19 April 2003, Volume
FIVE HUSSEIN REGIME MEMBERS NOW IN CUSTODY.
Coalition forces now have five members of the deposed regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in custody. Two are Hussein's half brothers.
Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, who is also a former Iraqi interior minister, was arrested northwest of Mosul while trying to cross into Syria in an apparent attempt to flee Iraq, Al-Jazeera television reported on 13 April. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) later reported on 17 April that coalition forces had captured Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, another half-brother of Hussein. Brooks described Barzan as having "extensive knowledge" of the inner workings of Hussein's regime. He was captured in Baghdad. The men were numbered 51 and 52 respectively on the coalition's 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the Hussein regime.
CENTCOM reported on 19 April that Iraqi police have arrested Iraq's former finance minister, Hikmat al-Azzawi, and turned him over to U.S. forces in Baghdad. Al-Azzawi is also a former deputy prime minister.
CENTCOM announced on 18 April that Kurdish officials handed Samir Abd al-Aziz al-Najm over to U.S. troops outside Mosul on 17 April. Al-Najm served as a Ba'ath Party Chairman and Commander of the Ba'ath Party Militia in the Diyala Governorate. He was numbered 24 on CENTCOM's list of most-wanted.
Lieutenant General Amr al-Sa'di, former scientific adviser to the Iraqi regime, surrendered to coalition forces in Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reported on 12 April. Al-Sa'di was numbered 55 on CENTCOM's most-wanted list. He most recently acted as a liaison between UN inspectors and the Iraqi regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CEMETERY WITH 3,000 UNMARKED GRAVES FOUND IN KIRKUK.
A cemetery containing approximately 3,000 unmarked graves has been discovered on the grounds of a military camp in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, KurdSat reported on 16 April. A Kurdish citizen from Kirkuk led a KurdSat reporter to the site, which was described as a large Iraqi military installation that once comprised a mechanized unit and an armored and artillery unit. The site also served as a military headquarters called "Intermediary Plant 25," according to the report.
KurdSat reported that it appeared civilians were buried at the site and noted that one excavated body was that of a man wearing pajamas.
The report also described crushed bones and other signs of brutality.
Meanwhile, KurdSat reported that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan secretariat issued a statement on 16 April calling on citizens not to tamper with mass graves but instead to report any discovered sites to government authorities. Between 50,000 and 100,000 Kurds "disappeared" in northern Iraq in 1988 alone at the hands of the Iraqi regime through an apparent campaign of genocide against the Kurdish population. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KURDS REPORTEDLY DRIVING ARABS OUT OF HOMES IN KIRKUK.
Kurds are evicting Iraqi Arabs from their homes in the city of Kirkuk, according to international media reports. The city boasted a majority-Kurdish population until the Hussein regime began a program of "Arabization" in the 1980s, displacing some 400,000 Kurds from this oil-rich northern city, according to a 17 April AP report.
Describing the recent events as a tinderbox, Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 15 April called on the authorities to intervene. The statement added that HRW interviewed Arabs who had fled four villages south of Kirkuk after a local Kurdish official ordered them to vacate their homes within three days. "Soon thereafter, nearly 2,000 residents from the villages of Al-Muntasir, Khalid, Al-Wahda, and Umar Ibn Al-Khattab took refuge in tents and homes of fellow tribal members in the village of Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas and its vicinity." Several of those displaced said they had been forced from their homes at gunpoint, while their possessions, including cars, tractors, and household goods, were taken away. "They would have killed us if we hadn't left," an elderly woman said.
According to the 15 April HRW statement, an unnamed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official in the town of Daqouq said the expulsions were carried out on the basis of a decision taken by the PUK's political bureau. The official also claimed that U.S. and coalition forces approved the policy. HRW could not confirm that official's claim. "U.S. troops must stop the violence. And PUK leaders should take immediate steps to halt any expulsions of Iraqi Arabs from their homes," Hania Mufti, London director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in the statement on the group's website (http://www.hrw.org/).
Sayyid Nizzal al-Musevi, an Arab representative in Kirkuk, told the Istanbul-based daily "Milliyet" on 16 April that the PUK has given Arabs one week to vacate the city. He criticized PUK leader Jalal Talabani, saying: "Mr. Talabani said, 'We opened a white page.' Now that page has darkened." Musevi said the Arabs intend to defend themselves in the city.
Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) leader Mas'ud Barzani criticized the incidents in Kirkuk, saying, "Kurdish citizens have no right to threaten any Arab citizen or attack any Arab village belonging to indigenous Arab tribes," "The Washington Post" reported on 17 April. Barzani has long stated that he advocates the return of Kurds to their homes in Kirkuk, but has insisted that it be accomplished in a nonviolent manner.
Clashes between the PUK and Iraqi Turkomans preceded the above-mentioned events. The Istanbul-based daily "Milliyet" reported on 14 April that the clashes erupted when a street demonstration turned violent, leading to an unidentified "armed group" firing on members of the Iraqi Turkoman Front. A 13-year-old Turkoman child was killed. In what appeared to be a reprisal attack, four PUK troops were attacked and sustained injuries. Talabani denied responsibility for the incident in a statement published on 14 April in "Kurdistani Nuwe." "We, in the PUK, declare that this inhuman crime is part of a series of plans and suspicious attempts exerted to destroy the brotherhood among the Iraqi people in general, and the brotherhood between the Kurds and Turkomans and between the PUK and the Turkoman people...in particular," the statement read. Talabani has also been criticized for reportedly unilaterally appointing Rashid Ali municipal governor for the city. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KDP OFFICIAL SAYS KURDS, ARABS HAVE GOOD RELATIONS.
Hoshyar Zebari, spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told reporters at a 17 April press conference in Salah Al-Din that there is no ethnic conflict between Kurds and Arabs in northern Iraq, KurdSat reported on the same day. Zebari said that Kurdish peshmerga forces entered Mosul at the request of coalition forces and said they will withdraw soon. Zebari said that Mosul is an Arab city, not Kurdish or Turkoman. "We favor the establishment of a municipal council in Mosul that would represent the majority of Arabs, while a municipal council will be established in Kirkuk to include representatives form the Kurdish, Arab, Turkoman, and Christian communities," he said. Both the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have opened offices in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Mosul, according to Zebari, in an effort to build relations between Kurds and Arabs in those cities. The Kurds, but particularly the PUK, have come under fire from local residents and international organizations for reportedly expelling Arabs and Turkomans from their homes in Kirkuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 17 April 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)FORMER IRAQI SCIENTIFIC ADVISER SURRENDERS.
Lieutenant General Amr al-Sa'di, a former scientific adviser to the Hussein regime, has surrendered to coalition forces in Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reported on 12 April. Al-Sa'di reportedly requested that a German ZDF television crew film his surrender to U.S. forces for "security reasons." He also granted ZDF an interview, in which he maintained that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. Al-Sa'di told ZDF that he does not feel guilty and that he committed no crime on behalf of the Hussein regime. Al-Sa'di said he does not know the whereabouts of deposed President Hussein. He also told ZDF that he is a member of neither the Ba'ath Party nor the Iraqi intelligence service, adding that he was promoted by Hussein to the rank of general. Al-Sa'di was last on a list of 55 Iraqis wanted by coalition forces. (Kathleen Ridolfo)ADVISER TO INTERIM ADMINISTRATION HEAD GIVES INTERVIEW.
Salem Chalabi, adviser to interim Iraqi administration head General Jay Garner, told "Die Welt" in an interview published on 15 April that the Iraqi National Congress (INC) will operate as a political party in Iraq once the interim phase is underway. Chalabi said that he envisioned three phases to rebuild the Iraqi political system. "At the beginning there will be a constitutional assembly of all relevant forces, the outcome of which the people will decide in a referendum. And finally, there will be free elections. All this will presumably take about two years," Chalabi said. Asked about the appointments of regional "governors" in Iraq, Chalabi told "Die Welt," "We want to form regional councils, which, similar to the interim authority in Baghdad, will consist of credible Iraqis." Chalabi is a London-based lawyer specialized in constitutional law and the nephew of INC head Ahmad Chalabi. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SHI'A CLERICS SEND ARMED GROUPS INTO BAGHDAD'S STREETS...
Shi'a clerics from the holy city of Al-Najaf have ordered armed groups of Iraqi Shi'a citizens to assist in restoring order in Baghdad, "The Guardian" reported on 15 April. Al-Hawza, a Shi'ite seminary in Al-Najaf, issued instructions to mosques throughout Iraq on 13 April ordering clerics and local leaders to establish neighborhood committees. Baghdad-based clerics appeared to welcome the directive. "With the direction of the clerics of Al-Najaf, we want to return this looted stuff to the people...and, God willing, we will manage to establish security in this neighborhood," Shaykh Sa'd al-Safar, senior imam at Baghdad's Buratha mosque, told the daily. Al-Safar added that hospitals, water plants, and electricity substations have been secured, adding, "The next stage is that we want to have central control from Al-Najaf over what's happening in the streets." (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AND ASSERT CONTROL IN SEVERAL AREAS.
Al-Thawrah, a mainly Shi'a neighborhood of Baghdad that until very recently was known as Saddam City, has been renamed. Now it is known as Sadr City in honor of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, a leading Shi'a cleric who, along with his sister Bint al-Huda, was executed in 1980. This development, according to "The Washington Post" on 14 April, is a sign of the Shi'a clergy's ascendancy in running affairs. Not only are local clerics providing security, enforcing curfews, and ensuring that essential services are available, but a delegate of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani from Najaf has claimed authority over dozens of neighborhood mosques.
Several clerics told the newspaper that they refuse to cooperate with the United States and want U.S. forces to leave, but one of them said that meeting with the Americans would undermine his popularity. "We wish from God for an Islamic government," Imams Mosque leader Abdel-Nabi Badeiri said. "We want a clergyman to be president of the state." (Bill Samii)IRAQI OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR 'DE-BA'ATHIFICATION'...
Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi told BBC News on 13 April that coalition forces should move to bring an end to the looting of Iraqi cities and begin a process of "de-Ba'athification" "right away." Speaking from Al-Nasiriyah, Chalabi said that "free Iraqi forces" in the town of Shadra have begun breaking down the Ba'ath Party system in that town and the forces intend to do the same in other areas. "We must uproot the Ba'ath Party from the fabric of Iraqi society. This does not mean killing or humiliating or torturing or in any way demeaning individual Ba'athists, but they must come forward, say what they have, deliver what they have of government property; but it means also the [complete] destruction of the Ba'ath Party organization," Chalabi said.
Chalabi also told BBC News on 13 April that coalition forces must give the Iraqi opposition a strong role "immediately." "The leadership of the opposition that was elected must now be brought into the picture completely, consulted, and play an important role in the choice of the Iraqi interim authority because they represent political forces on the ground which are very important and which can make an important contribution to peace and security in Iraq," Chalabi insisted. Asked about resentment expressed by the Iraqi public toward returning exiles, Chalabi denied there is a problem, saying, "I have felt no resentment at all." He also denied that he might seek a leading role in a future Iraqi government, telling BBC News: "I am not a candidate for any political position in Iraq. My main focus is to go home and work on the restoration of civil society in Iraq." Chalabi's family fled Iraq in 1958. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI TRIBAL LEADER CALLS ON OTHER LEADERS TO INTERVENE.
Shaykh Humaydi Dahham al-Jarba, chief of the Iraqi Shammar tribe, issued an urgent appeal through Al-Jazeera television on 12 April calling on other tribal chiefs to intervene and restore order in Iraq. "I am issuing an appeal to my brothers, the sons of the tribes who are the nation's asset," al-Jarba said. "I ask the tribesmen to intervene and restore order. There is no rule in Iraq, so they are responsible because they are the nation's noblemen.... We must do the right thing." The leader added that the United States was not responsible for the looting of Iraqi towns and cities and criticized the looters for their behavior. (Kathleen Ridolfo)GRAND AYATOLLAH GIVEN 48 HOURS TO LEAVE IRAQ.
The people of Najaf have "spontaneously" ended their siege of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's house, Iranian state radio reported on 13 April. Shaykh Kazem Javaheri, the deputy head of Sistani's office in Qom, said in a 13 April interview with ISNA that the siege started the previous day and Sistani was given 48 hours to leave the country. Javaheri said the Sadriyun -- followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the son of Ayatollah Muhammad al-Sadr, who was murdered in early 1999 by the Ba'athist regime -- were behind the siege. Kuwait-based Ayatollah Abolqasem Dibaji referred to them as the Jimaat-i-Sadr-Thani in a 13 April interview with Reuters and said that this group wants to control the holy sites of Al-Najaf. Al-Khoi Foundation associate Abed al-Budairi told Reuters that Muqtada is immature, opposes Iranian ayatollahs, and wants the Marja-yi Taqlid (top Shi'a source of emulation) to be Iraqi. The Sadriyun also threatened two other Shi'a leaders, Shaykh Ishaq al-Fayyadi and Shaykh Hussein Bashir al-Najafi, and urged cleric Said al-Hakim to declare his loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 13 April. (Bill Samii)MURDERED IRAQI CLERIC HAD 'EXTENSIVE CONTACTS' WITH UNITED STATES.
Al-Khoi Foundation Secretary-General Abd al-Majid al-Khoi and the United States had "extensive contacts" prior to his killing in Al-Najaf on 10 April, according to the 11 April official answer to a question posed at a State Department press briefing (http://usinfo.state.gov). Al-Khoi played a key role in encouraging Iraqi unity, reconciliation, and tolerance at the December 2002 Iraqi opposition conference in London, the State Department said. As the struggle mounts for leadership of Iraq's Shi'a community, rumors about al-Khoi's killing thrive. "When they stabbed him, thousands of dollars were found on his body hidden under his robe," an Al-Najaf resident told "The New York Times" of 13 April. The murder has been blamed on remnants of the Ba'athist regime (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 April 2003) and on the Sadriyun (see above). Regardless of the circumstances, members of al-Khoi's family have vowed to return to Iraq to continue his work, "The Observer" reported on 13 April. (Bill Samii)IRAQI POLICE WORKING TO RESTORE ORDER.
Brigadier General Ghazi Khadir Diyab, deputy director of the Baghdad police force, told Al-Jazeera on 14 April that his forces have begun joint patrols with U.S. Marines in the Iraqi capital. Diyab said citizens have welcomed the patrols and he said checkpoints have been established near some hospitals and banks to prevent looting. Diyab added that, in an apparent effort to distance himself from the former Iraqi regime, he submitted his resignation from the Iraqi military on 14 April. U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told reporters at a 14 April CENTCOM briefing that around 200 police volunteers are conducting joint patrols with coalition forces in Al-Basrah. Brooks added that tribal leaders are establishing "coalitions of multiple tribes" that serve as the "foundation for local governance in cities in the north and west," citing Karbala as an example. "Town leaders have established a local police force with, again, over 200 volunteers [and] provided them with uniforms," Brooks said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI INTELLECTUALS ISSUE 'NATIONAL CHARTER DRAFT' IN JORDAN.
A group of Iraqi intellectuals have met and issued a "national charter draft" in Amman, London's "Al-Zaman" reported on 14 April. The draft called for the adoption of a national reconciliation plan that supports "the spirit of tolerance and civil peace" in Iraq and stresses that the future Iraqi state should be based on democracy and "unrestricted participation by individuals and groups...without monopolization and exclusion." The draft calls for the launch of a national dialogue and rejects "any attempt by a group or party to monopolize the drawing up of the draft constitution." In addition, it calls for the establishment of a free press in Iraq and the freedom to assemble and demonstrate. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.K. TO ENFORCE 'ZERO TOLERANCE' AGAINST LOOTERS IN AL-BASRAH.
A senior British military spokesman said on 14 April that British forces are pursuing a policy of "zero tolerance" against looters in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah, Reuters reported. Group Captain Al Lockwood told Reuters that British forces have begun joint patrols with local police in order to maintain security, adding: "The general looting that followed in subsequent days [after the fall of Al-Basrah] will now no longer be tolerated. Law and order will be maintained." Lockwood said that the priority of the British is to attain a level of security that will facilitate the restoration of municipal services to the city, which should in turn allow for humanitarian aid to begin flowing into Al-Basrah. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
FORMER IRAQI MUKHABARAT CHIEF IN SYRIA?
The former head of the Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence service is believed to be in Syria, according to an unidentified U.S. official, Reuters reported on 15 April. Faruq Hijazi was the Mukhabarat's director of external operations in the mid-1990s. During his tenure, the intelligence service attempted to assassinate former President George Bush during an official visit to Kuwait. More recently, Hijazi served as the Iraqi ambassador to Ankara and Tunis. Hijazi has been suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 January 1999 and 7 December 2001). (Kathleen Ridolfo)TURKEY CLOSES KIRKUK-YUMURTALIK PIPELINE.
Turkey has reportedly closed the pipeline that connects Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, to the Turkish port city of Yumurtalik, Istanbul's NTV reported on 14 April. Tankers have been unable to approach the Ceyhan port to load oil due to the presence of U.S. warships in the area, leaving Turkey with nearly 2 million tons of unsold oil, NTV reported. Ankara has reportedly requested U.S. and UN assistance in resolving the matter. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KUWAIT OFFERS $1 MILLION BOUNTY FOR POWS.
The Kuwaiti government announced on 16 April that it will award $1 million to any person who provides information regarding the fate of over 600 Kuwaiti prisoners of war (POWs) held by Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War, KUNA reported the same day. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet and National Assembly Affairs Muhammad Daifallah Sharar told Kuwait Television that the decision was taken "in line with the concern and keenness of the council of ministers on using all possible means to secure [the] return of innocent prisoners," KUNA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
UNMOVIC CHIEF TO BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL.
Hans Blix, executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), will brief the UN Security Council next week regarding the possible resumption of weapons inspections in Iraq, Reuters reported on 15 April. Under existing Security Council resolutions, the inspectors are required to certify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction before the Security Council can lift sanctions against Iraq. "The process seems very clear...It seems to me logically that we'll have to get the inspectors back in," one council diplomat told Reuters. According to the Security Council's website, Blix is expected to address the council on 22 April.
Meanwhile, the U.S. appears to be sidestepping the issue of a return of UN inspectors. An unnamed U.S. defense official has said that "approximately 10 former UN inspectors and personnel [are] applying their experience and expertise to the effort" of uncovering proscribed weapons in Iraq, Reuters reported on 17 April. The team of 10 Americans is reportedly being led by former UN inspector Charles Duelfer, who headed the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) for two years, "The Washington Times" reported on 18 April. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UN SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT SAYS NO PROPOSAL TO LIFT SANCTIONS.
The current president of the UN Security Council, Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, told reporters on 17 April that no proposal has been put forth regarding the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, the UN News Center reported on the same day. He said that the UN is in "intense dialogue" over a number of issues pertaining to Iraq. The issue of sanctions may be tabled as early as 21 April when the council will hear from chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and Benon Sevan, the executive director of the UN Office of the Iraq Program, which oversees the oil-for-food program. "We will be able to respond then," Zinser said. U.S. President George W. Bush called for a lifting of sanctions on 16 April and U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in a 17 April daily briefing that the U.S. wants "to ensure that the economic sanctions that were imposed because of the behavior of the Saddam Hussein regime are lifted so that Iraq can resume a normal trading relationship with the global economy...so that the aspirations and needs of the Iraqi people can be met." The lifting of sanctions, however, is tied to Iraqi disarmament through Security Council resolutions. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UNESCO TO SEND TEAM TO ASSESS ANTIQUITIES LOOTING.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that it will send a team of experts to Iraq in an effort to determine the extent of damage to Iraqi historical treasures caused by widespread looting, AP reported on 15 April. Iraq's National Museum, a smaller museum in Mosul, and Baghdad's Islamic Library, were among the sites pillaged. UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura has called on coalition forces to guard Iraq's archaeological sites and cultural institutions and has requested that customs officials working Iraq's borders help prevent the transport of antiquities into neighboring countries. He also called on police and art dealers to assist in the recovery effort.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a statement on 14 April that noted the U.S. position on the stolen artifacts. "Objects and documents taken from museums and sites are the property of the Iraqi nation under Iraqi and international law. They are therefore stolen property, whether found in Iraq or other nations. Anyone knowingly possessing or dealing in such objects is committing a crime. Such individuals may be prosecuted under Iraqi law and under the United States National Stolen Property Act." The statement said that U.S. CENTCOM had ordered coalition troops to protect Iraqi museums and antiquities sites. He added that coalition broadcasts were encouraging Iraqis to return the stolen items. It appears, however, that the looters might have been professional. According to international press reports, in some places the looters left behind unmarked replicas, taking only original pieces. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI UN AMBASSADOR LEAVES POST.
Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Muhammad al-Duri has left his post following the downfall of the Hussein regime. The former ambassador flew to Damascus on 13 April. "Hence, pending the liberation of my country [from U.S.-led forces] and until matters [stabilize], I will go to any place in the Arab world, while promising myself to return to my country," al-Duri told Al-Arabiyah television. He told Radio France International in an interview broadcast on 12 April that he is anxious to "get news" of his family in Baghdad. He said he does not anticipate any problems with U.S. officials should he return to Baghdad, adding, "They have done nothing; they have always treated me with dignity, and that's how it will continue." Al-Duri said he planned one day to return to his previous career as a professor of international law at Baghdad University. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
INTERPOL, FBI, HUNT FOR STOLEN ARTIFACTS.
Interpol has announced the formation of a team of experts to track down stolen Iraqi antiquities taken during widescale looting across the country in recent days, Reuters reported on 18 April. The experts will travel to Iraq in the coming days. Karl-Heinz Kind, Interpol's specialist in the theft of art and antiquities, has said that "Interpol is calling on organizations and institutions involved in conservation and trade of antiquities to categorically decline any offers of cultural property originating from Iraq," according to Reuters. In the U.S., FBI Director Robert Mueller said that the agency has sent agents to Iraq to investigate the thefts. "We are firmly committed to doing whatever we can to secure these treasures," Mueller said, according to an 18 April AP report. Meanwhile, McGuire Gibson, president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad, told AP that some thefts were part of a "very deliberate, planned action." "They were able to obtain keys from somewhere for the vaults and were able to take out the very important, the very best material," he said, adding, "I have a suspicion it was organized outside the country. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was." (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. ASKS DENMARK TO RUN STABILIZATION FORCE.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced on 15 April that Denmark will run the headquarters of an international stabilization force in postwar Iraq, dpa reported on the same day. The force is being established to ensure security during the interim phase in which coalition forces will transfer power to new Iraqi authorities. "The Americans noted the positive results of Danish-led peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans and other places," Rasmussen said. Denmark lent its support to coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Kathleen Ridolfo)PENTAGON REPORTS MILITARY OPERATIONS IN IRAQ WINDING DOWN.
Major General Stanley McChrystal, vice director for operations on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a 14 April Pentagon briefing that military operations in Iraq were winding down. "Our air sorties have decreased over the last few days to about 700-800 sorties over Iraq per day," McChrystal said. "In fact, [14 April] was the last day that aircraft from all five carrier battle groups will fly missions into Iraq." He indicated that some carrier groups would begin withdrawing from the region in the coming days. McChrystal cautioned, however, that military operations are far from over. "I think that as major combat operations wind down, we'll still conduct minor combat operations, to include some sharp fights in areas, and then adjust our operations in each area. I'm not sure it will be so close that all of a sudden we proclaim we are moving from one kind of operation to the next," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. POWS FOUND IN IRAQ.
Seven U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) were found by coalition forces on 13 April "in the vicinity of Samarra" in northern Iraq, according to a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) press release dated the same day. Franks said an Iraqi informed U.S. Marines of the POWs' whereabouts. The seven were identified as five members of the 507th Maintenance Company and two Apache helicopter pilots. Two of the soldiers had sustained gunshot wounds, the American Forces Press Service noted. They were later flown to Germany and then to the U.S. on 19 April. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY SAYS BA'ATH OFFICIALS WILL RESTORE ORDER IN IRAQ...
British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon told London's "The Observer" on 13 April that Ba'ath Party officials would assist coalition forces in restoring order in Iraqi cities. "The administration, although Ba'athist in that anyone who worked for the [former Iraqi] government had to be a member of the party, [contained] many perfectly decent people who are party members but have not participated in any atrocities and will want to go back to their teaching, medicine, or administrative work." Hoon added: "Once the Iraqis themselves have identified who those people are, I don't think there will be any difficulties. They had a system of administration that will deliver."
The move is risky, however, as many Iraqis are leery of giving power to individuals who -- directly or not -- contributed to repression under the former Iraqi regime. British forces had to disperse an angry mob outside the home of Shaykh Muzahim Mustafa Kanan al-Tamimi on 12 April after it was learned that the U.K. placed al-Tamimi in a position of authority in Al-Basrah. He is a former Iraqi general and Ba'ath Party member, "The Observer" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AND DRAWS FIRE FOR DECISION.
As word leaked out that British forces are allowing some Ba'athists from the Hussein regime to return to positions of power in Al-Basrah, the residents of Iraq's second largest city began expressing dismay over the decision, London's "The Telegraph" reported on 18 April. According to the daily, at least six members of the deposed regime were on display at a recent inaugural city council meeting, including a local businessman known as "Saddam's banker," and the imam of Saddam's mosque, and a university lecturer who used to recruit students into the Ba'ath party.
"The Telegraph" also reported that the British have reportedly dropped a proposal slating al-Tamimi (see previous item) to run the interim civil administration in Al-Basrah following angry protests in the city. The names on the revised list of members has not been released. In addition, around 500 former Iraqi policemen have reportedly signed up to return to work in Al-Basrah and, according to "The Telegraph," were being vetted for possible links to abuses by the deposed regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)RUSSIA REFUSES TO SHUT DOWN IRAQ EMBASSY.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko announced on 13 April that Russia would not comply with U.S. requests to close down the Iraqi embassy in Moscow and to expel Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abbas Khalaf, RTR and other Russian media reported. Russia has had diplomatic relations with Iraq since the 1940s despite a number of regime changes there. Yakovenko said the Iraqi people themselves will decide on the composition of the country's diplomatic representation in Moscow. He added that Moscow does not consider the 6 April incident in which the motorcade of the Russian ambassador to Iraq was caught in crossfire outside Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, and 9 April 2003) fully resolved yet. Moscow will seek compensation for material losses and damages in accordance with international law, Yakovenko said. (Victor Yasmann)RUSSIAN PRESIDENT CHASTISES MILITARY FOR POOR INTELLIGENCE ON IRAQ CAMPAIGN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his displeasure over Russian defense officials' faulty forecasting regarding the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq, "Argumenty i Fakty," No. 15, reported. Putin reportedly was dismayed that military officials predicted the campaign would take three to six months and that the Iraqi military would resist vigorously. The weekly published a prognosis issued by an unidentified military intelligence officer before coalition forces captured Baghdad in which he wrote that coalition losses in taking the city would amount to about 5,000 killed, while as many as half a million Iraqis could lose their lives in the operation. (Victor Yasmann)ROME WANTS TO SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told the Italian Senate on 15 April that Rome is ready to send between 2,500 and 3,000 troops to Iraq, the Internet version of Rome's "La Repubblica" daily reported. Frattini said this delegation would include "military rail engineers, units specialized in chemical and bacteriological decontamination and in clearing explosive devices, as well as units from the navy and Carabinieri police." Frattini said the Italian action is intended to provide short-term medical assistance and also to prevent epidemics and malnutrition in postwar Iraq. (Bill Samii)U.S. EXPLAINS ATTACKS ON MUJAHEDIN CAMPS IN IRAQ...
U.S. Defense Department officials said in "The New York Times" of 17 April that American ground forces are trying to pursue and detain members of the Iraq-based Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), whose bases have recently been targeted by U.S. air raids. The bombings have received scant public attention, according to the daily (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 March 2003 and 14 April 2003). The MKO is an armed Iranian opposition group that is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. An anonymous senior American military officer said the U.S. "bombed the heck" out of two MKO bases, one of which was Camp Ashraf, which is 60 miles north of Baghdad. Other MKO facilities are Camp Alavi, about 65 miles northeast of Baghdad, and Camp Anzali, about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad. U.S. officials explained the MKO was bombed because it is an extension of the Iraqi military and is a security force for the old regime. "These forces were fully integrated with Saddam Hussein's command and controls and therefore constituted legitimate military targets that posed a threat to coalition forces," an anonymous White House official told "The New York Times."
CENTCOM's deputy director of operations, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, said during a 17 April press briefing in Qatar that the United States is trying to arrange a cease-fire with the Iraq-based Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, Reuters reported. "There's work that's ongoing right now to try to secure some sort of agreement that would be a cease-fire and capitulation," Brooks said. "That work is ongoing and it will most likely unfold within the coming days." (Bill Samii)
IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETS ON LIBERATED SOIL
By Kathleen Ridolfo
Iraqi opposition groups concluded a one-day meeting outside the southern Iraqi town of Al-Nasiriyah on 15 April, agreeing to work together with coalition forces to restore order and to meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people, Al-Jazeera reported on the same day.
A statement issued at the conclusion of the talks called for a democratic, federal Iraq, one which is not based on "communal identity" and that respects the rule of law. Participants also called for the dissolution of the Ba'ath Party structure, and stressed the need for an open dialogue among Iraqis. The statement said that participants addressed the role of religion in state and society, but did not elaborate. The participants are scheduled to meet again in on 25 April.
Azhar al-Khafaji, secretary general of the Islamic National Front, told Al-Arabiyah Television that the five-hour meeting included groups from both inside and outside Iraq, and included nearly 60 people from various factions. He added that 60 percent of the participants were from inside Iraq. He said that all participants agreed that the administration, transitional authority, and incoming government should be run solely by Iraqis. Regarding the role of retired U.S. Major General Jay Garner, al-Khafaji said that Garner told the participants that he would stay only as long as it took for the Iraqi people to form a transitional authority and democratic rule -- be it one month or longer.
Garner told Reuters on 17 April that the meeting was a "vibrant conversation," saying, "I had 60 Iraqis that had never had a chance to talk about freedom and democracy in their lives or in the lives of their mothers and fathers."
Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, head of the Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Movement indicated to Al-Arabiyah TV in an interview from London on 15 April that he remained apprehensive of the U.S. presence in Iraq, saying that the U.S. failed to meet some of its promises thus far. "As far as we are concerned," Husayn said, "what is more important than political issues are the Iraqi citizens' needs. Namely, security and basic needs.... This is a priority for us. Thus far, the United States has not taken sufficient measures in this regard." He further criticized the U.S., saying, "I personally asked the Americans not to strike at the infrastructure, people, and army in their war. Regrettably, they did all of that."
Husayn said he hoped that the Iraqi Islamic groups that boycotted the 15 April meeting would join in future discussions. He added that the it was better for these groups to negotiate with the U.S. than to fight it. Husayn did not attend the meetings but sent a representative. Husayn is the cousin of the late King Faysal II, who was assassinated during the 1958 "Free Officers" coup.
The independent Shi'ite oppositionist, Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, told Cairo's Voice of the Arabs Radio on 16 April that he welcomed the meeting in Al-Nasiriyah, saying, "Such meetings would be quite useful to exchange ideas and views in order to build the future of Iraq." Bahr al-Ulum, who is in his late 70s, sent a representative to the meeting. Asked about the refusal of some factions to join in the talks, Bahr al-Ulum said that it was their choice not to attend, adding, "They have their own views and justifications." Regarding the ability of Iraqis to overcome ethnic and religious differences, Bahr al-Ulum said, "I believe that successive regimes are the ones that created ethnic and religious rancor...I have never seen a Shi'ite killing a Sunni or a Sunni killing a Shi'ite or a Christian assaulting a Muslim. However, the regimes instigate such problems in order to protect their power." He added that if democratic rule were established in Iraq, "all those weaknesses...would be eliminated."
Meanwhile, British Brigadier General Tim Cross told Reuters on 17 April that reports of disagreements emerging from the meeting were to be expected. "We're in the first days of people being free to speak their minds, so we shouldn't be surprised that there would be people speaking with different views," Cross said.
Several thousand Iraqis gathered in Al-Nasiriyah to protest the U.S.-led talks, chanting slogans such as "No to America. No to Saddam," Reuters reported on 15 April. AFP reported that 20,000 Iraqi Shi'ites participated in the protest. Iraq's largest Shi'ite group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), boycotted the meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2003). Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, gunfire broke out between U.S. forces and unidentified Iraqis on the streets of Mosul, where the newly appointed governor, Mash'an al-Jaburi, was giving a speech which was reportedly interpreted as too pro-U.S., AFP reported on 16 April. Twelve people were killed and 60 wounded in the gun battle. An unidentified U.S. military spokesman said that U.S. troops returned gunfire towards a building rooftop, and insisted that troops did not fire into the crowd. (Kathleen Ridolfo)