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Iraq Report: August 15, 2003


15 August 2003, Volume 6, Number 35

NOTE TO READERS:
"RFE/RL Iraq Report" will next appear on 29 August 2003.
INSIDE IRAQ
KDP HEAD SAYS MOST IRAQIS TRUST GOVERNING COUNCIL. Mas'ud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told Al-Jazeera in an interview broadcast on 4 August that the Iraqi Governing Council "enjoys the trust of the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people," adding, "I do not think it is possible to find a better formula than that of the transitional Governing Council." Asked whether the council will address the security situation in Iraq, Barzani said: "The issue of...maintaining security is still undecided. Consultations and discussions on this issue are taking place" with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The coalition forces are currently responsible for maintaining security in Iraq under UN Security Council Resolution 1483. Barzani also told Al-Jazeera that the council does not feel that the CPA has placed limitations on its functions, because the council and the CPA regularly consult on issues. Barzani added that council members are dictated by the larger public interest, rather than their own personal or sectarian backgrounds. Asked whether the council's membership might be expanded, Barzani said the possibility exists, "but at present I do not see a better formula" than the one currently in place. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GOVERNING COUNCIL NAMES CONSTITUTIONAL COMMITTEE. The Governing Council named a committee on 11 August to guide the process of drafting an Iraqi constitution, Reuters reported the same day. "A committee of 25 members was formed to define [the] best ways to work out a draft constitution to be approved later on," Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, chairman of the council's leadership committee, told a Baghdad press conference. He told reporters that the constitutional committee comprises university professors and legal experts. The committee will not draft the actual constitution but "will be concerned with discussing [the] best mechanism that will lead to an Iraqi constitution chosen and respected by Iraqis," al-Ja'fari added. He also said he expects a constitution to be drafted within a year. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EIGHT IRAQI JUSTICES REINSTATED. The U.S.-led administration on 11 August reappointed eight Iraqi Supreme Court justices fired by Saddam Hussein 10 years ago, according to a press release posted on the CPA's website (http://www.cpa-iraq.org). Hussein removed them from their positions after they failed to uphold the death-penalty ruling of a lower Iraqi court in a case involving a man accused of murdering an associate of Qusay Hussein. According to the press release, "Nine justices at the time found that the killing lacked the element of premeditation required for the death penalty and voted to instruct the lower court to investigate the matter."

The eight justices had petitioned the Iraqi Justice Ministry's Judicial Review Committee for reinstatement at the end of July. The committee, chaired by two Iraqi and two coalition representatives, issued an order of reinstatement after reviewing the petitions. According to the order, "The facts overwhelmingly support the conclusion that these judges were improperly removed from office." Medhat Mahmud, officer in charge of the Justice Ministry, said that the reinstated justices deserved to be honored, adding, "Their removal was wrongful and a severe interference with the independence of the judiciary." One reinstated justice said: "I lost my position, my career, and my retirement rights. But at least I could sleep at night. I had my conscience and I never regretted my decision." The CPA reported that the reinstated justices will have access to their retirement benefits and may even receive some back pay.

The Judicial Review Committee was established by the CPA, as stated on its website, to "vet every judge and prosecutor for Ba'athist links, corruption, complicity in human rights abuses, other malfeasance," and to investigate claims by those who felt they were wrongly discharged from their positions during the Saddam Hussein era. (Kathleen Ridolfo).

MEMBER OF GOVERNING COUNCIL CALLS DISSOLUTION OF ARMED FORCES A 'BAD MISTAKE.' Iraqi Governing Council member Hamid Majid Musa told "Der Spiegel" in an interview published on 11 August that attacks against coalition forces -- and the 7 August attack on the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad -- have occurred as a result of the "consequences of bad mistakes by the Americans." Specifically, Musa claimed that the decision of U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer to dissolve the Iraqi armed forces was "foolish," adding, "As there were more than 1 million members of the army and security services, and an average Iraqi household consists of five people, Bremer deprives over 5 million Iraqis of their living with a single stroke of the pen." According to Musa, some of those disenfranchised Iraqis are attacking coalition forces. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDISH PESHMERGA ARREST ANSAR AL-ISLAM MILITANTS IN NORTHERN IRAQ. Kurdish peshmerga forces patrolling northern Iraq on 12 August arrested 50 individuals, including some suspected members of the militant group Ansar Al-Islam, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported the same day. The group reportedly traveled to Iraq from Afghanistan via Iran. The number of suspected Ansar Al-Islam members in the group arrested was not released. U.S. officials have attributed some attacks on coalition forces to remnants of Ansar Al-Islam in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 17 July 2003).

"The New York Times" reported on 11 August that one group of Ansar militants arrested a week ago by the peshmerga consisted of five Iraqis, one Palestinian, and a Tunisian. Those militants were carrying five forged Italian passports for a different group of militants that they planned to join up with, Dana Ahmad Majid, the director for general security in the Al-Sulaymaniyah region, told the daily. Other northern Iraqi security officials told "The New York Times" that the militants are often disguised as ordinary citizens, having shed their traditional beards and garb.

According to "The New York Times" report, Ansar's leader Mullah Krekar told LBC satellite television on 10 August that the fight in Iraq would be a culmination of all Muslim efforts over the past century. "There is no difference between this occupation and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan," Krekar said from his home in Norway, adding, "The resistance is not only a reaction to the American invasion, it is part of the continuous Islamic struggle since the collapse of the caliphate," which fell in the early 20th century along with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

Over 150 Ansar Al-Islam militants are suspected to have entered Iraq with the help of human smugglers in recent weeks, a security official in Iraqi Kurdistan told "The New York Times." Two Iraqi clerics suspected of aiding the militants are now in coalition custody. Both Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish press reported last week that the peshmerga are now patrolling Iraq's northern borders in an effort to prevent illegal entry into Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-BASRAH AIRPORT SET TO REOPEN. The Iraqi Governing Council has authorized six international airlines to operate commercial flights into the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah, dpa reported on 12 August. Governing Council Chairman Ibrahim al-Ja'fari told reporters that two European airlines -- Poland's LOT and Scandinavia's SAS -- as well as four regional airlines -- Emirates, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian, and Qatar Airways -- would each operate two flights per week.

The U.S. government on 12 August reportedly authorized five additional cargo airlines to fly into Iraq, dpa reported. They are: Air Transport International, Atlas Air, Evergreen International Airlines, Gemini Air Cargo, and Polar Air Cargo. Continental Airlines and North American Airlines were granted permission to transport cargo and passengers. British Airways (BA) has also announced that it has been authorized to fly into Al-Basrah, London's ITV news reported on 12 August. BA Boeing 777 aircraft will operate twice-weekly flights from Kuwait. International carriers have been banned under UN sanctions from operating in Iraq since 1991.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Republic News Agency (IRNA) on 11 August cited a report by Saudi-based Voice of Iraq contending that Israel operates a weekly route between Baghdad and Tel Aviv. The report claims that the flights transport weapons and munitions to U.S. forces, and carry injured soldiers out of Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RIOTS SUBSIDE IN AL-BASRAH. Calm has reportedly returned to Al-Basrah after two days of rioting on 9 and 10 August, international media reported. Iraqis told Reuters that the rioters were protesting a lack of electricity and fuel shortages in the city, as well as the presence of Kuwaiti nationals, whom they accuse of smuggling cheap oil out of Iraq, the news agency reported the same day.

British armored vehicles patrolled the city on 10 August, as crowds threw stones at their vehicles and barricaded roads with burning tires. "There is a larger presence just to be sure that people understand that we take security very seriously," Major Charlie Mayo told Reuters.

One Iraqi was reportedly killed and two others wounded by gunfire in Al-Basrah on 9 August. British forces came under fire on that day, while Czech troops patrolling the city fired warning shots and witnessed an Iraqi fall to his death while trying to mount a coalition truck. Rioters also set fire to a Kuwaiti tanker truck and Kuwait-registered cars. Reuters reported. "It's not political," Iraqi taxi driver Fadel Salman said, adding, "We don't have fuel, electricity, or salaries."

On 8 August, the CPA reported that coalition forces boarded and seized a tanker carrying some 1,100 metric tons of unauthorized diesel fuel. The tanker was returned to the port of Umm Qasr and the crew reportedly turned over to the Iraqi police, according to a CPA press release. CPA head L. Paul Bremer commented on the seizure of the ship, saying, "Smuggling oil and oil products is a crime against all Iraqis...the criminals, who attempt to steal Iraq's oil, once encouraged and abetted by the former regime, will now be found and prosecuted by the coalition and Iraqis working together." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SHI'ITES ACCUSE U.S. OF DEFILING RELIGIOUS BANNER, RALLY IN BAGHDAD... Some 3,000 Iraqi Shi'ites took to the streets of Baghdad's Al-Sadr City on 13 August to protest the presence of U.S. troops after a U.S. helicopter flew too low over a religious school and struck the school's flag, international media reported. Protesters shouted "No, no to America!" during the protest in the poor Shi'ite neighborhood, once known as Saddam City, according to Reuters. Arab television aired footage of the incident, in which the helicopter's wheel touched the religious banner, which was mounted atop a tower at the school. A Shi'ite cleric told Reuters that the incident was interpreted as defiling a sacred place. "We request that no American soldier enter this city," Shaykh Qays said, adding: "The presence of American soldiers shakes security and causes terrorism. This is an aggression on the sacred Muslim places." U.S. military spokesman Sergeant Danny Martin told AP that the banner was blown down by a rotor wash from the helicopter. But AP reported that amateur video footage obtained by the news agency showed the Black Hawk helicopter hovering near the tower in a possibly deliberate attempt to tear down the banner. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND AT LEAST ONE IRAQI IS KILLED AFTER VIOLENCE ERUPTS. The protest turned violent after demonstrators "directed" stones, gunfire, and a rocket-propelled grenade at U.S. soldiers, AP reported, citing Martin. U.S. troops returned fire, he said, killing one civilian and wounding four others. No soldiers were injured in the incident. "We're peaceful people, but one edict [from the imams] and the entire American army will become our prisoner," AP quoted local council member Hassan Azab as saying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FBI INVESTIGATING JORDANIAN EMBASSY BLAST. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has taken over the investigation into an attack on the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003), Kurdistan Satellite (KurdSat) Television reported on 9 August. According to KurdSat, investigators are looking into the possibility that Jordanian national Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, a suspected Al-Qaeda officer, was the mastermind behind the bombing. Al-Zarqawi is also reportedly linked to the October killing of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley, London's "Sunday Times" reported on 10 August. Al-Zarqawi also reportedly has ties to the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 March 2003).

Meanwhile, the CPA issued a press release on 8 August quoting CPA head Bremer as saying, "A joint investigation between the coalition and the Iraqi Police Service is already under way.... At the request of the [Iraqi] Ministry of the Interior, the FBI will give additional assistance by leading this investigation." The press release can be viewed on the State Department website (http://usinfo.state.gov). According to a 9 August AP report, the bombing killed 19 people and injured 50. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DAILY REPORTS U.S. USE OF UPGRADED NAPALM IN IRAQ. U.S. military personnel have revealed that they used an upgraded version of the controversial incendiary agent napalm on Iraqi forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, London's "The Independent" reported on 10 August. Napalm, a mixture of jet fuel and polystyrene, sticks to the skin as it burns. It also explodes into massive fireballs when unleashed, and is widely seen as an effective psychological weapon. The upgraded version uses kerosene instead of jet fuel.

U.S. forces reportedly dropped napalm near bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris River, south of Baghdad in March and April. "We napalmed both those [bridge] approaches," Colonel James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11, told "The Independent." "Unfortunately there were people there.... You could see them in the [cockpit] video. They were Iraqi soldiers. It's no great way to die. The generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect."

According to "The Independent," Pentagon officials reportedly denied in March that the U.S.-led forces had used napalm in Iraq. Officials recently told the newspaper, however, that they did not try to deceive anyone concerning the use of the new "Mark 77 firebombs" -- arguing that they are different from traditional napalm. Unnamed officials reportedly responded that had they been asked, the Pentagon would have confirmed its use of the agent. One Pentagon spokesman told the daily that the firebombs are "remarkably similar" to napalm, except they cause less environmental damage. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES CAPTURE SUSPECTED MILITANT LEADERS. On 11 August, U.S. forces captured a former Iraqi general and a bodyguard of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a raid in Tikrit, Reuters reported on 12 August. Officers from the 4th Infantry Division said the two men, whose names have not been released, were among 14 detainees captured in the raid. Meanwhile, former Iraqi Interior Minister Mahmud Dhiyab al-Ahmad surrendered to coalition forces on 8 August, according to a 9 August press release posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil).

U.S. forces also captured three men who they believe are Iraqi militant leaders in predawn raids in Tikrit on 7 August, international media reported. One man who was arrested after a raid on a workers' hostel is thought to be a "national fedayeen leader" who funds and arms resistance outside Tikrit, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell said, according to Reuters. The other two, captured in separate raids at an undisclosed village south of Tikrit, are believed to have served as generals under the defunct Hussein regime, Reuters reported. Russell said the three men are believed to have held meetings, adding, "We're very interested to know what they were up to." Thirty-eight individuals were briefly detained in the hostel raid and later released with the military's apology. "As we cast a wide net for sharks, we catch dolphins too. And we apologize," Russell said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CENTCOM SAYS IRAQIS ARE TURNING IN WEAPONS. CENTCOM reported several incidents of Iraqi citizens turning in proscribed arms to the police and military in press releases on 6 and 12 August. In a 6 August press release, CENTCOM stated that an Iraqi turned himself in to Iraqi police in the 4th Infantry Division's area of operation, claiming that local former regime loyalists had forced him to conceal weapons for them. The man handed over three AK-47s, one 60-millimeter mortar, five 60-millimeter mortar rounds, three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, six rocket-propelled grenade rounds, and other ammunition.

The press release noted that another Iraqi citizen turned over a rocket-propelled grenade and "an assortment of materials used to make improvised explosive devices [IEDs]" to 4th Infantry Division soldiers. The citizen also provided soldiers with information about an individual who instructs people on how to build IEDs, the press release stated.

Meanwhile, CENTCOM reported on 12 August that the village of Tal Alseer voluntarily organized a weapons turn-in day, which resulted in the collection of an 82-millimeter mortar tube, hundreds of mortar rounds, and one 14.5-millimeter antiaircraft gun with 16 cases of ammunition,. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. LAUNCHES OPERATION IVY LIGHTNING IN IRAQ. U.S. forces launched Operation Ivy Lightning on 11 August to hunt militants responsible for attacks on coalition forces including those loyal to deposed President Hussein, Reuters reported the same day. The 4th Infantry Division is carrying out the mission, which will scour isolated villages east of Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. "Ivy Lightning is a surgical strike in remote towns...to isolate and capture noncompliant forces and former regime loyalists who are planning attacks against coalition forces," Lieutenant Colonel William MacDonald told reporters in Tikrit.

A press release posted on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil) on 12 August stated that the operation is concentrated in the areas of Ain Lalin and Quara Tapa, located some 128 kilometers north of Baghdad along the Jabal Hamrin Ridge. The press release stated: "The lightning raids were conducted with the combined-arms power of attack aviation, armor, mechanized infantry and air assault operations to rapidly deploy dismounted infantry to secure their objectives. This is the first time coalition forces have deployed a sizable presence in the isolated area, and operations will not cease until these hostiles are located and destroyed." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MYSTERIOUS U.S. DEATHS MOUNTING IN IRAQ, KUWAIT. Six U.S. soldiers have died under mysterious circumstances in Iraq over the past two weeks, according to press releases posted on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). A U.S. soldier attached to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment died in his sleep at a base camp in Al-Ramadi on 12 August. On 8 August, CENTCOM reported that a soldier from the 4th Infantry Division died while sleeping at a base camp in the town of Kirkush. Both incidents are reportedly under investigation. Meanwhile, a third U.S. soldier died from apparent heat stress on 9 August while traveling in a convoy north of Al-Diwaniyah, a 10 August CENTCOM press release stated. Three U.S. soldiers died last week in similar incidents. The first suffered a seizure while on duty in Mosul on 7 August, while another died when he fell off a building in Mosul on 6 August. Meanwhile, a third soldier suffered an apparent heart attack while on duty in Kuwait on 5 August. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
ARAB STATES WILL WORK WITH IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL BUT NOT RECOGNIZE IT. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher said on 11 August that Arab governments have decided that they will work with Iraq's Governing Council but will not officially recognize it as a legitimate government, AP reported the same day. Maher's comments followed a last-minute meeting between the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Tensions in the region have increased in recent days after a bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003) and an escalation in the conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hizballah forces on 10 August. Israel holds both Lebanon and Syria responsible for the actions of Hizballah. The Arab League, to which the three states belong, welcomed the formation of the Governing Council but declined to officially recognize it in a meeting on 5 August. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KUWAIT TEMPORARILY CLOSES BORDER WITH IRAQ AFTER RIOTS. Kuwait temporarily closed its Al-Abdali border crossing with Iraq on 10 and 11 August following riots in southern Iraq, Reuters reported on 11 August. Three days of sporadic rioting that broke out on 9 August in Al-Basrah was blamed largely on a lack of electricity and fuel in the region. Many Iraqi protesters blamed the lack of fuel on Kuwaiti smugglers. "We closed down the border for several hours on both days. People coming in from Iraq or fleeing the situation were allowed in, but those wanting to go out of Kuwait were stopped from doing so in order to protect them," an unidentified Kuwaiti official told Reuters in Kuwait City. The source also sought to explain the lack of oil in Iraq, claiming that Iran, not Kuwait is to blame for the lack of fuel. "A lot of fuel is being sent from Jordan and Kuwait to Iraq, and it is supposed to be given to the Iraqis; but most of it is being stolen and smuggled to Iran instead. That's the main problem behind the riots," the source said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ISRAELI FIRM TO SUPPLY PUBLIC TELEPHONES TO IRAQ. An Israeli firm, Iridium Satellite Israel, has won a $4 million-$5 million contract to supply Iraq with public telephones, menareport.com reported on 4 August. The CPA approved a contract in July for the firm to sell its mobile satellite-communications services, subscriber terminals, and related equipment in Iraq. Israeli Finance Minster Benjamin Netanyahu signed a general permit in July authorizing Israeli companies to conduct business in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
UN TO REPLACE 66 MILLION TEXTBOOKS IN IRAQ. A UN Security Council committee has approved a transfer of funds from Iraq's oil-for-food program to print more than 66 million copies of newly edited textbooks for the 2003-04 academic year, the UN News Center reported on 5 August (http://www.un.org/news). The $72 million project seeks to replace textbooks burned or looted during the war. It will also edit statements containing Ba'athist propaganda, according to the press release. Some 509 titles will be reprinted.

The Security Council committee also approved funds for a $104 million project to purchase fertilizer for Iraq's winter wheat and barley crops, and $6.8 million for fungicides to contain smut, a disease affecting wheat and barley seeds. The committee approved all of those projects at the request of the UN Office of the Iraq Program that oversees Iraq's purchases under the oil-for-food program, which is slated to be phased out by 21 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN SAYS IRAQ NEEDS $5 BILLION TO STAY AFLOAT. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Ramiro Lopez da Silva told reporters in Baghdad that Iraq would seek $5 billion from the donors' community at a conference scheduled for October to maintain Iraq's infrastructure and basic services, Reuters reported on 5 August. Iraqi Finance Ministry officials estimate that the total cost of municipal services and institutions will be $20 billion in 2004; Iraq expects revenues to bring in $15 billion, the rest will need to be provided by the international community, he said. "If you want a qualitative leap, a quantum leap in living standards and conditions, you would need much more," Lopez da Silva added. Security concerns inside Iraq are likely to weigh heavy on donors' minds at the October conference, he said. "There are areas where we [currently] cannot allow staff to go," he added, including the so-called "Sunni Triangle" west and north of Baghdad, where coalition forces have seen the greatest resistance. According to Reuters, the current cost to the United States for policing Iraq runs around $4 billion per month. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
GERMAN TROOPS MAY JOIN NATO FORCE. German troops might form part of a NATO mission to Iraq once the force is backed by a UN mandate, German Defense Minister Peter Struck said on 10 August. "If the relevant UN mandates are in place and if NATO is asked to take on more responsibility, then we would have no reason to oppose an engagement by the [NATO] alliance in Iraq," Reuters quoted Struck as telling "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung." Struck's comments reflect an easing of tensions between the United States and Germany, which vehemently opposed the U.S. war in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MORE COALITION TROOPS ARRIVING IN IRAQ. Troops committed to serve in peacekeeping efforts in Iraq continue to arrive there from across Europe, according to international press reports. Two convoys of Ukrainian peacekeepers crossed into Iraq from Kuwait on 11-12 August, Russia's Interfax-AVN news agency reported on 12 August. The Ukrainian contingent totals some 1,660 servicemen. "The Ukrainian brigade will start accomplishing missions under the coalition forces command's plan on 1 September," a Ukrainian Defense Ministry press-service official told Interfax-AVN.

Meanwhile, a Bulgarian battalion that will be deployed in southern Iraq departed Bulgaria for Kuwait on 11 August. The 145-member contingent includes logisticians, medics, and staffers. Three officers of the Bulgarian armed forces General Staff are accompanying the mission. The battalion will be deployed south of Baghdad and will be part of a Polish-led multinational division commanded by Major General Andrzej Tyszkiewcz, Bulgarian news agency BTA reported on 11 August.

A Spanish contingent of some 915 soldiers was set to depart Spain for Iraq on 9-14 August, Madrid's "ABC" newspaper reported on 9 August. The contingent was scheduled to meet up with an advance party of 490 soldiers at their base camp in Al-Diwaniyah. Central American troops from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic will also be stationed in Al-Diwaniyah, while troops from Honduras and El Salvador will be stationed in nearby Al-Najaf. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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