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Iraq Report: July 23, 1999

23 July 1999, Volume 2, Number 27

U.S. EXTENDS NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH IRAQ. On 20 July President Clinton extended the national emergency with Iraq initiated by President Bush as Executive Order 12722 on 2 August 1990. The stated purpose of both the original order and its extention is "to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of the Government of Iraq." The original executive order imposed trade sanctions on Baghdad as well as blocking Iraqi government assets abroad. (David Nissman)

ARE IRAQ WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION "DORMANT?" In a July 15 article in "The Washington Post" entitled "Baghdad Weapons Programs Dormant: Iraq's Inactivity Puzzles US Officials," reporter Karen DeYoung suggests that that "in the seven months since the UN weapons inspectors left Iraq, the U.S. has seen no indication that Baghdad has resumed its chemical and biological weapons programs, according to administration officials."

But only the day before, Jerusalem Channel 2 carried a different story. According to investigative reporters Roni Daniyel and Qobi Marenko, "senior Israeli sources told us: Ever since the investigation was discontinued, an accelerated buildup process as well as a concentrated effort to expand Iraqi nonconventional capabilities has been taking place in Iraq. All this has been happening while the West has been unable to supervise or prevent it."

The DeYoung article does quote an UNSCOM official to the effect that "we continue to hear things, but nothing you can take to the bank." But other reportage lends weight to the Israeli report.

In October 1998, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report specifying biological and chemical warfare UNSCOM inspectors were trying to find. These included some 17 tons of growth media for the production of biological weapons, 4,000 tons of chemical warfare precursors, 750 tons of VX precursors, 100 Al-Husseyn missiles, 31,000 chemical warfare munitions, and 20 R-17 Scud-B type missiles. Even though this is only a partial listing, launching all or part of it against a neighbor would inflict serious damage. The SIPRI report stresses that Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn's actual stocks of such weapons are probably larger than the list suggests.

The SIPRI report concedes that the scope of Iraq's current biological weapons capability is unknown. It adds that some observers have suggested that Iraq may have produced up to ten billion doses of anthrax, botulinum, and aflatoxin. If information collected following the 1995 defection of General Husseyn Al-Kamal is to be believed, the preceding figures all may be too low.

Iraq's unconventional war capability is at the heart of Iraqi national security calculations and planning. For Saddam Husseyn, this WMD arsenal enhances his personal power as well as his country's sovereignty and thus any concessions he might make to the international community would weaken both.

Other, admittedly anecdotal evidence suggests that Baghdad is continuing its efforts for biological, chemical, and nuclear capabilities. "Al-Hayat" reported on 1 April that opposition sources had warned of a "large-scale operation" aimed at building up a "germ warfare" arsenal for Saddam. According to this report, the Husseyn regime is using Serbian specialists for this purpose. The paper reports further that trade and military relations between Iraq and Serbia began in 1997 with the assignment of Lt.-General Mahmud Al-Muzzafar as "scientific counselor" at the Iraqi Embassy in Belgrade.

And there are reports that Iraq has at least attempted to acquire biological and chemical warfare manufacturing equipment from South Africa. A report by the London-based "Foreign Report" newsletter reported on 2 April about two Iraqi agents, one a businessman from the local pharmaceutical industry, the other a microbiologist "were to have operated in South Africa as middlemen to purchase equipment which could have peaceful applications, but which were, in fact, intended to form the components for Iraqi biological weapons." The whole operation was known as "operation Samsam." The plan was allegedly foiled, but it does serve as an indication of Iraqi intentions.

On 2 June, the "Economist's" "Foreign Report" published a terse, unattributed item suggesting that Iraqi representatives abroad have been ordered to accelerate their purchases of equipment for making nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. "Foreign Report" maintains that if this report is true, then Iraq could resume its chemical and biological weapons program in nine months, and its nuclear program in eighteen months.

A study issued by the California Polytechnic Institute noted that work on biological weapons is notoriously easy to conceal. Suspicious substances can be concealed in 30-60 minutes, and the equipment used to produce them can be considered to be "dual use." And the fact that this is so is one of the reasons that Israeli suspicions continue even if other governments seem less concerned. (David Nissman)

LITTLE NEW IN SADDAM'S NATIONAL DAY SPEECH. Saddam Husseyn's National Day speech on 17 July marked the 31st anniversary of his and the Ba'th Party's ascent to power. Almost mystical in form, his remarks provided few clues as to any new direction in Baghdad's policies.

Saddam emphasized Iraq's role as the homeland of prophets of the past, the continuing of the Ba'th Party, the need to combat Israeli rule over the Palestinians, and the negative situation produced by U.S. hegemony over the oil business.

And he stressed that the 1968 revolution led by the Ba'th Party represented a logical outgrowth of Iraq's role as a land of prophets, claiming that "through this revolution, God bless this nation once again after the era of prophecy and human messages to his prophets had ended."

Saddam did make a clear distinction between Arabs throughout the world and the Arabs of Iraq. This difference is significant given Saddam's enumeration of Iraq's primary enemies. The Iraqi leader pointed out that the Iraqi people "have resisted and still resist the frustrated attempts of Zionism and the tyrants of this age, the successive U.S. administrations, which are now using U.S. capabilities -- technology, economics, and science -- on behalf of Zionism, which have grudges against the Arabs and Muslims in general, as well as against humanity at large, through the Zionist-leaning Jewish administrations." Having delivered his enemies list, he returned to the prophets, stressing that "God Almighty chose the prophets on the land of the Arabs as revolutionaries."

With regard to Israel, his statement is categorical if not new: "Palestine is Arab, and Zionism must leave it." With regard to the peace process, he explains that "any call for the so-called peace will give an opportunity to the Zionist not only to gain more time to occupy the remainder of Palestine, but also to create splits among the Arab rulers themselves and, more seriously, between the rulers and the people."

He emphasized that "what is called dictatorship in Iraq by those who are constantly being whipped by Western and Zionist media and diplomacy -- this dictatorship is calling for respecting dialogue and the opinion of others."

Saddam did not fail to express his opinion about oil: "The United States and its partners in imperialist ambitions from the countries of the West have resumed their policy of controlling oil from its source until it is loaded and sold on the international markets. The United States determines the price of oil by controlling the balance of supply and meeting demand from the reserves it provides at cheap prices..." Along with this, it has stripped oil owners, especially in the Arabian Gulf, of any chance of capitalizing on oil's political and strategic value that would strengthen the owners' position. Finally, Saddam Husseyn says, "the concerned Arab and even the non-Arab rulers have become nothing but casual night watchmen of oil."

He stressed that this is a situation which must be discussed, but "not by all members of OPEC, which has been penetrated by foreign ploys."

Inter-Arab cooperation has been one of Saddam's perennial themes. He underscored the economic and social ties between the Arabs. These ties, he said, "will interconnect to form a protective material of the Arab tent, protecting good people from the wrath of time." This "tent" should counteract the efforts of U.S. administrations which are "stifling the free flow of goods and commodities as well as services and personnel from reaching its domains."

At the end of his speech, Saddam again returned to the prophets by stressing that "our nation is not a cradle of civilizations and one with a human role only, it is also a nation of prophets and messengers who were sent in its territory. God selected our nation as a cradle and a historical depth for the prophets' role and an arena for their struggle and Jihad." (David Nissman)

HOW CREDIBLE IS THE IRAQI OPPOSITION? The Iraq National Congress (INC), according to one group leader quoted by the London-based newspaper "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" on 19 July, has "become a 'laughing stock' or a mere 'American joke.'" The newspaper maintains that most observers "still believe that the Iraqi opposition lacks any real organization or political credibility, even the Americans themselves."

One of the problems was succinctly stated to "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" by Dr Hamid Al-Bayyati, representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who said that SCIRI has reservations about a scheduled meeting of the INC, regardless of venue, because of what he described "U.S. interference in the Iraqi opposition's affairs." He added that there is no serious will to protect the Iraqi people inside the country from the regime's attacks.

A joint statement issued on 17 July by the INC and the Democratic Center Tendency (DCT) announced the formation of a committee to select a unified command and to invite representatives of all Iraqi political forces without exception. But as of 19 July, there had still been no contacts with SCIRI, one of the strongest opposition movements inside Iraq, with regard to this meeting.

A Kurdish source itemized the differences in the opposition: the insistence of Chalabi, the former leader of the INC, and his supporters on holding a meeting in Washington is rejected by others because it would be tantamount to "an official declaration of U.S. hegemony on a post-Saddam Iraq;" differences over the proportional representation of Iraqi political forces after the decision to increase the INC's base by including new figures -- Islamists have cast doubts on the legitimacy of the opposition delegation that visited Washington last month because it did not include any Shi'ites, who make up 40 percent of Iraq's population; the absence of any organizational structure for monitoring finance and expenditures, especially since the U.S. side alone decides on financial and administrative matters; and perhaps most importantly, the absence of an Iraqi figure to lead the Iraqi opposition groups and has the approval of the U.S. side. Also noted was the impracticality of the "collective leadership." The source noted that "such a leadership is usually torn by differences that render it ineffective, as has been the case since the appointment of the INC's present leadership."

A few days before this in Damascus, "Al-Hayat" reported that the Committee for Coordination of National and Democratic Action in Iraq announced a plan to "bring down the fascist regime" in Baghdad. The plan is based on a "national front" that will unite the nationalist, Islamic, Kurdish and democratic tendencies. It rejected that U.S. plan "because it strengthens the hand of Saddam Husseyn."

The keynote speech at the meeting was delivered by Mahdi Al-'Ubaydi, who presented the "Coordination Committee's plan." This plan contains five points: first, to overthrow the fascist regime in Iraq and set up a nationalist alternative which would represent the pan-Arab, Islamic, democratic, and Kurdish tendencies. Second, to preserve Iraq's unity as a land, a people, and a sovereign state. Third, to hold free democratic elections, set up constitutional institutions that give expression to the interests of the people, and draw up a constitution for the country. Fourth, to recognize the legitimate rights of the Kurdish people within the national boundaries. And fifth, to acknowledge that setting up a nationalist regime in Iraq "will require rallying of troops and greater efforts to bring about the desired outcome, which can be only achieved through an Iraqi national decision without any foreign intervention."

But in all of this, the anti-Ba'th and anti-Saddam Husseyn movements that have appeared within Iraq, such as the Secret Army and the Vanguards, have no apparent voice in these emigre opposition activities. (David Nissman)

QUSAYY PROFILED. On 17 July "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, featured a profile of Qusayy Saddam Husseyn, naming him as the "likely successor to his father."

According to the article, Qusayy has been groomed for that post following his graduation from the School of Law and Political Science at Baghdad University in 1988.

His first public act took place when he was thirteen years old. He was a member of an execution team together with his father and his brother Udayy. According to "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," the executed men were cabinet ministers and senior Ba'th Party officials who objected to the appointment of Saddam Husseyn as president in the summer of 1979. Allegedly, Saddam Husseyn told his two sons on that day: "Shoot. If you are not members of the execution squad, you will be members of those who are executed."

Qusayy is two years younger than his brother Udayy. He is now considered "more ruthless and more ambitious than his elder brother, Udayy, who was fond of the spotlight and the media." To indicate the sharp differences between the two brothers, Udayy was appointed the chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the chairman of the Iraqi Journalists' Association. On the other hand, Qusayy is in charge of all the Iraqi civil and military security services, including the Department of Intelligence, the Military Intelligence Service, and the Emergency Forces. He has also been named secretary-general for National Security in Iraq.

An article in "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 2 May predicted that Qusayy would be named vice chairman of the State Council in the second half of this year. He will assume the new position after the convening of the Ba'th Party conference this month (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 May 1999). (David Nissman)

CORRECTION: IRAQ FOUNDATION NOT INVESTIGATING ANTI-ASSYRIAN ACTIONS. The Iraq Foundation informs that it is not investigating anti-Assyrian actions as reported in last week's "RFE/RL Iraq Report." The foundation "has neither the physical capacity nor the authority to investigate these occurrences. Our report aimed to put these unhappy incidents on the record and to provide information on the status of any ongoing investigation that may be taking place in Kurdistan, particularly with regard to the incidents of December 1998 and May 1999. To that end, we contacted representatives of the KDP and the KRG in Washington for information." (David Nissman)