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Iraq Report: September 21, 2001

21 September 2001, Volume 4, Number 30

SADDAM SENDS ANOTHER MESSAGE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. The Iraq News Agency on 16 September carried Saddam Husseyn's "Open Letter" to the American people, an addendum to his statements on 12 September after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. In his letter, Saddam says, "[T]he comments we made on the day after the event represent the essence of our position regarding this event and other events, but the aftermath of what happened in America, the West in particular, and the world in general, makes it important for every leader to understand the meaning of responsibility toward his people, his nation, and humanity in general to follow up the development of the situation, to understand the meaning of what is going on, and hence to elaborate his country's and people's position so as not to restrict oneself to only following the event."

Saddam adds that not only Western countries, but also Islamic countries hastened to join forces with the U.S. even though it is likely that the individuals responsible are Muslims. But he asks rhetorically whether any American attack will "solve the problem" of terrorism. "Isn't the use by America and some Western governments of their fire[power] against others, including many Arabs and Muslims, one of the most importance causes for the lack of stability in the world just now?"

And then, in a change of position, Saddam says that there is the risk of a period of "new Crusades" by the West against the peoples of the Middle East. (David Nissman)

KDP, PUK JOINTLY CONDEMN TERRORIST ATTACK AGAINST U.S. The political leaderships of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) jointly condemned all forms of terrorism and expressed their sympathy to the families of the victims in the United States, according to of 16 September. Earlier, Mas'ud Barzani, head of the KDP, had sent a letter of sympathy and solidarity to U.S. President Bush and others in which he said that "the KDP and its leadership stand by you and your great nation in your response to these heinous acts that killed so many innocent civilians. We support the effort to stamp out international terrorism and those who support it." (David Nissman)

PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADER TO VISIT IRAQ. The head of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, will visit Iraq as part of his tour of Middle Eastern capitals, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. Adlan Magomadov, the general representative of Chechnya at the Russian president's office, added that muftis from the Caucasus will be traveling with Kadyrov. Magomadov said that the main purpose of the visit is to "tell the Arab leaders about the true situation in the Caucasus and Chechnya." He added that the Russian Foreign Ministry has been making preparations for this visit for six months. (David Nissman)

IRAQI FM ON ARAB LEAGUE SESSION. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi said that the 116th ordinary session of the Arab League in Cairo had rebuffed Baghdad's call for discussion of the MIA and POW issues, Baghdad radio reported on 16 September. He said, "Iraq would like to follow up and address this issue [MIAs] bilaterally with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia or within the framework of the Arab League to resolve this humanitarian problem." The question of weapons of mass destruction was also raised at the meeting. The Iraqi line, which was accepted at the meeting, was "avoiding the call for concluding a treaty for the removal of weapons of mass destruction in the region because the call for concluding this treaty implies recognizing the Zionist entity." (David Nissman)

MEN IN BLACK. Tension is mounting among various Muslim and Kurdish groups in Iraq following divisions within the Islamic parties in Kurdistan and the declaration of the formation of the "Jund Al-Islam" (Army of Islam) fundamentalist group (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 14 September 2001), KurdishMedia reported on 12 September.

In a move that appears to have been intended to surprise the PUK, Jund Al-Islam militants on 11 September occupied Shinirwe Mountain, a strategic mountain overlooking Halabcha. A number of their militants infiltrated Halabcha carrying their black banners. In a separate move, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has massed troops around Halabcha. The PUK's intention is to enter Halabcha without fighting while the dialogue continues between the PUK and the Islamic Unity Movement (IUM), led by Mulla Ali Abdulaziz.

Jund Al-Islam is headed by an "Arab man called Abu Abdallah Al-Shefeei (Shafi'i)," according to an article written by Harem Jaff and carried by on 12 September. Shafi'i lives in Iran and is supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Jaff says that although Molla Ali, the head of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, has denied any links with this group, people say that "these Islamic groups are all linked together as a cluster and financed by [the] terrorist Usama Bin Laden and the Islamic Republic of Iran." People in Sulaymaniyah have e-mailed that "there are some strange and persistent rumors here about the sudden increase in the number of men dressed in black, who came from the east quite recently in the areas under the control of the Islamists."

One of the commandos controlled by Molla Ali is called the "force of Usama Bin Laden." Jund Al-Islam has declared that it believes this is the same as that of the Taliban. The majority of their armed men are Arabs, and they say that they have trained for "four years in many types of explosions, and possessed all kinds of heavy weapons." Jaff claims the Jund Al-Islam has already destroyed two Kakayi (Ahl-i Haqq) holy places. The Islamic Republic has already warned the PUK not to harm the Islamic groups. (David Nissman)

IRANIAN FORCES USE MISSILES TO ATTACK MUJAHEDIN NEAR BAGHDAD. Several Iraqis were wounded in a missile attack by Iranian forces on a Mujahedin base northeast of Baghdad and close to the Iranian border, AFP reported on 14 September. The Iraqi-backed Mujahedin-e Khalq said that five missiles were fired on the Mujahedin base in Jalaula, but added that the missiles missed their targets and hit a residential district instead, wounding several Iraqi civilians and damaging many houses and public buildings. Those who fired the missiles, they said, fled back into Iranian territory. The Mujahedin forces are believed to number 50,000. (David Nissman)

IRAQ, IRAN SIGN NEW MIA AGREEMENT. The Iranian committee in charge of searching for MIAs announced on 11 September that Iranian and Iraqi delegations have reached a new agreement on searching for MIAs from the time of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, the "Tehran Times" reported on 12 September.

The new accord calls for Iran to begin search operations on 22 September in parts of Iraqi territory where the remnants of Iranian soldiers are believed to lie. Several Iranian search groups are currently operating in the Iraqi part of Shalamcheh and neighboring regions, which were among the bloodiest fronts of the war. The two countries have so far recovered scores of bodies of soldiers from both sides. The MIA issue has been a major stumbling block to the normalization of relations between Iraq and Iran. Since the 1980s, the two countries have exchanged more than 100,000 prisoners of war. Iran claims that some 2,500 of its forces are still held in Iraqi prisons, and denies claims from Baghdad that it holds nearly 30,000 Iraqi soldiers. (David Nissman)

SADDAM RECEIVES TUNISIAN FOREIGN MINISTER. Baghdad Television reported on 13 September that Saddam Husseyn had received Habib Ben Yahya, the Tunisian foreign minister and envoy of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Saddam reportedly told him that "the Iraqi army is in good shape in terms of weapons and training in preparation for the Palestinian cause.... We have set up a backup army, the Jerusalem army, which we are currently training and equipping." Following his meeting with Saddam Husseyn, Ben Yahya met with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, who noted that implementing the agreements signed between the two countries requires follow-up and prodigious efforts to further boost relations between the two countries in all spheres. (David Nissman)

AZERI COURT SENTENCES IRAQI SPY TO 10 YEARS. An Azerbaijani court sentenced Iraqi citizen Ahmad Rostash to 10 years for spying, Baku's "525 gazet" reported on 15 September. He was trained in Afghanistan and then established contacts with Chechen groups, he carried false passports, and he was making explosive devices in Baku when he was arrested in November 2000. (David Nissman)

IRAQI TRADE MINISTER IN SYRIA. Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih on 16 September was received by Syrian Prime Minister Dr. Muhammad Mustafa Miru in Damascus, the Syrian press agency SANA reported. The two discussed economic cooperation. and other bilateral issues. (David Nissman)

EGYPTIANS, IRAQIS OPEN EXHIBITIONS. An Egyptian information-technology and communications exhibit opens in Baghdad on 25 September. The five-day exhibit is a sign of the developed economic links between Egypt and Iraq, Muhammad Al-Sa'id Salih, the chairman of Egypt's exhibitions and International Affairs Authority, said according to MENA on 16 September. Meanwhile, an exhibition of Iraqi products has opened at the Egyptian fairgrounds in Cairo on 15 September, INA reported on 15 September. This is the first Iraqi exhibition to be held in Cairo in 11 years. Yusuf Butrus Ghali, Egyptian minister of economy and foreign trade, said at the opening of the fair that it reflects the growing relations between the two countries and was the first fruit of the free-trade agreement between the two countries that has just gone into effect. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD TO OPEN NEW HIGHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS. Saddam Husseyn has instructed his government to expand engineering and other faculties in Iraq's existing universities, Baghdad television reported on 15 September. He also called for the creation of two new universities, one in Karbala and the other in Dhi Qar. (David Nissman)

INTERNET WIDELY AVAILABLE IN KURDISH REGION. The Kurdistan Democratic Party discussed the project of linking the world Internet network to the Arbil digital exchange. New, digital links to expand this network will be paid by the budget of the Kurdistan Regional Government. (David Nissman)

PUK LEADERSHIP OUTLINES ITS POSITION ON ISLAMIC MOVEMENT. On 7 September, "Kurdistani Nuwe" from Sulaymaniye issued a policy statement reflecting the meeting of the Leadership Committee of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan at the end of August. The document says, "We, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, want them to solve their problems in a quiet and peaceful political way, possibly with unity among them or by forming a coalition or solidarity between their two groups." The PUK further states that, "We, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, do not oppose any factions, and we should all implement the Tehran Agreement and abide by law to work toward the public interest and the region's constructions." (David Nissman)