20 November 2003, Volume
AL-HAKIM DISCUSSES SECURITY SITUATION IN IRAQ, BADR BRIGADES.
Iraqi Governing Council member and head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim told Abu Dhabi's "Al-Ittihad" in an interview published on 17 November that there is no sectarian strife brewing in Iraq. He contended, however, that Iraqis might revolt against the U.S.-led coalition if Iraqis are not quickly given more responsibility for security there. Asked whether he believed that Iraq is turning into an international arena for terrorism, al-Hakim maintained that the "policies" of coalition forces led to an escalation in terrorism inside the country. "Consequently, an intellectual, cultural, and religious treatment is required. The current state of affairs is alien to Islam," he said.
Regarding the role of SCIRI's Badr Brigades, al-Hakim was asked whether he really intended to turn the armed military wing into a civilian political party (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 31 October 2003). "This is an organization comprising tens of thousands of the best youths of Iraq. They offered sacrifices and martyrs during the years in which we worked for toppling the regime," he said, adding, "This organization can protect Iraq and it has a popular base not possessed by any other Iraqi formation. This organization can play a role in Iraq without needing forces from other countries to maintain internal security." (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI TRADE MINISTER SAYS RATION CARDS WILL BE ISSUED IN 2004.
Iraqi Trade Minister Ali Abd al-Amir Allawi told Baghdad's "Al-Bayyinah" in an interview published on 16 November that his ministry intends to issue ration cards for food next year. Rumors had circulated that the ministry intended to do away with the cards, issued to Iraqis under the deposed Hussein regime. Allawi said that his ministry has tested the idea of giving cash sums to citizens in some residential areas in lieu of the cards, but added, "I want to point out here that the ministry has printed a 2004 ration card and there is no truth to the rumor about it being rescinded." Allawi said that the card serves as a "lifeline" for many Iraqis. After a thorough study, the ministry "recommended for the future that meat be one of the rationed items in addition to legumes and other products that we believe are necessary," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)REPORT CONTENDS THAT KURDS FACE JOB LOSSES AS UN HANDS OVER NORTHERN IRAQ PROGRAMS.
Kurdishmedia.com reported on 19 November that some 4,000 Kurds working for the United Nations face unemployment when the UN hands over its projects in northern Iraq to the local Kurdish government this week. The ministries of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have reportedly not said whether they intend to re-employ UN staff for the projects they will take over, although Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Barham Salih had said that the local government would attempt to find work for some engineers employed by the UN, the website reported. According to the U.S. State Department, UN agencies will transfer around 100 projects worth $750 million to the coalition and Iraqis in northern Iraq on 21 November. According to the UN News Center, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq has said that most of the 2,600 Iraqi staff from the oil-for-food program in northern Iraq will retain their positions. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CENTCOM REPORTS PROGRESS IN REINING IN MILITANTS.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has reported on its website (http://www.centcom.mil) that U.S. forces in Iraq continue to make progress in their mission to rein in militants. Some 50 individuals were detained during searches, patrols, and raids on 17-18 November, a number of whom were suspected of directing attacks against coalition forces. Acting on a tip from an Iraqi citizen, U.S. forces arrested four regime loyalists in Al-Habbaniyah on the night of 17-18 November and uncovered on the same premises various weapons, a satellite telephone, and a computer used to print out counterfeit Iraqi dinars.
In Al-Ramadi, U.S. forces uncovered anti-coalition "paperwork" and Jihad sign-up sheets at one residence. "Later this morning, the resident of that house was detained as he went to coalition forces to claim his paperwork," CENTCOM reported on 18 November. "He is also suspected of financing the production and placement of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Ramadi area," the statement added.
Meanwhile, Polish forces in Al-Hillah reported that they have purchased more than 60 Strela-type anti-aircraft missiles from area residents. The Polish contingent has set up about a dozen "anti-aircraft weapon procurement points" in its sector and is paying $500 per weapon, Polish news agency PAP reported on 18 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)COALITION FORCES CLOSE JULY 14TH BRIDGE.
Coalition forces in Iraq have reportedly closed the July 14th Bridge in Baghdad due to an increase in terrorist attacks against Iraqi Governing Council members and coalition troops, Baghdad's "Al-Manar" reported on 16 November. The U.S. military on 25 October had reopened the bridge, which was closed for security reasons after U.S. forces entered Baghdad in April (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 31 October 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)CPA, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL AGREE ON POLITICAL PROCESS.
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq and the Iraqi Governing Council signed an agreement on 15 November detailing the political process for the transfer of power to a new Iraqi government, the CPA's website (http://www.cpa-iraq.org) announced the same day. The agreement calls for the drafting of a "fundamental law" that would "set forth the scope and structure of the sovereign Iraqi transitional administration," joint security arrangements, the selection of a transitional national assembly through caucuses in each of the 18 Iraqi governorates by 31 May, and the election by the national assembly of an executive branch by 30 June, at which time the CPA would be dissolved. Iraqis would also adopt a permanent constitution through a constitutional convention to be held by 15 March 2005. The fundamental law would expire on 31 December 2005, when national elections would be held to establish a new Iraqi government. (Kathleen Ridolfo)COALITION INTENSIFIES SEARCH FOR AL-DURI.
Coalition forces in Iraq have stepped up their search for former Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) Vice Chairman Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, who is suspected of organizing attacks against coalition soldiers in Iraq, offering a $10 million reward for information leading to his killing or capture. Al-Duri, who served as deposed President Saddam Hussein's number two, is sixth on the U.S. list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed Hussein regime. "This week we will be launching a public information campaign across Iraq to promote the $10 million reward," CPA spokesman Dan Senor told a Baghdad press conference on 19 November. The reward is the fourth to be issued by the United States for information on former regime members. One Iraqi citizen received $30 million after providing information that led coalition forces to locate and kill the sons of Hussein in July. There remains a $25 million bounty on the head of Hussein.
Iraqi Governing Council member and President for the month of November Jalal Talabani told Al-Jazeera television on 5 November that he tried to negotiate al-Duri's surrender to coalition forces "shortly after the fall" of the Hussein regime. According to Talabani, Al-Duri set three conditions: first, that he not be extradited to Kuwait, where a death sentence has reportedly been issued against him for his role in the 1991 Gulf War; second, that he be given medical treatment for his ailing health; and third, that he be granted a pardon. Talabani said that the United States agreed to the first two conditions but refused the third, saying al-Duri must be held accountable for his role in crimes against the Iraqi people. U.S. forces fired missiles at al-Duri's home in Tikrit on 17 November. An unnamed U.S. official said that it was unclear whether al-Duri or anyone else was in the building when it was destroyed, Reuters reported on 18 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BRITISH SPOKESMAN IN AL-BASRAH NOTES SECURITY SITUATION.
The spokesman for British forces in Al-Basrah told Kuwait's "Al-Siyasah" in an interview published on 17 November that the security situation in the four southern governorates of Al-Basrah, Maysan, Al-Muthanna, and Dhi Qar remains relatively calm. Captain Hisham Halawi said that some 10,800 Iraqi policemen are manning 103 police stations in the governorates. "In the past there was continuous [security] coordination between us, but now they are doing their job alone most of the time," Halawi said, adding, "We are now preparing them to be fully responsible for the security of their country." Asked about the possible infiltration of foreign fighters to Iraq, Halawi told the daily, "We in Al-Basrah have not discovered any cases of infiltration of Arab fighters from outside Iraq" in the southern areas.
Halawi maintained that British troops would not be deterred from their mission despite reports of opposition in the U.K. to a continued British presence in Iraq: "We came to Iraq for a certain goal that we seek to achieve. This goal is to see Iraq standing on its legs after restoring its sovereignty through a government stemming from the people." Halawi added that British troops have succeeded in aiding the Iraqis under their care through numerous improvements to the infrastructure of southern Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)ITALIAN DIPLOMAT RESIGNS FROM CPA.
An Italian diplomat has reportedly resigned from his position with Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority due to frustration with the CPA's administration of Iraq, Rome's RAI Uno television reported on 17 November. "The settling up of a provisional government is suffering from the general situation of uncertainty and failure surrounding the wider coalition-sponsored Iraq process. I believe this is a situation of complete paralysis," Marco Calamai, the CPA's representative in Al-Nasiriyah, told the news channel one day before his 17 November resignation. British administrators based in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah have likewise voiced concerns in recent days that Washington has focused coalition resources on Baghdad and northern Iraq to the detriment of the southern areas (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 14 November 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)CIA UNABLE TO DETERMINE AUTHENTICITY OF PURPORTED HUSSEIN TAPE.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said on 17 November that its technical analysis of an audiotape purportedly of deposed Iraqi President Hussein is "inconclusive" as to whether or not the former leader recorded the tape, Reuters reported the same day. The speaker on the audiotape, dated the middle of the month of Ramadan and broadcast by Al-Arabiyah television on 16 November, claims that Iraqis will not be deceived by "new agents" of the United States and Britain, "even if some used to assume ranking positions" in the former Iraqi government. The speaker calls on Iraqis to "keep pressure" on the coalition, saying, "If the tyrants find [Iraq] difficult, let them try more months and a longer period of time. They will only claim the lives of more people, destroy, and loot, but they will never gain anything other than failure." (Kathleen Ridolfo)CENTCOM CHIEF SAYS THERE IS A 'SENSE OF URGENCY' IN IRAQ.
General John Abizaid on 13 November told reporters at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) headquarters in Florida that he feels a "sense of urgency" over the current military situation in Iraq, Reuters reported. Abizaid said that, "in all, I would say that the force of people actively armed and operating against us does not exceed 5,000." However, he added that the militants are showing new levels of coordination in their attacks against coalition forces. "There is some level of coordination that's taking place at very high levels, although I'm not so sure I'd say that there's a national-level resistance leadership -- not yet. It could develop, but I don't believe it's there yet," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
GOVERNING COUNCIL DELEGATION VISITS IRAN.
Iraqi Governing Council President for the month of November Jalal Talabani led a delegation of seven Iraqi ministers and 10 governing council members to Iran this week. The Iraqis met with a number of senior Iranian officials during the two-day visit, including Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. Khatami said on 18 November that his country "recognizes the Iraqi Governing Council," Reuters reported, citing Iranian media. And, both Khatami and Kharrazi told governing council members that Iran does not intend to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs. Iran agreed to assist Iraq in the reconstruction of its industrial sector through the provision of raw materials and technical training. Plans are also reportedly under way for the signing of a free-trade agreement between the two states, Iranian media reported.
Speaking to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) on 18 November, Talabani said that several memoranda of understanding were signed between the two states in the commercial, communications, economic, and industrial sectors. Iranian firms are also working to initiate several ventures in Iraq, from construction of giant housing complexes to the construction of a railway linking Iraq with both Syria and Iran and the Central Asian states to the east. The meetings also addressed the possible construction of a highway system linking pilgrimage sites in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, Talabani said. In addition, he confirmed reports that Iran has offered to lay a pipeline to carry Iraqi oil to the Iranian oil refinery in Abadan, but said that talks on the issue have been postponed until Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum can meet with his Iranian counterpart. According to an 18 November Reuters report, Iran has said it would take up to 350,000 barrels per day of Iraqi crude into the Abadan refinery and sell the equivalent on behalf of Baghdad through its Gulf terminal.
Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Al-Jazeera on 18 November that Iraq intends to forge strong relations with neighboring Iran. "The occupation authority or the Americans view Iran as part of the 'axis of evil' while we view Iran as a strategic partner," al-Rubay'i said.
"We want to establish tourist relations, exchange visits, and have cultural, economic, and security relations to consolidate the situation at the borders. We also want industrial relations, relations to coordinate our foreign policies." He said Iraq wants the "relationship between new Iraq and Iran to be a model for [the] new Iraq's relations with its neighbors and the other countries of the world."
Asked if this is possible considering the current U.S. position on Iran, al-Rubay'i answered: "We defend and represent the Iraqi people's interests. We do not pay attention to what others, or the Americans say. That's where we part [ways] with them." When questioned on the same matter, Talabani told KUNA that he has tried to act as a mediator between Iran and the United States for some time. "I have been explaining to the Americans the importance of Iran and the importance of having normal relations between Tehran and Washington," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AND TURKEY.
Iraqi Governing Council President for the month of November Jalal Talabani and his delegation headed to Turkey on 19 November following talks in Iran, international media reported. Talabani met with acting Turkish Foreign Minister Kursad Tuzman in Ankara where he told reporters, "We think there is extensive ground for cooperation between the two countries," TRT 2 television reported. Talabani said that the Iraqi delegation's aim is to establish good relations with Turkey in all sectors, adding, "We believe Turkey can help us greatly."
Tuzman told reporters that despite recent tension that arose from Iraq's rejection of Turkey's offer to deploy its soldiers to Iraq, Turkey would work to ensure that its exports, foreign trade, and investments would continue in Iraq.
Talabani played down reports of "chaos" in Iraq, telling reporters that the instability was contained to the so-called Sunni Triangle. "At the moment, we have Turkish brothers in northern Iraq and they are [secure]. If they go further south, they will encounter the same security and the same respect," Talabani said, adding, "We hope that when the Turkish delegations come to Iraq, they will see how safe they are and how the Iraqi people respect them. We guarantee the security of the businessmen, the [tractor trailer] drivers, and all the investors when they come to Iraq." Tuzman said that there are some 1,000 Turkish businessmen currently working in Iraq. Talabani is scheduled to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other high-level officials during his visit. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TURKEY ASKS U.S. TO LIFT CONDITION ON $8.5 BILLION LOAN.
Turkey has reportedly asked the United States to lift a condition tied to a recent U.S. loan of $8.5 billion (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 September 2003) that stipulates that Turkey not carry out any unilateral action in northern Iraq, CNN Turk reported on 19 November. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the request during a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, who reportedly said that it would be difficult for the United States to lift the condition. Turkey has long sought to send its forces into northern Iraq to quell Turkish-Kurdish separatists based there. (Kathleen Ridolfo)QATAR AND IRAQ DISCUSS POSSIBLE OIL INVESTMENT.
Qatar's Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Industry Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah and Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum agreed on 17 November to establish a high-level joint committee to examine future avenues for Qatari investment in Iraq's oil sector, Doha's "Gulf Times" reported on 18 November. The committee is scheduled to meet following the Eid holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, al-Attiyah said. Al-Ulum was en route to Kuwait following talks in Qatar. The oil minister also visited Saudi Arabia as part of his Gulf tour. (Kathleen Ridolfo)FIBER OPTIC CABLE CONNECTS JORDAN TO IRAQ.
The Jordanian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Fawwaz Zu'bi has announced that Jordan and Iraq have completed the installation of a fiber optic cable connecting the two states, Jordan news agency reported on 19 November. The cable extends 400 kilometers inside Jordan and links the telecommunications networks in both countries. Zu'bi said that the cable would enhance communication lines between Iraq and Jordan. The cable was installed by the Jordanian Telecommunication Corporation and the Iraqi Company for Telecommunications and Post. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM ENDS.
The United Nations is scheduled to terminate the oil-for-food program in Iraq on 21 November. In a statement posted on the program's website (http://www.un.org/depts/oip) on 18 November, the program reported that 85 percent of contracts in the pipeline have been prioritized for delivery. "As stipulated by Security Council Resolution 1483 [22 May 2003], there will be no further role of the United Nations in operating the humanitarian programs funded through the [oil-for-food program]. However, a pipeline of some $8.2 billion in humanitarian supplies and equipment continues to be delivered, and the CPA has indicated it will maintain most of the ongoing projects and operations, eventually turning them over to Iraqi authorities," the statement noted. "The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has indicated that it will continue the prioritization process for approved and funded contracts beyond 21 November on the basis of needs to be determined with the Iraqi authorities," the statement added.
In a closed-door briefing to UN Security Council members on 19 November, Benon Sevan, the program's executive director said, "It is gratifying to state without hesitation that the United Nations has met the challenge for an orderly termination of the program by 21 November 2003 pursuant to [UN Security Council] Resolution 1483," UN News Center reported (http://www.un.org/news).
The oil-for-food program was established through UN Security Council Resolution 986 (1995) and began operating in December 1996. The program provided for the sale of Iraqi oil -- prohibited under 1991 UN sanctions -- to finance the purchase of humanitarian goods and UN-mandated services in Iraq. It was estimated that some 60 percent of Iraqis relied on the program for their sustenance.
When Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced on 20 March, the oil-for-food program had some 5,000 contracts valued at an estimated $10 billion for food and other items approved and funded awaiting delivery, the UN reported. The delivery of prioritized goods and supplies already in the pipeline will continue into 2004 under the direction of the CPA. Oil-for-food was the largest program ever administered by the UN in financial terms, the UN reported. U.S. Ambassador Steve Mann heads the CPA team overseeing the transfer of the program to U.S. and Iraqi control. "The overall goal is to build the capacity and let Iraqi officials manage these programs," Mann said on 17 November, the State Department reported (http://usinfo.state.gov). (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. AND U.K. PLAN NEW IRAQ RESOLUTION AT SECURITY COUNCIL.
The United States and United Kingdom are planning to introduce a new resolution to the UN Security Council this month that will seek international support for an agreement between the U.S. and the Iraqi Governing Council that calls for the establishment of a new Iraqi government by June 2004, Reuters reported on 19 November. It is unclear when the resolution would be submitted to the Security Council. Iraqi representatives are due to present a timetable to the UN that outlines its plans for the establishment of a transitional authority by 15 December. "The U.K. assumption is that there will be resolution welcoming these developments and that we will do this as soon as we are in receipt of a formal approach from the Iraqis," British Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry said. Security Council diplomats told Reuters that they expect the resolution to either welcome or endorse the timetable set by the governing council. The resolution would likely also encourage UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to work for the return of UN staff to Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
EU 'SATISFIED' WITH U.S.-IRAQI PLANS FOR TRANSFER OF POWER...
The European Union said in a statement issued on 17 November during a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels that the ministers "took note with satisfaction" that plans are under way to transfer power to Iraqis by next June, euobserver.com reported on 18 November. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department announced (http://www.usinfo.state.gov) that Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters following the EU foreign ministers lunch attended by U.S. Secretary of State Powell on 18 November that the ministers also confirmed "the importance of an overall framework where the United Nations has an important role in reconstruction and security." (Kathleen Ridolfo)...BUT FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER STILL OBJECTS.
In an interview with French daily "La Croix" published on 17 November and posted on the French Foreign Ministry website (http://www.france.diplomatie.fr), French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the creation of an Iraqi provisional government by June 2004 is "too late." "There already exists in Baghdad an interim governing council, a constitutional committee, and a cabinet," he said. "Each body has 25 members. We could, for example, bring all these people together, add some forces to them, and thus create a representative assembly that would elect a transitional government of around 15 members. All this by the end of the year," de Villepin suggested. (Kathleen Ridolfo)RUSSIA CRITICIZES U.S. PLAN FOR IRAQ.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov has accused the United States of not consulting other states before it agreed to a plan that would transfer power to a new Iraqi government in June, Reuters reported on 19 November. Fedotov reportedly was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that the U.S. broke its pledge to allow "maximum transparency" and to take into consideration the opinions of UN Security Council member states, Iraq's neighbors, and other states, Reuters reported. "In our view, if effort is to be made to settle the problem of Iraq, it should be done collectively. Only this approach can give the settlement process the necessary legitimacy both in internal terms and from the point of view of international law," Fedotov said. "Why did they choose the date of 30 June? What was their motive? It is not quite clear. The whole process of discussing and preparing this agreement was, let's say, in a closed regime without consultations," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)AUSTRALIA EXTENDS TROOP DEPLOYMENT, U.K. SAYS IT MAY SEND MORE TROOPS, JAPAN DELAYS.
Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill has announced that some 160 Royal Australian Air Force personnel in Iraq will remain there for an additional six months, Radio Australia reported on 14 November. The detachment was scheduled to leave Iraq in January. Australia has some 850 troops stationed in Iraq.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC on 13 November that the United Kingdom will send additional troops to Iraq if they are required. He said the U.K. currently has some 10,000 troops stationed in Iraq. "I know that both [Defense Secretary] Geoff Hoon and the chief of the Defense Staff [General Michael Walker] are constantly making judgments about whether force numbers are adequate," Straw said.
Japan sent a team from its Self-Defense Forces to Iraq on 15 November to assess the security situation there ahead of a possible troop deployment. That assessment is ongoing. Japan had said it would delay its troop dispatch to Iraq because of the security situation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2003) and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi declined to give a specific date when asked on 19 November, the Kyodo World Service reported. Thailand will also send a military envoy to assess the security situation in Iraq, AFP reported on 14 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)