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Iraq Report: April 19, 2002

19 April 2002, Volume 5, Number 10

HOW GOES IRAQ'S OIL EMBARGO? Speaking on state-controlled Iraqi television on 8 April 2002, Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn declared that "the tyrannical U.S. and Zionist enemy has underestimated [Iraq's] resources," as he announced a unilateral oil embargo. Oil is Iraq's chief export and a major source of income for the country. Iraq's share of international petroleum exports is also significant.

At the time of the announcement of the embargo, UBS Warburg oil analyst Matthew Warburton said on CNN that Iraq produces approximately 1.75 million barrels of oil per day, or about 2 percent of the total world production. Such a level of production is significantly below Iraq's potential. On 12 January, the Dow Jones newswire reported that Iraq's production capacity is approximately 3.1 billion barrels per day.

Husseyn said in his speech that the oil embargo would apply to "the pipelines going to the Turkish port on the Mediterranean and�our ports in the south." According to Husseyn, "this decision basically targets the Zionist entity and the U.S. policy of aggression, and not anyone else." Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid said on the 9 April broadcast of Iraqi TV, "We are optimistic that the price will go up a few more dollars over and above the $4 resulting from the anticipation of the decision."

But world oil prices actually declined after the embargo announcement. Three days before the unilateral Iraqi embargo, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's "Energy Information Administration" on 5 April, the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil was $25.39. On 15 April, Brent crude opened at $23.75 per barrel.

Iraq's oil embargo is far from total. According to a report in the 9 April "Jordan Times," Jordanian Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Muhammad al-Bataniyah said that Iraq would not apply to Jordan. Jordan is not the only Iraqi neighbor to be exempted from a cut-off in Iraqi oil exports, however. In his 8 April speech, Husseyn also omitted reference to Syria when specifying export routes participating in the embargo.

"The Washington Post" reported on 14 February 2002 that the Iraqi pipeline to the Syrian port of Banias, which was re-opened in 2000, provides the Iraqi leader with upwards of $1 billion a year outside of the confines of the UN oil-for-food program by transporting perhaps 200,000 barrels of oil daily. Even though Syria is a member of the UN Security Council, such oil transport remains highly illegal and contributes to the hardship being placed upon the Iraqi people.

According to UN Security Council Resolution 986, which is the basis of the oil-for-food program, revenue raised by Iraq's oil sales must be applied to an escrow account from which Iraq may make purchases of food and humanitarian supplies. However, Saddam applies revenue raised from oil smuggling to other means -- such as palace construction and military re-armament -- rather than the Iraqi peoples' humanitarian needs. According to a 27 February 2001 analysis by Patrick Clawson in "The Washington Post," Husseyn has spent almost $2 billion on palaces since the imposition of sanctions. Satellite photos of some of Saddam's new palaces are accessible at:

An unnamed senior Russian official said that Husseyn's oil embargo "dooms his nation to the continuation of suffering," according to an 8 April ITAR-TASS report. Oil Minister Rashid disagreed that the oil embargo would harm ordinary Iraqis in an Iraqi TV interview broadcast on 9 April. "Iraq does not view matters from the national but from the pan-Arab perspective...Palestine, Iraq, and the Arab nation are one cause," Rashid said. If this is true, then Husseyn's stance in solidarity with Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat has caused prices in Baghdad to skyrocket.

According to a 10 April "Iraq Press" report, the Iraqi embargo "has led to a substantial hike in the prices of essential commodities." According to the article, "long queues formed at filling stations in Baghdad following Saddam's decision. People�were stocking up on wheat flour, vegetable ghee, sugar and tea." On 12 April, "Iraq Press" reported that Iraqi traders arriving in Amman, Jordan, said that the Iraqi dinar had lost value against the dollar, dropping from 2,100 to 2,260 after the 8 April embargo announcement. (Michael Rubin)

IRAQI TANKS MOVE TO OIL FIELDS. An "Iraq Press" article datelined in Irbil on 10 April reported that "battalions" of tanks and infantry have moved into oil fields and surrounded refineries in the Kirkuk oil field in northern Iraq and in Iraq's much more productive southern oil fields. The article cited unspecified reports that the American military might seek to seize Iraq's oil fields in the event of armed conflict. While the article did not cite the source of its intelligence, Iraqi travelers crossing the line-of-control into the Kurdish safe-haven frequently comment on new Iraqi troop movements in areas of residence or travel.

In the Iraqi safe-haven there is freedom of speech and, according to European diplomatic sources in Amman, reporters and Iraqis with whom they talk are not subject to the near-constant electronic surveillance that accompanies journalists visiting portions of Iraq controlled by Husseyn's Ba'th Party. (Michael Rubin)

IRAQ DENOUNCES NUCLEAR WEAPONS (BUT FORBIDS INSPECTIONS). Wajdi Abbas, director of the Disarmament Department at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry's Organizations Bureau, called for making the Middle East a region free of nuclear weapons, the Iraqi News Agency reported on 10 April. Abbas made his comments at the seventh conference for the signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty held at the UN in New York. Iraq's motives in calling for regional disarmament may not be entirely altruistic. According to Iraqi Television on 10 April, Abbas said there is an "urgent need to remove this usurping entity's [Israel's] nuclear weapons."

In a separate segment on 10 April, the Iraqi News Agency reported that Abbas had informed the conference, "Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction and does not intend to possess them."

If Abbas' declaration is true, then it raises the question as to why, for 1,353 days, the Iraqi government has refused to allow UN inspections, as obligated under UN Security Council Resolution 687 and subsequently reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolutions 699, 707, 715, 949, 1051, 1060, 1115, 1134, 1137, 1194, 1205, and 1284.

According to these resolutions, UN inspection teams must verify that the Iraqi government has undertaken its commitment to dismantle Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. Abbas reportedly took umbrage at British accusations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. "This is incorrect�Iraq has officially announced that it does not have weapons of mass destruction and does not intend to enter this club," Abbas declared.

According to Human Rights Watch and numerous other NGOs, in the 1980s, Iraq frequently used chemical weapons against Iran and its own civilians. (Michael Rubin)

IRAQIS URGED TO 'STRIKE AT U.S. INTERESTS.' The National Command of the [Iraqi] Ba'th Party reaffirmed its staunch support for the Palestinians and opposition to the United States and "its Zionist protege," according to an 8 April statement on state-run Iraqi Television. The statement, on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the founding of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, accused the United States and Israel of arrogance in the wake of the 11 September "incidents" in New York and Washington.

Addressing those who seek peaceful co-existence in the Middle East, the Ba'th statement said, "These advocates seem to ignore the cancerous nature of this strange entity [Israel] in the Arab body." The official Iraqi government statement concluded by calling for "striking at U.S. interests in the Arab homeland and the interests of the Zionist entity that have seeped into more than one place in the Arab homeland." (Michael Rubin)

IS ARAFAT HELPING IRAQ TO ASSEMBLE TARGET LIST? An article in the 7 April "Sunday Telegraph" (London) citing Western intelligence officials reported that senior officials of Iraq's General Intelligence Agency met in March with Palestinian Authority representatives. Saddam Husseyn's eldest son, Uday, runs Iraq's General Intelligence Agency. The "Sunday Telegraph" reported that the Palestinian Authority delegation provided Iraqi intelligence with a list of suggested targets in both Israel and Saudi Arabia that Husseyn might choose to attack with ballistic missiles. According to UN Security Council Resolution 687, Iraq is not permitted to possess ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers.

The Palestinian delegation also reportedly presented Iraqi security officials with 37 blank passports that the Palestinian Authority allegedly had obtained in a number of Arab countries. Such third-party passports may facilitate Iraqi undercover operations globally.

The Iraqi government has long maintained high-level contacts with members of the Palestinian Authority. For example, the Iraqi News Agency reported on 5 March that Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan had that day received Faruq Qaddumi, "foreign minister of the state of Palestine." According to the Iraqi News Agency, Ramadan told Qaddumi, "Struggle and jihad are the only way to liberate the holy places and expel the Zionists from the land of Palestine." Qaddumi, in turn, expressed his gratitude for Husseyn's support of the Palestinian Authority's uprising.

The Iraqi News Agency also reported Qaddumi's acknowledgement of the success of "Palestinian martyrdom operations," a common euphemism for suicide bombings in the Arabic-language press.

The official Iraqi media has also recently cited Iraqi government officials threatening Iraqi military strikes again Israel. For example, Iraqi Television reported on 7 April that Iraqi Defense Minister Staff General Sultan Hashim Ahmad had told Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn, "The Iraqi Armed Forces will be sharp swords to liberate our usurped land in Palestine and its crown, holy Jerusalem, from the clutches of the Zionists."

Iraqi military action against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians has precedent. During the 1948 war, the Iraqi army formed the largest contingent, occupying much of the northern West Bank.

According to the United Nations Special Commission's January 1999 "Comprehensive Review," during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq fired 43 Scud missiles at Israel and 51 missiles at the "Kuwait Theater of Operations," which included Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. These Iraqi attacks were celebrated by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, according to numerous news reports from the time.

Arafat very publicly backed Iraq in its 1980 invasion of Iran. (Michael Rubin)

IRAQ TO TRANSFER MORE MONEY TO THE PALESTINIAN UPRISING. The official Iraqi News Agency reported on 10 April that the Iraqi government would help subsidize the Palestinian uprising. According to INA, "President Saddam ordered [the government] to donate 10 million euros and transfer the money quickly to support the Palestinian intifada and the struggle of the Palestinian people." The Iraqi president also announced that "all the sons and brothers of the Palestinian martyrs should be accepted to study in Iraqi schools, colleges, and universities at the expense of the Iraqi government," Iraqi TV reported on 10 April.

Automatic admission for Palestinians struck a raw nerve in predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq, sources report by e-mail. In 1992, the Iraqi government prohibited the admission to Iraqi universities of Iraqi Kurds living in northern Iraq. The 23 July 2001 edition of "The New Republic" reported that Iraqi forces had expelled the children of one Iraqi woman when she refused to divorce her husband whom the Iraqi government suspected of supporting the political opposition.

According to a 9 December 2000 Republic of Iraq Radio report, Husseyn decided to transfer one billion euros [$930 million at the time] to Palestinians, 300 million euros of which would go to reward families of "martyrs" and 700 million of which would "buy food, medicine, and other basic needs for the mujahid people of Palestine." Iraq also claims to have organized a 6.5-million-strong "Jerusalem Liberation Army," according to 17 February 2001 Iraqi TV (and numerous subsequent) reports. (Michael Rubin)

ACTIVISTS PROTEST ECONOMIC SANCTIONS 'STARVATION.' While not commenting on the transfer of nearly $1 billion to Palestinians, a wide array of "peace" activists published an advertisement in the 21 March "International Herald Tribune." The advertisement said that economic sanctions on Iraq "brought starvation to millions of innocent Iraqis."

According to the 19 November 2001 UN "Report of the Secretary-General (S/2001/1089), since February 1998 the oil-for-food program provides all Iraqis with 2,463 kilocalories and 63.6 grams of protein per person per day, though at times the food ration has provided only 2,229 kilocalories and 50.48 grams of protein daily."

French and Belgian activists and politicians recently arrived in Baghdad to protest sanctions, according to Iraqi News Agency reports on 13 and 15 April (Michael Rubin)

IRAQI GOVERNMENT HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD �HORRIFYING.' Andreas Mavrommatis, special rapporteur from Cyprus, reported to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva on his recent "exploratory mission" to Iraq, AFP reported on 1 April. Mavrommatis' human rights mission was the first authorized by the United Nations to Iraq since 1992.

Mavrommatis met ministers, briefly visited the Abu Gharib prison in Baghdad, and met a Shi'i delegation in the Shi'i holy city of Karbala. According to the AFP report, Ba'th Party officials constantly accompanied Mavrommatis. Mavrommatis said he "worried about" the ethnic and religious discrimination, violence perpetrated by the paramilitary groups and the security [services], and the formation of a new "popular militia," the al-Quds (Jerusalem Liberation Army).

Mavrommatis also said he was especially troubled by the "next to horrifying" overcrowding in the juvenile section of the Abu Gharib prison. However, he looked forward to having a "constructive dialogue" with the Iraqi authorities.

In April 2001, only 30 of the 53 members of the UN Human Rights Commission voted in favor of a resolution condemning "the systematic human rights violations in Iraq."

Not everybody was pleased with Mavrommatis' mission or his call for a human rights "dialogue" with the Iraqi government, according to the AFP report. Bakhtiar Amin, director of the International Alliance for Justice in Iraq, reported that the Iraqi government had executed 4,000 people since 1998 and that "A dialogue with this regime is without fruit." Instead, Amin said, "[Saddam's] regime should be declared as an outlaw."

While the UN Human Rights Commission had not sent a representative to Iraq since 1992, the International Alliance for Justice has conducted extensive interviews with Iraqi refugees in both Jordan and Syria. The International Alliance for Justice and the Federation for Human Rights also reported that Iraqi refugees complained about the Iraqi government's confiscation of UN ration cards, a charge also aired in the 23 July 2001 "New Republic."

Refugees also spoke of the beheading of 130 women between June 2000 and April 2001. According to AFP, the beheadings were part of the Iraqi government's battle against prostitution. The decapitations were reported in the 2001 U.S. State Department human rights report. According to the report, "In October 2000, security forces reportedly beheaded a number of women suspected of prostitution and some men suspected of facilitating or covering up such activities. Security agents reportedly decapitated numerous women and men in front of their family members. According to Amnesty International, the victim's heads were displayed in front of their homes for several days."

At least three of the women -- Jinan al-Na'imi, Naja Muhammad Sadar, and 'Afaf Isma'il -- were doctors, according to information obtained from the PUK's Bureau of Human Rights, and a fourth, Wajiha Sabir Muhammad, was a medical assistant. (Michael Rubin)

BRITISH OFFICIAL ACCUSES IRAQ OF TERROR SPONSORSHIP. Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported on 11 April that the British government had, for the first time, cited Iraq's support for the Mujahidin-i-Khalq Organization (MKO) as evidence of Iraqi terror sponsorship. Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Symons, minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, said, "Iraq does indeed have a long record of supporting terrorism [including] support for Palestinian terrorist groups and the activities of the MKO against Iran, as well as the assassination of political opponents."

On 5 April, Saman Koch published a lengthy report in about the structure of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (Da'irat al-Mukhabarat al-Amah), commonly called the Mukhabarat. Koch reported that the Mukhabarat was divided into three bureaus and subdivided into 28 directorates. He alleged that the Mukhabarat assigned "Directorate 18" to be responsible for MKO support and instruction. The Iraqi government has deployed the MKO not only against Iran but also against Iraqi Kurds, reported the 4 October 1994 "Wall Street Journal" (also see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 August 1999). Kurdish military officials in the northern Iraq safe-haven continue to allege that Saddam deploys the MKO against the PUK and KDP militias along the line-of-control.

According to the U.S. State Department's 2000 "Patterns of Global Terrorism Report," Iraq is the primary sponsor of the MKO, which also solicits aid through its various front organizations including the National Council of Resistance and the Muslim Iranian Student's Society. (Michael Rubin)

TENSIONS RISE OVER 'KURDISTAN' AIRPORT� The Turkish daily "Milliyet" on 7 April 2002 reported that the Iranian state-run Medes Air Company ( will soon start weekly flights between Duesseldorf, Germany, and Urumiyeh in northwestern Iran, near the Iraqi border. The company has launched a "go to Kurdistan" advertisement campaign. "Milliyet" reported that passengers will not need an Iranian visa, but can attain a transit visa to travel overland to Hajji Umran, a KDP-administered Iraqi town on the Iran-Iraq border.

However, visitors arriving through Hajji Umran would be allowed to visit both the KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)-controlled sectors of northern Iraq. Both the KDP and PUK administer territory separately, but allow freedom-of-movement across their mutual zones.

The Arabic service of "Voice of Turkey" radio said on 7 April that the Duesseldorf-Urumiyeh air route will facilitate "transfer [of] the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] terrorists from Europe to their bases in Iran and Northern Iraq." While both the KDP and PUK actively oppose PKK activities in their respective areas of control, Iran often supports the violent separatist group defined as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Evidence of continued Iranian support for the PKK has recently been a subject of numerous Turkish press reports.

The "Turkish Daily News" reported on 4 April that leading PKK official Cemil Bayik was in Iran and that Turkey had demanded his extradition. The "Turkish Daily News" also reported that Bayik, a member of the PKK's leadership council, brought $1.4 million into Iran on 21 March, and that the PKK is in the process of transferring $20 million from Syrian banks to Iranian banks. (Michael Rubin)

�AND KDP-TURKEY RELATIONS STRAIN. The 9 April issue of the KDP daily "Brayati" featured an interview with Hoshyar Zebari, one of the most influential KDP politicians and a close confidant of KDP President Mas'ud Barzani. Zebari commented, "We have in all occasions reaffirmed that we are friends of Turkey, but we do not belong to Turkey." He added that the KDP considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and noted that the PKK has recently established a proxy party in northern Iraq called the "Southern Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party."

An irritant in KDP-Turkey relations is the status of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, a pro-Turkish coalition of Iraqi ethnic Turkmen political parties. Regarding the Iraqi Turkoman Front, Zebari told "Brayati," "We believe that they should not behave above the law. The Turkomans are our people and our brothers. But the Turkoman Front must abide by the law like any other political party in Kurdistan. They must respect the democratic experience." The Turkoman Front does not recognize the legitimacy of the KDP and PUK's Kurdistan Regional Government and has refused to participate in local elections.

According to an 11 April Reuters report, the diesel oil trade between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey "has dwindled to zero." According to the KDP's Ankara representative Safeen Dizayee, "This is affecting everybody on both sides of the border." Dizayee said that Turkey has not provided a reason for the oil stoppage. As revenue generated through the UN's oil-for-food program may not be applied to the Kurdish political parties' administration or government, the border trade through the customs post of Ibrahim Khalil/Habur generates the bulk of the KDP's discretionary spending. Customs duties from Ibrahim Khalil fund police, security, education, and reconstruction. (Michael Rubin)

BIRDS OF A FEATHER? Russia TV on 9 April broadcast an interview with Russian ultranationalist and State Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky regarding Iraq. Zhirinovsky denied that he had any personal financial interest in Iraq. "The only thing I have is this carpet with Saddam Husseyn's picture which was given to me as a gift during one of my trips to Baghdad, and a book devoted to the Iraqi leader which was published in Russia," Zhirinovsky said. According to Zhirinovsky, Iraq "has been subjected to an X-ray search for 10 years...They [UN inspectors] even had the impudence to conduct searches in bedrooms in this Muslim community." He continued to declare that Iraq "has fulfilled all the resolutions of the UN Security Council."

According to Security Council Resolution 687, however, Iraq must account for over 600 Kuwaitis seized from their homes and transported to Iraq during the 1990 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. To date, Iraq has not complied with this resolution. The same UN Security Council Resolution mandates without condition that Iraq must respect the inviolability of the international boundary, yet the UN Iraq-Kuwait observer mission reported earlier this month that there had been 437 violations of the border during the previous six months (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 April 2002). Security Council Resolution 687 also mandates the destruction of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons "under international supervision," yet Iraq refuses to allow international inspectors to supervise. Furthermore, the Resolution 687 mandates that Iraq will not "support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory," yet Palestinian terror organizations like Hamas as well as the Iranian terror group, the Mujahidin-i-Khalq Organization, retain offices in Iraq (regarding Hamas, see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 April 2002).

In the interview, Zhirinovsky later theorized that UN sanctions on Iraq were actually part of a wider plot against Russia, even though Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and authorized the sanctions. Discussing the possibility of a U.S. or coalition strike against Iraq, Zhirinovsky declared, "They need this in order to seize the Iraqi oil because otherwise this oil will go to Russia. This war is being waged against us and many people do not understand that."

Zhirinovsky also views Iraq as the key to resolving Russia's foreign debt woes. Responding to a viewer question suggesting that Iraq first pay its $7 billion debt to Russia, Zhirinovsky said, "Iraq will not only pay off the debt. Our country will receive exactly $140 billion in 10 years if we have good relations with Iraq. Russia is already reaping the rewards of its warming relations with Saddam Husseyn." On 10 April, ITAR-TASS reported, "the total volume of contracts concluded within the UN humanitarian program without counting operations with Iraqi oil reached $2.5 billion, or roughly double last year's level...." (Michael Rubin)

UKRAINE HELPS IRAQI MILITARY AND IS REWARDED? The 12 April "Financial Times" reported that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma helped arrange a $100 million delivery of the sophisticated Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq. Mykola Melnychenko, a former Kuchma security guard, made the allegation to a federal grand jury in San Francisco. He told a German radio station that he had recorded a conversation between Kuchma and his then arms-export chief, Valeriy Malev, who died in a car accident last month. Kolchuga is a sophisticated passive radar system, according to the website of Ukraine's Nation Institute for Strategic Studies. According to the "Financial Times," Kuchma strongly denies the allegations. When asked at a March press conference in the Ukraine whether the Kolchuga was involved in the shooting down of an unmanned U.S. reconnaissance drone, Kuchma called the suggestion "dogshit."

According to an 11 April report from the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency, Iraq will purchase 90 tons of hydrotechnical equipment from Novokramatorsk in Ukraine, which has already received advance payment of an undisclosed sum. The report states that Iraq will use the machinery to build a pump station in al-Nasiriyah. Kuchma has not yet responded to this report. (Michael Rubin)

SWEDEN TO REPATRIATE IRAQI ASYLUM SEEKERS. According to a 10 April Sveriges Radio Ekot report, Sweden's Migration Minister Jan Karlsson said in a Riksdag debate that Sweden would soon begin deporting to Iraq the several thousand Iraqi asylum seekers who have failed to receive asylum in Sweden. Karlsson said that the situation in northern Iraq is stable and "it is now possible to return" to the protected zone. Many Iraqi Kurdish students freely admit that they hope to emigrate for economic rather than political reasons. (Michael Rubin)

SOUTH AFRICA PROBES LEGALITY OF IRAQI OIL DEAL. The South African opposition Democratic Alliance has called for an investigation into a 1 billion-rand ($90.2 million) deal to purchase Iraqi oil to replenish South Africa's Strategic Field Fund, the South African news agency "SAPA" reported on 7 April. According to Democratic Alliance Minerals and Energy spokesman Ian Davidson, the purchase was "questionable" and might violate international sanctions against Iraq. According to the 12 April "Financial Mail," South Africa is in the midst of an oil crisis that is fueled by the combination of the 30 percent rise in the dollar price of oil and an additional 20 percent rise in the rand cost of imports. Last week, the price of petrol in South Africa reached an unprecedented high.

According to Davidson, oil transactions with Iraq must be subject to UN approval. "Za*Now," the online version of South Africa's "Daily Globe and Mail" reported on 12 April that Imvume, the company which awarded the contract, specifically sought to import "Basrah Light" crude oil, and so excluded non-Iraqi sources from the tender. However, South Africa's Strategic Fuel Fund chief executive Renosi Mokate said in a radio interview that "in enquiring from the company, they've indicated to us that they have not been investigated by the UN." (Michael Rubin)