6 August 2004, Volume
MILITANTS APPEAR TO BE SUCCEEDING IN THEIR MISSION TO DRIVE OUT COMPANIES.
Militants holding a number of foreign truck drivers hostage in Iraq this week set the men free after the companies they worked for vowed to pull out of Iraq. The apparent success of the insurgents' blackmail campaign threatens to halt the reconstruction process. Militants argue however, that the truckers are legitimate targets, because many deliver goods to U.S. forces.
The Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group linked to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi executed a Turkish hostage this week because it claimed his company transported goods to U.S. soldiers. The employer, Bilintur, said it provides a laundry service for a Jordanian company in Iraq, AP reported on 2 August. A jihadist website (https://www.qal3ah.net/vb/) posted a video and still pictures depicting the execution of the hostage, Murat Yuce, on 2 August. The video depicts a masked man from the militant group reading a statement addressing "Muslims of the world" and "Turkish Muslims," saying, "Although we have appealed to our Muslims brothers in the world and in Turkey in particular not to support the occupation, and although we have released many of their workers, hoping that they would repent, they continue their work, including this renegade, Murat Yuce."
The man continued, "Let everybody know that we will apply the ruling of God to this renegade and all those whom we will catch later without giving any deadlines." In the footage, Yuce also makes a statement denouncing what he called the "injustice" inflicted by U.S. forces on Iraqi civilians and calls on Turkish citizens and companies to leave Iraq. Yuce is then blindfolded and shot in the head several times. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad confirmed his death, AFP reported the same day.
The killing prompted Turkey's International Transportation Association to announce that it would stop working with U.S. forces in Iraq. The head of the association, Cahit Soysal, said that the decision would affect some 200-300 trucks owned by about a dozen Turkish companies that delivered supplies -- mostly oil -- to U.S. forces, AP reported on 2 August. Some 1,700 to 1,800 trucks not working for U.S. forces would continue to deliver goods to Iraq, Soysal said.
Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad released a Somali hostage on 2 August, saying in a videotaped message released to Al-Jazeera that the man was set free in appreciation of his government's stance toward Iraq and because the man's Kuwaiti employer has promised to pull out of Iraq, the satellite news channel reported.
The group released two other Turkish truck drivers on 4 August, Al-Jazeera reported. "Due to the Turkish firm's decision to stop sending supplies to U.S. forces in Iraq, the Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group has decided to free the two Turkish hostages," the group said in a videotaped message obtained by the satellite news channel.
Four Jordanian truck drivers held by the Death Group (Jama'at Al-Mawt) were also released on 4 August. The group claimed that it took the men hostage in an effort to pressure Jordanian transport companies to stop transporting supplies to U.S. forces in Iraq. Ahmad Abu Jaf'ar told AP that his captors "have nothing to do with the resistance," but rather, were criminal elements.
The groups continue to threaten regional states as well. A group identifying itself as the Mujahidi Al-Iraq issued an ultimatum to "all nations, including Arab and Muslim countries, with connections, companies, and tasks inside Iraq and especially those countries cooperating with the occupation forces and interim government," saying they "must withdraw their embassies, companies, and tasks from Iraq within a maximum of 10 days [from 2 August]. Otherwise we will deal with them as occupiers...." Meanwhile, the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades gave the Italian government 15 days to withdraw from Iraq or face consequences in Italy, London's "Al-Quds" reported on 1 August.
Jama'at Al-Tawhid Al-Islamiyah -- Sheikh Yasin's Brigade issued a warning to Arab and Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia on 3 August not to assist the United States by sending troops to Iraq, middle-east-online.com reported. In a message posted on a jihadist website (http://www.ansarnet.ws/vb), the group warned, "If you do not respond favorably to our call [to not send troops], we swear by God that you will not know security as long as our brothers in Iraq and in Afghanistan do not know it." "We do not want bloodshed. We do not want discord among Muslims," the group said, adding, "If Muslim troops are sent to Iraq, we will not remain idle."
Saudi Arabia presented a plan to the United States last week (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 July 2004) that calls for an Islamic force to help provide security in Iraq. That plan has thus far garnered little support from Arab and Muslim countries. Nonetheless, the threat does little to promote such an initiative, particularly following the recent Philippine decision to withdraw troops early to ensure the release of a Filipino truck driver.
Some progress is being made, insofar as Iraqi tribes and police have been able to track down common criminals holding hostages in recent days. Many former hostages have alluded that they were first taken hostage by criminal elements, which then sold them to militant groups.
Iraqi commandos freed a Lebanese taken hostage in Iraq on 1 August, according to press reports citing sources at the Lebanese Foreign Ministry. The hostage, Vlad Dama'a, was taken captive at gunpoint on 30 July at a construction firm he operates with his brother, Reuters reported on 1 August. The 4 August release of four Jordanians came after an Al-Fallujah tribal leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Jassam, organized a raid after learning of their whereabouts. "I called upon my brothers and tribesmen to free the hostages, so we raided the house last night," he told AP. Jassam said that 100 armed members of his tribe participated in the raid, in which the five kidnappers fled. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CHRISTIANS TARGETED IN IRAQ.
The 1 August bombings of five churches in Iraq were the first of such attacks on the Christian community in Iraq since the start of the 15-month insurgency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2004). Militants have mainly focused their attacks on police and coalition targets until now, and the targeting of the Christian community signals a possible ideological shift. Instead of viewing the Iraqi Christian community as distinct from what the militant groups view as the "Crusader occupation," the perpetrators of these acts now appear to view all Christians as one and the same. Western press has reported that some ordinary Iraqis also share this belief. If the bombings do in fact signal a shift, the implications are tremendous for this minority group, which comprises an estimated 3 percent of the population in Iraq.
Iraqi officials speculated this week that fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and his Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group was behind the coordinated attacks, which all took place within a 30-minute period. However, an unknown group identifying itself as the Planning and Follow-up Commission claimed responsibility. The tone of the group's statement, posted on the Minbar Ahl Al-Sunnah wa Al-Jama'ah website (http://www.islamic-minbar.com), accused U.S.-led multinational forces of proselytizing in an effort to get Muslims to convert to Christianity. "The U.S. did not stop at occupation and military invasion of the Muslim land, but they went on to establish hundreds of Christianization missions, print distorted books, distribute and spread them amongst the Muslims, with the goal to strip the Muslims of their religion and convert them to Christianity," the group claimed.
The media has reported on the influx of Christian missionary groups to Iraq since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. According to an 18 March report on latimes.com, at least nine evangelical churches had opened in Baghdad in the preceding eight months, many of which were funded by U.S. organizations that contributed up to $100,000 per church. Many groups have brought much-needed aid to Iraq, supplying blankets and food to Iraqis. While some groups maintain that their donations are free to anyone, and that they don't proselytize as part of their aid distribution, other groups made sure recipients knew they were receiving aid from "Christians in America," as one aid spokesman told washingtonpost.com, the website reported on 16 May.
Missionaries have also handed out thousands of Arabic Bibles -- latimes.com put the figure at 900,000 -- and distributed videos and religious tracts designed to "save" Muslims from their "false" religion, telegraph.co.uk reported on 27 December. Missionaries interviewed by Western media in Iraq all expressed a belief that they needed to gain a foothold inside the country before last month's transfer of power from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Iraqi interim government. "Iraq will become the center for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Iran, Libya, throughout the Middle East," Kyle Fisk, executive administrator for the National Association of Evangelicals, told latimes.com. "[U.S.] President [George W.] Bush said democracy will spread from Iraq to nearby countries. A free Iraq also allows us to spread Jesus Christ's teachings even in nations where the laws keep us out," he added. Fisk said that he and other missionaries intended to do just that: train Iraqi missionaries to discreetly proselytize in other Arab states. What is perhaps the most troubling is the sense that some missionaries fail to see Islam as a monotheistic religion that worships the same God as Christians. One missionary told telegraph.co.uk that Islam is a "false" religion, adding, "The Muslim religion is an antichrist religion."
This is not to say that proselytizing groups are responsible for the targeting of Christians in Iraq. The Christian community, and in particular, liquor-store owners, have been targeted dozens of times since the fall of the Hussein regime. Media reports in recent months have depicted the worries of the community, and many Christians interviewed have said they intended to seek asylum outside Iraq. What is troubling is that the missionaries may have inadvertently helped enhance the notion that the war in Iraq was a holy war targeting Islam, not Saddam Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNS IRAQIS ABOUT COMMENTS.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said in Tehran on 1 August that Iraqi officials should be "cautious" in comments they make about Iran and rejected recent Iraqi charges of Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs, instead blaming the situation on "disorderly conditions in Iraq and the lack of experience" of Iraqi ministers, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 2 August.
Iraqi Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib recently accused Iran of involvement in unrest in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2004), while Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuza'i accused Iran on 20 July of "blatant interference" in Iraqi affairs (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 July 2004). "Iraqi officials have just begun working and need to be cautious," Assefi said, because "such remarks have serious legal and political consequences," the daily added. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Tehran on 1 August that "we only think of being good neighbors and wish to interact with the Iraqi government," IRNA reported the same day. He said Iraqi Prime Minster Iyad Allawi has rejected al-Khuza'i's remarks, IRNA added. VSSUPPORT FOR SAUDI INITIATIVE LESS THAN ENTHUSIASTIC.
Last week's proposal to send Arab and Muslim forces to Iraq by Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 July 2004) has garnered little support by Arab and Muslim states in recent days, and it appears that the initiative will have trouble materializing.
The Saudi plan called for Arab and Muslim states not bordering Iraq to commit troops to serve under a UN-endorsed multinational force or under a separate UN umbrella. The initiative builds on earlier calls by Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi for Arab states to commit troops to Iraq. But a number of states have rejected the idea, saying that the United States must first withdraw from Iraq and give the UN the responsibility for commanding an international military force before troops could be committed. Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that it was too early to consider an Arab-Muslim force as a replacement for multinational forces in Iraq, the daily reported on 3 August. "There are many questions [to be asked] before such a question can be answered," he said.
Algerian State Minister for Foreign Affairs Abd al-Aziz Belkhadim told Algerian Radio on 31 July that his country would not participate in the plan, saying: "Algeria will not send forces to Iraq. It has not sent [forces] to any other country and will not send any forces to Iraq." Libyan news agency JANA reported on 30 July that President Muammar Qadhafi rejected the plan as well, so long as multinational forces remained in Iraq. Qadhafi said that Arab and Muslim forces would be seen as "occupation forces" if they served alongside multinational troops in Iraq. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi told reporters on 1 August that no Muslim or Arab state would be willing to send troops to Iraq under the present conditions -- also alluding to the demand for a withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq as a precondition for participation. Iran, as a neighboring state, would not likely be asked to contribute troops to Iraq.
Pakistan has also reportedly ruled out a possible deployment after two of its nationals were executed by militants holding them captive in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 July 2004). Foreign Ministry spokesman Mas'ud Khan told a weekly press briefing on 2 August: "We are not sending troops [to Iraq] under the present circumstances," which he termed as "volatile and unstable," AFP reported the same day. Pakistan had earlier said it would consider contributing forces to Iraq, should the interim government make such a request, and only if that request had UN support. The country rejected a U.S. plea for forces in 2003. An unidentified Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry spokesman also said this week that his country would not sent troops "unless they are under the command of the UN," IRNA reported on 2 August.
The Arab media has also criticized the plan. Egypt's government-owned "Al-Akhbar" published an editorial on 2 August that said the United States should withdraw from Iraq rather than "looking for Arab and Muslim troops to die in the place of its soldiers." Yemen's government news agency, Saba (http://www.safanews.net), cited an editorial in the official daily "Al-Thawra" that also called for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq, adding that Arab forces would not be implicated in the current U.S. predicament in Iraq through protecting the occupation. An editorial published in Amman's "Al-Ra'y" on 2 August said that Arab and Muslim soldiers were being called on to "die on behalf of the U.S. soldiers and cover the cost of the U.S. occupation by sacrificing their blood." The editorial also criticized the notion that Arab and Muslim forces would potentially be using their weapons against fellow Arabs and Muslims, a idea not easily accepted in the Middle East.
The writer made a further point: "The Iraqi resistance will not receive Arab and Islamic forces with flowers because they target anyone who works and collaborates with the occupation forces and do not exclude the Iraqis who choose to join the army and police. The Islamic forces...will be targeted by these men because these forces will go to Iraq to hit the resistance...." The point is well taken: at least two militant groups have issued statements warning Arab and Islamic states from sending troops to Iraq. The National Islamic Resistance -- 1920 Revolution Brigades said on 31 July that it would consider Arab and Islamic forces "occupation forces," and treat them as such, Al-Jazeera reported the same day.
Meanwhile the Salah Al-Din Brigades released a videotaped statement broadcast on Al-Manar television on 2 August that said: "We appeal to brothers in all Arab and Islamic countries and tell them that we are engaged in a fierce and decisive war to liberate Iraq from the U.S.-NATO-Crusader occupation. Whoever enters Iraq before full liberation is achieved...is a usurper and occupying enemy because he came to Iraq under the flags of the Jewish and Crusader invaders and came under their command. Therefore, he is one of them." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
MILITARY INVESTIGATOR TELLS COURT ABU GHURAYB ABUSE 'FOR FUN.'
A military investigator testifying at the pretrial hearing for Private First Class Lynndie England told the court at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on 3 August that U.S. troops abused Iraqi prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghurayb prison "just for fun," Reuters reported the same day.
England was seen in a number of prisoner-abuse photographs, including one in which she held a leash attached to the neck of a naked prisoner. Chief Warrant Officer Paul Arthur, the lead investigator in the Abu Ghurayb case, also testified that England said in a sworn statement in January that a superior, Specialist Charles Graner, put the leash on the prisoner and told her to pose for the photograph.
Six other military police reservists were charged in the case, including Graner. All have since claimed that they were ordered by higher-ups in military intelligence to stage the photographs. Another investigator, Special Agent Warren Worth, testified that he has found no evidence that orders came from higher in the chain of command than Graner and Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, another soldier charged in the case. (Kathleen Ridolfo)NATO MEMBERS REACH CONSENSUS ON IRAQ TRAINING.
NATO member states reached a consensus on 30 July that paves the way for the alliance to train Iraqi security forces, according to a statement posted on the organization's website (http://www.nato.int) the same day.
The statement says NATO will work closely with the Iraqi authorities to help establish a structured Ministry of Defense and Military Headquarters. "This will include the immediate start of training for selected Iraqi headquarter personnel in Iraq," the statement notes. The training of Iraqi security forces outside Iraq will begin this month, and NATO will help the interim government select those personnel eligible for training outside Iraq. The organization will also help coordinate individual state offers of military equipment and training.
NATO ambassadors struck the 30 July agreement after accepting a French proposal to delay any decision on who will command NATO forces, AP reported on 31 July. The United States had earlier insisted that NATO forces in Iraq fall under U.S. command; France vehemently objected to such a proposal.
NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Marine General James Jones, is expected to make a recommendation to NATO ambassadors by 15 September on the command structure.
NATO addressed the contentious issue in its 30 July statement, saying: "The Training Implementation Mission will be a distinct mission, under the political control of the NAC [North Atlantic Council]. It will be closely coordinated with the Multinational Force." German state radio reported on 2 August that Germany would not participate in the training missions inside Iraq. The government has reportedly not ruled out training Iraqi soldiers on German soil. (Kathleen Ridolfo)RADIO FREE IRAQ INTERVIEWS FU'AD MA'SUM ON POSTPONEMENT OF NATIONAL CONFERENCE.
RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) this week interviewed the head of the preparatory committee for the Iraqi National Conference, Fu'ad Ma'sum. Ma'sum is a political-bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and a former Iraqi Governing Council member. He announced on 29 July that the conference, at which delegates are expected to select a 100-member National Council to serve as a check on the interim government until elections in January, would be postponed until 15 August. He added that the United Nations will play an important role in the political process. A number of political groups have meanwhile accused conference organizers of not properly promoting the event and criticized the process of delegate selection (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 July 2004). This RFI interview by correspondent Jumana al-Ubaydi was originally broadcast on 3 August. Translation by Petr Kubalek.
The [Iraqi] National Conference must reflect the situation in Iraq with respect to its segments and political movements, to the whole specter of them. That is why it must encompass the representatives of political movements, of political parties, of various social classes and groups....
Some parties have spoken out against the National Conference. What prompted their opposition?
There are a number of parties, which I cannot count because we have not conducted any studies. However, this is apparently a question of the Association of Muslim Scholars, along with some representatives of the Arab nationalist movement and the al-Sadr movement. The dialogue with them is continuing. The attitude of some of them has been built on ideological grounds, or political grounds, so they apparently have a position that they can express and justify. For our part, we confirm that we desire their participation. They can speak and express themselves at the conference -- whatever they would like to state in front of this broadest assembly of Iraqi personalities and parties and in front of television cameras.
The United Nations has intervened in the question of the date for the Iraqi National Conference. Does this mean the UN will play a political role?
The UN does play a role, because the UN Security Council resolution [No. 1546] has provided for that, especially in future elections. But the resolution is not [coming] in the sense of changing our resolutions or laws.
As for postponing the conference, there were at first some signals that we did not take into account. But when they [the UN] asked officially for their presence at the conference if it was postponed -- [adding] that they would not attend if it takes place at its [originally planned] date -- we evaluated both possibilities, both situations.
As a result, the preparatory committee [of the Iraqi National Conference] has taken the decision to postpone the conference for two weeks because the attendance of the UN has for us a [special] importance, with special regard to [the fact] that the UN give legitimacy to this big, broad conference.
The al-Sadr movement -- or the young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr along with the Association of Muslim Clerics -- has rejected the conference. They regard it as a form of occupation, saying it is [based on] nomination and not election. What is your comment on this condemnation?
No, it is not a question of nomination. The conference is not [based on] a nomination. There were limited elections held in some provinces. The personalities [who will be] attending the conference were proposed as candidates by political parties and by well-known, respected personalities. Despite that, they had to pass some trials and filters before consensus was reached on the names [of delegates] who will be invited. Those are brilliant names from Iraqi society and political life.
Why is the Association of Muslim Clerics refusing to participate in the conference?
They have and ideological attitude, and they [tell themselves] that their attitude originated in Islamic law.
Iraqi citizens have not been informed about either the Iraqi National Conference, its members, or about elections. How do you interpret that?
I think that such a generalization, made in this way, is not possible. Because in all the provinces of Iraq you can find the posters that are now in Baghdad -- in all areas of Baghdad. These posters [announce] the conference and specify the date it will be convened. That is the first thing.
Second, you would have trouble finding a day when a newspaper, or rather four or five newspapers, are not writing about this conference.
So if someone says that he [or she] does not know anything [about the conference], it means that the person neither reads newspapers nor follows the news. It is true that [some] might have emerged from the previous regime with the idea that a campaign is repeated in all the media, day and night.
As for us, we have no media apparatus of our own, neither a television station nor a radio [station], so we have to rely on what is being delivered by Iraqi newspapers and also those [broadcasting] stations. And as for our [preparatory] committee, [we have prepared] those posters, which have become widespread in Iraq, as well as a website. Through the Internet, it is possible to get all information related to the conference.
Have I understood [correctly] from what you are saying, Dr. Fu'ad, that preparations for the conference that will take place on 15 August have reached their final stage, that there have been elections held in every province, and that 1,000 delegates have been chosen?
No, the choice of 100 [sic] delegates is being done within the conference, inside the convention hall. It is going to happen there. It is not that the choice would be conducted now, in advance. The choice has to be done according to a procedure, a specific procedure, and the conference will convene at its [planned] time, God willing.
What will the portion of female representatives be at the Iraqi National Conference?
At least 25 percent. They are present due to an appendix to the Transitional Administrative Law, and there are [currently] 19. Those will automatically enter the conference.
Do you have a concluding word that you would like to address to Iraqi citizens?
The conference has its importance. It is the first step on the right path toward democracy. So I would wish that the conference implements what we long for and what we hope for.