Iraqi exiles expected to participate in a future government of their country
warned yesterday that an invasion by American and British troops would bring widespread
destruction without removing Saddam Hussein.
Opposition leaders stressed that a large-scale offensive by Washington and
its allies would not be supported by opponents of the Baghdad regime, either inside
or outside Iraq.
In response to repeated reports of the Bush administration preparing for
war, with a 250,000-strong force, a number of prominent Iraqi defectors insisted
that more focused, specialist strikes would have far more chance of success.
Sheik Mohammed Mohammed Ali, left, a member of the Iraqi National Coalition (INC)
party, sits alongside Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan Friday July 12, 2002, as they
attend the first day of the three-day INC Military Alliance conference in London,
Friday July 12, 2002. The convention is a meeting of former Iraqi military officers
and civilian opposition groups who are seeking a role the future of Iraq. (AP
In London, where more than 300 opposition military and political leaders are
taking part in the first conference of its kind, delegates said large-scale Western
attacks on Iraq were unnecessary because most Iraqi forces would turn against
President Saddam at the outbreak of hostilities.
A former major-general, Najib al-Salhi, said: "The United States will not find
support inside or outside Iraq for an offensive that would harm civilians, destroy
infrastructure, and target troops not defending the regime.
"Any campaign must be limited to toppling Saddam. The army will not defend
him and neither will the Republican Guard [elite troops thought to be loyal to
the Iraqi leader]."
In Kuwait, a former Iraqi intelligence chief also warned Washington that a
land war could leave a desperate Iraqi regime with no option but to use weapons
of mass destruction. Wafiq al-Samarrai said: "The US should know that Saddam will
not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction on American military groupings.
Diplomacy is the only choice for the United States."
Mr Samarrai, who is close to Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the exiled Iraqi
National Congress seen by some in Washington as a possible post-Saddam
leader added: "If that fails then another option is an intelligence operation
that targets the regime only.
"Efforts must focus on core issues to topple the Iraqi regime by choosing the
best, quickest, and least costly method for the Iraqi people and regional states
... carrying out a swift intelligence operation."
The opposition leaders are also concerned that the US and Britain may incite
Iraqis to rise against President Saddam and then fail to help, as happened at
the end of the Gulf War.
Another former major-general, Tawfiq al-Yassiri, who led an uprising in southern
Iraq at that time, and was wounded when Iraqi forces crushed the rebels, is among
senior officers counseling caution to compatriots inside Iraq. They point out
that it was the US President's father, George Bush Sr, who abandoned the rebels,
and that some members of his administration were back in power in Washington.
The appearance at the conference of Prince Hassan of Jordan, an uncle of King
Abdullah, increased speculation over the likelihood of war. Leaked Pentagon reports
have stated that Jordan has agreed to become one of the bases for a US attack.
This, however, has been denied by the king.
© 2002 lndependent Digital (UK) Ltd