2 April 2003, Volume
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IRAQ SOLICITS TURKEY'S HELP TO REPEL COALITION FORCES.
It appears that the Iraqi regime is grasping for allies as the war in Iraq progresses: Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has called on Turkey to assist the Iraqi regime in driving coalition forces from the region. Speaking to the daily "Ankara Anatolia" on 1 April, Sabri said that Iraq and Turkey are tied by history, brotherhood, religion, and culture, adding, "If the relations between the two countries become stronger, security in the region will improve...Our commercial, cultural, and political ties were considerably advanced before the cruel embargo was imposed on Iraq." Sabri also contended that the U.S. tried to draw Turkey, which he described as a friendly, neighboring Muslim nation, "into this aggression." He then called on the Turkish people to participate in a jihad against coalition forces.
Turkey has bigger problems to contend with. While recent estimates put the Turkish people's opposition to the war in Iraq at around 90 percent, Turkey also failed to secure nearly $30 billion in U.S. aid when its National Assembly failed to support the launch of a U.S.-led strike on Iraq from Turkish soil in early March. As U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell heads to Ankara this week, the Turks will be focusing on rebuilding their strained relations with the U.S. -- not seeking an alliance with the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQ CALLS ON U.S., U.K. TO SURRENDER.
Iraq Television broadcast a 31 March press conference in which Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri announced that coalition forces "have no choice but to surrender" to Iraqi forces "if they want to save their lives." Calling on coalition troops to withdraw "today," Sabri said those who choose to continue fighting the Iraqi regime have "no hope for escaping the inferno that [Iraq is] preparing." He added that a continuation of the current military conflict "will flare up feelings of hatred from Arabs, Muslims, and all world nations," presumably toward the United States and its allies in the conflict. Sabri continued to promulgate the regime's propaganda, telling reporters that Iraqi forces have dealt "destructive blows" to coalition forces, spreading "fear and panic" among them.
Sabri said on 31 March with respect to the Arab League that some member states are working to "stab Iraq in the back," adding that those states "will be penalized harshly by their own people." The foreign minister contended that the Arab "masses and people" expect their governments to support Iraq. Nonetheless, he insisted, the Arab League is calling for an emergency session of the UN General Assembly and continues to seek a new UN Security Council resolution calling on coalition forces to withdraw from Iraq. Sabri once again criticized the UN Security Council for taking up the matter of the oil-for-food program in lieu of what he viewed as more pressing matters. "We hope that the United Nations will exercise its powers and avoid being a rubber stamp for the United States," he said. Iraq is seeking diplomatic support through the Nonaligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in addition to the Arab League and United Nations channels. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI PRESIDENT AWARDS MEDALS TO COMMANDERS AND FIGHTERS.
Iraq Television announced on 31 March that President Saddam Hussein has issued medals and badges of honor to "valiant fighters" in several divisions -- including the 45th Brigade, the Umm Qasr Force, the 11th Division (Al-Nasiriyah Force), and the Al-Faw Force -- for their service in what the regime is calling the "decisive battle" against U.S.-led forces. The announcement also stated that the families of fighters in the 45th Brigade and the 11th Division "shall be informed that we [the regime] will take care of them, and that each family shall immediately receive a sum of 2 million dinars," or about $1,000. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQ DENIES PRESIDENT'S FAMILY HAS FLED THE COUNTRY.
Iraq Radio read a statement on 1 April from the "Presidency" to the people of Iraq denying that the family of President Hussein has fled Iraq. The president's family is part of the larger family of Iraq, the statement read. "Just as Saddam Hussein has linked his fate to his people...the fate of the family of Saddam is not separate from the fate of the larger family." (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI PRESIDENT EXTENDS 'AWARDS' TO KURDS.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has extended his offer of "cash awards" for shooting down coalition airplanes and capturing or killing coalition forces to "the sons of our people in the Autonomous Region" of Kurdistan, Iraq Satellite Channel Television announced on 29 March. The regime announced its "award program" in a statement to the state-run satellite network on 21 March (see RFE/RL "Newsline," 21 March 2003), with awards ranging from 10 million Iraqi dinars ($3,300) to 100 million dinars to Iraqis. In addition to the cash award program, the Iraq Satellite Channel also announced on 29 March that citizens would be compensated for damages resulting from the current conflict. Another decree, announced a day earlier on the same network states that citizens may seize "enemy vehicles" and either take the vehicle as booty for himself, destroy it, or sell it to the state. (Kathleen Ridolfo)PROPAGANDA MACHINE HARD AT WORK -- IRAQI REGIME CLAIMS TO CAPTURE U.S. 'AGENTS.'
Iraqi Satellite Channel Television broadcast interviews on 28 March with four Iraqis purportedly arrested for spying on Iraq for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The broadcast begins with a Koranic verse and the announcement: "Your [Iraqi] security agencies, with the help of the creative Iraqi technical experts, managed to penetrate the agents. With the help of God, they were able to intercept those international phone calls, determine the locations of those agents, and specify their methods of criminal communications."
The unidentified interviewer proceeded to question the four men who said they were individually recruited with promises of money and positions of power in a post-Hussein regime. Each claimed to have been trained in northern Iraq to use Thuraya satellite telephones and other devices to identify Iraqi target sites. Each man confessed to his "terrible mistake" and one explained that he had wanted to give himself up to the Iraqi authorities but didn't when his U.S. handler warned them that the Iraqi regime might execute them. Another 'spy' states, "The picture was the opposite of what they had told me, the brainwashing they did to me, and the temptations they offered me. I thought...the Iraqi people were persecuted. They [U.S. handlers] made me believe that there is killing, looting, and theft, and that everything is out of control in Iraq." The interviewer spent a significant amount of time asking the men about how ashamed they must feel, and whether they realized the humiliation brought on their families and tribes by their actions.
Such television broadcasts seek to serve as a "warning" to the Iraqi people of the "dangers" of assisting coalition forces -- the implication is twofold: first, the regime is sending a message that those who assist the coalition are being watched by the regime and would be caught; second, it implies that informers would not only be used by allied forces but would bring shame as well as punishment on their family, community, and tribe for their actions. Coalition forces have taken several steps in recent days to disable the Iraqi regime's ability to influence the Iraqi people by coalition air strikes on the Information Ministry, which houses Iraq Television, as well as other communication sites. Concurrently, the coalition increased its radio broadcasts and psychological operations (PSYOPS) aimed at convincing Iraqi forces to stop fighting for the Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)'INDEPENDENT' IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUP CONVENES IN LONDON.
The "Independent Iraqis for Democracy" (IID) opposition group convened a meeting of over 300 Iraqi exiles in London on 30 March, AFP reported on the same day. The group, headed by the 80-year old former Iraqi foreign minister Adnan Pachachi, rejected a postwar U.S. administration of Iraq and called for the establishment of a provisional authority to administer the country in conjunction with the UN in its 30 March meeting, AFP reported. "The end of the war will very quickly create a political vacuum that must be filled by the installation of a provisional administration elected as quickly as possible by a congress," Pachachi told the press following the meeting.
The conference has elected Pachachi as its chairman, and while members intend to elect a follow-up committee, it did not do so thus far. A post-conference IID statement said, "The key missions of the interim government include removing the effects of political suppression and ethnic and sectarian persecution and punishing those responsible for it, providing material and moral compensation to the victims of this persecution, and safeguarding the unity of Iraq and its full sovereignty," London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on 30 March. The statement also called for the formation of a freely elected constituent assembly to draft a constitution, as well as the election of a national assembly.
Pachachi has been approached by Washington in recent months to participate in the future administration of Iraq, and was reported to attend the 26 February-1 March meeting of Iraqi opposition members in Salah Al-Din, where he was elected a member of the opposition's Leadership Committee (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 7 March 2003). The IID sees itself as an alternative to the U.S.-supported Iraqi opposition grouping that is dominated by the Iraqi National Congress, the two leading Kurdish groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, as well as other national and Islamic groups. As its name suggests, its membership consists largely of independent figures, including Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims and Kurds. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KRG ISSUES STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF OIL-FOR-FOOD.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued a statement on 30 March in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1472, which resumes the oil-for-food program, according to the regional government's website (http://www.krg.org/). The resolution also handed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan responsibility for overseeing the program. The KRG stated that previous attempts to implement oil-for-food faced obstruction by the Iraqi regime and inefficiency on the part of the UN, adding, "It is important that these primary deficiencies be deliberately addressed." The statement also called on the UN to deposit all funds due to the "13 percent account" that was established to meet the humanitarian needs of the three northern Iraqi governorates through the legal export of oil. The KRG had announced on 29 March that the Irbil and Dahuk governorates face a short supply of wheat flour, with less than 17 percent of the rations for the month of March distributed. According to the KRG announcement, the World Food Program (WFP), which administers the UN food-distribution program, informed the KRG that it will not be able to supply the northern governorates with wheat until the situation normalizes and international staff return. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SCIRI DEMANDS FUTURE ROLE IN IRAQ.
Seyyed Anwar al-Hakim, an associate of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), charged in a 31 March interview with ISNA that the United States does not want to give the Iraqi people a role in overthrowing the country's regime or in shaping any possible post-Hussein government. Al-Hakim said that trying to do so without the involvement of the SCIRI militia, known as the Badr (Brigade) Corps, would be very difficult. Presumably referring to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's characterization of the Badr Corps as an extension of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 March 2003), al-Hakim said: "The Iraqi opposition forces are a symbol of the Iraqi nation and represent the silenced voice of the people. Forces of the Badr are all Iraqis and have always stood with the Iraqi people. We regret to hear of the allegations made against Iran on the composition of the Badr Corps." (Bill Samii)IRAQI CLERIC ISSUES FATWA SUPPORTING FEDAYEEN OPERATIONS.
An Iraqi Shi'ite cleric, Shaykh Ayatollah Husayn al-Sadr of the Al-Hawza Al-Ilmiyah Shi'ite religious school in Baghdad, has issued a fatwa sanctioning fedayeen (martyr) operations against U.S. and British forces in Iraq, Al-Jazeera Television reported on 29 March. Al-Sadr stated that his fatwa and other fatwas issued condoning "martyrdom operations" in Iraq have not been issued under pressure from the Iraqi regime, Al-Jazeera noted. "The martyrdom operations are legitimate. Whenever there is an infidel attack against the Muslim's countries, the Muslims must do whatever they could to deter this aggression and in all forms," al-Sadr said, adding, "We do not seek war...But it is they [coalition forces] who sought this war...They want to control our ideas, our values, our land. our country, our history, and our present." Al-Sadr argued that every action to deter aggression against Iraq was "blessed." (Kathleen Ridolfo)KURDISTAN ISLAMIC GROUP DEMAND COMPENSATION FOR BOMBING...
The Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) told Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah Television on 30 March that it wants to be compensated for a U.S. bombing on 21-22 March. KIG representative Mushir Mustafa Kilani expressed surprise at the U.S. bombing of KIG positions in northern Iraq, saying, "The Islamic Group is one of the Iraqi opposition factions. We are still waiting to hear from the U.S. administration to see whether this was the result of a mistake or at the advice of a Kurdish [group]." Kilani added that the bombing resulted in the death of 43 KIG fighters while 25 individuals sustained injuries. In addition, many families living in KIG-controlled territory were displaced to the Iranian border. Both KIG and Ansar Al-Islam strongholds were hit in coalition strikes in northern Iraq on 21-22 March. The KIG has been operating in northern Iraq under an agreement with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 25 March 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AS PUK OFFERS AMNESTY TO ANSAR AL-ISLAM MEMBERS WHO SURRENDER.
The PUK announced on 1 April that it would grant amnesty to surrendering members of Ansar Al-Islam, IRNA reported on the same day. The PUK commander for Halabjah, Shaykh Ja'far, told a press conference that those members who have surrendered "will be pardoned and freed over the next few days." Ja'far also confirmed that the region of Halabjah had been cleared of Ansar militants following U.S. and Kurdish peshmerga strikes on Ansar strongholds since 21 March. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI TROOPS FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO SURRENDER.
The Irbil-based daily "Brayati" reported on 29 March that some 55 Iraqi officers and soldiers had surrendered to KDP peshmerga forces in recent days. "Brayati" quoted an unidentified Iraqi officer as saying, "There is little opportunity for other officers and soldiers to surrender to Kurdistan peshmergas." The officer added that "the civilian population in the towns and villages under the regime's control are looking for an opportunity to flee and save themselves by reaching the liberated areas of Kurdistan."
Reception camps for surrendering forces and civilians have been established in the Habit District (Irbil) and in Soran, the latter of which is purported to be able to accommodate 500,000 people, "Brayati" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
JORDANIAN INTELLECTUALS APPEAL TO KING TO TAKE ACTION.
"Al-Arab al-Yawm" on 31 March published a letter by 99 Jordanian intellectuals and politicians appealing to King Abdallah II to "promote and support the increasing international efforts by condemning" the U.S.-led Operation Iraqi Freedom. The signatories expressed "shock" at the "absence of an effective official Arab position" and stated, "It is the national, ethical, and legal duty of all Arab governments without exception, including the Jordanian government, to clearly announce that the aggression against Iraq is illegitimate." The letter added that such a stance would be in line with the one taken by France, Russia, China, and Germany, among others. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SIX IRAQIS ARRESTED TRYING TO INFILTRATE KUWAIT.
A Kuwaiti army battalion has reportedly arrested six Iraqis attempting to enter the country "under the cover of darkness," according to a 28 March report on the "Al-Siyasah" website (http://www.al-seyassah.com/). The battalion had been alerted by Kuwaiti security authorities to the possibility of infiltration by members of Saddam's Fedayeen that sought to carry out terrorist acts against Kuwait and coalition forces. The six confessed that their goal was to bomb undisclosed targets in Kuwait. (Kathleen Ridolfo)ARAB VOLUNTEERS SAID TO HAVE GONE TO IRAQ.
Colonel Munir Maqdah, a Fatah commander in the Ayn al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, was cited in the "The Jerusalem Post" on 30 March as saying that hundreds of Palestinians living in Lebanon have been sent to Iraq to conduct suicide attacks against coalition forces. In an interview that appeared in Beirut's "The Daily Star" on 31 March, Maqdah denied that he sent suicide bombers to Iraq, although he acknowledged that "hundreds" of volunteers went there from Palestinian camps in Lebanon and other Arab countries before Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Maqdah said there was a notice in the camp calling for volunteers before the war began and he admitted encouraging the Arabs to go to Iraq. "We wish we were all in Iraq fighting the Americans," he said. Some 250 Lebanese volunteers from Baalbek have headed for Iraq to fight U.S. and U.K. forces, Baalbek parliamentary representative Asim Qansu said on 30 March, according to "The Daily Star" the next day. He did not say whether they would fight conventionally or through suicide attacks. (Bill Samii)EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF REPERCUSSIONS.
Egyptian Satellite Television carried a live broadcast of President Hosni Mubarak's address to the Egyptian armed forces on 31 March, in which he warned of "dangerous repercussions" stemming from the crisis in Iraq that could threaten international security. Mubarak said that Egypt exerted its "entire weight" in an effort to discourage a military strike on Iraq and added that Egypt remains opposed to the U.S.-led Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"This confrontation threatens to cause a terrifying humanitarian tragedy where victims would fall on both sides and an ancient culture and noble people would be destroyed unless we all rush to exert all possible efforts to reach a peaceful settlement that guarantees rescuing the international will on the one hand, and preserves the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and regional dignity of Iraq on the other," Mubarak said. He added that the conflict has led to increased regional tension which he predicted will have lasting social, economic, and political repercussions, and has led Arabs to doubt the credibility of the international system "embodied in the United Nations."
Mubarak called on Egyptians to express their views "in a way that reflects our civilized noble values of which we are always proud," in a clear reference to demonstrations that have erupted throughout Egypt since the outbreak of war in Iraq -- many of which had begun in a peaceful manner only to turn violent (Kathleen Ridolfo)TEHRAN REPORTEDLY OFFERS TO TURN OVER ANSAR AL-ISLAM PERSONNEL.
An anonymous source in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said in the 31 March "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that Iranian authorities have arrested some 40 Ansar al-Islam members in the previous two days as they fled from battles in the area and it has offered to turn them over to the PUK. The anonymous source also told the Saudi-owned London daily that members of the Kurdish Islamic Group led by Ali Bapir have escaped into Iran. A U.S. and Kurdish assault on 28 March drove Ansar al-Islam elements from their positions in northeastern Iraq toward Iran. Tehran declared previously that it closed its border to Ansar al-Islam elements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2003). (Bill Samii)
IAEA HEAD PLANS TO RETURN TO IRAQ.
Muhammad al-Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement quoted by Reuters on 31 March that the IAEA's mandate remains valid and he expects UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, the news agency reported the same day. "The IAEA mandate in Iraq is still valid and has not changed, and the IAEA is the sole body with legal authority to verify Iraq's nuclear disarmament," al-Baradei stated. He added that inspections were interrupted only as a result of the military conflict and said, "We expect to go back with full authority after the cessation of hostilities." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CENTCOM BRIEFING HIGHLIGHTS IRAQI ASSISTANCE TO COALITION.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) deputy director of operations, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, told reporters during a daily briefing on 31 March that coalition forces continue to receive assistance from a variety of Iraqi sources helping to facilitate coalition attacks on Iraqi military targets, according to the military-command website (http://www.centcom.mil). Brooks said local populations, prisoners of war, and existing contacts with Iraqi civilian and military leaders are contributing to coalition activities, adding, "When we go in to do something against a Ba'ath [Party] headquarters, for example, it's based on intelligence and other information that's been provided that can be turned into action." He said information coming out of the city of Al-Basrah has enabled coalition forces to localize their attacks in an effective manner. "A number of military leaders that have been taken under [coalition] control as a result of combat actions or by raids [are] providing useful information in a number of cases that we are then...taking action on," he said.
Brooks said the coalition has increased its ability to communicate with the Iraqi population on the ground in Iraq, adding, "We think that the domestic population is not seeing very much of the Iraqi regime at this point in time, and we'll continue our efforts to make sure that's the case." (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HEADING TO ANKARA.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in a 31 March daily briefing that Secretary of State Colin Powell will be in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials sometime during 1-3 April, a period that will also include a visit to Brussels, according to the State Department's website (http://www.state.gov). Boucher said the Turkish talks will focus on the current crisis as well as on postconflict issues in Iraq, and he noted that U.S. envoy to the Iraqi opposition Zalmay Khalilzad is meeting with Turkish officials on Iraq. Boucher referred to the continuation of talks as "a chance at a critical moment" for the two nations to "talk about what is going on in Iraq, talk about the affect on Turkey, [and] talk about many of the things we are doing together with Turkey on the war on terrorism...but also to talk to Turkey as we want to talk to others about the postwar scenarios, about how to reestablish an Iraq that has a representative government whose territorial integrity is maintained and how we can work together to do that." Turkish officials have stepped up efforts to highlight Turkey's longstanding friendship with the United States in light of the National Assembly's decision in early March not to allow U.S. troops to launch activities against the Iraqi regime from Turkish soil. In light of public opinion at home, where polls indicate a large majority of Turks oppose war in Iraq, the Turkish government appears to be walking an economic and political tightrope. Still, Turks threw stones at a U.S. military convoy outside Sanliurfa on 30 March, Reuters reported the same day. It was the second such attack in as many days: U.S. soldiers were attacked with eggs and stones in the same area on 29 March while attempting to recover pieces of a Tomahawk cruise missile. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BRITISH PM PENS EXPLANATION FOR ARAB PRESS.
Tony Blair has written an article which was distributed to the Arab press explaining British involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom and British goals to that end, saying that the removal of the Hussein regime would signify a "blessing for all the Iraqi people." The article, available on the website of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and published in the 1 April edition of the "Jordan Times" (http://www.jordantimes.com/), addresses the circumstances which led to the British decision to join the war, such as the Iraqi regime's refusal to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and repression of the Iraqi people.
Blair also stated that the U.K. has pledged 120 million pounds ($189.35 million) to bring immediate humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, and promised to "help the people of Iraq repair the damage and destruction brought to Iraq by a quarter of a century of Saddam's tyranny and corruption." Blair argued that the Hussein regime has "deliberately exploited sanctions to cause maximum misery to the Iraqi people," and stated that he shared the dream of Iraqi exiles of "seeing an Iraq truly at peace with itself." The prime minister noted that it was a "hard and difficult decision to take action against Saddam," adding, "I genuinely believe the course we have taken" will leave the Middle East a safer place. (Kathleen Ridolfo)RED CROSS VISITS IRAQI POWS IN SOUTHERN IRAQ.
A 15-member team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited a prisoner of war (POW) camp in southern Iraq on 31 March that houses some 3,000 Iraqi POWs, the Kuwait News Agency reported the same day. Balthasar Staehelin, a representative for the ICRC, told a press conference that the team, which included a doctor and six interpreters, registered approximately 100 POWs, Reuters reported on 31 March. An ICRC statement on 1 April noted that the visit with Iraqi POWs was ongoing and is expected to last several days. Staehelin said the ICRC is still awaiting Iraqi approval to visit coalition POWs being held by the Iraqi regime. "Two ministers of the Iraqi government have publicly stated they will respect the Geneva Conventions. We hope these visits can take place as rapidly as possible but for the time being no date has been set," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. ENVOY EMPLOYING 'SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY' TO KEEP THE PEACE IN NORTHERN IRAQ
By Kathleen Ridolfo
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has spent much of his time in recent weeks shuttling between Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq and Turkey in an effort to reassure all parties that the U.S. recognizes the concerns of each and seeks to fulfill its mission of removing the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein while maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq and the rights of Iraqi minorities.
Khalilzad held separate press conferences with the heads of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Kurdistan on 28-29 March in which a number of issues were addressed concerning the status of the northern front and procedural planning with regard to the future Iraqi state.
In a press conference with KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani in the northern Iraqi town of Salah Al-Din on 28 March, Khalilizad said that coalition forces will seek to establish a transitional government in Iraq "as soon as possible" following the demise of the Hussein regime, Kurdistan Satellite Television reported on the same day. "The transitional authority must be formed not only by the [Iraqi opposition] leadership," Khalilzad noted, adding that all sides had agreed that "Other free Iraqis and those who have not been freed yet" would have a role in a new central authority structure.
Asked about a call issued by the opposition for Iraqis to rise up against the Hussein regime (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 28 March 2003), Khalilzad noted, "We [coalition forces] have not said anything about Iraqis rising up. We have said only that the Iraqi forces [should] move and become a part of General Franks' command." He appeared to signal however, that the U.S. would not oppose such a call, saying, "It is not for me to call on them to rise up.... But of course, free Iraqis are free to propose what they think is appropriate." Barzani told reporters that some defections had occurred, noting, "The people in Iraq, whether the army or the masses, will decide and choose the right opportunity."
Barzani also told reporters that Kurdish peshmerga forces had not started an offensive against the Iraqi army in the north, but said that the Kurds were "coordinating" with coalition forces, adding, "Undoubtedly, the peshmerga forces will play a role if it was decided for military action to begin." Asked whether the KDP would prevent refugees from returning to Kirkuk and Mosul, Barzani said, "There is no ban and there will be absolutely no ban. The process has to be carried out in an organized way. The Arabization process must finally end. This has to be done on the basis of the [rule of law], which we will agree [upon] in due course."
Khalilzad and PUK head Jalal Talabani echoed the previous day's statements, telling reporters on 29 March that the peshmerga would not move unilaterally toward Mosul and Kirkuk, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on that day. "We do not want to do anything to create problems for our American friends or Turkish brothers," Talabani noted, as he thanked the U.S. "for persuading Turkey not to intervene in the region." Khalilzad elaborated on his previous days' statement regarding the repatriation of Kurds to their homes in the two oil-rich towns, saying, "A commission must be formed soon for this process...I ask citizens not to solve this problem by themselves, but to cooperate with allied forces and also cooperate with any future commission."
Regarding the opposition's newly-formed leadership council, Khalilzad said he was reassured by Talabani and Barzani that, "there is no attempt by the leadership council to form a government or establish authority unilaterally." Talabani added, "Leadership after the regime change will not be monopolized. It will be shared with others." On the issue of the opposition's call for Iraqis to rise up, Khalilizad seemed to take a different tone than he had on the previous day, saying, "This is not U.S. policy. This is not a matter that we are committed to and we do not encourage it because in an uprising there will be danger for civilians. But we respect the decision of the Iraqi opposition."
Talabani also told reporters that peshmerga and American forces had liberated all areas under the control of Ansar Al-Islam, including Tawilah, Biyarah, and Sargat. He added that the peshmerga were now in control of 15 oil fields following an Iraqi withdrawal from some northern Iraqi areas.
Khalilzad has also spent a significant amount of time shuffling between the Kurdish areas and Turkey in recent months in an effort to calm Turkish concerns over a whole host of issues related to Iraq, including fears of Kurdish separatism in northern Iraq, and assuring the Turks that the rights of Iraq's Turkoman minority would be protected in the country. Turkey's public statements that they might have a historic claim to parts of northern Iraq and specific warnings that Turkish military would enter northern Iraq at the outbreak of any U.S.-led military action in Iraq, reflected these concerns. After weeks of meetings, Istanbul's NTV television reported on 24 March that Turkey appeared ready to accept U.S. assurances that Iraqi Kurds would not enter Kirkuk and Mosul during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Meanwhile, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told a press briefing on 24 March that the U.S. position regarding the entry of Turkish troops remained unchanged, adding that the issue remained "a matter of ongoing discussion and concern," (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 25 March 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)