In 1992, opponents of the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, united in forming the Iraqi National Congress, which was supported by the US, but this has not prevented ferocious rivalries. The Kurds themselves have fought a full-scale civil war in the past two years which has left 3,000 dead.
The Iraqi National Accord, the party to which their chief bomb-maker, Abu Amneh al-Khadami, belonged, has long wanted to become the movement most favoured by the US. Many of its members are former members of the regime in Baghdad and they claim to be well placed to launch a military coup. Their leader, Iyad Mohammed Alawi, was badly injured in an assassination attempt, carried out by Iraqi intelligence, in Britain in the late 1970s.
Abu Amneh says that the party had plans to dispose of Ahmed Chelabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, who had previously been the opposition leader most trusted by the US. He says: "When I first came to Sulaymaniyah I was twice asked to kill Dr Chelabi but I refused." He adds piously that "I would not ruin my reputation" by killing somebody who, whatever his faults, was part of the resistance.
He also turned down the idea of a booby-trapped car on the more practical grounds that this would turn Dr Chelabi into a martyr and might kill Americans travelling with him. Not all members of his party were so circumspect. Members of National Accord were arrested by the Kurds for blowing up an INC, headquarters killing 28 people last year. The Accord has good relations with Jordan, which has turned sharply against Iraq in recent months.
According to one report, Nazar Khazraji, a former Iraqi chief of staff, who defected this month, is expected to join the party.
The intensification of the struggle to win US support may have come because the pool of American money was getting smaller. It fell from $40m in 1992 to $15m last year because of doubts in the US administration about the effectiveness of the opposition. On the other hand, it is difficult to see what else the opposition can do, given that the regime in Baghdad will crush mercilessly any sign of dissent. Dr Chelabi has tried to build up a regular military force in Kurdistan. This launched a limited military offensive against the Iraqi army last March but the attack failed because it lacked Kurdish and US support.Reuse content