4 July 2003, Volume
COALITION LAUNCHES OPERATION SIDEWINDER...
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced the launch of Operation Sidewinder in a 29 June press release posted on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil/). The third major operation to be launched in June after Operation Peninsula Strike on 9 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003) and Operation Desert Scorpion on 15 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003), Operation Sidewinder aims to root out "various subversive elements attempting to undermine coalition efforts to restore basic infrastructure and stability in Iraq," CENTCOM noted. According to the press release, 23 raids were conducted on the first night of the operation, resulting in the detention of 61 individuals and the confiscation of 14 AK-47 assault rifles, two shotguns, and ammunition. CENTCOM noted in a second 29 June press release that the operation's focus is central Iraq, "along an approximate stretch of the Tigris River from Samarra to Baghdad." No coalition casualties have been reported in the operation. In a 1 July update on Sidewinder activities, CENTCOM reported that 25 additional raids had been conducted resulting in the detention of 25 individuals, "including 11 that were on the targeted list," as well as six AK-47 assault rifles, two machine guns, five rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers; one crate of RPGs, three rocket-propelled grenade sights, and other ammunition.
A CENTCOM press release on 29 June also announced that Operation Desert Scorpion, which ran from 15-29 June, has ended. The operation resulted in the detention of 1,330 individuals and the confiscation of weapons including 497 AK-47s, 235 hand grenades, 124 RPGs, 22 machine guns, 130 pistols, and 100 rifles, as well as 8,122 rounds of ammunition. Some $9.463 million was confiscated, as well as 1.557 billion Iraqi dinars, 1,071 bars of gold, and 52 vehicles. (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AFTER HALTING ELECTIONS IN IRAQ.
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has halted all local elections in Iraq and self-rule in provincial cities and towns, opting instead to appoint mayors and administrators, "The Washington Post" reported on 28 June. Many of those to be appointed are former Iraqi military leaders, according to the daily.
CPA head L. Paul Bremer was reported to have recently said in an interview that there is "no blanket prohibition" on self-rule, adding, "I'm not opposed to it, but I want to do it [in] a way that takes care of our concerns...Elections that are held too early can be destructive. It's got to be done very carefully."
Some critics have said that the CPA decision is an attempt to prevent Shi'ite clerics such as Muqtada al-Sadr from coming to power. Al-Sadr is a young cleric who reportedly enjoys tremendous support from his followers -- known as the Sadriyun -- who have been linked to the 10 April killing of Iraqi cleric Abd al-Majid al-Khoi (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003), who was killed soon after his return to Iraq after several years exile in London. "In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win," Bremer said. "It's often the best organized who win, and the best-organized right now are the former Ba'athists and to some extent the Islamists," he added. The CPA head said that soon after an Iraqi constitution is in place and a national census is taken, local and national elections will follow, "The Washington Post" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)AL-SISTANI FATWA CRITICIZES U.S., CALLS FOR ELECTIONS.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Husayni al-Sistani issued a fatwa or religious ruling on 28 June criticizing the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) plan to appoint a council that would compose a new Iraqi constitution. The fatwa is posted on al-Sistani's website (http://www.sistani.org).
In the ruling, al-Sistani contended that coalition authorities do not have the power to appoint members to a committee that would draft a new Iraqi constitution. "There is no guarantee that this council will draft a constitution that is in harmony with the higher interests of the Iraqi people and truly represents their national identity, the basic pillars of which are the true Islamic religion and the noble social values."
Al-Sistani called for "constituent assembly elections" stating, "Every eligible Iraqi voter may choose his representative to a constituent assembly that would be assigned the task of drafting the constitution. Then, the constitution that would be endorsed by this council will be put to a general vote." The handwritten fatwa is signed by al-Sistani and contains his official seal.
The ruling marks a change in that al-Sistani had expressed support for the U.S.-led coalition since coalition troops entered Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Al-Sistani, the most senior Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, has repeatedly said that he preferred to maintain his role as a religious leader and would not involve himself in Iraqi politics, but he may now feel pressure from other Shi'ite leaders to comment on the coalition's administration of Iraq. Many Shi'ite clerics, particularly the young and seemingly popular Muqtada al-Sadr, have openly opposed the coalition and called on it to withdraw from Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)OIL REFINERY HEAD SAYS PRODUCTION TO INCREASE IN JULY.
The director general of the Al-Durah Refinery, Dathar al-Khashab, told Baghdad's "Al-Ta'akhi" newspaper that the refinery's production capacity would increase from 74,000 barrels of crude oil per day to 100,000 in the coming days, the daily reported on 30 June. The refinery's previous production capacity stood at 110,000 barrels per day. Efforts to reach that level have been hampered by postconflict reconstruction efforts, namely, recurrent power outages.
The Al-Durah refinery is one of three major refineries in Iraq. The Al-Bayji refinery has a production capacity of 300,000 barrels per day and the Al-Basrah refinery has a capacity of 140,000 barrels per day. According to "Al-Ta'akhi," Al-Durah refines oil to meet 60 percent of the market's demand, producing three million liters of petrol a day.
Asked about the Coalition Provisional Authority's relations with Iraqi oil sector personnel, al-Khashab said, "The coalition depends totally on Iraqi technicians, not only in the Al-Durah refinery but also throughout the whole oil sector, and they are prepared to help whenever they are asked to."
In related news, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June that coalition radio has called on Iraqis to inform on individuals known to have stolen equipment from oil refineries. Reuters reported on 30 June that valves, compressors, and cable looted from the southern oil fields have been reportedly sold in neighboring countries. The news agency also cited Iraqi oil officials as reporting that oil smugglers have transported as much as 3 million liters per day of gas oil and 2 million liters per day of gasoline into Jordan, the Gulf states, Syria, and Turkey. Gas smuggling is nothing new -- smugglers transported oil and gasoline openly despite UN sanctions against Iraq during the last decade of the Hussein regime. "We have never had such a problem," one Iraqi oil executive told Reuters, adding, "If this keeps up we will have to import even more product." Iraq has been importing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and gasoline to sustain its population in recent weeks, as the coalition works to get Iraq back to production capacity. However, the coalition appears to be cracking down on smugglers. "There has been a tightening of the screws," an oil executive said, adding, "But the Iraqi border is not patrolled and the situation there is much more difficult." (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI MINISTRY OF OIL CHIEF ADDRESSES OIL DEVELOPMENTS.
The U.S.-appointed head of the Iraqi Oil Ministry, Thamir Abbas al-Ghadhban, discussed the situation of Iraq's oil industry in an article published in "Al-Ta'akhi" on 29 June. Al-Ghadhban addressed the three main oil-related issues currently attracting international media attention, writing, "The persistent raising of the...issues requires some clarification in spite of our belief that these are political issues and fall within the domain of the future Iraqi government." The three issues are Iraq's membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), rumors of a Haifa-Mosul pipeline, and the privatization of the Iraqi oil industry.
Regarding Iraq's membership in OPEC, Ghadhban wrote that Iraq is a founding member of the organization and retains its full membership status. "Since no Iraqi government has been formed to represent Iraq in OPEC, no invitation has been sent to the Ministry of Oil to attend the recent meetings of the organization." He added that the presence of Iraq at OPEC meetings is dependent upon the formation of a government and an official invitation from OPEC. As for the post-Hussein OPEC membership status, Ghadhban stated that the future Iraqi government would decide since the issue "is a sovereignty issue and the current provisional administration of the Oil Ministry does not have the authority to make decisions in this regard."
Ghadhban did not address rumors regarding the possible construction of a pipeline to transport oil from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to the northern Israeli city of Haifa. However, he acknowledged the existence of a previous pipeline built by the British in the 1930s and dismantled by Iraq and Jordan after 1948, which ran from Kirkuk to Haifa. Ghadhban noted that that pipeline's supply system "has not existed for decades now," adding, "Therefore, there is no export system under the name of Kirkuk-Haifa now."
He added that Iraq hopes to restore the capacity of the Khawr Al-Amaya and Mina Al-Bakr ports, as well as the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline, and the pipeline system that ran through Saudi Arabia to Al-Mu'ajjiz. If this were accomplished, Iraq would have an export capacity of over 6 million barrels per day. "Taking the above into consideration, there is no project currently for looking at extra alternative systems," he noted.
Al-Ghadhban also addressed the issue of privatizing the oil industry. "There is a big difference between the need to attract foreign, Arab, and Iraqi capital and investment to support the national economy and the transformation of important investment sectors and activities from the public to the private sector." He said that the Oil Ministry "has no reservations" about privatizing some aspects of the oil industry "such as distribution, transportation, service stations, and some other activities, and partnership with the private sector in various forms." But, he added, the issue of opening oil reserves to foreign investment, "on the basis of privatization," "is another matter which is not supported." He added that such a decision would require the establishment of investment laws and a central government. "Our present plans allow entering into appropriate contracts on the exploration of potential oil fields or the development of some new oil fields through cooperation with Arab or foreign investors in a way that will be of interest to both parties," Ghadhban wrote, but stated conclusively, "We do not see privatization as an essential way to create necessary investment to develop the Iraqi oil industry." (Kathleen Ridolfo)BRITISH SOLDIERS RETURN TO AL-MAJAR AL-KABIR.
British soldiers returned to the Iraqi town of Al-Majar Al-Kabir on 28 June, after six British soldiers were gunned down there on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003). The 500-strong force met with a delegation of Shi'ite clerics and local dignitaries, Reuters cited British Defense Ministry officials as saying on 28 June.
"The troops...have been welcomed by the local people," a ministry spokesman said, adding, "They told the people they were there to help them reestablish their community, not to punish them. The message was: 'We're not going to be frightened off, but neither are we going to punish the people in the way Saddam Hussein would have done.'"
According to Reuters, U.K. forces dropped some 50,000 leaflets over the town prior to the return of British troops, calling for a return to calm. (Kathleen Ridolfo)RADIO REPORT CRITICIZES U.S. MISSIONARY GROUPS TO IRAQ.
The Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 26 June that two U.S. missionary organizations have entered Iraq from Jordan "to spread Christianity among Muslim Iraqis as part of the aims of the aggressive war and the objectives that the Westerners and Americans want to achieve in the post-war phase in Iraq." The two missionary groups were reported as the Southern Baptist Convention and the Franklin Samaritans.
According to the report, the missionaries are operating under cover, acting as humanitarian workers. The report claims that the missionary groups seek to influence Muslim children in particular. The report then refers to a purported statement by Franklin Graham, the founder of his namesake organization, who reportedly said the Qur'an teaches violence, not peace, and that Islam is an evil religion. The Voice of the Mujahedin Radio is linked to SCIRI. (Kathleen Ridolfo)VIDEOS PURPORTEDLY DEPICT TORTURE OF PRISONERS OVERSEEN BY HUSSEIN'S HALF-BROTHER.
Al-Arabiyah Television has acquired two videotapes containing what appears to be a professionally recorded, hour-long video of Iraqi prisoners being beaten and tortured by police officers at the behest of the half brother of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and former Iraqi Interior Minister Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, "The Washington Times" reported on 1 July.
A reporter for "The Washington Times" reportedly viewed the videotapes, excerpts of which were scheduled to be aired on Al-Arabiyah on 1 July, and said the videos show prisoners being held in a tiny fenced courtyard and beaten with sticks, electric cables, and metal bars. "Then, as their bodies and heads become increasingly bloodied and their flesh torn, most topple to the ground and curl up in a fetal position. As some try to stagger to their feet when blows are being inflicted on other prisoners, the police officers return, knocking them down again until many lie helplessly on their backs, motionless and apparently unconscious," the daily reported.
One former prisoner reportedly told "The Washington Times" that prisoners were beaten every day for a month for charges such as buying stolen or unregistered goods or for domestic disputes. The videotapes are expected to be used as evidence when Hasan, captured on 13 April, is prosecuted, although that is not expected before a new constitution is in place. (Kathleen Ridolfo)ELECTRICITY DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL KILLED.
The director of the Al-Karkh Electricity Department was gunned down on 25 June, Baghdad's "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 26 June. Hayfa Aziz Dawud was killed when gunmen traveling in an electricity-department vehicle pulled up alongside her and opened fire. Similarly, incidents of shootings have been reported at other power stations throughout Iraq, although none of the assailants have been captured. Meanwhile, "Al-Ta'akhi" reported that U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has said that Ba'athists loyal to deposed Iraqi President Hussein are responsible for acts of sabotage against electric-power stations. The director of the southern Baghdad electric station told the daily that programmed disruptions in electricity makes it easier for gangs to cut electricity cables. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TIKRITI TRIBAL CHIEF ASSASSINATED.
Abdallah Mahmud al-Khattab, the chieftain of the Al-Tikriti tribe, has been assassinated according to a 1 July report by Al-Jazeera television. The news channel reported that the governor of Tikrit made the announcement. Al-Khattab reportedly denounced deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after the fall of Hussein's regime. Tikrit is the hometown of Hussein and al-Khattab was reportedly closely affiliated with the deposed president for over 30 years. (Kathleen Ridolfo)AL-NAJAF GOVERNOR ARRESTED ON KIDNAPPING, FINANCIAL CHARGES.
U.S. forces arrested the U.S.-appointed interim governor of the holy Shi'ite city of Al-Najaf on 30 June on charges of public corruption, unlawful detention, and battery, according to a CENTCOM press release dated 1 July. A U.S. military commander appointed Abu Haydar Abd al-Mun'im, a Sunni Muslim, as interim governor of the Shi'ite-majority southern Iraqi town in April. Sixty-one people working for Abd al-Mun'im, including his bodyguards, were also detained, Reuters reported a U.S. administration spokesman as saying. "We've said all along we would make mistakes in this process and given his behavior it was clear it was a mistake to appoint him," the spokesman told a news conference. "This will send a message to all the governors that they are to be held accountable for their actions."
According to Reuters, a locally appointed special prosecutor and an Iraqi investigative judge requested Abd al-Mun'im's arrest. He will be tried under Iraqi law. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) canceled local council elections scheduled to take place in Al-Najaf in early June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003). CPA Spokesman Charles Heatley said that a new interim governor would be chosen from a 22-member provisional council that will be established next week, "The New York Times" reported on 1 July. The council's members were also appointed by the same commanding officer that appointed Abd al-Mun'im. (Kathleen Ridolfo)COALITION TELLS TURKOMAN FRONT TO DISARM.
The Kurdish weekly "Jamawar" reported on 30 June that the CPA has told the Iraqi Turkoman Front that its members must disarm or seek permission to operate from the Kurdistan Regional Government. Citing "well-informed sources," the weekly reported that the Turkoman leadership was reminded by CPA authorities that decisions promulgated by the Kurdistan regional parliament remain in force in Kurdistan and that the front is obliged to abide by the laws on political parties that are related to disarmament. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. TROOPS RAID WAHHABI HOMES.
A CENTCOM press release dated 29 June noted that U.S. troops conducted a series of raids in Mosul on 28 June. "The homes belonged to suspected associates of Abu Ammash [Wahhabi extremists]," the CENTCOM press release stated. Fifteen individuals were detained in the raids. U.S. forces reportedly confiscated Ba'ath Party documents and Republican Guard uniforms, as well as a small number of weapons. Wahhabism is a conservative Islamic movement dating to the mid-18th century founded by Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and practiced almost exclusively in Saudi Arabia. It is also the branch of Islam practiced by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and many of the 11 September 2001 terrorists. (Kathleen Ridolfo)GROUP CALLS ON ARAB AND MUSLIMS TO FIGHT U.S. IN IRAQ.
A group calling itself the "People's Resistance for the Liberation of Iraq" has issued a statement calling on intellectuals, engineers, explosives experts, global liberation movements, and anybody wanting to take revenge on the United States to come to Iraq, Al-Jazeera Television reported on 26 June. "You are besieged in your countries by the Arab and Muslim rulers who have turned into policemen working for the United States to destroy you in return for staying in power. Come to a country that does not have a government, but has an angry mujahedin people, who desperately need you," the statement reads. Several militant groups have issued similar statements in the Arab press in recent weeks, some even claiming responsibility for attacks against coalition forces, including the "Mujahedin Battalions of the Salafite Group in Iraq," "The General Command of the Armed Forces, Resistance and Liberation" group, and the "Iraqi Resistance Brigades." (Kathleen Ridolfo)'RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION' SAYS SOME 'COLLABORATORS' MAY BE KILLED.
The Religious Scholars Association based in Al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, has issued a statement that calls on citizens not to respond to recent calls to kill all those who cooperate with coalition forces, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 1 July. The statement lists, however the names of 33 individuals "whose blood has been sanctioned," the daily reported. The list reportedly includes the mayor of Al-Fallujah, two former Ba'ath Party members who served as division commanders, a number of government employees, and five religious scholars. According to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," "the group did not sign the statement with a particular name but it started off with the Qur'anic verse: 'Slay them wherever ye find them and take no friends or helpers from their ranks.'"EXPLOSION ROCKS MOSQUE, KILLING SEVERAL IRAQIS.
An explosion at a mosque in Al-Fallujah on 1 July left at least six Iraqis dead and several wounded, according to international media reports. Al-Jazeera claimed that a U.S. aircraft fired a missile on the Al-Hasan Mosque, located east of Al-Fallujah, while an imam was lecturing to students, leaving eight dead and six wounded. But a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters that the military does not know the cause of the blast, which he said came from an adjacent building. A U.S. rapid-response team "found minimal damage to the mosque but significant damage to the building next to the mosque," the spokesman said. Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command issued a statement denying any involvement in the explosion. Yassin Hamed told reporters at the local hospital that four bodies were pulled from the rubble. "The bodies are still buried for now -- seven, 10 people, I don't know," another unnamed witness told Reuters. The imam later died from his injuries, Al-Jazeera reported on 1 July. (Kathleen Ridolfo)REMAINS OF MISSING U.S. SOLDIERS FOUND.
The remains of two missing U.S. soldiers were found some 32 kilometers northwest of Baghdad on 28 June, AP reported on 29 June. Their missing Humvee military vehicle was found on 27 June in a nearby location, an unnamed senior Pentagon official told the news agency.
The soldiers were declared missing on 25 June after they failed to respond to a communications check from their post, located some 40 kilometers north of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) stated in a press release posted on the CENTCOM website on 26 June. Troops dispatched to check on the two found no trace of the missing soldiers or their vehicle, according to CENTCOM. An initial ground and aerial search launched by U.S. forces failed to turn up the soldiers or their Humvee. The two had been stationed at a rocket-demolition site near the town of Balad, AP reported.
According to AP, some of the soldiers' personal items were found during house-to-house searches on 27 June, leading to the detention of 12 Iraqis. It is unclear whether any of the Iraqis detained were charged in the apparent murder of the soldiers. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. CONVOY ATTACKED, MILITARY VEHICLE BLOWN UP.
A U.S. military vehicle traveling in a convoy was blown up on 1 July in central Baghdad near Al-Mustansiriyah University, Reuters reported. Witnesses told Reuters that an Iraqi car blew up alongside the military vehicle, while others claimed that a rocket-propelled grenade was responsible for the blast. Reuters reported that U.S. troops pulled four badly wounded soldiers from the burning vehicle, while Al-Jazeera reported that the soldiers traveling in the vehicle were killed, in addition to a number of Iraqi civilians that were near the vehicle when it exploded.
Reuters reported that one U.S. soldier died on 2 July from wounds he sustained in the attack. The U.S. military reportedly confirmed that an "improvised explosive device" hit the convoy. Some 23 U.S. and six British soldiers have been killed by hostile fire in Iraq since U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over on 1 May, according to Reuters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
ARAB LEAGUE CHIEF PRESSES FOR REFORMS.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa has told the Egyptian Council on Foreign Relations that the Arab League must enact reforms or face continued stagnation, "Al-Ahram Weekly" reported in its 26 June-2 July issue. "There are no two ways about it, the Arab League must be reformed so as to be able to meet the challenges facing Arab countries and collective Arab interests," Musa said.
Musa has become increasingly critical of his organization's ability to effect influence in the international political arena in recent months, particularly after the league failed in trying to get coalition forces to find a peaceful solution to the Iraqi conflict (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 April 2003). "I admit that the league is not doing well. I admit that much more could be done, and could have been done. However, when we talk of the performance of the Arab League, we are talking about the collective Arab will of its member states," Musa told the council. He noted that while his role is to "observe and promote the interests" of member states, there is not much that he can achieve when Arab countries fail to agree on what their shared interests are.
"There is an ongoing debate about how to reconceptualize pan-Arabism in a way that is categorically different from what we espoused during the second half of the past century," Musa said, adding, "A 'neo-pan-Arabism' is what we need." His vision includes a cohesion of Arab economic interests and collective Arab action based on political realism, the weekly reported. He said that member states should strive to promote a stronger inter-Arab dialogue, support Palestinian aspirations towards self determination, and work towards forging a strong dialogue with the United States "so that these relations are founded on the right basis and proceed in a way that accommodates the multiple interests of the Arab states."
The secretary-general added that a "new" Arab League should not limit itself to long-standing issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but should also address socio-economic and cultural matters, saying, "While it is important for us to debate the consequences of Israel's nuclear plants, it is also important to debate ways of confronting the slander campaign that has been carried out against Arabs and Muslims since 11 September 2001." (Kathleen Ridolfo)AS ARAB MONETARY FUND HEAD SAYS GOVERNMENT NEEDED IN IRAQ.
Jassim al-Mannai, the director general and chairman of the board of the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), said on 29 June that the lack of a legitimate government in Iraq was hampering the reconstruction effort in that country, Reuters reported on the same day. Al-Mannai said that the AMF, which is a branch of the Arab League that finances economic-reform programs and capital-market development for Arab member states, could assist in the rebuilding effort in Iraq, but claimed that a lack of a central authority stands in the way of his organization's doing so. "At least you need to see an authority to whom you can talk, and it is still in the process. So everybody is waiting, not only the Arab Monetary Fund," al-Mannai contended. "I hope this thing will be clarified relatively soon, so we can be of assistance as soon as possible," he added. Al-Mannai's comments were made to reporters gathered on the sidelines of a meeting of central bankers ahead of the 30 June Bank for International Settlements annual meeting.
Meanwhile, "Gulf News" reported on its website on 2 July that Iraq owes substantial arrears to the AMF (http://www.gulf-news.com/). "A breakdown showed Iraq's arrears to the AMF stood at around 97 million dinars ($368.6 million) at the end of 2001. They include nearly 47.2 million dinars ($179.3 million) in interest and the rest as the principal loan," the website reported. "The AMF had hoped it will regain part of the arrears owed by Iraq following long negotiations but I don't see any quick solution with the occupation," an unidentified source "close to the AMF" told the website. "I think the AMF's only choice now is to wait and wait," the source added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TEHRAN ALLEGEDLY MAKES DEAL WITH MUQTADA AL-SADR.
Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr allegedly made a deal with the Iranian government during his early June visit to Iran, Milan's "Corriere della Sera" reported on 25 June. Citing anonymous "Kurdish sources," the centrist daily reported that al-Sadr met in Qom with Qasem Suleimani of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Qods Force and in Tehran with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and other regime leaders. The two sides reportedly agreed that in exchange for financial aid to al-Sadr and his followers, al-Sadr will: accept the Iranian theocratic model of Vilayat-i Faqih (Guardianship of the Supreme Jurisconsult) and advocate it in Iraq; reject the U.S.-U.K. presence in Iraq; and oppose the main source of emulation in Al-Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Ali al-Sistani. Moreover, al-Sadr and his followers will effectively replace traditional Shi'a groups, particularly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. (For more on al-Sadr's trip to Iran, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 June 2003.) (Bill Samii)ISRAEL TO AMEND LAW ON EXPORTS TO IRAQ.
Israeli lawmakers are reportedly working on an amendment that would permit Israeli companies to export goods to Iraq, Reuters cited Israeli Finance Ministry officials as saying on 2 July. Iraq is currently classified as an enemy state. According to Reuters, the "Ma'ariv" daily newspaper reported on 2 July that Israeli exporters would be able to begin trading with Iraq within days, once the law is amended and approved by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The change would be subject to review after one year and Iraq would not be immediately removed from the list of enemy states. Israeli citizens would also not be permitted to visit the country, according to "Ma'ariv." According to Reuters, Israeli companies have already begun exporting goods to Iraq using Palestinian and Jordanian companies as middlemen. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
UN ENVOY OPENS WORKSHOP JUSTICE IN IRAQ...
UN Special Representative to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello opened a two-day workshop in Baghdad on 30 June that brings together Iraqis, international experts, and Coalition Provisional Authority officials to discuss a common legal and judicial approach to dispensing justice to former members of the deposed Hussein regime, UN News Center reported the same day (http://www.un.org/news). "Thousands of men, women, and children from all walks of life, religions, ethnic groups, political affiliations, classes, and professions were often targeted simply because they disagreed -- or were thought to disagree -- with those in power," Vieira de Mello told the participants. "All communities suffered: No one was spared. The only nondiscriminatory policy of Saddam was the systematic across the board violation of human rights." He stressed the need for Iraqis to take the initiative, telling participants, "I wish us to use this meeting as the first opportunity where we can sit together and have the Iraqi people lead us in our thinking on comprehensive approaches to address the terrible injustices wrought upon the people of Iraq." (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AFTER MEETING WITH SHI'ITE CLERICS.
Vieira de Mello met with a number of Shi'ite clerics on 28 June, the UN News Center reported the following day. Vieira de Mello met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Muhammad al-Sistani in Al-Najaf. The men exchanged views "in a frank manner on the current situation in Iraq and how best to move forward to reaching the goal of transferring power to a representative Iraqi leadership," UN spokesman Abdelhamid Abdeljaber reported. "Mr. Sistani expressed his concern at the slow pace and many other issues derailing the process of permitting Iraqi responsible leaders to take charge of their affairs," he said. The two men also addressed the issue of a new Iraqi constitution, according to the report.
The UN representative also met with Imam Muqtada al-Sadr, who conveyed his belief that "any formation of any political entity was doomed to failure unless it is supported or endorsed by the Iraqi people themselves," Abdeljaber said.
In a meeting with Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), al-Hakim reportedly outlined various ways of fostering a more representative Iraqi political body. "He said that only Iraqi people can choose their representatives and any imposed leadership would fail and hurt those who will impose it," Abdeljaber said. The UN envoy assured each cleric that he would convey their views to the appropriate authorities, the UN News Center reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS GROUP CALLS ON COALITION TO TREAT DETAINEES JUSTLY.
On 30 June, international rights group Amnesty International called on the U.S. to allow hundreds of Iraqis detained during Operation Iraqi Freedom access to family members and legal counsel, and to expedite a judicial review of their detention. The group also called on U.S. officials to investigate allegations of ill treatment, torture, and death from prisoners in custody. "The conditions of detention Iraqis are held under at the Camp Cropper Center at Baghdad International Airport -- now a U.S. base -- and at Abu Gharib Prison may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, banned by international law," an Amnesty press release stated.
Detainees have told Amnesty that they were subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment after their arrest, "being tightly bound with plastic handcuffs and sometimes denied water and access to a toilet in the first night of arrest. Delegates saw numerous ex-detainees with wrists still scarred by the cuffs a month later," Amnesty noted. One former detainee said, "They did not interrogate us and they treated us like animals. In the first week we were not allowed to wash and didn't have sufficient water." He was transferred to Abu Gharib after 20 days of detention at the airport.
Amnesty reported that it addressed its concerns with Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer during a 26 June meeting and asked that his office "publicly declare" what the CPA intends to do to adjust its policies regarding detentions, arrests, and house searches, in order to prevent the recurrence of incidents of abuse. According to Amnesty International, U.S. military lawyers told Amnesty delegates that they intended to improve the prisoners' conditions and would ensure that every detainee had access to lawyers within 72 hours.
The U.S. lawyers admitted that they had failed to provide information as to the detainees' whereabouts and said it had been logistically impossible to do so until recently. "The first detainees brought to Camp Cropper at the end of April 2003 were left under the burning heat of the sun, surrounded by razor wire until tents were erected on the third day. The toilets were unscreened holes in the ground. The daily water allocation of four liters for drinking was insufficient. Washing was prohibited by guards until skin diseases became widespread," Amnesty International stated. The press release can be viewed in its entirety at www.amnesty.org (Kathleen Ridolfo)FRANKS TO TURN THE REIGNS OVER TO ABIZAID NEXT WEEK.
The commander in chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S. General Tommy Franks, will turn command over to Lieutenant General John P. Abizaid in a ceremony in St. Petersburg, Florida on 7 July, CENTCOM announced in a 1 July press release. CENTCOM is based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Franks, 57, had said that he would retire from military service at the end of the summer. He has headed CENTCOM since July 2000. Abizaid assumed the position of deputy commander (Forward) for Combined Forces Command, U.S. Central Command, in January 2003, according to his biography on http://www.centcom.mil/
General Abizaid is of Lebanese descent and is fluent in Arabic. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. and holds a Master of Arts degree in Area Studies (Middle East) from Harvard University. Abizaid was commissioned into the Army in 1973 and has commanded U.S. forces in Grenada, Iraqi Kurdistan (1991), and Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Kathleen Ridolfo)