An “armada of British and U.S. commandos – backed up by opposition forces inside Iraq – is only waiting for a signal to attack Saddam Hussein, in what promises to be a second Desert Storm,” according to official Russian sources.

In preparation for the attack, “high-ranking Iraqi army and security officers who fled Iraq” will meet later this month at a military base “near Washington, D.C.,” according to Moscow. The participants are to devise what Moscow refers to as a “Saddam overthrow plan” and also make provisions for a transitional government after Saddam Hussein’s defeat.

The statements were carried by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

Following the meeting of military and intelligence officers, a collection of anti-Saddam political organizations are to gather sometime in May in the German city of Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, according to Moscow.

The meeting of Iraq’s political opposition to Hussein’s regime is vitally necessary to the ultimate success of any plan to topple the Iraqi dictator. The opposition to the present Baghdad regime has a reputation for internecine rivalries, as well as vulnerability to infiltration by Iraqi intelligence services.

Due to the volatility in the region – and in contrast to the military operation in Afghanistan – a well-defined and workable plan for a successor government must be in place before a coordinated attack can take place. Regional and international leaders have long feared that a sudden overthrow of Saddam Hussein could result in military and political chaos in the region, and could even ignite a regional conflict.

The leading political forces opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein include the Iraqi National Congress, which has enjoyed substantial U.S. support, and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, backed by Iran, which obtains most of its support from the nation’s Shiite community.

Smaller groups include organizations advocating the political cause of the Kurdish minority, located primarily in the north of Iraq. The two strongest Kurdish groups are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

The Iraqi Communist Party is small in number but active.

The Kurdish groups in the past have worked – and fought – for a separate Kurdish homeland. Since the Kurds predominately live in an area that includes portions of several Middle Eastern states, the possible break-up of Iraq after the fall of Hussein is pivotal to the region’s politics.

If the Kurds obtain an independent homeland in Iraq, surrounding nations fear that it would become a base of operations for further Kurdish rebellion in other states, leading to continued warfare as well as clashes between regional powers over border disputes.

To alleviate the fear of the establishment of a separate Kurdish state, the leader of the PUK, Jalal Talabani, is visiting states neighboring Iraq to assure leaders that the Kurds do not intend to establish their own nation.

Talabani expressed his support for a “united and democratic Iraq,” according to a BBC report, and stated that his meeting with Turkish leaders was “very successful.”

Observers note that any attack upon Iraq will require significant planning and resources, and that Iraq has continued to improve its defenses despite the presence of U.N. sanctions.

Belarus – which is united with Russia in a Union State – and Ukraine, which also has close relations with Moscow, have sold the modern S-300 Russian air defense system to Iraq, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The Iraqi military has already received training in the use of the system in Belarus last year, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty stated.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter as stating that Iraq has established a number of front companies in a number of nations, including Jordan, Syria and Malaysia, to purchase arms for the Iraqi government.

Iraq remains a close friend of Russia, and Russia is one of Iraq’s most important trading partners.

Moscow maintains that the U.S. “has no right to take unilateral steps [against Iraq] without approval from the United Nations.”

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