Accessibility links

Iraq Report: July 18, 2005


18 July 2005, Volume 8, Number 23
BLURRED LINE BETWEEN TERRORISM AND HONORABLE RESISTANCE IN IRAQ. Community leaders in Iraq have been calling for months for a distinction to be made between two core groups that both call themselves "honorable resistance." The first group is the so-called nationalist forces -- former Ba'athists and other secular Sunni groups. The second group consists of a number of Sunni Islamist groups including Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn; the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army, Muhammad's Army; and the Islamic Army in Iraq.

Iraqis are debating whether any "honorable resistance" exists in the country, as both Hussein loyalists and Islamists are responsible for the kidnapping, rapes, and killings that are carried out daily under the banner of "resistance." The fact that ordinary Iraqis have borne the brunt of the attacks has meant that much of the homegrown support for the resistance that previously existed has now dwindled.

The problem, many Iraqis say, is that the insurgency's goal is convoluted; none of the so-called resistance groups have ever offered up a clear ideology. The "honorable resistance" that includes "nationalist" Sunni Arab forces claims their goal is to drive multinational forces from Iraq. Al-Zarqawi and other hard-line Islamist groups claim the same goal, but add that their intention is to form an Islamic state in Iraq. The difficulty in separating these two strands comes in the fact that both are responsible for unbridled attacks against civilians. Moreover, al-Zarqawi justifies the targeting of civilians by defining his enemy as "anyone who cooperates with multinational forces or the transitional government," without offering any real differentiations to support his position.

Al-Zarqawi Enters The Debate

The Al-Qaeda leader has entered the debate on the honorable resistance himself, claiming in a 5 July audiotape attributed to him on the Internet (http://www.tajdeed.org.uk) that only those armed fighters in Iraq that belong to his group should be labeled "honorable resistance":

"The honorable resistance is the one that makes its jihad an international jihad not based on color, race, or land, for the believers are all one nation whose blood is of equal worth.... It is not the so-called resistance that bases its objectives on the Sykes-Piko borders.... The honorable resistance is the one...that rose up and pushed itself and relied on God...not the resistance that every time it suffers a hardship or tribulation, it lost its way and sought help from anyone.... [The honorable resistance] is not the resistance that...does not mind befriending and cooperating with those that disobey God and His Messenger for the sake of realizing some interests and gains. Those who were described as not belonging to the honorable resistance are the ones who have been fighting for the sake of God for more than two years...they are the ones who sacrificed their scholars, leaders, and cadre. Upon whose shoulders did the battles of Al-Qa'im rest? Whose blood was spilled in Al-Ramadi, Al-Fallujah, and Al-Hadithah?"

For al-Zarqawi, the ultimate betrayal of his cause has come from those Islamic scholars who criticized his insurgency in Iraq. "Is this what our scholars can produce?" al-Zarqawi asked in his 5 July statement. "How long would the scholars continue to avoid the battlefields of jihad, issue the rulings and counsel while they are distant from the reality of this nation?"

What To Do?

While most Iraqis critical of the nationalist insurgency agree that the only option now for the Sunni Arab-led nationalists lie in them joining the political process, many Iraqis remain torn about how to reconcile that with some 30 years of Ba'athist oppression and the past two years of devastating attacks against Iraqis in the name of resistance. Iraqi commentaries in the media tend to consider the reported talks between multinational forces and insurgent groups as an insult to civilians who have suffered at the hands of these groups. Some Iraqi newspapers have criticized the talks, saying that such discussions equate to U.S. support for bringing back the Ba'athist regime.

Shi'ite Arabs have found it particularly disturbing that such talks would be carried out without the participation of an elected Iraqi government, and the transitional administration has been quick to disassociate itself from the talks.

While a few Iraqis have called for a public reconciliation, it is unlikely at this point in time to be a real option. The regime loyalists that make up the "nationalist" insurgency are in no way apologetic for the crimes of the Hussein regime, let alone the crimes carried out in the name of resistance over the past two years.

Sunni Arab "nationalists," by failing to disassociate themselves from the likes of al-Zarqawi -- even if innocent from the crimes that are attributed to them -- have by default implicated themselves by not making any real distinction between their cause and the cause of the Islamists. Should these nationalist resistance fighters lay down their arms and join the political process, they will find themselves vulnerable to attacks by pro-regime and Islamist forces opposed to such action. They could also find themselves vulnerable to Shi'ite and Kurdish groups seeking revenge. The current environment essentially leaves Sunni Arab resistance groups willing to lay down their arms stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Courting The Arab World

The Arab world, whether ready or not, is being pulled into the debate with growing frequency. A number of prominent Iraqis have called on Arab states to take firm positions against insurgent attacks in Iraq, claiming that the portrayal of terrorism as resistance in the Arab media has deluded many Arabs.

Meanwhile, Sunni Arab religious leaders, such as Muslim Scholars Association spokesman Muthanna Harith al-Dari, have called on regional powerhouse Egypt to publicly recognize the right of the Iraqi people to resist occupation.

The Iraqi government has attempted to pressure Arab states to do more than pay lip service to the transitional Iraqi government by offering concrete assistance and opening embassies on the ground. The kidnapping and killing of an Egyptian envoy by al-Zarqawi's group was meant as a clear warning signal to Arab governments not to establish relations with Iraq.

An 11 July commentary in the "Jordan Times" offered up advice to non-Islamist insurgents in Iraq, while offering continued support for the insurgents' cause. The commentary suggested that if the goal of "nationalist" insurgents is to drive multinational forces from Iraq, then civilians should no longer be targeted, since such attacks garner little support for their cause.

Iraqi commentators have called on the region's Islamic leadership to take a decisive stand on terrorism through a fatwa (religious edict) "before Iraq is destroyed." Muslim leaders stopped short of commenting on terrorism in a meeting in Amman, Jordan last week.

The three-day meeting brought together Islamic scholars from the eight Sunni and Shi'a schools of thought. Participants did, however, state emphatically in their final statement that fatwas should only be issued by clerics with religious authority. They also agreed that Muslims cannot label fellow Muslims as takfir (apostates), nor can Muslims kill fellow Muslims for what they deem "religious reasons." Islamist fighters in Iraq have regularly justified attacks on civilians in Iraq by labeling their victims apostates. Al-Zarqawi's group has gone so far as to label all Shi'ites apostates, and has established a unit to assassinate Shi'ite members of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) Badr Organization.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, meanwhile, has called for a meeting of Arab interior ministers to produce a unified stance on the issue of terrorism. Such meetings, however, produce little real change. What is really required is for Arab states to take action against insurgent Islamist groups working for Iraq within their borders. Few states are likely to do so, however, fearing a backlash at home.

For Iraq, the consequences are dire. If the Iraqi "resistance" continues along the same lines, all Sunni Arabs in Iraq will, at some point, pay the price. The Sunni Arab community in Iraq needs to put action behind their outright condemnation of the so-called "resistance" by turning in armed fighters and demonstrating against the terrorism currently taking place. While it appears that public support for the tactics employed by the "honorable resistance" is waning, it is likely that the tide will only turn when there is a blanket change in the mindset of Sunni Arab Iraqis.

There are enormous consequences for the Arab world as well. States who do not take a firm position on terrorism must accept that at some point, Al-Qaeda will turn and target the Arab regimes, as the group expands its mission to depose what it sees as tyrannical Arab regimes and establish Islamic rule. Some regimes -- such as Syria -- may have falsely assumed a future immunity by currently aiding the Islamist terrorists. Stagnant economies lead to extremism and with more than 50 percent of the Arab world under the age of 18, more and more young people are susceptible to Islamist extremism. Arab leaders, meanwhile, appear to be under the delusion that if the fight is in Iraq, it won't be fought at home. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CAN BAGHDAD PROTECT FOREIGN MISSIONS? The insurgency in Iraq has been targeting diplomats in Baghdad in recent weeks, in an apparent attempt to frighten Arab and Muslim countries from establishing diplomatic relations with the transitional government. The tactic is another way in which anti-government forces are doing all they can to undermine Iraq's progress in areas such as reconstruction, security, and political development.

Egyptian Ambassador-designate Ihab al-Sharif was kidnapped in Baghdad on 2 July by Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn. The group on 7 July claimed it had executed al-Sharif, a report that was subsequently confirmed by Egyptian authorities, although his body has not been recovered.

On 5 July, Pakistani and Bahraini ambassadors to Iraq were attacked in separate incidents in Baghdad. Pakistani Ambassador Muhammad Yunis Khan escaped unharmed when gunmen in two vehicles fired on his convoy in the Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad, prompting Khan to relocate to Jordan. Bahrain's top diplomat in Baghdad was wounded in a separate attack in the same neighborhood, which houses a number of embassies, when gunmen fired at his vehicle.

These incidents were clearly meant to send a message to all Arab and Muslim states: Those who forge relations with the transitional Iraqi government will be targeted by Al-Qaeda. This message, while not new, seeks to stem progress made by the transitional Iraqi government in recent weeks in terms of persuading Arab and Muslim nations to reopen embassies and missions in Baghdad.

Those nations had, since the toppling of the Hussein regime, declined by and large to return to Iraq under the pretext that the interim Iraqi government – the current government's predecessor – was illegitimate. January's national elections changed all that, as the transitional Iraqi government pointed out to participating states at the June donor conference in Brussels.

Al-Zarqawi's tactic is part of an ideology that has routinely sought to stem any progress in the post-Hussein era, whether it be in the fields of reconstruction, security, or political development.

Incident Sows Seeds Of Distrust

Al-Sharif's abduction and killing enforces an underlying mistrust among Arab states and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government. Soon after al-Sharif's abduction, some Iraqi officials -- including Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari's spokesman, Laith Kubba -- suggested that al-Sharif might have been attempting to establish relations with insurgents when he was snatched.

Foreign Minister al-Zebari attempted to cushion the allegation following similar statements by Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who alleged "that some foreign ambassadors made contacts with some parties." "We don't believe that the [Egyptian] ambassador[-designate] or any other ambassador had any contacts with forces that use arms, violence, terrorism, and murder," said Al-Zebari told journalists on 11 July, RFI reported.

Most Arab states have done little more than pay lip service in their condemnation of terrorism in Iraq, preferring instead to propagate the view that the Iraqi government needs to do more to bring Sunni Arabs into the political process. The position of these Arab states is rooted partly in an Arab nationalist mentality that is still reflected today across the Arab world's Sunni-led governments -- one that has never shown much regard for Iraq's Shi'ite population, which is viewed as more closely linked to Iran than the Arab world. Moreover, Arab states recognize the negative impact the occupation of Iraq has had on Arab popular opinion on Iraq.

Arab states also view the uprooting of the Hussein regime in Iraq and the prospect of the region's first Arab democracy as a threat to the stability of their own regimes, which maintain order -- to varying degrees -- much the same as Hussein did: through strong security apparatuses and governments that afford little political freedom to their peoples.

Many Arab governments also recognize the Islamist threat and many fear the spread of terrorism by Sunni Islamists to their own countries, where Islamists have been afforded little, if any, political space historically. These governments understand the havoc that could be wrought by Islamists at home.

Iraqi Government Scrambles To Ensure Safety

The killing of al-Sharif has prompted the transitional government to take action to prevent a possible setback in attempts to normalize relations with Arab and Islamic states.

But al-Sharif's abduction and killing evoked a predictable response from Egypt. Officials there first contended the incident would not affect its relations or diplomatic presence in Baghdad, but soon after announced that Cairo will scale down its embassy staff. It appears that a new ambassador will not be heading to Iraq anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Jordan, which also vowed in Brussels to send a new ambassador to Iraq, has said it intends to keep its commitment, although it remains unclear when the Jordanian ambassador might arrive in Baghdad. Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Zebari told reporters at an 11 July press briefing in Baghdad that Yemen and Morocco have named new ambassadors to Iraq, while Syria and the Arab League remain intent on doing so, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported.

The incidents involving the Egyptian, Pakistani, and Bahraini diplomats prompted the Iraqi transitional government -- which initially contended that foreign diplomats hadn't taken the necessary security precautions -- to offer new protections to ensure the security of foreign diplomats working in Iraq.

Al-Zebari told members of the diplomatic corps in Baghdad on 11 July that the Foreign and Interior ministries have devised a new security plan, including the establishment of a special hotline that would give embassies and diplomats direct access to the Interior Ministry, which is ultimately responsible for security.

"No doubt, we too have responsibilities. The Iraqi government has security responsibilities under international law. It must guarantee protection and security for the diplomats and the embassies and missions here in Baghdad," al-Zebari told a press briefing following the meeting.

He added that the Iraqi government is capable of protecting all embassies, ambassadors, and diplomats in Baghdad "without depending on any other quarter." There are currently 45 embassies and missions operating in Iraq, al-Zebari said.

"Many of these embassies are in the protected Green Zone," he said. "As for the ones outside the zone, we believe that the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry have the capabilities to guarantee the necessary protection."

He asked, however, that embassies and foreign missions alert the Iraqi government of any additional security needs. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE PROVING TO BE GROWING BASE FOR AL-QAEDA. A group calling itself the Al-Qaeda of Jihad in Europe has claimed responsibility for the 7 July attacks on the London transport system that left at least 37 dead and hundreds wounded, according to a statement posted on the Internet.

The group called its attacks on the London Underground and buses "a blessed raid," adding: "We have repeatedly warned the British government and people. We have fulfilled our promise and carried out our blessed military raid in Britain after our mujahedin exerted strenuous efforts over a long period of time to ensure the success of the raid."

The statement warned the governments of Italy and Denmark "and all the crusader governments" that they would be punished if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The 7 July attacks may be retaliation for a crackdown by European states including the United Kingdom in recent months against Islamic militants.

The London attacks are reminiscent of the Madrid train bombings carried out by an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group on 11 March 2004 in retaliation for Spain's participation in coalition forces in Iraq. Those attacks left 191 people dead and prompted Spain to pull out of Iraq.

'Homegrown' Terrorist Networks

The extent of the presence of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups in Europe has come to light in recent months after a series of arrests and investigations in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. The success of such networks lies in the fact that they are "homegrown," operated by Muslims living in European states who know the terrain and possess European passports that enable them to move easily throughout Europe and the Middle East. A number of jihadist websites supporting Al-Qaeda have reportedly boasted about the group's European martyrs in Iraq in recent weeks, and Iraq-based terrorist leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has appealed to Muslims in Europe to join Al-Qaeda.

Many of the suspected terrorist leaders in Europe gained experience in Afghanistan in the 1990s, while others may be new recruits bent on seeking what they see as justice against the United States and its allies for a whole range of transgressions -- be they economic or political -- but most notably for the multinational military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Terrorist networks across Europe that were reportedly dormant have been reactivated in the past six months, making Europe a major center for recruiting suicide bombers -- ahead of the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, London's "The Observer" reported on 19 June.

The report cited unidentified intelligence sources as saying that there are up to 21 networks active in Europe, some of which are linked to over 60 groups in North Africa -- not surprising since the majority of Muslim immigrants to Europe come from the North African states of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The networks are responsible for training and recruiting volunteers, particularly for jihadist operations in Iraq, the report contended.

A 17 May statement by German Interior Minister Otto Schily cited Islamist extremism and terrorism as the "greatest threat" to national security, (http://www.bmi.bund.de). Schily cited the 2004 "Protection of the Constitution Report" as saying the number of "members and followers" of Islamist organizations in Germany is 31,800, with the number of "potentially extremist foreigners" in Germany at approximately 57,500. The statement did not allude to the classification guidelines that produced those numbers.

Schily added in his statement that 171 preliminary proceedings have been initiated in Germany against suspected Islamist militants, including one person arrested on 24 January who is suspected of taking part in Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan "on several occasions." That person admitted to having been instructed by Al-Qaeda to recruit suicide assassins in Europe.

Since December, at least 30 people have been arrested in Germany for their alleged role in Islamist terror networks, including at least six members of Ansar Al-Islam, the Iraq-based group that grew into the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army, which is affiliated with Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn. Ansar Al-Islam's founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Krekar, has been living in Norway since 1991. (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 April 2005).

Members of Ansar-Al-Islam-affiliated groups have also been arrested in France in recent weeks. Seven people were arrested on 21 June as part of a French judicial investigation into networks that recruit and provide logistical support to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The arrests marked the fourth operation this year by French intelligence against Islamist networks operating in support of militants in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Algerian Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat has reportedly formed an alliance with al-Zarqawi's group to target French nationals in Iraq and worldwide, London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 3 July. The Algerian group is targeting France for "supporting the Algerian regime," the newspaper reported.

In one recent U.K. operation against homegrown terror, police arrested one man in Manchester in late June on suspicion that he was recruiting suicide bombers in Britain to attack multinational forces in Iraq. The threat to Britain was well-known after 11 September 2001, when intelligence indicated the presence of a number of radical groups in the country, who recruited British Muslims through various means, including English-language propaganda and the establishment of "study cells" on university campuses, "Jane's Intelligence Digest" noted in December 2003.

Britain is also home to a number of Islamist publications and websites, including the pro-Hussein newspaper "Quds Press," and the Islamic Renewal Organization -- a website forum run by Saudi national Muhammad al-Ma'sari, which regularly posts statements for Al-Qaeda.

Failure To Anticipate New Groups

European governments had largely ignored the threat of terrorism on their soil before the Madrid attacks, and security analysts have said that European laws and outdated intelligence-gathering procedures have worked to the detriment of law-enforcement agencies, which operate under guidelines different from those in the United States.

For example, European law-enforcement, security, and intelligence services after 11 September 2001 continued to target only known terrorist cells, Rohan Gunaratna wrote in the Summer 2004 issue of "Washington Quarterly." The intelligence apparatuses in Europe failed, however, to address the growing number of associated groups or support cells that provided assistance to Al-Qaeda in terms of recruitment and financial transfers. It was considered politically incorrect to revise the legislative framework to target several hundred terrorist-support cells active on European soil," Gunaratna contended.

In addition, European states in the post-11 September environment did not take the terrorism threat seriously. In the 2 1/2 years since 11 September, Al-Qaeda had carried out only one terrorist attack a year, while groups associated with Al-Qaeda had carried out four times that number -- on average, one attack every three months.

Lack Of Law-Enforcement Tools

Security analysts have said that Europe will continue to be hindered in its fight on terror as long as insufficient laws remain in place that inhibit the investigation of terrorist activities. France's top antiterrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, told BBC Radio 4 in a 31 May interview that practices such as wire-tapping need to be legalized in Britain. "We have a lot of legal means you [Great Britain] don't have and these legal means allow us to control and possibly prevent terrorist activities," he said.

He added that terrorists could easily enter the United Kingdom from France or continental Europe with false papers. "If you don't have this possibility to have a database, to know exactly and to control individuals which would be suspected to use false papers in terrorist activities, you miss things," he said, suggesting France's compulsory identification-card system has helped stem attacks there. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RFI INTERVIEWS INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL ON REPORTS OF CORRUPTION. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviewed Interior Ministry Inspector-General Nuri Jabir al-Nuri on 6 July in Baghdad. Al-Nuri spoke about the ministry's current investigation into corruption cases.

Al-Nuri: The work [of the Interior Ministry's Inspector-General's Office] started on 9 May [2005]. In two months, we have shed light on many areas of mismanagement or violations in the fields of administration and finance. There are [cases] concerning [corruption through] contracts in general and the results in this chapter [of the investigation] are proceeding to an advanced stage.

We have shed light on many contracts where violations or errors have been made. Also, [we have found violations or errors] in other fields concerning residence and passports, where many errors have been committed in the way of issuing passports.

Then there are [cases in the field] of transportation in general, with many past cases [of wrongdoing] in the registration of cars, whether these are cars belonging to the government or stolen, or even outdated models [that can no longer be registered]. We have also taken action against bribery among [police] patrols, or in the police in general.

RFI: What is the form of this action?

Al-Nuri: For example, we sent out a team from the Inspector-General's Office to surprise police patrols after we had received some information of policemen taking [bribes]. And, indeed, we managed to record and photograph cases of corruption. Consequently, immediate steps were taken, and they were brought to court and fired at the same time.

RFI: There has been uproar around the claims that some officials of the Interior Ministry committed, or were masterminds of, acts of corruption. Have such cases really been confirmed?

Al-Nuri: Yes, such cases have been confirmed. We are now continuing investigations to complete the cases of corruption in which many officials bearing, unfortunately, positions with high responsibilities were involved. Even dozens of cases in this field have been brought to our attention. Some of them have been passed to courts and results are expected. Some of them are still under investigation and the results will be announced soon.

RFI: Are the people involved [police] officers or administrative officials?

Al-Nuri: There have been high-ranking [police] officers involved in this area. The investigation remains ongoing. As I mentioned, we have passed a portion [of the cases] on to courts.

RFI: What can the Interior Ministry's Inspector-General's Office do if its own employees commit corruption cases?

Al-Nuri: Undoubtedly, this can occur anywhere. There can be people in the Inspector-General's Office who have not understood their responsibility or have shown weakness in particular attitudes. But there is a way of recruitment in which we choose [employees] only after verifying their information, [and this applies to] every employee. If we want to ask a person to work for our office, we collect information on him or her because we strongly require transparency, competency, and productivity. The person [working for the Inspector-General's Office] must be an example to others. (Translated by Petr Kubalek)

KUWAITI ENVOY SAYS IRAQI WAR COMPENSATION SHOULD CONTINUE. Iraq is pressing for a reevaluation of its compensation payments for damages caused by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait 15 years ago. But Kuwait insists the payments continue for tens of billions of dollars it was awarded by an international panel. Kuwait's ambassador to the UN told RFE/RL her country is willing to relieve a large portion of Iraqi sovereign debt and has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Iraq's reconstruction. But the compensation payments, she said, are another matter.

Iraq's oil revenues, if they are freed from creditor claims, are to be crucial in funding billions of dollars in estimated reconstruction costs and attracting investment.

But the UN Security Council has mandated that 5 percent of those revenues be paid out to countries, individuals, or businesses harmed by Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. More than $33 billion in awarded claims is still due, most of it to Kuwait, which endured the Iraqi occupation and burning of its oil fields when Iraqi forces left.

The UN Compensation Commission, responsible for ruling on claims, made its final judgments at the end of June. Iraq wants the claims reduced but the commission says any such moves need to be resolved between Iraq and the parties involved. Kuwaiti officials insist the payments -- estimated at $200 million per quarter -- continue.

Kuwaiti UN Ambassador Nabeela al-Mullah told RFE/RL that Kuwait carries on a dialogue with Iraq's leaders on a range of matters. But she suggested the compensation issue will not be settled bilaterally. "It's a very frank, very good atmosphere with them so I don't think we have any problem to talk with the Iraqis," al-Mullah said. "But let's put everything in perspective. What is in the realm of international community, like the compensation commission, we deal with it that way."

The ambassador said Kuwait is willing to share awards for environmental damage with a group of regional states affected by the 1990 war. Those countries include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Kuwait.

Al-Mullah said they had agreed to an Iraqi proposal to collectively implement projects to address environmental damages. She did not have an estimate of money allotted for this. The last decision by the commission awarded $256 million to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Kuwait as compensation for environmental damages.

"We are united together in the objective to help each other, so even if there is a lump sum of payment for environmental damage we all stand to share from the money that will come there and we will make collective decisions and it will be presented to the compensation commission," she said.

Aside from the war reparations, Iraqi officials say they inherited about $125 billion in debt from Hussein's regime. The Paris Club of creditor countries in November decided to cancel 80 percent of the nearly $40 billion of debt Iraq owes them. The Kuwaiti government has said it would follow suit and write off most of Iraq's $16 billion in sovereign debt. No decision has been made yet.

Ambassador al-Mullah said Kuwait has also provided Iraq with $500 million in rehabilitation funds pledged at a 2003 donors conference. It has contributed other money through the UN Development Program and other agencies and has been a prime supporter of the rehabilitation of Al-Najaf and Karbala.

Al-Mullah suggested Kuwait has not received proper credit for its support for Iraq. "I don't think anyone can fault us on not being a positive factor when it comes to the Iraqi people and besides that over $500 million are already there for Iraq and I don't think everyone is aware of that," she said.

The ambassador said Kuwait has also waited patiently for Iraq to resolve two highly sensitive issues -- the recovery of more than 600 prisoners taken to Iraq and the return of Kuwait's national archives. "We are aware that Iraq has this specific problem of getting its own house in order so we're giving them time to find the archives, to find the other remains of our prisoners. We still have -- out of 605 we got 200 plus -- so over 400 are still not accounted for of our own prisoners so we are still trying to clarify all these issues without hyping, without making headlines in any newspaper," she said. The remains of some of the missing prisoners were discovered soon after Hussein's ouster.

Kuwait also considers the return of the archives essential because they constitute official records of the country. The missing documents include papers from the offices of the Royal Court, the Council of Ministers, and the Foreign Ministry. (Robert McMahon)

XS
SM
MD
LG