Sunday, August 12, 2007

Toward an understanding of the National Iraqi resistance: Part I

Back in the year 2002, groups like Jalabi's Iraqi National Congress and others looked to the United States as the bulwark or battering ram of their opposition to Saddam, and it has become accepted wisdom that Iraqi activist politics at the time of the invasion was divided between the various US-supported groups on the one side (including the groups led by Jalabi and Allawi and the Iran-based SCIRI led by the Hakim family), and Baathist/Saddamist "dead-enders" on the other.

Of course there were others. There was an anti-Saddam Baath current; there was a branch of the Communist Party that rejected the main party's support for the US-inspired sanctions; there were many unaffiliated people who supported Saddam's nationalist stance while opposing the lack of freedoms. There were even some who, in 2002, had the foresight to realize that the US was about to invade the country, and that it would then be necessary for the anti-Saddam current to link up with the remnants of the regime in order to fight the Americans in the interests of the national integrity of Iraq.

Spokesmen for this point of view, grouped together as the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) took the risk of coming to Baghdad for discussions with Saddam during 2002, and they laid the groundwork for what was to become the national resistance. The story was told by INA head Abduljabbar al-Kubbaysi to an interviewer for a website called Free Arab Voices in December 2002, and while the FAV website doesn't have the file any more, fortunately it was archived as a result of having been translated and posted to a London-based site called Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (casi), where it is still available. (I quoted a couple of short excerpts from the interview back in Oct 2006 to illustrate one point in particular: Namely that Kubbaysi's foresight extended to more than the imminence of a US invasion; he was also able to predict that since the US-supported Iraqi-exile groups were all strictly sect- and/or race-based, an invasion that unleashed these groups would bring with it sectarian bloodshed). With those introductory remarks in mind, I would like to recommend a reading of the whole 2002 Kubbaysi interview, so here it is:

The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

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[casi] opposition will fight US in Iraq

  • From: "Dirk Adriaensens"
  • Subject: [casi] opposition will fight US in Iraq
  • Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2002 22:12:00 +0100

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

Hello all,
there are two different kinds of "opposition". There is the opposition that "lays its eggs in the
nest of the US". And there is the opposition that will fight the US against a possible aggression,
alongside the Iraqi people and its leadership. I met several honest opponents (not paid by the
west) during my different visits in Iraq. And these people are willing to support the government
against the imperialist forces of the US/UK if they should decide to invade the country.
This is an interesting interview. Please read carefully. You won't read this kind of interviews in
our western media.
Dirk Adriaensens.

Interview in Baghdad with Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, a leading member of the patriotic Iraqi
Interview conducted by Ibrahim Alloush in Baghdad, 13 December 2002 (Free Arab Voice)

FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you became
an oppositionist?

Al-Kubaysi: My name is Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi. I graduated in civil engineering from the American
University in Beirut in 1967. I remember that the last test I took that year took place on the 5th
of June - the day of the great set back.

I had joined the Arab Socialist Baath Party in 1958 at the age of 15. I was arrested in 1959 in the
days of Abd al-Karim Qasim, and again in 1960 because of my student activism. In 1961 I went to
Beirut and came back to Iraq after obtaining my university degree.

When I came back, I was required to perform my military service. I entered the reserve officers'
school and graduated at the head of my class. That gave me the right to choose the place where I
would serve my period of military conscription. I chose the al-Walid base near the Jordanian
border. The Palestinian resistance movement was in its infancy then. I used to spend my leaves in
Jordan - ten days every three weeks. I used to transport whatever weapons I could bring over, since
the nature of my work as an engineer of airstrips and bomb shelters involved frequent trips to
Jordan as part of my job, and I drove a military vehicle that was not subject to customs inspection.

After 17 July 1968, when Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr came to power in Iraq I was arrested for a period of
nine and a half months. I was then released but re-arrested a month later for a period of a year
and seven months. I was then released in June 1971.

FAV: Why were you arrested by your Baathi comrades who had just then taken power? Was it for some
specific charge, or because you belonged to the other wing of the Baath Party?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes, there was no specific charge. Maybe the first arrest was just a precautionary
measure because they had recently come to power. But the second period of incarceration came after
someone confessed that I was in the military branch of our wing of the Baath Party. That was arrest
without trial by the way.

But after I was released I returned to work at the oil company where I had been working before, and
it was a government-owned oil company, incidentally. Then I remained in Iraq working in the secret
organization of the other wing of the Baath Party until August 1976.

FAV: What happened in August 1976?

Al-Kubaysi: The top man in charge of secret work of the party in Iraq, Ahmad al-Azzawi, was
assassinated in Damascus. He had been a member of the pan-Arab leadership of the Party
headquartered in Syria. I was called on to go to Damascus to take his place.

FAV: So you showed your cards?

Al-Kubaysi: I went to Damascus with no intention of coming back. I had been working underground. I
left the country for Cairo and from there went to Damascus to become the official of the secret
organization in Iraq . . .

FAV: And you didn't go back to Iraq until . . .?

Al-Kubaysi: Until 11 November 2002, when I returned to Baghdad.

FAV: What were you doing in Syria?

Al-Kubaysi: I was a member of the Pan-Arab leadership of the Baath Party, in charge of the office
concerned with relations with all the Iraqi opposition groups, both Arabs and Kurds. In 1980 the
Democratic National Patriotic Front was formed in Damascus, uniting all the groups that were Iraqi
opposition parties. They had no chief, but there was a general secretariat, and I was one of its
members along with [Kurdish leader] Jalal al-Talibani and Aziz Muhammad from the Iraqi Communist
Party, and Awni al-Qalamji, and others. Membership in the Secretariat of the parties did not go to
individuals but to the parties and every party could chose its representative to the Secretariat.

FAV: But the relations with the Syrian regime began to sour after that?

Al-Kubaysi: On 13 July 1982 we issued a declaration in the name of the Baath Party and the Front
condemning attempts by Iran to attack Iraqi territory. Specifically, we had taken a stand against
the war from the beginning, and against the entry of Iraqi forces into Iran. So it wasn't
reasonable after that for us to agree to the entry of Iranian forces into Iraq. This worsened our
problems with the Syrian regime. Things came to a head some years later when Iran occupied Faw
Island, and we issued a declaration condemning the attempts at occupying Iraqi territory. As a
result of that I was put under house arrest in Damascus. A number of my Iraqi Baathi comrades who
were loyal to the Baath wing that was ruling in Damascus were arrested and were not released until

After that came the story of Kuwait, I mean, when Kuwait returned to Iraq. At that point there were
meetings with the Syrian leaders. They asked me to return to work with them, but I refused. So I
was again placed under house arrest, after I had briefly been let out. That continued until exactly
a week after the end of the Second Gulf War. After that, the security guards from around where I
lived were taken away. But I had no way to travel outside the country because I had no passport.
During the First Gulf War [the Iran-Iraq War] Iraqi opposition forces began to leave Syria, among
them the parties that have an Arab nationalist character, and some Communists who had severed their
connection with the Communist Party because of the Communist Party's fighting with the Iranian army
and because the Communist Party had fallen under the rule of the Kurds and the political influence
of the Syrian leadership. After the end of the Second Gulf War [the US Aggression against Iraq,
1990-1991] Iraqi oppositionists left in greater numbers from Syria, going to Europe. As for me, I
stayed in Syria until 1997. In 1996 they returned to me my Syrian diplomatic passport. When I used
it, I never returned to Syria.

FAV: How were your relations with the Iraqi opposition groups in Syria at that time?

Al-Kubaysi: We shared a common stand against the Iraqi regime and for democracy and freedoms in
Iraq. But political developments led to a split in the opposition into two blocs. These blocs
crystalized during the second period of the First Gulf War and during the 30-Nation Aggression
Against Iraq. One bloc of the opposition was made up of the official Communists and the two wings
of the Kurdish national movement. The other opposition bloc represented the Arab nationalist forces
and those Communists who refused to cooperate with Iran.

FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar, you have come to Iraq as a representative of the Iraqi National Alliance
together with a delegation that includes five others who represent other wings of the leadership of
the Alliance. What exactly is the Iraqi National Alliance and who belongs to it?

Al-Kubaysi: The same groups that took a stand in Syria against the American aggression against Iraq
and later left for Europe. Before that they were the same people who had a position on Iran's
invasion of Iraq. All these groups held a congress in Sweden in June 1992 where they formed the
Iraqi National Alliance based on a view of the events that had taken place and on the basis of a
condemnation of the embargo on Iraq and a demand for the spread of freedoms there. The groups that
participate in the Iraqi National Alliance are:

The other wing of the Arab Baath Socialist Party,
The Socialist Unity Party (of Nasserite orientation),
The Arab Labour Party (Arab Nationalist - Marxist),
The Arab Socialist Movement (the remainder of the Arab Nationalists' Movement, mostly inclined to
The Kurdish Islamic Army,
The Kurdistan Peace Party (an elite of Kurdish intellectuals and journalists),
The patriotic current in the Iraqi Communist Party,
A group of independent political and intellectual figures.
FAV: What real political weight do all these organizations have with Iraqis in emigration?

Al-Kubaysi: We really have no way of posing the question in that form. Iraqi citizens abroad left
home in search of a living and none of the opposition parties have any real weight with them. This
is true not just of us but of the Iraqi opposition forces that obtain funds from the Arabian Gulf
regimes and which enjoy the political facilities that America imposes on the states of the world.
They have means, but they don't have any mass following. The number of Iraqi opposition
organizations abroad is 173, most of them being mercenary and having no authentic roots either in
Iraq or abroad.

FAV: OK. So, do you have a mass following inside Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes, we have a mass following inside Iraq. This is because we haven't come out of
nowhere. But we don't have organized forces. Historically, the Arab nationalist current in Iraq had
two wings: the Baath and the Arab Nationalists' Movement. We paralleled or more than paralleled the
currently ruling Baath current. Our masses are in agreement with the regime in broad patriotic and
Arab nationalist terms, but not on the issue of freedoms, which are still a matter on which we
differ. The ruling party rules by itself. The masses whom we met when we came here support the
regime in its patriotic and Arab nationalist orientations, and are ready to fight in defense of
Iraq against the embargo and any aggression. But they believe that the spread of political openness
will strengthen the resiliance of the homeland to aggression and embargo. These masses welcomed our
arrival. They considered it a step on the right path. Even if the regime wants to kill us we must
fight together with it against aggression. If we don't, we will lose the justification for our

FAV: You have anticipated my question regarding the reasons for your return to Iraq . . .

Al-Kubaysi: Since 1992, our political line has been against the American projects, and a
condemnation of those forces that cooperate with the foreigners. We endorsed the steadfastness of
our people, the rebuilding of our country and their standing up to the embargo. Since that time we
have been convinced that Iraq has entered into an historic confrontation which will have many
pages; the last was not turned in the year 1991. It is a confrontation that will continue in many
different ways. We are not convinced that the embargo will be lifted in a year or two. This
confrontation demands that an opportunity be given to releasing political freedoms. On this basis
we have appealed for a patriotic reconciliation to strengthen the resilience of our people to the
embargo and aggression.

In September 2000 we convened the Second Congress of the Iraqi National Alliance in London. It was
attended by 104 delegates from other countries. And I'd like to point out that the congress was
entirely self-funded by the participants.

FAV: Haven't the Americans tried to build bridges to the Iraqi National Alliance or to make contact
with you?

Al-Kubaysi: Never. This is because our position on them is well known. We call for fighting them.
We held demonstrations against them in front of the American embassies in western Europe to demand
an end to the embargo and in protest against the continued American genocide of Iraqi children.

FAV: What about the other opposition forces, the ones that cooperate with America, such as the
Iraqi National Congress? Have they not tried to coordinate with you?

Al-Kubaysi: They are creatures of the Central Intelligence Agency. These are groupings that were
hidden in deep freeze that they brought out and thawed out a little. Many of their figures were
part of the regime, by the way. When things got bad in the country, they simply "packed their bags"
and left to join the other side.

FAV: What about the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq? Have they tried to contact you?

Al-Kubaysi: the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is an Iranian card (arm). Its base is
with some of the Iraqi prisoners captured in the Iran-Iraq war and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Among their leaders there is not one native Iraqi. Even Baqir al-Hakim is originally from Isfahan,
Iran, not Iraq. And they haven't tried to make contact with us either.

FAV: And in the Kurdish north of Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Up there there are the official Communists and the two Kurdish wings that existed
before 1991. These are movements that are native to Iraq. As to the Kurdish movements, we are in
contact with certain individuals. As to the political movements, we cut off contact with them in
1991. As regards the Communists, two patriotic blocs have split off from them. One of them is with
us in the National Alliance (the bloc of Khalid Salam and Ahmad Karim) and the other bloc is the
Advanced Cadre (the bloc of the member of the Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party, Baqir
Ibrahim al-Mousawi). We are in weekly contact with them. They don't want to enter into any
coalitions before their own organization has crystallized. The official Iraqi Communist Party is
under the influence of the Kurdish National Movement, but more than half of its rank and file
members at least are patriotic individuals about whom there can be no doubt.

If there were in Iraq a call for reconciliation, and if we are able to create an atmosphere of
tolerance and mutual respect, I believe that those brothers in the Iraqi Communist Party would not
accept the course of their current leaders and would return to their country to form their own
patriotic Communist bloc. The real bloc in the Communist Party is patriotic, without doubt. But the
American efforts directed at Iraqis abroad and the lack of d�tente inside Iraq puts this patriotic
bloc in its present situation. As to the leaders of the Communist Party, they have drowned in
Kuwaiti money. The US State Department issued a list of 17 Iraqi organizations that have been
receiving funds from it when it was asked by the US Congress which parties outside the Iraqi
National Congress are receiving American money. This list included the name of a club or platform
of Iraqi Communist intellectuals in London.

FAV: Are we to understand from all that that there is no Iraqi opposition abroad with any weight or
credibility which could form an alternative to the regime?

Al-Kubaysi: No! [There isn't.]

FAV: Even those who are with the Iranians?

Al-Kubaysi: You said "Iraqi", not extensions of the Iranians. Be aware of the fact that the
opposition abroad is split up along ethnic and confessional lines. If America brings them in, there
will be massacres in Iraq, because they are oppositions that are narrowly restricted in terms of
what religious and ethnic groups belong to them. Not only that, but there are six or seven Turkmen
parties, for example. In addition there are three Assyrian organizations. These have never
established Iraqi organizations; rather they have established a climate and a basis for the growth
of real domestic civil warfare. There will be blood-letting if they are fated one day to take
power. From this we see the importance of the movements in our Iraqi National Alliance and of the
rank-and-file of the Communist Party (whose leaders are now pursuing a destructive and unpatriotic

The real patriotic Iraqi oppositionists today are the ones who own nothing and are supported by no
foreign state. If they came to Iraq, they would come together on the basis of their patriotic line
in it. Even the Kurds. I am not saying that the Kurdish movement as a whole is a creature of the
Mossad and CIA, but there is no doubt that the Mossad and the CIA take advantage of the Kurdish

FAV: Since these are your positions, why has it taken you so long to return to Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Let me first make clear that I am not a criminal who has come back under some sort of
amnesty. There was an environment of very costly infighting. For example, my two brothers were
executed in 1981, for no reason other than being my brothers. Such an environment of infighting
requires a long time to create an atmosphere of trust. The leadership in Iraq was meeting us in the
past while totally focused on the work of lifting the embargo. Our viewpoint was that the
precondition for confronting the embargo was the spread of an atmosphere of reconciliation with
Iraqi patriots, not the postponement of such a reconciliation. Let me make clear that we have no
aspirations to taking power, nor will we accept a share in power. But we want a chance to fight in
defense of the homeland. After occasional meetings over a period of years we received an official
invitation to come, based on a resolution of the Iraqi leadership to engage in preparing
legislation, as we have been told, to provide for political pluralism and freedom of the press for
political parties, and also providing for undertaking a series of measures to create an atmosphere
of tolerance. We were supposed to arrive two months ago, but we did not receive the necessary
entrance visas until the beginning of November.

FAV: How were you received? How did your meetings with officials go?

Al-Kubaysi: We were received well and the meetings were warm. The officials praised our making the
effort to come. We presented the need for mutual respect and the spread of an atmosphere of
reconciliation, and we presented the need for permission to be granted for political parties to be
formed and for the emergence of a free press ON THE BASIS OF RESISTANCE TO AGGRESSION AND AMERICA'S
PROJECTS IN THE REGION. We emphasized the importance of working to rally the forces and make
national unity firm again, noting that these are the basic tools for resistance. We might not be
able to win militarily, but we can resist and resistance is what can raise the cost of aggression
to the extent that it forces the enemy to withdraw. We said that we hope that the leadership will
be flexible in dealing with the matter of weapons and inspections because the fact that war does
not happen is itself a victory for Iraq.

FAV: Did you find the leadership receptive to what you proposed about pluralism on a patriotic
basis, and are there actual steps being taken in this regard, and a specific schedule?

Al-Kubaysi: A Supreme Committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Dr. Izzat Ibrahim to prepare
a constitution and a law of political party pluralism and a law on the press that gives parties the
right to issue newspapers. We were told that the preparation of drafts will take at least a month.
After that these laws must be brought to the Legislative Council, and this will take some time too.
But as for us in the Iraqi National Alliance, we have been told that we can implement these rights
immediately under the provision that they are "under construction".

FAV: Will you make use of this offer?

Al-Kubaysi: We must go back to Europe to discuss these matters with our brothers. It is possible
that some of us will come to work on the basis of this offer within three months, and that after
that a larger number of us would come at the start of next summer. But until that time, the Iraqi
state can, and indeed must, resolve to augment these laws to facilitate life for the citizens, and
to cancel all the measures of a coercive nature. For example, with respect to the infighting
amongst patriotic forces that has gone on since 1959, we hope that a decree will be issued whereby
all those who fell or were killed in this internal struggle from all parties will be considered
martyrs for Iraq and not martyrs of this or that political party. This will help many families
regain status and reduce the administrative hindrances to their exercising their civil and natural
rights and it won't cost the regime anything. Similarly, there must be compensation for the
families of those executed and whose property was expropriated. Also the language used with all the
opposition groups must be the language of reconciliation. They have said that every Iraqi
oppositionist, however far he's gone in attacking the regime may return without being questioned or
interrogated or pursued. They have said that the only ones they will pursue will be those who take
part in American or Zionist intelligence efforts. We hope that this position will be reflected in
announcements and in official statements. However an Iraqi abroad may have erred, this goes back to
American efforts and the absence of any reconciliatory dialogue domestically in Iraq. We must break
up this American effort by means of internal reconciliation. The biggest bloc of them is not
treacherous, but patriotic. We differ from some of them, yes, but to fight among ourselves, or make
one another our enemy? No. Some of them have attacked us in our demonstrations yet inspite of that
we have not lost our vision with respect to them. We must save them from the circle of error, and
the Iraqi state bears responsibility for this.

Iraq is a country that has become great abroad by mounting a confrontation on behalf of the Arabs
and all of humanity against American aggression. It is appropriate for this country to have a
domestic project that is also great.

FAV: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes. I want to say that limiting the confrontation with aggression to the geography of
Iraq is not in the interest of the Arab Nation. I am not talking about fighting the aggressors
outside of Iraq here. Rather I am saying that we must build a model for political life in Iraq that
binds the whole Arab Nation to it. It must be a positive model for the entire Arab Homeland. We
must build a political life that we can be proud of, a model for the Third World beyond the Arab
Homeland. All of humanity will one day discover that they are indebted to the Iraqis for
confronting American savagery. So we must cause the "dictatorship card" to fall from America's
hand, the way we have made them drop the excuse of "mass destruction weapons". We know that they do
not want democracy. Democracy does not come from missiles and gunboats. We have an Arab National
project for renaissance and we want to fight the Zionist project in our countries. We must,
therefore, build a fighting political force. The issue is not only an issue of stability of the
regime. It is an issue of how to spread the project of Arab renaissance throughout the Arab
homeland. I do not want a government post as long as I live. I only want my right to an independent
opinion, not subjected to the authorities. We know that the leadership in Iraq was told more than
two weeks before UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was passed that Iraq's problems could be
solved if it agreed to establish relations with "Israel" in the framework of a so-called "just and
lasting peace", and that they rejected this unequivocally. They remain insistent upon this
rejection, and we cannot differ from them.

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Anonymous Alison said...

I'm not sure if my comment got through, so I'm posting it again just in case:

Various contributions by former Ba'athist official Salah Al-Mukhtar, a confidante of President Saddam Hussein, provide important additional information about the preparation of the Iraqi National Resistance from a Ba’athist perspective.

According to Al-Mukhtar, these preparations, the full details of which which were known only to those directly involved, including himself, began as early as 1998 in the aftermath of the Desert Fox bombing campaign.

It is also worth noting that in his first novel, the romantic fable ‘Zabiba and the King’, published in late 1999 - and now available in English from internet booksellers – Saddam rejects the heritary principle and envisages the replacement of a decadent monarchy with a popular assembly drawn from the ranks of the popular resistance against foreign invasion….

5:37 AM  
Blogger badger said...

That got through fine, Allison, so I'm deleting the other one. I'm going to look for that stuff you mention once I have the additional energy... Naturally if you have right there at hand any urls it would be a big help as usual...

5:54 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

Several interviews with SALAH AL-MUKHTAR are available in English. Below are the urls of two of the most informative ones, both dating from 2005:

Interview: baath leader calls for peace talks (2005): (the title chosen by Dreyfuss reflects his own concerns!)

Salah Al Mukhtar: The Iraqi Resistance is geared to keep on fighting for a decade to come (2005):

Al-Mukhtar’s self-portrayal as “just a Ba’athist” and “a writer” belies the fact that he was doubtlesly among the “very capable cadres” - both political and military – “selected by the martyr leader Saddam Hussein in complete confidentiality without the knowledge of those closest to him formally” with a view to “ensuring the victory of the Ba’ath Party and its allies at the end of the great conflict whatever adverse circumstances beset the Party and its fighters after the invasion.” ( I am quoting from the first in a series of recent articles in Arabic in which Al-Mukhtar argues that the enemy is also drawing on hidden reserves. He is noticeably less sanguine now than he was in 2005, more concerned about rifts in the ranks of the Resistance instigated by moles. He also takes a less benign view of Takfiri groups and their paymasters than Al-Kubaysi in his recent interview. These concerns were evident in the article of his you reviewed on this blog at my suggestion back in May under the heading ‘A Baathist looks at the big picture.’)

While I was digging out my printouts of the interviews with Al-Muhktar I also came across the following rare English translations of two very informative interviews with Ba’athist resistance figures – a local political leader and a field commander respectively - published in the Jordanian Al-Majd newspaper in late 2004:

An interview with a leader of the Iraqi Ba’ath Party (2004):

An interview with General Abu Al Mu’tassim (2004) :

1:27 AM  

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