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Iraq Report: June 27, 2005

27 June 2005, Volume 8, Number 21
By Kathleen Ridolfo

The 22 June Iraq donors conference in Brussels achieved what participants hoped it would in terms of drumming up support for Iraq's transitional phase. Participants voiced overwhelming support for the transitional government, but few new commitments were made. The overwhelming phrase echoed by some 80 nations and international organizations was 'We will do more, when the security situation allows it.'

Iraqi officials had said prior to the conference that they would not seek new donor pledges, but rather would call on donors to follow-through with some $33 billion pledged at the 2003 donor conference in Madrid. What they heard at the conference from donor states was a run-down of commitments already made, while foreign ministers said little about delivery of outstanding pledges.

New pledges are expected to come at the 17-18 July donor conference in Amman, Jordan. While high expectations have been set for the conference, based on statements made in Brussels, little change can be expected from donor states in the near-term.

The most promising support came from the European Union and its member states. In his opening remarks, EU Council President Jean Asselborn said the EU was "determined to fully support Iraqi efforts," adding that he expected that "concrete commitments can be confirmed officially" in Amman.

The EU confirmed in Brussels its 21 February pledge to meet an Iraqi request to provide further support to the political and constitutional process through the EU Rule of Law Mission (EUJUST LEX). The mission, which will include the training of 770 Iraqi officials, including judges, police, and prison officers, will be launched on 1 July, EU High Representative Javier Solana told conference participants.

EU member states France and Germany said they would offer a further cancellation of Iraq's debts, German media reported on 23 June. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that Germany was prepared to offer further assistance in the democratization of Iraq, but only if the security environment there improved.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer asked donor states to make further contributions to the alliance's trust fund for Iraq, and pleaded with states who have not already contributed to do so ( de Hoop Scheffer also asked states who are contributing military training and assistance to consider coordinating it through the NATO Training and Equipment Coordination Group.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged his country's readiness to contribute to Iraq's political, economic, and security development, but did not offer up specifics except to say that Moscow "may take part in international efforts to prepare a new democratic constitution of Iraq under the UN auspices." Lavrov contended that Russia's write-off of Iraqi debt is the "maximum debt relief as compared to other foreign creditors," Itar-Tass reported on 22 June.

Arab states pledged little more than moral support at the conference. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Sa'ud al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud stressed the need for Iraq to make more progress in the political arena. "We believe further that the international community has a responsibility and a role to play in bringing Iraq back to normalcy. However, we firmly believe that as a matter of priority the issue is mainly political. A politically stable environment must be established as a prerequisite to achieve the goals set by this conference," he said.

Prince Sa'ud also voiced his country's readiness to enter into talks with the Iraqi government on debt relief, and highlighted the $1 billion offered by the kingdom at the 2003 Madrid conference for reconstruction efforts in the form of soft loans and by financing and guaranteeing Saudi exports to Iraq. Some 300 million riyals (about $80 million) has already been delivered to Iraq through humanitarian assistance, he said.

Jordan and Egypt both responded to an Iraqi plea that all states reestablish ministries in Iraq, and pledged to send ambassadors to Baghdad 'soon.' Jordanian Foreign Minister Faruq Qasrawi said his country is ready to extend "every necessary assistance" to help Iraq achieve its objectives, state news agency Petra reported on 22 June.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Sabah underscored his country's commitment to aiding reconstruction in the health, education and power sectors in the amount of $440 million in soft loans and another $125 million in grants. "Progress of the political process requires parallel reconstruction and building what was destroyed by the former regime due to its aggressive policies," al-Sabah told the conference.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara voiced Syria's readiness to cooperate on the security front, while blaming "a party" for obstructing his country's ability to do so by preventing Syria from getting the needed technology to secure its long borders, SANA reported on 22 June. The comment was aimed at the United States, which he said directs accusations against Syria. The U.K. is currently reviewing a request by Syria for night-vision equipment. It is unclear whether the sale would be approved. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice singled out Syria at the conference by calling on it to "live up to its responsibilities" in preventing insurgents from crossing its borders into Iraq.

Turkey and Iran both said they were pursuing an active diplomacy with Iraq regarding their contributions to reconstruction.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari and his delegation headed to Washington following the Brussels conference for meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush and other high-level officials. The prime minister has also accepted an invitation by Faruq al-Shara to visit Syria, which al-Ja'fari contends would help ease tensions between the two states.

BAGHDAD CALLS ON DONOR STATES TO FOLLOW THROUGH. An Iraqi delegation to the donors conference in Brussels on 22 June was expected to make a hard sell in an effort to persuade donors to follow through with earlier financial commitments. Some $33 billion in grants and loans were pledged to Iraq at the 2003 Madrid donors conference (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 and 31 October 2003). Iraqi officials estimate, however, that only about 10 percent of the $13 billion in aid pledged by countries other than the United States has actually been delivered.

In order to persuade donors, the transitional Iraqi government needs to convince them that Iraq has a sound program for combating insurgents, and that mechanisms are in place to provide greater transparency and accountability for donor funds.

Iraqis did not intend to seek new pledges at the conference, which was billed as a forum for the transitional Iraqi government to present its priorities, vision, and strategies for the transitional period that is slated to end after national elections in December.

An Iraqi Platform

More than 80 countries and international organizations attended the one-day conference in Brussels, which was co-hosted by the United States and the European Union. Iraqi officials said ahead of the event that it would serve as a platform to address developments in the political and judicial fields, economic reconstruction, and the government's plans to boost security and improve law and order. "For us this conference is not a donor conference," Transitional Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari told reporters on 19 June. "We are not going to give them our wish list, we are going there to give them our vision." However, donor countries might be asked to contribute to a "wish list" at the upcoming donors' conference that will be held in Amman, Jordan, in July.

For their part, EU officials have taken steps to assure Iraq of their commitment ahead of the Brussels conference. An EU delegation headed by EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw traveled to Baghdad in early June to meet with Iraqi leaders ahead of the conference. A second UN-led delegation that included ambassadors from the United States, Denmark, Japan, Turkey, and Switzerland held talks in Baghdad on 18-19 June on coordinating assistance to Iraq ahead of the Brussels conference.

The United Nations has pledged to take a greater role in Iraq's reconstruction. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an opinion piece published on 21 June on that the United Nations has recently set up a donor-coordination mechanism in Baghdad, deployed a constitutional support unit, and undertaken a collaborative relationship with the constitutional drafting committee. He added that some 800 UN local and expatriate staff members are on the ground in Iraq today.

Donors Remain Hesitant

Part of the hesitancy of donor countries to follow through with pledges stems from reports of corruption within the Iraqi government. Reports have circulated for months that corruption is rampant in Iraqi state institutions. There have also been major investigations this year by the United Nations and the U.S. Congress into allegations of corruption within the UN-administered Oil-for-Food Program, and international auditors have questioned accounting practices undertaken by the current government's predecessor, the Iraqi interim government. A March report by Transparency International also cited high levels of corruption within the reconstruction sector. "We have heard from donor countries that they have been reluctant to send us money because of corruption," Deputy National Assembly Speaker Husayn Shahristani told Reuters on 21 June.

The security situation, however, appears to be the biggest obstacle to the implementation of aid. Iraqi officials have suggested that donor countries could work around the issue by initiating reconstruction projects in more secure areas of the country, such as the Kurdish north and in and around Al-Basrah in southern Iraq. Iraqi officials will also call on donor countries to make greater use of local Iraqi contractors. Donor states and NATO will also be asked to contribute more in the training of Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi leaders in Brussels highlighted areas of progress and stressed their level of commitment to rebuilding their country. For example, both the interim and transitional governments have worked to meet the deadlines laid out under the Transitional Administrative Law, and political parties and leaders have tried to encourage broader participation by Iraq's Arab Sunnis in the political process. Iraqis were expected to pledge to slash domestic fuel subsidies and impose new taxes, a gesture reportedly aimed at international organizations such as the World Bank, reported on 20 June. That move could spark more turmoil at home, as Iraqis continue to battle unemployment and fuel shortages. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

[This piece was adapted from a version published on 21 June 2005.]

MINISTER HAS AMBITIOUS PLANS FOR OIL SECTOR. In May, transitional Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum set an ambitious program to encourage productivity and foreign investment in the oil sector. The plan calls for reducing attacks on Iraq's oil infrastructure, reducing corruption in the oil sector, and improving fuel availability at home.

Bahr al-Ulum also plans to merge North Oil Company, South Oil Company, the Oil Exploration Company, and the Iraq Drilling Company into an Iraqi National Oil Company by the end of the year. The merger would reportedly create the third-largest oil company in the world in terms of reserves, behind state-run Saudi Aramco and the National Iranian Oil Company.

Other initiatives include the establishment of a "technical committee" with Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras that will advise Iraqi oil companies about increasing output, reported on 25 May.

The success of the program depends on Iraq's ability to meet the Oil Ministry's primary goal -- establishing security. Recurrent insurgent attacks have left the northern system -- which exports oil through a vast pipeline to Turkey -- nearly crippled. Former interim Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadban cited 642 attacks on Iraq's oil infrastructure in 2004, costing $10 billion, according to a June 2005 U.S. Department of Energy country-analysis brief ( Al-Ghadban told "Al-Hayat" in February 2005 that there has been a marked increase from the 77 reported attacks in 2003.

Part of the problem remains a shortage of security personnel to secure Iraq's vast pipeline network. In the north, the oil industry has hired tribes to secure Iraq's pipelines, copying a practice used by the Hussein regime. But some oil officials have claimed for more than a year that the tribes -- whether out of revenge or for profit -- are behind the majority of attacks on the pipelines. The tribes, in turn, have blamed the 1,500-strong oil-pipeline-protection force, saying the force has not done enough to protect the pipelines. Tribal leaders outside the program could also be behind the attacks.

While attacks against Iraqi oil installations and pipelines have brought export production in the north to a near halt, there are worrying signs that an increase of attacks on southern oil facilities could increase soon. There have been at least two reported incidents in the past month of raids by insurgents on tankers docked at the Al-Basrah export terminal. U.S.-led forces have since increased patrols in and around the Al-Basrah terminal -- something that was said to have been done in mid-2004 after insurgents loyal to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi carried out suicide boat attacks at the terminal.

Hesitant Investors

Investors are likely to remain hesitant about investing as long as insecurity remains an issue. Likewise, Iraq's political stability remains tenuous at best, leaving investors apprehensive about launching major projects inside Iraq. Numerous trade publications report that most foreign oil companies have limited their activities thus far to technical training and consulting. The goal of foreign investors appears to be one of getting their foot in the door without making enormous financial investments in such an unpredictable environment.

As of May, some 30 companies had reportedly signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Iraq. The majority of the contracts are for engineering, procurement, and construction and "generally cover the training of Iraqi staff (often for free), consulting work, and reservoir studies (also often for free). The MOUs are generally considered to be a way for oil companies to show their interest in future Iraq work, to gather technical data, and to demonstrate their capabilities. In addition, the MOUs can help companies establish relationships that could be useful in the future, when Iraq is ready to start awarding major oil and gas development projects," the U.S. Department of Energy report said.

But with the Iraqi Oil Ministry's announcement last week of a 10-year plan to more than triple oil production to 6 million barrels per day in the next six to 10 years (current exports remain at 1.5 million barrels per day largely due to insurgent attacks and a crippled infrastructure), it will need some $20 billion in foreign investment, the ministry's director-general, N. K. al-Bayati, said at the Asia Oil and Gas Conference organized by Malaysia's government-owned petroleum corporation Petronas in Kuala Lumpur last week, AFP reported. In order to meet its goals, Iraq plans to seek foreign assistance in the development of 11 oilfields, the ministry's field development chief, Hazim Sultan, told Reuters on 13 June.

Petronas is among the foreign companies currently courting Iraq, and it hopes to gain valuable contracts with the Iraqi government for the development of Iraq's biggest oil reserve near Al-Basrah. Petronas Chief Executive Hassan Marican commented on the talks on 13 June, saying, "any oil and gas player cannot ignore Iraq." Petronas has reportedly been providing Iraq with limited technical assistance and training.

After a year of talks, Iraq is also poised to sign a deal with Iran in which Iraq will send oil to Iran's Abadan refinery for processing. Iranian media reports in early June indicate that a deal is expected to be signed during Bahr al-Ulum's upcoming trip to Iran. Bahr al-Ulum has repeatedly stated Iraq's readiness to work with Iran in the field of oil, a position he took as oil minister under the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council. Turkish company AvrAsya Technology Engineering secured a contract in December to develop the Khurmala field near Kirkuk, while Canada's OGI Group will help develop the Hamrin field, southwest of Kirkuk.

A consortium of Shell, BHP Billiton, and Tigris Petroleum reached an agreement with the Oil Ministry in January to boost production from fields in the Maysan area of southeastern Iraq, including the Halfayah field. Contracts were also awarded to several companies to evaluate fields west of the Rumaylah fields in southern Iraq. Oil giants Shell and BP stayed away from the bidding process last summer, reportedly due to the small size of the contracts first tendered and the security situation. "We obtained a copy of the tender but the scope and contract format are not compatible with our aspirations for long-term risk-reward contracts," quoted a Shell spokesman as saying in a 9 July 2004 report.

Russian oil companies, meanwhile, have undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at both new development contracts and the reinstatement of contracts initiated with the former regime. Lukoil began training Iraqi oil workers in Russia last year in an effort to get back the lucrative West Qurna contract (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2004). Soyuzneftegaz and other companies are in talks to develop the Rafidayn field. Other Russian companies have partnered with foreign firms in an attempt to secure deals in the Iraqi market. Stroitransgas has maintained a contract signed by the Hussein regime for development of Block 4 southwest of Al-Fallujah.

Still, it appears security is a main concern of investors. Iraq announced in 2003 that it would uphold an agreement with Indonesia's Pertamina for development of Block 3 in western Iraq. The announcement prompted Pertamina to announce a $24 million investment over three years in Block 3 only to suspend its activities eight months later due to the security situation.

Bahr al-Ulum insists that Iraq is taking some measures to increase security. "In general we do have two problems: loss of security in the north and lack of investment," quoted him as saying on 15 June. "Also there are technical problems in some of the oil fields and we're trying to accommodate these problems. If we would like to get back to our get 5 to 6 million bpd [barrels per day] by 2011, we need investment, we need to talk to the oil companies," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RFI SPEAKS TO SUNNI KIDNAPPING, TORTURE VICTIM. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviewed a Sunni prayer announcer on 22 June who says he was kidnapped recently by unknown assailants in Baghdad. The abduction appears to be part of a campaign against Sunni mosque employees in the capital. The victim said his captors attempted to force him to confess to an association with the U.S. military. The interview was broadcast as part of RFI's weekly Human Rights program on 27 June.

RFI: Karim Mahmud al-Dulaymi is a maintenance worker and prayer announcer (muezzin) at Ahmad al-Rifa�i (Sunni) Mosque in Al-Baladiyat town southeast of Baghdad. He was kidnapped and tortured by an armed group that has tried to incite sectarian strife. He recounted for us how his kidnapping happened.

Al-Dulaymi: After the evening prayer, I went out and stood in front of the mosque. A car stopped there. Four men jumped out of the car and two others remained inside, so they were altogether six in the car. They pointed their weapons at me. There was another man standing with me in front of the mosque. They shot over his head, telling him not to move and telling me to come with them. Two of them pushed me into the car. They immediately blindfolded me and firmly handcuffed me behind the back. But when the car drove [away from] the mosque, another set off behind it. They had a second car, transporting machine guns and pistols.

RFI: Were the men masked or with faces uncovered?

Al-Dulaymi: No, their faces were uncovered, they were not masked. They took me to a place that I did not know.

RFI: Did they immediately after bringing you to an unknown place start torturing you, or did they at first interrogate you?

Al-Dulaymi: At first, they asked me some questions. They said: "Give us replies to these questions and we will set you free." The questions were [based on the following allegation]: "Two days before the elections, you were driving a car loaded with rocket launchers and transported them to the Americans."

...The car was taking me somewhere where I felt it was going a little up and then down a hill. When it stopped, the place seemed to me as the embankment in the extreme outskirts of Al-Thawra [city, currently known as Sadr City].

Some dogs were barking. They saw a woman standing there. They were discussing how to get "this one in" with that woman being there. I could hear them from the car boot where they had put me. One told another to park in front of the house while he would take care of the woman. Having done that, they got me inside. That is where they started to question me, saying I am a collaborator with the Americans. They started to pour water on my body and beat me. I do not know what they used � a cable, a stick, a rod, I do not know what.

RFI: Well, did they tell you that this was the supposed source that you had been receiving [weapons or money] from?

Al-Dulaymi: They did. They said: "Tell that this one has been supplying you." I told them: "We have absolutely nothing like this. We in principle strongly oppose this. We do not practice it. We are people attending to mosques and praying. We have been living here, in this area, for 40 years. This is not in our style, to misuse a position and to secretly misuse the mission of mosques." [After I said that,] they started beating me even more, and the man [who appeared to be the leader] said: "Kill him. Finish it with him. He will not confess. Let's wait until he comes" -- with which he referred to another man whom he called with a monster-like nickname.

After half an hour, he came [again] and asked me, "Why don't you confess?" When I said I didn't do anything, they started beating me on all sides of my body and in the end even on my head. I gradually lost consciousness. There was something heavy that they smashed my head with, and I started vomiting. He told them, "Take him away." They carried me to the car and threw me in the trunk. Then the car moved somewhere, with me in the trunk. Then they threw me out. A group of some other men came to me, looked at me, and asked, "Are you drunk?" I told them that I wasn't drunk [and that] I had been kidnapped and the [kidnappers] left me here." Then one of them said: "Are you Sheikh Karim, who was apprehended after the evening prayer? Have they kidnapped you?" I nodded.

They took me and brought me back home. They got the news that the U.S. Army with the [Iraqi elite] Wolf Brigade had been tipped off earlier and had come to the site of the kidnapping. Mr. Hasan, who is an official at [Martyr al-Sayyid Muhammad] Al-Sadr Office, came to me with his people and accompanied me to the hospital where I was to receive treatment.

RFI: How long did the kidnapping last -- until your release?

Al-Dulaymi: [The kidnapping] happened at about 8:00 or 8:30 p.m., after the evening prayer. I did not have the sense of time then, but, according to what [the people who rescued me] said, it must have been around midnight when they found me and took me to the hospital.

I saw [in the hospital] brothers from some other mosques who also had been tortured, some of them even had eyes poked out and nails driven into their legs. They were in the same police hospital that I had been taken to. There was one young man [with serious injuries] whose name I do not know and who works as a teacher.

RFI: Were the [other victims] abducted on the same day that you were released?

Al-Dulaymi: Yes, it was a campaign during the same day, everywhere between Al-Sha'b and Sadr City. It targeted mosques, especially Sunni ones. Also from the Martyrs Office, they found some who'd been killed, and another group from al-Sadr Office. They had been killed, too. Others from Al-Husayni Mosque were also killed and [their bodies] dumped.

RFI: Who do you think was responsible for your kidnapping?

Al-Dulaymi: They didn't speak a language that I don't understand, so I can't say they are from a particular place or party, or supported by such and such a party. What I remember only was the interrogation and all that they did to me. But all that does not indicate any responsible party to which I could point.

RFI: Can you describe the physical harm that you have suffered?

Al-Dulaymi: Yes, when they started on me, the injuries were below the knee � between the foot and the knee. I was bleeding. One of them spoke, saying, "Why all this beating, we would have helped you." I said I had given a full confession. They started working my body in a sequence, beginning with the front and then the back. Water was thrown [on me] and I was tortured on the back [of my body]. All the marks are there on my body -- scars from the beating. With the medication I'm taking, I feel slightly better. The swelling has gone down. But the foot, knee, and shoulder are still swollen. I still have trouble on the sides of the abdomen.

RFI: Iraqi and multinational forces, as well as a group of Shi'ite Muslims, have gathered to help the prayer announcer (muezzin) of Ahmad al-Rifa'i Mosque.

Al-Dulaymi: After I came [back from hospital], I saw the [Iraqi elite] Wolf Brigade coming to the site of the [kidnapping]. Also, a car from the U.S. forces arrived there. They investigated the matter, asking what car had kidnapped me. Also, Mr. Hasan from [Muqtada] al-Sadr's movement came with many of his people. They participated in expressing their sympathies over what had happened to me.

RFI: Did any of them offer you material or moral support? Did they promise to arrest the perpetrators?

Al-Dulaymi: No, so far no one has offered this, or cash, or any other form [of support].

...I am now 43 years old. Recollecting my experience of this age, I have lived in Al-Ramadi and in all these western areas. Having lived there, until the fall of the regime [of Saddam Hussein], we would not say or mention who was Sunni or Shi'ite in our area. I could even go to their [Shi'ite] mosque to arrange business affairs and they would help me there in everything. They are our brothers. But there can be some groups of, I would say, deranged people -- there are some deranged people among Iraqis who are supported by other parties to incite hatred between us and our [Shi'ite] brothers.

(Translated by Petr Kubalek and Abdelilah Nuaimi.)