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Iraq Report: October 5, 2001


5 October 2001, Volume 4, Number 32

INC CLAIMS SADDAM LINKED TO BIN LADEN NETWORK. The Iraq National Congress (INC) has linked Osama bin Laden's network with Iraq, according to a release by the INC. In December 1998 Faruq Hijazi, a senior Iraqi intelligence official, traveled to Kandahar to meet bin Laden personally. He was accompanied by a group of Iraqi intelligence officers. Hijazi is now Iraq's ambassador in Turkey; he had previously served as head of the foreign covert operations division of the Mukhabarat. In addition, the INC has learned that Muhammad Atta, one of the terrorists involved in the World Trade Center event on 11 September, had met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. The official is known to be a close associate with Hijazi. (David Nissman)

KDP, PUK DISCUSS JUND AL-ISLAM THREAT. A Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) delegation met Mas'ud Barzani in Salah al-Din to discuss the latest conflict between PUK Peshmerga (soldiers) and Jund Al-Islam militants near Sharazur. The PUK requested logistical help in their fight against the Islamic militants, according to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 30 September. Barzani affirmed his support for the PUK's struggle against the Jund Al-Islam. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) political bureau will consider sending troops to join the PUK. According to a KDP source, it is likely the KDP will send a symbolic force to aid the PUK Peshmergas.

The "Kurdistan Observer" also reported that a high-ranking Iranian delegation has arrived in Sulaymaniyah. The delegation asked the PUK to pull its forces out of Halabcha and demanded that they allow the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) to resume its control of the Halabcha and Hawraman areas. PUK officials have not yet responded to the Iranian demands. It was also reported by KurdishMedia.com on 1 October that "some elements of the Iranian armed forces shelled PUK positions, as the forces were quickly gaining territory." It is thought the PUK plans on marching in on Zardahal, which has significance because it is the gateway for a direct advance on Tweila and Biyara, Jund Al-Islam's nerve center.

In a similar context, the PUK General Military Command has issued a statement of the death of Hiwa Keyor, a top Jund Al-Islam commander and suspected assassin. He is believed to have been the head gunman who assassinated Franso Hariri, governor of Arbil, a KDP member and Barzani confidante, on 8 February 2001. Keyor was killed along with several other Jund Al-Islam terrorists in a village near Halabcha. He was formally attached to the IMK, later the Islamic Tawhid movement which dissolved into the Jund Al-Islam. (David Nissman)

KURDISH PM TO INFORM TURKS, AMERICANS ON BIN LADEN LINKS IN NORTHERN IRAQ. Barham Salih, prime minister of the PUK-controlled region in Iraqi Kurdistan, is meeting in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials on the recent clashes between PUK troops and the Jund Al-Islam. Following his two-day stay in Ankara, he will fly on to the United States to report on Osama bin Laden links in Kurdistan, according to the "Turkish Daily News" of 30 September.

While Iraqi Kurdish sources were talking about the Jund Al-Islam, Foreign Ministry sources said they had no evidence linking bin Laden with the aforementioned groups in Kurdistan. A Turkish official commented that "it is noteworthy that the Iraqi Kurds are raising these claims at every opportunity." The question, he said, was whether the Iraqi Kurds were creating an atmosphere putting Iraq in the spotlight of the international community.

On 2 October the "Turkish Daily News" reported that both Barham Salih and the KDP's Hoshyar Zebari will meet with State Department and other officials in Washington to report on the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan. Salih, in discussing the Washington talks, said, "It is not a trilateral meeting, but is a bilateral discussion between the Iraqi Kurds and the U.S. officials."

Concerning accusations in the Turkish press that implied that the Kurds were trying to lure the Turks into northern Iraq by creating a false Islamic threat, Salih said: "We wish that Iraqi Kurdistan was not a terrorist base. The terrorist threat is not only for Iraq but for all our neighbors. We have to wipe out terrorism in our region and in that battle Turkey is vital." (David Nissman)

PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD IN IRAQ. Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the pro-Russian Chechen administration, has arrived in Baghdad on a special plane from Moscow. It is possible that he will meet Saddam Husseyn, to whom he is carrying a letter from President Vladimir Putin, according to Moscow's TV-6 on 25 September. TV-6 notes that meetings with Saddam Husseyn are held "in the highest secrecy."

On 26 September, Interfax reported that Kadyrov had been able to pass Putin's message on to Saddam Husseyn. Putin's message reiterated Russia's eagerness to expand and promote cooperation. He also expressed Russia's interest in continuing to exchange views to promote relations between Russia and Iraq in all fields, according to Baghdad Television of 26 September.

Saddam Husseyn said that he considered Russia a friend of the Arabs. Saddam also dwelt on terrorism: He said: "Iraq was the first country to be victimized by terrorism 20 years ago. Others, regardless of who they are, experienced terrorism after Iraq did." He claims the terrorism to which Iraq was subjected was at the hands of Iran.

In an interview with journalists, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi had the opportunity to state Iraq's position with regard to Chechnya, namely that Chechnya is an integral part of Russia. "Iraq is firmly against any manifestations of separatism in Russia." At the end of the audience, Kadyrov presented Saddam with a dagger made in Chechnya.

The Baghdad trip is the second stage of his tour of the Middle East; he is to go on to Amman from Baghdad. Last week he was in Cairo and Damascus. According to ITAR-TASS of 25 September, he informed President Putin of his talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad.

With regard to the situation in Chechnya, he said that the situation is especially complex "because there are many mercenaries from Arab countries among the militants, who fight for money and seek to seize power." He explained that "Russia is not waging a war against Muslims or Islam in Chechnya. The actions of Russian leaders are aimed at fighting the gangsters who murder clergymen and staff members of the Chechen administration."

The purpose of his trip through the Middle East is to establish long-term friendly relations and to settle problems connected with the rendering of humanitarian assistance to the population of Chechnya. (David Nissman)

SAUDI ARABIA UPGRADING BORDER INSTALLATIONS WITH IRAQ. Saudi Arabia is to spend $9 million to upgrade its border crossing with Iraq to ease shipments of humanitarian goods to Iraq, according to AFP of 30 September. Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf and several local companies completed plans for the Arar crossing scheduled to be completed within two years. The Arar border post has been closed since Baghdad invaded Kuwait in 1990, but it is opened once a year to allow Muslims to travel to Mekka for the hajj. Iraq has three open land crossings to the outside through Jordan, Turkey, and Syria as well as passenger-ferry links with the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. (David Nissman)

ANNAN: CONTINUED UN IRAQ-KUWAIT OBSERVATION NEEDED. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 1 October recommended a continuation of the UN mission monitoring a demilitarized zone along the border between Iraq and Kuwait since the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991, according to Xinhua of 1 October. Annan, in his report to the Security Council, pointed out that the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) "has continued to carry out its tasks smoothly, thereby contributing to calm and stability in the border area." The situation over the past six months has been "generally quiet" although there were 255 violations of the demilitarized zone. Annan said, "As in the past, most of the ground violations occurred along the road and involved Iraqi vehicles using the gravel road that crosses in and out of Kuwaiti territory." (David Nissman)

RUSSIAN WORKERS AT TWO NEW GENERATING PLANTS. Two new generating units with a total capacity of 22 megawatts will go into operation at Iraq's Southern Heat and Power Plant in May or June 2002, said the plant chief. The project to modernize the plant, located in Najibiya, near Basra, was launched more than six months ago, the plant's general director told Russian reporters in Basra. There are 82 Russian workers at the plant, representing the Russian company Mosenergomontazh, which had been contracted to modernize the plant. Another 80 Russians will arrive at the plant before the end of the year. (David Nissman)

BA'TH OFFICIAL: 'IRAQ HAS NEVER BEEN A BASE FOR TERRORISM.' Khodah Salih, a member of the Iraq Command of the Ba'th Party, said to a visiting Italian delegation, "Iraq has never been a land of terrorism and will not allow its territories to become a base for terrorist activities," reported AFP on 1 October. She added that "Iraq rejects terrorism, especially that practiced by Israel against the Palestinian people." She accused the United States of wanting "to marginalize the role of freedom movements in the world in the framework of its response to the 11 September attacks" in New York and Washington. She continued that "the Americans will try to put an end to the struggle of the Palestinian people and that of the people seeking to get the embargo imposed on Iraq lifted." (David Nissman)

SADDAM'S 'JERUSALEM ARMY': 'SWORD OF THE ARABS' OR 'PROP IN A FANTASY DRAMA?' The 'Jerusalem Army' with now 7 million volunteers are soldiers with no war, reported AP on 1 October. Saddam says these men, women, and even children are ready to march across frontiers to liberate Palestine. AP notes that Syria and Jordan would probably not allow the 'army' through their frontiers. Arab and Western analysts consider the Jerusalem Army a prop in a fantasy drama staged by Saddam to make him a hero among frustrated Arabs and help fulfill his dream of being looked on as the leader of the Arab world. John Alterman, a Middle East expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says Saddam wants to portray himself as "sword of the Arabs." (David Nissman)

DEFECTOR SAYS SADDAM HAS GERM WARFARE ARSENAL. A former senior scientist of the Iraqi regime, a physicist and recent defector, has told London's "The Daily Telegraph" of 30 September that Saddam Husseyn has directed his senior scientists to work exclusively on expanding his chemical and biological weapons arsenal.

Saddam has ordered the nuclear weapons program shelved because it was too expensive. He said that over the past six months some 3,000 chemists and physicists have been working to develop both toxins and the means to deploy them with lethal effect.

Dr. Al-Sabiri (a pseudonym) said he was asked to examine hundreds of "complicated and dangerous toxins" and had, as a result, developed "nerve gas, botulism, and anthrax." All these substances were tested on Iraqi prisoners in Radwaniyah Prison. The projects are headed by Dr. Mahmud Al-Juburi, a chemist and according to "The Daily Telegraph," a secret service agent. Senior Western intelligence officers have confirmed the experimentation on prisoners.

Al-Sabiri was in the organization's Neutron Analysis and Activation Department, and worked exclusively on analyzing substances, mostly imported, in order to copy and produce more. (David Nissman)

BIN LADEN DELEGATION'S GOAL IN KURDISTAN UNCLEAR. The London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Zaman" on 1 October carried a report from Irbil saying that "a secret bin Laden delegation recently infiltrated Iraqi Kurdistan and that neither its objective nor destination have been established." It apparently penetrated the territory from Iran, either with or without Tehran's knowledge. It is known that the delegation consists of four men, but only their aliases are known (Abu-Sayf, Abu-Hazim, Abu-Majid, and Abu-Salman). Reports on their possible objectives are varied: some say that it is heading to Baghdad to discuss the possibility of bin Laden seeking refuge there; others say it is trying to meet with elements of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) to resume the contacts which had taken place four years earlier. (David Nissman)

CORRUPTION EXPOSED IN IRAQI MINISTRY OF HEALTH. According to "Iraq Press" of 1 October, a parliamentary report has revealed large-scale corruption in almost all sections of Iraq's Ministry of Health. Iraq earmarks up to half a billion dollars from its UN-controlled oil revenues for health-related purposes. Health supplies arriving in Iraq are supposed to be handed out free of charge or at token rates. But the report showed that a good portion of the deliveries finds its way to private pharmacies or neighboring countries. Hospitals suffer from a lack of medicine and sufficient food supplies despite the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the situation of the health sector, the report says. (David Nissman)

IRAQI TURKMEN TRIBULATIONS HIGHLIGHTED. Yuksek Soylemez, a retired Turkish ambassador, has written a column for the "Turkish Daily News" of 1 October in which he highlights the lack of knowledge about Iraqi Turkmens both internationally and in Turkey. He points out that in "the Turkish government programs collecting dust in public libraries, no mention of the Iraqi Turkmens has ever been made, or even a policy statement to confirm their existence from 1923 to this day."

He sums up the tribulations faced by the Iraqi Turkmens in three words: "decomposition, repression, and assimilation." The Turkmens have been subjected to the assimilation process since earlier times, although this process has gained impetus since the establishment of Iraq as an independent state, largely as the result of Baghdad's policies to disperse them throughout the country in order to reduce their heavy concentration in the oil-rich north. They have been subjected to repressive policies in order to attempt to avoid problems posed to the regime by other sizable ethnic or religious groups, such as the Kurds in the north, and the Shi'ites in the south. Especially since the 1990s, they have been exposed to the arabization process which aims to assimilate them into the Arabic ethnic and cultural group.

Soylemez suggests that Turkey should examine the economic dimension of the Turkmen issue, which has not been exploited by Baghdad or Ankara. The Turkmens were left alone in poverty and isolation. Soylemez says that since there had been extensive contacts between Iraq and Turkey before the crisis in the Gulf, and now there are new incentives to revive the trade of the past, the Iraqi Turkmens should be allotted a role to play in this, in the same way that the Iraqi Kurds are playing a role in cross-border trade.

It has also been proposed that an Iraqi Turkmen Institute be established. This would be a potential stepping stone for developments in Iraq-Turkey relations. According to a recent scholarly study by H. Tarik Oguzlu, "The Turkomans of Iraq as a factor in Turkish foreign policy," based on the fact that the Turkmens "are Iraq's third-largest ethnic community with a population of not less than 2 million�. The significance of the Turkoman population lies in the calculations as to the final status of Iraq." (David Nissman)

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