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Iraq Report: January 30, 2004

30 January 2004, Volume 7, Number 4
INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIALS GIVE CONFLICTING ASSESSMENT ON SECURITY, ELECTIONS. Officials from the Iraqi Interior Ministry have made contradictory statements this week over the viability of holding national elections in Iraq given the current security environment. AP reported on 27 January that Interior Minister Nuri Badran told reporters at a Baghdad press conference a day earlier that the current security situation in Iraq does not allow for holding direct national elections.

Meanwhile, Baghdad's Voice of Iraq radio reported on 24 January that Interior Ministry Undersecretary for Security Affairs Samir al-Wa'li has said that it is possible for the ministry and Iraqi police to control the security situation and run elections. He added that the ministry could tighten the security cordon on election centers to ensure that security is not breached. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL REQUEST UN HELP IN CONDUCTING CENSUS... Governing Council President for the month of January Adnan Pachachi said on 28 January that he will ask the United Nations to help carry out Iraq's first nationwide census in 45 years, international media reported.

According to Al-Jazeera, Pachachi's comments came during a meeting with Baghdad municipal-council members. Pachachi said a census is just one of several issues that should be addressed before power is handed over to a new Iraqi government at the end of June, Reuters reported. "We will ask the United Nations to run a complete exact census and to put in place voter lists via voter registration centers throughout Iraq," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND FUTURE OF COALITION FORCES IN IRAQ TO BE DETERMINED. Pachachi told LBC satellite television on 28 January that the future of coalition forces in Iraq will be determined by an agreement between "sovereign countries." "After gaining independence, sovereignty, and power, the status of forces will be determined according to agreement between sovereign countries," Pachachi said. "This [agreement] would be implemented as long as we would need foreign forces to help us confront any external threat and to [achieve] security and restore order in the short run." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FINANCE MINISTER SAYS IRAQ WILL OVERSEE RECONSTRUCTION FUNDS. Iraqi Finance Minister Kamil al-Kaylani has said that Iraqi officials will soon begin operating a regulatory body to oversee the disbursement of Iraqi reconstruction funds, including the $18.6 billion in U.S. funds for Iraq, reported on 28 January.

"All donor projects will be reviewed by the Iraqi Strategic Review Board to ensure that it corresponds to our assessment of Iraq's needs. It's an Iraqi decision," al-Kaylani said. He added that the review board will begin operating in two weeks, and will report to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. The board will include representatives from the Iraqi central bank, and the Planning and Finance ministries. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) announced the establishment of the Iraqi-led coordination mechanism on 10 December (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 18 December 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-SISTANI CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF DEMONSTRATIONS. A representative of Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Shaykh Abd al-Mahdi al-Karbala'i, told worshippers at the Imam al-Husayn Mosque in Karbala on 23 January that al-Sistani has called on Iraqis to suspend demonstrations for national direct elections in Iraq. Al-Sistani reportedly called for the suspension of demonstrations until he hears the outcome of the UN's assessment of the possibility for elections.

Meanwhile, al-Sistani representative Murtada al-Kashmiri told London's "Al-Hayat" that al-Sistani is not seeking to establish a hard-line theocratic system in Iraq, the daily reported on 23 January. "Proof of this is [al-Sistani's] urgent call to hold elections so that the Iraqi people can determine their destiny by themselves," he said. Al-Kashmiri added that al-Sistani has no designs on power in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SUNNI IMAM OPPOSES NATIONAL ELECTIONS BEFORE CENSUS. Sunni Imam Shaykh Qutayb Ammash, a member of the Shura Council of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah, said that the Shura Council rejects national elections in Iraq at the present time, Al-Jazeera television reported on 23 January. Ammash's comments came during a Friday-prayer sermon at the Nida al-Islam Mosque in Baghdad. The imam cited two reasons for the council's objection: "First, the country is experiencing harsh circumstances of occupation. Second, Ahl al-Summah wa al-Jama'ah are not a small number in this country. In fact, they are the majority, including Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans." "Therefore, a census should be conducted, away from falsification, manipulation, and the introduction of new nationalities, which the country had never seen before." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI CLERIC SAYS UN NOT NEEDED FOR ELECTIONS. Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said during a Friday-prayer sermon on 23 January that the United Nations is no more qualified than Iraqi religious authorities when it comes to running elections in Iraq, Al-Manar television reported the same day.

Al-Sadr called on Iraqis to "stand together" in the call for Iraqis to run their own national direct elections. "Are our religious authorities less competent than the United Nations? No, they are much loftier and more competent," al-Sadr said. "If the United Nations can oversee the elections, then you -- our [religious] authorities -- can definitely do that."

Iraqi interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari responded to al-Sadr's statements on 23 January, telling LBC satellite television from Davos that all Iraqis are free to express their opinions, adding: "However, the current political atmosphere in Iraq, the region, and the world supports an effective UN role in the political process in Iraq. In fact, most Iraqis support such a role." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. GENERAL SAYS 3,000-5,000 MILITANTS OPERATING IN IRAQ. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told a 27 January press conference in Baghdad ( that intelligence indicates that between 3,000 and 5,000 anticoalition militants are currently operating in Iraq. Kimmitt added that 5 percent-10 percent of the militants are foreign fighters. "The vast majority of them we still believe are homegrown anticoalition elements, possibly former regime elements, possibly disenfranchised youth," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CAR BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE BAGHDAD HOTEL. A car bomb detonated outside the Shaheen Hotel in central Baghdad on 28 January, international media reported. The hotel is frequented by Westerners and Iraqi officials. According to AP, as many as four people were killed in the explosion and 17 wounded.

Karadah district police chief Kadhim Khalas said it is unclear whether the vehicle carrying the explosives was moving or stationary. Residents and relatives of hotel employees told AP that the hotel has received anonymous threats demanding that the management evict foreigners. The hotel is located near the former U.S. Embassy, the Belarusian Embassy, and a police station.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed and one was wounded in an improvised-explosive-device (IED) attack in Khalidiyah, just east of Al-Ramadi on 27 January. In a separate incident the same day, three soldiers were killed and three were wounded when their vehicle struck an IED near Iskandariyah. And, three Iraqis were killed and 40 people wounded -- including three U.S. soldiers -- when a booby-trapped truck detonated behind a U.S. military police patrol just after it turned into an Iraqi police station in Samarra on 24 January, international media reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-DURI SAID TO BE ENCOURAGING SUPPORTERS TO INFILTRATE IRAQI POSTS. Former Iraqi Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, who is No. 6 on the United States' list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed Hussein regime, is reportedly encouraging pro-Hussein militants to infiltrate government agencies and the Iraqi military, Baghdad's "Al-Yawm al-Akhar" reported on 26 January.

Citing an unidentified Interior Ministry source, the weekly reported that a detained militant was found carrying a handwritten message from al-Duri urging supporters to join the Iraqi police and army and to infiltrate important state institutions for the purpose of exploiting them. The message also reportedly encourages militants to carry out acts of sabotage with the goal of undermining Iraq's security and stability.

Meanwhile, AP quoted Interior Minister Nuri Badran as telling reporters in Baghdad on 26 January that "there is a presence of Al-Qaeda in this country.... A lot of the suicide attacks have the fingerprints of the crimes committed by Al-Qaeda." U.S. officials have given alternative views in recent months regarding the presence of the terrorist network in Iraq. However, U.S. officials said on 24 January that Kurdish forces arrested senior Al-Qaeda figure Hassan Ghul in northern Iraq last week. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQIS TURN UP FOR SLOTS IN SECURITY FORCES. Hundreds of Iraqis have volunteered to work in the Iraqi security forces during recent recruitment drives in the Al-Anbar Governorate, according to a 24 January press release posted on the U.S. Central Command website ( Over 600 candidates applied for 106 available slots in the 3rd Iraqi Border Police Battalion at a recruitment drive in Al-Qa'im.

The press release added that some 232 police officers graduated from the police academy in Al-Ramadi on the same day. Some 195 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) recruits have also recently completed their training. Their graduation completes the training of all units in the 501st ICDC Battalion. The ICDC carried out its first joint operation with Iraqi police without coalition assistance on 23 January, CENTCOM reported in a separate 24 January press release. Meanwhile, Iraqi Border Police are expected to graduate another 155 recruits on 3 February. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI SECRET POLICE OPERATING IN AL-BASRAH. London's "The Sunday Times" reportedly has uncovered the existence of a secret police force operating in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah that has purportedly kidnapped, detained, and even killed former Ba'ath Party members, the newspaper reported on 25 January. The report contends that the Istikhbarat al-Shurta (Police Intelligence) unit is operating with the approval of British forces, which are responsible for southern Iraq. The families of Iraqis kidnapped at gunpoint by the unit have said that British officials have not helped them in locating their relatives.

According to the report, a senior commander of the unit told a "Sunday Times" reporter that the unit employed members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) armed wing, the Badr Brigades. He also said that armed Badr members had assisted the unit in "dangerous" missions. A number of prisoners were seen during a visit to the police intelligence headquarters in Al-Basrah, many of whom had reportedly been left handcuffed and blindfolded for four or five days.

The U.S.-led occupation authority disarmed Badr fighters last year following the overthrow of the Hussein regime. Since that time, it has been reported that the armed wing has sought revenge against former regime members. Some of the victims are reportedly former Ba'ath Party members that were encouraged to register as such and reapply for their jobs. The report said that some victims were killed in the street after they left the registration office.

"When talking to normal ordinary people, we say that we are police, but in fact we work for the government," Istikhbarat al-Shurta Deputy Director Abbas Abd al-Ali told "The Sunday Times." "Only one-third of our work is police work. The rest is civilian intelligence and intelligence for state officials," he added. "We have our eyes and ears everywhere around the city."

Meanwhile, an unnamed spokesman for Britain's 20th Armored Brigade told the newspaper that the force is officially known to the coalition as the "special operations department." "We know there are certain ways of the past that have to be unlearnt. If [the Police Intelligence unit] or anyone are keeping people blindfolded and handcuffed for an extended period then that is not acceptable," he said. He added that the British would not support the integration of any militias into the police force. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES RELEASE 300 IRAQI PRISONERS. The U.S. military released some 300 Iraqi prisoners from detention in the Abu Ghurayb prison in Baghdad on 25 January, Al-Jazeera reported the following day. A number of prisoners that spoke to the satellite channel claimed they were falsely arrested and held by coalition forces. One prisoner claimed he was arrested after a traffic accident and held for nearly one month. Another prisoner interviewed asserted that he was falsely arrested for supplying weapons to Iraqis, and held for five months. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THREE U.S. SOLDIERS MISSING AFTER ACCIDENTS. Three soldiers from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division are missing in Iraq after two apparent accidents, according to a 25 January press release posted on the Coalition Joint Task Force 7 website ( The first incident occurred when four U.S. soldiers fell into the Tigris River during a river patrol. One soldier could not be located after the accident. Later, one of two OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters searching for the missing soldier crashed into the river, and two helicopter pilots are missing. Iraqi police and fire units are aiding U.S. forces in the recovery operation, according to the press release. Neither accident is considered a hostile incident, but nonetheless remain under investigation. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANTS ATTACK POLISH HEADQUARTERS. Militants attacked the Polish military headquarters in the holy city of Karbala on 26 January, international media reported. Karbala police spokesman Rahman Mashawi said that unidentified gunmen opened fire on a hotel housing Polish forces. A gun battle reportedly ensued between the militants and Iraqi policemen responding to the gunfire. One Iraqi policeman was killed, and no Polish casualties were reported, according to AP. Police arrested two of the gunmen. Poland has 2,400 troops stationed in Karbala, located 120 kilometers south of Baghdad. Also on 26 January, militants fired a rocket into the "green zone" housing the CPA headquarters in Baghdad, international media reported. The rocket landed in an empty parking lot and no casualties were reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL AGREES TO SEND TEAM TO IRAQ... Kofi Annan announced on 27 January that he would send a UN team to Iraq to assess the feasibility of holding early national direct elections there. "The mission will ascertain the views of a broad spectrum of Iraqi society in the search for alternatives that might be developed to move forward to the formation of a provisional government," Annan said in a statement issued in Paris and posted on the UN website (

Both the U.S.-led occupation authority and the Iraqi Governing Council requested Annan's help in assessing the possibility for elections after Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and others rejected the 15 November agreement between the United States and the Governing Council calling for a provisional government to be elected through caucuses (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 and 23 January 2004).

"I have already made clear that in my view there is no single "right way." I strongly hold to the idea that the most sustainable way forward would be one that came from the Iraqis themselves," Annan said in the statement. "Consensus amongst all Iraqi constituencies would be the best guarantee of a legitimate and credible transitional governance arrangement for Iraq." The secretary general added that the team would be dispatched once the CPA made adequate security arrangements for the team's safety. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER SAYS UN WILL BE FINAL ARBITER. Iraqi Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq on 26 January that the Governing Council does not have an official view on the UN delegation to Iraq because the council should remain neutral to the issue and allow the UN team to carry out its assessment.

Asked whether that means the Governing Council does not care about elections, al-Rubay'i responded: "All of the Governing Council members are with the election, but some of them believe that there is no practical possibility for this.... But the final arbiter is those with expertise, who would resolve the issue." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

HUTTON RELEASES REPORT ON KELLY DEATH, BRITISH CASE FOR WAR. Britain's Lord Brian Hutton released the findings of his investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of U.K. weapons expert Dr. David Kelly on 28 January, international media reported. Kelly committed suicide in July after he was named as the source for a BBC report claiming that the British government had "sexed up" an intelligence dossier on the threat from Iraq.

Among Lord Hutton's findings posted on the Hutton inquiry website ( is that there was no deliberate plan by British Prime Minister Tony Blair or his cabinet to deliberately leak Kelly's name as the source, and that the government acted "reasonably" in its handling of the situation. "There was no dishonorable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media," he said. Hutton did criticize the Defense Ministry, however, for not telling Kelly it would confirm him as a source.

Hutton also criticized BBC management and its governors for failing to properly investigate BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's assertions that the government's claim in a September dossier that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was wrong. Hutton said he believed Kelly had not told Gilligan that the government embellished the dossier "with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable" as Gilligan claimed. "The 45 minutes claim was based on a report which was received by the [Secret Intelligence Service] SIS from a source which that service regarded as reliable. Therefore, whether or not at some time in the future the report on which the 45 minutes claim was based is shown to be unreliable, the allegation reported by Mr. Gilligan on 29 May 2003 that the government probably knew that the 45 minutes claim was wrong before the government decided to put it in the dossier, was an allegation which was unfounded," Hutton wrote.

He further determined: "I am satisfied that Dr Kelly did not say to Mr. Gilligan that the government probably knew or suspected that the 45 minutes claim was wrong before that claim was inserted in the dossier. I am further satisfied that Dr Kelly did not say to Mr. Gilligan that the reason why the 45 minutes claim was not included in the original draft of the dossier was because it only came from one source and the intelligence agencies did not really believe it was necessarily true."

As for allegations that the government "sexed up" the dossier, Hutton said: "The term 'sexed-up' is a slang expression, the meaning of which lacks clarity in the context of the discussion of the dossier.... However, in the context of the broadcasts in which the 'sexing-up' allegation was reported and having regard to the other allegations reported in those broadcasts, I consider that the allegation was unfounded as it would have been understood by those who heard the broadcasts to mean that the dossier had been embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable, which was not the case."

Hutton also determined that David Kelly took his own life, and "that no other person was involved in the death of Dr. Kelly and that Dr. Kelly was not suffering from any significant mental illness at the time he took his own life." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER IRAQ SURVEY GROUP HEAD DOUBTS HUSSEIN HAD WMD. David Kay, the former head of the U.S.-run Iraq Survey Group, has said that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had largely given up on attempting to produce large quantities of chemical or biological weapons after the 1991 Gulf War, reported on 25 January. Kay, who resigned from his position on 23 January, said that evidence suggests that Hussein attempted to revive Iraq's nuclear capabilities in 2000 and 2001, but did not come as close to making an atomic bomb as Iran and Libya. Rather, the nuclear program was restarted in an effort to design a payload for new rockets.

Kay said Iraq was working on producing a biological weapon using poison ricin during the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, but contended that U.S. intelligence services failed to recognize that Iraq had all but abandoned its other efforts in the field of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Kay added that interviews conducted by the Iraq Survey Group suggest that the U.S. administration was almost certainly wrong in its prewar contention that Iraq had any significant stockpiles of illicit weapons, the website reported. "I'm personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction," Kay said. "We don't find the people, the documents or the physical plants that you would expect to find if the production was going on." He added: "I think they gradually reduced stockpiles throughout the 1990s. Somewhere in the mid-1990s, the large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated."

He said that it appears that the decision was made out of a fear of UN weapons inspectors. Moreover, the 1998 U.S. bombing campaign probably eliminated the remaining chemical weapons infrastructure. He added that Iraq had maintained an active ballistic-missile program using foreign assistance right up to the U.S. invasion in March.

Asked about mobile trailers thought by the administration to be capable of producing biological and chemical weapons, Kay said that U.S. intelligence officials now believe that the mobile trailers were actually designed to produce hydrogen for weather balloons, as Iraq contended (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 June 2003). Another theory is that they were used to produce rocket fuel.

Kay also said that former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, now in coalition custody, suggested in interviews that Hussein had become increasingly divorced from reality in the past two years, the website reported. According to Kay, U.S. intelligence analysts, working without spies on the ground in Iraq, missed signs of chaos in the leadership, which corrupted Iraq's weapons programs and potentially could have led to terrorists obtaining scientific knowledge on weapons production. When asked in a National Public Radio interview whether the U.S. president owes the nation an explanation, Kay said, "I actually think the intelligence community owes the president, rather than the president owing the American people," AP reported on 26 January.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 24 January that his 5 February 2003 presentation before the UN Security Council that contended that Iraq had stockpiled WMD (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 February 2003) was based on "what our intelligence community believed was credible," reported on 25 January. White House spokesman Scott McClellan contended on 26 January that the war in Iraq was nonetheless justified since it removed Hussein from power. "The president made the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The world is a safer place, and America is more secure because of the actions that we took," he said ( "Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, they used weapons of mass destruction on its neighbors and on his own people, and they failed to account for the weapons and weapons programs, and they refused to comply [with the UN] for 12 years and some 17 Security Council resolutions," he added. The United States has appointed former UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) Deputy Executive Chairman Charles Duelfer to replace Kay as head of the Iraq Survey Group. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DOCUMENTS INDICATE THAT HUSSEIN PAID OFF OFFICIALS, JOURNALISTS. An article that appeared in the 25 January edition of Baghdad daily "Al-Mada" claims to have documentary evidence from Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) that the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein paid off Western and Arab countries through illicit oil sales and bribes in exchange for their support for the regime, or to help the regime obtain weapons and even extravagant materials unavailable to it under UN sanctions.

The article purports that several well-known officials, organizations, political parties, and companies benefited from the regime, including the Russian Orthodox Church and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation; Khalid Abd al-Nasir, son of the late Egyptian president; and U.K. Labour Party member George Galloway. It also includes the names of individuals and companies in Algeria, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chad, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Syria, Sudan, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Vietnam, Yemen, and the former Yugoslavia.

The Jordanian government announced on 28 January that it would investigate allegations that prominent Jordanian citizens were involved in the illicit oil-sales scandal, Jordanian and Western media reported. The "Al-Mada" article names 14 Amman-based firms and Jordanian citizens, including former government officials, AP reported. Meanwhile, Egyptian activist Mamduh al-Shaykh said he would ask the prosecutor-general to investigate allegations about Egyptian involvement in the scandal. Al-Shaykh reportedly filed suit last year against a number of Egyptian politicians and journalists, claiming they took bribes from the Hussein regime. Iraqi Governing Council member Nasir Kamil Chadirchi said on 28 January that the Governing Council has asked the Justice Ministry to investigate the matter and look into prosecuting Iraqi and foreign parties involved, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

NATO CHIEF FAVORS ROLE IN IRAQ. New NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on 26 January that he supports a role for the Atlantic alliance in Iraq, AFP reported. "If the question comes, it goes without saying that I'm very much in favor of a NATO role," de Hoop Scheffer told reporters in Brussels. NATO currently plays a small role in Iraq, providing logistical support to the Polish contingent there.

De Hoop Scheffer said it is too early to determine what kind of role the alliance might play in Iraq. "Let's see what the political developments will be between now and July, ...what a legitimate government of Iraq will ask [for]," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EU SUPPORTS IRAQI OBSERVER STATUS AT WTO. The European Union has reportedly agreed to support a request by the Iraqi Governing Council's interim Trade Minister Ali Allawi for observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO), reported on 27 January. The decision to support Iraq was made during a 25 January meeting of EU trade ministers. A spokeswoman for EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy told reporters in Brussels on 26 January: "The message is loud and clear: the EU supports the Iraqi request to become a member of the WTO. The EU thinks this will be good for the Iraqi people." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DANES TO SEND ENVOY WITH AID TO AL-BASRAH. The Danish Foreign Ministry is planning to send a representative to the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah, Copenhagen's "Politiken" reported on 24 January. The envoy will work on reconstruction programs there. Denmark has pledged 170 million kronors ($29 million) to reconstruction projects in Iraq.

In addition, Danish Refugee Aid is opening an office in southern Iraq, according to Ann Mary Olsen, who is the deputy head of the organization's international department. Danish forces working in southern Iraq reportedly complained recently to Danish Armed Forces chief Hans Jesper Helso that too few NGOs were operating in the area. "There is money for the reconstruction now. But we do not have the time," said Bo Richter, the Danish section head responsible for civil-military cooperation. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CANADA TO FORGIVE $750 MILLION IN IRAQ DEBT. Canada has agreed to forgive $750 million in Iraq debt, a majority of the debt owed to the United States' northern neighbor, Prime Minister Paul Martin said on 23 January, Toronto's "The National Post" reported. "Obviously erasing that debt will put Iraq on a better foundation," Martin said. "It's simply one more indication that where there were great divisions, those divisions are beginning to be healed," he added in a reference to the split among the G-7 member states over the war in Iraq. Martin also announced in a press release that Canada would provide up to $300 million in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq over the next five years. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JAPANESE REPORT SAYS CONTINGENT CAN CREATE 600 JOBS IN AL-SAMAWAH. A report released by the Japanese government on 26 January states that Japan could create between 500-600 jobs daily in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Samawah, Tokyo's Jiji Press Agency reported on the same day. The jobs would go to Iraqis working on reconstruction projects possibly through the UN Center for Human Settlements (UN-HABITAT).

The report is based on assessments made by an advance Ground Self-Defense Force team (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 December 2003) and addresses areas of cooperation in Iraq, including emergency humanitarian assistance, employment, environmental rehabilitation, cultural cooperation, and economic development. The report also proposed that Japan consider contributing to other UN-sponsored projects in the city. Japanese Foreign Minister Yuriko Kawaguchi has said that it is important for Japan to address the unemployment situation in Al-Samawah, which reportedly exceeds 70 percent, the press agency reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on 26 January approved the deployment of more than 500 ground troops to Iraq. Those troops are expected to depart for Al-Samawah on 3 February. An advance team from Japan's Self-Defense Force arrived in Al-Samawah on 19 January (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 23 January 2004.

Japan is also reportedly planning on providing 26 billion yen ($245 million) to renovate 13 hospitals in Iraq that it helped construct in the 1980s, government sources told Kyodo World Service. Overall, Japan plans on providing $1.5 billion in grants to Iraq by year-end. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


By Baroness Emma Nicholson

The Marsh Arabs of Iraq have lived in the Mesopotamian Marshlands for over 5,000 years, carving out a unique way of life. Since the mid-1980s, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government has practiced a systematic and targeted destruction of the Marsh Arabs, through not only physical violence but also through the destruction of their marshland habitat. Those Marsh Arabs that have not succumbed to death from disease or violence have instead been forcibly displaced or have sought refuge in squatter and refugee camps in neighboring Iran. From a population of over 400,000 just 30 years ago, only approximately 80,000 remain today -- a number that continues to decrease, bringing Marsh Arabs to the verge of extinction.

According to the Geneva Genocide Convention of 1948, genocide is the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, whether by killing, causing serious harm, or inflicting conditions calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group. Furthermore, as genocide is a crime against humanity, it is subject to universal jurisdiction. States have an obligation to take action once they become aware that genocide is being committed -- either through domestic action or by bringing a resolution forward within the United Nations.

Evidence collected and reported during the last 20 years clearly shows that the actions taken by the Iraqi government against the Marsh Arabs constitute genocide. The international community, the coalition, and/or the United Nations is therefore obligated to investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous crime.

Now that Hussein has been captured, there is a unique opportunity to bring those who committed this genocide to account.


The Marsh Arabs are a unique ethnic group composed of a number of different Shi'a tribes that share a common culture, language, religion, and set of customs, and are dependent upon the marshlands for their survival. Prior to their decline, they lived for millennia in villages or "mound settlements," supporting their unique water-based economy and culture through marshland cultivation, reed gathering, and water buffalo breeding.

The brutal oppression of the Marsh Arabs began during the early years of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Saddam Hussein's Sunni-backed regime launched attacks in southern Iraq against Iraqi Shi'a Muslims, killing tens of thousands of civilians.

After failed uprisings in 1991 in southern Iraq after the end of the U.S.-led Gulf War, the regime accelerated its campaign against the Marsh Arabs, carrying out brutal attacks against civilians and killing tens of thousands more. Military forces removed food stocks and destroyed farms and villages. Hussein's regime poisoned the marshes that were so vital to the Marsh Arab way of life. Weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons such as napalm and phosphorous, were used.

Survivors were forcibly displaced at gunpoint. The government instituted an economic blockade of the marshland and effectively blocked access to medicine and medical care.

The UN special rapporteur reported to the United Nations in 1994 that Iraqi government forces were conducting systematic military actions against the Marsh Arabs, attacking towns, killing or wounding civilians, then destroying their farms and houses (UN General Assembly, 1994,"Situation of Human Rights in Iraq," 8 November 1994, A/49/651, paragraph 39). Those who were arrested were blindfolded and abducted. Some of those missing did survive, albeit after undergoing horrific acts of torture lasting weeks or months; however, many were never heard from again. Rape was common.

Bombardments, burnings and demolition of settlements, executions, and disappearances continued in the marshlands throughout the late 1990s. In 1999 the UN special rapporteur again reported on the systematic campaign of violence and repression against the Marsh Arabs, stating that "reports indicate that government forces have burned houses and fields while other houses have been demolished by bulldozers...some reports indicate villages...were entirely destroyed" (Max Van der Stoel, Special Rapporteur, "Report to the 55th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights," 26 February 1999, paragraph 17).

The Iraqi government also initiated in the 1990s marshland drainage and damming programs on such a scale that it they can only have been intended to destroy the natural environment and decimate indigenous populations. Over the last 20 years the marshlands have been reduced in size by over 85 percent (James Brasington, "Monitoring Marshland Degradation" in "The Iraqi Marshlands -- A Human and Environmental Study," E. Nicholson and P. Clark editors, 2002, page 167). The UN Environment Program reported in 2001 that "around 90 percent of the Mesopotamian Marshlands, known since time immemorial as the Fertile Crescent, have been lost mainly as a result of drainage and damming" (UNEP press release, "The Fertile Crescent, One of the World's Most Important Wetlands, Devastated by Drainage," 18 May 2001). Another UN report stated that "the sinking water level makes survival in the marshlands more and more difficult, almost impossible...." (United Nations General Assembly (1994), "Situation of Human Rights in Iraq," 8 November 1994, A/49/651, paragraph 37).

The consequences of these government-led damming and drainage programs have been catastrophic. The Marsh Arabs have been deprived of their sustainability and livelihoods, due to massive depletions in fundamental crops, livestock, and raw materials. From 1992 onwards, scores of Marsh Arabs have been forced from their homes as part of a government resettlement campaign. Even greater numbers have been forced to leave due to the appalling conditions.

The Case for Genocide

When one hears the term "genocide," often events such as the World War II Holocaust, or the atrocities in Rwanda, spring to mind. However, the definition of genocide is not "limited" to targeted and systematic mass execution, even though it is clear this did happen in the marshlands. One key component of the accepted definition of genocide is "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" (Part (c) of the definition of genocide in Article 2 of the Genocide Convention, 1948).

According to various reports, the population of the Marsh Arabs was approximately 400,000 in the 1950s. By the early 1990s, this number had fallen to approximately 250,000 (Minority Rights Group, "The Marsh Arabs of Iraq," London, 1993). Currently only approximately 40,000 remain in the Marshland. Tens of thousands have been killed by military action or died through starvation or disease. At least 100,000 additional people have been displaced (The Brookings Institution and the SAIS Project on Internally Displaced People, John Fawcett and Victoria Tanner, "The Internally Displaced People of Iraq," October 2002, page 33). A recent report has concluded that of the 250,000 Marsh Arabs remaining in the early 1990s, "40,000 made it into Iran as refugees, and another estimated 20,000-40,000 remained in their homes. This leaves 170,000 to 190,000 who are either dead or displaced" (Ibid, page 33).

The evidence shows that the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein carried out concerted and planned actions that targeted and destroyed the Marsh Arabs as a group: military attacks that killed and injured large numbers of civilians, and exhaustive draining of the marshlands in order to create conditions in which the group could not survive. Consequently, the Marsh Arabs are on the verge of extinction, clearly victims of genocide.

In accordance with their obligations under international law, states must now ensure that the perpetrators of genocide against the Marsh Arabs, including Hussein, are brought to trial, and must give all assistance to the new authorities in Iraq for this to happen in a timely and appropriate manner.

Baroness Emma Nicholson is a British member of the European Parliament and founder of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation (, which raises funds to support the Iraqi Marsh Arabs.