Iraqi Foes To Get Aid From U.S. (was:Re: Kosova Albanians (Re: Saddam, Kurdistan and Kosovo (Re: Questions for Mine (was: When to support nationalism?)))

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Fri Feb 2 10:56:15 MST 2001

Although the article below seems to contradict my previous postings, it
remains to be seen whether this is a substantial shift in policy or just a
token gesture.


Iraqi Foes To Get Aid From U.S.

By Alan Sipress
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 2, 2001; Page A01

The Bush administration has given Iraqi opposition groups permission to
resume their activities inside Iraq with American funding, marking the first
substantial move by the Bush White House to confront Iraqi President Saddam

By giving the go-ahead this week to a program with the benign-sounding
purpose of "collection of informational materials in Iraq," Bush officials
moved beyond the policy of the Clinton administration, which harbored deep
reservations about the Iraqi opposition.

The decision allows the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization
for groups opposed to Hussein's government, to draw from $4 million set
aside by Congress in September for gathering information relating to Iraqi
war crimes, military operations and other internal developments. Some of the
money has already been used by the London-based INC for logistics and
training outside Iraq. But this week's decision frees up funding for
opposition operations inside the country for the first time since the United
States cut off similar financial support five years ago.

"We're saying to the INC, you're beyond the organizational phase," a State
Department official said yesterday. "Now do something."

The move to send U.S.-funded activists back into Iraq comes at time when top
administration officials, including Vice President Cheney, Secretary of
State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, have been
trying to thrash out their strong -- and divergent opinions -- on how best
to confront Hussein.

State Department officials said the decision to order the Treasury
Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to issue a license for
spending the money inside Iraq -- which is required because of the economic
sanctions on the country -- moves U.S. policy across a significant

But these officials said the initiative does not yet reflect a wholesale
reappraisal of Iraq policy. While more vigorous backing for the opposition
has been endorsed by some -- including Cheney and Rumsfeld -- Powell and
others have been more reticent in offering support, speaking primarily about
reinvigorating the economic sanctions as a means to deter Iraq's weapons
program. President Bush met at the White House on Tuesday with his top
national security officials, discussing in particular Iraq policy.

A senior State Department official said yesterday that the administration is
seeking to develop a policy that combines support for the Iraqi opposition
with maintaining the economic sanctions that were imposed after Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

In remarks to reporters at the State Department yesterday, Powell said he
had not determined whether it would be realistic ultimately to remove
Hussein by funding opposition groups. "Iraq is a problem for its own
people," Powell said.

He said his focus would remain on Hussein's refusal to cooperate with United
Nations weapons inspectors. "I think we have to keep reminding everybody
that this is an arms control problem," Powell said.

But the decision to renew U.S.-funded efforts inside Iraq was heralded by
Ahmed Chalabi, a founding member of the INC, as "a major reversal" of U.S.
policy. "For the first time ever, the INC has public U.S. funding to operate
in Iraq, and for the first time since 1996 there's any U.S. support for
operating inside Iraq," he said.

The United States had provided covert aid to opposition groups in the years
after the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. But those efforts came to a
tumultuous end when Hussein's military rolled into the U.S.-protected "safe
area" of northern Iraq, rousting the opposition. Critics said the INC's
battlefield performance had revealed it as a paper tiger.

Chalabi said a wide range of anti-government activities are permitted under
the license granted this week. "What we want to do is bring out political
information, information on the state of Iraq's military and enhance our
contacts with our constituency inside Iraq," he said.

While the opposition is already involved in gathering information, an
adviser to the INC said the funding will allow it to beef up operations
inside Iraq in as little as two weeks. He said the money could pay for the
efforts of about 40 of the group's members to collect information and
shuttle it out of the country. These activists would work with thousands of
sympathizers inside Iraq, Chalabi said.

A State Department official said funding is limited to the gathering of
information, but the INC could put it to whatever use the group decides.
This could include monitoring violations of the economic sanctions,
providing evidence for any war crimes prosecution against Iraqi officials
and building popular support for the INC's ultimate goal of overthrowing the
Hussein government.

The application for the license issued this week was put in the pipeline
during the final weeks of the Clinton administration. It was approved,
following consultation between State Department and National Security
Council officials, only after Bush took office two weeks ago. "It is a step
forward but it's not the whole deal," a senior administration official said.

The INC is still looking for at least two more licenses that would allow it
to broaden efforts further. One application, pending before the Treasury
Department, would permit the group to use American funds to open a permanent
office in northern Iraq, where it could publish a newspaper and collect
intelligence. A second application that has yet to be filed would allow the
INC to tap another $12 million in approved American funding to distribute
food, medicine and other forms of humanitarian relief inside
government-controlled areas of Iraq.

Administration officials consider each step to be increasingly ambitious and
likely to provoke a violent response from Hussein.

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