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Iraq Report: July 2, 1999

2 July 1999, Volume 2, Number 24

AZIZ ON THE OPPOSITION, U.S. POLICY. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was interviewed on Al-Jazira Satellite Television (Qatar) on 28 June. The interview covered a multitude of topics, including the Anglo-Dutch draft resolution presented to the UN Security Council, the opposition, U.S. policy toward Iraq and the opposition, and the Kurds.

The interviewer noted that the Iraqi trade minister told the London-based "Al-Hayah" last week that the Anglo-Dutch resolution represented a change in Great Britain's position. (The resolution calls for the suspension of sanctions for periods of 120 days and renewed weapons inspections). Aziz denied that there has been a change in the British position and added that "the British-Dutch draft is rejected by Iraq, part and parcel." He claimed that the draft was "suspect" and that its purpose was to redraft the UN Security Council resolutions to make them more onerous than previous resolutions, beginning with Resolution 687, and to "shackle Iraq with obligations, conditions, and chains."

Aziz pointed out one example he claimed demonstrates that the draft's purpose is not humanitarian. The draft ties oil investments to UN supervision, a provision Aziz said was not present in Resolution 687. Why was this added? According to Aziz, "because they feel that when the oil sanctions are lifted, Iraq will deal with its natural resources with complete freedom, so they decide to tie it down once again with a chain that did not initially exist in their earlier resolutions."

As far as the suffering of the people is concerned, Aziz said "this is the result of an Iraqi decision to keep Iraq independent; the Iraqi people and leadership are prepared to pay the price of independence."

The interviewer posed a question about the system of governance in Iraq: "Do you attribute the strength of this system to its intrinsic capabilities or to the fact that it killed off all the opposition?"

Answering that part of the question about destroying the opposition, Aziz said that "the tendentious people who serve U.S. propaganda are the ones who promote such claims." He denies that the regime carried out repressions. The interviewer then asked, "If the regime were not a repressive one, then how can you explain that tens, hundreds, and thousands have fled Iraq since 1979?" Aziz stated that the government had asked no one to leave Iraq.

The interviewer went on to point out that Iraq is still a one-party state. Aziz answered the Ba'th Party does not believe in the one-party regime, adding that there are several other parties in Iraq that have not been expelled. (He did not mention that all other parties must subordinate themselves to the Ba'th Party.) Aziz also said that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was represented in the government, but "as we know, [it] allied itself with Iran and the United States" and carried out a military revolt. "Consequently, it became outside the political regime in Iraq."

With regard to the U.S., Aziz stressed that "the genuine concern of the United States in the region is to control the region, control its wealth, control its resources, and secure Israel's supremacy over the Arab nation and the Arab homeland.... The slogans about democracy and human rights are only excuses that the United States is using as propaganda material to justify its imperialist, hostile and tendentious policy against the Arab nation and Iraq in particular."

Aziz evaded several attempts by the interviewer to question him about human rights. He also complained about Iranian violations of Iraqi sovereignty, especially Iran's firing of three SCUD missiles at a Mojahedin-e Khalq base inside Iraq.

In sum, Aziz used the interview to spell out the Ba'th Party's attitude on a number of subjects and evaded a number of "inconvenient" issues. (David Nissman)

REPARATIONS TO BE PAID TO COMPANIES WITH PROVEN LOSSES CAUSED BY IRAQ. In August, the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) will begin paying reparations to companies and governments that have proven losses caused by Iraq.

The UNCC held a three-day round of talks ending on 24 June. Under a decision taken at that meeting, corporations and governments are for the first time eligible to receive payments. In the past only individuals were eligible to receive payments.

According to a Reuters report of 25 June, the commission is made up of member states of the UN Security Council, which also approves the oil-for-food program. The UNCC receives 30 percent of its funds from the oil-for-food deal with Iraq, or roughly $150 million a month. The commission was set up in 1991 to reimburse damages resulting from Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and its seven-month occupation of the emirate.

To date, it has paid out nearly $3 billion to successful claimants, mostly in the form of $2,500 payments to people who were forced to depart Iraq or Kuwait or who proved losses of up to $100,000.

At the 24 June meeting, the Kuwait Oil Company received $2.2 billion in compensation, while the Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC) was awarded $115 million.

According to a statement by the UNCC, all individual claims will be met by 2002. (David Nissman)

IRAQ STOCKPILING SMALLPOX VIRUS. Iraq has built a "huge strategic deterrence capability" in germ-warfare weapons, according to "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," citing the London-based "Special Bulletin," published by a center headed by former chief of Iraqi military intelligence Wafiq Al-Samarra'i, who defected from Iraq a few years ago

The bulletin said that "the biological project was launched in Iraq in the 1980s, and Iraq has a huge strategic deterrence capability that has not been declared; in fact, it has been shrouded in the utmost secrecy to avert international reactions."

It is thought that on the eve of the Gulf war, the anthrax in Iraq's possession was sufficient to annihilate tens of millions of people. Yet, Iraq did not use it, no doubt because the retaliation would have been overpowering.

The bulletin notes that in 1992 smallpox spread among Iraqi sheep, especially in the central regions where the biological laboratories are located. Hundreds of sheep were destroyed, despite efforts by veterinarians to save them. It is clear that the virus affected sheep, but not humans or other animals. Experts say that the epidemic was associated with programs related to biological research.

Unlike the case with chemical weapons, where there is an international convention with 169 signatories, no such convention related to biological weapons exists. A report from California Polytechnic Institute says that UN inspectors were astonished when they found in Iraq advanced facilities studying anthrax, botulism, brucellosis, tularemia and gas gangrene organisms. In addition, a variety of aerial delivery systems had been developed.

Work with biological weapons is easy to cover up. The report cited above mentions that suspicious substances can be concealed in 30-60 minutes, and the equipment used to produce the substances is considered "dual-use." (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD SETS UP PKK CAMP NEAR MOSUL. The London-based newspaper "Al-Zaman" of 17 June carries an article by Saman Nuh saying that the Iraqi regime has begun to prepare a camp for PKK guerrillas near Mosul. PKK fighters are continuing operations in KDP-controlled border cities and continue to launch attacks on KDP camps from several points controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). These attacks remain a bone of contention between the KDP and PUK.

"Al-Zaman" points out that a residential complex of 400 homes near the Sinjar camp, west of Mosul and near the Syrian border, has begun to be evacuated so that it can be turned into a camp for the PKK. The area is a good staging point for PKK actions, because Syria is to the west, the Kurdish areas to the east, and Turkey to the north. According to "Al-Zaman," the move is considered to be a new link in cooperation between the PKK fighters and the Iraqi authorities.

The PKK presence has worsened the plight of thousands of villagers, who have left the area in order to escape the war and the PKK. For the fifth consecutive year, villagers are unable to use their fields, where they otherwise could secure a good living. Crops, if planted, are damaged before any harvest can get under way.

For years, the PKK attempted to gain a foothold in Iraq, but those efforts were recently frustrated by Turkish operations inside Iraq. An article by the Turkish political scientist Dogu Ergil in the "Kurdistan Observer" of 24 June addresses this point. Ergil says that Turkish operations inside Iraq were facilitated by U.S. consent and eased by the reinforcement of the "no-fly zone" over northern Iraq, as well as cooperation and the alliance with Mas'ud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Syria also had tried to use the PKK as leverage in its conflict with Turkey over water resources. The protection Syria offered the PKK ended when Turkey threatened to invade a few months ago. It appears that Saddam Husseyn is the PKK's last hope. (David Nissman)

KDP, PUK STATEMENTS ON WASHINGTON TALKS. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has issued a statement on the Washington talks between it and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), held under U.S. auspices from 16-25 June. Diplomats from the British and Turkish governments attended the opening and final sessions. No joint statement was released at the conclusion of the talks.

The following six points were on the agenda: an end to negative press statements; the elimination of the PKK presence in northern Iraq; the opening of reciprocal offices in major cities to facilitate political activity and enhance the security environment; the return of internally displaced persons; revenue sharing; the re-establishment of the parliament, joint interim administration, and voter registration.

The agenda was carefully scripted. U.S. mediators presented draft proposals that included the views of negotiators to balance those of the parties involved. After the negotiations, the two parties agreed to compromise versions on each of the six points.

A number of extremely important issues were not resolved, however. A 28 June report by "CIDC Insight" says the two sides could not reach agreement on the parliament to be founded in northern Iraq, the sharing of administrative power, and the sharing of income obtained in border trade.

The reason for the lack of a joint concluding statement was that some new issues were suggested that "went beyond the original objective of the meeting and were outside the approved agenda," according to "CIDC Insight". There has been no indication to date as to what those issues were. An AFP report of 26 June says the KDP blames the PUK for raising those issues.

Meanwhile, the "Turkish Daily News" reported that, after seeming to reaching an agreement acceptable to both sides, the PUK delegation decided to consult its leadership and then presented a new document demanding revenue sharing and 50-50 powersharing as well as a joint security force for Erbil. As a result, U.S. officials were angry, the KDP frustrated, and PUK officials were visibly upset at having to present a new document after both sides had hammered out an agreement. The KDP refused to accept the PUK offer. According to the "Turkish Daily News," until these points can be ironed out an interim assembly and interim government cannot be set up, nor can elections be held.

The PUK statement on the talks, issued on 26 June, roughly said the same as the KDP. It emphasized the need "to pursue the normalization of the political and security environment of Iraqi Kurdistan and the establishment of a unified joint administration tasked with preparing for new elections." It also expressed the hope that these issues would be addressed "forthtightly" at further meeting of the Higher Coordination Committee. Finally, the statement adds that the resolution of these issues is "a prerequisite for moving beyond the status quo."

Above all, the KDP and PUK agreed to resume the work and periodical meetings of the Higher Coordination Committee and to continue discussions to address all other issues arising from the Washington agreement.

Other questions were also broached during the talks. According to an article by Harun Kazaz in the "Turkish Daily News" of 24 June, both sides attended a meeting of the U.S. National Security Council. Among the issues discussed were Iraqi opposition activities in general and the Kurdish role in particular. Also under debate were the importance of Turkey and its relevance to the peace process. (David Nissman)

UNIFIED IRAQI GROUPING EXPRESSES "RESERVATIONS" ABOUT U.S. POLICY. The London meeting of the Unified Iraqi Grouping has ended its symposium. According to "Al-Zaman" of 25 June, representatives of Islamic, Kurdish, and leftist groups as well as a number of independent oppositionists concluded the meeting by expressing "reservations about the U.S. initiative aimed at uniting the Iraqi opposition movement" and cast doubt on the seriousness of Washington's intentions to bring about the desired change in Iraq and about Washington becoming an authority to which the opposition must refer. At the same time, they ruled out the formation of an axis opposing the Washington initiative.

One of the speakers at the symposium, Dr. Muhammad Bahr-al-'Ulum, a leading independent, opened the symposium by noting that the U.S. fails to state how the desired change will be brought about and what will follow such a change. He added that "cooperation is acceptable with any quarter except the Zionist entity."

He was followed by Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, described as a prominent figure in the Islamic Call Party, who urged the opposition to be wary of "questionable projects" and to distinguish between change aimed at rescuing the Iraqi people and change based on certain interests. He also was in favor of cooperation, even with Washington.

Dr. Akram al-Hakim, the Iraqi representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, succeeded him at the podium. He claimed that U.S. policy is based on a double-standard. It sponsors a safe haven in the north of the country, yet nothing similar exists with regard to the central and southern parts of the country. He also maintained that the U.S. insists on a palace coup with the aim of preserving the "regime's instruments of repression, and it wants to get rid of the regime while it preserves the regime's corrupt hierarchy".

Dr. Subhi al-Jumayli, representative of the Iraq Communist Party, expressed doubt that the involvement of the United States in deciding Iraq's future is a sound approach. Instead, he felt the opposition had a better chance of finding unity if it left the issue in the hands of its own forces and figures. He felt that the current lack of unity has only enabled international powers to interfere in Iraq's affairs. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN COMMUNITIES ENRAGED ABOUT SAWA MURDER. The murder of 21-year-old Assyrian Helena Sawa, the discovery of her body half-buried near the Dohuk dam in the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the suspicion that the perpetrator may have been a high-ranking Kurdish official (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," vol. 2 no. 23) has enraged the international Assyrian community.

One of the letters in their current letter-writing campaign cites Article 2 of the International Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which says that "everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

A number of atrocities are detailed, and the letter adds that "these atrocities have the effect of galvanizing the Assyrian community in the Diaspora to seek international recognition of a safe haven as a necessity for Assyrian survival in Iraq."

The above letter was released by the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO Section Europe). A similar letter is being distributed in the United States and Canada.

What triggered Assyrian outrage is not only the fact that murder is the ultimate violation of human rights, but also the ambiguous response of the Mission of Iraqi Kurds in Germany. On 21 June, the mission allegedly issued a statement specifying what steps the Kurdistan Regional Government is taking to bring the murderer to justice. The next day, another message was released by Dilshad Barzani, the head of the mission, repudiating the 21 June statement, and claiming that "the statement is a manipulation." While the Barzani statement may be innocent, it has all the appearance of a cover-up.

It should be noted that the Assyrians are not the only minority to demand a safe haven on the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turkomans have requested the same. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN PATRIOTIC PARTY MEETS WITH IRAQI NATIONAL ACCORD LEADERSHIP. A press release appearing in "Zenda" on 28 June announced that a delegation from the Assyrian Patriotic Party has met in an unnamed Arab country with the leadership of the Iraqi National Accord, represented by its secretary-general, Dr. Ayad A'lawi, and others. During the meeting, matters concerning Iraqi opposition parties were discussed, in particular the efforts to revive the Iraqi National Congress (INC) so that it can lead the Iraqi opposition toward the liberation of Iraq from tyranny.

Both sides expressed their regret at the Assyrian absence from the Executive Council and emphasized the need for Assyrian representation. They identified the steps necessary to achieve this, especially the need for Assyrian political parties to adopt a front action in order to elect an Assyrian as their representative to the INC. (David Nissman)