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Iraq Report: August 6, 1999

6 August 1999, Volume 2, Number 29

'POPULAR SUMMIT' ENDS IN BAGHDAD. A "popular" summit organized by the Iraqi authorities convened in Baghdad on 28 July under the slogan "The Popular Forces' Unity And Escalation of Struggle Are The True Path Toward Defeating The Imperialistic-Zionistic Aggression Against The Arab Nation." The keynote speech was delivered by Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, who attended the conference on the behalf of President Saddam Husseyn.

Ramadan argued that "the offensive of international imperialism and Zionism is getting stronger, the U.S. hegemonic trend is escalating, and the arrogance of tyrannical power is increasing." One of the consequences of this, he said, is that "the need for Arab unity has surfaced as an extremely vital requirement because there is no place for the weak and the small." He suggested further that the participants support the January 1999 initiative of Saddam Husseyn, when the Iraqi leader "proposed setting up an institutionalized grouping based on agreed upon charters and systems" in order to forge "serious cooperation in the economic, political and military fields." The basis for this grouping is Saddam's current line that "the Arab nation is one nation."

The reason for the formation of such a grouping, now, Ramadan continued, is "the failure of the Arab governments to shoulder their pan-Arab and historical responsibilities in accordance with the Arab League Charter and the Joint Arab Defense Pact."

The Iraqi vice president contended that the Zionists should leave Palestine to the Palestinians, and pointed out that "the presence of foreign forces in the Arab Gulf poses a threat to Arab regional security."

Participants included delegations from Egypt, Libya, Palestine and Yemen. At the conclusion of the conference, INA reported on 31 July, the Jordanian Layth Shubaylat assured Ramadan that Husseyn's "steadfastness" and "wise leadership" are the key to "thwarting U.S.-Zionist-British ploys and attacks." (David Nissman)

QUSAYY TO BE SADDAM'S DEPUTY IN 'EMERGENCIES.' "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" reports on 3 August that according to "informed Iraqi sources in Amman," Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn has issued a decree authorizing his son, Qusayy Saddam Husseyn, to perform presidential duties in case of an eventuality which would affect the president. The elevation of Qusayy is part of a process involving his receiving increasing responsibilities over the last several months (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 May 1999)

These same sources say, the paper reported, that the presidential decree includes the formation of a "decision-making committee" with which Qusayy is to confer under such circumstances. The committee includes all the Iraqi president's deputies: Revolution Command Council chairman 'Izzat Ibrahim Al-Duri; Vice Presidents Taha Yasin Ramadan and Taha Muhyi-Al-Din Ma'ruf; deputy prime ministers Tariq 'Aziz, Muhammad Hamza Al-Zubaydi and Hikmat Mizban Al-'Azzawi; as well as the defense and interior ministers and chiefs of intelligence and security.

An official Iraqi source in Amman confirmed the decree but denied that it is a step through which the president is preparing his son to succeed him. The ruling Ba'th Party had previously nominated Qusayy for the post of deputy chairman of the State Council. (David Nissman)

IRAQ MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF KUWAIT INVASION. The Baghdad press marked the ninth anniversary of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in an expected, if surreal, way. A Reuters report of 2 August noted that "state-run newspapers carried front page editorials hitting out at the rulers of Kuwait, blaming them for Iraq's occupation of the oil-rich state."

"Babil" newspaper, which is run by Uday Saddam Husseyn, said "there was no other option for Iraq but to send troops into Kuwait to repulse "plots and aggression" by both the United States and Kuwait. At the time of the invasion, Iraqi media suggested, Kuwait was deliberately overproducing oil to make prices fall and lower Iraq's income at a time when the country was trying to rebuild after the eight-year war with Iran.

Reuters noted that this year's official comments stopped short of declaring Kuwait part of Iraq, a regular feature of earlier commentary. In 1994, in part of the efforts to get the sanctions lifted, Iraq recognized Kuwait as an independent state within the borders demarcated by a UN commission.

But the border issue continues to fester. According to the 2 August Iraq List, international media have failed to appreciate just how complicated that issue remains. The Iraq List says that the borders dictated by the UN "at gunpoint" in 1994 are "a time bomb because no Iraqi government will ever seriously accept this "act of aggression" against Iraq. And this source adds that the borders were demarcated upon the declaration of independence of Kuwait in 1961 at which time it became the officially recognized border between both countries for decades. Then came the invasion "and the subsequent mindless UN decision to expand Kuwaiti territory into Iraqi territory." (David Nissman)

INDIA, IRAQ INCREASE COOPERATION. An Indian delegation in Baghdad led by Indian Oil Minister Vazhapadi K. Ramamurthy met with a number of high Iraqi officials to discuss various facets of their developing economic cooperation. The occasion was the 13th Session of the Iraqi-Indian Joint Committee for Economic, Trade and Scientific Cooperation.

Reuters on 28 July quoted Ramamurthy as saying that "our leaders have strongly expressed deep concern over breaching Ira's security and territorial integrity and the continuing use of force against Iraq." He added during trade and oil talks with Iraq's Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid that "we also believe the sanctions regime should be ended and fresh arrangements developed to facilitate Iraq's assumption of its rightful place in regional and world affairs."

Rashid replied that Iraq will give precedence to its friends in future economic and trade cooperation, INA reaported on 28 July. Ramamurthy noted that the present committee meeting in Baghdad are a continuation of what was agreed upon between the two sides in New Delhi last year. He stressed that cooperation in the areas of oil, commerce, transportation, communications and scholarships "considerably" expanded during the stage that followed the previous session. The delegation was also received by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan.

At the conclusion of the meetings, the Indian side announced that it will extend a $25 million loan to Iraq, a move that AP noted "violates UN trade sanctions." Ramamurthy himself acknowledged that the grant would violate the sanctions, but he added that his country would never allow a friend like Iraq to suffer.

The next day the Indian Foreign Ministry said the report on Ramamurthy's statement was incorrect. Dow Jones International News on 30 July said that India agreed to the loan "subject to the prior approval of the loans committee." It added that the loan agreement "is no different from similar agreements signed by several other countries." UN ambassadors from Great Britain and the United States have said they would seek clarification from India regarding the proposed loan and sale. U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Peter Burleigh said that "it would be very surprising if any government, especially the Indian government, were to consciously and publicly violate those sanctions."

The money involved was to be used to buy 1,000 Indian buses. Ramamurthy also said that India was close to a deal to develop an oil field in Iraq and another to prospect for crude in the western desert. That credit line of $25 million is to be used to buy wheat, medical equipment and tea, according to a spokesman from India's Ministry of External affairs quoted in "The Asian Age" on 31 July The spokesman denied that the supplying of 1,000 buses was part of the credit agreement.

An Indian joint venture of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Reliance Petroleum has been negotiating to develop the southern Tuba oil field with estimated reserves of up to three billion barrels.

Ramamurthy also said that Indian oil firms are interested in helping Iraq upgrade the North Rumeilah oil field, which currently provides up to 1.3 million barrels per day of Iraq's average daily output of 2.7 million barrels per day. Rumeilah's reserves are estimated at 22 billion barrels.

And still other Indian-Iraqi deals now being reported include Iraq's agreement to buy 6,500 tons of Indian tea in addition to 100,000 tons of wheat. India also pledged to help Iraq ease the power shortages by sending Indian engineers and technicians to increase Iraq's power-generating capacity. Ramamurthy predicted that "Iraq is to become our major trading partner" in the future.

Iraq's Ambassador to India Salah Al-Mukhtar said that Iraq expects India to emerge as one of its biggest trade partners once the UN embargo is lifted, Reuters reported on 31 July. Iraq is also expected to give India favorable treatment to Indian companies in the hydrocarbons, telecommunications and railroad sectors. (David Nissman)

IRAQ TO INCREASE OIL PRODUCTION. According to Faleh Hassan Marhun, chief of the Planning Department of Iraq's Ministry of Oil, Iraq plans to raise oil production by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) up to 2.8 million. This increase is part of a plan to raise production to 3 million bpd by the end of the year, and 3.5 million bpd by the end of next year, AFP reported on 1 August. Iraq is expected to achieve this without waiting for the delivery of spare parts for its oil industry.

In other comments, Marhun accused the U.S. and British representatives on the UN Sanctions Committee of deliberately blocking the delivery of spare parts for Iraq's oil industry. Much of the equipment now in use is obsolescent or dilapidated.

The UN estimates total current Iraqi oil production at 2.7 million bpd, of which between 2.1 and 2.3 million bpd are exported under the oil-for-food program. Although Iraq sold only 3.9 million bpd in the last six-month period, which ended in May, the increase in oil prices in the recent period as well as the planned increase in production is expected to break through the six-month export ceiling, according to Benon Sevan, who is in charge on implementing the oil-for-food program for the UN. (David Nissman)

CONTROVERSY OVER ILISU DAM GOES ON. Great Britain's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has abandoned its support for the construction of the Ilisu Dam in southeastern Anatolia, according to an article in the 2 August "Guardian." The next day, however, the "Turkish Daily News" said that a spokesman for DTI had responded that "the article in the Guardian was pure speculation and did not bear any truth."

The Ilisu Dam is part of Turkey's massive Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP). The dam will allow Turkey to control the flow of the Tigris River (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 July 1999) and will involve some dislocation of the inhabitants of the region in which it is to be built. Its purpose is to generate hydroelectric power for the impoverished, mostly Kurdish-populated region. (David Nissman)

MILITARY DISSENT SURFACES AGAIN IN IRAQ. "Al-Hayat" reports on 30 July that "reliable Iraqi sources" in Amman confirm that a "military rebellion" has taken place in the 5th Brigade at its headquarters in Ba'qubah, Diyala Province, 60 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. Sources say that the rebellion began when Saddam Husseyn's youngest son, Qusayy, went to the headquarters to arrest and interrogate officers of the brigade with alleged links with Islamist organizations.

The clash began early on 23 July when Special Security groups and units of the brigade exchanged fire following the arrest of Lieutenant Colonel Ma'zal Khalil Al-Taha. During the confrontation a number were killed and wounded on both sides. Most of the brigade's officers were ultimately arrested in the investigation of a secret Islamist organization that is said to be active among them and headed by Lieutenant Colonel Al-Taha.

Meanwhile, according to the London-based Arabic newpaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 30 July, a responsible source in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has said that the southern city of Al-Rumaythah is "surrounded by Iraqi forces" which have cut off the water and electrical supplies and have arrested more than 500 people.

Bayan Jabr, the SCIRI representative in London, added that the city has been placed under the orders of a military commander and that elements of the Army's 11th Division have been surrounding the city for a month.

SCIRI issued a statement in which the "residents of Rumaythah urge all Iraqis living in international capitals to stage marches and protests to break the siege of Rumaythah." (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN GUERRILLAS ATTACK KDP UNITS. The Patriotic Revolutionary Organization of Bet Nahrain (PROB), an Assyrian organization purportedly based in Northern Iraq, carried out two military attacks to avenge the death of the Assyrian woman murdered recently, Helene Sawa (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 June and 2 and 9 July 1999). A PROB spokesperson cited in the 2 August "Zenda" said that "each attack on our Assyrian-Suryoyo people will be paid back. This is the motto of our Patriotic Revolutionary Organization of Bet Nahrain."

The first such attack was carried out on 17 July by the April 24 unit of PROB near the city of Kasre against a KDP encampment. According to this unconfirmed report, 39 KDP supporters were killed and 20 wounded.

Three days later the same unit carried out another attack when a KDP army truck when PROB blew up a bridge between Kasre and Hajji 'Umran.

The Kurdish Regional Government, which is under the control of the KDP, has been accused of footdragging in the investigation of the murder of Helene Sawa. Some have suggested that a senior KDP official is implicated in the murder. (David Nissman)

IRAQI KURDISTAN CONFRONTS WATER PROBLEMS. Iraqi Kurdistan suffers from two types of water problems: too much and too little. An article in the Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Khabat" on 30 July discussed the plans to solve this problem by diverting the course of the Zab River.

The main course of the Zab River was diverted by the torrential rains and resultant flooding during the 1997-1998 season. This shift in its course contributedc transportation problems. The director of dams and irrigation in Arbil and the country's Floods Committee have now decided to change the course again.

But as this region attempts to cope with too much water, other Iraqi regions are struggling with a shortage. The director of Arbil Water and Canals told "Brayati," a Sorani Kurdish newspaper in Arbil on 22 July, that a water pipe 1,000 meters long will be built within the town of Salah Al-Din. This will link the Sari Blind water project with the town's water network and provide the required amount of electricity for the wells. (David Nissman)

KURDISH SATELLITE TV BACK ON AIR. Kurdish Medya TV, closed down by British authorities a few months ago, is now back on the air, this time from Paris, according to a press release from the station. It began broadcasting on 31 July. One Kurdish observer commented that "the closure of MED-TV a short while after the kidnapping of Ocalan was considered as a victory by the Turks, but now the Kurds feel the taste of victory over Turkey and its allies."

In March, Faruk Logoglu, a deputy undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, told reports that Turkey had approached England, Germany, and Belgium to demand they close down what it claimed were PKK-financed organizations, including MED-TV (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 March and 2 April 1999). Officials at MED-TV denied the allegation, but were unable to avert the closing of the television station. (David Nissman)

NORWAY DISCUSSES RETURNING KURDS TO IRAQ. Norway, faced with an influx of thousands of Kurds seeking asylum, is considering sending them to Iraqi Kurdistan, Norway's NTB agency reported on 28 July. Atle Hamar, the head of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, said the idea was being discussed but that no decision had been reached.

Hamar added that the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees had said the region was safe for Kurds. According to NTB, out of the 4,400 asylum seekers who had arrived in Norway in the first six months of the year, half were Kurds--mainly from Iraqi Kurdistan.

On 6 July, IRNA reported that there had been a broadcast from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in which the KDP's political office asked Iraqi Kurds living in exile to return and settle in KDP-controlled areas of northern Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 July 1999). The KDP said that it would guarantee the safety on Kurds on their territory regardless of past political affiliation. (David Nissman)