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Iraq Report: May 25, 2001

25 May 2001, Volume 4, Number 18

QUSAY SADDAM'S DEPUTY IN BA'TH MILITARY BUREAU. Saddam Husseyn unsurprisingly was re-elected secretary-general of the Iraq Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) at the 12th Regional Congress of the Ba'th Party on 17 May, according to Baghdad Television of 17 May. Izzat Ibrahim was elected congress chairman and Latif Nusayf Jasim was elected a congress secretary.

But Saddam's son Qusay was elected to the RCC as a new member. He also was officially designated as Saddam's deputy chief of the Military Bureau of the Ba'th Party. According to a report in London's "Al-Hayat" of 20 May, that position means that Qusay now outranks the defense minister.

Qusay's new position lends substance to rumors that Saddam intends Qusay to be his successor. Qusay also commands the Republican Guard and runs most of Iraq's military, security, and intelligence services. A diplomat from the region is quoted as saying that his entry into the Ba'th leadership gives him "wider responsibilities" than in purely military and security affairs. And another diplomat added "he will be able to take part in the decision-making process."

Other notable appointments to the RCC include that of Dr. Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, widely considered to be "one of the pillars of the weapons program," according to London's "Al-Hayat" of 19 May. She has a Ph.D. in genetics and microbiology from the University of Missouri. According to Radio Baghdad of 19 May, she will be in charge of the Professional Bureau and the Students and Youth Bureau for the RCC. (David Nissman)

UN SECURITY COUNCIL TO TAKE UP U.K. SANCTIONS PROPOSAL. Britain has given the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council a draft of its proposals to ease the sanctions on Iraq, reported AP on 22 May. The U.S. supports London's move, but Russia, China, and France have been Iraq's supporters. Baghdad has already rejected all sanctions, including the British plan. Chinese Ambassador Shen Guofang says the proposal comes with "preconditions and restrictions. So we are not sure whether these measures are feasible or not." He also said his government needs more time to study the technical list of items that would be prohibited. Acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham explained the British move by saying that "we want to lessen the impact of the sanctions on the civilian economy and increase the focus where it belongs, on the security and the arms control part." (David Nissman)

SADDAM REJECTS 'SMART SANCTIONS.' In a speech to the Iraqi cabinet, Saddam Husseyn explicitly rejected the 'smart sanctions' plan, Baghdad television reported on 21 May. "The embargo has harmed Iraq," he said. "However, it has also made the United States pay a dear price; namely, it has lost its reputation in the rest of the world and with the people of the world. The most important American loss in this sensitive region is its loss of ties with the Arab people." He added that this U.S. loss "is a strategic loser." And he concluded that "we will reject the so-called smart sanctions, which are more stupid than the previous ones, just as we have rejected everything that could have encroached upon Iraq's dignity, honor, independence, and genuine, historical foundations." (David Nissman)

BA'TH PARTY SEES PARIS BEHIND 'SMART SANCTIONS.' Iraq's Ba'th Party said that Paris was at the root of the U.S. and British proposals for smart sanctions against Baghdad and slammed "two-faced" French policies, reported AFP on 21 May. "Al-Thawra," the Ba'th Party newspaper, claimed the proposals being circulated in the UN are "not an American nor British idea, but a French idea which French officials put forward" after the U.S.-British air war on Iraq in December 1998. The paper added that "Paris was lamenting the suffering of the Iraqi people and opposing U.S. intransigence while at the same time advising the United States and British to adopt a smarter policy toward Iraq to avoid a collapse of the sanctions regime." (David Nissman)

INC SAYS 'SMART SANCTIONS' COULD HELP SADDAM MORE THAN PEOPLE. Sharif Ali Bin Hussayn, spokesman for the Iraq National Congress, said Britain's suggestion to end the ten-year sanctions on all but military and dual-use goods could allow Saddam to siphon off funds for his own use, Reuters reported on 20 May from London. And he added that "We are wary that the implementation won't make any difference to the Iraqi people, but we hope that this will expose the lie that sanctions are responsible for the misery of the Iraqi people, when in fact it is Saddam Husseyn." (David Nissman)

SYRIA EXERCISING 'EXTREME CAUTION' ON 'SMART SANCTIONS.' London's "Al-Hayat" of 20 May said the Syrian government is exercising "extreme caution" in dealing with the issue of the new sanctions regime against Iraq. It does not plan to oppose international legitimacy and Security Council resolutions, but the same time, it is continuing the policy of normalizing ties with Iraq. This appears to mean that Syria will not speak against the new approach but will not cooperate with it either. Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Al-Shar'a refused to discuss the sanctions regime with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Edward Walker during their meeting in Damascus last month because Syria believes in "the need to adopt clear stands toward the Israeli aggression against the Arabs." Moreover, Damascus hopes to get the lion's share of the economic contracts to be signed by Iraq after the lifting of the embargo on the export of civilian materials to it through increasing the value of Syrian exports to Iraq to more than $1 billion. (David Nissman)

TATARSTAN SEEKS EXPANDED TRADE WITH BAGHDAD. Hafiz Salihov, Tatarstan's minister of trade and economic cooperation, arrived in Baghdad and was received by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, reported Baghdad Radio on 15 May. Salihov also stressed Tatarstan's seriousness about continuing the implementation of previous agreements as well as finding new horizons for bilateral cooperation. (David Nissman)

UKRAINE OPENS EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD. On 20 May, Ukraine opened its embassy in Baghdad. Attending the ceremony were Hikmat Al-Azzawi, deputy prime minister of Iraq and minister of finance, and Yuriy Yekhanurov, Ukrainian deputy prime minister, Radio Baghdad reported on 20 May. In a statement to the press, Al-Azzawi said that the opening of the embassy reflects the common desire to further promote ties between Iraq and the Ukraine. Yekhanurov for his part expressed Ukraine's desire to promote trade and economic exchanges between the two countries. Upon his return to Ukraine, however, Yekhanurov did say that Ukraine was not quite ready to cooperate in oil extraction because "this work is specific and there are considerable restrictions which must be adhered to," according to the Unian news agency on 22 May. (David Nissman)

SUDAN EXPRESSES 'FULL SUPPORT' FOR IRAQ. Sudanese President Lieutenant General Umar Al-Bashir reiterated Sudan's "full support" for Baghdad during his meeting with Iraqi Minister of Agriculture Abd Al-Illah Hamid Muhammad, reported Sudan Television on 16 May. Al-Bashir noted that Sudan's agricultural resources are available to all Arab investors, noting that Arab countries should integrate their efforts to achieve strategic food stocks. (David Nissman)

RUSSIAN TRUCKMAKER SELLS TRUCKS TO IRAQ. The IVECO-UralAZ joint enterprise will sell Iraq 60 trucks by this fall, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 May. IVECO-UralAZ manufactures cross-country trucks. It also sells spare parts and units for Iraq's Zamyat company, which produces buses and trucks in Iran under license. (David Nissman)

MOSCOW SAYS IRAQI CRISIS MUST BE SETTLED BY POLITICAL MEASURES. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily Sredin told representatives of the League of Arab States in Moscow that Russia stands for the settlement of the Iraq crisis exclusively by political and diplomatic measures on the basis of appropriate resolutions of the United Nations, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 May. (David Nissman)

SYRIAN PRIME MINISTER NOT VISITING BAGHDAD. Damascus has denied rumors that Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Miru will visit Baghdad anytime soon, AFP reported on 21 May. Syrian Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Muhammad Imadi did go to Iraq to take part in a session of the two countries' mixed commissions. Iraqi Minister of Trade Muhammad Mahdi Salih said that "despite the progress achieved over the last four years at the level of bilateral economic relations, it does not yet meet the expectations of the two peoples." Meanwhile, on 19 May, Syrian diplomat Muhammad Hasan Tawwab opened the Syrian interests section in the Algerian Embassy in Baghdad. (David Nissman)

U.S., BARZANI BLOCK IRAQ-TURKEY 'ECONOMIC, MILITARY' BRIDGE. London's "Al-Hayat" on 21 May reported that the United States has foiled Iraqi attempts to conclude an agreement with Turkey that would set up a direct economic bridge bypassing areas under the Kurdish administration's control and allow the pumping of oil and the flow of goods. Kurdish sources told "Al-Hayat" that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit had presented the plan to Mas'ud Barzani, who was in Ankara at the time, but he categorically rejected it.

The Iraqi plan calls for establishing a direct corridor: Turkey will build a bridge across the Khabur River and link it to a land corridor parallel to the Iraqi pipeline. The corridor will be fenced off and allow trucks carrying goods and oil to cross from Iraqi territory to Turkey without the involvement of the Kurdish administration which collects taxes at the Ibrahim Al-Khalil crossing.

The Kurdish sources said that Turkey had informed the U.S. of the details of the plan but the U.S. response was negative. Washington considered it a security-military bridge between Ankara and Baghdad. Barzani said that U.S. efforts are now focusing on "assuring Turkey and ensuring an adequate share for it within the framework of the smart sanctions plan that is under discussion at present with the five permanent Security Council members." (David Nissman)

PRAGUE EXPELS SADDAM'S 'SUPERSPY.' Ahmad Ibrahim Khalil Samir Ani, a former consul and second secretary of the Iraqi Embassy in Prague who was expelled from the Czech Republic at the end of April, earlier served as "the first man in Iraqi intelligence," according to "Super," a Czech tabloid. He reportedly worked against U.S. operations. According to the paper, Washington tipped off the Czechs about Ani's operations. Ani denied that he is or was a spy. (David Nissman)

TURKISH TRADE DELEGATION IN KURDISTAN. A delegation of the Diyarbekir Foreign Trade (DFT) group of companies, led by Shawkat Aklin, head of DFT's board of directors, visited the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-controlled part of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to meet finance officials there, according to the Irbil newspaper "Brayati" of 14 May. In an interview with "Brayati", Aklin said that last year members of the KRG had come to a Diyarbekir trade fair where it was decided that DFT and the Kurds should hold further talks on commercial exchanges. He also said that the primary needs for producing any goods in Kurdistan are electricity and banking. (David Nissman)

IRAQI MARSHLANDS ALMOST EXTINCT. "The Irish Times" reported on 17 May that a UN study based on satellite surveillance has confirmed that the Iraqi wetlands have largely dried out, a development the UN has described as "a major ecological disaster." The UN Environmental Program (UNEP) blames the desiccation of the area on "massive drainage works" implemented by President Saddam Husseyn in the early 1990s and on the construction upriver on the Tigris and Euphrates of more then 30 large dams in the last 40 years. According to the UNEP study, this has had "a devastating impact" for the Marsh Arabs who have lived in the delta for the last 5,000 years. The situation has also been disastrous for migratory fowl.

A fifth of the Marsh Arabs are now living in refugee camps in Iran while the rest are IDPs in Iraq. An estimated 40 species of waterfowl are at risk. Coastal fisheries are also threatened. Satellite images give evidence that much of the once extensive marshlands have regressed to desert, with vast stretches covered by crusts of salt. The study recommends that all countries drawing water from the Tigris and Euphrates, including Syria and Turkey, adopt an integrated river basin approach. (David Nissman)

KURDS MEET FAO OFFICIALS IN ROME. A KDP-led delegation from the KRG's Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation held a series of meetings with senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) officials in Rome. They discussed the agricultural program of the UN oil-for-food Resolution 986 on ways of implementing the resolution in Kurdistan, according to "Brayati" of 16 May. The KDP delegation was led by Sa'd Abdallah, minister of agriculture and irrigation. The Kurdish delegation expressed its gratitude to the FAO. (David Nissman)

BARZANI REJECTS EU PLAN TO REPATRIATE KURDS. Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the KDP, informed ambassadors of the EU states in Ankara that his party rejects the plans and ideas currently under consideration by some European governments that would force thousands of Iraqi Kurdish refugees to return to the Kurdish region in Iraq, London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" reported on 22 May. Barzani made two counterproposals: One calls for EU reassurances to Iraqi Kurdistan and its KRG regime, and the other asks the Europeans to provide financial assistance to the areas, both of which would reduce Kurdish outmigration. (David Nissman)