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Iraq Report: January 7, 2000


7 January 2000, Volume 3, Number 1

IRAQ MILITARY BUYING SPARE PARTS VIA UAE. A report in "Defense Week" of 3 January notes that Iraq has been "placing orders with Russian companies to replenish parts for its mostly Russian-built tanks, aircraft, and ships, according to officials in Moscow."

The respected journal continues that there are definite indications that Iraq is currently using UAE companies to buy Russian spare parts in small numbers, and then Baghdad ferries them from Dubai to Basra.

Rosvooruzhenie, the Russian arms export agency, has been taking orders from companies in the United Arab Emirates which do not have any need for Russian equipment, a Rosvooruzhenie official told the magazine, speaking under conditions of anonymity. "In May 1999 we delivered a cargo of T-72 tank spares in an AN-32 plane to Al-Khaled Import/Export company of Ajman, U.A.E.," he said. Since they were replacement spares, rather than a complete weapons system, no one demanded an end-user certificate. In the last quarter of 1998, this official said, the same Ajman firm had placed orders for spares for the Russian Mi-8, Mi-24 and Mi-17 helicopters.

Iraqi officers have made contacts with Russian suppliers at international weapons shows. One of them visited the exhibit of the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau of St. Petersburg and is quoted as saying: "Iraq was in contact with certain suppliers to provide it with spares for its T-72 tanks, BMP-2 armored personnel carriers, 152 mm towed GHN-45 artillery, BOGOMOL class patrol vessels and Mi-24 helicopters, among others."

Despite this apparent confirmation, Rosvooruzhenie's spokesman, Valentin Zapevalov, denied that his organization was supplying spare parts to Iraq. (David Nissman)

U.S. DESCRIBES UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ. On 14 December, the U.S. Department of State updated its September 1999 report on "Saddam Husseyn's Iraq" by reissuing it with a new section entitled "Iraq Omnibus Resolution." That section summarizes the results of discussions in the UN Security Council in December. According to this document, the U.S. believes that the resolution adopted at that time "reaffirms Iraq's obligations to disarm, to provide for the needs of its people, to account for the Gulf War missing, and to return missing Kuwaiti property." The report points out that "all members of the UN Security Council have agreed, again, that these obligations on Iraq are unsatisfied and continue."

The resolution establishes the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission, UNMOVIC, which retains UNSCOM's mandate, rights, privileges, facilities, and immunities. Iraq's obligations under UNMOVIC's direction is to "fulfill key disarmament tasks, must cooperate with inspectors in all respects: that is; monitoring and unresolved disarmament issues. Most importantly, Iraq must allow access for any inspection.

Provided Iraq cooperates with the inspectors for 120 days after reinforced monitoring is fully operational, the State Department report says, the UN Security Council could suspend sanctions, provided that appropriate controls remain in place. Any suspension must be renewed every 120 days. In this event, the embargo on military imports would remain in place, and dual-use items would continue to require prior approval.

Baghdad's reaction to the December 1999 resolution remains entirely negative. On 3 January, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf said on Iraqi Television that Baghdad will continue "to highlight the wickedness of this resolution and the new restrictions it includes to restrain Iraq and deprive it of its rights and independence, exploit its wealth, and turn it into a protectorate to be run by the decisions of the United States." (David Nissman)

SADDAM SAYS "SABOTAGE FORCES" WORKING AGAINST IRAQ. Saddam Husseyn recently told his army commanders that what he called "sabotage forces" are seeking to foment disturbances in Iraq that will allegedly coincide with a possibly "violent U.S. missile attack," London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" reported on 28 December. But at the same time, an Iraqi official suggested that Baghdad is more concerned about the actions of communists and Islamists than about those tied to the United States.

There may be reasons for that conclusion. On 29 December, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq claimed that there had been three recent attacks in Iraq during the second half of December. In the first, some 25 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, a security officer was killed. Another was directed against an installation of the regime's security forces near Al-Aziziyah. And in a third, the SCIRI claimed, explosives planted by its operatives blew up a military intelligence center and killed three officers. (David Nissman)

RIFTS FROM KUWAIT INVASION NOT YET HEALED. The secretary general of the Arab League, Ismat Abd-Al-Majid, said in his millennium message on 31 December that Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait had carved a deep rift in Arab ranks which still had not healed, according to a report from the Washington Kurdish Institute. To overcome this, Abd-Al-Majid called for greater efforts to build a pan-Arab trade area in the new millennium as a nucleus for an Arab common market and for greater cooperation between the Arab League and regional and international organizations. He also urged "dialogue and understanding among world societies and renunciation of violence and extremism." (David Nissman)

SADDAM SENDS GREETINGS TO PUTIN. Saddam Husseyn has sent a message to Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, underscoring his "desire to maintain the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between Iraq and Russia." According to Russia's Novosti agency on 4 January, the Iraqi leader called for the development of "relations in all spheres in the national interests and for the aim of strengthening peace, security, justice and balance of forces in the world." (David Nissman)

IRAN-IRAQ TIES STRAINED BUT 'IMPROVING.' Despite a recent reported improvement in ties between Baghdad and Tehran, the two governments are still very much at odds over a variety of issues. One of the most acute concerns Iran's unwillingness to release aircraft belong to Iraq. According to a 4 January report in London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," Baghdad's diplomatic efforts to secure the return of planes it sent to Iran at the outbreak of the Gulf War have been unsuccessful.

The Director General of Iraq Airlines, Rabi' Muhammad Salih, is quoted by the paper as saying that Iran has still not allowed Iraq to service the aircraft, despite the fact that maintenance operations have been permitted in Amman and Tunis, where such serving of ten Iraqi aircraft are conducted on a regular basis.

An unnamed Iraqi source described as a senior official told the London paper that even though Iran has moved a step toward improving relations with Iran, "it does not want these relations to reach a point of harmony vis-a-vis the stands on international or regional issues [but] it is keeping them confined to the bilateral issues framework" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 December 1999). (David Nissman)

SCIRI LEADER DENOUNCES IRAQI MEDIA POLICIES. Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakin, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, met with Kuwaiti Information Minister Dr. Sa'd Bin-Tuflah Al-Ajmi in Kuwait city, KUNA reported on 29 December. During the meeting, Al-Hakim said that "the deceptive information policy practiced by the Iraqi regime has twisted many of the political facts and is leading the nation to a state of ambiguity and distortion." And he added that Arabic media should concentrate on the suffering of the Iraqi people. In response, Al-Ajmi said that "the Kuwaiti media will continue their declared policy of highlighting facts, especially as regards the case of Kuwaiti prisoners held in the Iraqi regime's jails." (David Nissman)

NEW KURDISH TV NETWORK LAUNCHED. Kurdnet, a Kurdish satellite network, began broadcasting on 1 January from Suleymaniya, the capital of the region of Iraqi Kurdistan under control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). On the air three hours a day, beginning at 8 pm local time, the new station carries programming from other local TV networks as well as from independent producers. A PUK press release said that the station will focus on "the challenges of post-war reconstruction, national reconciliation, nation-building, and sustainable development in the Kurdistan region."

At the beginning of 1999 the Barzani-controlled territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government received its first satellite TV station. It was at first assailed by supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who claimed via the now-defunct TV station MED-TV, that "the KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party], with Turkish assistance, has started an anti-PKK station," according to the pro-PKK website "Arm The Spirit" of 23 February 1999.

After MED-TV was closed in early 1999, MEDYA-TV carrying similar context took its place.

The head of the KDP's Kurdish Television Network is Sami Abdurahman, a long-time Barzani loyalist. The administration of the PUK's Kurdnet also includes Adil Murad, chief of PUK Central Information; Arsalan Baeez, one of the founders of the PUK; and Hero Khan, an active PUK member and also the wife of Jalal Talabani, the leader of the PUK.

The proliferation of Kurdish-language television stations puts pressure on Turkey's language policy. On 14 December Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem stated that while Kurdish language broadcasts are now illegal, "there should be Kurdish television broadcasts in practice," according to a MEDYA-TV report. Mesut Yilmaz, the leader of Turkey's Motherland Party, told the TRT Television Network on the same date that "one should be open to new developments in all issues."

Ilnur Cevik, writing an editorial in the "Turkish Daily News" on 4 January, pointed out that "what is sad is that Turkish officials still do not understand that so many citizens in south and southeastern Turkey do not speak a word of Turkish and that these TV stations are serving them irrespective of what their ideologies are." He adds that "even today, Turkey could lift the ban on Kurdish broadcasting and control what goes out to its own people.

That this recognition of their language is lacking under Turkish law has been the subject of countless commentaries on the Kurdish situation for many years. A commentary carried by "Kurdish Media" on 27 December says: "Perhaps Turkey is scared of broadcasting in Kurdish [because it would be] the first step to the establishment of a Kurdish state. Scared or not scared...the Kurdish state has been functioning despite odds for over eight years in Southern Kurdistan [Iraqi Kurdistan]. So it is already a reality."

Turkey's admission to the European Union is thought by many to depend on its policies toward the Kurds. The spread of Kurdish satellite TV broadcasting over the last two years, especially by stations which can be easily received over the Turkish border, should start to expedite the process of legalizing Kurdish broadcasting in Turkey. By permitting these broadcasts, Turkey may gain at least have some say in the content of the programs. (David Nissman)

ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT IN HALABCHE. On 2 January an attempt was made to assassinate Shaykh Muhammad Shaykh Khalid Mufti, the imam for Friday prayers in the town of Halabche, in the PUK-controlled region of Iraqi Kurdistan. He was seriously wounded and remains in critical condition. "Kurdish Media" suggested that the act was clearly intended to destabilize the Kurdish self-rule area.

The PUK has strongly condemned the attempt and its leader, Jalal Talabani, has both asked influential PUK members not to interfere with the rule of law and challenged the Islamists. On 20 December, he told a visiting delegation from the Kurdistan Islamic Union that "our position is clear and frank on the issue of terror and the politics of assassination. We condemn these practices as utterly foreign to our political culture." (David Nissman)

TURKOMAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAILS NEW KRG CABINET. On 21 December, the Turkoman Democratic Party expressed its satisfaction with the participation of "fellow Turkomans " in the cabinet, the Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Gulan" reported. But on 27 December, Mustafa Ziya, representing the Turkoman Front, told the "Turkish Daily News" that "the new government does not represent us." (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 December 1999). He said that "there is nothing called 'Turkoman' in their government...The new cabinet will only serve to deepen the rifts, and also it does not fit in with the principles of the Washington Agreement."

The 4th Cabinet of the new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is being formed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). As it now stands, the KRG reflects the dominant position held by the KDP over the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls part of Iraqi Kurdistan. In addition, not only are there rifts between the two main Kurdish parties, there are also splits between these Turkoman factions and within the Assyrian community. (David Nissman)

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