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Iraq Report: January 28, 2000

28 January 2000, Volume 3, Number 4

JORDAN, IRAQ RENEW TRADE PROTOCOL, OIL DEAL. Jordan and Iraq have completed arrangements for exporting Iraqi crude oil products and also renewed the trade protocol between the two countries. The Jordanian Television Network on 22 January reported that the price of oil had been fixed at $19 for one barrel of oil, regardless of any rise above this price on the international market. It was also decided to increase the grant order by President Saddam Husseyn to $300 million from $250 million.

Wa'il Sabri, Jordan's Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, said that the grant reduces the cost of crude and other byproducts for the year 2000.

The trade protocol calls for increasing the volume of trade to $300 million this year, up from $200 million last year. Muhammad Al-Halayiqah, Jordan's minister of industry and trade, said that $50 million will be allocated to repay Iraq's debt to Jordan and the remaining $250 million will be used to export Jordanian commodities.

Iraq's minister of trade, Muhammad Mahdi Salih, said that Jordan remains the top country in terms of the volume of trade turnover with Iraq.

The Amman independent newspaper "Al-'Arab Al-Yawm" of 23 January claims that a lobby in Jordan is seeking to subvert relations between Jordan and Iraq and suggests that this undefined group is "seeking to stop Jordan from importing any Iraqi commodities, thereby denying Jordan the opportunity to benefit from the difference between Iraqi prices and the prices prevalent at international markets." (David Nissman)

HANS BLIX TO HEAD UNMOVIC. Hans Blix, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been selected to head UNMOVIC, the new United Nations arms inspection agency for Iraq. Blix, a 71-year-old Swede, is a compromise choice in place for Rolf Ekeus, the former head of UNMOVIC's predecessor, UNSCOM, whose candidacy was opposed by Russia, France, and China. Blix will take up this new position in March.

During his 16-year tenure at IAEA, he maintained relatively good relations with the Iraqi leadership, but came under criticism for failing to pursue Iraq's nuclear program as aggressively as his counterparts. And it is still unclear whether Baghdad will find Blix acceptable. Iraq's UN ambassador, Sa'id Hassan, said that the nominee is irrelevant because Baghdad will never submit to the new inspections unless it is convinced the sanctions will be lifted. (David Nissman)

IAEA NUCLEAR INSPECTIONS PROCEED WITHOUT PROBLEMS. Dr. Ahmad Abu-Zahra, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team in Iraq, has expressed his appreciation for Baghdad's cooperation. He told Iraq Satellite Television on 24 January that Iraq provided all facilities to render the mission of the delegation successful.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, Francois Rivasseau, said that "the cooperation shown by the Iraqi authorities, which we had encouraged, is going the right way." Xinhua also reported on 24 January that the IAEA inspection had proceeded with "no problems."

The five-man IAEA team consisted of two Yugoslavs, a Mexican, and a Russian, in addition to Abu-Zahra. Their purpose is to ensure that Iraq's nuclear stocks are not used for military purposes.

According to the IAEA, all weapons-usable material was removed from Iraq according to a UN resolution at the end of the Gulf War. Iraq still has approximately 1.8 tons of enriched uranium as well as several tons of natural and depleted uranium.

The IAEA inspections are not related to UN weapons inspections. The monitoring program is imposed on all signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed by Iraq in 1972. IAEA inspectors based in Iraq were pulled out last December at the same time as the UNSCOM arms inspectors. (David Nissman)

IRAQ TO DEVELOP COMPUTER SECTOR. The Iraqi cabinet decided on 24 January to "form a committee to study the means of giving a boost to producing software and computer sciences, despite the embargo," AFP reported on 25 January. Last year Iraq bought some 1,000 computers for its secondary schools under the oil-for-food program.

The Ministry of Commerce has lifted the taxes it had earlier imposed on computers. AFP notes that Iraqi markets are full of computers and computing equipment despite the embargo. Shopkeepers said that the computer components were bought in the emirate of Dubai and then assembled in Iraq. (David Nissman)

NEW OPPOSITION PARTY FORMED. London's "Al-Quds Al-'Arabi reported on 25 January that a new political organization opposed to Saddam Husseyn has been formed and calls itself the National Independents' Movement (al-harakah al-wataniyah li al-mustaqillin). According to its founding statement, signed by 14 individuals, the new organization seeks to unite those who currently are unaffiliated with other groups either inside or outside Iraq. Its immediate objective is to create a "permanent constitution sanctioned by the people that bans the use of any form of violence to resolve political and intellectual differences, maintain the territorial integrity of the homeland" and related objectives. (David Nissman)

IRAQ CARRIES ANTI-EMBARGO CAMPAIGN TO PHILLIPINES. The Iraqi ambassador to the Philippines, Salah Al-Samarmad, told a press conference in Manila that the "unjust" imposition of the economic embargo against Iraq by the United Nations has resulted in food and medicine shortages, death, and it had also raised inflation "to unimaginable levels," "Business Week" reported on 26 January. He claimed it is "genocide, pure and simple, sadly committed under the sponsorship of the UN." He maintained that the United States and Great Britain continued to press for the embargo for their own "political motives." (David Nissman)

KRG INTERIOR MINISTER: SECURITY TOP PRIORITY. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Interior Minister Fadil Mirani told the Sorani Kurdish Irbil newspaper "Brayati" on 19 January that he and his officers are working at "ensuring security for the citizens, fighting against all forms of crime, pursuing those who break the law, and above all, imposing law in every walk of life." Mirani said that recent bombing attacks had been intended to "destabilize the general security situation in Kurdistan--whether in Irbil or Suleymaniyah." And he added that the Interior Ministry had been able "to arrest a network of evil-minded people." (David Nissman)

PKK OFFICIAL WOUNDED IN IRAQ. Riza Altun, a member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Presidential Council, was wounded and his two escorts killed when they were attacked near the Makhmur camp in Iraq, where it is believed he was attacked by PKK members. Following the attack, Altun demanded that 20 members of the PKK known to be opposed to the "politicization" policy be sent to the Makhmur camp where they will be interrogated. In another blow to the PKK's unity, it is also reported that Numan Ucar, the PKK's Russian representative, disappeared with 2.5 million German marks which had been entrusted to him to start a Kurdish TV and radio station. He was then accused of being a Russian agent by the Kurdistan Democratic Refugee's Society. (David Nissman)

KDP-IUMK DISCUSS PEACE PROCESS. A meeting was held between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan (IUMK) to discuss the peace process and the current situation. Kurdistan TV International in Salah al-Din reported on 23 January that an IUMK delegation visited the political bureau of the KDP in Pirmam (Arbil governorate) and were received by the secretary of the politbureau and the deputy head of government, Sami 'Abd Al-Rahman. Developments in Kurdistan were discussed. The IUMK had joined in a protest against the bombings in Kurdistan (together with several other political groups in Kurdistan) at the beginning of January. (David Nissman)

NEWSPAPER ACCUSES PUK OF 'DIVISIVE MEASURES.' Iraqi Kurdistan has not yet recovered from the consequences of the Kurdish civil war in the mid-1990s. The Sorani Kurdish Irbil newspaper "Medea" of 16 January writes that the most dangerous aspect of the problem now is that there is an attempt to set aside the legitimacy of the 1992 election and to "legitimize and consolidate that status quo of two authorities, which came into existence as a result of fratricide in southern Kurdistan."

The paper's editorial says that the unilateral measures of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) of "appointing a regional president, establishing an appeals court, the holding of teachers' [union] elections and the congress of the Kurdish religious scholars' union--both of which should be conducted at the level of southern Kurdistan [northern Iraq] as a whole...and the intention to organize parliamentary elections in Sulaymaniyah...are very harmful steps and can only exacerbate the existing breakup of southern Kurdistan."

And the editorial asks rhetorically: "what kind of legitimacy could be attained by the breaking up of a small and important part of our [already] divided and colonized country?" It adds that all the Kurdish political sides "should together ask for the reorganization of liberated southern Kurdistan under the authority of the Kurdistan parliament and government." (David Nissman)

TURKMEN, KURDISH BANNED IN KIRKUK SCHOOLS. A letter from the Directorate of Education in Kirkuk has stated that studying and speaking in Kurdish or Turkmen is banned in all Kirkuk schools. The Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Rizgari" of 19 January said that the letter was based on a decree by the Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Iraq.

"Rizgari" claims that "the decision by the state officials and the oppressive authorities is a continuation of the displacement order against the Kurds and other minorities in that part of Kurdistan which remains under their control to erase the Kurdish identity in these areas forever." The vice chairman of the Iraqi Turkoman Patriotic Party Lutfiya Tormali also issued a statement to the Turkmen Irbil newspaper "Turkoman Ale" on 16 January. He pointed out that Decree 89, issued by the Revolutionary Command Council 30 years ago, granted the Turkmen their national rights. The current decree, banning the use of Turkmen, is merely one more of the "contradictions of Saddam's regime." He added that "one of the ridiculous decrees issued by Saddam's regime was ordering Turkmen families to change their ethnic identity into Arab during the census." The Ankara Iraqi Turkoman Front representation issued a "clarification" on statements by the information counsellor, Zayban Al-Kubaysi, at the Iraqi Embassy, who issued some misleading statements about the Turkmen in Iraq to the Turkish newspaper "Zaman."

The Turkoman Front said to the Irbil newspaper "Turkoman Ale" on 19 January that "studying in the Turkoman language is allowed only at schools in the liberated areas, although previously the Iraqi government had tried to close down these schools on a charge of treason in order to deprive 350,000 Turkmen living in those areas from learning in their mother tongue." And it added that "within the framework of this same policy, the Iraqi government displaced more than 1,000 Turkoman families from the areas under its control to the liberated areas in the north." (David Nissman)

AINA CLAIMS KDP INTIMIDATION TACTICS USED AGAINST ASSYRIANS. An AINA report of 21 January says that the letter circulated by Assyrians in northern Iraq denying KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) involvement against eight Assyrian villages in the Nahla region (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 October 1999) "demonstrate a new and desperate intensification of intimidation by the Behdinanis and Soranis of northern Iraq." While this may be the case, there is also an internecine political battle being fought among the Assyrians in which AINA itself is playing a role. AINA also said that the "recent closure of the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) in Dohuk," reported by AINA on 4 November, "served notice to Assyrian political organizations that their very existence is contingent on what the KDP perceives as 'good behavior.'" In fact, the APP, together with the Bet Nahrayn Democratic Party and a number of other Assyrian political parties, decided to become part of an Assyrian political front on 11 November 1999, a week after their "closure" in Dohuk (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 November 1999). (David Nissman)