26 April 2002, Volume 5, Number 11
IRAQI GOVERNMENT PREPARING FOR WAR. Several recent reports from Iraq indicate that Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn believes war is imminent. Husseyn met with Minister of Military Industrialization Abd al-Tawab Mullah al-Huwaysh on 20 April, according to the Iraqi News Agency (INA) on 20 and 21 April. Ministry employees told Husseyn that they were working "to consolidate technical capabilities for the people to confront the aggressors' threats, foil their evil scheming and thwart their unjust sanctions." Husseyn praised the ministry employees for "their great enthusiasm to serve the people of lofty Iraq and enhance their ability to remain steadfast in the face of criminal invaders."
This was the second recent meeting between Husseyn and Huwaysh reported by Iraq's state-controlled media. On 15 April, Republic of Iraq Television reported that Husseyn had met Huwaysh. "Minister Huwaysh besought Almighty God to grant the president a long life, continued good health, and loftiness, protect him, and guide his steps," the report said. Huwaysh also "besought Almighty God to enable him and his comrades to be part of the Iraqi armies under the president's wise leadership to liberate the land of Palestine and its crown, holy Jerusalem, from the criminal Zionists."
The Iraqi government has placed anti-aircraft guns "over most of Baghdad's high-rises including buildings housing the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Planning, and state-run radio and television," the 17 April "Iraq Press" reported. In addition, there are new missile batteries and gun emplacements at the al-Daura oil refinery in Baghdad, and the Zaafaraniya industrial complex, the article said. Recent reports say that the Iraqi government had deployed tank units in its northern and southern oil fields (See "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2002). On 22 April, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers said that Iraq has deployed surface-to-air missile batteries in the Iraqi "no-fly" zones, reported AP later that same day. Husseyn also is seeking to protect his personal property from attack. According to the 21 April "Iraq Press," he has dispersed his fleet of luxury vehicles. (Michael Rubin).
BAGHDAD ACCELERATES APARTHEID, ETHNIC CLEANSING. The Iraqi government's ethnic-cleansing campaign against the country's non-Arab citizens has accelerated, according to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Kurdish-language daily "Kurdistan Nuwe" on 17 April. "Daily, the Iraqi government further intensifies the policy of ethnic cleansing and deportation of Kurds in the regions under its own control," reported "Kurdistan Nuwe." The article continues, "Whenever the global problems become more intricate and more threatening, the Iraqi government finds it an opportune time to further implement its schemes against the Iraqi people in general and the Kurdish people in particular."
The same article said that the Iraqi government had recently begun construction of 200 houses to be reserved for Arab families transported from southern Iraq. "On 5 January 2002, [Saddam Husseyn's] Presidency Council issued a directive through the Interior Ministry, to the Kirkuk Governorate in which it called for probing into the causes of death of all the Kurdish citizens from 1991 to 1996 in Kirkuk, for the purpose of expelling...the families and relatives of the Kurds who were martyred in the battles for liberating Kirkuk...," the report said. The battles for liberating Kirkuk refer to the brief seizure of Kirkuk by Iraqi Kurdish forces during the abortive March 1991 Kurdish uprising.
Since the beginning of this year, "Kurdistan Nuwe" reported, the Iraqi government has "decided to allocate vast areas of land" to Arabs exclusively. This land includes plots in between the Zewiya and Azadi districts, around the football stadium in Azadi, and between the Iskan and Karama districts. Land behind the Pepsi Cola plant in Rahim Awa is now allocated only "to the Arab [Ba'th] party comrades." Numerous Arab families have been relocated to the surrounding villages of Hafta Chashma, Omara Gada, and Qara Ways, the report said. The Regional Secretariat of the Ba'th Party has further ordered that ethnic Kurds may not purchase contracts for shops and businesses.
There are also reports in the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) press concerning the Iraqi government's continuing ethnic-cleansing campaign. The 19 April issue of the KDP Arabic-language daily "Khabat" reported: "Within the framework of the continuing Arabization policies implemented by the central [Iraqi] authorities in Kirkuk...the authorities decided to auction some of the government-owned houses in Kirkuk. Instructions allow only Arabs to buy these houses, preventing the indigenous Kurdish, Turkoman, and Assyrian inhabitants from doing so." The article continued, "Observers say that the city's Kurdish, Turkoman and Assyrian inhabitants are considered second-class citizens and are deprived of any legal or constitutional rights." Thousands of Kurdish and some Turkoman Iraqis expelled from Kirkuk, Khanaqin, and Sinjar live in tent cities near Chamchamal, or in temporary housing in Kifri and Kalar, as well as in abandoned Iraqi military facilities in Irbil and Sulaymaniyah. Iraq is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the Arab world. There has been no widely accepted census in almost 50 years, but most estimates place the non-Arab population of Iraq at between 25 and 30 percent of the country. (Michael Rubin)
NEW POTENTIAL FOR IRAQI BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH. UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) Chairman Richard Butler reported in an 18 March 1999 letter to the UN Security Council about inspections of a facility in Daura, Iraq, "Research was also undertaken on viral agents for Iraq's biological warfare program, including camelpox, enterovirus 70 and rotavirus." Iraq had diverted equipment for the production of foot-and-mouth disease vaccine for use in biological weapons production at Daura.
According to the May 2002 issue of the "Journal of General Virology," the camelpox virus and the variola virus that causes smallpox in humans "are much more closely related to each other than to any other virus." The article notes that although "the disease smallpox has been eradicated," the variola or similar viruses might be used in bioterrorism. Authors Caroline Gubser and Geoffrey Smith note that camelpox has never caused disease in man, but they warn that the eradication of smallpox and the resulting "immunological naivete" of much of the world's population, makes the camelpox threat much more serious.
Smith elaborated on the report's findings in a 17 April interview with NewScientist.com. According to Smith, "It was surprising how close these two viruses were.... It could be that only a small set of changes would be necessary for camelpox virus to infect people." (Michael Rubin).
IRAQI GOVERNMENT ACCELERATES AID TO PALESTINIANS... Baghdad will extend more aid to the Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza, Iraqi TV reported on 21 April. "His excellency mujahid leader, President Saddam Husseyn, may God protect him, has chaired the cabinet's 17th session," according to the report. "The cabinet reviewed...current developments in Palestine. It also discussed the ugly, racist, bloody, and criminal Zionist scheme currently being implemented in Palestine," the report said. "The president, may God grant him victory, ordered that $25,000 shall be allocated to every house in Jenin that was destroyed by criminal Zionists." Husseyn also recently said that the Iraqi government would pay families of suicide bombers $25,000 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 April 2002).
The Iraqi government is transferring aid beyond the rewards for suicide bombers and money for those whose houses were destroyed in the recent battle between Israeli Defense Forces and gunmen from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad. The Iraqi News Agency reported on 18 April that "upon instruction from Leader President Saddam Husseyn, the third batch of the Iraqi steadfastness convoy set out on its journey in support of our people in Palestine." Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih said that the supply convoy was to help the Palestinians "regain their usurped rights and expel the Zionist entity." He further condemned "the U.S. administration of evil, the sponsor of terrorism."
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz offered "beloved Palestine" his moral support in a speech broadcast on 14 April on Republic of Iraq Television. Aziz said: "Zionism is not only a terrorist movement, but also an imperialist one. Its usurper and occupier entity in Palestine is a criminal imperialist entity that is absolutely allied with U.S. imperialism and serves its aims in the Arab homeland." Aziz received on 17 April a delegation from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Republic of Iraq Television reported. Their talks "dealt with latest developments of the Palestinian intifada, its continuation, and escalation of its struggle march to defeat the occupation forces and the Zionist-imperialist aggression," according to Iraqi television. The DFLP split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1969, and according to its charter, Palestinian goals can only be achieved through popular revolution of the working class. In spite of its concern about the working class, the DFLP killed seven Bangladeshi workers in March 1996 when it burned down a restaurant in Sitrah, Bahrain, according to the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. (Michael Rubin).
KUWAIT DUBIOUS OF IRAQI COMMITMENTS. Kuwaiti Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shaykh Muhammad Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah remains doubtful that Iraq's high-profile commitments at the 27-28 March Arab League summit were anything more than rhetoric, KUNA reported on 18 April (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 April 2002). Shaykh Muhammad told the Lebanese "Al-Sayyad" magazine, "We want to make sure that Iraq's stance towards Kuwait had radically changed and is not just a temporary speech." Shaykh Muhammad credited U.S. policy for the Iraqi government's new willingness to accept Kuwait's right to exist. "We saw the difference of the Iraqi speech addressed in the Arab summit held in Beirut, which came after the U.S. threats," he said. Shaykh Muhammad expressed frustration with Iraqi noncompliance with UN Security Council resolutions. "We do not have impossible demands for Iraq to carry out.... We want Iraq to release our POWs and that it promises that it would not repeat its aggression of Kuwait...." On 18 April, the UN Security Council also called on Iraq to make good on pledges made at the Arab League summit, a UN Wire report of the same date said. (Michael Rubin)
...AND KILLS THOSE WHO DO NOT VOLUNTEER. The 19 April issue of "Khabat" reported that, 10 days earlier, Iraqi security forces executed a young Kurdish man in the Iskan quarter of Kirkuk after he refused to join the voluntary al-Quds army, which Saddam Husseyn formed to liberate Palestine. (Michael Rubin)
BAGHDAD REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR SUICIDE BOMBERS. Saddam Husseyn reaffirmed his support for suicide bombers in a 15 April speech aired on Republic of Iraq Television. "May God have mercy upon our martyrs, chief among whom are the perpetrators of the martyrdom operations." Husseyn disagreed with the label suicide bombers. "These are not suicide operations...because the Palestinians do not kill themselves out of despair," Husseyn said. The next day, Shaykh 'Abd al-Ghafur al-Qaysi elaborated on Husseyn's logic. Speaking on Republic of Iraq Television, al-Qaysi said: "The difference between martyrdom and suicide is that suicide is killing oneself out of fear, and takes place in a moment of weakness and to evade the burdens of life. As for martyrdom operations, they are carried out to uphold God's word." Al-Qaysi continued to relate a ruling from "the men of religion in Iraq," which said, "Martyrdom operations by the sons of our Palestinian people against the odious Zionist occupation are the highest form of jihad from a religious point of view and are carried out for the sake of God." (Michael Rubin)
IRAQ BOOSTS ARAB TRADE. The Iraqi government has had considerable recent success in bolstering trade with the Arab world, despite continued UN sanctions. The fourth week-long Egyptian products fair opened on 18 April, inaugurated by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan. Ninety-four Egyptian companies participated. In an interview aired on 18 April on Republic of Iraq radio, Ramadan said: "Such fairs create awareness among the citizens for the good of Arab industries. We are delighted to see that the Arab countries with which free-trade agreements were signed are setting up such fairs, which provides a chance for better acquaintance with Arab products." Egypt is not alone in agreeing to a free-trade pact with Iraq. Lebanon and Iraq signed a free-trade pact on 6 April, according to Beirut's Tele-Liban TV. Ramadan signed on behalf of Saddam Husseyn. The Persian Gulf states also are augmenting their trade ties with Iraq. According to a 13 April Omani News Agency report, Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih and his Omani counterpart Maqbul Bin-Ali Sultan signed an agreement to establish a free-trade zone. Maqbul said that Iraq imports two-thirds of Oman's non-oil exports. The Iraqi News Agency on 21 April also reported that the free-trade zone between Iraq and the United Arab Emirates began operation in mid-April. (Michael Rubin)
...BUT ALSO WELCOMES IRAQI KURDISH OFFICIALS. Syria also recently welcomed Mas'ud Barzani, president of the Iraqi opposition KDP. The KDP administers Iraq's Irbil Governorate, as well as the Dahuk Governorate. Additionally, the KDP controls eight kilometers of Iraq's frontier with Syria along the Tigris River. KDP Political Bureau members Azad Barwari, Hoshyar Zebari, and Masrur Barzani accompanied Barzani, according to a 10 April Syrian Arab Republic Radio report. The Kurdish delegation met first with Syrian Vice President 'Abd al-Halim Khaddam, and then with Abadallah al-Ahmar, assistant secretary-general of the (Syrian) Arab Socialist Ba'th Party, as well as "Comrade" 'Ali Diyab, director of the Syrian Ba'th Party's foreign relations office. According to the report, "the two sides stressed that only the Iraqi people should determine their way of progress and the future of their state away from any foreign interference from abroad." The London-based Arabic daily "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 11 April that, "Views were identical on the necessity to lift the embargo imposed on the Iraqi people, alleviate their suffering, and reject any military action against Iraq."
Kurdish media reports cast doubt on whether the Syrian government and the KDP agree on how best to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, or what constitutes "the embargo imposed on the Iraqi people." Zebari told the Kurdish daily "Brayati" in a 9 April interview that a senior U.S. State Department delegation "reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment regarding the security and stability of the Kurdistan region against any aggression. They also stressed that the 13 percent share of the Kurdistan region from the revenues of the oil-for-food program will be maintained." Iraqi Kurdistan's 13 percent share of oil-for-food program revenue is based upon the proportion of the Iraqi population living within the northern Iraqi safe haven. While many Iraqi Kurds also say that they would like to see sanctions lifted eventually, they say that they want to maintain the guarantee of proportional revenue sharing. PUK Prime Minister Barham Salih said in a September 2001 interview with the "Middle East Intelligence Bulletin," "The oil-for-food program is a great and truly revolutionary concept.... Never in our history have we had a government obliged by international law to devote Iraq's oil revenues to the well-being of the Iraqi people." (Michael Rubin).
WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATORS GO HOME. In February 2002, Andreas Mavromatis, a rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), visited Iraq to investigate the Iraqi government's human rights abuses. While Mavromatis sought to engage the Iraqi government in a human rights dialogue, other human rights activists, such as Baktiar Amin of Human Rights Alliance, argued that the Iraqi government's abuses were so vast that no dialogue could be successful (See "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2002).
According to the 16 April issue of the London-based Arabic daily "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," Mavromatis's mission did not have an impact on the Iraqi government's attitudes toward human rights. An Iraqi Communist Party report cited in the article said, "in early March, the authorities executed five citizens from the village of al-Wahhabi in al-Najaf Governorate" on charges of clashing with the police. In his report to the UNHRC, Mavromatis complained about the "horrific" overcrowding in Abu Gharib prison. The Iraqi government moved to rectify this criticism somewhat by executing four prisoners at Abu Gharib on 15 March and executing eight citizens from al-Muthana Governorate six days later. According to the 22 April "Iraq Press," Saddam Husseyn's eldest son, Uday, ordered the imprisonment of Ramzi al-Sa'adun, an editor at the official Arabic-language daily "Al-Thawra," which serves as the mouthpiece of the ruling Ba'th Party. The report did not specify the alleged offense of al-Sa'adun, but it said that he was whipped and then placed in solitary confinement.
On 11 April, the UNHRC voted to condemn Iraqi human rights practices. The adopted resolution "strongly" condemning "the systematic, widespread, and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror." The resolution also noted "the suppression of freedom of thought, expression, information, association, assembly, and movement through fear of arrest, imprisonment, execution, expulsion, house demolition, and other sanctions;" as well as "the repression faced by any kind of opposition, in particular the harassment and intimidation of and threats against Iraqi opponents living abroad and members of their families...summary and arbitrary executions, including political killings and the continued so-called clean-out of prisons, the use of rape as a political tool, as well as enforced or involuntary disappearances...widespread, systematic torture and the maintaining of decrees prescribing cruel and inhuman punishment as a penalty for offences." The resolution called on the Iraqi government to respect human rights treaties and to allow "further visits and missions to Iraq by the Special Rapporteur...."
Adding weight to its pronouncement, the UNHRC formally decided to extend the mandate of the special rapporteur by one year. The resolution passed by a vote of 28 to four, with 21 abstentions. Those voting against the resolution were Algeria, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. Among those countries abstaining were China, Russia, India, and South Africa.
Although the UNHRC resolved to extend the mandate of its rapporteur for one year, UN agencies appear unwilling to investigate Iraqi chemical-weapons use, according to a 22 April "Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch" interview with Mike Amitay, director of the Washington Kurdish Institute. "We have had discussions with appropriate UN agency representatives but have found that while individual officials may be sympathetic, UN agencies are ultimately beholden to Baghdad and unable to assist," Amitay said. He added, "I think this is one of the cruelest ironies of UN [Security Council Resolution] 986 (the "oil-for-food" program). It seems clear that the UN should be assisting on numerous levels, yet doing so would anger the Iraqi regime and jeopardize their continued role in administering UN 986 program. In the end, they choose the path of least resistance and avoid the issue." (Michael Rubin)
SYRIA WELCOMES IRAQI GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS... A series of recent meetings suggests that the often-strained relations between Iraq and neighbor Syria are on the mend. Syrian Arab Republic Radio reported on 7 April that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad had received Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, as well as the Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih and Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid. Meanwhile, Iraq welcomed Syrian Irrigation Minister Muhammad Radwan al-Martini. In an interview aired on state-run Republic of Iraq Television on 6 April, al-Martini said his main goal was "to deepen ties between the two sisterly Arab countries." He also said that while he sought "ways to arrive at an optimal use of the water resources and exchange expertise...everything that serves the two people's interests will also be discussed." Syria and Iraq signed an irrigation agreement and agreed to establish joint companies. Both Iraqi Irrigation Minister Abdul Husseyn Suwadi and al-Martini called on Turkey to resume tripartite talks over sharing of Euphrates water halted since 1992.
Syria also supports Iraq's unilateral oil embargo. According to a 16 April Iraqi News Agency report, Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Miru expressed his appreciation for Husseyn's decision to stop oil exports for 30 days. Iraqi oil continues to flow to Syria, though, despite the embargo (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2002). Miru made his comments to a visiting Iraqi trade delegation. The Iraqi and Syrian businessmen agreed that the recently signed free-trade accord between Iraq and Syria would have a "positive impact" upon "the two people." (Michael Rubin)
IRAQI KURDISTAN RECONSTRUCTION CONTINUES. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in conjunction with private investment, will renovate Irbil's landmark Sheraton Hotel, the 31 March "Kurdistan Today," reported. The $6 million investment will be completed within a year. The 10-story hotel, to be renamed the Hawler Hotel (Hawler is the Kurdish name of Irbil) will have indoor and outdoor restaurants, a swimming pool and cinema, a small shopping mall, and conference facilities. As the northern Iraqi economy improves under the "oil-for-food" program, numerous other hotel projects have been completed recently. Turkish investment helped reconstruct the five-star Jiyan Hotel in Dahuk, and the Sulaymaniyah palace hotel recently reopened after a multimillion-dollar renovation. In addition, both the Ashti and the Abu Sina hotels in Sulaymaniyah have undergone renovations. Because of the increasing numbers of foreign visitors, as well as internal Iraqi travel, the hotels are increasingly full.
There have been several other recent development projects in Kurdish-administered northern Iraq, according to the 31 March "Kurdistan Today." The KRG's Ministry of Agriculture recently opened three new oil-for-food-program-funded irrigation projects. The UN has awarded local companies the contracts to execute the project. Under terms of the 20 May 1996 UN-Iraqi government memorandum of understanding, the UN implements oil-for-food projects on behalf the central Iraqi government in the three northern governorates of Sulaymaniyah, Irbil, and Dahuk.
In order to respect Iraqi sovereignty, the UN recognizes neither the results of the 1992 elections that led to the rise of the PUK and KDP, nor the 2001 municipal elections that occurred with the three Kurdish-administered provinces of Iraq. Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan are contested and are not limited only to candidates of Saddam Husseyn's Ba'th Party. In some ways, the UN oversight of contracts has bolstered the Iraqi Kurdish economy, at least compared to that in Husseyn's portion of Iraq. In portions of Iraq under Husseyn's control, the Iraqi government awards contracts without competitive bidding, according to a European diplomat in Amman. Money from the oil-for-food program is much more equitably distributed in the Iraqi safe haven than in portions of Iraq governed by Husseyn; it does not only go to companies run by Ba'th Party officials.
Many KRG officials, however, are not satisfied with the "slow pace" of UN aid programs. PUK Deputy Prime Minister Adnan Mufti met with a delegation of the United Nations Development Program and criticized it for the slow pace of its operations, according to the 19 April issue of "Al-Ittihad," the Arabic-language daily newspaper of the PUK. According to "Al-Ittihad," Mufti "called on the UN to play its role in dealing with failures and shortcomings in the electricity sector and consolidating cooperation and coordination with the institutions of the Kurdistan Regional Government." Mufti also requested the UN speed up organization of teacher-training courses, and "to respond to the needs of the health and agriculture sectors." (Some Iraqi Kurdish hospital officials interviewed in spring 2001 said that the UN often takes up to 18 months to deliver approved equipment. If that equipment is faulty, then another 18 months can be wasted waiting for replacement parts.)
Many Iraqi Kurds complain that the UN does not respond to their needs and concerns; they say that many Arab national UN employees, such as those from Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Sudan are especially unresponsive. According to a 27 March 2001 United Press International report, Husseyn pressured UN agencies to "do his bidding in northern Iraq." The article pointed to one example where Rima al-Azar, a Lebanese UNICEF child protection officer in Irbil, unilaterally severed UNICEF's contracts with NGOs operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, apparently without any authorization from her superiors or UN offices in Geneva and New York. There have been other problems with the UN. According to farmers and officials of the University of Sulaymani College of Agriculture, a pesticide supplied to farmers by the UN wiped out nearly the entire chickpea crop in spring 2001, leaving several farmers who had sought UN agricultural advice destitute.
The KRG in Irbil also reported in its online "Round-up" for April 2002 (http://www.krg.org/news) that residents may soon place international telephone calls directly from their homes. For the past decade, all international calls were placed through local telephone centers. (According to local residents, these family-run centers double as money-transfer centers; Kurdish expatriates can deposit money with a European branch of the phone center, which will then transfer the amount minus a set commission to their relatives at the company's Iraqi Kurdish branch). The direct international dial capability is a joint project of the KRG's Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the local Irbil-based Korek Telecom Company, "Round-up" reported. Also bolstering communications for local residents is the inauguration of a new Kurdistan-Net Internet service provider. The company will offer both unlimited and by-the-hour Internet packages, according to "Round-up." There are several dozen Internet cafes throughout northern Iraq, with more than 30 in Sulaymaniyah alone. Residents there have had dial-up access by subscription for more than a year. In portions of Iraq governed by Saddam Husseyn's Ba'th Party, there are five Internet cafes (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 January 2001). (Michael Rubin)
TENSIONS MOUNT BETWEEN SECULAR, ISLAMIST KURDISH GROUPS. Tensions are increasing between the secular PUK and militant Kurdish parties following the 2 April assassination attempt on PUK Prime Minister Salih and a rumored 18 March attempt on the life of KDP President Mas'ud Barzani (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 April 2002). The Islamist parties are based near Tawella, in the mountains along the Iran-Iraq border. The Iranian government facilitates transport of men and material to the militant Islamist group, according to the December 2001 "Middle East Intelligence Bulletin."
The assassination attempt on Salih has furthered reconciliation between the PUK and KDP, according to a 15 April report in the Iraqi Kurdish newspaper "Hawlati." The often-strained relations have warmed steadily since the appointment of Salih to the PUK premiership in January 2001. According to "Hawlati," the KDP and PUK "decided to set up an operations room in order to follow and gather information on people and terrorist groups who may be active in Kurdistan." Also on 15 April, "Hawlati," reported that the previous day, "the Supporters of Islam in Kurdistan" (Peshtiwani Islam le Kurdistan), had unilaterally revoked the cease-fire in place between them and the PUK. Over the past year, the militant Islamist group has had a steady progression of names including the Islamic Unity Movement, Jund al-Islam, and Ansar-i Islam. (Michael Rubin)