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Iraq Report: January 25, 2002

25 January 2002, Volume 5, Number 3

IRAN-IRAQ POW EXCHANGE PROCESS CONTINUES. A spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry has stated that the Iraqi-Iranian Joint Committee that studies humanitarian problems between the two countries concluded its eighth meeting on 18 January, reported Baghdad Television on 20 January. The source said that the Iranian side agreed to release 697 Iraqi prisoners within a three-day period beginning on 21 January under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A source at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry added that the two sides will exchange "in the very near future" the remains of 1,183 Iraqi prisoners who died in captivity against the remains of 574 Iranian prisoners who also are said to have died in captivity. And there will be an exchange of the remains of 42 other prisoners whose names the Iraqi side had given to the Iranian side together with their death certificates.

The chairman of the Iranian side of the Joint Committee, Brigadier-General Najafi, said that the situation of those captured during the Iran-Iraq war will be clarified 75 days from now, according to the publication "Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran" on 20 January.

Najafi added: "Out of the [list of the names of] 2,000 people that we had presented to them, they have officially replied to us in writing for 1,687 of them. They cannot be described as POWs at all. They are not being held for any reason in any part of Iraq."

Najafi also reported that 50 Iranians who were imprisoned in Iraq were turned over this week, and 197 Iraqi troops who had been arrested on Iran's borders as well as 500 Iraqi POWs will be released over the next few days.

Baghdad Television also reported on 20 January that Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister for Cultural Affairs Mohammad Masjid Jami'i arrived in Baghdad and was received by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Hadithi. The Iranian official said his country is ready to conclude cultural agreements with the relevant parties in Iraq.

In the same context, Baghdad Television also reported on 20 January that Dr. Mundhir Mutlaq, head of the Popular Committee for Missing Iraqis in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, has handed a memorandum to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa, appealing to him to help resolve the issue of missing Iraqis in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Mutlaq said that the families of 1,137 Iraqis who have been missing since early 1991 are anxious to hear any news about their sons. He said that the committee is ready to visit Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to discuss this issue with officials in the concerned popular committees, and invited their committees to inspect Iraqi prisons in their search for POWs which may have been overlooked.

Sheikh Muhammad Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah of Kuwait, in Tehran on an official visit, was asked his opinion on Iraq's invitation. He said: "The United Nations Security Council has thus far passed a number of resolutions in this regard," the "Iran News" reported on 21 January. Referring to the fact that seven years ago meetings were held on the border regions of the two countries and in Geneva, Sabah said: "Iraq's recent announcement is an attempt to escape from the Security Council resolutions -- a new game Iraq is playing. We have heard similar things with regard to Iraq's game playing with respect to the remaining Iranian prisoners of war, which number around 3,000." He added: "Iraq may be able to deceive some people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but it cannot deceive all the people all of the time." (David Nissman)

RUSSIA ADOPTS NEW MECHANISM TO MONITOR IRAQ EXPORTS. The Russian government has established a new mechanism to cover the export of dual-purpose technology to Iraq, which is subject to international supervision and control, Interfax reported on 17 January. In connection with this, a number of documents on exports of controlled goods and technology to Iraq, published in 1997 and 2001, have become obsolete.

Federal executive authorities, in particular the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, have been directed through the Russian Foreign Ministry "to cooperate with the United Nations Supervision, Control, and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency on issues connected with the functioning of the international mechanism for constant supervision and control in relations to Iraq."

This decision may be seen in the light of denials by the Iraqi ambassador to Russia, Dr. Muzhir Duri, on the alleged differences between Baghdad and Moscow with regard to an Iraq settlement, according to Interfax of 18 January. Duri said that the two countries "are maintaining a trustful dialogue and if certain nuances emerge, we continue to exchange opinions."

He added that Russia, as a member of the UN Security Council, has "always worked towards the quick lifting of sanctions against Iraq." (David Nissman)

AZIZ OFF TO MOSCOW, BEIJING. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is flying to Moscow and Beijing for talks on Baghdad's ties to the UN Security Council, according to AFP on 22 January. A diplomatic source told AFP that Aziz "will urge Russia and China to play a more active role in the face of U.S. and British attempts to impose new conditions on Iraq."

In talks with Russian officials, Aziz will look into Moscow's "proposals for the return of UN arms inspectors (to Iraq) in exchange for a suspension of sanctions" imposed on Baghdad since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Russian Foreign Ministry sources told AFP that Moscow would use the Aziz visit to press Baghdad to resume cooperation with the inspectors in return for the suspension of UN sanctions.

Aziz's visit to Moscow follows Saddam Husseyn's request to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa to convey a message to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whom Musa will meet in New York on 30 January. The content of the message has not been disclosed.

Less is known about the reason for Aziz's trip to Beijing. The Dow Jones "Kyodo" service reports on 22 January that Aziz's talks in both Moscow and Beijing would center on "means to coordinate policies of the three countries." (David Nissman)

CAIRO PAPER CRITICIZES IRAQ. The Cairo newspaper "Al-Akhbar" on 26 December strongly attacked Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Aziz for attacking Arab leaders. It said: "We know the intentions and objectives that had made the Iraqi official 'hallucinate' with those qualities! He had chosen 'stupid' timing to say even stupider words." Also, it maintained he had "donned the cloak of the Palestinian issue" to do this.

Furthermore, the newspaper commented, he used the current Arab situation to say these things. But, "his choice condemns the Iraqi ruling regime, and no other Arab ruling regimes" which had actually stood by Iraq in the face of the sanctions. He pointed out that the Arab regimes facilitated the Arab deliveries of food and medicines.

With regard to the Palestine issue, "Al-Akhbar" notes that "the ruling regime in Iraq had indeed harmed the Palestinian issue when Iraq split the unity of the Arab front, and hit Arab solidarity with its invasion of Kuwait. Was that, as well as the war with Iran, for the sake of Palestine?"

The newspaper points out that Baghdad "wasted the strength of the Iraqi army, which the Arabs had hoped would be their strategic reserve to liberate Palestine. They used that force to invade a small, peaceful country that had supported Iraq against Iran, namely Kuwait!! Who said that the road to liberate Palestine must begin in Baghdad and continue via Kuwait and Tehran?" (David Nissman)

TUNISIAN INDUSTRY MINISTER IN BAGHDAD. Tunisian Minister of Industry Moncef Ben Abdallah arrived in Baghdad bearing the greetings of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to Saddam Husseyn, Baghdad Television reported on 21 January. He also reiterated Tunisia's position in support of Iraq's demand to have the embargo imposed against it lifted. Ben Abdallah said that his country is determined to continue these efforts.

He also met with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, who said that Iraq's relations with Tunisia are distinguished and "we always work to develop them to advanced levels in harmony with the aspirations of the two fraternal countries' leaders in the service of the interests of the glorious Arab nation."

Ramadan added: "Iraq has no limits for economic cooperation with the Arab countries without exception, and its policy is known and is clear in this direction. Iraq wants relations among the Arab countries to go beyond the traditional bases toward more advanced stages in a manner that will enhance Arab solidarity in the face of aggressive schemes."

The day before, the "Middle East/North Africa Today" of 21 January reported that Iraq on 20 January raised the possibility of Tunisia conducting oil exploration of Iraqi oil fields. Last February the two countries signed a free trade agreement and, since then, Tunisia has backed Iraq's call for an end to sanctions. (David Nissman)

IRAQI DELEGATION IN SUDAN. An Iraqi parliamentary delegation led by Hisham Muhammad Ta'mir, a member of the external relations office as well as the Iraqi Ba'th Party, and Abd Samad Hamid, the undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) and Religious Affairs, has arrived in Sudan, Sudan Radio reported on 18 January.

Dr. Nafi Ali Nafi, the Sudanese minister at the Federal Administration Office, said the visit comes within the framework of strengthening bilateral relations, especially at the parliamentary level, and added that the Iraqi delegation will discuss with the state's officials ways of developing those relations.

The head of the Iraq delegation said the discussions with Sudanese state officials will concentrate on the possibility of lifting the sanctions against Iraq. (David Nissman)

CILLER PARTY RECOMMENDS 'TURKMEN-KURDISH FEDERATION' IN NORTHERN IRAQ. A report by the 'True Path' -- Dogru Yol Party (DYP) makes the point that Turkey's insistence on keeping Saddam Husseyn in power is not in its interests and proposes that a Turkmen�Kurdish Federation be formed in northern Iraq, according to the Istanbul newspaper "Aksam" on 19 January.

At the request of Tansu Ciller, DYP general chairwoman, a report titled "A Fresh View of the Northern Iraq Problem and New Perspectives Within the Framework of the Ankara Process" argues that Turkey must seize the initiative in the area and that it must not insist on keeping Saddam Husseyn in power.

The report notes that northern Iraq is the only region in the world where Kurds have gained world recognition for their existence, and points out that "having fought against separatist terrorism based on chauvinist Kurdish nationalism for years, Turkey can hardly be expected to remain indifferent to the Kurdish political movements and groups in northern Iraq."

The report adds that "a Kurdish federated state on its own would be against Turkey's interests, but a Turkmen-Kurdish Federation within an Iraq whose territorial integrity is guaranteed by Turkey would be in our interests. Consequently, the scope of any arrangement in northern Iraq must include the Turkmen and the Kurds."

The report also makes the point that U.S. policies must dovetail with Turkey's.

The report also outlines the requirements of a Turkish strategy in the region: first, a policy of constant destabilization must be pursued, and equal distances must be maintained from the two Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq; second, northern Iraq must be seen as a social and cultural sphere of interest and appropriate investments must be made; third, discussion of the Mosul question must be reopened and discussed because "the status of the Province of Mosul was not finalized by the Treaty of Lausanne and the resolution of the issue was postponed to a later date. Then, 'at a later date,' the province was handed to the Iraqi state via a political fait accompli. Now it is clear that the 'Mosul Province file' must be reopened."

The DYP report is not the only recent mention of the Iraqi Turkmen. The "Mideast Mirror" of 22 January cites an article in the London-based Arabic-language newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" by Adnan Hussayn noting that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit also expressed his concern about the Iraqi Turkmen on the eve of his departure for Washington.

Hussayn writes that the Turks have disregarded their existence for many years because of Turkey's various joint interests with the Saddam Husseyn government, and also because the Turks themselves could be accused of practicing a discriminatory ethnic policy similar to that of the Ba'th Party against its own Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans.

Hussayn claims the Turks want to get control of what he calls the "Turkmen cordon," which begins at Sinjar and Mosul and ends in Kirkuk. (David Nissman)

KDP, PUK: KURDS SEEK UNITED IRAQ. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) released a joint statement on 16 January saying: "We are advocating the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq with a democratic and federal solution for the Kurdish question," according to "Anadolu Ajansi" of 16 January. The statement was an attempt to allay Turkish fears that they planned to declare an independent state of Kurdistan.

The statement added that "in recent weeks, Kurdish media in general have increasingly dwelled on the concerns of the 'establishment of an independent state in Northern Iraq in the event of a United States military action against Baghdad.' Furthermore, Kurdish parties are accused of harboring such plans." The statement also says that "the responsibility to maintain the security of our borders and stability in the region are given high priority. Equally, both parties are wary of the legitimate concerns of the neighboring countries and those of Turkey in particular."

A BBC report by Hiwa Osman pointed out on 18 January that the Iraqi Kurds have been working with Turkey in maintaining the stability in the region. As a consequence crossborder trade with Turkey is relatively stable. Shops in the Kurdish region are filled with Turkish goods. Turkey also enjoys good commercial and diplomatic ties with Baghdad.

The BBC report says "in addition to its concerns over the disintegration of Iraq and subsequent establishment of a Kurdish state, it will be difficult for Turkey's troubled economy to withstand a war on its border as it will affect its trade with the Kurds and with Baghdad."

The KDP's foreign relations chief, Hoshyar Zebari, told the BBC that "over the last 10 years we have worked closely with Turkey to address its border security concerns. Turkey is a valuable neighbor." (David Nissman)

KIG HEAD EXPLAINS POSITION. Ali Bapir, the emir of the Kurdish Islamic Group (KIG), convened a news conference on 10 January in which he explained the goals of the KIG, stressing that the KIG "does not consider it an illegitimate act to cooperate with any side that takes heed of the interest of the people and the homeland, provided that it is not against Islamic law," according to the Sulaymaniyah weekly newspaper "Komal" on 10 January. He explained that the KIG "believes that the development and progress of our homeland economically and culturally and in the fields of education, reconstruction and in securing employment for its youth, will have a remarkably positive impact on migration and will bring about an atmosphere where pluralism is tolerated and provide further common ground for all."

He also stressed that America has a different agenda and, thus, "we have to cooperate with each other and be on the alert and cautious regarding the disadvantages and losses resulting from the changes that lie in store for Iraq, so as to preserve our own interests and to secure a better future for our people."

A journalist from Kurdistan TV asked him about his attitude towards democracy. Ali Bapir answered: "We are not against some of the fundamental principles of democracy, those which are not at variance with the Islamic faith and particularly the Shura [consultative] systems. However, regarding that point that the government and rule of people should be for people, we believe that laws and disciplines belong to God and he rules over people." He is asked "why, since Islam is one religion, why are the Islamic groups formed in such a way that there are several Islamic parties?" Bapir explained that Islam "tolerates and permits varying points of view and interpretations."

Bapir is also asked about common points with the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) and its leader Mala Ali. He said that there was much fraternity and mutual understanding between them.

With regard to the Jund al-Islam, he said that when they went to war against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, this ended in "repercussions and resulted in instability and unrest in the regions. Although we have never advocated war and have always been keen on stability and peace in our region, we have counseled both sides in that respect, but we were not listened to as we should have [been]." (David Nissman)

PUK AND JUND AL-ISLAM HOLD RECONCILIATION TALKS. As part of a series of meetings held between the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and Supporters of Islam (PIK), formerly the Jund al-Islam, another meeting was held between representatives of the two groups. One result of the previous meetings has been that the Jund al-Islam changed its name to the PIK, changed its leadership members, removed its slogans and banner, and also changed its rules, according to the Kurdish weekly "Hawlati" on 14 January. In return, the PUK might recognize the PIK as a legal political party.

"Hawlati" notes that Mala Krekar, an Islamic military figure whose group had joined with the Jund, did not attend the meeting because he is currently in Iran. (David Nissman)

TURKMEN, SCIRI MEET AT TURKMEN PARTY HEADQUARTERS. The weekly newspaper of the Turkmen Front, "Turkmeneli," reported on 13 January that Jamal Shan, the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen National Party, received Mahmud Abu-Mawlana, a member of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and his delegation, at the party's headquarters on 11 January.

Shan reaffirmed that the Turkmen in Iraq encounter oppression like the rest of the Iraqi people and "it is natural that those who have rights claim it and that the demand of our people to obtain full national rights is legitimate."

Abu-Mawlana stressed that the Iraqi regime is a common enemy and, therefore, "all political parties are required to unify their stances in order to build a democratic Iraq."

During the meeting, both sides discussed political, national and international developments, the future of Iraq, and the current situation in the region. (David Nissman)

TALABANI MEETS WITH 14 POLITICAL PARTIES. Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), met with 14 other political parties active in the Iraqi Kurdistan region on 17 January to examine the impact of the war on terrorism in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Al-Ittihad" on 18 January.

At the meeting, he explained international developments that impact the region and explained the PUK's views on these issues. He noted that these developments required coordination and cooperation among the parties present. With regard to the peace talks between the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Talabani said that "all deep-rooted parties in Kurdistan should take part in the peace talks."

Representatives of the political parties stressed the need to hold these meetings often. Aside from various Kurdish parties, two Assyrian political parties also took part: the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Bayt Nahrayn National Union Movement. (David Nissman)