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Iraq Report: October 31, 2003

31 October 2003, Volume 6, Number 45
SCIRI ANNOUNCES NEW GOALS IN IRAQ. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) announced on 27 October that the group will now focus on Iraqi reconstruction efforts, as well as the rebuilding of Iraq's military forces, Al-Jazeera television reported the same day.

SCIRI Chairman Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim told the news channel that his group's Badr Corps will "shoulder heavy security responsibilities." He did not elaborate on how the group will carry out its goal, except to say, "As for military operations...and the possession of weapons, there is no longer [a] need for that."

Meanwhile, SCIRI political adviser Muhsin al-Hakim told Iran's Mehr news agency on 27 October that "security is one of the requirements of development and the Badr organization will participate actively in order to achieve development." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI POST-HUSSEIN OIL SALES TOP $1.4 BILLION. Iraqi oil sales under the U.S.-led provisional authority in Iraq have reached $1.4 billion, Reuters reported on 27 October. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq said on 27 October that a total of $3 billion has been deposited into the U.S.-run Development Fund for Iraq. The figure includes the above-mentioned oil revenues, $1 billion remaining from the UN "oil-for-food" program, and $300 million in Iraqi funds confiscated by foreign banks and repatriated to Iraq. Some $666 million from the fund has reportedly been spent, leaving some $2.4 billion. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BAGHDAD RED CROSS HEADQUARTERS, IRAQI POLICE STATIONS BOMBED... Car bombs nearly simultaneously ripped through the Iraqi capital on 27 October, targeting the Baghdad headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and three Iraqi police stations. A bomb attack at a fourth police station was averted.

At the ICRC headquarters in Baghdad, an Iraqi policeman told Radio Free Iraq (RFI) that at least 11 people were killed and 23 wounded in the bombing. He said that an ICRC ambulance packed with explosives crossed a security barrier outside the ICRC building. When Iraqi police fired at the driver, the vehicle rammed into an electricity generator outside the building and blew up.

Three Iraqi police stations in Baghdad were also attacked on 27 October, RFI reported. In one incident, a land cruiser packed with explosives detonated near a police station as Iraqi police attempted to stop it. Three to four police officers and an unconfirmed number of civilians were killed in that incident. The explosion caused severe damage to a nearby housing complex, RFI reported.

Police thwarted a fourth attack on a Baghdad police station when another land cruiser carrying three or four passengers attempted to hit the station. When police fired after the vehicle refused to stop, three of the vehicle's occupants escaped. The driver was shot and later transported to a nearby hospital where it was reported that he was of Syrian origin. Iraqi police later said that they were investigating his nationality, and that he might be Yemeni. Police found 17 kilograms of TNT and four small rockets inside the vehicle.

In all, the attacks killed at least 36 people, including one U.S. soldier. About 230 people were wounded, including six soldiers, international media reported. The attacks coincided with the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Muslims believe that God revealed the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS RED CROSS SAYS IT WILL REDUCE STAFF, BUT NOT WITHDRAW. The ICRC announced on 29 October that it would reduce its expatriate staff in Iraq, but continue operating following the deadly 27 October bombing of ICRC headquarters in Baghdad. The bombing killed two security guards and wounded 15 staff members, reported on 29 October. "The ICRC is not withdrawing from Iraq," Pierre Krahenbuhl, director of ICRC operations said. "We remain committed to helping the people of Iraq." In addition to some 30 expatriate staff, the ICRC employs around 600 local staff in Baghdad, Al-Basrah, and Irbil. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI POLITICAL GROUPS, LEADERS CALL FOR UNITY. Iraqi political parties and leaders have issued a press statement calling on Iraqis to reject political violence and terrorist attacks and assassinations in Iraq, the Iraqi Communist Party's monthly newspaper "Tariq al-Sha'b" reported on 26 October.

"While we condemn all kinds of acts that may lead to an atmosphere of animosity in our new Iraq, we call on our Iraqi people to work for the isolation of the destructive calls and attitudes, which Iraq and Iraqis do not have sympathy for," the statement reads. "Achieving this necessitates offering all kinds of support to the police forces and the Interior Ministry's institutions. Thus, we would become a shield protecting democracy and justice and establishing security and stability" for the Iraqi people, it adds.

The statement was signed by: the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Iraqi National Accord Movement, the Iraqi National Congress, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Al-Da'wah Islamic Movement, the Independent Democrats Gathering, the National Democratic Party, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Hizballah-Iraq, and many notable figures. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PENTAGON NAMES ANSAR AL-ISLAM AS MAIN THREAT IN IRAQ. The U.S. Defense Department has named the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam the key terrorist threat to U.S. forces in Iraq, AP reported on 23 October. Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, director of operations for the Pentagon's Joint Staff, said U.S. forces are concentrating their efforts on Ansar militants.

U.S. and Kurdish forces destroyed an Ansar stronghold in northern Iraq in late March (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 28 March and 2 April 2003). It has been reported that Ansar militants subsequently dispersed to other parts of Iraq and reorganized. Schwartz said the United States has uncovered links between Ansar militants and former Ba'ath Party members, but added that "generally speaking, [Ansar members] are independent actors." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CAR BOMB DETONATES NEAR AL-FALLUJAH POLICE STATION. Four civilians were killed on 28 October when a car bomb detonated near a police station in Al-Fallujah, international media reported. According to AP, a Toyota vehicle exploded in front of a power station located about 30 meters from a school and 100 meters from a police station. One witness told the news agency that there were two passengers in the car. One passenger exited before the explosion while the second remained inside the car.

Al-Jazeera cited an Iraqi security source as saying that some of the victims were students. The news channel also reported that the vehicle belonged to the Iraqi General Reconstruction Company. It was reportedly stolen after the fall of the Hussein regime. Al-Fallujah is located within the so-called Sunni Triangle, where coalition forces have experienced the greatest resistance since U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over on 1 May. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

WOLFOWITZ ESCAPES UNHURT AS HOTEL ATTACKED. On 26 October, militants targeted the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, where U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying. The attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) from a trailer near the hotel. One U.S. soldier was killed and 15 people were injured, Reuters reported on 26 October. Wolfowitz said that the quick response of Iraqi security units on the ground might have prevented a larger attack.

Meanwhile, a U.S. military spokesman confirmed that on 26 October one U.S. soldier was killed and two others injured in a mortar attack on the Abu Ghurayb prison in Baghdad, and two U.S. soldiers were killed and two others wounded by a roadside bomb in the capital, Reuters reported on 27 October. U.S. officials also confirmed that a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by an RPG on 25 October near Tikrit, the news agency reported the following day. One soldier was wounded in the incident. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ASSASSINATIONS CONTINUE IN IRAQ. Iraqi leaders cooperating with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) continue to be targeted by assassins in Iraq. Baghdad's Deputy Mayor Faris Abd al-Razzaq al-Assam was killed in a drive-by shooting near his home on 26 October, the CPA announced on 28 October. "Faris was also a visionary, driving force in the effort to institute a new democratic government in Baghdad and Iraq. He helped design the Baghdad City Advisory Council system, and he worked closely with its members on behalf of his city and country," CPA Regional Coordinator Hank Bassford said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the police chief of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah was shot and killed on 24 October, a British spokesman told Reuters on 25 October. Hamid Hadi al-Ay'bi was shot and killed outside a mosque in the city, located some 365 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. "Both ourselves and the Iraqi police are investigating," Lieutenant Commander Richard Walters said, adding, "We don't want to speculate about who was responsible."

Militants opposed to Iraqi cooperation with coalition forces have targeted police officials on several occasions since the United States declared major combat operations over in Iraq on 1 May. The Al-Khaldiya police chief was shot and killed in a drive-by attack on his vehicle on 15 September (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 September 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. REOPENS MAJOR BAGHDAD BRIDGE. The U.S. military reopened the July 14th Bridge that spans the Tigris River, connecting north and south Baghdad on 25 October, international media reported. The bridge had been closed for security reasons since U.S. forces entered Baghdad in April.

"It's steps like this, in the aggregate, that will demonstrate that safety and security has been achieved," said Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, as reported by "The Washington Post" on 26 October. The bridge is named after the 14 July 1958 revolution that overthrew the British-installed monarchy in Iraq. It was destroyed by coalition bombing during the 1991 Gulf War and rebuilt by the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein. The U.S.-led administration also lifted a nighttime curfew on Baghdad on 25 October ahead of the start of the holy month of Ramadan. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

LONDON DAILY REPORTS PACHACHI AIMS TO EXPAND GOVERNING COUNCIL. Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi will seek to expand the Governing Council from 25 members to 100, the London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on 22 October.

In a 21 October interview, Pachachi told the daily that expansion would facilitate the organization of the interim government's affairs and create an atmosphere conducive to the drafting of an Iraqi constitution. "I will personally propose enlarging the Governing Council so as to have an enlarged representative base," Pachachi said. "This council will have legislative powers and elect a 15-member government."

Pachachi also expressed his support for the return of former government employees to their jobs. The U.S.-led CPA dismissed those workers from their jobs in early May. Pachachi added that he also supports the idea of reinstating some former Iraqi Army officers. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MORE REFUGEES RETURN. A group of some 650 Iraqi refugees returned to Iraq from Saudi Arabia on 21 October, Voice of the Mujahedin reported on 22 October. The refugees reportedly arrived in Al-Basrah after transiting Kuwait. The report cited Buraq al-Tamimi, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as saying that new groups of refugees will return to Iraq every Tuesday. Some 2,600 refugees remain in Saudi Arabia. The refugees have been in Saudi Arabia since the 1991 Gulf War. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER IRAQI DEFENSE CHIEF AL-KHAZRAJI REPORTEDLY IN U.A.E. Former Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Nizar al-Khazraji, who disappeared from house arrest in Denmark three days before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched, has reportedly been located in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), international press reported this week.

Al-Khazraji served under Saddam Hussein, becoming a war hero during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. He was fired by Hussein in 1990 for criticizing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and he defected from Iraq in the mid-1990s, and eventually sought asylum in Denmark in 1999. He was denied asylum on the grounds that he participated in the regime's 1988 gassing of the Kurds in northern Iraq, but allowed to remain in Denmark. Al-Khazraji was placed under house arrest in November 2002 while prosecutors attempted to investigate him for war crimes against the Kurds. His 17 March disappearance sparked numerous reports as to his whereabouts.

A number of reports claimed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) took al-Khazraji to Iraq, where he was to lead a team of negotiators that would convince Iraqi field commanders to surrender to coalition forces. The U.S. government declined to comment. He was alternately spotted in Kuwait, Qatar, southern Iraq, and Iraqi Kurdistan. His son reportedly told Danish press that sources had informed him that his father was in Iraq and had "started his political work." Other reports surfaced in April that the lieutenant general was killed in Al-Najaf, and also in Baghdad during the war.

But, London's "Al-Arab al-Alamiyah" reported on 21 May that al-Khazraji was in Dubai. Iraqi political sources told the daily that Iraqi Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Kubaysi, who was residing in the United Arab Emirates before the Hussein regime's downfall, had met al-Khazraji there after al-Khazraji completed his work in assisting U.S. forces in liberating Iraq. A report posted on the Ilaf website on 23 August contended that the former general was in Abu Dhabi.

The Danish daily "Politiken" reported on 27 October that Denmark is preparing papers requesting the extradition of al-Khazraji from an unidentified Arab country, which Danish news agency Ritzau identified as the U.A.E. Danish public prosecutor Birgitte Vestberg confirmed that she was negotiating an extradition, but refused to identify the Arab country involved. Meanwhile, the U.A.E. Embassy in Berlin denied that al-Khazraji is in the Emirates. A number of former Iraqi regime members have been given asylum in the U.A.E. since the downfall of the Hussein regime, however, including former Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf, and former UN Ambassador Muhammad al-Duri. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKEY'S GUL REPORTEDLY MIFFED WITH U.S. DELAY ON TROOPS. Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is reportedly annoyed that the United States has not yet made a decision regarding Turkey's offer of some 10,000 troops for Iraq, Ankara's TRT 2 television reported on 28 October.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Gul criticized recent remarks by CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer that noted that Iraqis might be hesitant to see Turkish troops on their soil because of the Ottoman Empire's 400-year colonial rule over Iraq, which ended with the fall of the empire after World War I. "During Ottoman times, peace reigned in the region, including in Jerusalem," Gul told reporters. Meanwhile, Anatolia news agency quoted Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz as saying Bremer's remarks are "incompatible with historical facts."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Dushanbe on 23 October that his country was not insistent upon deploying troops to Iraq, Turkey's TRT 2 Television reported. "This [troop] request came from the United States [and] the Turkish Grand National Assembly responded to this request by endorsing a motion," Erdogan said. "We want the happiness of the Iraqi people. We are not trying to insistently and passionately dispatch troops to Iraq," he added. Erdogan was in Tajikistan for meetings with his Tajik counterpart Oqil Oqilov.

U.S. officials are cautiously approaching the subject of a Turkish deployment to Iraq after Iraqi Governing Council members, and various tribes expressed opposition to the idea. "We continue to believe, firmly, that Turkey can make an important contribution to stability in Iraq," on 24 October quoted State Department spokesman Adam Ereli as saying. Ereli said that Washington and Ankara are still negotiating a possible deployment. "We remain hopeful that an agreement to this end, that is satisfactory to all the parties, can be reached." The website also reported that CPA administrator Bremer has called for Iraqis and Turks to work the situation out amongst themselves. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQIS TALK BUSINESS IN DUBAI. A delegation of 55 Iraqi businesspeople traveled to Dubai to drum up support for possible joint business ventures in Iraq, Dubai's "Gulf News" reported on 23 October. The delegation of the Iraqi Businessmen's Association (IBA) received encouraging signs from Dubai government officials, with Ports, Customs, and Free-Zone Corporation Executive Chairman Sultan bin Sulayem saying that the Dubai government will take the necessary steps to help Iraqi traders and businessmen.

"We want to form partnership[s] with Dubai's business community in the banking, finance, construction, and trading sectors," IBA Chairman Thamir al-Shaykhly said. "Dubai's resources, experience, and expertise would come in handy for Iraqi businessmen...and we look forward to work[ing] together closely," he added.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz issued a statement on 27 October that said that Turkey has been granted exemption from a rule that limits the transfer of cash from Iraq to $10,000. "Following initiatives launched on every level, limitation on [the] outflow of cash money from Iraq to Turkey was lifted as of 24 October 2003," Anatolia news agency reported Dirioz as stating. Turkish businessmen had complained that the limit inhibited their ability to do business in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDAN TO BEGIN TRAINING 32,000 IRAQI POLICEMEN. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said on 28 October that his country would begin training some 32,000 Iraqi policemen and an unknown number of Iraqi air navigators this week, dpa reported the same day.

"The decision has already been endorsed by the cabinet," he said, adding that training will begin on 1 November. Retired Jordanian policemen working under the Public Security Department will head the training, Muasher told reporters in Amman. The training is expected to cost an estimated $20 million and $25 million, respectively.

Muasher added that the Jordanian government would soon take up talks with the Iraqi government regarding the return of 13 civilian aircraft that the deposed Hussein regime sent to Jordan for safekeeping during the 1991 Gulf War. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SYRIA ADMITS IT IS HOLDING IRAQI MONEY. Syria said that it has frozen Iraqi funds deposited in its banks by the deposed Hussein regime on 21 October, reported. Economy Minister Ghassan al-Rifai said that he had reviewed all Iraqi holdings and that the money totaled "just enough for people to make a living." He declined to give a specific amount, but said that the money is far less than $1 billion. American investigators say they have uncovered some $3 billion in Iraqi assets in Syrian banks. Al-Rifai challenged the U.S. to provide evidence of its claim. The minister added that Syria intends to hold the money until a new Iraqi government is "in place." That decision is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1483 (May), which calls on all countries to transfer Iraqi funds deposited in their countries to the Development Fund for Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES WITHDRAW FROM KUWAITI AIR BASE. U.S. Air Force personnel on 21 October were officially withdrawn from the Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base in Kuwait after being stationed there for more than a decade, KUNA reported. Kuwaiti and U.S. officials said there is no longer a need for a full-time U.S. presence at the air base, now that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein has been eliminated. "Our joint mission of defending Kuwait against [Hussein's] threats has been accomplished," U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Richard Jones said at a ceremony marking the withdrawal. The U.S. had maintained a military presence at the Kuwaiti base since the 1991 Gulf War. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN TERMINATION OF OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM ON SCHEDULE. The United Nations oil-for-food program remains on schedule for plans to transfer the program's operations to the U.S.-led CPA in Iraq on 21 November, the UN News Center reported on 28 October ( Benon Sevan, the Office of the Iraq Program's executive director, told the UN Security Council that the UN is confident that it will make the transfer on time, despite some outstanding matters that UN agencies will need to resolve with the CPA. The program was marred by setbacks (see "RFE/RL Iraqi Report," 3 October 2003) following the 19 August bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad. Sevan said that the UN has been phasing out its activities in the Dahuk, Irbil, and Al-Sulaymaniyah governorates in northern Iraq, where the UN directly ran the oil-for-food program, and was reviewing contracts made in the central and southern areas of Iraq, where the UN had the role of monitoring the local implementation of the program.

Since it began operating in 1996, some $65 billion of oil was exported by Iraq and over $46 billion of that has been spent on Office of the Iraq Program activities. The program covers 24 sectors, from housing, to electricity and telecommunications. It is best-known, however, as the sole source of sustenance for 60 percent of Iraqis through its supply of food and humanitarian goods, the UN News Center reported. A detailed press release on the upcoming 21 November termination of the oil-for-food program is available on the UN website. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REPORT ON UN BOMBING IN BAGHDAD FAULTS 'SLOPPY' SECURITY SYSTEM. The independent panel investigating the 19 August bombing of the United Nations' Baghdad headquarters released a report on 22 October blaming the UN security apparatus in New York and in the field for lapses that occurred before the 19 August attack, Reuters reported on 22 October.

"The main conclusion of the panel is that the current security-management system is dysfunctional," the report stated. "The observance and implementation of security regulations and procedures were sloppy and noncompliance with security rules commonplace." The investigation confirmed claims by U.S. officials that the UN in Baghdad refused protection because it wanted to distance itself from the U.S.-led occupation.

According to Reuters, UN officials asked the United States to withdraw heavy equipment from the UN compound, to dismantle an observation post on the roof of their headquarters at the Canal Hotel, and to remove obstacles and concertina wire from the access road that was later used by the truck bomber. The investigation, headed by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, concluded that many lives might have been saved if stronger security measures had been in place. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DONOR CONFERENCE RAISES $13 BILLION. The 23-24 October international donor conference on Iraq raised some $13 billion in aid and loans for Iraqi reconstruction, international media reported on 24 October. That figure does not include the estimated $20 billion pledged by the United States. The international funding, however, which will be available over the next four years, still fell short of the $56 billion that the World Bank and UN estimate is needed for reconstruction through 2007. Nonetheless, Spain's Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other coalition members hailed the conference as a huge success according to the transcript of a 24 October press conference in Madrid posted on the State Department website (

Iraqi leaders expressed gratitude for the support of the more than 70 countries that attended the conference. Iraqi Governing Council President for the month of October Iyad Allawi told reporters in Madrid: "A little over six months ago Iraq was the black sheep of the international community.... Today I am again proud to be an Iraqi," Reuters reported on 24 October. Poorer countries unable to offer financial support gave what they could toward the reconstruction effort. Vietnam pledged $500,000 worth of rice, while Sri Lanka pledged 100 tons of tea. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GERMANY, RUSSIA WANT IRAQ TO PAY DEBTS. German and Russian officials said on 27 October that they would insist that a new Iraqi government pay off debts incurred by the deposed Hussein regime, international media reported. Germany said that it would not consider forgiving Iraq's $5.18 billion in debt, but conceded that a temporary freeze on servicing payments might be negotiated through the Paris Club of creditor governments, Reuters reported on 27 October.

Germany's "Handelsblatt" newspaper reported on the same day that Germany might consider helping Iraq by renegotiating some of its estimated $120 billion in foreign debt, once an elected Iraqi government is in place -- and even possibly forgive some of Iraq's debt to Germany. German government spokesman Thomas Steg told a news conference in Berlin, however, that "a complete debt forgiveness by the German government can scarcely be considered." "It is certainly right to say that if the reconstruction of Iraq can be helped by a debt moratorium then the Paris Club is the right place to consider the question," he added.

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov told Interfax on 27 October that "Russia wants this problem, which we think has not yet been settled, to be dealt with in line with the Paris Club of creditor nations' rules and mechanisms." The former Iraqi government was indebted to Russia for an estimated $12 billion.

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry denied reports on 28 October that it intended to write off Iraq's debt, with an unnamed ministry official stating that Iraq's debts are "due and there is no intent to write it off," KUNA reported on the same day. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RUSSIA INVITES IRAQI OIL MINISTER FOR TALKS. A Russian Energy Ministry official confirmed on 28 October that his government has invited Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum to Moscow for talks, Reuters reported. "We want to meet [al-Ulum] as we are looking to understand whether all the contracts signed with the previous regime are still considered valid," the unidentified official said. Russian firms signed oil-related contracts with the former Hussein regime worth some $4 billion. Iraqi opposition members have said that they would push for those contracts to be reexamined before a new Iraqi government fulfilled the previous regime's commitments.

Meanwhile, Jordan will begin importing Iraq oil once again, the Jordanian Ministry of Energy and Minerals said on 28 October, AP reported on 29 October. The ministry's Secretary-General Khaldun Kteishat told AP that a new agreement has been signed between Jordan and Iraq, providing the Hashemite kingdom with 2.6 million barrels of Iraqi crude annually. That figure is around half of what Jordan imported -- at a massive subsidy -- from the Hussein regime. The oil will be shipped by sea from Al-Basrah's Al-Bakr Port to the Jordanian Red Sea Port of Aqaba. Jordan's access to Iraqi oil had been cut off at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT FINDS IRAQIS SUPPORT PLURALISM, GOOD GOVERNANCE. The CPA's official website ( has posted a report by the U.S. State Department's Office of Research on a survey of some 1,400 Iraqis that measures Iraqi political aspirations. According to the findings, large majorities of Iraqis noted the importance of free and fair elections in their country and support the rule of law and the right to criticize the government. The participants were asked about their support for democracy, if they prefer an Islamic or secular state, the characteristics they look for in a leader, and their knowledge of Iraqi Governing Council members. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EIGHT MARINES ACCUSED OF MISTREATING IRAQI POWS. Eight U.S. Marine reservists have been accused of mistreating Iraqi prisoners of war (POWs) and are being held at Camp Pendleton in California on charges that range from negligent homicide to dereliction of duty, AP cited military officials as saying on 19 October. All eight reportedly worked at a POW detention center in Iraq. At least two of the Marines have been charged with negligent homicide after an Iraqi POW died at the detention center in June, Camp Pendleton spokesman Marine Staff Sergeant Bill Lisbon said. Meanwhile, Donald Rehkopf Jr., a lawyer representing one of the Marine reservists, said in an 18 October statement that the reservists were not properly prepared to work at the detention center. "In the rush to war with Iraq, providing the mandatory training to reservists seems to have had little if any priority with the Pentagon," he said. The reservists "had no training at all. They were given a 30-minute training on the Geneva Convention," Rehkopf added, in a reference to the international protocols for the treatment of POWs. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


By Kathleen Ridolfo

The Kuwaiti daily "Al-Ra'y al-Amm" reported on 26 October that hundreds of Al-Qaeda fighters have entered Iraq from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia in recent months, and are working alongside Ba'athist elements in an effort to destabilize the country.

Citing sources close to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, the daily said that the number of Al-Qaeda militants in Iraq multiplied in mid-August, entering the country through four major routes. A number of Saudi Al-Qaeda fighters entered Iraq via Iran, the report claims, as did fighters from Pakistan and Afghanistan. From Iran, the fighters reportedly met up with Ansar Al-Islam militants in Iraqi Kurdistan, and then took up positions in the so-called Sunni Triangle towns of Al-Ramadi, Tikrit, Balad, and Al-Fallujah. While the number of Al-Qaeda fighters was initially estimated at between 600 and 800, "Al-Ra'y al-Amm" reports that number has increased significantly in recent months.

According to "Al-Ra'y al-Amm," the Al-Qaeda fighters have formed two units, the "Jundullah" or warriors of God, and the "Al-Usud," or lions. The Al-Usud militants have reportedly taken up positions close to the Syrian border where they receive fighters from Central Asia, Chechnya, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Once regrouped, the militants carry out joint attacks on oil installations in Bayji and Mosul. The paper also cites U.S. military officials as saying that the militants attacking coalition forces in the Sunni Triangle area receive manpower and administrative support from Bedouin.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed the issue of foreign fighters in an interview with WHDH-TV (Boston) on 27 October saying: "We also know that there are some foreign terrorists that have come into the country. We've collected up over 200 of them, a great many of them Syrian and Lebanese, and they're in jail, in prison. And we've killed a number" [of them]. The defense secretary earlier told "The Washington Times" in a 23 October interview published the following day that "It sure would be a lot easier if [Syria and Iran] were helpful, instead of harmful."

Meanwhile, when asked if Syria and Iran were actively trying to destabilize Iraq, Britain's special envoy to Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said on 26 October, "I think on the whole that they have been quite cooperative," reported on 27 October. "But there are different parts of these [Syrian and Iranian government] machines, with different habits in their background, and I would like their approaches to be more unequivocally supportive than they are," he added. "We are talking to them," Greenstock said. The envoy told the BBC on 28 October that he expected the attacks to continue throughout the winter.

Iran reportedly provided the UN Security Council last week with a list of some 225 individuals suspected of being Al-Qaeda members that Iran says it deported to their countries of origin, Tehran daily "Entekhab" reported on 27 October. In addition, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said that Iran has deported to Islamabad some 2,300 individuals that entered the country between late 2002 and mid-2003. U.S. officials have said that they believe the Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Qods Force may be sheltering Al-Qaeda leaders Sa'd bin Laden, the son of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden; Al-Qaeda military commander Sayf al-Adil; and Al-Qaeda spokesman Sulayman Abu Ghayth in Iran.

Reports began surfacing early this week that Iran might be willing to cooperate with the United States by turning over those wanted Al-Qaeda leaders, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 28 October that the U.S. was prepared to resume limited contact with Iran on "areas of mutual interest." However, Iranian government spokesman Abd Allah Ramazanzadeh told reporters in Tehran on 29 October: "We don't have any relations or links with the U.S. or its security services. So, there is no reason to cooperate with them by giving them information," on any Al-Qaeda members, reported. He added that Iran had no intention of revealing the names of Al-Qaeda members still inside its borders. It remains unclear whether the Al-Qaeda members are under detention as Iran claims, or operating freely inside Iran.

Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to France Sadegh Kharrazi confirmed to reporters in Paris on 28 October that there were links between Al-Qaeda and the military elements of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Ba'ath Party. "Unfortunately, it is to a certain extent normal to note that, because of this situation [in Iraq], there are now links being forged between Al-Qaeda and the military branch of the Ba'ath Party," Reuters quoted Kharrazi as saying. He added that Iran intends to bring to trial Al-Qaeda members "under Iranian law because they have committed crimes on our territory," CNN reported.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar'a told London's "Sunday Telegraph" on 26 October that Syria is unable to prevent foreign militants from crossing its border into Iraq. "We are doing everything we can," he said, adding: "We have tightened our checkpoints and are turning people back. But the border is long and we cannot cover it all." Al-Shar'a then compared Syria's situation to America's inability to prevent Mexicans from crossing its borders illegally. The "Sunday Telegraph" also interviewed the muezzin of a Yarmouk mosque, who said that many Palestinians from the Yarmouk refugee camp had traveled to Iraq, and some had been killed there fighting U.S. soldiers. "I don't know how they cross the border," Wajih Ma'ud said. He added that the Palestinians were not receiving help from the Syrian government in entering Iraq.

The U.S. continues to threaten sanctions on Syria for what it calls the harboring of Palestinian and possibly other terrorists, and for its alleged attempts to procure weapons of mass destruction. In an apparent show of solidarity, Iran said it would assist Syria, particularly in the oil sector should the U.S. impose sanctions on the country. "Iran is ready to extend assistance to Syria in all fields," the "Oil and Gas Journal" quoted Mohsen Mirdamadi, head of the Iranian parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, as saying in a 28 October report.

While U.S. President George W. Bush said on 28 October that those responsible for recent deadly attacks in Iraq are most likely foreign fighters working alongside Ba'athist elements, U.S. military commanders told "The Washington Post" that there is no evidence indicating that significant numbers of foreign fighters are crossing the Syrian-Iraqi border, the daily reported on 29 October. The U.S. military is employing air and foot patrols along the 480-kilometer border, and U.S. commanders said that they have not detected any large convoys of individuals crossing the border. But, as the daily notes, it is still possible for individuals to cross in small numbers on foot, as evidenced by the recent detention of cigarette smugglers by U.S. forces along the border area.

The Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported on 28 October that the Iraqi Governing Council has plans to set up joint security committees with neighboring states in order to prevent foreign infiltration. Many Governing Council members have also blamed foreign fighters for recent terrorist attacks in Iraq, saying that no Iraqi could be responsible for such attacks on their own people.

Iraqi police arrested a man attempting to detonate a car bomb outside a Baghdad police station on 27 October who was carrying a Syrian passport. Police contend that he is definitely not an Iraqi but are investigating his identity, which may in fact be Yemeni. Meanwhile, The U.S. Defense Department identified Ansar Al-Islam last week as the key terrorist threat to U.S. forces in Iraq and U.S. military officials noted a possible link between Ansar and Ba'athist elements.