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Iraq Report: April 30, 2000

30 April 2000, Volume 3, Number 12

RUSSIAN FLEET TO VISIT GULF. A source in the Russian Ministry of Defense said that Russia may send warships from its Pacific fleet to the Gulf because of what it sees as increased U.S. activity there, according to the London "Times" of 25 April. "The possibility of such a voyage and the composition of the detachment of ships," the official said, "are being discussed." Meanwhile, Russian Vice-Admiral Nikolai Mikheyev confirmed that such a trip is under consideration: its purpose, he said, is to "go to the Persian Gulf and see how the UN resolution on Iraq is being carried out." (David Nissman)

PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF IRAQI CIVIL DEFENSE. Major General Muhammad Nuri Al-Shammari, director general of the Iraqi Civil Defense Department, told the Baghdad newspaper "Alif Ba" on 12 April that Iraq faces numerous civil defense problems, not only in the no-fly zone.

The most significant of these, he said, is "obvious negligence in the maintenance operations by civil defense units in vital civilian or government establishments" especially in high-rise buildings. A large part of this is due to carelessness. Another involves shortages in equipment brought about by the embargo. "Our technical capabilities have dwindled in terms of vehicles and maintenance equipment," the general said. "There is a shortage of experience in handling unexploded bombs. There is poor maintenance of public shelters and vehicles."

Al-Shammari said that Baghdad is attempting to introduce early warning systems throughout the country and to expand civil defense courses through the Red Crescent Society. "For the first time also," he added, "we have studies and research on industrial security to acquire the best methods of containing and extinguishing fires." (David Nissman)

SADDAM TO MARK BIRTHDAY ON 28 APRIL. Saddam Husseyn's 63rd birthday will be marked by elaborate festivities throughout much of Iraq. According to an AFP report of 26 April, dozens of banners have been unfurled in Baghdad saying "The president's birthday is that of Iraq." The epicenter of the celebrations will be in Tikrit, near the village where he was born on 28 April 1937. An official daily, "Al-Qadissiyah," said on 26 April that "today, we are proud to see Saddam Husseyn recognized as one of the most formidable leaders of the century, not only in the eyes of his own nation and people but also the enemy." (David Nissman)

INDONESIAN ENVOY STRESSES 'SPECIAL RELATIONS' WITH IRAQ. Victor Sondek, special envoy of Indonesian Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, told Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan on 23 April. Sondek said that he had been asked by his country�s leader, Mrs. Megawati to tell Ramadan that "Indonesia takes interest in maintaining special and strong relations with Iraq due to the economic, political, trade, and cultural clout that Iraq enjoys on the international scene." According to Baghdad radio on that date, Ramadan told the envoy that the Iraqi leadership were satisfied with the "continuing enhancement in bilateral relations." He added that President Saddam Husseyn has instructed that relations with Indonesia be "broad, all-inclusive, and strategic." (David Nissman)

NEW UN AID COORDINATOR TO START WORK. The new UN humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq, Tun Myat of Myanmar, is scheduled to start work in Baghdad next week, AFP reported on 25 April. He succeeds Hans von Sponeck. Baghdad media have urged the new aid coordinator to follow the example of his predecessors and resign in protest against the UN embargo. Myat will supervise the oil-for-food program, and also ensure the distribution of food and medicines to both government-held areas of Iraq and to Iraqi Kurdistan, which is outside of Baghdad's control. (David Nissman)

KUWAIT DENIES AIR FORCE ROLE IN SORTIES ON IRAQ. Senior Kuwaiti officials have denied a Baghdad newspaper claim that Kuwaiti and Saudi air forces have taken part in allied sorties over Iraq, KUNA reported on 25 April. Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Shaykh Salam Al-Sabah said that Kuwaiti warplanes "are solely operated by the brave Kuwaiti pilots who receive orders from the Kuwaiti command...They can reach anywhere, but no orders have been given them in this regard." On 24 April, Baghdad�s "Al-Thawra" had made this accusation, in the course of an attack on the Arab League for giving priority to the Kuwaiti prisoners held in Iraq rather than the U.S. and British attacks on Iraqi targets. (David Nissman)

SOLAR ENERGY USES IN IRAQ HIGHLIGHTED. Dr. Abd-Al-Jabbar Ni'mah Al-Ani, the head of the Iraqi industrial ministry�s Energy and Environment Center, which is under the State Enterprise for Industrial Research and Development, a company belonging to the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, told Baghdad�s "Alif-Ba" on 5 April that Iraq is seeking to expand its use of solar energy to heat water, thus achieving significant savings in electricity costs. He said that his group is also conducting experiments to use solar energy to dry crops. One such experiment involves a 240 meter hangar with insulated walls and a styrene roof. The hangar receives energy through a solar unit made up of 864 sun slates and 84 batteries to supply energy at night. By this means, the hangar is supplied with 15 kilowatts of electrical energy. Crops thus dried are then sold, and the revenues go to the center which is a self-financed project. (David Nissman)

SADDAM EXPLAINS HIS MANAGEMENT THEORY. Saddam Husseyn expounded on his theories of management to a 22 April meeting of electronics applications researchers, reported Baghdad Television on 22 April. According to the Iraqi leader, the basic issue to be confronted is whether management is "something isolated from life or actively linked up with it," a question he suggested applies to leadership at all levels as well. According to Baghdad television, Saddam concluded that "whenever the practical and theoretical aspects meet to realize definite aims for a predetermined aim, the results will be better." (David Nissman)

TURKEY EXPECTS TRADE WITH IRAQ TO GROW. Ankara has been promoting trade with its eastern neighbors and especially with Iraq. The "Turkish Daily News" reported on 26 April that Turkish exports to Iraq reached $16.2 million in 1994, $21.1 million in 1995, and $20 million in 1996 (the latest year for which figures are available). And one Turkish official suggested that "Iraq is a $1 billion market for southeast Anatolia. Iraq is also a gateway to countries in the Persian Gulf and its significance was highlighted following the Gulf War when livestock trade with the country was banned, provoking a crisis." Meanwhile, a Turkish businessman is quoted as saying "if Turkey does not increase trade relations with Iraq, Syria and Iran, then all government attempts to develop southeast and east Anatolia will be futile because all the trade routes will be closed."

Another project designed to develop the southeast Anatolian region, the Ilisu Dam, has hit what might be a major stumbling block. The "Guardian" of 25 April reports that the British government may face high court action for breaches of international law if it gives financial support for the dam project in Turkey. Balfour Beatty, a construction and a main contractor for construction of the dam had applied for an export credit of some 200 million pounds.

Although the British government has so far not heeded protests from environmental groups, the Kurdish people, Syria and Iraq, three law professors have warned the government that it will be in breach of international law if it proceeds as planned. They say Turkey is obliged to consult the countries downstream of the project--Syria and Iraq--before starting it (cf. RFERL Iraq Report, 16 July 1999). Turkey has refused to do so. If Britain supports Turkey (by giving the export credits to Balfour Beatty), it is also in breach of international law.

Stephen Byers, the trade secretary, had announced earlier that the government was minded to support the dam, but expressed concern about the fate of the some 36,000 Kurds who live on the site of the Ilisu project. He also wanted Turkey to reassure the government that Syria and Iraq accepted the plan to dam the Tigris River. Turkey so far has not done so (David Nissman)

KDP, PUK MEET FOR 50TH TIME. A meeting of the Higher Coordination Committee was convened in Koisanjaq by ranking members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), according to a report in the "Kurdistan Observer" of 24 April. Its purpose was to discuss the latest proposals of the PUK for normalizing relations between the PUK and KDP and establishing peace in Kurdistan. Sami Al-Rahman (KDP) and Faridun 'Abd-Al-Qadir (PUK) described the meeting as "positive". Both observed that "improvements" had been made in the ability of Kurdish citizens to travel freely between KDP-controlled and PUK-controlled areas within the Kurdistan Regional Government. The "Kurdistan Observer" concludes that "it was observed that the high number of meetings that have taken place (now 50 in total) sometimes cause the citizens to despair at the difficulty in uniting the two administrations in a single joint government." (David Nissman)

TURKMEN MINISTER ON TURKOMAN FRONT. Jawdat Najjar, regional Turkmen minister and head of the Turkmen Cultural Society in Iraq, told the Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Gulan" on 6 April that "we all know that when the Kurdish revolution broke out [in 1961], which covered all areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Turkomen joined the revolution, because it was a democratic revolution. Turkmen, Assyrians, and others could see the settlement of their national issue in this revolution." He pointed out that when the region was under the control of the Iraqi government several Turkmen political clubs were founded "but if one was not a government supporter one could not become a member of these kind of clubs." They, in essence, were not Turkmen clubs but government clubs.

Najjar also noted that the situation changed in 1991. Then the Turkmens could found their own organizations. At the same time "some people from outside the region started their own political activities under the Turkoman name. But they were not working for Turkmen interests but of those for whom they used to work and who have sent them [to the region] to carry out their dirty work under the cover of Turkmen political activities. Unfortunately, they now work under the name of the Turkoman Front."

As a result of all this, Najjar said, "the Turkmen people are now living in their golden age." (David Nissman)

IRAQI TURKMEN ATTEMPTS SELF-IMMOLATION IN ASHGABAT. Almaz Makhmudova, an Iraqi Turkmen who had been living in Turkmenistan for the last two years, attempted to commit suicide by self-immolation in front of the UN mission building in Ashgabat, Interfax reported on 26 April. She survived but is now undergoing medical treatment for burns suffered over 60 percent of her body.

Makhmudova came to Turkmenistan with her husband two years ago and applied to the UN for refugee status because of ethnic persecution in Iraq. Their first application was turned down because "the reasons they gave were not sufficient to qualify them as refugees." Last month, they reapplied and were accepted.

Iraqi Turkmen were recognized as Turkmen at the first Congress of World Turkmen, held in Ashgabat in the beginning of the 1990s. Whether they would qualify for citizenship in Turkmenistan is unknown.

Makhmudova's medical costs will be paid by the UN High Commission for Refugees because she was recognized as a potential refugee. (David Nissman)