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Iraq Report: April 14, 2000

14 April 2000, Volume 3, Number 10

U.S.-BRITISH BOMBING RAIDS DRAW BLOOD, CRITICISM. Baghdad Radio reported on 6 April that American and British bombing raids had left 14 civilians dead in the city of Al-Kut and in the governorate of Al-Basra as well as 19 wounded. Baghdad also reported that since the bombing began on 17 December 1998 there had been 20,000 such sorties.

International reaction was prompt. China, France, and Russia all issued statements the next day condemning the U.S. and Britain. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told Xinhua on 7 April that Iraq's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence should be fully respected. He added that the establishment of the no-fly zones violated the principles of the UN Charter. Similar assertions were made by the Russian Foreign Ministry through Interfax on 7 April, and Moscow suggested that "the hypocritical character of the noisy campaign of accusations in connection with the lawful measures taken by the Russian authorities to eradicate terrorism on their own territory is particularly obvious against this background." The French Foreign Ministry expressed its "dismay" at the raids to AFP on the same day.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian newspaper "Al-Ray" on 9 April called the bombings "unjustified aggression," and claimed that Iraq had, in fact, implemented all the UN Security Council resolutions. (David Nissman)

ANOTHER ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT AGAINST SADDAM? The London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Zaman" on 6 April carried a report saying that an investigation is underway involving an alleged assassination attempt being planned by Saddam's Special Security forces and the Revolutionary Guard.

The officers concerned are connected with Staff Lieutenant-General Ali Hasan Al-Majid, who is also Saddam's cousin and a member of the Revolutionary Command Council.

As of yet, there has been no linkage of the officers questioned to the assassination attempt. But recent arrivals from Baghdad told "Al-Zaman" that there has been a "wide-ranging campaign" of dismissals and transfers in the Special Security and Revolutionary Guard.

Nor is it clear whether this report is related in any way to a rumor based on information supplied to the London-based "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" by the Iraq Communist Party, and dated 12 April, of the flight of some air force officers from Baghdad, including Lieutenant-General Hamid Sha'ban, commander of the Iraqi Air Force during the war with Iran. After the war, he was named an adviser to President Husseyn, a post he still holds.

An assassination attempt was reportedly discovered in January which was to be carried out by the second Republican Guard brigade, under the command of Staff Brigadier General Abd Al-Karim Husayn Al-Dulaymi, who was subsequently executed. (David Nissman)

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL STATEMENT CONDEMNS BAGHDAD. A regular meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) concluded with a statement condemning the Iraqi government for failing to implement United Nations resolutions imposed against Baghdad for its occupation of Kuwait.

The Omani delegate told the "Gulf News" of Oman on 10 April that the differences in view points among the members, especially as they pertained to Iran and Iraq, were expected to dominate the meeting of the foreign ministers.

The United Arab Emirates was dissatisfied with the role of the GCC's tripartite committee formed to resolve its territorial dispute with Iran over the islands of Abu Musa and the greater and lesser Tunbs. The committee consists of Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Iran has occupied the islands since 1971.

Thus far, there have been no developments, and the committee's lack of activity "raises a particular sensitivity" with UAE officials, the paper reported. According to the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, Sa'ud Al-Faysal, the stumbling block to progress is the fact that a good relationship between the GCC and Iran "was a cornerstone for security and stability in the Gulf region."

Another problem is the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Iraq and some GCC members. An Omani official commented that Kuwait, opposing these moves, "sees this as rewarding Iraq even though its has not abided by the UN Security Council resolutions." Diplomatic relations between Iraq and Gulf states now exist between Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman, with Abu Dhabi rumored to be shortly following suit.

The political editor of Iraq Radio on 9 April commented that "this statement fully conforms with U.S. lies against Iraq, which are aimed at sustaining the embargo and aggression contrary to the will of the international community."

The GCC statement on Iraq did not find total support in the Gulf states themselves. The "Mid East Mirror" of 13 April quotes a piece written by Assayed Zahra in the Bahrain newspaper "Akhbar Al-Khalij." He says that GCC members Bahrain and the UAE should be commended for their decision to reactivate diplomatic ties with Iraq, and he applauds Abu Dhabi's decision to do the same. He criticizes the GCC final statement by claiming that the GCC's position vis-a-vis Iraq has stagnated over the years, and that it merely reflects the American position. (David Nissman)

SAUDI DEFENSE MINISTER ON TALKS WITH COHEN, IRAQ. Prince Sultan Bin Abd-Al-'Aziz, second deputy prime minister, minister of defense and aviation, and inspector general of the Saudi Armed Forces, said recently that U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia are within the framework of the United Nations and implement its policies. Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, he noted that these forces are for air reconnaissance purposes to monitor the situation over southern Iraq. At the same time, the Saudi official reported that he and Cohen did not discuss the Iraq issue, only "traditional issues of cooperation between our two countries."

A spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Information, responding to the Saudi Defense Minister's comments on 11 April to AFP, claimed that "the Saudi Defense Minister is only fooling himself...because everyone knows that U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia have nothing to do with the United Nations." (David Nissman)

IRAQ, TUNISIA DISCUSS BILATERAL TIES. Baghdad and Tunis are using the occasion of former President Habit Bourguiba's death to continue talks on enriching their bilateral ties. On 9 April, Baghdad Radio reported that Taha Yasin Ramadan will represent President Saddam Husseyn at Bourguiba's funeral. The Radio of the Tunisian Republic on 10 April reported that the meeting between the Iraqi vice president and President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali took advantage of the opportunity. President Ben Ali stressed his commitment to strengthen relations in all sectors.

On his return to Baghdad, Vice President Ramadan said on Baghdad Radio on 12 April that the Tunisian president expressed Tunisia's pride in the "ever developing relations with Iraq and its eagerness to boost these ties to achieve the joint interests of the two fraternal countries."

Tunisian and Iraqi officials have met several times in the course of this year. In February, Baghdad Television reported on 6 February the Iraqi Minister of Health, Dr. Umid Midhat Mubarak, met Tunisian Minister of Trade Mondher Zenaidi, who expressed "Tunisia's preparedness to supply Iraq with medicine as part of the oil-for-food program." Similar contacts were also reported from Beirut by Baghdad Radio on 11 March at the time of an Arab League conference. when Iraq's Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf also discussed the furtherance of bilateral ties. (David Nissman)

THREE 'ALTERNATIVE' POLITICAL PARTIES FORMED. According to "informed Iraqi sources" quoted by the London-based "Al-Zaman" newspaper, an announcement is expected in Baghdad concerning the formation of three political parties: a Nasirite party, a Communist party, and a Christian party. None of the parties is expected to play any role in Iraq's political life.

The ruling Ba'th Party has agreed to the parties' formation. All the parties are to be led by known commodities in the Iraqi political scene. The Iraqi Communist Party will be headed by Yusuf Hamdan, a former leader of the banned Iraq Communist Party. The Nasirite National Party will be led by Dr. Wamid Umar Nazmi; and the Christian Democratic Party by the archeologist Dr. Bahnam Abu-Al-Suf. Iraqi sources told the paper that all three parties will be a "sham and will be weak." They are not expected to play a role in either foreign or domestic policies.

While Baghdad alleges that it does not believe in single-party rule, an AFP dispatch of 11 April quotes Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz as saying that the complex circumstances faced by Iraq "demand a minimum of prudence so that a multiparty system does not turn into a conspiracy and lead to the destabilization of a nation defending its independence and sovereignty." (David Nissman)

ENGINEER EXPLAINS TELEPHONE PROBLEMS IN BAGHDAD. An engineer in the Post and Telecommunications Company explained the "increasing number" of telephone problems occurring in Baghdad in the 22 March issue of the Baghdad newspaper "Alif Ba.'" He said that there are basically five problems: street excavations which damage the underground cables; street depressions which fill with water and also damage the cables; subscribers who have moved their telephones long distances or bring several extensions inside the house; and difficulties with the Crossbar switchboards now in service a long time--more than 25 years. In addition, the engineer blamed British and U.S. representatives in the Sanctions Committee 661 for suspending contracts for telephone supplies.

He offered no current hopes for a solution to the telephone problems plaguing the city. (David Nissman)

COUNTERFEIT MONEY CIRCULATES IN IRAQ. The Baghdad newspaper "Alif Ba'" on 22 March carries a lengthy interview with Dr. Isam Rashid Huwaysh, governor of the Iraq Central Bank (ICB), in which he discusses the impact of the counterfeit 100-dinar notes now in circulation. He claimed the basic problem is with the Sanctions Committee, which "exercises immoral pressure on us to bar us from importing proper currency printers." He said that currency security is based on the paper used, not the printing.

As for the counterfeit being smuggled in from abroad, he suggests that "the enemy...has directed the governments of the region to harm Iraq." Counterfeiting is one of the ways to do this. He also refers to the so-called "Swiss banknote" in use in northern Iraq. Any effort to erode public confidence in Iraqi currency is bound to be ineffective, he says.

Inflation as well as the high cost of production, in the country has resulted in withdrawing coins from circulation as well as the 25-dinar note.

Dr. Huwaysh adds that the problem with the currency is "acute" but not "chronic" and that the country's monetary structure was basically healthy. (David Nissman)

SYRIAN-IRAQI PIPELINE TO BE EXPANDED. French Industry Minister Christian Pierret announced in Damascus that French companies are studying the expansion of an oil pipeline between Kirkuk in Iraq and the Syrian port of Banias, according to AP on 11 April. Pierret gave a joint news conference with Syrian Oil Minister Muhammad Mahir Jamal, but gave no details on the expansion. France's Elf-Aquitaine is now developing oil fields in northwestern Syria. (David Nissman)

IRAN RETURNS IRAQI PRISONERS OF WAR. The International Committee of the Red Cross announced that this week Iran returned 1,999 Iraqi prisoners held since the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, according to an AP report of 12 April. The operation was supervised by the ICRC.

Iraq maintains it does not hold any more Iranian POWs, a claim the Iranian authorities dispute. The report adds that only last week, President Saddam Husseyn said in a cabinet meeting that Iran's rulers were "a clique of brutal monsters" for what he claimed were atrocities committed against Iraqi POWs.

So far, more than 8,500 POWs have returned to Iraq, and three Iranian POWs and 369 civilian detainees have returned to Iran in an operation launched by the ICRC in April 1998. The ICRC has also interviewed more than 4,600 Iraqi POWs in Iran who do not wish to be repatriated. (David Nissman)

KDP-I DENIES SECRET TALKS WITH IRAN (AGAIN). The Bureau of International Relations of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDP-I) has issued another denial about secret talks supposedly being held between the Iranian government. The rumor first surfaced in the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Zaman" at the beginning of April (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 April 2000).

The KDP-I's Political Bureau asserts that not only are there no "secret negotiations" planned, but it adds that "our party remains convinced that there can be a military solution to the Kurdish problem in Iran." Also, the KDP-I is in favor of negotiations, "but they must be public, not secret."

The circulation of the rumor is believed to be an effort to discredit the KDP-I within Iran. (David Nissman)

TURKMEN CLAIM KDP 'PRESSURE.' The Iraqi Turkoman Front (ITF) has claimed it faces "antidemocratic pressures" in attempting to resolve its problems with the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) in northern Iraq. In a statement the ITF leadership in Turkey has claimed that the leader of the Turkmeneli Party and member of the ITF council, Riyaz Sarikahya, was arrested by the KDP and asked to leave the area along with M. Kemal Yaycili, also a member of the ITF council, according to an article in Anatolia on 4 April.

This is not the first such harassment faced by the Turkmen in Iraq in recent days. A Turkmen delegation was prevented from leaving Irbil for Sulaymaniyah, in PUK-controlled territory of Iraq Kurdistan on the second day of the Id al Adha. The statement of the ITF, published in the Arabic-language newspaper of Irbil, "Turkoman Ale," on 22 March, asserts that the ITF has taken an "impartial stand on the domestic issues between our Kurdish brothers" and that the "activities of the Turkoman not harm any party. Furthermore "our Kurdish and Assyrian brothers appreciate the front's stands and policies."

The ITF claims that it was trying to resolve educational problems with the PUK in Sulaymaniyah, and that the KDP's position is "incomprehensible."

Subsequently, a number of Turkmen leaders published another statement on 26 March in "Turkoman Ale." Widad Arsalan, head of the ITF and the Turkoman Qardashliq Ojaghi (Turkmen Brotherhood Center) asked that "all active political groups go back to the logic of dialogue and to the negotiating table in order to solve any problem that may obstruct our way."

And Kan'an Shakir Aziz Aghali, the head of the Movement of Independent Turkomans, called for "the continuing problems in the field of Turkoman education to be solved...and all other problems to be dealt with according to the criteria of democracy, freedom of opinion, and respect for human rights."

Others, including Riyaz Sarikahya, head of the Turkoman Ale Party, and Mustafa Kamal Yaycili, head of the Turkoman Patriotic Party, have made similar statements, calling for peace, harmony, and stability among the Turkmen, Kurds, and Assyrians in northern Iraq.

Despite these appeals, however, a statement issued by the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Turkomans in Damascus on 7 April and cited in the London-based "Al-Hayat" on 9 April claims that efforts are being made to deport the leaders of the Turkoman Eli Front and the Iraqi Turkoman National Party from the region.

Riyaz Sarikahya, commenting on these events to a journalist from the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 12 April, said that he respected the KDP and added that "we also respect the administrative institutions in the region and hope the sovereignty of the law will prevail."

A senior official of the KDP has claimed that "the Turkoman Front and all other political parties here in Kurdistan are not subject to any illegal measures"

"Al-Hayat" also reports that it has received no confirmation of the reports of the resettlement of Palestinians inside Iraq. (David Nissman)