December 4, 1998

                 Iran and Syria Pursue their own Plans Against Saddam Hussein

                 Iran and Syria appear to have begun coordinating efforts aimed at
                 the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.  On December 1,
                 the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat cited
                 "diplomatic sources" as reporting that Tehran and Damascus would
                 intensify contacts regarding developments in Iraq.  The newspaper
                 reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi held
                 telephone consultations with his Syraian counterpart, Farouq al-
                 Sharaa, on the evening of November 29.  Additionally, Iranian
                 Vice President Hasan Habibi will reportedly lead Iran's
                 delegation at joint Higher Committee meetings this weekend in
                 Damascus.

                 After failing, despite repeated threats of military force, to
                 convince Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to either submit to UN
                 Security Council resolutions or step down, U.S. President Bill
                 Clinton approved $97 million in funding to the Iraqi opposition
                 to facilitate Hussein's overthrow.  Yet a U.S. and British
                 sponsored meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders two weeks ago in
                 London ended with no firm agreement on an anti-Saddam strategy,
                 and the money promised by the U.S. has yet to be distributed
                 owing to a dispute over which groups qualify for funding.  Having
                 even less luck launching the Iraqi opposition than launching
                 cruise missiles, the Clinton administration began hinting
                 strongly in late November that it wouldn't mind at all if Iran
                 organized an uprising.

                              While Iran and Syria appear at first glance to be heeding
                 Washington's call, that is not apparent in their rhetoric.  Al-
                 Hayat reported that Iranian-Syrian consultations with Patriotic
                 Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani were aimed at "producing
                 an action plan to confront any developments concerning U.S. plans
                 to topple Saddam."  The Jordanian weekly Al-Majd reported on
                 November 30 that Syrian officials had warned Talabani and other
                 opposition leaders "of the dangers of submitting to U.S. and
                 British schemes to topple the Iraqi regime, and of the dangers of
                 becoming part of these foreign powers' plans that would violate
                 Iraq's national sovereignty and threaten Iraq state and people
                 - with division and fragmentation."  Talabani allegedly responded
                 that he understood Syria's concerns, and would "refuse to
                 cooperate with any foreign party that plans to topple the Iraqi
                 regime or divide Iraq on an ethnic or sectarian basis."  Syria
                 will reportedly express the same concerns to Kurdistan Democratic
                 Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani when he visits Damascus in the
                 near future.

                 Still, it is hard to believe that, even considering recent
                 attempts at rapprochement between Syria, Iran and Iraq, the
                 agenda of Tehran and Damascus is to keep Saddam in power.  Iran
                 was involved with a brutal eight-year war with Iraq and continues
                 to support the Iraqi opposition.  Iraq in turn supports the
                 Iranian opposition.  Syria backed Iran through the Iran-Iraq war,
                 and has been Tehran's most reliable ally in the region.  No, the
                 increased tempo of contacts between Syrian and Iranian officials
                 and leaders of the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish opposition factions
                 in Iraq in the past few weeks, and additional rhetoric from those
                 meetings, suggests that, while actively opposing the U.S. plans
                 for Iraq, Iran and Syria would still like to remove Saddam
                 themselves.

                 Iraq's main Shiite opposition leader, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer
                 al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic
                 Revolution in Iraq, on November 29 lashed out on U.S. plans to
                 topple Saddam.  "Change must take place from inside [Iraq]," al-
                 Hakim told Al-Hayat. "Cooperation between the army, the tribes
                 and all influential Sunnite, Shiite, Kurd and Arab forces is
                 necessary.  We are not prepared to cooperate with the United
                 States or the major powers to overthrow Saddam Hussein because
                 their intervention would harm the Iraqi people and their future,"
                 he said from his headquarters in Tehran.

                 Sunni Iraqi Homeland Party leader, Mishan al-Juburi stated from
                 his headquarters in Damascus that Saddam's overthrow is "Iraq's
                 business and not that of the U.S." He further stated, " It is not
                 possible to be a patriot and cooperate with those who have
                 completely destroyed Iraq."  He is scheduled to visit Tehran
                 before the end of this week on the invitation of al-Hakim,
                 reportedly to thank al-Hakim and Tehran for rejecting U.S
                 intervention in Iraq's affairs and for rejecting any military
                 strike against Iraq.  Al-Juburi added that the purpose of his
                 visit to Iran was, " so that we can unite ranks with those who
                 are opposed to a strike against Iraq."  Additionally, Muhammud
                 Taqi al-Muddarisi, head of the Iranian supported Islamic Action
                 Organization, recently met with Syrian Vice President Abd al-
                 Halim Khaddam and representatives of 18 Iraqi opposition factions
                 in an attempt "to unite the ranks of the opposition."

                 In short, the Iran and Syria are all in favor of the overthrow of
                 Saddam Hussein, just not under U.S. direction.  They are not even
                 opposed to foreign meddling in Iraq, as long as they are the
                 foreigners.  One possible motive for Iran and Syria to attempt to
                 undermine U.S. influence among the Iraqi opposition is to
                 forestall any U.S. attempts to establish a pro-U.S. government in
                 Iraq.  This is an experience that Iran still bitterly remembers.
                 In addition, if the rhetoric is to be believed, Iran and Syria
                 oppose the breakup of Iraq.  While this may be an attempt to keep
                 out Turkish influence in northern Iraq, fragmentation of Iraq is
                 very attractive to some in the Iraqi opposition, particularly the
                 Kurds.  While the U.S. has to overcome its own clumsiness and
                 unreliability to attract and direct the Iraqi opposition, Tehran
                 and Damascus will have to generate an attractive alternative to
                 an independent Kurdistan if they are to launch their own
                 uprising.  Still, they're evidently trying.