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Iraq Report: October 9, 2003

9 October 2003, Volume 6, Number 42
IRAQIS PROTEST IMAM'S ARREST. Some 2,000 Iraqis converged on the Al-Bayya Mosque in Baghdad on 7 October to protest the arrest of the mosque's imam, Shaykh Mu'ayyad al-Khazraji, by U.S. forces earlier that day, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 7 October.

Al-Khazraji and at least one other mosque employee are accused of storing weapons at the mosque and inciting Iraqis to oppose the U.S. occupation. A witness told Al-Arabiyah that al-Khazraji was placed in U.S. custody at a meeting arranged by a third party for U.S. officials. Protesters demonstrated for several hours in the vicinity of the mosque, blocking a major highway in Baghdad, and dispersed only after U.S. forces withdrew. The U.S. military has not commented on the imam's detention, but U.S. forces have detained al-Khazraji once before, on 1 October, reported the following day.

A similar number of protesters marched from the mosque to U.S. headquarters in Baghdad on 8 October to demand the cleric's release, Reuters reported the same day. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER IRAQI SOLDIERS RIOT. Thousands of former Iraqi soldiers on 4-5 October protested, then rioted in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Al-Hillah, and Al-Basrah demanding compensation for the loss of their jobs, international media reported. A British soldier shot and killed an armed Iraqi in Al-Basrah on 4 October, while other British forces fired rubber bullets at the crowd of protesters, Reuters reported the same day.

Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) spokesman Charles Heatley told reporters that the former soldiers "decided to stir up the crowd that was waiting outside the payment centers in Baghdad and Al-Basrah, in particular, to create a disturbance." Two Iraqis were believed killed in Baghdad during rioting at the Al-Muthanna airport, the news agency reported. The protests continued in smaller numbers in Baghdad, Al-Basrah, and Bayji (see below) on 6 October.

The former soldiers had gathered there to collect a one-time $40 payment by the CPA to some 440,000 former soldiers. "Reports to us indicate that there were two killed in Baghdad, and that's from the Iraqi police, not the coalition," Lieutenant Colonel George Krivo said. Smaller demonstrations erupted on 5 October, but there were no reports of deaths that day.

Former Iraqi General Najib al-Salihi told Al-Jazeera on 4 October that the frustration expressed by the former soldiers is compounded by the lack of a centralized system to address their compensation claims. "We believe that the reason behind this is the absence of an Iraqi national defense ministry to take care of the military men's humanitarian, administrative, and technical affairs, in addition to this ministry's duty of defending the country and maintaining its security," al-Salihi said. "The defense ministry is the only institution that is capable of organizing Iraqi military people and distributing their salaries in a clear humanitarian way. This is particularly true because the number of the [former] Iraqi Army's military personnel is not less than 500,000. Along with their families, they are more than 2 million Iraqi individuals who have many issues related to their rights and salaries," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

NEW IRAQI ARMY DEBUTS FIRST SOLDIERS. Soldiers graduating from the New Iraqi Army's nine-week basic-training course made their debut on 4 October, in a ceremony at their training camp in Kirkush, located 85 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, international media reported. "Our army will be for the defense of our nation and all of our citizens," said Iyad Allawi, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council for October. "It will be an army for Iraq and for the protection of Iraq. An army for peace and reconstruction," he added.

The new army comprises former Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and new volunteers. The 700 graduates include 65 officers. The United States plans to have a 40,000-man Iraqi army in place by next October. Meanwhile, "Al-Da'wah" reported on 4 October that the second class of trainees left for basic training the same day. The class comprises some 2,500 volunteers, including 30 former Iraqi officers from the deposed Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

OUSTED IRAQI POLICE CHIEF REINSTATED AFTER REPLACEMENT FAILS TO PROVIDE ORDER. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq dismissed the Bayji police chief on 6 October after three days of rioting in the city, AFP reported, citing U.S. military officials.

The rioting on 6 October involved a police exchange of gunfire with former army personnel from the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein who were demanding their military stipends, AFP reported. Demonstrators fired rocket-propelled grenades during the skirmish, setting fire to a fuel tanker and also hitting the Bayji mayor's office. AP reported on 7 October that Fedayeen Saddam forces led the resistance. The fighting was so intense on 4 October that Bayji police officers reportedly fled the city.

U.S. 4th Infantry Division Major Josslyn Aberle said that Bayji Police Chief Ismail al-Jabouri was dismissed on 6 October because the coalition and the governor of the Salah Al-Din Province "were not satisfied with his performance," AFP reported. Al-Jabouri was accused of heavy-handedness and for giving members of his clan and other associates jobs on the 1,000-plus-member police force, AP reported.

The CPA reinstated Hamid al-Qaisi as police chief. He had been dismissed from his position by coalition forces in May. Bayji is located some 225 kilometers north of Baghdad and is home to Iraq's largest oil refinery. The Anatolia news agency reported that some 4,000 people were involved in the 6 October rioting. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTRY ATTACKED IN BAGHDAD. The Foreign Ministry compound in Baghdad came under attack on 7 October, international media reported. "There was an explosion in the garden of the Foreign Ministry," U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Randy Lane told reporters. "It is unclear if it was a rocket-propelled grenade or a mortar. There were no casualties, just some shattered windows. The foreign minister was not in the building at the time." There were no U.S. soldiers in the area at the time of the incident, Lane said.

An exchange of small-arms fire could be heard after the explosion, but Lane was unsure whether the incidents were related. "I saw a ball of fire. Foreign Ministry employees rushed from the building out to the street to evacuate the complex after the attack. I did not see any casualties or injured people leaving," lawyer Aymen Khalid, who witnessed the incident, told Reuters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

OIL-SMUGGLING TRIAL UNDER WAY. Two Ukrainians arrested in August are facing life imprisonment if they are convicted of smuggling oil out of Iraq in a trial that got under way this week, Reuters reported on 6 October. On 30 September, an Iraqi judge ordered the confiscation in Al-Basrah of some 2,300 tons of Iraqi oil and two tankers suspected of smuggling the oil out of Iraq. The judge turned the tankers and the oil over to the Finance Ministry to sell or use for government purposes, Baghdad's "Al-Ittihad" reported on 4 October.

According to Reuters, Mykola Mazurenko, captain of the "Navstar" tanker, and his assistant Ivan Soshchenko were questioned about why they purchased diesel fuel from fishing boats when they were only authorized to deliver fuel to Iraq. Mazurenko said he did so on the orders of the ship's Dubai-based Iraqi owner. "I was told to buy diesel. A man who identified himself only as Mustafa said at least 20 fishing vessels would load the fuel onto the 'Navstar,'" he added.

The CPA has confiscated 11 ships smuggling some 11,000 tons of fuel since the war ended in May, Reuters reported. "We are hoping that this will send a message of how serious both the Iraqi authorities and coalition [are] about stamping out the smuggling of oil," CPA legal adviser Mike Kelly said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

INC HEAD WANTS TO ESTABLISH FUND FOR IRAQI BUSINESSMEN. Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi is reportedly calling on the U.S. government to establish an investment fund for Iraqi businessmen, according to a 4 October report in the INC newspaper "Al-Mu'tamar." Chalabi said the fund should be set up with a capital investment of $500 million to help Iraqi industrialists and businessmen who want to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, or contribute to economic growth in general. He said the fund would help Iraqis who don't have enough capital or those who could not operate under the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein because of their religion, ethnicity, or tribal affiliation. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

COUNCIL OF JUDGES REESTABLISHED. The reestablished Iraqi Council of Judges began work in Baghdad on 4 October according to a press release by the CPA in Iraq dated the same day ( The council was first established in 1963 to supervise Iraqi's judicial and prosecutorial systems. The former Hussein regime abolished it however, in 1979.

The council will operate independent of the Iraqi Justice Ministry, and will "investigate allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence, take necessary disciplinary or administrative actions and nominate lawyers to fill judicial and prosecutorial vacancies," the press release stated. "The Council of Judges assures the independence of the judiciary, away from the interference by any authority in the judicial or prosecutorial affairs...this council is based on democracy," Iraqi Supreme Court Chief Justice and President of the Council of Judges Mithat al-Mahmud was quoted as saying.

Other members to the council include the deputy chief justices of the Supreme Court, the directors-general of the State Council Assembly, the Office of Public Prosecution, the Legal Supervision Office, and presidents of the appellate courts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THOUSANDS GATHER IN AL-NAJAF FOR AL-HAKIM MEMORIAL. Thousands of Iraqis gathered in Al-Najaf on 3 October for a memorial service ahead of the 40-day commemoration of the killing of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, Reuters reported. Al-Hakim and more than 80 persons were killed in a car bombing in Al-Najaf on 29 August. The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported on 3 October that a convoy of 400 Iranians headed to Iraq on the same day to participate in the 40th day of the memorial service. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. CLOSES CAMP CROPPER. The U.S. military closed Camp Cropper, a military detention center in Baghdad where hundreds of Iraqis were detained in tents during the summer months, AP reported on 5 October. The camp was closed on the order of U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer on 1 October, and detainees were moved to prison facilities in and around Baghdad. The facility held as many as 1,200 at one time. "It wasn't supposed to be a detention center," but rather a temporary holding facility, U.S. Army Colonel Ralph Sabatino said. "It was designed for 250 people. When it grew to 500, to 700, it got very crowded. It had a very bad reputation, appropriately," he added. Journalists were barred from entering the facility, but detainees reported overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, as well as physical abuse by guards, AP reported.

In addition, the Iraqi Lawyers League has won the right for some detainees to have legal representation and accelerated hearings, league President Malik Dohan al-Hassan told AP on 5 October. Thousands of Iraqis have been held for months by coalition forces without charge since the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. CPA-appointed Spanish Judge Ignacio Rubio is overseeing a program that assigns court-appointed attorneys to represent detainees at preliminary hearings. The first of such hearings was held at Baghdad Central Detention Center, formerly known as Abu Ghurayb Prison, in Baghdad last week.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Human Rights Minister Abd al-Basit Turki told the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) newspaper "Al-Ta'akhi" on 4 October that he had received permission to visit coalition detainees being held in Umm Qasr and at Baghdad International Airport, including members of the "55 most-wanted" former regime officials now in custody. Turki said a number of lawyers working in the field of human rights would accompany him on his visits. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GSM MOBILE-PHONE LICENSES AWARDED. The CPA has awarded mobile-phone licenses to three firms to operate in northern, central, and southern Iraq, international press reported on 6 October. Iraqi Communications Minister Haydar Jawad al-Abadi told reporters that the three networks would operate under the global system for mobile communication (GSM), used throughout the world, but not in the United States, which is based on the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) system. Until now, only autonomous areas of northern Iraq had mobile phones. Mobile phones were forbidden in Hussein-controlled areas under his regime, and most of Iraq's land-line network was destroyed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to Reuters, all three of the winning consortia included Iraqi businessmen and Arab telecom companies. A Kurdish firm that has been operating for some time in northern Iraq will run the northern network, in partnership with the Kuwaiti firm Wataniya. The southern license was awarded to the Kuwaiti firm MTC, while the award for central Iraq was awarded to a consortium headed by the Egyptian firm Orascom Telecommunications. GSM is used by almost 1 billion people worldwide including more than 40 million people in the countries bordering Iraq, according to

Meanwhile, the KDP newspaper "Khabat" reported on 5 October that land lines between Tikrit and Baghdad are now operational, after more than 12 years of disruption. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. AND TURKEY AGREE ON PLAN TO ELIMINATE PKK/KADEK FROM IRAQ. The United States and Turkey agreed on a plan of action to eliminate the presence of Turkish-Kurdish rebels from the Kurdistan Democracy and Freedom Congress (KADEK), formerly known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Reuters reported on 2 October. "We have agreed on an action plan with the United States to eradicate PKK/KADEK from northern Iraq," Turkish Foreign Ministry official Nabi Sensoy told a press conference in Ankara following the talks.

Turkey had said it would not consider committing troops to Iraq unless the United States dealt with the rebels. U.S. State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism J. Cofer Black told the same press conference, "There is no place in Iraq for PKK/KADEK." U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell redesignated 25 international groups as "foreign terrorist organizations" on 2 October, including the PKK, and the Mujahedin Khalq, an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ AND SYRIA WORKING ON SECURITY AGREEMENT. The Iraqi Governing Council president for the month of October, Iyad Allawi, told Jordan's "Al-Ra'y" on 2 October that Iraq and Syria have decided to establish a border-security agreement during his visit to Syria this week. Iraqi Interior Minister Nuri al-Badran will conclude the agreement in a forthcoming visit to Syria, dpa reported on 2 October. Allawi said Iraq's security problems are directly related to border security. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDAN DENIES ALLEGATION THAT IT HAS IRAQI WMD. Jordanian Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif denied on 5 October allegations that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are in Jordan, Reuters reported the same day.

The allegation came in a report on WMD by Iraq Survey Group head David Kay (see below) that states that his team uncovered multiple reports that WMD or WMD-related substances were moved to Iran, Syria, and Jordan prior to the war. "We are surprised that such statements are brought up in such a way especially as this issue was not discussed with Jordan before despite the government's constant touch with the American side," Amman-based daily "Al-Ra'y" quoted al-Sharif as saying.

Sharif contended that the Iraqi-Jordanian border is heavily guarded, and said that if the U.S. has evidence to support its claims, that evidence should be made known to Jordanian officials, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. DRAFT RESOLUTION ON IRAQ IN JEOPARDY. The U.S. is facing resistance from UN Security Council members as well as Secretary-General Kofi Annan over the draft resolution it presented to the council on Iraq on 1 October (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 3 October 2003). According to Reuters, council members have said that the U.S. should either withdraw the resolution completely or push for a split vote -- which would likely limit the impact of the resolution at a later date.

The U.S. did not expect strong opposition to the draft, but Annan's remarks to the press on 2 October indicated his unwillingness to accept the marginal role carved out for the UN in the draft, particularly after the UN was targeted in a 19 August bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad. UN Security Council members have now expressed resistance to the draft. According to Reuters, permanent Security Council members China, France, and Russia plan to abstain from voting on the resolution, as well as rotating members Germany and Syria. The United Kingdom, Spain, and Bulgaria would vote in favor of the draft, and Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico, and Pakistan are on the fence, but might support the draft under U.S. pressure. The resolution would need nine affirmative votes and no veto from any permanent member to pass.

Speaking to reporters at the UN on 2 October (, Annan said he would prefer an idea similar to the one set forth by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin in a 12 September editorial in "Le Monde" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2003). Asked whether he would like to see a quick transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis incorporated into the resolution, Annan said, "This had been my suggestion in the sense that it may change the dynamics on the ground, in terms of the security situation, and send a message to the Iraqi people and also to the region." He added that he envisioned something along the lines of what is being done in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte, who is also serving as president of the Security Council for the month of October, told reporters at the UN on 2 October that the U.S. has carved out a specific role for the UN in Iraq. "We've incorporated language that details an expanded and explicit role for the United Nations, especially in the political transition process...we're very mindful of the vital importance and vital role that the United Nations can play in Iraq." Regarding security, Negroponte added, "We explicitly define the mission of the multinational force to include the maintenance of security conditions necessary to carry out the political transition process" in Iraq. He said he hoped that those conditions "will exist in the very near future."

When asked about possible revisions to the draft resolution, Negroponte told reporters on 7 October that any changes would be minor, Reuters reported on the same day. "What I told the council members was that if in the coming days we put forward a resolution with an idea to putting it to an early vote, that they shouldn't expect any significant or radical departures from the resolution they have before them," he said. "It is certainly our intent at this moment to press ahead with the resolution."

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters on 7 October: "We think we've gone a considerable way already into integrating those kind of responsibilities [for the UN in Iraq], including, as we've pointed out, the specific responsibilities the secretary-general laid out for the UN in July. So we have already integrated a lot of that. There may be other elements of that that we can add, but what we're looking for in a resolution and what we think the resolution should do -- and can do effectively, is to call forth greater effort, greater assistance, and greater support for this process of transferring responsibility to Iraqis, and of the Iraqis creating their own constitutional framework for government." He said that the U.S. would not be open to a transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, saying the U.S. still wants the Iraqis to provide a timeline for a transfer of power.

Asked about a possible split vote on the resolution, Boucher said: "I don't think we're at the point of counting votes quite yet. We have to decide what we can do to the resolution, to our text, to incorporate some of the further suggestions we've heard from people and try to move it forward in terms of the support it gives to the Iraqi people. And as we do that, we'll probably get a better view of who might vote for it and who might not." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN, WORLD BANK SET IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION COST AT $36 BILLION. An assessment by the UN Development Group, working in coordination with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), has set the cost of reconstruction in Iraq for the next three years (2004-07) at $36 billion, the UN News Center reported on 3 October ( That figure does not include the $20 billion called for by the CPA for security, oil, and other vital sectors.

The study determined that Iraq's reconstruction needs stem from years of neglect of the country's infrastructure, environment, and social services by the deposed Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. The good news is that not all of Iraq's needs will have to be financed externally, according to the UN. In 2004, some $1 billion of these needs will be covered by ongoing contracts under the UN oil-for-food program. The study's findings will be formally presented at the 23-24 October international donors conference on Iraq in Madrid. A summary of the report, including a detailed table of predicted reconstruction costs by sector can be found on the World Bank website (http:/ (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN IRAQ-KUWAIT OBSERVER MISSION CLOSES. The UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) was phased out on 6 October after 12 years in operation, the UN News Center reported the same day (

UNIKOM was established following the 1991 Gulf War to "deter violations and report on hostile action along the border" between the two countries. The mission suspended most of its activities on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 March 2003) and the UN Security Council voted unanimously in July to phase out the mission by October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

WHITE HOUSE FORMS IRAQ STABILIZATION GROUP. The White House is taking steps to reorganize U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan by directly overseeing reconstruction efforts in both countries, reported on 6 October. The daily noted that the change effectively shifts control over Iraq's day-to-day operations to the White House and its National Security Council, and takes some weight off the Pentagon. The move has been interpreted as a possible signal that the White House prefers to give more power to the State Department in the rebuilding process at the expense of the Pentagon, which until now has headed the reconstruction effort in Iraq.

Most notable is the establishment of the "Iraq Stabilization Group," which will be headed by U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. The group will include committees on counterterrorism, economic development, political affairs in Iraq, and the media. "The Pentagon remains the lead agency, and the structure has been set up explicitly to provide assistance to the Defense Department and Coalition Provisional Authority," Rice said on 5 October.

In a 7 October interview with the "Financial Times" and three European news organizations, Rumsfeld claimed he was unaware of the restructuring, but added that the change did not appear any different from the structure already in place at the National Security Council (NSC), reported on 7 October. "My personal view is that we'll just have to see how it evolves," Rumsfeld told reporters, adding, "But my impression of it is that that is what is the charter of the [NSC], and I haven't been able to detect any difference from the memo." Rumsfeld added that Rice should have released the memo to the press, saying, "Unfortunately it's a classified memo, it shouldn't be, there's nothing in it that's classified." The defense secretary appeared irritated when questioned about the Iraq Stabilization Group according to the transcript of the interview on

Meanwhile, the White House on 8 October denied that the reorganization would marginalize Rumsfeld and the Pentagon in any way. "As the secretary said, this was no surprise because that's 'what the responsibility of the NSC is and always has been.' That's what he said in the interview," Reuters quoted White House spokesman Scott McClellan as saying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ SURVEY GROUP REPORTS THREE-MONTH FINDINGS. David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) that is searching for WMD in Iraq, presented the findings of the ISG's first three months of inspections in Iraq to three Congressional committees on 2 October. Kay's statement, posted on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) website (, revealed that although the ISG has not found any WMD to date, it has uncovered significant intent of the deposed Hussein regime to produce WMD. The inspections have also uncovered evidence that the Hussein regime failed to reveal a number of programs to UN weapons inspectors, a requirement under UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions. Documents found in Iraq also reveal that Hussein attempted to procure technology from North Korea for Iraq's missile programs. Kay contended in his statement that former Iraqi officials went to great lengths before, during, and after the war -- in one instance, as late as July -- to conceal WMD evidence by destroying documents and computer hard drives.

Kay listed evidence of proscribed activities by the Hussein regime in his report to Congress. Such activities include an undeclared network of laboratories containing equipment suitable for chemical- and biological-weapons research, a prison laboratory complex that may have been used for human testing of biological-warfare agents, a line of unmanned aerial vehicles not fully declared to the UN and exceeding the permitted range found at an undeclared site, advance design work for new long-range missiles capable of a 1,000-kilometer range (the permitted range under UN sanctions was 150 kilometers), a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B hidden in a scientist's home that could be used to produce a biological agent, testimony by Iraqi scientists and senior regime officials in coalition custody that reveal Hussein's intention to restart Iraq's nuclear program if UN sanctions were lifted, and materials and testimony showing Iraq's effort to illegally procure parts and foreign assistance for its missile program. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SPANISH, EU OFFICIALS SAY DONORS CONFERENCE STILL ON. Spanish and European Union officials said that the international donors conference for Iraq, scheduled for 23-24 October in Madrid, will go on as scheduled, despite apparent calls for a delay from German and Russian officials.

A German government source accompanying German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on an official visit to Russia on 8 October told Reuters that Germany would not mind "if this donors conference could take place at a somewhat later date." The source added that the German government was unsure about how much it could financially contribute to Iraq because he claimed there was no real estimate of the costs of rebuilding. A recent World Bank/UN study has set the rebuilding cost at around $36 billion for 2004-07 (see above). The source also told the news agency that Germany was unsure that U.S. expectations for the conference could be met.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on 9 October that he would prefer that a UN Security Council resolution be adopted ahead of the donors conference. "We would very much like to have such a resolution agreed on at the UN Security Council before that conference, whose date we are unable to change," Putin told a press conference in Yekaterinburg. "Back in New York I said Russia would attend the donor countries' conference, most probably in the capacity of observer," he added.

The European Commission said on 9 October in Brussels that the conference would be held according to schedule. "As far as we're concerned, the dates are unchanged," Reuters quoted EU external affairs spokeswoman Emma Udwin as telling reporters. "We can't wait for a perfect peace in Iraq to decide what we'd like to do to help the people of Iraq," she added. A spokesman for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar also confirmed that there has been no change in schedule saying, "We don't have any news [of postponement] and are going ahead as planned," Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


By Kathleen Ridolfo

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq may have to contend with more than the Iraqi Governing Council's opposition to the presence of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil. Both Kurdish leaders and citizens have vehemently opposed the idea of foreign troops, even if those troops were stationed outside of Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. Iraqis from across the religious and ethnic spectrum have largely opposed the presence of any foreign troops on their soil, particularly the Turks, because of Iraq's longstanding historical and political relationship with its northern neighbor.

Although the U.S. request for Turkish troops was made in July, the Turkish cabinet only sent a motion to its National Assembly on 6 October. The motion called for the dispatch of 10,000 Turkish troops to contribute to stabilization efforts in Iraq. The four-page motion sought parliamentary approval to send troops to Iraq at some point during the next year and stipulated that Turkish troops would operate under a Turkish national command structure. "Turkish armed forces will also perform the tasks of restoring public order and regulating and improving humanitarian aid and the economic [infra]structure," the motion stated. The parliament approved the motion a day later -- after just three hours of debate -- by a vote of 358 to 183.

Press reports indicated that the Iraqi Governing Council, upon hearing of the approval, unanimously rejected the possible deployment. But Governing Council member Sungul Chabuk, a Turkoman, appeared to support the Turkish deployment. "Turkey wants to help the Iraqi people preserve security and stability and rebuild Iraq...God willing, the Turkish troops, who are Muslim troops, will be welcomed by the Iraqi people," she told Reuters on 6 October.

However, Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i said that the council is opposed to Turkish troops in Iraq because members fear the troops might undermine stability in Iraq. "The overriding opinion among the [Governing Council] members is that there are fears and apprehension with regard to bringing any foreign troops to Iraq," he told Al-Jazeera on 7 October. "This is because to end the occupation and not to increase the number of foreign troops, particularly from regional countries which will not be neutral in Iraq." Al-Rubay'i noted that the Governing Council wants the United States to guarantee that the Turkish troops would operate under coalition or UN control, and that they would depart Iraq ahead of U.S. forces.

Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman echoed al-Rubay'i, telling Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 8 October, "In general, we don't want any neighboring countries to bring troops to Iraq, because, contrary to what the Americans believe, that cannot help solve security problems." KDP head and Governing Council member Mas'ud Barzani's representative, Rosh Noori Shawais, told RFI that the council would prefer that Iraq's neighbors contribute to reconstruction efforts in Iraq, rather than send forces. "The other point is that the duty and goal of the Iraqi [Governing] Council is trying to fulfill is the gradual establishment of control over the country. Increasing the number of troops or bringing in new troops will complicate the achievement of this goal," he added.

Meanwhile, rumors circulated of a possible compromise between the U.S. and the Governing Council on 8 October. CPA head L. Paul Bremer met with Governing Council members to discuss the issue, as officials in Washington dismissed the council's opposition as a stumbling block. The Iraqi Governing Council president for October, Iyad Allawi, told Al-Jazeera ahead of the 8 October meeting that the council's opposition to the deployment should not be seen as its final decision on the matter. Sources told Al-Jazeera that a compromise would be reached and issued through a Governing Council statement saying that the council "does not prefer" troops from neighboring countries to participate in Iraqi peacekeeping efforts. Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Reuters that council members "know very well that Iraq is occupied and the [CPA] is our partner, and we do not want to enter [into] a confrontation.... So we will definitely reach a compromise that will protect our interests and the interests of our partner."

Meanwhile, Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman told RFI: "Eventually, if we don't succeed in convincing the American side and they continue to insist on bringing in these [Turkish] troops because they consider security issues [in Iraq] their responsibility, then we have to sit down with the American side and with the Turkish side, if possible, and discuss and agree on the number of troops, where they will be deployed, and for how long they will stay. All this is needed to reduce the harm that can be done as a result of the deployment of these troops."

And that is just what appears to be happening. Iyad Allawi met with Turkish Ambassador Osman Paksut on 8 October. Although much of the meeting was not disclosed to the press, Paksut acknowledged, "We are having regular contact with the Iraqi Governing Council," adding, "I don't know how many [Governing Council] members are against or how many members are for" the deployment of Turkish troops, Reuters reported.

In Ankara, Turkey announced that its Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal would hold initial talks with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman on 9 October to discuss the terms of the deployment. "What will be talked about, when the discussions will start, where, who will head the talks will be clear when we officially inform the American side [of parliament's decision] tomorrow," Reuters quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying on 8 October.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the notion that Iraqis would reject the Turkish deployment en masse, saying: "You have Iraqis all across the spectrum -- some who will be very happy, some who will be worried, some who will be neutral. Some won't have an opinion." U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also played down the Governing Council's opposition, telling reporters: "We believe these things can be worked out [and] should be worked out...we will be working on all the details to make sure that the Iraqis agree with us on that."

While it is expected that an agreement satisfactory to all parties will be reached, selling the deployment to the Iraqi people may meet with some difficulty. Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq were vociferously airing their opinions to international media on 8 October, with many citing Turkey's oppression of its ethnic Kurdish population, it's 400-year "occupation" of Iraq during the Ottoman Empire, and suspicions that Turkey would seek to benefit from Iraq's vast oil reserves once inside the country.

Such suspicions are not implausible, given statements earlier this year by then Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis. He told "Hurriyet" on 6 January that his country was examining whether or not it had any legitimate historical claims to the northern Iraqi oil-rich cities of Mosul and Kirkuk (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 and 20 January 2003).

Turkey's long insistence that it wanted to enter northern Iraq to protect the Turkomans -- who are ethnically related to Turks -- and to maintain order, i.e., prevent any attempts by the Kurds to separate from the central government -- have also contributed to Iraqis' suspicions of their northern neighbor. The U.S. tried earlier this year to smooth Turkish-Kurdish relations over when it was seeking permission to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom from Turkish soil (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 March 2003), but it appears it will need to restart its diplomacy campaign in order to prevent an escalation of tensions ahead of any Turkish deployment to Iraq.