Opposition group crumbles in face of massacres

Click to follow
For four years the Iraqi National Congress has tried to rally opposition to Saddam Hussein. Yesterday Ghanim Jawad, one of its leaders, sounded beleaguered as Kurdish Democratic Party soldiers, newly allied to Baghdad, closed in on the group's last base in Suleymaniyeh where INC members have been rallying after losing more than 100 dead in massacres in the last 10 days.

"Our main object is to try to stay in Iraq," said Mr Jawad, a veteran of the INC, yesterday. "There is chaos, but we believe we lost 100 people killed at Qushteppe. Another 19 persons were executed in one of our offices in Arbil." He said that 150 KDP members were in a new camp near Suleymaniyeh and another 200 were on Iraq's border with Syria.

The INC says it will fight on but its main Kurdish ally, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, is being driven from the battlefield. An Iraqi political observer said: "It will be difficult for the INC to get recruits in future because its men were picked up just like that by the Iraqis. Ahmed Chelabi, the INC leader, also welcomed the American missile attacks on Iraq last week, which will not be popular among ordinary Iraqis."

Laith Kubba, a founder member of the organisation, said yesterday: "The INC has fallen apart and it will not re-emerge under its present leaders or structures." He added: "The gamble on the Americans has not paid off." Other opposition leaders noted that the US had not even raised $4m (pounds 2.6m) earlier this year to pay for the INC to monitor a ceasefire between the KDP and PUK.

But the greatest difficulty for the INC is the fact that Masoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, is also an INC leader. The fact that he allied himself with Iraq and allowed his former allies in the INC to be caught by surprise and massacred shows how far the organisation had already ceased to be an umbrella for all the Iraqi opposition.

The INC was yesterday denying that it was supported by the CIA, though its appeal to the Kurds was its strong connections in Washington. In the course of this year the CIA has thrown its weight behind another Iraqi dissident organisation, the Iraqi National Accord, reportedly contributing $6m to them.