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Iraq Report: May 23, 2003

23 May 2003, Volume 6, Number 23
U.S. ADMINISTRATOR SAYS INTERIM GOVERNMENT POSTPONED UNTIL JULY. The U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, announced on 21 May that a national conference designed to elect an interim Iraqi government will not meet until mid-July, Reuters reported. The meeting had been set to convene at the end of May. It appears that the delay stems from differences between Bremer and Iraqi opposition leaders, who had pressed for an immediate role in governing Iraq. "We are continuing our active dialogue with Iraqi leaders, we are meeting with them every day," Bremer told reporters in Baghdad. Asked about a date for the national conference, Bremer said, "I don't think it will be in June. We're talking now like some time in July to get a national conference put together." The last major U.S. sponsored meeting with Iraqi leaders was held in Baghdad on 28 April. The proposed national conference is expected to be larger and more inclusive, bringing together diaspora opposition groups with indigenous Iraqi leaders to choose the post-Hussein interim Iraqi authority (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report, 2 May 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MUSLIMS RALLY FOR UNITY IN BAGHDAD... Thousands of Muslims rallied in Baghdad on 19 May in what was billed as the largest anti-U.S. demonstration since the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime, AP reported. As many as 10,000 demonstrators attended the rally, which began in front of a Sunni Muslim mosque in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Al-Azimiyah and ended in the Kadhamiyah quarter, where one of the holiest Shi'ite sites in Iraq is located, AP reported.

"We decided to gather outside a Sunni mosque to show unity between Shi'ites and Sunnis," Rashid Hamdan, a rally organizer, told AP. Hamdan said the rally was organized by religious groups from the Shi'a-dominated Al-Thawra neighborhood of Baghdad. Demonstrators chanted "No Shi'ites and no Sunnis, just Islamic unity" during the march and carried banners reading "No to the foreign administration." Activist Ali Salman told AP, "What we are calling for is an interim government that represents all segments of Iraqi society." Although the protest was to bring Sunnis, Shi'ites, and even Christians together, it was largely Shi'ite in character, CNN reported.

Calls for the 19 May rally came through a statement by a leading cleric and in leaflets posted in mosques around Baghdad on 18 May, "The Washington Post" reported on 19 May. Cleric Muhammad Fartusi said in an interview at the Hikma Mosque on 18 May that demonstrations were planned throughout the country. Fartusi said the U.S. administration in Iraq has had "no contact with us" to this point. "But perhaps when they see the demonstration there will be some negotiations. We are ready to administer our country."

Fartusi criticized the United States for working with Iraqi opposition groups from the diaspora instead of initiating contact with indigenous Iraqi leaders. "We will keep making our demands until we achieve them and, if not, we will continue peaceful rebellion and expose their glossy slogans," he added. "The masses will ask for freedom, and they will refuse the occupation." Meanwhile, a U.S. official acknowledged the administrators' failure to work with indigenous Iraqis, telling "The Washington Post": "We're not in a rush on this.... If it's going to be done right, it's got to be done in a courteous, deliberate, and thoughtful manner." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SCIRI HEAD DISCUSSES SITUATION IN IRAQ. Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), discussed the situation in Iraq during a press conference in Al-Najaf, according to SCIRI's website (, which posted al-Hakim's comments on 18 May.

Al-Hakim attributed the insecurity in Iraq to "remnants of the former regime" that he claimed are responsible for thefts, killings, and arson across the country. "Their objective is to lead the country to a point of chaos where people would begin to yearn for the days of the Saddam regime," he added. Al-Hakim said that, had coalition forces permitted the deployment of SCIRI's Badr Corps military wing, security would have been established in those cities where the corps operated. "The areas in which the Badr Corps was deployed enjoyed security and cooperation among people. Nobody can deny this," al-Hakim said. The ayatollah also called for the law to be the "final judge" in dealing with Ba'ath Party members from the deposed regime.

Al-Hakim was asked during a recent press conference in Al-Najaf whether he will run for office in Iraq, according to a press release posted on the SCIRI website on 17 May.

According to that report, the SCIRI head said the issue has been left to the future and God's will, and he added that he prefers to focus for the present on the rebuilding of Iraq. However, SCIRI Arab-relations official Bayan Jabr told Cairo-based "Al-Ahram" newspaper in an interview published on 17 May that al-Hakim would not seek a political role in post-Hussein Iraq. Instead, he will play a supervisory and spiritual leadership role in SCIRI, the paper reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SCIRI REPRESENTATIVE CRITICIZES U.S. PLAN. Muhammad al-Haydari, Political Bureau head for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told Egyptian radio in a telephone interview broadcast on 20 May that despite his belief that Iraqi political powers have "drawn up sufficient plans" for a post-Hussein government, "coalition forces, particularly the Americans, still want to be an occupation force." Al-Haydari cited the draft UN Security Council resolution, which calls for the U.S. and U.K. to administer Iraq through an "Authority" for at least one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2003) as evidence of his viewpoint.

Haydari also described the relationship between opposition groups and the U.S. government as a "tug of war." On the recent call to resist the occupying forces, al-Haydari said that given the current state of chaos and civil unrest, "it is normal to hear calls here and there for the withdrawal of U.S. and occupying forces from Iraq." Al-Haydari did not address the 19 May Baghdad rally in which Shi'ite Muslims called for the withdrawal of coalition troops (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

LITTLE-KNOWN GROUP ASKS U.S. ADMINISTRATOR TO RECONSIDER DECISION ON BA'ATH PARTY. A group identifying itself as the "Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party Strugglers Organization" has reportedly sent a letter to U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer asking him to reconsider his decision to ban the Iraqi Ba'ath Party, Al-Jazeera reported on 18 May. The letter denounces Bremer's decision and advises him to study the party's history separate from that of the Hussein regime, according to the broadcaster. It also questions how Bremer can purge some 15,000 Ba'ath Party members, sympathizers, and supporters from Iraqi politics, and calls the decision one that goes against the values of democracy and human rights, according to Al-Jazeera.

International news agencies cited officials from the U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance as saying last week that 15,000-30,000 senior Ba'ath Party officials are banned from joining any new government or holding leading civic or public posts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

COALITION'S CRIME-FIGHTING TASK FORCE ROUNDS UP 15 IN BAGHDAD. Task Force Vigilant Justice rounded up 15 Iraqi nationals on 19 May in the first raid the group conducted in Baghdad, CENTCOM announced in a 20 May press release. The task force, which was established as part of the coalition's crime-fighting effort in the Iraqi capital, is "headed up" by the 18th Military Police Brigade, according to CENTCOM.

The 19 May raid also led to the confiscation of eight AK-47 rifles, an unspecified number of fake passports, and cash in the form of Iraqi dinars. "The task force conducts raids on areas where suspected and known criminal activities are taking place," the press release states. The task force intends to turn the criminals over to Iraqi authorities for trial.

A 19 May press release reported that 810 patrols had been conducted by coalition forces on 18-19 May, as well as 10 joint patrols with Iraqi police. The raids and patrols resulted in "311 arrests for various crimes, including looting, curfew violations, weapons violations, theft, and carjacking. They also seized 27 rifles, nine pistols, 100 grenades, and 500,000 dinars," according to CENTCOM. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MORE FORMER REGIME MEMBERS IN COALITION CUSTODY. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in separate 20 May press releases ( that two more members of the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are in coalition custody. Ugla Abid Sighar al-Kubaysi served as the Ba'ath Party Chairman and Commander of the Ba'ath Party Militia for the Maysan Governorate. He was 50th on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed Hussein regime.

CENTCOM also announced the capture of the former secretary for the Ba'ath Party's southern region. Abd al-Ghani Abd al-Ghafur is also a former presidential adviser and Revolutionary Command Council member. He was 65th on the U.S. government's blacklist of Iraqis wanted for their ties to the deposed Hussein regime.

The brother-in-law of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is in U.S. custody, CENTCOM said in a 19 May press release on its website ( Luay Khayrallah (Telfah), the brother of Hussein's wife, Sajida Khayrallah Telfah, is also Hussein's first cousin. Their father, Hussein's uncle, raised the deposed president. According to CENTCOM, Khayrallah was taken into custody on 16 May. The circumstances of his capture were not made available. He is 152nd on a U.S. "blacklist" of Iraqis wanted for their ties to the Hussein regime, where he is referred to by CENTCOM as "a representative of the former regime's intelligence/security apparatus."

Meanwhile, a man whom CENTCOM described as the secretary of Hussein's disbanded Republican Guard, Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, surrendered to coalition forces on 17 May, Reuters reported the next day. He was 10th on CENTCOM's revised list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the former regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ANOTHER MASS GRAVE SAID TO HAVE BEEN UNEARTHED NEAR IRAQI BORDER WITH SAUDI ARABIA... A mass grave containing more than 1,000 bodies was uncovered near the southern Iraqi town of Al-Shinafiyah on 14 May, KurdSat Television reported the following day, citing eyewitness accounts compiled by journalist Muhammad al-Badri. The victims' clothes indicate that they were of Kurdish origin, al-Badri added. His claim has not been independently confirmed.

Al-Badri told KurdSat that he and another reporter, accompanied by a committee representing the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), went to a desert area approximately 30 kilometers outside Al-Shinafiyah, near the Iraqi border with Saudi Arabia: "There, we found a circular burial pit with a diameter of 100 meters [and] long furrows [that] had been excavated, and bodies were piled up on top of each [other] in a random way," al-Badri said. "There are two other mass graves 3 kilometers away from the first. They said that the other two graves may contain more than 10,000 bodies," al-Badri noted.

According to villagers quoted by al-Badri in the KurdSat interview on 15 May, the massacre took place in 1988. An unnamed local told the journalist that the Iraqi military transported victims to the site over a 20-day period.

Another reported witness, Ra'id Abd al-Husayn al-Muhanna, said he saw soldiers executing Iraqis at the site and watched the soldiers build the mound over the grave, where they installed monitoring equipment to observe people's movements around the area. Al-Muhanna said military vehicles with Al-Ta'mim license plates and civilian vehicles with Al-Sulaymaniyah plates arrived at the site during this period. Both governorates are located in Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. Al-Muhanna added that the victims' mouths were stuffed with cotton and pieces of plastic in an apparent attempt to prevent them from shouting or crying. They were then shot and thrown into the furrows in batches, al-Muhanna said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES DETAIN SIX KURDISH FIGHTERS. U.S. forces have reportedly detained six Kurdish peshmerga fighters for refusing to surrender their arms, MENA reported on 15 May. The fighters, from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), were arrested on the road from Dahuk to Mosul. U.S. troops reportedly swooped in aboard two helicopters to make the arrest. According to MENA, U.S. forces have issued a warning to both the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) peshmerga forces, promising swift action against those who disobey U.S. orders. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDAN TO BEGIN REGULAR CARGO FLIGHTS TO BAGHDAD. Royal Jordanian Airlines will begin regular cargo flights to Baghdad on 23 May, Jordan News Agency reported on 21 May. The flights between Amman and the Iraqi capital will transport food, medicine, and humanitarian goods to Iraq, operating three weekly flights. Airbus-310 cargo planes will deliver 40 tons of aid, which was reportedly approved by the UN. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDAN TO HOST FORUM ON STOLEN ARCHEOLOGICAL ITEMS. A regional forum will be held in the Jordanian capital of Amman on 9 June to address the issue of retrieving archeological items stolen from Iraq, Jordan News Agency reported on 17 May. The director-general of the Customs Department, Mahmoud Qteshat, told Jordan News Agency that invitations to the forum have been sent to Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. The forum is being organized in cooperation with the World Customs Organization. Participants will focus on ways in which states might cooperate against smuggling operations in an effort to retrieve the stolen items. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KUWAIT REOPENS SOME RESTRICTED AREAS. Some areas of northern Kuwait in which public access was restricted have been reopened, KUNA reported on 21 May. Citing a press release by the Kuwaiti Army's acting director of public relations, Colonel Yousif al-Mulla, KUNA reported that a smaller, newly drawn restricted area has been determined, which stretches from the north westward to Saqaihiya center on the western border to the Al-Atraf Highway in the Salmi region. New road signs will mark the restricted areas. The public is not yet allowed access to the newly drawn areas, however, "until further official notice," al-Mulla reportedly said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

INSPECTORS TO RETURN TO IRAQ -- TEMPORARILY. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be allowed to return to Iraq to inspect the Al-Tuwaythah nuclear facility, reported on 21 May. The decision came after several pleas by IAEA head Muhammad el-Baradei to secure Al-Tuwaythah and other vital sites from looters. Many UN inspected sites have reportedly been looted since the downfall of the Hussein regime.

El-Baradei's most-recent request came on 19 May, warning that the country might be facing a nuclear-contamination emergency, Reuters reported the same day. "I am deeply concerned by the almost daily reports of looting and destruction at nuclear sites," el-Baradei said, adding that he is concerned about "the potential radiological safety and security implications of nuclear and radiological materials that may no longer be under control." The IAEA head said his agency has received reports of uranium being taken for domestic use as well as radioactive sources being stolen. El-Baradei first requested that the United States take action to secure Iraqi nuclear sites in Iraq on 10 April, according to Reuters.

However, the return of the inspectors to Al-Tuwaythah does not necessarily mean that UN inspectors will return to Iraq. "We have no problem with [temporary IAEA involvement]," the daily quoted U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as saying on 20 May. "The reason I think it might not be a bad idea for them to come in is that they probably have inventories of all of that and would be in a position to know what there was [prior to looting]," he added.

Meanwhile, IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky told Reuters on 21 May that the IAEA was "currently discussing with the United States government the modalities of the return of IAEA missions to the nuclear research center at Al-Tuwaythah." Gwozdecky said that the IAEA "knows what's there" and presumably can best assess what, if any, materials have gone missing. It is unknown exactly how soon the inspectors might return to Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN SECURITY COUNCIL ENDS SANCTIONS ON IRAQ. The United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1483 on 22 May, ending 13 years of economic sanctions on Iraq, international press reported. The 15-member council approved the resolution by a vote of 14 to 0. Syria did not attend the vote.

The resolution stated, "all prohibitions related to trade with Iraq and the provision of financial or economic resources to Iraq established by resolution 661 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions, including resolution 778 (1992) of 2 October 1992 [related to the Compensation Fund on Iraq], shall no longer apply." The sale or supply of arms to Iraq remains prohibited.

The resolution also calls for the appointment of a UN Special Representative on Iraq, and calls on the international donor community and Paris Club to play a role in the reconstruction effort. In addition, it sets a six-month time frame for the ending of the oil-for-food program and calls for a review of the resolution after 12 months.

Per the resolution, a Development Fund for Iraq will be established and "held by the Central Bank of Iraq" and "disbursed at the direction of the Authority" -- the United States and United Kingdom. The fund will finance reconstruction, civil administration costs, and humanitarian needs. The resolution also calls on the UN secretary-general to transfer $1 billion to the fund "as soon as possible" from UN controlled escrow accounts for Iraq. The resolution also calls on all nations holding accounts belonging to the government of Iraq, and accounts in the name of Saddam Hussein "or other senior officials of the former Iraqi regime and their immediate family members, including entities owned or them or by persons acting on their behalf," to freeze said accounts and arrange transfer of those funds to the Development Fund for Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS HE WILL MOVE QUICKLY ON IRAQ. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on 20 May that he will move quickly to appoint a representative on Iraq once the Security Council approves the draft resolution, the UN News Center reported ( "Well, once a resolution is passed I will move very quickly to appoint a Special Representative who would take up his job, his work in Iraq, as soon as is practicable," Annan said. The current version of the draft proposal calls for Annan to appoint a high-level special representative to work "intensively" with the "Authority" -- the U.S. and Britain -- to facilitate the restoration of Iraqi legal and government institutions and human rights, as well as judicial reform and other reconstruction issues. The special representative would also carry out "independent" duties, according to the draft. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SENIOR U.K. OFFICER BEING INVESTIGATED FOR WAR CRIMES. A senior British Army officer is being investigated for alleged war crimes, the British Ministry of Defense confirmed on 21 April, Reuters reported. A defense source told Reuters that Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, who commanded the 600-member 1st Royal Irish Regiment in southern Iraq was reportedly accused of violating the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs). The Ministry refused to confirm whether Collins is indeed the accused. "We can confirm that an investigation is being conducted into allegations that have been made against an officer who served in Iraq," a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

According to Reuters, citing British newspapers, Collins was accused of kicking, punching, and threatening Iraqi POWs, and pistol-whipping an Iraqi civic leader. Reuters notes that Collins, who could not be reached for comment, was highly regarded and hailed for a speech he made on the eve of the conflict. A copy of the speech was reportedly tacked to the wall of U.S. President George W. Bush's office, according to Reuters. The news agency also reported that the human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has received some 20 complaints from Iraqi soldiers and civilians that charge U.S. and British forces tortured them as POWs. The alleged victims said they were beaten and subjected to electric-shock treatments. AI said it was still investigating the allegations. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

G-8 REPORTEDLY SET TO GRANT MORATORIUM ON IRAQ'S FOREIGN DEBT. Members of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial democracies have reached preliminary agreement to grant a moratorium on Iraq's foreign debt payments through 2004, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 May, citing French sources. France currently chairs the G-8. According to the report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Paris Club will specify the amount of Iraq's foreign debts by the end of the year. G-8 member states have been hesitant to completely write off debt incurred by the deposed Iraqi regime, despite statements by Iraqi opposition members that a future Iraqi government would seek forgiveness of debts incurred by the previous regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. REVISES LIST OF MOST-WANTED IRAQIS. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has issued a revised list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed Hussein regime, Reuters reported on 18 May. The first seven individuals on the list, including Hussein and his two sons Uday and Qusay, hold the same positions, but the remainder of the list has been reordered. The revision moves most Ba'ath Party regional commanders down the list and raises many regime members who held military, intelligence, or ministerial positions. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


By Kathleen Ridolfo

Efforts appear well under way to jump-start the Iraqi economy in the post-Hussein era. Iraq's debt is estimated at $200-300 billion and upwards, including foreign debt, compensation claims, and pending contracts. While some members of the Iraqi opposition have expressed hope that at least some debt would be forgiven, it appears unlikely that all debt would be erased.

At the same time, world leaders realize that some compromise is in order. Group of Eight (G-8) member states reportedly reached preliminary agreement on establishing a moratorium on Iraqi foreign-debt payments through 2004 during a meeting of finance ministers on 16-17 May in Deauville, France, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 May. The decision is expected to be ratified when the G-8 meet in Evian-les-Bains, France from 1 to 3 June.

The Paris Club and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are expected to determine the amount of Iraq's foreign debt by the end of 2003. IMF External Relations Director Thomas Dawson said on 8 May that the organization has a task force working full time in conjunction with other governments and institutions to collect and analyze data on Iraq. However, Iraq cannot rely solely upon its most valuable asset -- oil -- to pull its economy out from under the rubble of neglect and 13 years of UN sanctions. The U.S. plan to revitalize Iraq's economy to a level where it can sustain the 27 million-strong population and repay the debts of the Hussein regime requires investment -- beginning with substantial reconstruction contracts -- and a promotion of private enterprise.

As the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils. In a fait accomplis, the U.S.-led coalition has assumed its responsibility as an "occupying force" in Iraq and heretofore undertaken the responsibility of rebuilding the Iraqi economy and infrastructure. Thus, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been assigned the keys to the reconstruction coffers.

USAID has already doled out one of its first and biggest contracts to the U.S. firm Bechtel, which received an 18-month contract worth up to $680 million to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure, including "one seaport, five airports, miscellaneous electric power systems, road networks, rail systems, municipal water and sanitation services, school and health facilities, select government buildings, and irrigation systems."

Bechtel, which is in the midst of holding three "contractor-supplier conferences" in Washington, London, and Kuwait City on 21, 23, and 28 May, respectively, will solicit firms wishing to subcontract from it on Iraqi reconstruction projects. Meanwhile, The U.S. Commerce Department has also announced the launch of the Iraqi Reconstruction Task Force on 16 May, and an accompanying webpage ( However, the commerce site focuses on helping U.S. companies invest in Iraq, with U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans stating in an announcement, "The resources of the Iraq Reconstruction Task Force will provide a one-stop shop for U.S. companies looking for information and counseling on Iraq reconstruction efforts."

Nevertheless, reconstruction contracts are expected to be spread far and wide, with every country in the coalition vying for a piece of the reconstruction pie, as well as giants like Russia, to which Iraq is heavily indebted. Firms in China, Japan, and India are also eager to get on the reconstruction gravy train.

But, what about Iraq's neighbors? Some have already begun taking the initiative to foster crossborder trade and business developments. A conference on doing business in Iraq will be held in Amman on 2 June, "The Jordan Times" reported on its website on 19 May (

The one-day conference will be sponsored by the Amman Chamber of Industry (ACI), the Information Technology Association (int@j), and the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan (JABA). Citing an ACI press release, "The Jordan Times" reported that representatives from U.S. firms holding contracts in Iraq, UN officials, and U.S. and Jordanian officials involved in the reconstruction process will participate in the conference. USAID and ORHA representatives are also expected to attend. The decision to hold such a conference is likely related to issues addressed during a 9 May meeting between Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu al-Raghib and Abbud al-Tufayli, the president of the Federation of Iraqi Chambers of Commerce, which focused on ways to renew cooperation and trade between the two neighbors. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Amman ( launched a new resource webpage, "Iraq Reconstruction," the embassy's website announced on 6 May. The page provides links to the USAID, which lists available contracts in Iraq.

Likewise, Turkish businessmen are making use of the reopened Turkish Trade Consulate in Baghdad, "Anatolia" reported on 15 May. Trade Counselor Metin Deger told the news agency that the trade consulate was working to assist Turkish businessmen in finding opportunities in Iraq. Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Osman Paksut eagerly predicted that Turkish businessmen would dominate investment throughout Iraq, saying, "It will be seen soon that the speculations saying that Turkey has lost its commercial power here after the war are not true. Iraq is a rich country, Turkey will help in all issues to make Iraq reach [a] level of prosperity again." Firms from Kuwait and the Gulf States are also expected to benefit from reconstruction contracts.

Contracts to Arab firms would surely contribute to the overall regional economy and foster stronger ties within the region. It would also serve the U.S.'s stated goal announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell in November 2002 to revitalize the region economically and politically through the Middle East Partnership Initiative and, more recently, President George W. Bush's goal of establishing a U.S.-Middle East Free-Trade Area within 10 years.