22 October 2004, Volume
FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES ELECTIONS, UPCOMING CONFERENCE.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari updated reporters at a 20 October press briefing in Baghdad on progress being made towards January 2005 elections and the 22-23 November Iraq conference in Sharm Al-Shaykh, Egypt that will be attended by foreign ministers from neighboring countries.
Regarding elections, al-Zebari reiterated the interim government's support for elections, but criticized the United Nations for not doing enough to support the planning process. "We strongly regret that the contribution or participation of the UN staff in the process is not up to the required level," al-Zebari said. "According to available information, a very limited number of UN employees are there although we are almost at the end of October."
Al-Zebari noted that the UN sent more than 300 staffers to monitor elections in East Timor "where there is a very small population." "We certainly need larger UN participation and presence to at least boost confidence in the election process," he said. Al-Zebari said that Iraq would raise the issue at the November conference, "not only with the United Nations but also with the other parties and organizations participating in it." Iraq's six neighboring states (Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) will attend the conference along with representatives from host nation Egypt, the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council, G-8 member states, the Arab League, European Union, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The foreign minister said that Iraq would seek the support of states participating in the conference for elections, particularly in the area of technical expertise and election observers. A RFE/RL Radio Free Iraq (RFI) correspondent asked al-Zebari about a controversial demand by France that the interim government allow "opposition" forces to attend the conference (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 October 2004). "As I said, this is an official conference for governments and no Iraqi organizations or political forces will be invited...no organizations or groups outside the Iraqi government's official representation will participate in it. The political and election process is open for them. The groups which renounce violence can participate in this process with the rest of Iraqis. Let them test their popularity through the ballot boxes instead of the use of bombs, kidnappings, and slaughtering," al-Zebari said.
RFI also asked whether any decision has been made regarding whether Iraqis abroad can vote in the January elections. "This issue is still under study. No final decision has been made in this regard," al-Zebari said. He added that the issue is complex but said it is one that he personally supports. (Kathleen Ridolfo)FUGITIVE TERRORIST IN IRAQ PLEDGES ALLEGIANCE TO BIN LADEN.
Fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a statement posted to an Islamic forum website (http://www.alhesbah.org) on 17 October.
The statement attributed to al-Zarqawi's Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad militant group said: "Talks, during which views were exchanged between Sheikh Abu Mus'ab...and brothers from Al-Qaeda, have been going on for eight months."
The statement said that talks were interrupted for a time but then resumed, adding, "Our respected brothers in Al-Qaeda understood the strategy of Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad in the land of the two rivers [Iraq] and the caliphates and their hearts opened to their approach.... We deliver to the nation the news that both Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad's Amir [al-Zarqawi] and soldiers have pledged allegiance to the sheikh of the mujahedin, Osama bin Laden, and that they will follow his orders in jihad for the sake of God so there will be no more tumult or oppression, and justice and faith in God will prevail." The statement called on the "youth of this nation" to join al-Zarqawi's followers under the banner of Al-Qaeda.
Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told reporters on 16 October that bin Laden recently sent an aide, identified as Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi, to Al-Fallujah to reunite what KUNA described as "terrorists and rebels," and to supply the groups with money and arms, the news agency reported on 17 October.
KUNA quoted Allawi as saying that al-Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda have formed a new organization aimed at destabilizing security in Iraq. Allawi told reporters that 90 Arab terrorists recently arrested in Samarra confirmed the al-Zarqawi/Al-Qaeda alliance. The detained terrorists also gave "serious" information about bomb-making workshops and training centers in Al-Fallujah, KUNA reported.
Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad later released a statement claiming it has officially joined the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 20 October. Al-Jazeera broadcast a statement by the group identifying itself as Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad in Bilad al-Rafidayn (Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers). Iraq is commonly known as the land of the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. The statement has not been verified.
A Jordanian court indicted Al-Zarqawi along with 12 other militants, including a Syrian identified as Abu al-Ghadia, on 17 October in an alleged plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Amman and other Jordanian targets with chemical and conventional weapons, international media reported the same day. Some of the suspects in custody said that the plot was linked to Al-Qaeda, washingtonpost.com reported on 18 October. Meanwhile, a statement attributed to the military wing of Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad posted on the Internet (http://www.tajdeed.net) on 16 October claimed the group beheaded 11 Iraqi National Guardsmen and policemen. (Kathleen Ridolfo)AL-FALLUJAH STANDOFF CONTINUES.
U.S. forces reportedly arrested and later released the apparent head of the Al-Fallujah negotiating team that held talks with the interim government in an effort to bring an end to violence in the volatile Sunni city, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 16 October.
Khalid Humud al-Jumayli was arrested following Friday prayers on 15 October. Prime Minister Allawi denied to reporters at a 16 October press conference that al-Jumayli had been arrested.
Negotiator Abd al-Hamid al-Jaddu told Al-Jazeera in a 15 October interview that al-Jumayli's arrest would have "adverse consequences." Negotiators from the city had said on 17 October that they were ready to resume talks, which broke off last week, on the condition that the United States cease its bombing of the city and release al-Jumayli. Al-Arabiyah reported that at least one condition -- al-Jumayli's release -- was met on 18 October.
However, just hours after being released from U.S. custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004), al-Jumayli told the interim Iraqi government on 18 October that the "council of holy warriors" in Al-Fallujah had ordered him to cease negotiations with the government, nytimes.com reported on 19 October.
"The continuous bombing in Al-Fallujah is what led the mujahedin council to tell me to suspend the negotiations," al-Jumayli said. The website said that al-Jumayli's remarks suggested that he had less leverage with militants in the city than he had earlier claimed. One local resident told the website that 90 percent of Al-Fallujah's residents have left the city in anticipation of a large-scale incursion by multinational forces.
Another Al-Fallujah negotiator, Ahmad Hardan, who works for the World Health Organization in Iraq, reiterated a call to restart negotiations with the interim government, but called on the government to take the first step towards the resumption of talks, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 20 October.
The Sunni Muslim Scholars Association quickly convened what they termed an emergency conference at Baghdad's Umm Al-Qura Mosque on 20 October. Association representative Harith al-Dari told Al-Jazeera in an interview following the meeting that he expected the United States to launch a large-scale assault on Al-Fallujah in the coming days. "We became sure of this danger [of a U.S.-led attack] when the interim Iraqi prime minister said that Al-Fallujah has to hand in Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi," he said, adding that "Al-Fallujah citizens viewed this as a threat to storm" the city. Al-Dari warned U.S. forces and the interim government that storming Al-Fallujah would not be as easy as in other places like Samarra.
The satellite news channel later reported on 20 October that U.S. forces arrested the local representative of the association in Kubaysah (western Iraq) and four other members from the city after they returned from the conference. Al-Jazeera also said association member Sheikh Sa'd Rashid Faza was arrested in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala after his home was raided by U.S. and Iraqi forces on the same day.
Iraqi Islamic Party leader Muhsin Abd al-Hamid called Prime Minister Allawi's demand (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 October 2004) that Al-Fallujans turn in fugitive terrorist al-Zarqawi "unrealistic," Al-Jazeera reported on 18 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)MUSLIM SCHOLARS ASSOCIATION URGES MILITARY, POLICE, NOT TO ASSIST U.S.
The Muslim Scholars Association issued a statement in its weekly "Al-Basa'ir" on 14 October urging Iraqi police and military forces not to partake in operations in support of U.S.-led multinational forces. The statement issued by the Sunni organization called on these forces to disobey any orders by their superiors which go against Shari'a law and the "unity of the homeland and citizens." "The duty of the army is to protect the borders and defend values, holy places, and properties. Under shari'a law, the army is prohibited from participating in actions leading to the imposition of foreign control on the country," it added. "The Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq calls on the Iraqi police and national guard personnel to adhere to their original duties and carry out their work in compliance with the shari'a and original laws that are designed to organize their work." (Kathleen Ridolfo)POLICEMEN TARGETED IN SEVERAL ATTACKS.
Iraqi policemen were targeted in several weekend attacks, international media reported. Six people were killed and 30 wounded when a car bomb detonated outside a Baghdad cafe in the early morning hours of 18 October, Al-Arabiyah reported. Policemen had gathered at the cafe for suhur, the predawn Ramadan meal. Reuters reported that seven were killed and 20 wounded in the attack. The news agency could not confirm how many of the casualties were policemen.
Seven Iraqi policemen sustained injuries in an ambush south of Ba'qubah on 18 October, Al-Arabiyah television reported. Nine Iraqi policemen were killed in Al-Latifiyah on 17 October when gunmen ambushed the bus they were traveling in, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. The men had just completed a police-training course in Jordan and were on their way home when the attack occurred.
Militants fired six mortars rounds at the Iraqi National Guard headquarters north of Baghdad on 19 October, international media reported. Reuters cited a National Guard spokesman as telling reporters, "All I am permitted to say is that the National Guard headquarters in Al-Mushahida was attacked." U.S. military officials said that four were killed and 80 wounded in the attack. (Kathleen Ridolfo)FIVE CHURCHES BOMBED IN BAGHDAD.
Five churches were bombed in Baghdad in the early morning hours of 16 October, international media reported. The bombs were all detonated within a half hour of each other, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Adnan Abd al-Rahman. No one was injured in the attacks, which caused exterior damage to the buildings and blew out windows, AP reported. The denominations attacked were the Chaldean Church, the Latin-rite Church of Rome, two Orthodox churches, and a Syrian Orthodox Church, catholicnews.com reported.
Four car bombs detonated within a 30-minute period outside churches in Baghdad on 1 August, killing at least 10 people, and wounding dozens (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2004). Minister of Displacement and Migration Pascale Warda estimates that as many as 15,000 Iraqi Christians may have fled Iraq for Syria and Jordan since the August bombings, AP reported on 17 October. Some 88 Iraqi Christians have been killed since the fall of the Hussein regime, many of them in the past nine months, catholicnews.com reported. One of the killed was reportedly a 14-year-old Chaldean Catholic girl. The website contends that she was kidnapped by an Islamic group for ransom and killed "in cold blood," on 14 October.
Sunni and Shi'a leaders, including Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the 16 October attacks, according to Iraqi media reports. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CARE SUSPENDS AID WORK IN IRAQ AFTER KIDNAPPING.
The international humanitarian aid group CARE International announced on 20 October that it has temporarily suspended its activities in Iraq following the previous day's kidnapping of Margaret Hassan, CARE's country director in Iraq, according to a statement posted on the organization's website (http://www.careinternational.org.uk).
Al-Jazeera television broadcast a videotape showing Hassan sitting on a sofa, looking anxious. The video, in which no sound was audible, also showed several of Hassan's identification cards. Al-Jazeera said that the kidnappers have not identified themselves.
The Irish-born Hassan, who is about 60 years old, has lived and worked in Iraq for some 30 years. She holds Iraqi citizenship and is married to an Iraqi national. Her husband Tahsin Ali Hassan told Al-Jazeera in a 19 October interview that two vehicles surrounded Hassan's car when she arrived at work and pulled her from her vehicle. He said his wife was not previously threatened by any group. (Kathleen Ridolfo)FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT.
Former Iraqi interim National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i reportedly survived an assassination attempt on 17 October, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 19 October. Al-Rubay'i's vehicle was reportedly attacked in the upscale Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad as he traveled to his home.
The radio station reported that al-Rubay'i, who has apparently been forced out of the interim administration, accused unnamed members of the government and intelligence services of attempting to kill him. Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi launched similar accusations against Iraqi intelligence chief General Muhammad al-Shahwani on 16 October, Voice of the Mujahidin reported. Chalabi accused al-Shahwani of spying on Iraqi political parties, and arresting citizens on baseless grounds. Chalabi also accused al-Shahwani of stirring sectarianism and directing false accusations against Iraqi political parties. Al-Shahwani this week accused some Iraqi political parties of receiving financial assistance from neighboring countries that seek to influence the political climate in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BARZANI KEEPS UP CLAIM ON KIRKUK.
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) head Mas'ud Barzani kept up his campaign to claim a Kurdish hold on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk this week. Speaking to reporters during his three-day trip to Damascus, Barzani said: "We are sure that once the situation in Kirkuk is normalized, the organization of a referendum will show that the vast majority of inhabitants are Kurds," AFP reported on 18 October. "We are sure consequently that Kirkuk will return to [Iraqi] Kurdistan," he added.
Barzani's recent statements on the city, which is inhabited by Arabs, Turkomans, and Kurds, has provoked a strong response from Turkey (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 October 2004); Iraq's northern neighbor supports the rights of Turkomans in the city, and last year attempted to claim a Turkish historical right to the city (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 January 2003). Anatolia news agency cited U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman on 20 October as saying the United States felt uneasy about Kurdish designs on Kirkuk.
Hundreds of Kurds gathered in the city earlier this month to demonstrate in favor of a referendum on the city's status. The interim Iraqi government also planned to carry out a nationwide census this month. That plan has been shelved indefinitely, which appears to be a wise decision on the part of the interim government. The census would likely further strain ethnic relations among Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans not only in Kirkuk, but in cities such as Mosul, and Tell Afar --something the interim government is ill-equipped to deal with. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BAGHDAD GOVERNORATE TO EDUCATE CITIZENS ON ELECTIONS.
The Baghdad Governorate Council has reportedly decided to set up a national elections committee for all local councils operating within the governorate to educate citizens on the January elections, "Al-Mashriq" reported on 18 October. Baghdad Governorate Council Chairman Ali Fadil said that the committee will educate citizens on the elections' mechanism, including the list system and voting procedures. Fadil reportedly said that the mechanism is still unclear to him, saying, "We still do not have any idea about the elections' operation." Nevertheless, he concluded, "This operation will serve the parties rather than the independent" candidates. (Kathleen Ridolfo)WEAPONS BUY-BACK PROGRAM EXTENDED IN IRAQ.
Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has extended the weapons buy-back program in Baghdad's Al-Sadr City until 21 October, Iraqi media reported on 18 October. Allawi told a press briefing broadcast live on Al-Arabiyah that the program would be expanded to other parts of the country, saying it was a necessary step in preparation for January elections.
"The government is determined to make cities and neighborhoods free of weapons because our forces are now qualified to face violence and protect citizens gradually, and we see no need for the presence of weapons in houses." The buy-back program has reportedly done little to rid Al-Sadr City of weapons, despite the plethora of weapons turned in (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004).
The black-market dealers in Al-Sadr City are buying large shipments of arms from other governorates at "low prices" and selling them to the interim government, a local resident told the "Financial Times," ft.com reported on 18 October. The government is paying higher prices for the weapons than sellers might get on the street. The website cites U.S. officials as saying that most of the weapons sold to the government are old or broken, leading those officials to speculate that Al-Sadr City residents are holding on to newer weapons.
Militiamen loyal to Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have turned in over 1,000 heavy weapons in the past week, including 700 rocket-propelled grenades and some 400 mortar shells. Hundreds of light weapons were also turned in to the government for cash -- some $1.2 million, nytimes.com reported on 18 October. Allawi did not say on 18 October when house-to-house weapon searches will begin in Al-Sadr City. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S., IRAQI FORCES LAUNCH RAID NEAR BALAD.
Two Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded during a raid on the Iraqi town of Al-Dulu'iyah on 18-19 October, Arab media reported. The town is located north of Baghdad, near the city of Balad. Al-Jazeera described the military operation as "raids, search campaigns, and arbitrary arrests." According to Al-Arabiyah television, "scores" of militants were arrested in the raids. Eyewitnesses told the satellite news channel that U.S. helicopters carried out raids on farms surrounding Al-Dulu'iyah, where militants were suspected to be hiding. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BORDER POLICE ARREST 142 PEOPLE ILLEGALLY ENTERING IRAQ.
Iraqi border police arrested 142 persons last week who illegally entered Iraq from Iran, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. Brigadier General Nazim Sharif, who commands the Diyala Governorate border force northeast of Baghdad, said that the persons arrested had been inside the country for one week when they were apprehended.
The arrested included Iranian, Afghan, and Pakistani nationals. Sharif said that some of the arrested were in possession of weapons and narcotics banned in Iraq. Justice Ministry spokesman Nuri Abd al-Rahim Ibrahim said in a 19 October statement that 24 "foreign terrorists" of Arab, Iranian, Afghan, and Pakistani origins have been referred to Iraqi criminal courts for trial, KUNA reported the same day. The individuals were arrested during military operations in Samarra, he said. He added that some 1,200 detained Iraqis were released without bail since August according to a policy agreed upon by multinational and Iraqi forces that calls for the release of detainees not proven guilty of committing crimes. (Kathleen Ridolfo)OFFICIAL CLAIMS IRAQI WEAPONS ON RISE IN SOUTHERN IRAN.
The majlis deputy for the town of Ahvaz in the southern Iranian province of Khuzestan has complained of an influx of Iraqi weapons to the town, which he says has contributed to a rise in violence, "Aftab-e Yazd" reported on 17 October. Naser Sudani reportedly told Fars news agency that the influx of weapons into the general population has created "a sense of boldness in people who sometimes attempt to take revenge or commit armed robbery." Sudani claimed that the surge in criminal activity has created a sense of fear and insecurity in the town, and has kept many government employees home from work. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
ANNAN SAYS IRAQ ON TRACK FOR ELECTIONS.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that preparations for elections are on track in Iraq and should take place in January if the situation holds, UN News Center reported on 19 October. Speaking to reporters in London, Annan said that the UN is providing "good support" to the Iraqi Election Commission. "For the moment, we believe we are on track and if things go well and everyone does what they are supposed to do, and the environment holds, we should be able to have the elections," he said.
Annan reissued his call for other nations to assist in the restabilization of Iraq. "I've indicated that any government with the capacity and ability to help should do what they can to help stabilize Iraq so that they can get on with their lives," the secretary-general said. The UN announced on 20 October that Fiji will contribute troops that would provide security for senior UN officials working in Iraq as well as a guard unit to protect UN facilities in Baghdad. The UN did not say how many troops would be in the force. Australia said it would provide most of the equipment to support the Fijian troops, the UN said. No other nations have stepped forward to meet Annan's request for troops to protect the UN in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 October 2004). (Kathleen Ridolfo)UNICEF SAYS IRAQI SCHOOLS IN NEED OF REPAIR.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a 15 October press release posted to its website (http://www.unicef.org) that a recent survey on the conditions of Iraqi schools shows that enrollment is on the rise, but thousands of schools lack the basic necessities to provide Iraqi students with a "decent" education.
The survey found that one-third of all primary schools in Iraq lack any water supply and nearly half of them have no sanitation facilities. Schools with the poorest infrastructure were found in the Dhi Qar (south), and in the Salah Al-Din and Diyala (north-central) governorates. Seventy percent of primary schools in those three governorates "lack either water service altogether or the existing water system is not working," the UN agency said. Of the 14,000 "named" primary schools in Iraq, there are only 11,368 actual school buildings existing. Of that number, another 2,700 are in need of major repair. The survey found that over 700 primary schools were damaged in bombings since March 2003; one-third of those schools are located in the Iraqi capital. Over 3,000 schools were looted, and 200 burned.
Some 4.3 million Iraqi children are enrolled this year in primary school, which is up from 3.6 million children just four years ago. Of that number, 2.4 million are boys, and 1.9 million are girls. UNICEF says the ratio is comparable to pre-war rates. The enrollment for girls was lower than boys in every grade and in every governorate. The highest enrollment rates for girls was found in the Baghdad and Al-Sulaymaniyah governorates (46 percent of registered students) and lowest in the Wasit governorate (39 percent), located in east-central Iraq. "Overcrowding, insecurity, and the lack of water and sanitation facilities in schools are the three main causes of lower enrollment for girls," UNICEF said.
The survey was carried out by the Education Ministry with assistance from UNICEF. It collected data on teachers, students, and school infrastructure for every kindergarten, primary, secondary, vocational, Yafi'in (alternative), and higher education institutes throughout Iraq. Some 20,000 schools and institutes were studied in the survey, UNICEF said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
SOUTH KOREA SAYS THREATS ARE A HOAX.
Analysis conducted by South Korean authorities of two threatening messages posted recently on an Islamic forum website has determined that they appear to have been written by an individual and are not the work of Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Iraq, Yonhap news agency reported on 20 October.
The two messages warned South Korea to pull its troops from Iraq or face attacks both in Iraq and at home. The first threat, dated 10 October, gave South Korea two weeks to comply with the demands; a second threat was issued nine days later and warned that time was running out, Yonhap reported.
An unidentified Foreign Ministry official said that an analysis of the writing style and spelling errors has concluded that the two messages were written by the same person, who appears to have posted 32 earlier messages to two unnamed U.S.-based Internet sites that are personal in nature. One of these messages seeks videotapes of Al-Qaeda activities and of Osama bin Laden. Some 2,800 South Korean troops are stationed in northern Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.K. RECONNAISSANCE TEAM ASSESSES POSSIBLE TROOP MOVE.
The U.K. military has sent a reconnaissance team to an area south of Baghdad to assess the feasibility of moving the 650-strong 1st Battalion Black Watch regiment to aid U.S. forces in combating Iraq's growing insurgency, bbc.co.uk reported on 19 October. Black Watch troops are currently stationed near the southern port city of Al-Basrah. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC Radio 4 on 19 October: "We would be letting down an ally if we were to say no in the face of very clear advice from our own British commanders that we want to make this contribution." "We do not have a reserve force in southern Iraq for fun. It's there for a purpose," he added. Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons on 18 October that there was a "very clear operational justification" to send British troops to the volatile area. Britain currently has about 7,500 troops in Iraq, 1,400 of which are reservists. U.S. and Iraqi military officials have said that it is necessary to restore order within the so-called Sunni Triangle in order to prepare for elections. (Kathleen Ridolfo)NATO TO TRAIN IRAQI OFFICERS IN GERMANY, NORWAY.
NATO will begin training Iraqi officers in Germany and Norway in November as part of NATO's training mission to Iraq, AFP reported on 20 October, citing unnamed officials.
Iraqi officers heading to Germany will receive training in military doctrine at a NATO center in Oberammergau, located in southern Germany, an official said. The official did not say how many officers would receive training. Twenty senior Iraqi Army officers will participate in one-week training courses at the new Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway. Some 60 NATO instructors are now on the ground in Iraq, AFP reported. NATO plans to send between 300 and 400 instructors to Iraq as part of the mission, the news agency said.
Czech television reported on 20 October that the Czech parliament is now debating a plan to train 100 Iraqi Army personnel in the Czech Republic as part of the NATO mission (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 October 2004). Defense Minister Karel Kuehnl said that he expects the parliament to support the proposal. Army Chief of Staff Milan Stefka told Czech television that NATO is pushing hard for the training to start as soon as possible, perhaps as early as January. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
ALLAWI'S DANGEROUS GAME
By Kathleen Ridolfo
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has made it his goal to readmit former senior Ba'ath Party members to positions within the interim government. The U.S.-supported plan would allow members who have not been charged with crimes to work within government ministries and institutions, according to a 12 October report on nytimes.com.
Proponents of the plan argue that not all Ba'athists were supporters of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, but rather were forced to join the party in order to advance their careers. Supporters also argue that former Ba'athists possess the skills and knowledge needed to rebuild Iraq and establish security there. Allawi, a former Ba'athist himself, has stressed on several occasions the necessity of bringing some members of the defunct regime back into the government. He also wants them to compete in January elections.
But the plan is also fraught with potential dangers; it could place suspect individuals into positions of power and destabilize the fragile government even further. It was clear months before Allawi assumed power that officials could not easily distinguish between dedicated Ba'athists and those who joined the party for career advancement. Canada's "Globe and Mail" reported just three days after gunmen assassinated rotating Governing Council President Izz al-Din Salim in May that the Iraqi Governing Council was recruiting former Ba'athists as security personnel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2004). The Arab Resistance Movement-Al-Rashid Brigades, a Sunni group likely tied to former Ba'athists, claimed responsibility for the assassination.
In September, the U.S. Army arrested a high-ranking Iraqi National Guard officer in Ba'qubah because of his alleged links to militants, Al-Arabiyah reported on 23 September. Major General Talib Abd al-Ghayth al-Luhaybi was in charge of three National Guard regiments assigned with security duties in the Diyala governorate at the time of his arrest.
U.S. forces also dismantled the controversial Al-Fallujah Brigade in September. The brigade was established in April and operated outside the authority of the Iraqi Defense Ministry and Army. The reason? The brigade, comprised of former Hussein-era troops and commanders, was suspected of aiding insurgents in the volatile city (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 September 2004).
A 26 September report by Knight Ridder contends that former Ba'athists have already rebuilt a sophisticated network in Baghdad, and have many members strategically positioned within the government. Ba'ath Party members reportedly hold regular meetings in the Iraqi capital and employ "sophisticated computer technology" to enable clandestine communications and websites. The network extends to Syria and Jordan, where former high-level regime members are said to be in hiding. Mithal al-Alusi, who heads the CPA-installed De-Ba'athification Commission, told Knight-Ridder: "There are two governments in Iraq," adding, "Ba'athists are like thieves, stealing the power of the new government. Their work is organized and strong."
The commission itself is facing problems with the Allawi government. Allawi has reportedly tried to dismantle the commission and replace it with a more lenient structure, nytimes.com reported. A council of Iraqi judges ruled, however, that the commission could not be dismantled under the interim constitution. Allawi's cabinet subsequently ordered ministries to cease contact with the commission, and ordered the commission to move outside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad. Ali Faisal al-Lami, a general director of the commission, told the website that Allawi has appointed several former senior Ba'athists to top security-force positions despite objections from the commission. Ministries have also not heeded recommendations for dismissals of hundreds of questionable former Ba'athists, he added.
Allawi also wants "moderate" Ba'athists to participate in January elections. London's pro-Ba'athist newspaper "Al-Quds al-Arabi" claimed in a 6 October report that the prime minister has sought Jordan's help in securing contacts with former Ba'athists not closely tied to the Hussein regime in order to recruit them and other moderate Sunnis to participate in the elections.
Baghdad's "Al-Mashriq" cited Allawi as telling Iraqi reporters that Ba'athists would indeed run in the January elections. "We must draw a line dividing the harmful and non-harmful Ba'athists. Those who did not commit an offensive act against the Iraqi people have the right to run in the upcoming elections and become involved in the political process," the daily quoted Allawi as saying in an 18 October report.
But, as Iraqi National Congress daily "Al-Mu'tamar" pointed out on 17 October, rules set by the Iraqi Election Commission stipulate that former Ba'ath party members with the rank of group member and higher are not allowed to run for office. The election commission works outside the control of the Allawi government. Lower-ranking Ba'athists would be required to sign a document renouncing their membership in order to participate in elections. The rules are not foolproof, however, as former high-ranking members could easily endorse and then direct a lower-ranking "independent" candidate once that person assumes office.
Iraqi weekly "Al-Bayyinah" reported on 17 October that the Ba'ath Party has reorganized under the name "Al-Islah" (The Reform) and is being led by former regime loyalists, including Tahir Jalil al-Habush, the former director of Iraqi intelligence; former Republican Guard commander Sayf al-Rawi; and Hani and Rafi'a Tulfah, relatives of Hussein.