several American officials said Mr. Khalilzad had been lining up prospective new members of an advisory council that the Americans want the dissidents to create at the meeting to involve Iraqis in a post-Hussein government. Mr. Khalilzad was most recently seen today in Ankara, said one American official. The not-so-diplomatic contretemps intensified the confusion at what was supposed to be the historic gathering of Iraqi dissidents in Salahuddin. In northern Iraq, the Kurdish representatives and Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, the dissident umbrella group, were trying to ensure that the 60 or so delegates to the opposition meeting did not begin quarreling. On Saturday, Mr. Chalabi said they had convened a meeting to discuss whether their formal meeting should begin without the American delegation, the dissidents' patron. Meanwhile, they spent hours on satellite phones trying to get more of their own allies and equipment into northern Iraq. Although Turkey is officially committed to permitting journalists to attend a dissident meeting in northern Iraq, neither Iran nor Syria seems inclined to open its borders. Some diplomats joined the Kurds in cautioning the United States about permitting the Turks to enter northern Iraq. Turkish forces in Iraq, one diplomat warned, even with the newly devised military "understandings" between Washington and Ankara, might lead Iraqis and other Arabs to fear the dismemberment of their country. The Western diplomat who was tracking Khalilzad sightings said he was not alarmed by such warnings or the current squabbling and jockeying among anti-Hussein allies. Yet even he saw little harmony ahead. "We're going to have some interesting times," he said. http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20030225082856662 * U.S. SAID TO DOOM IRAQI OPPOSITION CONFERENCE by Ahmed Al-Zawiti, Riyad Zeinel- Din Palestine Chronicle, 25th February ARBIL - The United States is trying to foil attempts to hold the Conference of Iraq's opposition factions due in the northern Iraqi enclave of Arbil , Kurdish sources said on Sunday, February 23. But the Iraqi opposition factions is insistent on convening the expected conference to continue preparations for a national administration to take power in the post-Saddam Hussein era, Iraqi opposition spokesman Hushiar Zebari said, hoping that the gathering would be held on Monday, February 24, or Tuesday, February 25. Some Opposition factions would be absent from the meeting, namely the royal Constitutional movement and Al-Wifaq movement, and U.S. presidential advisor and Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is expected not to show up. The non-participation of the two Iraqi opposition groups come under U.S. pressures in an effort to see the conference end in failure or come out with decisions rejecting all that an American military ruler be at the helm in Iraq after the looming invasion of the country and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, said Kurdish sources in a telephone interview with IslamOnline. Meanwhile, representatives of opposition factions threw out Khalilzad's request that conference attendees would not probe forming a transitional Iraqi administration after Iraqi regime's fall and that forces belonging to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) would not carry out operations against the current of would-be Iraqi regime, added the sources. They said that the Arbil conference would tackle forming a three-member leading institution to be a nucleus of a transitional ministerial council that would run Iraq after Saddam. "We are determined to hold the conference, despite some skepticism over our capability to do so," Zibari said in a press conference in an Arbil hotel. "But there is not yet a definitive date for the meeting, Š we hope it would be Monday or Tuesday," said Zibari, who doubles as the KDP politburo member and foreign relations chief, adding that other 50 opposition members arrived for the conference, a number he contended legally enough to begin the coordination committee meetings. The committee members already met on Saturday, February 21, to set the groundwork for the conference and probe the importance of all opposition groups being there. He made clear that meeting was not official, but rather deliberative. "Delaying meetings of the Iraqi opposition is nothing new, it is so normal for us," The PUK representative in London Latif Rashid said in a press conference here. "We had earlier postponed our meeting in Vienna and in London, as we are keen that all parties concerned attend the opposition gatherings " he added. The Arbil conference was delayed three times, from January 15 to February 15 to February 19. Asked about Turkey's conditions that the "special status" in Kurdistan be cancelled in return for allowing the use of its bases as launching pad in military invasion of neighboring Iraq, Zibari slammed any regional interference in the breakaway region's affairs. "We see and appreciate that others have their own interests, but we also have our own ones that should not be ignored by others. We don't surely accept that," he said. The two Kurdish parties -KDP, which rules western Kurdistan, and the PUK, which controls areas bordering Turkey, together rule four million people in an area the size of Switzerland that has been outside President Saddam's control since 1991. Ankara fears the set-up of a Kurdish country across its borders and exert every possible effort to turn the Kurdish leaders away from that end. Also, it is gripped by the fear of a repetition of the 1991 crisis when 450,000 Iraqi Kurdish refugees flooded the country and that another Gulf war might spur a second exodus. Turkey has demanded that its troops be allowed to take over a swath of territory along the border inside Iraq with an ostensible reason to prevent a flood of Kurdish refugees trying to flee into Turkey, but the Kurdish parties say they are quite capable of doing this themselves, read the paper. They say the Turkish demand, to which they suspect the U.S. has agreed in return for the use of Turkish military facilities, is the first step in a Turkish plan to advance into Iraqi Kurdistan. Zibari was deeply alarmed by U.S. intentions, which only became clear at a meeting in Ankara earlier in the month and from recent public declarations by U.S. officials. "If the U.S. wants to impose its own government, regardless of the ethnic and religious composition of Iraq, there is going to be a backlash," he said. And despite their fury at the practices of the central government in Baghdad, most Iraqi Kurds - living a continuous state of tension and anticipation - contend that they would rather live under a national 'unjust' regime, than be under foreign occupation. Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Kurdistan Islamic Party Salaheddin Baheddin has told IslamOnline that there are deep divisions in ranks of opposition groups to attend the Arbil conference. Baheddin said the differences led Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Islamic National Council (INC), the most faction supporting the U.S., to seek forming an extensive executive council to be transformed into a cabinet after Saddam voluntarily leaves power. But the step was opposed by the two Kurdish parties and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution. They said Chalabi's proposal would undermine their partisan presence and influence on decision-making in the post-Saddam period. 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