21 September 2003, Volume
SCIRI OFFICIALS CONFIRM BADR CORPS REMAIN ACTIVE...
Leaders of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (SCIRI) have confirmed that the group's armed force, the Badr Corps, remains active despite a U.S. demand that the militia disband, international media reported. SCIRI political adviser Muhsin al-Hakim told ISNA that the Badr Corps will now focus on the rebuilding of Iraq, saying the group is working to uncover terrorist plots against Shi'ite leaders and to foil acts of sabotage, the news agency reported on 12 September.
Meanwhile, SCIRI's new head and Iraqi Governing Council member Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim on 12 September criticized the United States for failing to integrate Badr fighters into the new Iraqi police force, nytimes.com reported the next day. The United States has said all militia forces are welcome to apply to join the new Iraqi police and army but declined to guarantee that all applicants will be accepted.
Al-Hakim also told a Baghdad news conference on 12 September that the Badr Corps has changed its name to the Badr Organization in light of the group's new focus. He then criticized the coalition for its approach to security and maintained that any religious scholar or tribal leader can form security groups to protect their regions, Baghdad's "Al-Dustur" reported on 13 September. (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AS 'SHRINE POLICE' TAKE TO THE STREETS OF AL-NAJAF.
The Iraqi "Shrine Police" have taken to the streets of Al-Najaf following an agreement between coalition forces and religious authorities in the city, Reuters reported on 17 September. U.S. officials told the news agency that the police force -- which is a branch of the regular Iraqi police -- had been agreed upon prior to the 29 August slaying of Shi'ite cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 September 2003) but had not been established until recently. U.S. Marine Sergeant Major Henry Bergeron said, "There were many cultural sensitivities associated with the city...The challenge was how to make security in a shrine area without a [U.S.] presence."
Some police recruits told Reuters that they had been policing the shrine city in an unofficial capacity, but they now wear uniforms, are trained and armed, and are receiving pay for their work. The initial police force will number around 400, but plans are under way to expand the force to some 1,000 men, who will patrol Al-Najaf and the neighboring town of Al-Kufah. Lieutenant Abbas Fadhil, who heads the training of recruits, said that 1,000 people applied for the 400 positions. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. ACKNOWLEDGES HOLDING U.S., U.K. CITIZENS IN IRAQI PRISON.
The U.S. acknowledged on 16 September that it is holding purported U.S. and U.K. citizens at the Abu Ghurayb prison, 20 kilometers west of Baghdad, on suspicion that they participated in attacks against coalition forces, AP reported. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, told reporters that eight individuals -- two claiming British citizenship and six purporting to be U.S. citizens -- are considered security detainees because of their suspected involvement in attacking or helping to carry out attacks against coalition forces. The individuals are currently under interrogation, she added. According to international media, the United States is currently holding some 4,000 individuals as security detainees for their suspected involvement in attacks on coalition troops in Iraq. (See follow up article on this issue below.) (Kathleen Ridolfo)AL-KHALDIYA POLICE CHIEF KILLED.
Three gunmen on 15 September killed Al-Khaldiya's police chief at a traffic circle on the outskirts of Al-Fallujah, international media reported. Colonel Khudair Mukhlif Ali, 48, was shot approximately 25 times, his driver told AP. The incident occurred as Ali was being driven to his home in Al-Fallujah, located some 85 kilometers west of Baghdad. Ali's vehicle was hit by machine-gun fire as it slowed to approach the traffic circle, killing him and wounding his driver and bodyguard. Ali, a former Iraqi Army officer, had been chief of police for two months, and reportedly had received several threats stemming from his association with coalition forces. But Al-Khaldiya police officer Ahmad Juma'a told AP that Ali had recently been pursuing a "gang of car thieves who had repeatedly threatened to kill him."
London's "The Guardian" reported on 17 September that Ali had come out of retirement to lead the approximately 600 former military soldiers that were recruited into the town's police force. Al-Khaldiya is located within the "Sunni Triangle" that has remained a hotbed for attacks on coalition forces since the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime. The town is located some 35 kilometers west of Al-Fallujah. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CONSTITUTIONAL-DRAFTING COMMITTEE TO BE ELECTED.
Fu'ad Ma'sum, the head of the preparatory committee of the Iraqi constitutional congress and member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has said that members of the constitutional-drafting committee will be elected -- not appointed, Baghdad media reported on 13 September.
According to the newspaper "Al-Ittijah al-Akhar," Ma'sum told reporters in Al-Najaf that committee members have decided to elect a drafting committee, but he did not announce a date for the elections. Ma'sum, who was in Al-Najaf to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also told reporters that "a population census [will] be organized prior to the election," "Al-Ittihad" reported. Meanwhile, Preparatory Committee member Fada al-Din Muhammad al-Sistani told reporters that the drafting committee must be elected in order for it to truly reflect the will of the Iraqi people, "Al-Ittijah al-Akhar" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI TURKOMAN FRONT ELECTS NEW LEADER.
The Iraqi Turkoman Front has reportedly elected a new leader following a three-day convention in the northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk, Turkishdailynews.com reported on 17 September. Faruk Abdullah Abd al-Rahman will now lead the group. He told the online news organization that his group, which serves as an umbrella organization for Turkoman groups in Iraq, would set its policies independent of Ankara's interventions. He added that the Turkoman groups are now in the process of unification, but did not elaborate.
Abd al-Rahman called on Turkey to send troops to Iraq under a UN mandate, saying, "Turkey should not be seen here as cooperating with the occupying force...Iraqi people need help and Turkey, a Muslim country with cultural ties to Iraq, should help them. In addition, a Turkish deployment, even in Sunni Arab regions, might be useful to [better defend] Turkomans' rights." (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S.-APPOINTED DELEGATES PICK INTERIM COUNCIL IN TIKRIT.
A U.S.-appointed delegation of 120 individuals from the Iraqi city of Tikrit gathered there on 15 September to elect a 30-member city council that will govern an area comprising 1 million Iraqis, Reuters reported on the same day. The council, established in the hometown of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, was immediately criticized by some observers who argued that the participants -- and the leaders they elected -- were vetted by U.S. officers. In addition, a U.S.-appointed governor will retain ultimate decision-making power. U.S. Major General Ray Odierno congratulated the mostly-Sunni delegates on their participation in the election, saying it was "a historic step toward democracy," Reuters reported. Odierno reportedly appointed four members to balance the ethnic and religious diversity of the council. (Kathleen Ridolfo)REPORTERS OBSERVE NEW IRAQI ARMY.
The U.S. military flew a pool of reporters into the Kirkush Camp on 15 September to see 750 New Iraqi Army recruits in action, international media reported. The recruits have nearly completed their two-month basic-training course, and will soon be attached to the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, based in Tikrit, Reuters reported. The soldiers include former members of Hussein's army, accounting for two-thirds of the new recruits, as well as Kurdish peshmerga fighters who once opposed the Hussein regime.
U.S. officers told Reuters that some 3,000 individuals have registered at recruitment centers in Baghdad, Mosul, and Al-Basrah. "By this time next year I want 35,000 men in 27 infantry battalions," U.S. Major General Paul Eaton said. Eaton, a former commander of the U.S. Army's infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, oversees the training of the new army. U.S.-based Vinnell Corporation holds the contract to train the army (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 July 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)SECURITY STEPPED UP IN AL-SULAYMANIYAH.
Officials have stepped up security in the northern Iraqi city of Al-Sulaymaniyah following recent terrorist attacks in that city and in nearby Irbil, London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 14 September. Checkpoints have been established on a number of side streets in the city, while roads leading to government agencies have reportedly been closed altogether. Security forces have also reportedly been equipped with devices to check vehicles for explosives. The daily also reported that local security forces have arrested an unknown number of Ansar Al-Islam militants belonging to a sleeper cell in the city. Ansar militants are suspected of being behind recent attacks on city officials. Al-Sulaymaniyah is under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headed by Jalal Talabani. (Kathleen Ridolfo)RELIGIOUS AND TRIBAL LEADERS IN SOUTHERN IRAQ WORKING ON DISARMAMENT, SECURITY.
The religious authorities in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Najaf have entered into a dialogue with local tribal leaders to discuss ways of safeguarding public order and establishing security in the region, Baghdad's "Al-Zaman" reported on 16 September. The daily also reported that some notable figures in Al-Basrah have met with tribal leaders to discuss disarmament -- specifically, the possibility of both groups handing over their weapons to coalition forces. A number of meetings were also held to discuss the need for the tribes to not grant safe haven to criminals, the daily reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. TO PAY COMPENSATION FOR KILLING IRAQI POLICEMEN.
The U.S. will reportedly meet with tribal chiefs and dignitaries in the Iraqi town of Al-Fallujah to determine compensation for the families of eight Iraqi policemen killed by U.S. forces in the city on 12 September, AP reported on 18 September.
According to U.S. military spokesman Captain Michael Calvert, the incident occurred when U.S. troops came under fire from a white van and responded, but Iraqi police said the attack was unprovoked. The policemen claimed that some 19 police officers traveling in three vehicles had been chasing a white BMW outside Al-Fallujah on the evening of 12 September and were fired on by U.S. troops as they headed home after giving up the chase. They said the attack lasted for nearly an hour despite their attempts to identify themselves in English and Arabic. Two of the vehicles were reportedly clearly marked "Iraqi Police, Al-Fallujah."
The incident sparked a mass protest on 13 September as Iraqis turned out in the town to bury the dead officers. Daily international press reports since the incident note that Iraqis in the town -- including policemen -- have vowed revenge against U.S. forces for the incident. Al-Fallujah, a Sunni stronghold, has been the site of numerous attacks on U.S. forces since the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Meanwhile, U.S. Military spokesman Captain Jimmy Cummings denied that the incident occurred because the U.S. soldiers -- who had only been in the city for one day -- were ill prepared. "They did receive training. They had just gotten back from Afghanistan and...before they went [to Iraq] they got the training again," he said.
Reparations for such incidents are considered a cultural norm in the Arab world, where compensation is paid for bodily injury or accidental death committed by a perpetrator to the victim or his family. Representatives of the victims -- in this case, apparently the tribal leaders and other notable figures from the community -- usually negotiate the compensation agreement. The U.S.-installed mayor of Al-Fallujah said that the meeting would also address the heightened tensions in the city, AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)FORMER IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER SURRENDERS.
Sultan Hashim Ahmad, 27th on the U.S. list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed Hussein regime, surrendered to U.S. forces in Mosul on 18 September, international press reported. Ahmad had been negotiating his surrender through a mediator, Kurdish human rights activist Dawud Bagistani, for several days. Bagistani told AP that the U.S. military had promised to remove Ahmad's name from the most-wanted list so that he would not face indefinite confinement and possible prosecution, the news agency reported on 19 September.
AP exposed the nearly three-week long negotiations this week when it reported on a 28 August letter from U.S. Major General David Petraeus to Ahmad appealing to the man to surrender. In the letter, Petraeus said that should Ahmad surrender Petraeus would guarantee that he would be treated with the "utmost dignity and respect" while in Petraeus's custody, AP reported on 16 September. Petraeus acknowledged Ahmad's reputation as "a man of honor and integrity" in the letter, adding, "I am concerned that your perceived resistance to the coalition's efforts to bring back this country's honor is detrimental and will result in further...loss of lives."
Bagastani commented on his role in mediating the surrender in an interview with AP saying, "If we were not certain of his innocence, we wouldn't have intervened." He added that Ahmad was well liked by Arabs, Kurds, Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims, and Christians.
Ahmad had led the Iraqi delegation to cease-fire talks with the U.S. after the 1991 Gulf War. It is widely believed that he fell out of favor with former President Hussein and was under house arrest in March this year when Operation Iraqi Freedom began. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. OFFERING IMMUNITY TO IRAQI SCIENTISTS.
The U.S. is reportedly offering immunity from prosecution to mid-level Iraqi scientists who provide information about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, FT.com reported on 18 September. U.S. weapons inspectors working for the Iraq Survey Group have reportedly not uncovered any actual weapons, but administration officials say that former UN weapons inspector David Kay, who heads the group, will note in an upcoming report to the U.S. administration that Saddam Hussein's regime had the capability and the intention to develop WMD, the website reported. Kay was authorized to offer the immunity to mid-level scientists to encourage them to come forward with inside information on the Iraqi programs.
One U.S. official told FT.com, however, that inspectors "won't find weapons [because] that was never the issue," adding, "It's the ability to produce it once [Hussein] was free of constraints," a reference to the UN strict sanctions placed on Iraq that were credited with preventing Hussein's ability to procure materials needed to sustain his WMD programs. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. SAYS THERE'S 'NO EVIDENCE' PRISONERS ARE U.S., U.K. CITIZENS.
U.S. military officials have said that it has "no firm evidence" that eight individuals in its custody in Iraq are citizens of the United States and United Kingdom as they claim, AP reported on 17 September.
The news agency earlier reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003) that the U.S. was holding the individuals for interrogation. U.S. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski later told reporters, "We have detained individuals for criminal or suspected subversive activity that have initially claimed various nationalities or nation of residence. Usually the people do not carry passports or personal identification or have documents with multiple identification from several nations." "The details [of prisoners' claims] become sketchy and their story changes" during the interview process, she added. Karpinski said that the U.S. is currently holding 700 "third-country nationals" in Iraq.
At the Pentagon, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that in many cases, detainees are "quite skilled at confusing people as to what their real nationality is or where they came from or what they're doing." (Kathleen Ridolfo)BRITISH FORCES FIRE AL-BASRAH POLICE CHIEF.
British forces have reportedly fired Al-Basrah police chief Khudayr al-Abbudi citing his failure to establish security in the southern Iraqi city, Voice of the Mujahidin Radio reported on 17 September. Al-Abbudi headed a police force of some 3,700 policemen working out of 34 police stations, according to an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera Television on 16 August.
Gerard Russell, a spokesman for the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told Kuwait Satellite Television on 25 July that al-Abbudi had reported an 80 percent decrease in the crime rate in the city, but recent weeks of violence appear to have impacted the decision to remove al-Abbudi from his position. Kuwait's "Al-Ra'y al-Amm" reported on 13 June that al-Abbudi previously served as a brigadier-general in the Iraqi army under the now-deposed Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)PURPORTED NEW AUDIOTAPE OF DEPOSED IRAQI LEADER SURFACES.
An audiotape purporting to carry the voice of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was aired on Al-Arabiyah Television on 17 September. The speaker in the tape claims that "erosion has begun to eat up the enemy ranks," and calls on Iraqis to overthrow the U.S.-led occupation by "shouting slogans, staging demonstrations, writing graffiti on walls, calling for attaining [citizens] rights...and carrying out jihad through financial donations."
The speaker also addresses U.S. President George W. Bush, saying "you lied to yourself, to your people, and to all others." The speaker also claimed that a U.S. defeat in Iraq was "inevitable," and said that the Iraqi people and their leadership do not want to kill "more sons of the U.S. and British," adding, "We ask you to withdraw your armies as soon as possible, and unconditionally." The speaker then recommends that should the U.S. want to discuss withdrawal arrangements, it can do so with the senior Iraqi officials currently in its custody, who will help to facilitate the withdrawal and "guarantee the security" of coalition soldiers during the withdrawal process.
The speaker also addresses the UN Security Council, cautioning it to not "slide into the pitfalls of the dark U.S. policies." He then reiterates that Saddam Hussein is the freely elected president of the Iraqi people, and addresses European leaders, noting, "We hope that Europe will develop its relatively balanced position so that this position would become legitimate and clear." The audiotape, said to be recorded in "mid-September," has not as yet been confirmed to carry the voice of Saddam Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
OPEC APPROVES IRAQI ATTENDANCE AT UPCOMING MEETING.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has approved Iraq's attendance at the next gathering of OPEC ministers, scheduled to be held in Vienna on 24 September, international media reported on 16 September. New Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum will head the Iraqi delegation to the conference, Reuters reported. The invitation signals an at least tacit acknowledgement of the U.S.-led interim Iraqi government. Iraqi officials did not attend the oil cartel's last three meetings, held in April, June, and July, because there was not an officially recognized government in place (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 July 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQ-JORDAN BORDER REOPENS AFTER SECURITY CLOSURE.
Jordanian Minister of Information Nabil al-Sharif announced that the Iraqi-Jordanian border reopened on 16 September following a two-day closure of the Al-Karamah and Al-Qadisiyah border crossings, "Al-Ra'y" reported the same day. Al-Sharif said that U.S. forces had taken preemptive measures to close the crossings, banning Jordanians from crossing into Iraqi territory. "The closure of the borders might be related to search operations by the U.S. forces in Iraqi territory," al-Sharif said. He did not elaborate on the issue, except to say that these things happen from time to time. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
SECURITY COUNCIL'S PERMANENT FIVE MOVE CLOSER TO RESOLUTION ON IRAQ.
The foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council appeared to move closer toward consensus on the issue of Iraq following a 13 September meeting in Geneva, international media reported. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell characterized the five-hour talks as "constructive," telling reporters in Geneva that "we didn't put any particular proposals on the table to discuss.... We had a general discussion about the way forward," according to the U.S. State Department's website (http://usinfo.state.gov). However, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters that "consensus is not enough. We want a strong and valid resolution which will support our efforts on the ground," latimes.com reported.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi told reporters that Security Council members will eventually bridge their differences, but he said the French proposal that calls for Iraqi sovereignty within a month is "a little too optimistic," nytimes.com reported. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin suggested in a 12 September article in "Le Monde" that an Iraqi provisional government be established in a month, a constitution drafted by year's end, and elections held in the spring of 2004. The latimes.com quoted French government spokesman Herve Ladsous as saying, "Our proposals remain on the table." (Kathleen Ridolfo)UN SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR WELL-DEFINED ROLE IN IRAQ.
Kofi Annan is calling for a well-defined role for the United Nations in Iraq before he allows staff levels in the country to return to full capacity, Reuters reported on 18 September. One UN envoy spoke on Annan's ongoing discussions with Security Council ambassadors, saying Annan "wants more than a cosmetic fig leaf, which some UN people think has been the case so far." Another envoy claimed that Iraqis believe that the UN is seen as a partner of the U.S. occupying power in Iraq, saying, Annan wants "a role distinct from the coalition."
Annan has clearly said that he would not seek a military role for his organization, telling reporters on 15 September "We are not going to go in and run Iraq...Obviously the UN can play a role, but as I have indicated that role has to be clearly defined by the Security Council. It is to be achievable." Previous press reports on the ongoing Security Council discussions on Iraq indicated that the UN may seek a role by helping Iraqis prepare for national elections. (Kathleen Ridolfo)WMD ISSUE IN SPOTLIGHT AS IRAQIS, INTERNATIONAL FIGURES WEIGH IN.
Hans Blix, former head of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), has said he now believes that Iraq destroyed its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the early 1990s and that the United States and United Kingdom wrongly made the case for war, Reuters reported on 17 September.
Citing an interview that Blix gave to Australian radio the same day, the news agency quoted him as saying, "I'm certainly more and more to the conclusion that Iraq has, as they maintained, destroyed almost all of what they had in the summer of 1991. The more time that has passed, the more I think it's unlikely that anything will be found," he said. Blix told the radio that Iraqis in the early 1990s spoke of "weapons concretely," but later talked only about weapons programs. "Maybe [U.S. weapons inspectors] will find some documents of interest," he said. Blix headed UNMOVIC for three years before retiring in June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 June 2003). He was succeeded by Demetrius Perricos.
Meanwhile, Iraqi scientists working for the Iraqi Governing Council have reportedly confirmed that the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein did not have an active nuclear-weapons program for more than a decade, AFP reported on 16 September. Albas Balassem of the newly established Iraqi Science and Technology Ministry said in Vienna on 16 September following a meeting with IAEA officials that "there was no way [for Iraq] to revive those attempts" to produce nuclear weapons. "There was noting left" following the 1991 Gulf War, he added. Another ministry official, B.A. Marouf, told reporters that U.S. inspectors working for the Iraq Survey Group have not "found anything to date" indicating that Hussein had an active nuclear program.
The revelation corresponded with recent statements by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Muhammad el-Baradei that his agency's inspections uncovered no proof that Iraq had a functioning nuclear program. El-Baradei reportedly wrote in a recent confidential report to his agency that UNMOVIC/IAEA inspections determined that Iraq's nuclear program was in such disorder that it is unlikely Iraq could have supported such a program, AP reported on 15 September. "In the areas of uranium acquisition, concentration and centrifuge enrichment, extensive field investigation and document analysis revealed no evidence that Iraq had resumed such activities," el-Baradei said in the report. "No indication of post-1991 weaponization activities was uncovered in Iraq."
In the United States, A draft report by U.S. weapons inspector David Kay, who heads the Iraq Survey Group, also reportedly provides no concrete evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in March, Reuters cited ABC-TV news as reporting on 15 September. Citing unidentified officials, ABC reported that Kay's unreleased report would detail Iraq's effort to maintain its capability of producing WMD. U.S. officials have reportedly denied the ABC report, saying the search for WMD remains under way. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UN AWARDS $315 MILLION IN GULF WAR CLAIMS.
The United Nations Compensation Commission on 18 September awarded $315 million to victims of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and subsequent Gulf War, the UN News Center reported on the same day. The commission was established in 1991 through UN Security Council Resolutions 692 and 705 and funded by up to 30 percent of the proceeds from the Iraqi export of petroleum and petroleum products through the oil-for-food program. UN Security Council Resolution 1483 (2003) decided to phase out that program this coming November but has mandated that 5 percent of Iraq's oil proceeds should still go to the compensation fund.
To date, the commission has paid out some $17.8 billion to individuals, corporations, and governments with claims stemming from the Iraqi occupation and war. According to the UN News Center, over 2.6 million claims with a total asserted value of $350 billion have been filed with the commission. The commission's last pay out totaled $190 million (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 17 July 2003). The commission will reconvene in December. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MAKES FIRST TRIP TO IRAQ.
Colin Powell traveled to Iraq on 13 September following his meetings with Security Council members in Geneva, AP reported on 14 September. Powell met with Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer, interim Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, and attended a Baghdad City Council meeting before dining with a leading Shi'ite cleric in Baghdad.
Speaking about Iraq's future, Powell told a Baghdad press conference that "the worst thing that could happen is for us to push this process too quickly, before the capacity for governance is there and the basis for legitimacy is there, and see it fail." He added that Iraq remains vulnerable to the threat of "terrorists who are trying to infiltrate into the country for the purpose of disrupting this whole process." However, Powell commented that "there is vibrancy to this effort, a vibrancy that I attribute to the winds of freedom that are now blowing through this land." (Kathleen Ridolfo)SPAIN'S AZNAR AGAINST UN MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said in Madrid on 17 September that he opposes the idea of a UN-led multinational force in Iraq, Reuters reported on the same day. Speaking to a meeting of European Popular Party delegates, Aznar said, "The argument about sending forces (to Iraq) under the United Nations flag is useless," adding, "We are all very aware that a situation of high terrorist risk like the one in Iraq...does not call for a buffer force like those of the United Nations...I believe it is realistic to think about a multinational force, under a homogenous command." Spain has contributed some 1,300 troops to coalition efforts in Iraq. Aznar will meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on 21 September, and U.S. President George W. Bush on 24 September, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)EU COMMISSIONER VISITS IRAQ.
European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten visited Iraq on 17 September, dpa news agency reported. Patten is the first top EU representative to visit Iraq since the downfall of the Hussein regime. During his one-day visit he met with Iraqi interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer, and members of the Iraqi Governing Council. Patten said the purpose of his trip was to assess the reconstruction situation in Iraq ahead of the 24 October international donors conference, which will be held in Madrid. (Kathleen Ridolfo)HUTTON INQUIRY RECONVENES.
The Hutton Inquiry into the Blair administration's handling of the case for war on Iraq and the suicide of Dr. David Kelly reconvened on 15 September following a 10-day break. The week's testimony's uncovered evidence that members of the British intelligence community had expressed dissent over the government's Iraqi weapons dossier, despite the fact that British Prime Minister Tony Blair denied that such dissent existed, telling members of Parliament on 4 June that the allegations of dissent were "completely and totally untrue," London's "The Guardian" reported on 17 September.
Two members of the defense intelligence staff had reportedly made formal complaints over the controversial dossier, but those complaints were buried. According to "The Guardian," Deputy Chief of Defense Intelligence Brian Jones advised Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon not to reveal the existence of such complaints, and Hoon followed Howard's advice. Howard told BBC counsel Andre Caldecott in testimony that he had dealt with the complaints "in the line management chain." Hoon reportedly only acknowledged the dissent of the two senior defense intelligence officials after the inquiry had begun its work and the staff members' complaints came to light.
In other testimony, BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan admitted that he had made mistakes in live broadcasts, saying he made "slips of the tongue" during two of those broadcasts that included a reference that described defense scientist David Kelly, as his "intelligence service source," BBC News reported on 17 September. Kelly committed suicide after British newspapers named him as the government's suspected source for Gilligan's reports that claimed the Blair administration had "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq. Kelly had reportedly told the BBC journalist that the 45-minute claim was "unreliable" and "wrong." Gilligan denied in testimony that he had accused the government of being dishonest, the BBC reported. Meanwhile, lawyers representing Kelly's family were allowed for the first time this week to cross-examine witnesses in the inquiry. (Kathleen Ridolfo)JAPAN MAY PLEDGE $1 BILLION FOR IRAQI RECONSTRUCTION.
Japan is reportedly set to pledge some $1 billion in aid to fund the reconstruction of Iraq, "Kyodo News" reported on 18 September (http://home.kyodo.co.jp). The final pledge has reportedly yet to be finalized, with sources telling the newspaper that Japan's final contribution for 2004 to Iraq could be as high as $3 billion. Sources added that the money would be transferred to a fund set up by the United Nations and the World Bank.
Japan's financial contribution may come in lieu of a troop contribution, which has been widely controversial at home. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on 17 September to discuss the contribution, telling reporters after the meeting, "It's entirely up to Japan" to determine the type of contribution it makes, adding, "but I believe Japan is committed to full participation in the efforts to restore not only stability but rehabilitation of Iraq." The total cost of rebuilding Iraq may soar as high as $75 billion, U.S. officials have said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CONTROVERSIAL RUSSIAN REFORMER HEADS TO BAGHDAD
By Daniel Kimmage
The Cold War ended not with a bang, or even a whimper, but a murky, messy series of events that sounds somehow tidy in a history-book retelling of this decisive defeat of an entire political and economic system.
As change remade whole societies, the two sides that had officially glowered at each other across barbed wire for decades were already settling on the shorthand they would use to reduce history's murk and mess to simple, vivid images. For the West, those images would be the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the "Soviet threat" -- the East's stifled masses rushing toward freedom, missiles vanished from Red Square, Gorbymania. For the East, the image would be "shock therapy" and privatization, at once more material and more abstract -- the sudden squall of market forces and the great redistribution of property in societies where no one had really owned anything.
In Russia, shock therapy and privatization call to mind two names: Yegor Gaidar and Anatolii Chubais. Gaidar's tenure in government was brief: deputy prime minister in charge of finance and the economy from November 1991 to June 1992, and then acting prime minister until December 1992. Working in conditions of chaos and crisis, Gaidar implemented a policy of "shock therapy" that aimed to wrench Russia into capitalism, most famously through the 2 January 1992 elimination of Soviet price controls. Although the policy eased goods shortages, it unleashed skyrocketing inflation that soon rendered Russians' savings worthless. Specialists continue to mull the minutiae of Gaidar's decision, but the vast majority of Russians returned their judgment long ago -- Gaidar impoverished them.
Though he was involved in parliamentary politics and promarket party building, Gaidar faded from the front ranks of the public political elite in the 1990s. Today, as director of the Institute for the Economy in Transition, Gaidar has settled into the role of expert elder statesman on transitions to capitalism (at the ripe old age of 48).
And Gaidar's expertise on transition is once again in demand. Russia's chattering classes were abuzz last week with the news that the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority has invited Gaidar to participate in a three-day conference in Iraq on 19-21 September. An official at the U.S. embassy in Moscow told "The Moscow Times" on 9 September that experts from nine Central and Eastern European countries will speak to 50 Iraqi leaders "with a view to explaining how European experience with economic reform might help Iraq manage its transition." According to "Izvestiya," other invitees include former Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar.
For his part, Gaidar told a 8 September press conference, "Many of the problems they are encountering in Iraq stem from the collapse of a totalitarian regime with heavy state involvement in the economy," "Vedomosti" reported the next day. "[The Americans] want to figure out how to minimize the risks and privatize the economy as quickly as possible." Beyond that, he would only say that he needs to study the situation.
Gaidar left an ambiguous legacy, and many of the reactions to his upcoming Baghdad engagement were flush with faint praise. Sergei Aleksashenko, former Central Bank deputy chairman and current deputy director of the Interros holding company, told "Vedomosti" on 9 September: "Gaidar is one of the few people who knows how to reform an economy in a crisis situation. It's better to learn from other people's mistakes, and no one knows better than Gaidar the mistakes that can be made here." Marshall Goldman, associate director of Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, echoed the sentiment, telling "The Moscow Times": "Maybe this is not such a bad idea. Having seen what happened to Russia, he will be aware of the pitfalls. He can help Iraq avoid making the same mistakes."
Others were considerably less enthusiastic. A 9 September article in the London-based, Saudi-owned Arab daily "Al-Hayat" pilloried Gaidar, describing him as "one of the heroes of the 'reform' process that led to the collapse of the Russian economy and paved the way for the theft of the country's wealth." Evoking the Russian "national-patriotic press," "Al-Hayat" called Gaidar "one of Russia's most disreputable politicians, accused by nationalist parties of 'systematically destroying' the Russian economy. They charge that his policies were directly responsible for what they describe as the 'genocide of the Russian people.'" As if all this were not bad enough, the daily added that "Gaidar has, in past years, remained a faithful ally of the West, and especially the United States; he is also considered close to extremely influential Jewish circles in Russia."
The Russian business daily "Vedomosti" voiced a different variety of gloom in an editorial the same day. The editors concluded: "Gaidar...has suggested that privatization would be beneficial. If we recall that, aside from the oil business, there is nothing to privatize in Iraq, certain questions immediately present themselves: The United States would manage the transfer of oil fields to foreign companies on its own, and former Ba'ath Party members can't be allowed to have them. That leaves those who made money during the anarchy of recent months. These 'new Iraqis' are unlikely to be more popular with their fellow countrymen than the oligarchs are with Russians."
In point of fact, Gaidar is unlikely to have any decisive influence over the future course of the Iraqi economy. But the furor over his possible involvement in Iraq's transition -- which drew coverage and comment from virtually every Russian newspaper of note -- shows how many passions still stem from the period when Gaidar made the fateful decision to free prices and release the genie of market forces from its Soviet bottle.
The focus in Iraq today is mainly on political passions, the same passions that blazed so brightly in the early days of change in Russia and Eastern Europe. But the reaction to Gaidar's invitation illustrates one lesson from earlier transitions that could prove instructive in Iraq -- long after the political fires burn out, the economic embers smolder.