In case someone is still in any doubts about
Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress
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
"At the current stage, we don't want to be involved in this
argument," says a major activist in one of the larger Jewish
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
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
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.