(AINA) -- On September 14, 2002 the US State Department announced to Assyrian political leaders that the next round of meetings involving the Iraqi opposition "big six" would be held in New York on September 18, 2002. In an important reversal, the State Department called the representatives of the Assyrian Coalition and the Assyrian American League (AAL) to formally request Assyrian participation in the meeting. Whereas Assyrians had participated in earlier, considerably larger and broader opposition meetings at a lesser level, the September 18 invitation represents the first instance that Assyrians will participate in the more intimate and critical leadership circle of major opposition groups. Prior to the inclusion of the Assyrian Coalition, the opposition groups included the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, the Iraqi National Accord, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Iraqi National Congress and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
The State Department decision to invite Assyrians follows an earlier exclusion of Assyrian political participation in the August 9 meeting in Washington D.C. That stonewalling of Assyrians led to an enormous political outcry and protest from Assyrians throughout the political spectrum. Prompted by intensive lobbying by former Congressman Michael Flanagan of the Assyrian American League (AAL), the Chairman of the Congressional Committee on International Relations, Congressman Henry Hyde, took umbrage with the State Department's exclusion of Assyrians in the August 9 opposition meeting (AINA, 8-27-2002). In a letter to Secretary Powell, Mr. Hyde asserted that "It would be a mistake to start the process of determining the aftermath of Iraq without the representation of one of the most significant minority groups in Iraq." Mr. Hyde also added "Specifically, I would urge you to consider inviting Mr. Yonadam Yousif Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM)...he is the choice of the Assyrian Coalition..."
The Assyrian Coalition consists of the major mainstream Assyrian political organizations wishing to coordinate Assyrian political resources and strategy. The Assyrian Coalition's designated Assyrian representative, Mr. Kanna, is the Secretary General of the ADM, the predominant Assyrian political organization in Iraq. One day prior to President George Bush's address to the UN regarding Iraq, Mr.Kanna, Dr. Ronald Michael and Michael Flanagan met with representatives of the State Department and representatives of the Congressional Committee on International Relations to press the point for Assyrian participation in Iraqi opposition meetings. Following the recommendation of the Assyrian Coalition and Mr. Hyde's persuasion, the State Department has now extended the invitation to Mr. Kanna as the representative of the Assyrian Coalition.
Assyrian political observers have noted that the invitation of the Assyrian Coalition's representative is due in large part to the realization by the US that the Coalition represents an important step in Assyrian political unity. Dr. Ronald Michael of the AAL echoed that observation and added, "the Assyrian Coalition represents the actualization of a new political maturity amongst Assyrian political organizations."
The previously unannounced September 18 meeting is believed highly significant as it follows President Bush's UN address regarding Iraq. As one Assyrian analyst noted following the address, "The countdown to the liberation of Iraq has begun." Accordingly, the upcoming meeting in New York may represent the final attempt to forge a cohesive Iraqi opposition prior to military action against the Iraqi regime. The inclusion of Assyrians and perhaps other minorities such as the Turkman signifies the last obstacle to establishing a fairly representative Iraqi opposition. For Assyrians, the new opposition groupings may likely represent the nascent nucleus for a future Iraq that may evolve into the political structure for a future government. Within the context of this new opposition formula, Assyrians may finally address grievances as well as minimal political aspirations such as constitutional recognition in a free, sovereign, secular and democratic Iraq.