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Iraq Report: August 11, 2000

11 August 2000, Volume 3, Number 27

SADDAM AGAIN THREATENS IN 'VICTORY DAY' SPEECH. In his "Victory Day" speech on 8 August, the 12th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Husseyn issued some thinly-veiled threats against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia but made no mention of Iran.

The Iraqi leader said that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were "traitors" because they had allowed the United States and Great Britain to use their territory to launch air strikes on Iraq. In addition, Saddam said, "they have sold off all that was possible, their values and the resources of their peoples, to the United States and Zionism, and turned into their agents."

As such, Saddam's speech represented only an amplification of charges carried on 5 August in the Iraqi newspaper "Babil," controlled by Udayy Saddam Husseyn, the Iraqi leader's son, that Kuwait should not forget the invasion of its country 10 years earlier. Specifically, the paper said: "We tell the dwarfs: don't play near the lion and try to find a shelter or a sand dune to hide your rotten heads because the date of August 2, 1990 is still alive in the memory." (David Nissman)

VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT BREAKS DEMOCRATIC RANKS TO VISIT IRAQ. President Hugo Chavez flew to Iraq on 10 August as part of a tour of OPEC nations, the first visit to Iraq by a foreign head of state since the Gulf War in 1991. Chavez's visit appears to reflect his desire to see poor nations bound together as a counterweight to what he calls the hegemony of the United States. He will be hosting many of the leaders he will visit at the OPEC meeting scheduled for Caracas on 27 September.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Washington could not understand his visit to Baghdad and would raise the issue with "relevant" Venezuelan officials. In an AFP report on 8 August Boucher said: "We do think it's a rather dubious distinction to be the first democratically elected head of state to go meet the dictator of Iraq." He added that "in any contact with Iraqi officials we would expect Venezuelan officials to make clear that the roots of the current confrontation with Iraq are Baghdad's nine-year-long refusal to meet its international obligations."

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel responded that "President Chavez is free to travel the world. This is a sovereign act by a chief of state of a sovereign nation," AP reported on 8 August. (David Nissman)

RALLIES AGAINST SANCTIONS ON ANNIVERSARY OF KUWAIT INVASION. Small rallies against the international sanctions regime against Iraq took place in Washington and London on the anniversary of Saddam Husseyn's invasion of Kuwait. Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate for president, told a Washington group that sanctions have only increased Saddam's power and the suffering of the Iraqi people. London's "Financial Times" editorialized on 7 August that "the sanctions policy has run out of momentum, arguing that Saddam 'must not be rewarded' by the lifting of sanctions "but the sanctions should target him rather than the Iraqi people." (David Nissman)

IRAQ COMMUNIST PARTY REPORTS EXECUTIONS OF COMPUTER EXPERTS. Seven employees of the Central Computers Department in Baghdad have been executed, according to a 4 August report by the Center for Human Rights of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) in Irbil. The ICP said that Saddam Husseyn's regime had purchased a computer system more than six months ago from the United Arab Emirates. A specialist team was sent to inspect the system and conclude the deal. The computers were destined for such agencies as the Public Security Directorate, National Security, and the Mukhabarat (Intelligence). Baghdad later reportedly received information that the computers contained special transmitters that sent data to the United States. Seven members of the Central Computers Department, including the general-director of the department, were then arrested for treason and executed in mid-July. Immediately afterwards, the regime decreed that all heads of state departments must be members of the ruling party. (David Nissman)

PARIS-BAGHDAD FLIGHT AUTHORIZED. The French Foreign Ministry had decided to allow a special 29 September Paris-Baghdad-Paris flight to proceed as scheduled. It concluded that restrictions apply only to goods transport and regularly scheduled flights, AFP reported on 4 August. Bernard Valero, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said that "the UN Security Council never adopted a specific text aimed at establishing a blanket ban on flights to or from Iraq." The head of the Iraqi interests section in Paris, which represents the Baghdad government, said that his country was ready to welcome this flight. Among the scheduled passengers on the flight are former French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, retired General Pierre Gallois, the Communist singer Jean Ferrat, and novelist Regine Desforges. (David Nissman)

IRAQ SATISFIED WITH SYRIAN TRANSPORT FACILITIES. Iraqi Minister of Trade Muhammad Mahdi Salih said he was satisfied by the facilities the Syrian authorities have provided for Iraq to transport its goods, AFP reported on 6 August. Salih also expressed satisfaction with the agreement to reopen the Aleppo-Mosul rail link. Syrian Transport Minister Makram Ubayd said that "work is going ahead to improve transport in the two governorships in northern Syria which will help the transport of goods destined for Iraq arriving at Syrian ports." A joint Syrian-Iraqi commission on economic cooperation met for the first time in 20 years on 5 August. The volume of Syrian-Iraqi trade stands at $450 million, according to Salih. (David Nissman)

RUSSIAN ARABISTS SPLIT ON SANCTIONS. Vladimir Shagal, a prominent Russian Arabist at Moscow's Institute of Oriental Studies, told ITAR-TASS on 2 August that the 10 years of sanctions against Iraq have failed to yield the desired results. "The sanctions have only ruined Iraq's economy, bringing down people's living standards and social infrastructure," he said. And he suggested that sanctions might be lifted if Iraq agreed to pay compensation to Kuwait. But Vadim Sementsov, director of the Moscow Arabists' Association think-tank, disagrees. He argued that the sanctions should be kept in place until Saddam yielded to UN demands. And he warned that Moscow should be wary of contacts with countries on which the UN Security Council had imposed economic sanctions. He said that "instead of Iraq and Libya, Russia should boost cooperation with such influential nations as Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, as well as Gulf states," the Russian news agency reported. (David Nissman)

QATARI FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS END TO IRAQI SUFFERING. Shaykh Hamad Bin-Jasim Bin-Jabr Al-Thani, foreign minister of Qatar, said he is looking for solutions to alleviate "the suffering of the sisterly Iraqi people as a result of the blockade imposed on them" and that he was ready to make certain proposals to that end, the Yemeni News Agency reported on 7 August. He said that he hoped that the Qatari idea will be accepted by the international community, the United Nations, and Iraq. Republic of Yemen Radio reported on the same day that he had expressed his opposition to continuing the embargo (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD NEGOTIATING TO BUY PASSENGER AIRCRAFT. Ma'mun Muhy Al-Din Nasiri, the director general of Iraq's civil aviation department, told Baghdad's weekly newspaper "Al-Rafidayn" that "negotiations are under way with a company to buy modern planes," AFP reported on 8 August. But he did not name the company. At the same time, he announced that pilots and co-pilots will go to the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia for training. The French news agency said that "dozens" of pilots have already undergone training in Malaysia and Jordan on planes built by the European consortium Airbus. Airbus has pledged to deliver five planes ordered by Iraq in 1989 once sanctions are lifted. (David Nissman)

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SPEAKER COMPLAINS TO U.S CONGRESS. Iraq National Assembly Speaker Dr. Sa'dun Hammadi has sent a letter to both houses of the U.S. Congress in response to President Bill Clinton's recent remarks concerning legislation that authorizes the U.S. to use force against Iraq. In the letter, Hammadi said that "while several world states, including permanent members of the UN Security Council, believe that Iraq has fulfilled its commitments per the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the U.S. administration has continued a hostile approach against Iraq and its people," Baghdad Radio reported on 5 August. (David Nissman)

SPECIAL SECURITY, ARMY OFFICERS EXECUTED. An 8 August release from the Iraq Foundation notes that the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has reported a number of arrests and executions and arrests in the armed forces and Special Security Organization, including Staff Brigadier-General Khalil Ibrahim Al-Tikriti, deputy director of the General Mukhabarat [Intelligence]. SCIRI says that these executions reflect the "worsening disagreements between the centers of power in the regime and proteges of Udayy or Ali Hassan Al-Majid." The arrests and executions apparently began in May and have continued through July. There have been seven executions so far. (David Nissman)

KURDISH PEACE CONGRESS IN IRAQ? More than 100 Kurdish intellectuals who live in Scandinavia met in Stockholm earlier this summer to discuss the possibility of convening a peace congress among various Kurdish groups, the "Kurdistan Observer" of 7 August reported. They agreed that "all internecine problems and demands among the political forces of Kurdistan [must] be dealt with by democratic and peaceful means." And they argued that such a meeting could put an end to the process of kurdification of the war in Kurdistan and would foil the plans of the enemies of our people that continuously aim at manipulating and using our people for their own purposes, so that we would never achieve our aims and remain permanently empty-handed despite all the struggle, sacrifices, and suffering of our people." (David Nissman)

TALABANI SAYS NORTHERN IRAQ 'DE FACTO' INDEPENDENT... Jalal Talabani, the leader of the PUK, told Turkish CNN on 3 August that northern Iraq is now "de facto independent." He noted that "democracy truly reigns here. In other words, there is freedom of expression, many newspapers are being published, and there are political parties representing all movements of the political spectrum--ranging from extreme right to extreme left, and from secular to fundamentalist." And he said that economically, people there--while poor--"can now get their primary needs of food and medicine."

Asked about relations with the Turkmen, he replied that the Turkmen remain primarily under the control of Baghdad. Those that live under Kurdish control, however, have been permitted to use the Latin script in their own language. Talabani said that the Turkmen living in areas under the control of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) are somewhat concerned for their future, especially after the recent clashes between the KDP and the Turkmen Front (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 August and 28 July 2000.) But as far as the PUK is concerned, Talabani said, the Turkmen "constitute the second nationality in Iraqi Kurdistan and the third nationality in Iraq."

Talabani acknowledged that the PUK's relations with the KDP are "not very good," even though the two groups have stopped fighting. He said that the PKK had increased its power and recruitment efforts, but in Iraqi Kurdistan, the PUK leader said, its influence has waned, adding that the PKK has begun to realize that it is no longer a pan-Kurdish party but only active on behalf of the Kurds in Turkey. (David Nissman)

...DENIES PLANS TO ATTACK PKK. Talabani also denied rumors that the PUK planned to launch an attack against the PKK, according to a 4 August report in the pro-PKK Internet magazine "Ozgur Politika." Moreover, he told the Kurdish section of Iran's Sahar TV that the PUK does not intend to wage a war with the PKK and that Turkey is aware of this. He explained that "we do not intend to resolve our problems with the PKK through war. We are in favor of resolving our problems by political and peaceful means." Talabani also denied reports that the PUK will comply with Turkey's demands and that they will cooperate with the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) to launch an attack against the PKK. He also said: "We will not allow the PKK to use our territory to launch an attack against Turkey." (David Nissman)

U.S. CENSUS DECISION ON ASSYRIAN NATIONALITY SPARKS PROTEST. The U.S.-based Assyrian National Congress is demanding an injunction to bar the category "Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac" from the Census Bureau's forms, according to a report in the Internet magazine "Zinda" magazine of 3 August. The magazine quotes Mar Raphael Bid Dawid of Iraq, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, as saying that "there is no Chaldean nationality. I am an Assyrian and my nationality is Assyrian. My church is Chaldean." Dr. Arianne Ishaya, an anthropologist at the University of California, said that the action of the Census Bureau "plays into the hands of despotic regimes who want to see Assyrians divided so they can more easily play one faction against the other and deny the Assyrians their cultural and human rights." She adds: "The combined designation Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac does not mend this divisive step, since the fact remains that Chaldeans and Assyrians are still falsely identified as two separate ethnic groups. This is the crux of the problem." (David Nissman)