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[casi] News, 19-26/02/03 (4)

News, 19-26/02/03 (4)


*  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


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

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.

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

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

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

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

"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.

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.

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.

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

"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."

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

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

"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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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,  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

"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

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


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