1 October 2004, Volume 7, Number 36
INSIDE IRAQBAGHDAD CAR BOMBS KILL DOZENS. More than 40 people were killed and more than 100 wounded after a series of car bombs exploded in Baghdad on 30 September, international media reported. More than 30 children were believed to have been killed. Two of the bombs were detonated near festivities celebrating the opening of a sewage-plant opening, although it was unclear whether the gathering or a passing U.S. convoy was the target. The U.S. Army's 1st Calvary Division oversaw construction of the plant, which is intended to serve the 20,000 residents of Baghdad's Al-Amil District, "The New York Times" reported. Witnesses said many children attending the event were being given candy by U.S. soldiers when the bombs exploded, CNN reported. Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's group Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad took responsibility for the bombings, according to a statement on an Islamist website, Arab News reported. The bombings, which wounded 10 U.S. soldiers, occurred following a day of clashes between U.S.-led forces and Iraqi insurgents near the center of Baghdad and at the end of one of the bloodiest months in the country. (Ethan Arnheim)
FIGHTING ESCALATES IN SUNNI TRIANGLE... U.S.-led forces launched a major assault on the Sunni stronghold of Samarra on 30 September, Reuters reported. A CNN reporter who was accompanying U.S. forces said that a "brigade size" regimen had entered the city and was traveling "sector by sector through the city to secure it." Iraqi police and hospital officials said four people were wounded in the incursion, including a child and one woman, Al-Jazeera reported. Sunni-dominated Samarra, located 100 kilometers north of Baghdad, has been under insurgent control following an uneasy truce between the U.S. Army and the resistance. In nearby Al-Fallujah, a U.S. air strike killed four civilians, the AP reported, citing hospital sources. The attack followed several days of fighting and was aimed at a "safe house" of followers of Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. (Ethan Arnheim)
...WHICH MAY BE PART OF AN NEW STRATEGY. Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on 30 September that his government will assert control over insurgent-held areas before the scheduled January elections, AP reported. "We are going to address the situation, we are going to build our security capability around Al-Fallujah and at the same time to use dialogue with them.'' Allawi's comments parallel statements by other government officials suggesting a tougher strategy. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Meyers said that the status quo in insurgent-controlled cities such as Al-Fallujah is "unacceptable" and said measures will be taken, NPR reported on 29 September. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for National Security Barham Ahmad Salih echoed Meyer's comments. "We aim to regain control of these areas before the month of November," AFP quoted him as saying. Although no official policy has been announced, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuza'i said: "Wait and see what we are going to do. We are going to take all these cities in October," Reuters reported. (Ethan Arnheim)
NEW REPORT DOCUMENTS INCREASE IN INSURGENT ATTACKS IN IRAQ. The number of attacks in Iraq have increased to approximately 70 per day, according to a study by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor Kroll Security International, "The Washington Post" reported on 26 September. The company's survey of attacks chronicled a diverse array of tactics, ranging from Molotov cocktails hurled by young men to explosions by suicide bombers. In the period before the 28 June transfer of power to the interim government, between 40 and 50 attacks were being reported daily. Appearing on ABC's "This Week" on 26 September, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged the rise in attacks, international media reported the same day. "Yes, it's getting worse, and the reason it's getting worse is that they are determined to disrupt the elections," Powell said.
USAID spokesman Jeffrey Grieco later announced that future reports will be restricted for circulation to those contractors and grantees who continue to work in Iraq and congressional officials who seek them. An agency official said the decision was unrelated to the 26 September article and was based on concerns that reports "would fall into insurgents' hands." USAID also reduced the number of Iraqis working on its projects by 30,000, Reuters reported on 30 September. Using 15 September data, USAID's Iraq Weekly Status report said 45,844 Iraqis were employed in its projects compared with 88,436 recorded in the previous week's report. The 88,436 figure was later adjusted to 55,463 jobs with a footnote attributing the change to an "accounting error." (Ethan Arnheim)
IRAQI NATIONAL GUARDSMAN DETAINED FOR INSURGENCY TIES. Talib Al-Lahibi, a senior commander with the Iraqi National Guard, was arrested on 23 September for suspected links to the insurgency, AP reported on 26 September. Al-Lahibi led three battalions around Baq'uba and was responsible for security in the Diyala governorate, which is located north of Baghdad and contains much of the restive Sunni Triangle. Al-Lahibi previously served as an officer under deposed President Saddam Hussein and had been in his current post for less than one week, the BBC reported on 26 September. He was nominated for the position by fellow guardsmen after his predecessor was assassinated. U.S. Army spokesman Major Neal O'Brien, who announced the arrest, did not disclose any of the evidence connecting Al-Lahibi to the insurgency. (Ethan Arnheim)
CHARGES AGAINST CHALABI DISMISSED. The charges against Iraqi National Congress head Ahmad Chalabi have been dropped due to a lack of evidence, "The New York Times" reported on 28 September. Judge Zuhair al-Maliki said the case will be reopened if new evidence emerges. The charges were dropped following discussions between Chalabi's lawyers and representatives of the Iraqi Central Bank. A onetime favorite of some within the U.S. Defense Department, Chalabi was charged in August for counterfeiting currency, but prosecutors could not find adequate evidence to prove Chalabi's ownership of the Chinese-style mansion where the counterfeiting was done, "The Washington Post" reported. (Ethan Arnheim)
HEPATITIS OUTBREAK AFFECTS TWO IMPOVERISHED IRAQI DISTRICTS. Officials from the Iraqi Health Ministry said a strain of hepatitis that especially affects pregnant women has broken out, "The New York Times" reported on 25 September. The outbreak of hepatitis E has occurred in Al-Sadr City, near the outskirts of Baghdad, and Mahmudiya, 90 kilometers south of Baghdad. The disease has so far caused five deaths, with 125 cases of illness reported in Al-Sadr City and 60 in Mahmudiya, although those numbers may be low due to underreporting. The outbreak has been linked to the breakdown of sewage and sanitation systems in these areas, but a direct cause has not been determined. In an effort to stem the spread of the disease, the World Health Organization is sending testing kits and water-purification tablets to Iraq. There is no known vaccine for the disease, and scientists are uncertain why survival rates for hepatitis E are lower among pregnant women. (Ethan Arnheim)
IRAQ TO RECEIVE FIRST IMF LOAN. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a $436.7 million loan for Iraq, AP reported on 29 September. The funds were allotted by the IMF under its ''emergency post-conflict assistance" program that is designed to aid countries following war. U.S. officials hope the aid foreshadows forgiveness by the World Bank for the approximately $120 billion debt owed by Iraq. The aim of the loan is to stabilize the economy and lay the groundwork for future reforms such as the restructuring of state-owned enterprises and improving the transparency of the oil sector. IMF Deputy Managing Director Takatoshi Kato called the assistance ''a crucial step toward putting Iraq back on the path to economic stability and strong, sustainable growth." Another official emphasized the detrimental effects of the insurgency. "The first step in Iraq is to deal with the security situation," Raghuram Rajan, the IMF's chief economist, said at a news conference announcing the loans. (Ethan Arnheim)
BAGHDAD STOCK EXCHANGE NEARS PREWAR LEVELS. Trade on the Baghdad Stock Exchange is approaching the daily volume that typically occurred under Saddam Hussein's regime, Al-Zaman reported on 23 September. Nearly 100 companies are listed on the exchange, approximately the same number that traded before the U.S.-led invasion. Officials reported high volume over the past week due to the initial public offering of Al-Hukma Pharmaceuticals, which traded more than 112 million shares. More than 4 billion dinars ($2.8 million) of stock changed hands during the first session last week, with high volume in the agricultural sector. The Baghdad Stock Exchange has been operating for 10 years and is open two days a week. (Ethan Arnheim)
REGIONAL NEWSU.S.: SYRIA WILL COOPERATE ON IRAQ BORDER SECURITY. U.S. State Department officials said that Damascus will take steps to stem the flow of insurgents from Syria to Iraq, international media reported on 29 September. The announcement follows two days of discussions, which were described by State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher as "constructive and positive." The Syrian position toward the nascent Iraqi government and the government's cooperation on the war on terror were also discussed. Following the meetings, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell underlined the need for real measures to be taken. "I think it is a positive step, but what really matters is action and not just an agreement," he said. Syrian officials did not comment on the talks. (Ethan Arnheim)
IRAQ PLANS MULTILATERAL CONFERENCE. Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari announced on 28 September that a conference will be held in November to support stability in Iraq and the approaching January elections, Reuters reported on 29 September. Al-Zebari said participants will include foreign ministers from most of Iraq's neighbors, including Turkey, Iran, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, and Egypt, as well as the Group of Eight industrial states, and China, as well as representatives from the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the EU. "The goal of the conference is clearly defined to seek the support of all these countries for the political stabilization of Iraq and to support the electoral process," al-Zebari said after meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Al-Zebari said he hopes the January elections will include participation of all sections of Iraq and the conference "is to help us reach that stage," he said. However, the conference "will not include opposition or nongovernmental or political entities," al-Zebari said. (Ethan Arnheim)
JORDANIAN KING CASTS DOUBT ON IRAQI ELECTIONS. In an interview with the French newspaper "Le Figaro," Jordan's King Abdullah II voiced concerns regarding the elections scheduled for January, international media reported on 28 September. Unless the security situation improves before the January elections, only extremists would benefit from the vote, said Abdullah, a staunch U.S. ally. Abdullah added that partial elections in Iraq that exclude areas such as insurgent-controlled Al-Fallujah will exacerbate the existing divides within the country and jeopardize the election's legitimacy. "It seems impossible to me to organize indisputable elections in the chaos we see today," he said. Abdullah also encouraged the Iraqi armed forces to enlist the help of former mid-level officers under Saddam Hussein to help train new recruits. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte said on 27 September that the election will continue as scheduled regardless of the security situation or the number of UN election monitors, AP reported the same day. (Ethan Arnheim)
THE UN AND IRAQUN: ONE IN FOUR IRAQIS DEPENDS ON RATIONS. The United Nations World Food Program announced on 28 September that 6.5 million Iraqis are dependent on food aid, international media reported. That is roughly 25 percent of the population -- down from the 65 percent that needed food aid for survival in the final days of the reign of Saddam Hussein. The results of a comprehensive survey conducted by the UN agency concluded that the economic condition of 2.6 million Iraqis require that they sell part of their rations to buy basic necessities. Should food aid be discontinued, 3.6 million Iraqis will be "food insecure." The survey also revealed that almost one-third of Iraqi children under the age of five are "chronically malnourished." The study was unprecedented in its scope. "For the first time, we are getting an accurate picture of people's access to food. As a result, we are much better able to plan assistance," explained Torben Due, the World Food Program's Iraq director. The World Food Program launched a one-year $60 million emergency operation targeting the most vulnerable groups in Iraq. (Ethan Arnheim)
EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQPOLITICIAN SAYS ITALY PAID RANSOM FOR HOSTAGES. The head of the Italian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee said his government paid $1 million or more for the release of two abducted aid workers, BBC reported on 29 September. Contradicting denials by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini that no ransom was paid, National Alliance member Gustavo Selva defended the government's acquiescence. "In principle, we shouldn't give in to blackmail but this time we had to," he explained. Simona Pari and Simona Torretta were released on 28 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2004). Ali Roz, editor of the Kuwaiti paper "Al-Rai al-Aam," said the captors initially demanded $5 million but accepted $1 million, Reuters reported on 29 September. The two women said they wish to resume their work in Iraq, Reuters reported on 30 September. "I hope to return to Iraq soon. It's a country that I really love," Pari said. Torretta commented that she would "do it all over again, with all of the consequences." (Ethan Arnheim)
FRANCE INSISTS ON DISCUSSING TROOP WITHDRAWAL. If an international conference on Iraq is to be held (see "Iraq Plans Multilateral Conference" above), the removal of U.S. troops should be considered, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said on 27 September, international media reported the same day. After U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested on 26 September that an international conference be convened in Amman or Cairo to discuss Iraq, Barnier said that the withdrawal of foreign troops "is an issue which should be on the agenda of such a conference, if we want it to take place," the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 28 September, citing Radio France Internationale. Barnier also suggested that militant groups be invited to the conference. The conference should seek to include "a certain number of groups or people who now have chosen the path of resistance by arms," Barnier said. Comparing the situation in Iraq to a "black hole," Barnier also said that the conference ought to be held at the United Nations, the BBC reported on 27 September. Barnier added, "We are in a process set out by UN [Security Council] Resolution 1546, and we must stick to it." (Ethan Arnheim)
IRAQI RELIGIOUS LEADERSSHI'A LEADERS
Ali al-Sistani -- Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah. The leading religious authority among the Shi'a community in Iraq. Born in Mashhad, Iran, he moved to Iraq at the age of 21 to pursue his religious studies, and has remained there since. The septuagenarian al-Sistani Heads the Imam Ali foundation.
Muhammad Ishaq al-Fayyad -- Afghani-born grand ayatollah. Reportedly more moderate than al-Sistani, al-Fayyad advocates a separation of state and religion, and does not support the idea of the vilayat al-faqih, or rule of the jurisprudent, as found in Iran.
Bashir al-Najafi -- Pakistani-born senior Shi'ite grand ayatollah based in Al-Najaf. Remained in Iraq during Saddam Hussein rule. Al-Najafi's home has been attacked by militants at least four times this year.
Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim -- Iraqi grand ayatollah based in Al-Najaf. Uncle of Shi'ite ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who was assassinated in a car-bomb explosion in Al-Najaf in August 2003.
Sadiq Husayni Shirazi -- Iraqi grand ayatollah. Born in Al-Najaf, studied there and in Qom, Iran, where he is based. Sadiq Husayni is the younger brother of Ayatollah Muhammad Shirazi.
Kazim al-Husayni al-Ha'iri -- controversial Iraqi Shi'ite ayatollah based in Qom, Iran. The cleric returned briefly to Iraq after the fall of the Hussein regime. Muqtada al-Sadr asked al-Ha'iri to serve as his adviser and to head the Al-Najaf Hawzah (seminary) in April 2003. On 24 April, "Al-Mustaqbal" reported that al-Ha'iri represents "the point of convergence" between the al-Sadr current, the Al-Da'wah, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He reportedly also has strong relations with the religious authorities in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon. Al-Ha'iri is staunchly anti-American and issued a fatwa in May 2003 saying it was lawful for Muslims to kill senior Ba'ath party officials. Appointed Muqtada al-Sadr as his representative in Iraq. Many Shi'a in Al-Najaf don't recognize his authority over Iraqis.
Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarrisi -- Born in 1945 in Karbala. Nephew of Ayatollah Hasan Shirazi; Head of the Islamic Action Organization and a SCIRI central committee member. His father was Muhammad Baqir al-Mudarrisi. His mother is from the al-Shirazi family (her father is Sayyid Mahdi al-Shirazi).
Sheikh Jawad al-Khalisi -- Shi'ite cleric and former member of SCIRI (1982). Wants to form a United Islamic Front of Sunnis and Shi'a committed to establishing an Islamic state. He is secretary-general of the Iraqi Constituent Conference. Al-Khalisi has strong relations with the Muslim Scholars Association, a Sunni group. He has been extremely critical of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
Muqtada al-Sadr -- Controversial 31-year-old cleric of little theological training. Al-Sadr is the son of assassinated Shi'ite cleric Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Said to be responsible for killing of Washington-supported cleric Abd al-Majid al-Khoi in Al-Najaf on 10 April 2003. Al-Sadr was appointed "deputy and representative in all fatwa affairs" by Qom-based Iraqi cleric Kazim al-Ha'iri in late April 2003. His followers are known as the Sadriyun. Al-Sadr has emerged as one of the most popular Shi'ite leaders in Iraq in recent months, and appeals to the poor and disenfranchised, who are drawn to the cleric's charisma and anti-U.S. stance.
Harith al-Dari -- An influential member of the Muslim Scholars Association who acts as the head of media affairs for the Sunni group. Led a delegation of Arabs to the Arab League in July 2003 asking it to not recognize the Governing Council. According to "Al-Quds al-Arabi," al-Dari is the grandson of Sheikh Dari, a national Iraqi hero who killed colonial British officer Colonel Gerard Leachman during the 1920 revolution in Iraq. Sheikh Harith was born in 1941 and graduated from Al-Azhar University in 1967. He holds a doctorate in hadith (prophetic tradition) and interpretation. He taught Islamic law at the Iraqi, Jordanian, and UAE universities. He returned to Iraq after occupation and joined the national ranks that are calling for liberation from occupation.
Ahmad al-Kubaysi -- Sunni sheikh who is said to be linked to Muslim Brotherhood. Returned to Iraq after fall of Saddam Hussein. Critical of U.S. administration in Iraq. Publishes the newspaper "Al-Sa'ah." Al-Kubaysi is known for his popular talk shows and lectures on several pan-Arab television stations. He resided in the United Arab Emirates for five years prior to the Hussein regime's demise. Pledged in August 2003 to work with the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) but did not, and remained critical of the occupation and IGC. Heads the political party Unified National Movement. The interim Iraqi government banned al-Kubaysi in September 2004 from returning to Iraq reportedly because of his ties to Sunni militants. Was reported to have given $50 million to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to fund the latter's militant activities in 2003, a charge al-Kubaysi denies.
Abd al-Sattar Abd al-Jabbar -- A controversial cleric opposed to U.S.-led occupation and member of the Muslim Scholars Association. Abd al-Jabbar condoned the killing of 12 Nepalese hostages in Iraq by saying that anyone who works with the occupation should be considered part of the occupation. Abd al-Jabbar was asked by Al-Jazeera in August to comment on the standoff between multinational forces and militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He responded by saying that U.S. troops and the Iraqi government did not want a solution, but wanted "to destroy Iraq."
Emmanuel Deli -- Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, elected in Baghdad in 2003.
Louis Sako -- Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk; Served as a parish priest in Mosul until appointed archbishop of Kirkuk in late 2003. He is the only religious figure elected to serve on the Mosul provincial council in 2003. Sako supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Born in 1948 in Zahko, the archbishop reportedly speaks eight languages.
Shlemon Warduni -- Chaldean Auxillary Bishop of Baghdad. Born in 1943, he became a priest in 1968. In 2001, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Babylonia for the Chaldean Church, and titular bishop of Anbar dei Caldei.
Rabban Al-Qas -- Chaldean bishop in Amadiyah. Born in 1949, he has served as a priest in Amadiyah since 1973. Reportedly of Kurdish heritage. He was ordained Bishop of Amadiyah in 2002. Al-Qas has been called the "Bishop of Kurdistan" by Sunni Kurds living there, who respect his leadership.
Archbishop Gewargis Sliwa -- An Assyrian who heads the Church of the East in Iraq in Baghdad. Sliwa was born in Habbaniyah and graduated from Baghdad Universtiy in 1964. He was ordained as a priest in Chicago in 1977, and in 1981 was ordained as archbishop of the Assyrian Church of the East in Iraq.
Mir Tahsin Sa'id Beg -- the secular and spiritual head of the Yezidis. Born in 1933, the fifth child of Sa'id Beg and Meyan Khatun, Tahsin was appointed head of the Yezidis in 1944 following his father's death. In an interview published on yezidi.org website, he said that his mother Meyan Khatun, along with the Yezidi religious council and tribal leaders, chose him as his father's successor. His mother ruled the Yezidis as his representative until he was 18 years old. He fled Iraq in the 1970s after he was falsely implicated in a failed coup attempt against the Hussein regime, first living in Iran, then London. After 1981, he returned to Iraq, but it appears that he has divided his time between Iraq and Germany, where a large Yezidi community exists.
Baba Sheikh -- Khatto Hajji was elected baba sheikh (senior father) of the Yezidis in 1995. He is a known oppositionist to the Hussein regime, which reportedly tried to reverse his election. Khatto Hajji's family is linked to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).