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Iraq Report: January 27, 2003


27 January 2003, Volume 6, Number 3

OPPOSITION MEETING IN IRBIL IN EARLY FEBRUARY. The delayed meeting of the Iraqi opposition's Follow-Up and Coordination Committee will take place in the first week of February in Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, AFP reported on 20 January. Hoshyar Zebari of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said, "We are preparing ourselves for this meeting in Irbil to establish subcommittees to apply [the conclusions of] the London conference in mid-December and draw up the opposition's action plan for the next phase." The meeting had been scheduled for January but delayed because of "technical problems" and the desire of "ensuring that everyone takes part," said Zebari. (David Nissman)

REGIONAL FOREIGN MINISTERS ATTEND IRAQ MEETING IN ISTANBUL. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Istanbul on 23 January to participate in discussions about Iraq with his counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, IRNA reported. Kharrazi on 22 January called on Iraq's neighbors to work together to forestall a war in Iraq and the "interference" of foreign countries in its domestic affairs. The Istanbul group's joint statement called on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to cooperate fully with UN weapons inspectors and said that the countries do not want another war in the region, AP reported on 23 January. The statement urged Baghdad to respect international borders, resolve outstanding issues with its neighbors, and take steps to preserve Iraq's sovereignty. It pledged support for maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity. "We have to stick to multilateralism and urge the United States not to resort to unilateralism," Kharrazi said, according to "The Washington Post" on 24 January. "The United Nations system has to be the center of any decision to be made." (Bill Samii)

U.S. VICE PRESIDENT HOLDS TALKS WITH PUK OFFICIAL. On 13 January, Barham Salih, the prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)-controlled territory of northern Iraq, was received by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Western news agencies reported. They discussed the current situation in northern Iraq and anticipated developments in Kurdistan and Iraq. Salih's theme at his varied meetings in Washington stressed the need to protect the Kurdistan region and to provide financial aid to its people in order to endure the current economic situation in the country. He also reaffirmed the desire of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq to bring about a democratic and federal Iraq. (David Nissman)

KURDISH OFFICIAL FINDS DIFFICULTY IN ACQUIRING NEEDED MEDICINES IN TIME OF WAR. Faraydun Abd-ulQadir, the official in charge of the Sulaymaniyah Higher Defense Committee, told the Kurdish newspaper "Hawlati" on 20 January that "we have been engaged in very tough wrangling with the officials of WHO [World Health Organization] for some time to persuade them to make available to us a quantity of medicines which would be sufficient in the region for a few months in the event of war." With regard to the possibility of the use of chemical warfare by Baghdad, he said, "We are trying to publish the necessary information and health guides through the Ministry of Health." In connection with the safeguarding of citizens in the event of war, he stressed that internal security forces would do their best to protect the lives and property of citizens. (David Nissman)

IRAQI ARMY OFFICER ON MOVEMENT OF WMD. An Iraqi Army officer, interviewed in the Italian newspaper "Panorama" on 23 January, discussed the movement of various weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For the purposes of the interview, he called himself Colonel Qassem. He pointed out that in the current UNMOVIC inspections, "there is a basic flaw due to a lack of imagination or of information [i.e.,] namely the presumption that chemical and biological weapons or the substances used for making them are necessarily hidden in very well-protected bunkers." He added that these are constantly moved, and have been doing so in the current wave of inspections. Some travel to Kurdistan, others through Syria. He noted that Syria's border is permeable, allowing Iraq to purchase weapons and spare parts on the international market. He also said that Scud missiles from Ukraine are concealed in a forest in the north of Iraq, close to Mosul, because the forest provides excellent cover for their launch pads. (David Nissman)

U.S. LIFT OF TROOPS DIRECTLY TO IRAQI KURDISTAN SUGGESTED. Turkey's refusal to permit the stationing of 80,000 troops on Turkish soil has brought forth the possibility of airlifting U.S. troops directly to southern Kurdistan, from which they would drive south as others drive north from Kuwait, according to a dispatch in "Newsday" on 20 January. Although Turkey has agreed to granting permission for 15,000 troops to establish a northern front, not a quarter of what the United States originally wanted, U.S. officials believe that the Turkish bases will have to be upgraded, costing as much as $300 million and taking several weeks. It is still commonly believed that U.S. forces will not be ready for an invasion of Iraq until the end of February or the beginning of March. (David Nissman)

EIGHTY RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS SIGN PETITION AGAINST WAR IN IRAQ. ITAR-TASS on 20 January reported that 80 Russian parliamentarians had signed a petition against starting a war with Iraq. The signatures under the appeal were initiated by Vladimir Volkov, a member of Russia's lower parliamentary chamber, the Duma. Volkov took part in an international campaign in Cairo last December organized by the Egyptian public campaign of opposition to a U.S. attack; the participants in the campaign issued a declaration entitled "Against U.S. hegemony and war in Iraq." Other signatories include: State Duma Deputy Chairman Gennadii Semagin, People's Deputy leader Gennadii Raikov, and Agrarian bloc leader Nikolai Kharitonov. (David Nissman)

IRAQ AWARDS RUSSIA OIL CONTRACTS. On 21 January Iraq awarded very profitable oil contracts to two Russian oil companies and held out the promise of several more in an effort to keep a key diplomatic ally close in the event of an American-led strike against Iraq, Toronto's "The Globe and Mail" reported the same day. In a deal worth billions of dollars, the Iraqi government handed the right to develop a block of its western oil fields to a construction firm allied to the Kremlin-controlled Gazprom. At the same time, Baghdad awarded another contract to develop the Rafidayn oil field in southern Iraq to a company owned by Yurii Shafranik, who was energy minister under Boris Yeltsin.

Iraqi Deputy Oil Minister Hussein al-Hadithi is quoted as saying that the ties between Russia and Iraq are "strategic and firm," while Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is quoted as saying on Al-Jazeera TV that war against Iraq would be a "terrible and fatal mistake". He said that unilateral military action to oust Hussein is "completely inadmissible." (David Nissman)

IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER VISITS SUDAN. Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf, Saddam Hussein's personal envoy to Sudanese President Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, met with Ibrahim Ahmad Umar, secretary-general of the ruling National Conference Party, in Khartoum, according to Baghdad Radio on 19 January. They discussed Sudan's concerns, namely southern Sudan issues which are supported by Saddam Hussein. Umar praised Saddam's positions that underlined support for Sudan. He stressed that the party and the Sudanese people support Iraq against U.S. aggressive threats.

The next day, Sudan Television reported that al-Sahhaf had paid a visit to the Khartoum International Fair accompanied by Sudanese Information and Communications Minister al-Zahawi Ibrahim Malik. Al-Sahhaf noted that Iraq's participation in the fair was aimed at bolstering bilateral economic relations. (David Nissman)

SADDAM MEETS WITH MILITARY COMMANDERS. Saddam Hussein, together with Qusay Saddam Hussein, supervisor of the Republican Guard; Minister of Defense General Sultan Hashim; and General Husayn Rashid Amin, secretary-general of the Armed Forces General Command, held a meeting with representatives of his armed forces on 20 January to learn about their combat preparedness, according to Baghdad Radio on 20 January. A number of those attending described their morale and conditions better than any time in the past. Saddam responded with a number of cliches. (David Nissman)

UDAY SADDAM HUSSEIN THREATENS U.S. WITH 'MAJOR LOSSES' IF IT ATTACKS IRAQ. Uday Saddam Hussein, the eldest son of Saddam Hussein, told members of the Iraq Journalists Association, which he heads, that the 11 September attacks on Washington and New York will be nothing but a picnic for the Americans in comparison with their expected losses in case they commit, as he put it, "a major folly of committing an aggression against Iraq," according to Al-Jazeera TV on 23 January. He denied that Iraq has any prohibited weapons, but claimed the Americans will attack anyway. (David Nissman)

SHI'ITE OPPOSITION FORCES CONSOLIDATING POSITIONS IN KURDISH REGION. According to the "Kurdistan Observer" on 24 January, "Jamawar," described as an "independent southern Kurdish newspaper," has reported that the Al-Badr force of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is consolidating its positions near Kirkuk. It is reported that a large quantity of ammunition arrived from Iran in the Maydan Qurtah area in Darband-i Khan in southern Kurdistan. The Al-Badr force is armed with heavy weaponry, including katyushas and long-range artillery. "Jamawar" surmised that the Al-Badr forces will confront Iraqi troops on the Kurdistan front, alongside the Kurds. However, the role of the Kurds in any war is still unclear. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN SCHOLAR ARGUES FOR NATIONAL UNITY. An Assyrian scholar, Edward Odisho of Northeast Illinois University, proposes in the 13 January issue of "Zinda" that it is incumbent upon the Assyrians to avoid "ethno-suicide" and remember that they are a people. He points out that despite the fact that there have been many divisive elements among them, they must remember that they speak one language, even if they speak many dialects, because "our dialects will divide us if we give them more significance than our language." He also asks that the Assyrians identify themselves as Christians "before revealing our Catholic, 'Nestorian' Orthodox, or Protestant and Eastern and Western denominations...because our denominations will divide us if we give them more significance than our Christianity." Lastly, he points out that "we are [Bet] Nahrainians before we are Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, or Arameans." Bet Nahrain is the area inhabited by Assyrians in Iraq, and is the home of one of the earliest civilizations of our time. He stresses that if modern Assyrians cannot find the unity required, they may be doomed to extinction. (David Nissman)

KURDS IN KAZAKHSTAN OPPOSE U.S. ATTACK ON IRAQ. The Kurdish diaspora in Kazakhstan is opposing the possible U.S. strike on Iraq, the "Kurdistan Observer" reported on 17 January, citing Interfax and the Kazakhstan News Agency. According to the head of Kazakhstan's Kurdish diaspora, Nadir Nadirov, "the Americans will try to get Iraq's oil fields through the territories populated by Kurds, turning Kurds into their abettors, bringing about a collision of interests between the Kurdish and other ethnic peoples." According to Nadirov, about 80,000 Kurds live in Kazakhstan. He also dwelt on the imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, the former leader of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) which was in a struggle with Turkey for several years for the "national liberation" of the Kurds. He said that "Ocalan is not a terrorist, but a fighter for the independence and development of his people." (David Nissman)

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