Given the popular hatred of Saddam in America, it was no surprise that the 435-strong US House of Representatives adopted the Iraq Liberation Bill by 360 votes to 38 on October 6, 1998, followed by a larger plurality in the Senate. It authorized the president to spend up to $97 million for military aid to train, equip and finance an Iraqi opposition army, and authorized the Pentagon to train insurgents. A fortnight later Clinton signed it - turning it into the Iraq Liberation Act (ILA) - after ignoring the objection of the Iraqi National Assembly that "Such behavior contradicts the UN Charter, international law and the right of people to choose their own political system without foreign influence." 1
The military strategy to destabilize Iraq was conceived by (Retd) Gen. Wayne Downing, a retired Special Forces officer, and Dewey Clarridge, a retired CIA officer who had worked with the anti-leftist Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The plan involved the CIA, working in league with the Special Forces, to train opposition military officers who would then train their men. Next, protected by US air cover, they would start capturing lightly defended areas in southern and western Iraq as an opening gambit to attract defectors from the regular Iraqi army. As their guerrilla actions escalated, inducing an increasing deployment of Baghdad's air force, US air power would intervene to protect the insurgents. "[US] Support for an insurgency will send a signal to Saddam that we're getting serious and may encourage someone inside [Iraq] to stage a coup or assassination," said Clarridge. To get the ball rolling, Washington had first to designate groups eligible for military aid by end-January. For that Clinton had to be satisfied that a group had "broad-based representation" and "a record of support for democracy." 2
Commenting on the ILA in its editorial, entitled "Fantasies About Iraq," on October 20, the New York Times wrote, "The intended beneficiaries of US support include the Iraqi National Congress, which represents almost no one and has failed to produce results with aid it previously received from Washington." A warning came from none other than Gen. Anthony Zinni, chief of the US Central Command, covering the Gulf. "I know of no viable opposition to Saddam in Iraq," he said. "Under such conditions any attempt to remove the Iraqi leader by force could dangerously fragment Iraq and destabilize the entire region." He
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Publication information: Book title: Neighbors, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars. Contributors: Dilip Hiro - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 154.
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