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In case someone is still in any doubts about
Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress

AIPAC and the Iraqi National Congress

By Nathan Guttman
April 07, 2003

WASHINGTON - An unusual visitor was invited to address the annual conference held last week in Washington by AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States: the head of the Washington office of the Iraqi National Congress, Intifad Qanbar. The INC is one of the main opposition groups outside Iraq, and its leaders consider themselves natural candidates for leadership positions in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Qanbar's invitation to the conference reflects a first attempt to disclose the links between the American Jewish community and the Iraqi opposition, after years in which the two sides have taken pains to conceal them.

The considerations against openly disclosing the extent of cooperation are obvious - revelation of overly close links with Jews will not serve the interests of the organizations aspiring to lead the Iraqi people. Currently, at the height of rivalry over future leadership of the country among opposition groups abroad, the domestic opposition and Iraqi citizens, it is most certainly undesirable for the Jewish lobby to forge - or flaunt - especially close links with any one of the groups, in a way that would cause its alienation from the others.

"At the current stage, we don't want to be involved in this argument," says a major activist in one of the larger Jewish organizations.

In the end, Intifad Qanbar did not attend the AIPAC conference.

At the last moment, he was asked by the American administration to go to northern Iraq to help organize opposition to Saddam there. In his place, another well-known opposition activist spoke to the conference, Kana Makiya, who is less identified with the Iraqi exile organizations.

The Jewish groups maintain quiet contacts with nearly every Iraqi opposition group, and in the past have even met with the most prominent opposition leader, Ahmed Chalabi. The main objective was an exchange of information, but there was also an attempt to persuade the Iraqis of the need for good relations with Israel and with world Jewry.

"You have to be realistic about your aims," says one Jewish activist. "You have to understand that Iraq will be an Arab state, and that it won't want to adopt a controversial foreign policy."

Nevertheless, the Jewish activists make it clear they do expect the future Iraqi regime to obligate itself not to be aggressive toward Israel and adopt the mainstream view of the Arab world, "perhaps something like the position taken by Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states," says the activist.

Sources in the Jewish community noted last week that while Chalabi's people expressed positive opinions vis-a-vis Israel in conversations with Jews, Adnan Pachachi, another opposition leader who recently founded an opposition movement that competes with the Iraqi National Congress, said last week in London that he does not expect good relations between the new Iraq and Israel, as this would be antithetical to Iraqi interests.