Accessibility links

Iraq Report: May 7, 2003


7 May 2003, Volume 6, Number 21
INSIDE IRAQ
AUSTRALIAN DAILY OBTAINS ALLEGED AUDIO TAPE OF DEPOSED PRESIDENT. Reporters for "The Sydney Morning Herald" have obtained an audiotape in Baghdad that purports to carry a two-day old message from deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the daily's website reported on 7 May (http://www.smh.com.au/).

Two men attempted to deliver the tape to either the offices of Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiyah in Baghdad on 5 May, the paper reported. "When [one man] was directed to the main television base in the Palestine Hotel [by Herald press outside the hotel compound] -- guarded by a security cordon of United States troops -- he appeared to lose heart and returned to the car. The 'Herald's' interpreter, Kifah Hameed Mehdi, went after him to ask why he wanted to talk to the media and the driver of the car handed over a tape, saying it was a copy of Saddam's most recent speech, made that morning," the paper reported. Mehdi said that the man's accent was Tikriti -- Tikrit is Hussein's hometown.

In the audiotape Hussein claims to be speaking from inside Iraq, and says it is necessary to "go back to the secret style" of underground "struggle." He calls on all Iraqis, Shi'a, Sunni, Kurd, and Christian to "kick the enemy out from our country." He acknowledges the passing of his 28 April birthday, saying, "The Iraqi people challenged the whole world by celebrating...and asserted that this festivity was not forced on them by Saddam Hussein or by the authorities." Hussein claimed that the Bush and Blair administrations "tell many lies," adding, "you Iraqi people have won your moral battle because the Americans destroyed Iraq and stole Iraq's ancient archaeology by destroying the Iraqi National Museum." He reiterates his call for Iraqis to "resist the occupation" saying, "Don't let the Americans settle in Iraq," and "victory is coming." The audiotape's authenticity has not been confirmed. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. ADMINISTRATOR DISCUSSES INTERIM LEADERSHIP. The head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) Jay Garner told reporters in Baghdad on 5 May that he envisions an interim Iraqi government to be comprised of up to nine leaders, according to AP, cited on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil/). Garner spoke to reporters in Baghdad before departing for a one-day trip to the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah.

According to AP, five of the leaders will be Ma'sud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord, and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The remaining 1-4 members will likely include a leading Sunni and Christian figure, Garner reportedly said.

Garner also told reporters that he anticipates retired state department official Paul Bremer, who has been named the senior U.S. overseer in Iraq, will take more responsibility in facilitating the post-Hussein political process in Iraq. "He will get more involved in the political process. I'm doing all of it and don't want to do all of it," Garner said, adding, "We really need a dedicated effort." Meanwhile, Reuters quoted Garner as telling reporters on 5 May that the interim government may be up and running in the next two weeks. "By the middle of the month, you'll really see a beginning of a nucleus of an Iraqi government with an Iraqi face on it that is dealing with the coalition," Garner said.

Garner later said during his 5 May visit to Al-Basrah that the five opposition leaders are currently working on the formation of an interim Iraqi government, Reuters reported on the same day. "The five opposition leaders have begun having meetings and they are going to bring in leaders from inside Iraq, and see if we can't from a nucleus of leadership as we enter into June," Garner said.

It was also announced on 5 May that Danish diplomat Ole Wohlers Olsen will serve as the southeast regional coordinator for ORHA. His appointment changes ORHA's three-region administrative division to four regions, according to Reuters. Olsen formerly served as the Danish Ambassador to Syria. He is signed on for six months duty in Iraq, according to a 5 May report in the Copenhagen daily "Politiken." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DELEGATES ELECT MAYOR, COUNCIL IN MOSUL. Some 250 delegates gathered in Mosul on 5 May to elect an interim mayor and city council in the first post-Hussein election in Iraq, international press reported. The 24-member council will consist of seven Arabs, three Kurds, two Assyrian Christians, one Turkoman, and one Shebak from inside Mosul, and six Arabs, one Yezidi, and one Assyrian Christian from outside the city, as well as two former Iraqi generals, Reuters reported on 5 May.

"By being here today you are participating in the birth of the democratic process in Iraq," commanding U.S. Major General David Petraeus told delegates at the start of the election, RFE/RL reported. But it appeared that not all delegates were pleased with the proceedings. Some participants reportedly walked out of the meeting, apparently protesting the council's design along ethnic lines. Responding to the walkout, Petraeus said, "There are some individuals, one of whom walked out this morning, who do not believe in representative government. They are essentially radical individuals who believe that the government should only represent one particular group within Iraq...they have had the right to express that opinion and the right to participate or not to participate in the process," RFE/RL reported.

As the day progressed, Al-Jazeera reported that former Iraqi Major General Ghanim al-Bassu was elected mayor. Al-Bassu had served in the Iraqi Army under the Hussein regime that also killed his brother. Al-Jazeera also reported on the outcome of the election for the 24-member city council: Hunayn Mahmud al-Qaddu was elected to represent Al-Shebak; Faruq Sa'id Bik, the Yazidis; Ibrahim Muhammad Salih Wali Arafat, the Turkomans; Yusuf Lallu, Assyrians from outside the city; Father Louis Saku and Ghani Salim Sufia for Assyrians inside Mosul; Fattah Rashid al-Hirki, Abd al-Majid Ibrahim al-Antar, and Mahdi Muhammad Turaykani, the Kurds from inside Mosul; Shaykh Salih Khalil Hammudi, Faruq Abdallah, Nabil Ibrahim Husayn, Sa'dallah Tawfiq Sulayman, Ahmad Abd al-Qadir, Ra'd Barhawi, and Abdallah Ahmad al-Rahhu for Arabs inside Mosul; and Major General Qasim al-Azzawi and Major General Salim al-Hajj Isa, a retired police officer and army general respectively; Muhammad Tahir Ahmad Humud al-Abd Rabbuh, Abd al-Razzaq Mijbil al-Waqqah, Amir Ali al-Dawud, Talal Salim al-Khalidi, Barzan Hazim al-Badrani, and Salih al-Tahir, representing Arabs outside Mosul.

Al-Bassu, the newly elected mayor, told Al-Jazeera after the election that all Iraqis had been represented in the voting. "All the people in Ninawa [Governorate] were represented in the elections.... No faction, religion, or person was excluded," he said, adding, "We are all united to emerge from this crisis. The elections were conducted in a democratic and fair manner." Speaking to the U.S. presence in Iraq, he said, "Our country is currently occupied. We believe that the occupiers are our friends.... The coalition forces did not intervene in the democratic process, which took place in their presence." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

OIL MINISTRY HEAD APPOINTED. Thamir Abbas Ghadhban, an Iraqi oil technocrat, has been appointed to run the Iraqi Oil Ministry, an unidentified ministry official told Reuters on 4 May. The unnamed official also said that Phillip Carroll, the former head of U.S.-based Royal Dutch/Shell, is heading an Iraqi Oil Ministry advisory board. Ghadhban now holds the title of "chief executive" of the ministry, according to Reuters.

His appointment was announced at a 3 May meeting between officials from the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid and Iraqi oil officials. "You can say he is the minister of oil," an unnamed official said, adding, "When we have a new government, we must have a minister of oil. Perhaps Mr. Thamir (Ghadhban) will be the minister, perhaps another person," signaling that the appointment is considered to be an interim one at the present time. Reuters also reported that Carroll is being assisted by Iraqi exile Fadhil Uthman, who served 20 years in the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

'DR. ANTHRAX' IN COALITION CUSTODY... Huda Saleh Mahdi Ammash, a U.S.-trained microbiologist who was dubbed "Dr. Anthrax" by the international press was taken into custody by U.S. forces on 4 May, Reuters reported a day later. Ammash served in the Ba'ath Party as the chair of the youth and trade bureau, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). She was numbered 53 on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed Hussein regime. Ammash holds a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, and headed the Military Industrial Organization's (MIO) biological laboratories in the mid-1990s.

Ammash is the daughter of a former Iraqi minister Saleh Mahdi Ammash, who was killed in the 1980s, reportedly on the order of deposed President Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials believe Ammash might have valuable information on Iraq's biological warfare (BW) program. An unnamed U.S. official told Reuters, "She has intimate knowledge of the workings of Iraq's BW program and the nature and the extent of that program, as well [to] be in a position to know possible locations of where material or production facilities might be located." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS OFFICIALS OF FORMER IRAQI REGIME CAUGHT. Four more members of the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein have been captured in the past week, according to international media reports.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that Ghazi Hammud al-Adib, a former Ba'ath Party Regional Command Chairman and a Ba'ath Party militia commander in the Al-Kut district, Wasit Governorate, was in coalition custody in a 7 May press release. He was 32nd on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis.

Mizban Khadr Hadi, a Ba'ath Party leader and member of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), was captured in the Iraqi capital on 1 May, AP reported on 2 May. Hadi was 41st on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the Hussein regime. Hussein appointed Hadi regional commander of the Central Euphrates Region on 15 March (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 March 2003).

A CENTCOM press release on 2 May announced the capture of Abd al-Tawwab al-Mullah Huwaysh, director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Organization, and Vice President and RCC member Taha Muhyi al-Din Ma'ruf. Those men were 16th and 42nd, respectively, on the CENTCOM list. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DEPOSED PRESIDENT'S SON WITHDREW $1 BILLION BEFORE WAR. Qusay Hussein, son of deposed President Saddam Hussein reportedly withdrew almost $1 billion in cash from the Iraqi central bank just hours before the U.S.-led war on Iraq began, "The New York Times" website reported on 5 May (http://www.nytimes.com/). The withdrawal was ordered by Hussein, according to an unidentified Iraqi official who held a senior position in the bank, the daily reported.

Qusay Hussein and Abid al-Hamid Mahmud, the deposed president's personal assistant, reportedly took the money at 4 a.m. on 18 March, using three tractor trailers to transport some $900 million in $100 bills and nearly $100 million worth of euros, "The New York Times" reported. The Iraqi official said the money equaled around a quarter of the central bank's hard currency reserves. A U.S. Treasury official reportedly confirmed what "The New York Times" has dubbed "one of the largest bank robberies in history." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ TELEVISION BUILDING ATTACKED. The building that temporarily houses Iraq Television was attacked by unidentified gunmen, who destroyed the studio and stole equipment, according to a 5 May Al-Jazeera report. The channel was to begin six hours of daily transmission after several weeks off the air. An unidentified man told Al-Jazeera that television employees had requested protection for the building, saying, "We want only an approval by the U.S. forces to arm some young men who have expressed their readiness to volunteer for free to protect this institution." Al-Jazeera reported that some employees and managers had to collect equipment in order to operate Iraq Radio. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BAGHDAD'S POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS. The newly appointed chief of police in Baghdad, Zuhir al-Naimi has resigned, Reuters reported on 3 May. U.S. forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Alan King said that al-Naimi stepped aside to open the way for a younger man, according to Reuters. Al-Naimi was appointed on 24 April, and was responsible for the recovery of some $380,000 in cash and 100 kilograms of gold in the capital city. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MASS GRAVE UNCOVERED. At least one mass grave has been uncovered some 20 kilometers northwest of the holy city of Al-Najaf, AP reported on 5 May. Iraqis began digging at a site on 3 May, and have reportedly uncovered 72 bodies from the shallow grave. Bullet casings were found in and near the graves, according to AP. Iraqis at the site told reporters that the grave was filled with men and women executed following a failed Shi'ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. "Everybody knew and could see, but they kept quiet," local farmer Kamal al-Tamimi told AP, adding, "We were told [by Iraqi officials] to stay away from this area, not to go near it, that it was a security zone."

Another farmer said that he had seen blindfolded people with their hands tied behind their backs, shot in the back of the head in 1991. AP reported that U.S. Marines had been controlling the site but transferred control to the Iraqi Unity Association, headed by U.S.-appointed Governor Abd al-Munim Aboud. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on 4 May that Marines transferred control of the site to the local Red Crescent Society. Iraqis have also uncovered bodies at another site nearby. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KDP HEAD SAYS PESHMERGA MAY MERGE WITH IRAQI MILITARY. Mas'ud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told CNN Turk in Baghdad on 6 May that Kurdish peshmerga forces would be dissolved once the Iraqi military is reestablished. "As soon as a government is formed and the state institutions are established, then naturally there will be a single [Iraqi] army," Barzani said, adding, "There will be no need for the special security forces, the militants. Our peshmergas will become part of the Iraqi national army when an agreement is reached on the principles."

He did not elaborate on what those principles might be, but Barzani was adamant that the Kurds do not intend to secede from Iraq. "We have no secret agenda such as establishing an independent Kurdistan," he said, noting also that Iraqi Kurds do not pose a threat to Turkey. Turkey has long feared that Iraqi Kurds would attempt to form an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Such a move would trigger instability among Turkey's Kurdish population, who have long sought their own independence.

In a related development, Barzani met with Jay Garner, head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), in Baghdad on 5 May to discuss an interim Iraqi leadership. Barzani emerged from the meeting telling reporters, "The meeting was very successful," the KDP newspaper "Khabat" reported the same day. "In addition to the preparations for holding a broad conference in Baghdad, issues related to the establishment of the provisional government and urgent steps to fulfil the security and administrative vacuum until the formation of the government, were discussed," according to the same report. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SCIRI HEAD PREPARES FOR POLITICAL ASCENDANCY, OFFERS SECURITY. Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim intends to resign from his post once he returns to Iraq so he can concentrate on Islamic scholarship as a source of emulation, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported on 5 May, citing London's "Al-Hayat" newspaper. This would transform al-Hakim from an opposition figure into a senior religious figure and pave the way for his political leadership, according to ILNA. However, al-Hakim is not known as a source of emulation in Iran, where he has spent the last 20 years, and he therefore has not had much interaction with the ulama (Islamic scholars) of Iraq, where he supposedly is going. According to the "Al-Hayat" report, SCIRI jihad bureau head Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim is the top candidate to succeed Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim.

Al-Hakim said that "the Iraqi people are now demanding U.S. and British withdrawal. This is also a regional and international demand and all the neighboring countries share it with us." In a recent meeting with British military personnel during their visit to the SCIRI office in Basra, the council expressed its readiness to provide security in southern Iraqi cities, SCIRI official Salah Musavi told IRNA on 4 May. Al-Hakim also told "Al-Hayat" that SCIRI will participate in an interim or transitional government if it is created within the framework of the December London conference or the February conference in Salah Al-Din. (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 May 2003). (Bill Samii)

IRAQI SHI'ITE LEADER CLAIMS REGIME EXECUTED 750,000. Dr. Hadi Ansari, son of executed Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Ansari, told a Tehran press conference on 5 May that the Hussein regime has executed as many as 750,000 people since 1980, IRNA reported on 6 May. "According to reports from inside Iraq, some documents retrieved confirm this figure," Ansari said, adding, "Resistance Iraqi groups are collecting and classifying documents relating to these martyrs, which will be made public once they are complete." Ansari said that the final calculation could be twice the current estimate.

Ansari also claimed to have information that documents the regime's execution of 182 senior Shi'ite clerics in the holy city of Al-Najaf, 138 of whom were Iranians. He also claimed to have a document from Karbala -- another holy city in southern Iraq -- taken from the Ba'ath security offices, which documents the regime's killing of Ayatollah Bahr al-Ulum.

"The Iraqi Ba'ath regime's aim in killing ulama was to create disunity in Al-Najaf and Qom hawzahs," Sayyid Ammar al-Hakim, a relative of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, told reporters at the same press conference. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim has long claimed that the Hussein regime killed 18 of his family members. Mehdi Ansari, brother of Hadi, told the press that the regime killed all [Shi'ite] prisoners after the Shi'ite uprising in 1991. The family members of other martyred ayatollahs attended the press conference, IRNA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TWO SUSPECTS DETAINED IN KILLING OF SHI'ITE CLERIC IN IRAQ. Two men were arrested in connection with the slaying of Shi'ite cleric Abd al-Majid al-Khoi in Al-Najaf, Reuters reported on 2 May. Al-Khoi was gunned down during a 10 April visit to the Imam Ali Mosque after returning to the holy city of Al-Najaf following several years of exile in London (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). Abd al-Khaliq al-Ka'bi, head of Al-Najaf's volunteer civilian police, told reporters that Mehr al-Baghdadi and a man he identified as "Ihsan" were arrested in the early morning hours of 2 May. The men were reportedly members of a group of around 10 men who fired AK-47s and exploded a hand grenade in the streets around the Imam Ali shrine in a 2 May incident in which two people were killed. The men were detained and taken to the Al-Najaf police station, when seven others stormed the building with AK-47s in an attempt to free them. The gunmen were chased into a nearby cemetery, according to al-Ka'bi. The two men were listed as suspects at the time of the al-Khoi killing, al-Ka'bi told Reuters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ICRC PRESIDENT VISITS BAGHDAD. The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Jakob Kellenberger arrived in Baghdad on 5 May, according to the organization's website (http://www.icrc.org/). "I wanted to come to Baghdad to personally thank our staff in Iraq for their courage and determination during an extremely difficult period," the website quoted Kellenberger as saying. "By distributing medical supplies and carrying out emergency repairs at hospitals and water installations, they supported the Iraqi medical and technical staff in their tireless life-saving efforts," he said. Kellenberger will have an opportunity to see the results first-hand, as he is scheduled to tour medical facilities and water treatment installations, according to the website. The ICRC head is also scheduled to meet with Jay Garner. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
GCC FORCES WITHDRAW FROM KUWAIT. The Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) Peninsula Shield Force withdrew from Kuwait on 5 May, KUNA reported. The force, comprised of military forces from GCC states had entered Kuwait to assist in the defense of the country prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 March 2003). At a sendoff ceremony, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Shaykh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah thanked the force's troops and GCC ambassadors for their participation in the defense of Kuwait, KUNA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

OPEC PRESIDENT SAYS IRAQ WILL REMAIN IN ORGANIZATION. Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, head of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), told reporters on 30 April that Iraq will remain a key player in the organization, Doha-based "Al-Peninsula" reported on its website on 1 May (http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/). Speaking from the headquarters of Qatar Petroleum following a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, al-Attiyah tried to dispel rumors that Iraq might withdraw from the oil cartel. "Iraq is a key founding member of OPEC and has the second-largest oil reserves in the world. It will continue to play a role in OPEC," he said. Al-Attiyah also called for the lifting of the oil embargo against Iraq.

Meanwhile, MENA reported on 30 April that valuable documents, including geological survey maps of Iraq outlining oil-rich areas and reserves, were stolen from the Iraqi Oil Ministry the same day. Sources told MENA the documents were missing, but it was unclear whether they were hidden by the Hussein regime or taken by someone else. The ministry is now under tight U.S. security. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MARTYRED IRAQI CLERICS TO BE COMMEMORATED IN IRAN. Hojatoleslam val Moslemin Javad Shahrestani, who represents Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Qom, said on 4 May that the Shi'a sources of emulation in Qom and in Lebanon have agreed that seminaries will hold a day of mourning on 7 May in honor of 130 clerics who were martyred by the Ba'athist regime, ISNA reported. Shahrestani said an afternoon ceremony will be held at Qom's Azam Mosque and an evening ceremony will take place at Tehran's Arg Mosque.

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a message of condolence on 4 May that noted that the religious figures represent just a small portion of those killed by Iraq's rulers, Iranian state television reported. Khamenei said, in the report's words, "The arrogant powers who helped the Iraqi regime with their biased silence will be as accountable as the Iraqi criminals at the altar of God." Khamenei offered his condolences to judiciary head Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, whose three brothers died in Iraqi prisons, and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, 18 of whose relatives died in Iraqi prisons. Former Iraqi President Hussein "did things that would even put savage beasts to shame," Shahrudi told ISNA the next day. "Acting under the guise of disingenuous populist slogans, Saddam committed savage acts," Shahrudi said. (Bill Samii)

THE UN AND IRAQ
IAEA HEAD CALLS FOR UNSC REFORM, RETURN OF INSPECTORS. Muhammad al-Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called for a modernization of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in a 5 May article published in the French-based daily "Le Monde," AFP reported on the same day. "We need to modernize the system of collective security laid out in the UN Charter whether it be preventive diplomacy or coercion," al-Baradei wrote. He added that the UN system, constructed over half a century ago, has not worked, and called for a Security Council that reflects the current balance of global and economic power in the world, according to AFP. "Preventative strikes, however tempting they may be, could take the international community into unknown and dangerous territory," al-Baradei said.

Meanwhile, the UN confirmed on 5 May that al-Baradei has requested that IAEA inspectors be allowed back into Iraq to investigate reports of looting at an Iraqi nuclear site, AFP reported on the same day. U.S. officials have reportedly not responded to the letter, which was addressed to the U.S. government and dated 30 April. At the IAEA, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told Reuters that the agency had not received a response but said, "We have been assured by the U.S. that they would secure these facilities," Reuters reported on 5 May. Fleming added that the IAEA "finds these reports [of looting] disturbing."

"The Washington Post" reported the looting on 4 May, noting that it appeared that radioactive material was looted, according to Reuters. Asked about the issue, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said that the United States had made no decisions regarding the reentry of the nuclear watchdog agency.

Regarding the looting, Boucher said, "Coalition forces have secured the facilities that house the natural and low enriched uranium that was at those sites...none of this material was usable in nuclear weapons; all of this uranium would require significant processing in order to be suitable for enrichment for weapons use," Reuters reported. The IAEA has said that the material might be used to construct dirty bombs, according to Reuters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
U.S. NAMES TOP CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR FOR IRAQ. U.S. President George W. Bush named Paul Bremer, a former ambassador and head of the State Department's counterterrorism office, as presidential envoy to Iraq, according to a 6 May press release on the White House website (http://www.whitehouse.gov/). According to the announcement, Bremer will be the senior coalition official in Iraq, and will oversee reconstruction efforts, and the rebuilding of the Iraqi government structure. The statement noted that U.S. General Tommy Franks will "maintain command over coalition military personnel in the theater."

"Ambassador Bremer will report to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and will advise the President, through the Secretary, on policies designed to achieve American and coalition goals for Iraq," the statement added. Bremer formerly served as chairman and CEO of Marsh Crisis Consulting, and managing director of the Kissinger group. His 23-year diplomatic career highlights include U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands and ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism. Jay Garner, head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, will reportedly report to Bremer. It appears that presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will also report to Bremer. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MANY EMBASSIES SET TO REOPEN IN BAGHDAD. Many states have begun to take steps toward the reopening of their embassies and consulates in the Iraqi capital, according to international press reports. The German government announced on 5 May that it had sent a team to Baghdad to assess the amount of damage to its looted embassy, dpa reported on the same day. Sweden dispatched its diplomatic team on 5 May to assess its embassy, which was closed prior to the start of the 1991 Gulf War, AFP reported the same day. The Turkish government has said that its embassy would open within a week, "Ankara Anatolia" reported on 5 May.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom reestablished a diplomatic presence on the grounds of its embassy compound, working out of makeshift containers, Reuters reported on 5 May. A staff of four will work and live out of shipping containers equipped with generators and kitchens, according to the report. Britain expects a staff of 20 to be in place by the end of July. Christopher Segar, who will head the British Office, as it will be called until an Iraqi government is established to accept an ambassador's credentials, told Reuters, "The flat-pack embassy is a new idea and we are going to see whether we can work it effectively here. It allows you to dismantle, take it away, and use it somewhere else." A new embassy building will reportedly be built to replace the 19th-century timber-and-brick Ottoman building that housed the former embassy, according to Reuters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. PRESIDENT DECLARES MAJOR COMBAT OPERATIONS OVER IN IRAQ. U.S. President George W. Bush on 1 May declared major combat operations in Iraq "over," Reuters reported the next day. Speaking aboard the aircraft carrier "U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln," Bush said: "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."

Bush said the coalition still has "difficult work to do," but added, "It is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done." Calling the liberation of Iraq a "crucial advance in the campaign against terror," the president said the coalition has begun to search for weapons of mass destruction, adding that the United States "already knows of hundreds of sites that will be investigated." The "Abraham Lincoln" was returning to its base in San Diego after nine months at sea. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

COALITION'S OPERATION NORTHERN WATCH ENDS IN IRAQ. Operation Northern Watch, the international community's effort to patrol the northern no-fly zone in Iraq, ended on 1 May with a ceremony at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, "Ankara Anatolia" reported the same day. Coalition forces had been patrolling the area north of the 36th parallel in northern Iraq since 1 January 1997. U.S. officials in recent weeks announced an end of both Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch, in which coalition forces patrol the skies south of the 32nd parallel in southern Iraq.

CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks addressed the issue during a trip to the United Arab Emirates on 27 April, saying, "There is an understanding that since the regime in Iraq is gone...there will no longer be a need for Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch and so forth," "The Washington Post" reported on 28 April. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES ATTACKED IN CENTRAL IRAQI CITY. Seven U.S. troops were wounded in Al-Fallujah in an attack on 1 May, Al-Jazeera reported. The soldiers were hurt when unidentified individuals threw hand grenades at their camp. Al-Jazeera reported that Al-Fallujah notables called a meeting on 1 May to discuss how to deal with U.S. forces after two days of incidents that left several Iraqis dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES LAUNCH RAID IN TIKRIT. U.S. forces launched a raid in deposed Iraqi President Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on 2 May, AP reported. One Iraqi was killed and approximately 20 detained in the raid, in which a dozen buildings were reportedly stormed. Troops found several weapons and about $3,000 hidden in several houses, according to AP. U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Phil Battaglia, commander of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, which conducted the raid, told AP, "Some of these guys are continuing to terrorize people out there, and that's going to take a while to work through." The Iraqi was reportedly killed when he tried to take a rifle away from a U.S. soldier. The Tikrit raid was the second in as many days. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ICRC CALLS ON COALITION TO SECURE MASS GRAVES. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on coalition forces to establish an urgent and coordinated action to secure mass graves being uncovered across Iraq, and to identify the dead, Swiss Radio International's website reported on 5 May (http://www.swissinfo.org/). "Our concern is what happened as a result of the latest war," ICRC Spokeswoman Nada Doumani told Swiss Radio, adding, "It's urgent to protect what can still be identified." According to Doumani, at least a dozen mass graves had been located inside Baghdad alone. Doumani added that the coalition had recently appointed a member of the U.S. civil administration in Iraq to deal with the issues of human remains and missing persons. The ICRC has reportedly also given coalition forces a set of recommendations that were drawn up at an international conference in Geneva on 19-21 February. The recommendations and other highlights of the conference can be viewed on the ICRC's website. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TEHRAN'S MUJAHEDIN FOES ARE ON U.S. TERRORISM LIST. The Iraqi-based armed opposition to the Iranian regime is identified as a foreign terrorist organization in the U.S. State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism (2002)" report that was released on 30 April (http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2002/html). The Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) -- also known as the National Liberation Army of Iran, the People's Mujahedin of Iran, the National Council of Resistance, and the National Council of Resistance of Iran -- has killed U.S. citizens in the past and supported the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

After getting kicked out of Iran by the Islamic regime, in 1981 the MKO detonated a bomb that killed some 70 Iranian officials. Then it sided with Baghdad in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and fought against Iranian forces. In 1991, the MKO helped suppress Shi'a uprisings in southern Iraq and Kurdish ones in the north, according to the report, and since that time it has conducted internal security work for the Ba'athist regime. In the last four years the MKO has carried out assassinations, hit-and-run raids, and mortar attacks in Iran. Most of its funding and support came from the Iraqi regime, and it has an external support structure that solicits contributions from expatriates. (Bill Samii)

END NOTE
Iraq Stabilization Force Taking Shape.

By Kathleen Ridolfo

The United States, Britain, and Poland have drawn up plans to establish a multi-national security force to police Iraq, Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz announced on 3 May. "The idea is to have all the countries, ready to engage, there by the end of this month," Cimoszewicz told reporters at a 3 May meeting of EU foreign ministers in Greece. News of the plan emerged following a 30 April meeting in London (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 May 2003) in which several countries sent military officers to discuss participation in the force.

Initial reports indicated that Iraq would be divided into three sectors, although details are beginning to emerge that suggest the country will be divided into four sectors. U.S. forces will control one sector, while British and Polish forces will run two other sectors of the multinational force. It is unclear which nation will be placed in charge of the fourth sector. U.S. Central Command will have overall control over the four divisions.

In all, 16 countries: Australia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, and Qatar joined the United States and Britain at the 30 April conference. France and Germany, who both opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq, were not invited to attend, but have grudgingly endorsed the plan, AP reported on 3 April. Russia also did not participate in the meeting. French Foreign Ministry Spokesman Francois Rivasseau told unidentified correspondents during a 5 May daily, online briefing that his country still prefers that the UN lead the reconstruction in Iraq, according to his statements posted on the Foreign Ministry's website (http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/). "We are still in the securing phase, during which there is a reconfiguration of the occupying force and a diversification of its personnel," Rivasseau stated, adding, "As the French authorities have said, after the securing phase and in the context of initiating the reconstruction phase in Iraq, we think the United Nations should have a central role."

Early reports indicated that 10 nations have committed troops, including Albania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Ukraine. Details are still emerging on the size of each nation's contribution to the stabilization force. However, an unnamed senior U.S. official told Reuters in a report published on 3 May that around 20,000 U.S. troops would participate. The troops would be separate from the 135,000 U.S. forces still in Iraq, Reuters reported. In addition, Polish Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke told public radio that the United States had requested 4,000 Polish troops to participate. But Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Smajdzinski told "The Washington Times" on 5 May that Poland would contribute 1,500 to 2,200 soldiers. AFP reported that Washington would help finance the Polish troop deployment, which it reported would cost Warsaw $90 million. Poland has also called for a UN Security Council mandate to authorize a peacekeeping mission to Iraq. Polish Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz told reporters at the U.S. State Department on 6 May, "I understand that in days ahead there will be some initiatives opening the way to have such a resolution."

Meanwhile, Warsaw-based daily "Trybuna" reported on 6 May that Polish troops would be responsible for the Turkish-Iraqi border area. Polish Major General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, who led the Polish delegation to the 30 April meeting, has been named as a candidate to run the Polish sector, "Trybuna" reported. He reportedly has experience in Turkish affairs, and once served as military attache to Turkey. In addition, Marek Belka, Poland's former deputy prime minister and finance minister, said on 6 May that he would soon be appointed a deputy to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), and would coordinate economic programs in Iraq, Radio 1 reported. Belka indicated that a Polish team would leave for Iraq by early June.

Kiev's One Plus One Television reported on 6 May that a Ukrainian delegation, in Washington to participate in a NATO conference, met with U.S. officials to discuss the terms of Ukraine's participation in the stabilization force. And Italy's Associated National Press Agency reported on 6 May that Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino has committed 2,500-3,000 troops to the stabilization force and expected them to be in Iraq by early June.

The Hungarian Parliament voted on 6 May to open that country's territory and airspace to the stabilization force, but delayed approval of a troop deployment for one month, AFP reported on the same day. The authorization allows "international peacekeeping forces taking part in the humanitarian effort to rebuild Iraq to use Hungarian airspace, roads and railroads until the end of 2004," AFP reported.

The Danish government plans to send a peacekeeping force of 380 soldiers, including troops specialized in "performing protection missions," the daily "Jyllands-Posten" reported on 6 May.

Other nations are also expressing an interest in participating in the effort. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said on 6 May that Portugal would send troops to Iraq, but said the terms of his country's participation in postwar Iraq had not been set, RDP Antena 1 Radio reported the same day. "We are assessing the terms in which we will fulfill this [commitment]," he said, adding, "I will publicly announce the government's decision," at the right moment. Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev told reporters on 6 May that "A total of 150 Azerbaijani peacekeepers will participate in Iraq's postwar rebuilding," Interfax reported the same day. A preparatory team is scheduled to head to Iraq on 8 May to inspect the base where Azerbaijani troops will be stationed, Interfax reported.

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah announced on 6 May that Kuwait had been asked to participate by sending peacekeepers to Iraq. Al-Sabah told reporters that Kuwait's troops would only participate if the UN Security Council approved such a force. Likewise, Jordanian Information Minister Muhammad al-Adwan said on 6 May that Jordan would only participate in peacekeeping efforts in Iraq under the UN, MENA reported. Al-Adwan said, however, that the United States had not asked for Jordanian assistance.

It appears that the stabilization force will be on the ground in Iraq by mid-June. According to international press reports, the British are expected to hold a "force generation conference" on 7 May to iron out the details and determine which states will fall under its command and how many forces each state would be asked to contribute. Poland is expected to hold a similar meeting on 22 May.

The international contributions will not be limited to peacekeeping and security, however, as U.S. administration officials have said that some of the 10 nations that have committed to participate in the stabilization force have offered to provide expertise in the fields of medicine, civil administration, policing, reconnaissance, and mine-clearing, as well as nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, according to international press reports.

XS
SM
MD
LG