The Iraqi opposition

This page was compiled before the 2003 Iraq war and is retained here for historical interest. It provides a guide to the main opposition groups and personalities who were active at the time. Some of the links may no longer be working.

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Iraqi opposition groups
Amal Islamic Organisation: Website: An open door to the Arab world
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Assyrian Democratic Movement: Website:; Assyrian National Congress: An umbrella group based in California. It includes the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party, and Assyrian American Leadership Council and others. Signed a confederation agreement with the Free Officers' Movement on 15 June 2002. Website: Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP): Website: BetNahrain Democratic Party: An Assyrian organisation belonging to the Assyrian National Congress. It seeks an Autonomous state for Assyrians in Bet-Nahrain (Iraq). Website: Chaldean Federation of America: Website:

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Constitutional Monarchy Movement: Favours a constitutional monarchy within a democratic political system. Affiliated to the INC. Based in London, its leader is Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein. Website: Democratic Centrist Tendency: An American-backed rival to the INC. Secretary-general is Adnan Pachachi; official spokesman is Ghasan al-Atiyah. Faili Kurds: Website: Free Iraqi Council (FIC): An offshoot of the Iraqi National Accord which claims to have been involved in several failed coup attempts (including one which was allegedly sabotaged by the CIA). Based in London and led by Sa'ad Jabr. Free Officers Movement: Led by Brigadier-General Najib al-Salihi. Its name is deliberately reminiscent of the officers' movement behind the Nasser revolution in Egypt. Signed a confederation agreement with the Assyrian National Congress on 15 June 2002. Group of Four: Not an organisation as such, but a group consisting of the PUK, KDP, INA and SCIRI which began meeting informally, outside the framework of the INC, in 2001. Iraqi Communist Party (ICP): Established in 1934, it is well organised and is thought to have support inside Iraq. Based in Iraqi Kurdistan and London. Leader is Aziz Muhammad. Secretary of Central Committee is Hamid Majid Mousa. Website: Iraqi Democratic Union: Website: Iraqi National Accord (al-Wifaq/INA): Made up mainly of defectors from the Iraqi armed forces and intelligence services. Created by Saudi intelligence in 1990, it was reorganised in 1996 by the CIA, which saw it as the ideal vehicle for fomenting a coup. Infiltrated by

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After Saddam?
Establishing a democratic system in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would be far from easy because of the country's religious and ethnic mix. Ethnically, Iraq is about 75% Arab and 20% Kurdish, with other minorities accounting for 5% (see special pages on the Assyrians and the Turkomans).

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Saddam Hussein's agents, its networks inside Iraq were smashed in 1996. It is also said to have links to British intelligence. Based in Jordan and led by Ayad Alawi. See the INA's charter. Website: Iraqi National Coalition: Seeks to replace Saddam Hussein with a democratic, pluralist and federal system of government. See statement of principles. Its military arm is the Military Alliance. Website: Iraqi National Congress (INC): An umbrella organisation, nominally embracing all major opposition groups - though it is plagued by internal divisions and many view it as a vehicle for the ambitions of its leader, Dr Ahmad Chalabi. Founded in 1992, it is based in London. One attempt by the INC to remove Saddam Hussein (with CIA support) failed in 1995. In 1996, Saddam’s troops and their Kurdish allies attacked INC bases in northern Iraq, killing 200 supporters and forcing thousands to flee. The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act in the US institutionalised the INC as the main vehicle for American duning of political change in Iraq. See: INC website, press releases, al-Mu'tamar (the INC's weekly newspaper). Further notes on the INC: Medea. Iraqi National Forces: An alliance of opposition groups whose formation was reported by al-Zaman newspaper on 25 June 2002. Its aim is to overthrow Saddam Hussein without foreign interventions. It reportedly includes: the Iraqi Communist Party, the Islamic Dawa party, the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party ( Iraq Command), the Group of Mujahedin Ulema in Iraq, the Islamic Action Party, the Iraqi Democratic Grouping, the Kurdistan Communist Party, the Socialist Party in Iraq, the Turkomen Democratic Party, the Arab Socialist Movement, the Islamic Union for Iraq's Turkomen, and the Assyrian Ethnic Organisation, plus unnamed independent political and military figures. Iraqi National Front: Websites:; Iraqi National Movement: Formed through a merger of two other groups, it claims to include prominent Sunni and Shia Arabs with a particular emphasis on the central provinces. Leaders include Mudhar Shawkat and Hatem Mukhlis. Said to receive several hundred thousand dollars from the US State Department every three months (Washington Post, 13 May 2002). Iraqi National Party: Website: Iraqi Turkman Front: Website: Islamic Dawa Party (IDP): An old Shi'a Islamist organisation.Its official website is A rival website,, belongs to a small breakaway group. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP): One of the two main Kurdish parties, dating back to 1946, with a military presence in northern Iraq. In 1996 it collaborated with the Iraqi army in an attempt to destroy its Kurdish rival, the PUK, but the two groups are at present cohabiting. Its leader is Mas'ud Barzani. See main KDP website, also sites for KDP in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Further notes on the KDP: Medea. Kurdistan Islamic Union: Website: Kurdistan Toiler's Party: Website: Military Alliance (MAINC): Established in March 1999 as the military wing of the Iraqi National Coalition. Led by Tawfiq al-Yasiri, it seeks to work with officers in exile as well as noncommissioned officers and soldiers in Iraq. Its general outlook is that the military should stay out of Iraqi politics after Saddam Hussein has been removed. In July 2002 it held a three-day meeting in London (see media reports) which resulted in the election of an unnamed 15man committee and agreement on a Military Covenant of Honour.

In religious terms, Shi'a Muslims are the majority (about 65%), followed by Sunni Muslims (32%) and Christians (3%). THE SHI'A The simplest kind of electoral system would give the Shi'a a permanent majority in government. This would worry the Sunnis, who would probably demand some form of powersharing to protect their interests. Under Saddam, Iraq has been ruled by the Sunni minority, with the Shi'a marginalised and sometimes brutally suppressed. Religious differences have been played down in the Iraqi media, though a change of regime could easily bring them to the fore. The US regards the Iraqi Shi'a with suspicion because of their religious affinity with Iran and would probably not allow them to take control in Iraq. The links with Iran may be exaggerated, however, and it would be wrong to assume that all Iraqi Shi'a are religious militants or supporters of Iran (see doument: Declaration of the Shia of Iraq). THE KURDS The Kurdish population, which is mainly in northern Iraq, stretches over borders into Turkey and Iran, with smaller numbers in Syria and former Soviet republics. Altogether, the Kurds number about 25 million and form the world's most important ethnic group without a state. Many seek to establish an independent state known as Kurdistan.

Since 1991, because of sanctions and the no-fly zone over their lands, they have acquired a lot of autonomy in northern Movement of Sacred National Defence: Website: Generated by at 3/17/2010 5:10:01 PM Iraq. The overthrow of URL:

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK): The other main Kurdish party, which broke away from the KDP in 1975. The two rivals fought a war in 1996, when the KDP invited in Iraqi forces in an attempt to eliminate the PUK. The PUK and KDP are currently cohabiting, though whether they will continue to do so remains to be seen. Like the KDP, the PUK is established on the ground in northern Iraq and claims some 4,000 men under arms. Its leader is Jalal Talabani. See main PUK website, also PUK sites in: Australia, France, Germany, Russia. Further notes on the PUK: Medea. Socialist Party of Kurdistan: Website: Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI): The main vehicle for Shi'a opposition to Saddam Hussein, with cells operating secretly in southern Iraq. Receives funding from Iran which makes the US wary of it. Led by Mohammed Baqr Hakim. Also known as the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI). See website; and Turkmen People Party: See founding statement. Website: Worker Communist Party of Iraq: Website:

Saddam would jeopardise this achievement because a new regime in Baghdad might attempt to reassert control over the whole country. For this reason, the main Kurdish opposition parties are luke-warm about supporting American efforts to remove Saddam. If the Kurds succeeded in breaking away from Iraq, one effect would be to tilt the religious balance even more strongly in favour of the Shi'a, since the vast majority of Kurds in Iraq are Sunnis. A new government in Baghdad would therefore have to handle the Kurdish issue with great sensitivity. See Arab Gateway's special page on the Kurds. OPPOSITION GROUPS There are numerous opposition groups outside Iraq, many of them based in London. Some are almost as hostile towards each other as they are towards Saddam Hussein. Many have little or no support inside Iraq and are widely regarded as tools of American foreign policy. Most of their leaders have not lived in Iraq for many years and some have been disparagingly described as "Rolex revolutionaries".

Iraqi opposition personalities
ALAWI Dr Ayad: Leader of the INA. Supported by the CIA. BARZANI Mas'ud: Leader of the KDP. Born on 16 August, 1946, in Mahabad (Iran), where his father, the late General Mustafa Barzani, was military chief of a self-declared Kurdish republic. When the republic fell, his father fled to the Soviet Union, while Mas’ud and the rest of his family returned to Iraq, and eventually to their home village, Barzan. In 1961 Mustafa Barzani and the KDP launched an armed struggle against the Iraqi government, which Mas’ud joined at the age of 16. In 1970 Mas’ud was in a delegation which signed an autonomy agreement with Baghdad, but this later collapsed and the armed struggle resumed. In 1979, following the death of his father, Mas’ud became president of the KDP - a post which he has held ever since. He is married with eight children and is the author of a book, "Barzani and the Kurdish Liberation Movement", published in Arabic and in three volumes. See KDP presidential website, also the life of Mustafa Barzani.

Massoud Barzani

There are also about CHALABI Dr Ahmad: Leader of the INC. A Shi'a Muslim, born 1,500 former Iraqi 1944/1945. Has not lived in Iraq since 1956, apart from a period military officers in exile organising resistance in the Kurdish north in the mid-1990s. who could contribute to Studied mathematics at Chicago University and MIT. His main the overthrow of political support comes from the US Congress, the Pentagon and Saddam, but it is parts of the CIA. He is opposed by the State Department and other debatable how many of parts of the CIA. He was chairman of the Petra Bank in Jordan them left Iraq for which collapsed, ruining many of its depositors, and was eventually political reasons. convicted (in his absence) of fraud by a Jordanian court. He maintains he is innocent and says the accusations were trumped Many, if not all, of these up by the Iraqi government. The US State Department has also defecting officers are raised questions about the INC's accounting practices. In 1995 he likely to have been organised an uprising in northern Iraq, which wasGenerated by at 3/17/2010 5:10:01 in called off by the involved at some time PM CIA that a critical moment. A highlyURL: controversial figure, he is carrying out atrocities

certainly charismatic and determined, though many also regard him as domineering. Profiles: The Guardian (22 February, 2002); Washington Post (21 April, 1999). HAKIM Mohammed Baqr al-: Leader of SCIRI. Unlikely to become president of Iraq after Saddam because of American wariness about his links with Iran, but a powerful figure who is difficult to ignore. See his website (in Arabic).

on behalf of the regime. For more on the Iraqi opposition groups see article by Fred Aprim. NEIGHBOURS Whatever views the US may have on the shape of a post-Saddam government, four of Iraq's neighbours Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran - regard the outcome as a matter of national concern and would like to exercise some influence. THE IRAQ LIBERATION ACT In the early 1990s the US spent more than $100 million trying unsuccessfully - to undermine the Iraqi regime. In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act which allocated up to $97 million for training and equipping opposition groups. Seven groups were chosen to receive American support under the Act: the INC, INA, CMM, SCIRI, PUK, KDP and the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan. Only three of these SCIRI, PUK and KDP have a significant following inside Iraq. More information on the Iraq Liberation Act: Medea, Time Magazine (30 November, 1998).

Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim

HUSSEIN Sharif Ali bin al-: Leader of the CMM and heir to the Iraqi throne. Born in Baghdad in 1956, he is a cousin of the late King Faisal II, who was deposed and assassinated in 1958. Educated in Lebanon and Britain (MA in economics). Wealthy, immaculately dressed, and generally pleasant but his regal manner puts some people off. He promises to "remain above factional disputes and political manoeuvering" if he becomes king. See website.

Sharif Ali

JA’AFARI Dr Ibrahim al-: Represents the Islamic Dawa Party. JABR Sa'ad: Leader of the FIC. A Shi'a Muslim and son of a former Iraqi prime minister. Left Iraq in 1968. Now has American citizenship but lives in London. KHAZRAJI General Nizar al-: Born 1937/1938, he is the highestranking military defector from Iraq. He served as Saddam's chief of staff from 1980 until 1991, leading the army through the Iran-Iraq war and the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 (though he now says he did not really agree with that). He fled to the west in 1996 and was granted political asylum in Denmark. Although the main Kurdish parties appear to support him, but a smaller Kurdish group has sought to have him prosecuted for war crimes. This relates to his alleged role in the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988. Khazraji says the allegations have been invented by Iraqi intelligence services. There are claims that he was reluctant to leave Iraq, but that the CIA induced him to do so with promises of a major political role. In a newspaper interview he appeared eager to take over from Saddam, describing it as an honour and "a sacred duty". This may have damaged his leadership prospects because some in the Iraqi opposition now suspect his motives. He believes the Iraqi military will rise up against Saddam if they are supported by a lot of carefully targeted American firepower. PACHACHI Adnan: A former Iraqi foreign minister and ambassador to the UN who is now secretary general of the opposition DCT. Potentially a key player in post-Saddam Iraq, but has said he wants only a facilitating role. A Sunni Muslim.

SALIHI Brigadier-General Najib al-: Born 1951/1952. A Sunni Muslim who appears to have support among the Shi'a (he comes Generated by at 3/17/2010 5:10:01 PM from a large tribe - the Beni Salih - which embraces Sunni and Shia URL:

Muslims and some Turkmen). Has run an group called the Free Officers Movement since 1996, claims he can raise 30,000 fighters. Favours a three-pronged infantry assault on Baghdad from Kurdish Iraq, Kuwait and, if possible, Jordan, without the use of US ground troops. He has avoided giving the impression of power-hungriness, and at conferences in the US has argued that the military should not be directly engaged in politics. He emerged as front-runner in an internet poll conducted by to find who Iraqis would most like to lead a transitional government. The poll was abandoned after a few days, allegedly because of suspicious voting activity, but possibly because it showed little popular support for other prominent figures. SAMARA'I Maj. Gen. Wafiq al-: Former head of an Iraqi military intelligence unit, he left Iraq in the mid-1990s and now lives in London. He is sceptical about using exiles to start a revolt, preferring a "quick covert operation," run by the CIA, to eliminate Saddam. SHAMARI General Fawzi al-: Born 1945/1946. Commanded nine divisions in the Iran-Iraq war and admits to firing chemical weapons against the Iranians. He defected in 1986 and now runs a restaurant in Virginia, USA. Favours a guerrilla war to remove Saddam. TALABANI Jalal: President of the PUK since it was established in 1975. Born in Kelkan in 1933, he became active in the Kurdish opposition during his teens and eventually joined the central committee of the KDP. Worked for a time as a journalist and after the 1958 revolution commanded an Iraqi army tank unit. Joined the Kurdish rebellion which began 1961. In 1975 he split with the KDP and founded the PUK. Talabani is critical of exiled anti-Saddam groups, and distinguishes between the "opposition of the trenches and the opposition of the hotels". Interviews: Middle East Quarterly (Winter 2002); Frontline.

Jalal Talabani

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Last revised on 21 June, 2009

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