21 April 2003, Volume 6, Number 17
KHATAMI REJECTS REFERENDUM ON RELATIONS WITH U.S. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said during a 16 April press conference that the idea of holding a referendum on foreign relation issues is irrelevant, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and dpa reported. "Holding a referendum on foreign policy has no meaning as the expedience of a country must be first evaluated and then decided upon," he said, according to the German news agency. "Any decision we take must be acceptable to the nation and we should let them know our decisions," the official Iranian news agency reported.
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani had said in a recently published journal article that the resumption of U.S.-Iranian relations could be put to a referendum pending the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and parliament (see below).
Khatami went on to say during the 16 April press conference that the U.S. has behaved badly towards Iran in the past but a new chapter in the relationship could be opened if Tehran believes the U.S. has changed its attitude. Khatami said this would benefit both countries.
Khatami criticized recent U.S. statements about Iran and Syria, IRNA reported. "We reject the U.S. charges against ourselves as they have no documented proof to verify their claims... [agency's ellipsis] and I believe this is the position of Syria, as well," he said. He advised the U.S. to cease making such statements. According to IRNA, Khatami was referring to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's 14 April statements about Syria.
U.S. officials have spoken about Iran recently, too. In a 13 April discussion with reporters, Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed concern about Russian arms sales to Iran, according to the State Department website (http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/arms/stories/01041661.htm).
Moreover, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton said on 5 April that after Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are the closest to acquiring nuclear weapons, and the U.S. intends to persuade countries like Iran, Libya, and Syria to give up their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and long-range delivery systems, according to the State Department website. Bolton expressed the hope that "the elimination of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would be important lessons to other countries in the region, particularly Syria, Libya, and Iran, that the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high." (Bill Samii)
EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL CHAIRMAN CRITICIZES COALITION. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani told a 14 April seminar on the role of soldiers that the U.S. and United Kingdom seek anarchy and intend to destroy the Iraqi nation, state television reported. Statements touting the defense of the Iraqi people and establishment of democracy are just ploys, he said, and he blamed looting and anarchy on the presence of coalition forces.
Such statements from Rafsanjani are not altogether surprising, since they came just days after Supreme Leader Ayatollah's very negative sermons about events in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 April). Nevertheless, in a journal article that came out around the same time, Rafsanjani hinted that the resumption of ties with the U.S. could be considered.
Rafsanjani said the resumption of U.S.-Iran relations could be put to a referendum pending the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and parliament, IRNA reported on 12 April, citing the most recent issue of the "Rahbord" quarterly journal. The subject also could be referred to the Expediency Council, the decision of which must be approved by the supreme leader, Rafsanjani said. He added that the Expediency Council could study Iran-Egypt relations, which have been strained since the early 1980s.
Rafsanjani indicated that the foreign-policy apparatus has made costly mistakes. "We should not be biased. We have lost many opportunities in the past, we have made inappropriate measures or never made any measure, and we have also delayed in making decisions," he said. Rafsanjani added in his remarks that the Foreign Ministry and other state institutions do not need to refer to the supreme leader regarding important issues because he will step in whenever he deems it necessary. (Bill Samii)
IRAN DOES NOT WANT U.S. TO CONSIDER IT AN ENEMY. An Iranian Foreign Ministry official's comments appear to put Rafsanjani's seemingly contradictory comments in context. Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh said during a 14 April meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi that Iran does not want the U.S. to regard it as an enemy, Jiji Press reported. Aminzadeh also said that Iran does not intend to develop weapons of mass destruction and it welcomes the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. Kawaguchi said that she would relay Tehran's concerns to Washington. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN REJECTS NON-IRAQI ADMINISTRATION. President Khatami said during a 16 April press conference that Tehran would not accept a non-Iraqi administration running Iraq, dpa reported. Khatami expressed the hope that the United States would exit Iraq as soon as possible and would let the Iraqi people decide their own fate under UN auspices.
An Iranian state radio analyst identified as "Mr. Kheradmand" said on 16 April that a military victory in Iraq was far easier for the U.S. than restoring peace will be. Kheradmand said that the Iraqi people have sent a message that they "will not accept the presence of the occupying forces [and] they will not accept a puppet government whose members are selected by the American military officers." In a reference to General Jay Garner of the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, who is to administer a postwar Iraq, Kheradmand opined that Iraqis would interpret this as "a clear insult against their capabilities and honor." He advised the U.S. and U.K. to make way for free elections in Iraq as soon as possible. (Bill Samii)
U.S. NEGOTIATING WITH MUJAHEDIN KHALQ ORGANIZATION. An anonymous Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official said on 18 April that U.S. officials had been meeting with representatives of the Iraq-based Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) "for the past three days" in the Jalula region, IRNA reported. The MKO, which is an armed Iranian opposition group that is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, wants to be transferred to another country from Iraq.
The MKO's Camp Anzali, which is about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad, is near Jalula. Other MKO facilities are Camp Alavi, about 65 miles northeast of Baghdad, and Camp Ashraf, which is 60 miles north of Baghdad.
The U.S. Central Command's (CENTCOM) deputy director of operations, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, said during a 17 April press briefing in Qatar that the U.S. is trying to arrange a cease-fire with the MKO, Reuters reported. "There's work that's ongoing right now to try to secure some sort of agreement that would be a cease-fire and capitulation," Brooks said. "That work is ongoing and it will most likely unfold within the coming days."
U.S. Defense Department officials said in "The New York Times" on 17 April that American ground forces are trying to pursue and detain MKO members after air raids against MKO bases "which have received scant public attention" (though in the "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 March 2003 and 14 April 2003). An anonymous "senior American military officer" said the U.S. "bombed the heck" out of two MKO bases, including Camp Ashraf.
U.S. officials explained that the MKO was bombed because it is an extension of the Iraqi military and security force for the old regime. "These forces were fully integrated with Saddam Hussein's command and controls and therefore constituted legitimate military targets that posed a threat to coalition forces," an anonymous White House official told "The New York Times." (Bill Samii)
SURVEY: MOST TEHRAN RESIDENTS DISTRUST U.S. GOVERNMENT. According to a poll conducted by the "Iranian Students Opinion Polls Center," 83 percent of Tehran citizens distrust the U.S. government, IRNA reported on 14 April. Eighty-five percent of those polled think of the U.S. as an "invading and colonial country." If the results are credible, the survey contradicts the results of surveys done last year which found that two-thirds of citizens polled in Tehran favored talks with the United States. Those who conducted last year's poll were sentenced to several years in prison for "spying." The latest poll would appear related to recent suggestions by former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani that the issue of ties with the U.S. be reviewed and that perhaps a referendum should be held on the issue. (Steve Fairbanks)
APPEALS COURT REDUCES POLLSTERS' SENTENCES. The Tehran appeals court on 13 April reduced the jail sentences of Ayandeh Research Institute Board of Directors member Abbas Abdi from eight years to four-and-a-half years and Ayandeh Managing Director Hussein Qazian from nine years to four-and-a-half years, IRNA reported. The two were sentenced in February for cooperating with foreign intelligence organizations and propagating against the Islamic Republic, and two days later the court added another year to their sentences. Ayandeh and the National Institute for Research and Opinion Polls had conducted a survey in which the majority of respondents said that they favored the resumption of relations with the U.S. (Bill Samii)
ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION AT BRITISH EMBASSY IN TEHRAN. An unspecified number of Iranian workers gathered in front of the British Embassy in Tehran on 15 April to protest what the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) referred to as "the continued occupation of Iraq." The workers, according to ILNA, "defended the innocent Iraqi nation by chanting 'Death to America' and 'Death to Israel.'" The rally ended after the reading of a resolution condemning British and American aggression. (Bill Samii)
AGHAJARI GETS LEAVE EXTENSION. Saleh Nikbakht, the attorney of political activist and university professor Hashem Aghajari, said on 13 April that the court agreed to extend his client's home leave for another week, IRNA reported. Aghajari had to post bail of 1.2 billion rials (about $150,000) in order to get the home leave. He was sentenced last August to death, an eight-year banishment, a flogging, and a teaching ban, but Supreme Leader Khamenei subsequently ordered the court to review the case. Aghajari had given a speech in Hamedan in June that questioned the clerical hierarchy and other matters of orthodoxy. (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN SATELLITE RECEIVER BAN COULD BE BYPASSED. Behbahan parliamentary representative Valiollah Shojapurian, who serves in the legislature's Cultural Committee, warned on 16 April that Iraq will be producing radio and television programs under U.S. supervision and, "With strengthened transmitters, Iraqi TV programs could be received in Iran with ordinary aerials," the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. "Our country's space will be open to various waves," Shojapurian said. "Iranians will be directly influenced by the ensuing cultural atmosphere." Iranian law forbids private ownership of satellite receiving equipment, and the parliament has not had any success in its efforts to amendment this law. In a possible reference to this law, Shojapurian said, "The limitations imposed by Iranian officials so far will not be effective any longer and the people will be influenced by the cultural atmosphere of the neighboring countries." "We should allow different tastes to exist and emerge in the society," he recommended. (Bill Samii)
SHI'A CLERICS ASSERT CONTROL IN BAGHDAD, NAJAF, KARBALA. Al-Thawrah, a mainly Shi'a neighborhood of Baghdad that until very recently was known as Saddam City, has been renamed Sadr City in honor of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, a leading Shi'a cleric who was executed in 1980 along with his sister, Bint al-Huda. It appears that local clerics who have established security in the neighborhood and are running affairs there look to Al-Najaf for guidance.
This development, according to "The Washington Post" on 14 April, is a sign of the Shi'a clergy's ascendancy in running affairs. Not only are local clerics providing security, enforcing curfews, and ensuring that essential services are available, but a delegate of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani from Al-Najaf has claimed authority over dozens of neighborhood mosques. Several clerics told the newspaper that they refuse to cooperate with the United States and want U.S. forces to leave, and one of them said that meeting with the Americans would undermine his popularity. "We wish from God for an Islamic government," Imams Mosque leader Abdel-Nabi Badeiri said. "We want a clergyman to be president of the state."
Similar sentiments have been expressed by other Shi'a clerics in Baghdad. "We are all against the coalition because they are infidels," said Sheik Abbas al-Zubaidi in Baghdad, "The New York Times" reported on 20 April. "We are demanding an Islamic state." Zubaidi added that in his ideal state, "Televisions are not allowed, dominoes are not allowed, women wearing makeup are not allowed, dubbed foreign films are not allowed.... It will be a state whose laws are written in the Koran," he said. Al-Zubaidi is associated with a charismatic cleric named Muqtada al-Sadr (see below).
Throughout Sadr City there are checkpoints manned by armed young men, some of whom acknowledge that they are looking for Sunni Muslims who, in some cases, are the Arab "volunteers" who came to fight coalition forces, "The Independent" reported on 14 April. But this is not a sectarian issue and the local community includes Sunnis, according to Sheikh Aref Jassim al-Saed of the Al-Sajad Mosque.
Baghdad-based clerics appeared to welcome 13 April instructions from Al-Najaf's Howzeh-yi Elmieh-yi theological school to mosques throughout Iraq that clerics and local leaders should establish neighborhood committees, "The Guardian" reported on 15 April. "God willing, we will manage to establish security in this neighborhood," said Sheikh Saad al-Safar, of Baghdad's Buratha mosque. He said that hospitals, water plants, and electricity substations have been secured, adding, "The next stage is that we want to have central control from Najaf over what's happening in the streets."
Shi'a cleric Abd al-Mahdi Salami has become powerful in Karbala, "The Washington Post" reported on 20 April, and he led the group of clergymen who effectively seized control there in March. Salami described their goal: "We want to make Karbala an example."
Shi'a clerics are running a "self-declared government" in Al-Najaf and Karbala, AP reported on 16 April. The appearance of pilgrims walking to these cities attests to a Shi'a revival, and according to AP the power of the Howzeh-yi Elmieh-yi is second only to that of the U.S. military. Sheikh Abbas al-Ribiai, a cleric who asserts his loyalty to the Howzeh, said that the theological institution would be willing to surrender its power to a freely elected government that is not "under any foreign influence." He also said that his compatriots would not be comfortable with the rule of expatriate Iraqi politicians who want to "introduce Western democratic systems that don't suit us here." (Bill Samii)
CONTINUING RIVALRY IN SHI'A COMMUNITY. The people of Al-Najaf have "spontaneously" ended their siege of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's house, Iranian state radio reported on 13 April. Sheikh Kazem Javaheri, the deputy head of Sistani's office in Qom, said in a 13 April interview with ISNA that the siege started the previous day and al-Sistani was given 48 hours to leave the country. Javaheri said the Sadriyun -- followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the son of Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (killed on 19 February 1999; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 March 1999) -- were behind the siege. Kuwait-based Ayatollah Abolqasem Dibaji referred to them as the Jimaat-i-Sadr-Thani in a 13 April interview with Reuters and said that this group wants to control the holy sites of Al-Najaf.
Al-Khoi Foundation associate Abed al-Budairi told Reuters that Muqtada is immature, opposes Iranian ayatollahs, and wants the Marja-yi Taqlid (top Shi'a source of emulation) to be Iraqi. The Sadriyun also threatened two other Shi'a leaders, Sheikh Ishaq al-Fayyadi and Sheikh Hussein Bashir al-Najafi, and urged cleric Said al-Hakim to declare his loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 13 April.
Muqtada himself said that he hopes to lead Iraq's Shi'a community, "The Washington Post" reported on 20 April.
Ayatollah al-Sistani said, "We consider forces that are allies of foreigners to be responsible for riots in various parts of Iraq, especially Al-Najaf," ISNA reported on 15 April, citing his son, Hojatoleslam val Moslemin Seyyed Muhammad Reza Sistani. Hizballah's Al-Manar television on 15 April reported that al-Sistani's statement "again held the U.S. and British forces responsible for the ongoing chaos in various parts of Iraq and in Al-Najaf city in particular." The ayatollah has declined to meet with anybody until the return of normality, and he called on people to stay calm, to stop the violence and looting, and to "put an end to ethnic and sectarian differences."
As the struggle mounts for leadership of Iraq's Shi'a community, rumors thrive about Al-Khoi Foundation Secretary-General Abd al-Majid al-Khoi's killing on 10 April. The murder has been blamed on remnants of the Ba'athist regime and on the Sadriyun (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 April 2003). "When they stabbed him, thousands of dollars were found on his body hidden under his robe," an Al-Najaf resident told "The New York Times" of 13 April. This seems absurd.
Nevertheless, al-Khoi and the United States had "extensive contacts," according to the 11 April official answer to a question posed at the 10 April State Department press briefing. Al-Khoi played a key role in encouraging Iraqi unity, reconciliation, and tolerance at the December 2002 Iraqi opposition conference in London, the State Department said.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his death, members of al-Khoi's family have vowed to return to Iraq to continue his work, "The Observer" reported on 13 April. (Bill Samii)
POSITIVE RESULTS FOR FIRST POSTWAR OPPOSITION MEETING. Iraqi opposition groups concluded a one-day meeting outside the southern Iraqi town of Al-Nasiriyah on 15 April having agreed to work together with coalition forces to restore order and meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. What should have been a landmark meeting and a demonstration of readiness to move forward with Iraq's reconstruction and democratization was marred somewhat by the absence of the main-Shi'a opposition group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and by a sizable demonstration near the meeting site. The next meeting is scheduled for 25 April.
Several thousand Iraqis gathered in Al-Nasiriyah on 15 April to protest the U.S.-led talks, chanting slogans such as "No to America. No to Saddam," Reuters reported. AFP reported that 20,000 Iraqi Shi'a participated in the protest.
SCIRI participation in the meeting had seemed unlikely for almost a week. SCIRI's London representative, Hamid al-Bayati, said on 9 April that SCIRI would not participate in the meeting because it represents the plan for retired U.S. General Jay Garner's "rule of Iraq." Garner heads the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
SCIRI Jihad bureau chief Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim said on 14 April that SCIRI would boycott the next day's meeting, Reuters reported. "We are not going to attend the Al-Nasiriyah meeting because it is not to the benefit of the Iraqi nation," he told a news conference. According to al-Hakim, "We don't accept a U.S. umbrella or anybody else's."
SCIRI'S objection to the talks apparently is connected with the possibility of its being sidelined in forming Iraq's new government. SCIRI spokesman Muhsin al-Hakim told Reuters on 14 April that SCIRI believes the framework decided on at the December 2002 opposition meeting in London should remain in place, rather than starting anew. Under that December arrangement, a council of 65 members was chosen to coordinate future Iraqi opposition activities, and SCIRI named the appointees to the 33 percent of the council seats that were reserved for Shi'a Islamists.
U.S. officials invited about 100 Iraqis -- including those who lived under the Ba'athist regime and those who were in exile -- to participate in the gathering to discuss the country's new government, "The New York Times" reported on 13 April. An anonymous official said that likely topics of discussion are the rule of law and legal institutions, civil liberties, economic institutions, and constitution building.
Participants in the meeting, however, failed to reach a consensus on the structure of an interim authority in Iraq, MENA reported on 15 April. A statement issued at the conclusion of the talks calls for a democratic, federal Iraq that is not based on "communal identity" and that respects the rule of law. Participants also called for the dissolution of the Ba'ath Party structure and stressed the need for an open dialogue among Iraqis. The statement says participants addressed the role of religion in state and society, but it does not elaborate. The participants are scheduled to meet again on 25 April.
London-based Muhammad Bahr-al-Ulum is one of the only Shi'a political figures to openly praise the 15 April meeting in Al-Nasiriyah. Bahr-al-Ulum, who sent a representative to the meeting, said in a 16 April interview with Cairo's official Voice of the Arabs radio that such meetings are a good venue for exchanging ideas and building Iraq's future. He discounted SCIRI's absence, saying, "Guests are affected by the views of the host." As for other groups that did not attend the Al-Nasiriyah meeting, Bahr-al-Ulum noted that they have always refused to participate in any political conference and their opinion is "mainly based on Syrian views." Bahr-al-Ulum added that it is unreasonable to expect the first meeting to yield results, because "Iraq has just emerged from a nightmare that lasted 35 years." (Bill Samii)
DA'WAH STAKES A CLAIM IN IRAQ. Officials from the Iran-based wing of Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah (Islamic Call) are back in Iraq and its 11-member council in Baghdad is selecting a leader, according to the 17 April "Financial Times."
Beirut's "Al-Mustaqbal" daily reported on 16 April that the supporters of Da'wah, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and of Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (killed on 19 February 1999; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 March 1999) are participating in a campaign focused on "rejecting the American occupation and opposing any Iraqi government sponsored by the United States." "Western diplomatic sources" have noted a relationship between the followers of al-Sadr's son Muqtada, who are known as the Sadriyun, and Da'wah, "al-Mustaqbal" reported. Furthermore, Jafar al-Sadr, the Iran-residing son of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, has a "strong and family relationship" with Muqtada.
Da'wah political bureau chief Abu Bilal al-Adib said in an 11 April interview with Hizballah's Al-Manar television that "our people definitely will not cooperate" with "the occupation armies" if they remain in Iraq. Al-Adib said that as long as these armies stay in Iraq the Iraqi people cannot agree with the country's government, and "it is impossible for us to join a government steered by a group of U.S. generals." He said Iraqis can establish their own government through the cooperation of the opposition forces, and the United Nations could supervise this process.
Da'wah's London-based wing is part of the Iraqi National Forces Coalition, which issued a statement calling for an end to "foreign occupation and military rule" and the immediate handover of authority to "an international interim administration headed by the United Nations," London's "Al-Hayat" newspaper reported on 17 April. The Iraqi National Forces Coalition called on the UN to protect Iraqi civilians, prevent human-rights violations, search for political prisoners, and discover the fate of "the missing and forgotten." The Iraqi National Forces Coalition also called for the protection of Iraq's natural resources, especially oil, and it demanded tolerance, an end to looting and theft, and an end to acts of personal revenge and retribution.
The Iraqi National Forces Coalition consists of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party -- Iraq Command, the Arab Socialist Movement, the Assyrian Ethnic Organization, Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah (Islamic Call), the Group of Mujahedin Ulama in Iraq, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Iraqi Democratic Grouping, the Islamic Action Party, the Islamic Union for Iraq's Turkmen, the Kurdistan Communist Party, the Socialist Party in Iraq, and the Turkmen Democratic Party. (Bill Samii)
SCIRI CALLS FOR COMMITMENT TO IRANIAN GUIDELINES. "I call on Iraqis to converge in Karbala [on 22 April] to oppose any sort of foreign domination and support establishment of an Iraqi government that protects freedom, independence and justice for all Iraqis," Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution Iraq (SCIRI) leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim said on 18 April, AP reported.
Al-Hakim on 14 April condemned the violence and unrest in the holy city of Al-Najaf and said, "We believe the responsibility for these incidents lies with the forces that have invaded Iraq," ISNA reported. He therefore urged people to stay committed to the decrees and demands of the clergy and the Shi'a sources of emulation, "such as the important statements made by Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei."
Al-Hakim could have been referring to the supreme leader's 13 April message to the Iraqi people in which he called on them to "maintain law and order" and said they "should bring an end to disorder, aggression, acts of murder and the plundering of public and private properties." This also could be a reference to Khamenei's 11 April sermon in which he accused the U.S. and U.K. of having colonial ambitions for Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 14 April 2003).
The SCIRI is trying to assert itself as the leader of the Shi'a community. The head of the SCIRI jihad bureau, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, on 16 April arrived in al-Kut, a predominantly Shi'a city in southeastern Iraq's Wasit Province, "to the cheers of local residents," IRNA reported. SCIRI spokesman Muhsin al-Hakim said SCIRI leader Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim would come to Iraq very soon.
Adel Abd-al-Mahdi is the SCIRI leader's new representative in Baghdad, according to "The New York Times" on 20 April. In Al-Kut, a 52 year-old Shi'a cleric named Seyyed Abbas, who is the local SCIRI leader, declared himself mayor, "The New York Times" reported on 19 April. SCIRI opened three offices in Al-Najaf on 19 April, IRNA reported, and has other offices in Al-Kut, Jisan, Al-Badr and Al-Nasiriyah. (Bill Samii)
NEW IRAQI GROUPS PLEDGE TO FIGHT COALITION. The Islamic Arab Grouping for Liberation -- Iraq Command announced its existence in a statement that was printed in the 15 April issue of London's "Al-Quds al-Arabi." The creation of the new secret organization, according to the Arabic newspaper, reflects the first effort to organize a resistance against "the U.S.-British occupation" of Iraq.
The statement appears to be an appeal to Arab, rather than Iraqi, nationalism, and it contains references to the Kurdish hero Salaheddin, the Shi'a Imam Ali, and the Sunni Khalid Bin al-Walid. "We will fight the invaders, the agents of Zionism among the agent [sic] and treacherous Kurdish leaderships, and the mercenaries of [U.S. President George W.] Bush and [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair.... We are fighting so that all Arabs will wake from their slumber and humiliation." The statement concludes, "We are carrying the honor of arms and the banner of victory for liberating Iraq and Palestine, with the help of God."
Another group, this one calling itself the "Mujahedin in Iraq," has issued a statement regarding the existence of a supreme command that combines Iraqi military leaders and Arab fighters coming from Afghanistan, Cairo's "Al-Sha'b" weekly reported on 18 April. Its commanders are identified as Khalid Sheikh, Abu-Iyad al-Falestini, and Nasrallah al-Afghani.
The Mujahedin In Iraq states that Iraqi forces withdrew from Baghdad as a reaction to coalition air strikes and "following consultations between the military command of the mujahedin and the leadership of the ruling Ba'ath Party in Iraq." If this is untrue, the statement asks, then where are the Americans' pictures of Iraqi tanks and missiles, where are these weapons, where are the Iraqi aircraft, and where are all the Iraqi soldiers? The statement claims that "what happened in Iraq was a pure tactical retreat." "Brethren in the Arabian Peninsula" are advised to be ready for "the showdown" and "the battle of Jihad." (Bill Samii)
LEBANESE SHI'A TO FOLLOW IRANIAN LEAD ON REGIONAL DEVELOPMENTS. The Followers of Ahl al-Bayt, an Iraqi Shi'a group, issued a statement in Al-Najaf that called on Lebanese Hizballah and its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah to stop interfering in Iraqi affairs and to withdraw the fighters it sent to Iraq to protect the Ba'athist regime, London's "Al-Zaman" newspaper reported on 15 April. The statement added that Hizballah consulted with Tehran after Saddam Hussein's regime fell and then tried to incite the Iraqi people to resist "an imaginary and alleged threat that only exists in the mind of Nasrallah." Iraqi Shi'a are determined to regain their sovereignty, rebuild their country, and restore Al-Najaf and Karbala to their former glory, according to the Followers of Ahl al-Bayt. "They are determined to do so despite the killing, assassination, and intimidation attempts as well as the stick and carrot policy pursued by Iran to prevent this from happening." The statement said that the killing of Abd-al-Majid al-Khoi by the Sadriyun was part of the effort to cause sedition.
American University of Beirut's Professor Nizar Hamzeh speculated in the 15 April "The Daily Star" that Hizballah would follow the example of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei if the U.S. attacks Syria. Hamzeh explained that Iran and Hizballah are connected through their adherence to the concept of Vilayat-i Faqih (Guardianship of the Supreme Jurisconsult) and the belief that Khamenei is the Vali-yi Faqih (Supreme Jurisconsult). "Khamenei is the one who decided on general issues, while the details are left to the party."
Meanwhile, speaking in Sidon, Sheikh Afif Nabulsi, "who is close to both Hizballah and Iran" according to another article in "The Daily Star" on 15 April, referred several times to "the U.S. enemy." Nabulsi added that he already has "called on the Iraqi people and those Iraqis who are living abroad to be the opponents of the Americans." (Bill Samii)
IRAN HELPS DISPLACED IRAQIS. Some 17 trucks carrying 5,500 cans of fresh water -- 120,000 liters -- are to leave Ahvaz for southern Iraq on 15 April, IRNA reported. UNICEF official Kari Egge said that the water is to be distributed in the Faw Peninsula because no UN relief has reached that area yet, and she added that as security conditions improve medicine, high-protein biscuits, and more water would be sent to Iraq.
Sadeq Lotfi, the governor-general of Mehran in Iran's western Ilam Province, said on 14 April that some 12 tanks of drinking water and three tanks of ice are being sent to residents of the Iraqi city of Al-Basrah every day, IRNA reported. Lotfi added that many Al-Basrah residents have taken shelter in camps in Iraqi territory that were built by Iran before Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Lotfi added that the extension of assistance to the internally displaced persons reflects Iranian policy of preventing them from entering Iranian territory.
Iranian Interior Ministry official Farhad Barikani said on 11 April that about 100,000 Iraqis have gathered near the Mehran area, ITAR-TASS reported. (Bill Samii)
UN ISSUES WARNING ON AFGHAN NARCOTICS RESURGENCE. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration banned poppy cultivation in January 2002, but according to the United Nations' Afghanistan Opium Survey that was released 10 months later, Afghanistan could produce 3,400 tons of opium this year.
The executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Mario Costa, said on 16 April that a major international effort is required to prevent a resurgence of the narcotics trade in Afghanistan, the "Financial Times" reported on 17 April. Costa argued for a more vigorous pursuit of a strategy employing interdiction and crop substitution. "Afghanistan remains an international problem," he said, "the efforts of the international community have yet to have an impact on provincial governors and warlords who are part of the dynamics of opium cultivation."
Costa also said on 15 April that Iran seized some 12 tons of opium and eight tons of heroin in 2001, and he admitted to being baffled by these enormous amounts, Reuters reported. Costa noted the "total commitment" of Iran to counternarcotics and promised he would visit the country soon to provide whatever help he can.
The seizure rates reported by the Iranian government are impressive, although they cannot be independently confirmed. Police in the northeastern Semnan Province seized some 1,040 kilos of illegal drugs and arrested 2,561 drug addicts and smugglers during the calendar year ending on 20 March 2003, IRNA reported. Hussein Semati, the police commander in the town of Torbat-i Heidarieh in the northeastern Khorasan Province, announced on 14 April the seizure of close to 1,650 kilograms of illicit drugs in the last year, IRNA reported. Police in the southeastern Sistan va Baluchistan Province on 14 April announced the seizure of over 1,300 kg of heroin, opium, and hashish, and the arrest of 68 traffickers in the past week, IRNA reported.
Also impressive is the Iranian method of dealing with drug traffickers. Two drug traffickers were executed by hanging on 15 April in Qazvin, dpa reported, citing the Tehran press. (Bill Samii)