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Iraq Report: November 8, 2002

8 November 2002, Volume 5, Number 37

IRAQI PRESIDENT GIVES INTERVIEW, WARNS ARAB STATES... Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn gave an interview to Egyptian pro-Iraqi weekly "Al-Usboua" of 3 November. In the interview, President Husseyn appealed to the Arab states to defend Iraq in the event of a U.S. attack, saying, "The United States wants to destroy the centers of power in all the Arab homeland, whether these are in Cairo, Damascus, or Baghdad," according to AP. He claimed that the United States intends to gain hegemony over the resources of the Arab world and turn the Arab states into small emirates. He said, "From this premise, all the big countries like Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia will be divided into small emirates and the oil regions and its sources would be placed in the hands of these 'statelets' that will act as their guardian and not as their owners," Al-Jazeera reported on 3 November.

Husseyn concluded: "The Arab oil will be under U.S. control and the region, especially where oil flows, will be under full American hegemony. All this serves Israel's interest with the aim of turning it to a vast empire in the region." His most revealing comment, however, was on the present situation with the United States. Husseyn first vowed, "We will never make it a picnic for the American and British soldiers." He later added, "Time is in our favor, and we have to buy more time hoping that the U.S.-British alliance might disintegrate because...of the pressure of public opinion" in those states, AP reported on 3 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND CONFERS WITH ARMY COMMANDERS, SONS. President Husseyn met with a number of advisers and his sons on 3 November, Iraq TV reported. Those attending the meeting included: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Military Industrialization Minister Abd-al-Tawwab al-Mulla Huwaysh; sons Qusay Saddam Husseyn, leader of the Republican Guard, and Uday Saddam Husseyn, head of the "Saddam Fedayeen"; Iraqi Atomic Energy Organization head Fadil Muslim al-Janabi; as well as Iraqi Defense Minister Staff General Sultan Hashim Ahmad; commanders of the Air Defense and Air Force; and the dean of the Military Engineering College.

Huwaysh opened the meeting by assuring President Husseyn that the Iraqi fighters would "make extraordinary efforts to unleash the potential of Iraqis with a view of elevating the edifice of their lofty homeland and defending it against evil aggressors." Husseyn then "listened to a briefing on the progress the fighters and mujahedin have made in the course of their efforts to promote the process of rebuilding great Iraq, and also on the capabilities of his smart sons and their steadfastness in the face of the forces of darkness and tyranny." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDISTAN ISLAMIC GROUP FORMS ARMY. On 19 October, the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) announced that it would form an army, according to the biweekly KIG Al-Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Komal" of 26 October. This decision was apparently made after a number of members of the militant Islamic fighting group Ansar al-Islam decided to return to the KIG.

It was also decided to "systematize the forces, so as to distance itself [KIG] from that classic framework which the forces have been adopting for years, so that the commands and directives will get to their targets in due time and in the best of manners, to prevent suspicious people from infiltrating into the ranks of Peshmerga [militia] forces...."

This decision was embraced enthusiastically by the KIG's Military Bureau, the commanders, and the troops. (David Nissman)

SAUDIS FORBID U.S. USE OF AIR BASES. Sa'ud al-Faysal, foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, said on 3 November that the U.S. would not be allowed to use bases in Saudi Arabia to launch an attack on Iraq, even if such an invasion were to be sanctioned by the United Nations, reported the "Financial Times" on 4 November. The Saudi stance is a significant hardening of the position held hitherto. Previously, Saudi officials had said that the U.S. could only use the bases after a UN resolution was passed approving the use of force.

Al-Faysal told CNN: "We will abide by the decision of the United Nations Security Council and we will cooperate with the Security Council. But as to entering the conflict or using facilities...that is something else."

Saudi Arabia has more than 30 airfields with long, paved runways able to accommodate large military transports. Military analysts see Saudi Arabia as important to any American plan for an invasion of Iraq.

The background to his statements may be the recent visit of the National Council for U.S.-Arab Relations to Saudi Arabia, which was graced by a session with Sa'ud al-Faysal in which al-Faysal gave a brief explanation of Saudi-U.S. relations. His major point was that up to this point "the consolidation of the bilateral relations is mainly due to the financial and business sectors in both countries," according to "Ilaf" of 24 October.

He dwelt at some length on the impact of the 11 September catastrophe in the U.S. and its implications for Saudi Arabia. Talking about the role of Osama bin Laden, he noted that "we were in a state similar to someone who woke up to find that his son was a murderer and a butcher." In the name of Saudi Arabia, he said, "In the future we will never allow any of our teenage sons to go to places such as Afghanistan, where they could be influenced, spellbound, and mesmerized by phenomena such as Al-Qaeda."

As far as the United States in concerned, al-Faysal, stressing Saudi Arabia's firm relationship with the U.S., noted that he feels the responsibility as foreign minister to make sure that "the United States does not commit mistakes in the region." He stressed: "We are still positive in our belief that the United States will use its relations with Israel to secure its compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions and its acceptance of the Arab peace plan and of President George [W.] Bush's speech in which he announced his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state and an end to the Israeli occupation. But if this logical equation were to be left to collapse and if this U.S. direction were to be obstructed, then the United States would find itself in a conflict with the Arab world."

He emphasized the need to support the status quo as far as borders are concerned, and dismissed the claims of Turkey on Kirkuk, and the Iranian statements about the Shi'ite holy places in Iraq. The issue is not winning the war, but the day after the war.

A Stratfor analysis, dated 4 November, found that despite al-Faysal's rather upbeat statement to members of the National Council for U.S.-Arab Relations, this is a part of Saudi Arabia's efforts to distance itself from the United States as a result of its stagnant economy, and angry and alienated business and merchant elite, and a radicalized and critical religious elite. For example, Shaykh Salih al-Lahidan, the chief of the Supreme Council of Justice, criticized the presence of U.S. troops in the country earlier this year. (David Nissman)

TURKISH ARMY WARNS U.S. ABOUT IRAQ CAMPAIGN. Istanbul's "Hurriyet" newspaper of 4 November claims that very high-level military contacts recently took place between the United States and Turkey, resulting in five messages being given to the U.S. generals present at the meeting. These are: Turkey will intervene in a Kurdish state, the Kurds cannot have Mosul and Kirkuk, the United States should not use peshmergas (Kurdish militia) against Saddam Husseyn, Turkey's possible losses should be met by the Americans and its $4 billion debt should be struck off the books, and the regime which comes into force after Saddam Husseyn is removed should be supported.

The "Hurriyet" item gives no explanation for the Turkish desiderata, but the first two enumerated have often been expressed. The third item, involving the use of peshmergas against Saddam is unclear as to intent or meaning. The rest are obvious. (David Nissman)

JORDAN BANS IRAQI MEN FROM ENTERING COUNTRY... The Jordanian weekly "Al-Sabil" reported on 6 November that the Jordanian government instructed its border posts several weeks ago to deny entry to Iraqi men under the age of 45. "Informed diplomatic sources," told "Al-Sabil" that the Jordanian government did not give any justification for the decision. The weekly also noted that the Jordanian government also recently began a "search and investigation" campaign to check the residency permits of Iraqis now residing in Jordan. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND SAYS FOREIGN TROOPS HAVE LEFT. Jordanian Minister of Information Muhammad al-Adwan announced that all foreign troops present in Jordan for joint military exercises have left the country, "Al-Arab al-Yawm" reported on 5 November. Al-Adwan reiterated that the presence of foreign troops was based on established agreements between Jordan and foreign states -- including the U.S. -- and was unrelated to the current situation in the region. International news agencies had speculated that the military exercises were linked to preparations for a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 August and 25 October 2002). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

INTERPARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION VISITS IRAQ. Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has received an interparliamentary delegation from Europe, the Iraqi news agency INA's website reported on 5 November. The delegation included representatives from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and Ukraine. According to INA, Finnish delegate Bakko Lakkso, speaking on behalf of the delegation, expressed the group's solidarity with Iraq and its rejection of the "military aggression" of the United States. Lakkso reportedly also told Aziz that the U.S. goal is to sideline the UN and replace it with NATO. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PRESIDENT HUSSEYN HINTS IRAQ WILL COOPERATE... Iraqi President Husseyn said on 4 November that if the UN Security Council issues a new resolution on Iraq that does not provide a cover for "bad U.S. intentions," then Iraq will "deal with" it, Iraq TV reported. Husseyn made the comments during a meeting in Baghdad with the leader of Austria's Freedom Party, Joerg Haider. During the meeting, Husseyn said the United States is looking for an excuse to attack Iraq, as it did in 1991 and 1998. He pointed out that once Iraq gave in to U.S. demands for the return of weapons inspectors, the U.S. changed its demands and sought a new UN resolution on Iraq. Husseyn said, "The U.S. aims to pressure the UN Security order to issue resolutions that are not within the framework of the UN Charter and international law." He added, "However, if the Security Council issues a resolution that respects the UN Charter, international law, and Iraq's sovereignty, security, and independence, and that does not provide a cover for the bad U.S. intentions, we will look into it with a view that would enable us to deal with it, despite our belief that there is nothing that would make the Security Council issue a new resolution." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND SAYS THE U.S. GOAL IS TO DESTROY IRAQ... In a meeting on 4 November with South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, President Husseyn said Zionist and colonialist intentions are influencing the U.S. stand on Iraq, Iraq TV reported. He accused the Western states and their oil companies of historically exploiting the resources of Iraq, while preventing the development of Iraq's economy (even agriculture) and hence, keeping the people poor. He implied that the "colonialist" and "Zionist" war against Iraq is linked to Israel's fear of a strong Iraq, which is opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. He added: "This [current U.S. and British] campaign claimed that Iraq managed to do so [produce biological and chemical weapons] during the four-year period when weapons inspectors left Iraq. As it is well-known, the inspectors did not leave Iraq on our request but at the United States' request, so as to launch its attack on Iraq in 1998." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...WHILE IRAQI OFFICIALS ACCUSE U.S. OF INFLUENCING UN OFFICIALS. Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan on 1 November accused the United States of exerting political, military, and economic pressure on UN states in an effort to influence the upcoming Security Council vote on a resolution against Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported. Ramadan said Iraq's acceptance of the Vienna agreement does not leave any pretext for issuing a new UN Security Council resolution, saying: "Two days after the meeting in Vienna and during the deliberations at the Security Council, Blix announced that he does not need a new resolution legally and that the agreement reached [between Iraq and the United Nations] would enable him to carry out his mission in a good manner. Now we see [Secretary of State Colin] Powell and finally the U.S. president and all the U.S. administration staff meeting those UN employees to put pressure on them and make them change their positions. This is an immoral method and it exceeds all limits," Al-Jazeera reported.

Muhammad al-Duri, Iraq's permanent representative to the UN, told "The Voice of the Arabs" in Cairo on 2 November that the U.S. was trying to impose an unacceptable draft resolution in order to prevent the return of UN weapons inspectors in order to bring about a casus belli as "cover" for declaring war on Iraq.

As far as the differences on the draft resolution between the U.S., on one hand, and Russia and France on the other, al-Duri did not expect that there will be any agreement on these.

He enumerated a number of countries which would support Iraq, such as Syria and other nonpermanent members "that cast doubts on U.S. intentions", but said, "We do not know how far some of these countries...can keep their positions" because "there are direct U.S. pressures."

Al-Duri claimed that the U.S. "wants to destabilize the region, take hold of the oil of the region, and control the region in a stronger way than it does now."

Despite al-Duri's statements, a report in "The Washington Post" on 6 November says that Washington and France are "near a deal" on the controversial resolution. This would leave Russia and China as the only opponents of the strong resolution. ((Kathleen Ridolfo and David Nissman)

RUSSIA TOUGHENS STANCE ON IRAQ. On the eve of a meeting of Collective Security Treaty Organization foreign ministers in Moscow on 5 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002), the Russian Foreign Ministry said Iraq's consent to the return of weapons inspectors makes the U.S. demand for a new UN Security Council resolution unnecessary, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 November. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told the news agency that "the Iraqi leadership's unconditional consent to a return of UN inspectors to that country to monitor the non-resumption of national programs for weapons of mass destruction, and Iraq's readiness to show flexibility on the issues of improving the modalities of inspections, make the adoption of a new resolution on Iraq by the UN Security Council hardly necessary." He added that if other members of the UN Security Council deem a new resolution necessary, then the resolution should seek to "assist the effective monitoring of Iraq's non-resumption of its potential of weapons of mass destruction and should not contain provisions for the automatic use of force against Baghdad." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER WARNS OF COUNTERATTACK IF IRAQ ATTACKS. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told "The Times" of 5 November that Israel would counterattack Iraq, should the Arab state launch missiles against Israel as it did in the 1991 Gulf War. Sharon said Israel would "make every effort not to interfere" in a U.S. war with Iraq, but he added: "If Israel, and I made it very clear, is attacked by weapons of mass destruction...Israel will react. Is it clear? I believe that they understand that Israel will not be able to defend itself." Sharon called Iraqi President Husseyn "insane" and said U.S. forces would first target western Iraq, should an attack be launched. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SHI'ITE OPPOSITION FIGURE ON IRAQ'S FUTURE, U.S. POLICY. The Iraqi dissident and Shi'ite cleric Muhammad Bahr al-'Ulum discussed Iraq's political future in the light of his perceptions of current U.S. policy in the 31 October issue of the London-based, Arabic newspaper "Al-Hayat." In it he maintains that the U.S. is the only country that can replace the current regime in Baghdad; none of the Arab or Islamic countries can do so, because they lack the military power.

He points out that "it is no secret that U.S. strategy's primary objective is to acquire complete control over the world's energy resources, notably petroleum...." The first phase of this process, he says, was the toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The basic point in this process is to bear in mind the interests of the Iraqi people. Their basic interest is the removal of the current regime.

He stresses that it is also important not to replace one dictator with another. Secondly, "Iraq's stability and regional security require the establishment of an Iraq that has the factors of permanence." Thus, the will of the population must be borne in mind, as well as their right to select the form of government they want, preferably to take place under UN supervision.

The role of the opposition in this is very important: he emphasizes that the opposition must adopt a policy of tolerance and reconciliation, and renounce policies of violence and fanaticism. (David Nissman)

OPPOSITION SAYS IRAQ STORING CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL SUBSTANCES... According to "Al-Watan" on 5 November, Iraq has built an aboveground, "fake water network" in Madinet Al-Thawra (Revolution City). Bayan Jabr, a representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told the Saudi daily that "information leaked out that this network is one that is designated for the storage of chemical and biological substances in the event that the relevant Iraqi government agencies reach a decision along with UNMOVIC and the Security Council that leads to the international inspectors entering Iraq and engaging in their work." The article also detailed Iraqi opposition reports on Republican Guard troop movements, including in the area of Al-Ramadi, reportedly in anticipation of a U.S.-led assault from the west. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS HE IS READY TO COOPERATE WITH 'ANYBODY.' In Tehran on 5 November, Abd-al-Aziz Baqir al-Hakim, brother of SCIRI leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, told Tokyo's NHK Television, "Our goal is to bring about a change in the Iraqi regime, and we are ready to cooperate with anybody" -- including the United States -- to achieve that goal. Hakim stipulated however, that he would not accept a foreign state's attempts to occupy Iraq or to control the Iraqi opposition in any way, NHK reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DRAFT-CONSTITUTION DISCUSSION CONTINUES IN KURDISH PARLIAMENT. The Kurdistan parliament began debates on the two draft constitutions, one envisioning an Arab-Kurdish federation in Iraq, the second a detailed constitution for the Kurdish part of Iraq. While the constitutions call for major powers to remain in the hands of Baghdad, they also stipulate that Kirkuk -- now under Baghdad control -- is to become the Kurdish capital within a federal Iraq, according to AFP of 31 October. The parliament is expected to debate the two constitutions over several sessions and introduce minor amendments.

A "federal Iraq," consisting of both the Arab and the Kurdish parts, is to have a "democratic, parliamentary, and republican system." The Kurdish part of the republic would have its own flag, as well as its own defense forces drawn from present Kurdish fighters (peshmerga), and its own legislative and executive authorities. It will also have its own president and a cabinet.

Baghdad's powers will include foreign and defense affairs, the signing of bilateral treaties and international conventions, war and peace, and other policy issues.

After the Kurdistan parliament ratifies the new constitution, it will set a date for implementing it. Baghdad has yet to respond to the new constitutions, but are known to be opposed to a federal Iraq. (David Nissman)

TALABANI MEETS WITH SYRIAN VICE PRESIDENT. Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam met with Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), on 2 November in Damascus, according to AFP of 2 November. Talabani also held talks with Abdullah al-Ahmar, the No. 2 man in Syria's ruling Ba'ath Party.

Adil Murad, in charge of the PUK-Middle East relations stationed in Damascus, refused to say any more about the talks than that there was "nothing new." He said that in general, talks would focus on "the development of the situation in Iraq and the Kurdish perspective."

Syria is fearful that the evolution of a Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq could possibly trigger unrest among Syria's 2 million Kurds. (David Nissman)

PUK LEADER DENIES MEETING IRANIAN OFFICIALS... PUK leader Talabani spoke with several news agencies during his tour of neighboring countries this week. Talabani said his visits to Turkey, Iran, and Syria had a "common point," adding, "We are trying to reassure these countries that we are Iraqis and are keen on preserving Iraqi national unity, and oppose partition of Iraq," the PUK newspaper "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 31 October.

It was speculated that Talabani would meet with Iranian officials to discuss the elimination of the Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam), an extremist Kurdish group allegedly linked with Al-Qaeda (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report" 1 November 2002). But Talabani told Abu Dhabi TV: "My visit to Teheran is private.... But I will take the opportunity to meet His Excellency Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim [head of the Teheran-based Iraqi opposition group SCIRI] and some Iraqi brothers. I have not met any Iranian official," "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 31 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...BUT LATER SAYS IRAN WILL HELP FIGHT ISLAMIC MILITANTS. Talabani told "The New York Times" of 6 November that Iran has promised the PUK military assistance in ousting Islamic militants from northern Iraq. Speaking from Damascus, Talabani said he has not informed the U.S. administration of the plan, adding, "We are planning to do it with the support from our brothers in Iran to clean the area of this terrorist group." Islamic militants attacked a PUK checkpoint outside Halabja on 5 November, leaving two Kurds dead, and two wounded, the daily reported. The Islamic militants in northern Iraq reportedly include Arabs who came from Afghanistan and Kurds belonging to Ansar al-Islam. Talabani also told "Al-Watan" that it is "feasible" for the Iraqi opposition to achieve regime change in Iraq without the assistance of outside forces, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 31 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAN PREVENTS KURDISH PARLIAMENTARIANS FROM TRAVELLING TO IRAQ. Iran said it would not permit Kurdish parliamentarians to attend a regional parliament in northern Iraq, citing fragile relations with Baghdad, Reuters reported on 4 November. The Iranian Foreign Ministry is apparently concerned that the trip might be seen as interference in Iraq's internal affairs.

A parliamentary source told Reuters that the Foreign Ministry said, "Iran has emphasized the territorial integrity of Iraq and since the developments in northern Iraq are to a large extent linked with American regional policies, any attendance of Iranian deputies would be interpreted as taking sides with such policies." The Foreign Ministry also emphasized that Iran supports the territorial integrity of Iraq and is opposed to the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish state. Thus, the Iranians also do not want to contribute to the legitimacy of the regional parliament by allowing its own Kurdish parliamentarians to attend the meeting. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL FAIR OPENS. Iraqi Vice President Ramadan inaugurated the 35th Annual Baghdad International Fair on 1 November, with 1,200 Arab and foreign companies from 49 countries attending the fair, including firms from France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. "The Washington Times" reported that the three largest delegations came from Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

In his inaugural speech, carried by Iraq TV on 1 November, Ramadan said the UN blockade on Iraq is coming to an end due to the steadfastness of zealous Iraqis. He added that Iraq and its trade partners have established new areas of joint economic and technical cooperation, noting that Iraq has in recent months signed 10 free-trade agreements with Arab states.

Items on display at the fair include consumer goods and food allowed under the UN's oil-for-food program. In addition, automobiles and heavy machinery were on display for the first time. The theme of this year's fair is "An Embodiment of Iraq's Will for Development, Steadfastness, and Broader Arab and International Economic Relations." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI HEALTH-CARE FACILITIES DETERIORATING. Iraqi Health Minister Umid Midhat Mubarak, on a visit to Cairo, claimed that health services in the country are deteriorating as a result of Security Council Resolution 1409, according to a report in the Cairo "Al-Ahram al-'Arabi" of 19 October. The resolution is also called "oil for medicine."

He said that health cadres had been on alert for more than 12 years, and that Iraqi hospitals are always in a state of emergency. In addition, the continuous process of morale and logistical preparation had exhausted the medical authorities because of the lack of medicine and medical equipment.

Mubarak pointed out that Committee 661, which oversees the implementation of Resolution 1409 is very strict about supplying medical equipment to Iraq, and that more than 48 percent of that requested has been passed on to other places. Also, medical equipment arrives in Iraq incomplete. The committee has refused to supply Iraq with modern ambulances.

Another problem is that cancer cases are increasing. The number of cases is expected to reach 12,000 this year, 50 percent of which afflicts children under the age of five.

Mubarak subsequently met with a Saudi delegation comprising a number of Saudi pharmaceutical companies at the Baghdad International Fair and underscored the importance of developing cooperation in the health and pharmaceutical sectors, especially organizing specialized Saudi pharmaceutical fairs in Baghdad, INA reported on 2 November.

The leader of the Saudi delegation, Dr. Abd-al-Tahman al-Zamil, noted that "Saudi pharmaceutical companies are eager to deal with the Iraqi pharmaceutical market out of their pan-Arab approach and desire to develop ties between the two countries." (David Nissman)