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IRAQ: Salahuddin Conference 1992

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IRAQ: Salahuddin Conference 1992

Dec-02-2013 at 06:51 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Last edited on 12/02/2013 at 06:53 AM (UTC3 Nineveh, Assyria)
 
National Agenda : Exiled Opponents of Hussein Start to Harmonize Their Voices : Salahuddin conference is a watershed for the splintered forces opposed to the Iraqi dictator
by HUGH POPE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES | November 03, 1992

SALAHUDDIN, Iraq — If Mashan Jebouri had gotten lucky, he might even have given President Bush's reelection campaign a boost. But for reasons he still doesn't understand, Jebouri's third attempt in three years to organize a coup against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein failed in July.

He hasn't shaved since--an act of penance for the arrest of 420 members of his tribe linked to the coup attempt. Like him, all are former intimates of Hussein's extended ruling family, his regime and its feared security apparatus.

SALAHUDDIN, Iraq — If Mashan Jebouri had gotten lucky, he might even have given President Bush's reelection campaign a boost. But for reasons he still doesn't understand, Jebouri's third attempt in three years to organize a coup against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein failed in July.

He hasn't shaved since--an act of penance for the arrest of 420 members of his tribe linked to the coup attempt. Like him, all are former intimates of Hussein's extended ruling family, his regime and its feared security apparatus.

This ultimate Baghdad insider surfaced last week at an unprecedented meeting of the Iraqi opposition here in the liberated mountains of Kurdistan, 200 miles north of the Iraqi capital. And his presence illustrated how broad-based the Iraqi opposition movement has become.

The opposition meeting--the first of its kind held on Iraqi soil--brought together almost all factions of what had previously been a fragmented dissident community that had fled the excesses of Hussein's rule over the last generation. While most of them live in exile, they retain family, tribal and religious connections inside Iraq.

"We helped him murder thousands of people," reasoned Jebouri, a former official in Hussein's private office and a family friend until he fled to Jordan in 1989 just 10 days before the first coup attempt he had organized. "So we do have more responsibility than the others. We are his bodyguards, his secret police. If we can't get rid of him, nobody can."

Jebouri, 35, added that "the only way to get him out is a coup. But when the magic spell cast by Saddam is broken, the people will demand a complete change. So we need to prepare a proper alternative government as well."

After five days of talks, about 200 dissidents from Europe, North America and the Middle East elected a ruling troika and a 25-member executive to fill the power vacuum if and when Saddam goes.

Previously during the 24 years that Hussein has ruled this country of 16 million, such exiled opponents were easily intimidated, divided and eliminated. But much has changed since the Iraqi leader's defeat in the Persian Gulf War.

"Before, we never dared to talk to each other," said Ayad Rahim, 30, now living in Boston. "These days, everyone in the diaspora is meeting, networking, making newsletters. There were practically no newspapers two years ago, now there are 30."

Influenced perhaps by the revolutionary atmosphere of Iraqi Kurdistan, a democratic spirit invested the threadbare corridors of Salahuddin's once popular resort hotels during the opposition gathering. Turbaned Islamic mullahs with long robes debated with democrats in sports jackets. At dinner tables laden with fruit, baggy-trousered Kurdish tribal leaders in turbans hosted Sunni Muslim Arab nationalist dignitaries in headdresses.

The Iraqi opposition sees recent meetings they've been granted with former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Turkish President Turgut Ozal and European leaders as evidence of newfound Western backing. Such sympathy was denied while Saddam Hussein's petrodollars spoke louder than his invasion of Iran, his poison gas bombing of Kurds and his murders of dissidents.

"They were not just not interested. They even called us terrorists and liars," said Dr. Muwaffaq Fatuhi, a London-based democrat who was once a high-ranking official in charge of Iraq's economic planning.

The Salahuddin meeting was part of a process started last June in Vienna under the umbrella of the Iraqi National Congress, a new opposition political group.

One of the key points dividing Hussein's opponents has been the demand of the 3 million Iraqi Kurds to self-government within a federal state. Syrian and Saudi-backed Sunni Muslim Arab nationalists and Iran-backed Shiite Muslims oppose that approach, fearing it would lead to the breakup of the country and a regional conflagration over the spoils.

The opposition leaders reportedly made progress on a compromise here.

"We want Islamic rule, but we won't impose it by force. Islam is the choice of the people. We are the majority, so the (Shiites) will be quite happy with free elections and a parliament," said Sheik Mohsen Husseini, spokesman of the Islamic Hope Party.

With at least 50 parties great and small attending, the achievement of the Salahuddin conference was to keep everyone talking to each other, focused on creating a viable alternative to Hussein.

"What we all have is a pluralistic vision," said Jawad Attar, a Tehran-based Islamist. "We all want power to be distributed so that nobody can ever again become a dictator like Saddam Hussein."

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1. Sword of division is poised over Iraq

Dec-02-2013 at 07:03 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Sword of division is poised over Iraq
Polarized political leaders openly discuss the threat of more bloodshed between Sunnis and Shiites and the eventual breakup of the country.
By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times | May 10, 2013

BAGHDAD — Less than a year and a half after the last U.S. troops left, Iraq's political leaders are openly debating the prospect of two dangerous paths for their country: de facto division or civil war. Perhaps both.

Tension between the Shiite majority, now in control of the levers of power, and the Sunni Arab minority, which dominated under Saddam Hussein, has been building for months. But politicians on all sides agree that the country has entered a perilous new phase, highlighted in late April by an attack on a Sunni protest camp by security forces that killed at least 45 people.

As word of the shootings spread, fighting erupted around the country, leaving more than 200 people dead. Overall, the United Nations said, more than 700 people were killed in Iraq in April, the highest monthly toll in five years.

Polarized political leaders openly discuss the threat of more bloodshed and the gradual breakup of the country, either through an informal declaration of an independent Sunni Arab region, modeled on the Kurds' region in northern Iraq, or outright war.

The problems are compounded by the increasingly sectarian war in neighboring Syria, where the Sunni majority forms the backbone of the insurgency against the government of President Bashar Assad.

In Iraq, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, who has been ostracized by fellow Sunnis for continuing to participate in the Shiite-led government, said he feared that one more deadly incident could push Sunni protesters to "return to violence, and once the violence starts, it will not end for 20 or 30 years."

A package of reforms meant to address protesters' demands has been left to a silent death in the parliament. The demands include an end date for punitive measures against former members of Hussein's Baath Party, an amnesty act and legal reforms prohibiting the use of secret informants to convict people.

"They are legitimate demands, but are politically impossible," said lawmaker Sami Askari, a close advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who had lobbied for the package. Shiite parties signed off on the reforms when they were debated in Maliki's Cabinet, but then reversed themselves in the parliament, he said.

Askari helped engineer Maliki's unsuccessful effort in 2010 to form a government that would have crossed Iraq's sectarian divide. The country has now entered a period of acrimony between Shiites and Sunnis, he said.

"The Sunnis want better conditions, better participation, and the Shiites are scared and fearful the past might come back again," Askari said. "All of the region now is talking of a clash between Shia and Sunnis. You cannot ignore this now.... Even those Sunnis who are ready to strike a deal are under attack."

Two investigations were launched after security forces attacked the Sunni protesters in Hawija on April 23. Senior government officials say the findings indicate that security personnel used disproportionate force, including shooting unarmed civilians. Video apparently recorded by security forces showed what appeared to be slain civilians gripping sticks, and a body that had fallen out of a wheelchair.

Maliki initially expressed regret over the assault but has since taken a harder line. He has vowed to fight what he calls terrorists among the protesters, and has massed troops outside Ramadi, a Sunni-majority city in Anbar province.

Protesters there have formed a tribal force to defend against a military attack, and Maliki has warned them that he could crush them easily if he wasn't concerned about shedding Iraqi blood. His acting defense minister, Saadoun Dulaimi, called the protest camps incubators for terrorism.

The government assault in Hawija has further radicalized the Sunni protest movement. At a rally last week in Fallouja, a cleric told Sunnis that they had to choose their next step. The options included "the resignation of Maliki; civil war and sectarian conflict, which we don't want ... or to divide the country in order to protect ourselves, and rule ourselves by ourselves."

Some in the crowd, angry over the idea of federalism, threw water bottles at the stage; others shouted in praise of holy war.

Usama Nujaifi, a Sunni who is speaker of the parliament, said the government was pushing Sunnis to the brink. "The conditions for a civil war are present now," Nujaifi said. "The first person responsible is the prime minister."

A former Sunni fighter who goes by the name Abu Selim said Hawija and subsequent violence had given new life to armed groups that had been less active in recent years, including the Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda, the Baathist-inspired Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist-led Islamic Army.

"The Islamic insurgent groups had lost their mission … they were just waiting for an instance to take over again under an attractive banner," he said. "Hawija was the zero hour they were waiting for."

Sheik Ali Hatem Suleiman, one of the protest leaders in Anbar, is openly planning defenses in case of a military attack on Ramadi. The government has issued an arrest warrant for him on terrorism charges.

"The people are betting that if it starts, it will be a long war," Suleiman said.

Askari said he doubted there would be a new civil war because Sunnis know how much they lost in the sectarian conflict during the U.S. occupation.

Sheik Ali Hatem Suleiman, one of the protest leaders in Anbar, is openly planning defenses in case of a military attack on Ramadi. The government has issued an arrest warrant for him on terrorism charges.

"The people are betting that if it starts, it will be a long war," Suleiman said.

Askari said he doubted there would be a new civil war because Sunnis know how much they lost in the sectarian conflict during the U.S. occupation.

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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

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