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Iraq Report: May 18, 2002

18 May 2002, Volume 5, Number 14

UN SECURITY COUNCIL VOTES TO OVERHAUL SANCTIONS... A unanimous vote by the UN Security Council on 14 May caps a yearlong effort by the U.S. and Britain to get more humanitarian goods to ordinary Iraqis and to keep weapons of mass destruction out of Iraqi leader Saddam Husseyn's hands. The vote extended the oil-for-food program for a further six months, starting 30 May, and made the greatest change in its operation since it began -- allowing the free flow of most civilian goods into Iraq, but adopting a 332-page checklist of civilian items with potential military use.

The adoption of the new streamlined sanctions regime marks a victory for the U.S., which seeks to deny Husseyn's claim that sanctions are hurting ordinary Iraqis by preventing the import of civilian goods. The new system could also make it easier for the U.S. to win support for deposing the Iraqi leader. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "[The new sanctions regime will make] it clear that the restrictions and lack of distribution of civilian goods inside Iraq are not due to any outside controls, but rather to the behavior of the Iraqi regime."

The London "Times" quotes the U.S. envoy to the UN as saying: "(the vote) will facilitate greatly the improvement of humanitarian and purely civilian goods to the Iraqi economy. By simplifying this export regime and focusing it more on products and services that could contribute to a weapons of mass destruction program. I think the regime has been made more effective."

The new system has been a long time in winning approval. Last year, it was delayed by Russia as Russian companies, which do extensive business with Iraq, feared it would restrict their current and future trade. Russia finally agreed to approve a new "goods for review" list, if the U.S. also agreed to revise the rules for removing sanctions altogether. Russian officials believe the current rules are ambiguous and could result in permanent sanctions. Russia's ambassador to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, said on 14 May: "We expect the second part of the commitment -- the comprehensive approach -- to be taken up by the council. Only through lifting of the sanctions can Iraq revive its economy."

Meanwhile, Iraq's UN ambassador, Mohammad Al-Douri, called the revised sanctions "a new harassment on the Iraqi people." He also expressed Iraq's unhappiness with any Security Council action that did not lift sanctions. According to Al-Douri, the new measures "will prevent any development of the Iraqi economy for the future" by blocking imports of agricultural, electrical, and sanitation equipment.

ITAR-TASS reports that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, following his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, said on 15 May: "We worked together to prepare a draft of the resolution. For our part, we are making efforts to develop a dialogue between Baghdad and the UN secretary-general. We hope that these talks will secure the return of international observers to Iraq, so that they can fulfill their mission within the scope of disarmament."

The opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC) also issued a statement on 15 May welcoming the news that the Security Council had reached agreement on sanctions reform. Sharif Ali Bin Al-Hussein -� head of the Constitutional Monarchy Movement and INC spokesman -- commented: "The INC welcomes this reform of the sanctions regime to ease the flow of humanitarian goods into Iraq. It will demonstrate once and for all that only Saddam Husseyn is to blame for the continued suffering of the Iraqi people. Ever since the sanctions regime started, Saddam Husseyn has been free to buy as much food and medicine as required, under the oil-for�food program. He has chosen not to, preferring to allow the Iraqi people to suffer as part of his propaganda war. He has proved time and again that he cannot be trusted. We hope that the new smart sanctions will reveal that Saddam Husseyn is the real cause of the continued oppression and suffering of the Iraqi people. This suffering will only [end] with the removal of Saddam Husseyn from power at the earliest opportunity."

On 16 May the official Iraqi News Agency carried a statement by Iraq's information minister in which he said that Iraq has accepted a six-month extension of the UN oil-for-food program, following a meeting of top Iraqi officials chaired by Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn. The minister also criticized changes to the sanctions regime, while accusing the U.S. of imposing them on Iraq. (Ayad Ahmed)

...AFTER U.S. DELAYED VOTE TO ACCOMMODATE RUSSIA. For the second time in a week, the Bush administration postponed a vote on a U.S.-sponsored Security Council resolution designed to tighten military sanctions against Iraq and eliminate restrictions on its trade in civilian goods. Meanwhile U.S. officials remained confident that Washington's proposal would be adopted. "The Washington Post" quoted a U.S. official at the UN as saying on 13 May: "We feel confident that consensus has been achieved, and we just need time for all capitals to sign on."

The U.S.-sponsored resolution revamps UN procedures governing trade conducted under the humanitarian program. Thousands of "dual use" items with military and civilian applications would be subject to scrutiny by the UN weapons inspectors and a Security Council sanctions committee, while all other trade would move swiftly through the UN bureaucracy.

The five permanent members of the Security Council reached agreement in principle on 6 May on the U.S. sanctions initiative. But the Bush administration put off a vote on 9 May because of a Russian request for a delay, to allow President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials a final look at the deal over the Russian holidays. (Ayad Ahmed)

UNMOVIC WAITS FOR 'GREEN LIGHT' FROM BAGHDAD. The head of the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC), Hans Blix, said in an interview with the London-based Arabic-language daily "Al-Hayat" that his commission had not yet received a "green light" to deploy inspectors in Iraq. Responding to whether the Iraqis have been asking for guarantees that there will be no military attack against Iraq if Baghdad allows inspections to resume, Blix said that the Iraqis realize that the UN Secretary-General cannot provide such guarantees. He added that it would be difficult to convince Iraqis to accept inspections "as long as there is a threat of an invasion or aggression."

Blix agreed that the return of inspectors is not enough and that inspectors must be allowed to move unrestricted around Iraq. He added: "I always say that inviting the inspectors back into Iraq just to open doors is not enough." (Ayad Ahmed)

VICTIMS OF SADDAM'S GAS ATTACKS TELL OF HIS TACTICS. The memories of Iraqi Kurds are seared with images of Baghdad's 1988 genocide against its own ethnic Kurdish population, when troops loyal to the Iraqi strongman were under orders to kill every Kurdish male between the ages of 18 and 55. The "Christian Science Monitor" (CSM), citing human rights groups, said on 13 May that more than 100,000 men disappeared, 4,000 villages were destroyed, and 60 more villages were subjected to chemical weapons attack during the Iraqi government's Al-Anfal campaign. Fouad Baban, head of the Halabja Medical Institute, says that "there is no hesitation of the regime to use such weapons [of mass destruction] against any country, anywhere, against any army. Saddam Husseyn doesn't keep weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent �- but to use them." CSM also quotes the New York-based group Human Rights Watch as concluding, after a three-year investigation of 18 tons of captured Iraqi documents, forensic examination of several mass graves, and hundreds of eyewitness accounts, that "The Iraqi regime committed the crime of genocide."

According to CSM, Abdulsalam Khalil-Mohammad says he was one of six men who survived a mass shooting during the 1988 attack on the Kurdish village of Koreme. After they witnessed the gassing of a nearby village they were surrounded by Iraqi troops. Khalil-Mohammad recalls that one Iraqi lieutenant named Mohammad told them to move closer together, adding: "Don't be afraid. Soon you will be back with your families." But then the soldiers opened fire, according to the witness, who added: "The one next to me was shot in the head and fell on me." Lying wounded amid the carnage, he was then shot in the back, as Iraqi soldiers moved in to finish the job. Khalil-Mohammad survived, but learned a lesson he says the U.S. should heed: "If the U.S. is going to attack Saddam Husseyn, and if Saddam has a chance to attack the Kurds with chemical or other weapons, he will not hesitate." (Ayad Ahmed)

U.S. SEEKS WIDER ROLE FOR MORE IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUPS... Senior U.S. officials have stepped up discussions with Iraqi opposition groups, including several newly prominent in U.S. thinking, as the Bush administration proceeds with plans to topple Saddam Husseyn. On 13 May, Alan Sipress of "The Washington Post" cites informed sources in reporting that, in one unpublicized meeting, a U.S. team including a CIA official met secretly in Germany last month with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Massoud Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) chief Jalal Talabani, who aligned themselves with the U.S. after the 1991 Gulf War. The meeting, reportedly attended by retired General Wayne A. Downing, the White House's deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, was one in a series Downing and other officials have held with Iraqi exiles as the administration tries to determine what role they can play in an attempt to oust Saddam. (State Department spokesman Richard Boucher issued a denial when confronted by reports of such a meeting; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 April 2002.)

Sipress cites unnamed sources in saying that the meeting in Germany dealt with the military and intelligence capabilities of the Kurdish parties and the Kurds' insistence on U.S. guarantees for their protection if they are attacked by Saddam's forces. Two months ago, Downing also held a pair of meetings with a delegation of Iraqi exiles who claim to have strong ties with elements of Saddam's military and in the country's central provinces, long the backbone of his support. Participants in the meeting with the recently formed Iraqi National Movement told Sipress that it focused on what role these exiles could play -- for instance how many active military officers they can call upon -- and ended with Downing encouraging them to continue broadening their contacts. A White House official declined, however, to confirm any meetings held by Downing, saying: "We intend to continue our discussions with various groups and individuals who are working toward a free and democratic Iraq."

Different elements of the administration have been promoting different groups. While the State Department has proposed convening a conference in Europe of Iraqi exiles, including many outside the framework of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the INC has sought to hold its own conference in Washington and claims the tacit support of the Pentagon. Both gatherings have been delayed.

Military planners are looking at a possible invasion of Iraq that could involve several roles for the Iraqi opposition, according to sources said to be familiar with the review. These include intelligence gathering on Iraqi army units and Saddam's development of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Opposition groups could also establish contact with Iraqi commanders to persuade them not to fight, assign local militia to work with U.S. special forces, and provide a staging ground, especially in northern Iraq. Administration planners are also exploring the option of encouraging elements of the Iraqi military to mutiny against Saddam, with U.S. military assistance, according to the sources. This would rely heavily on networks established by opposition groups inside Saddam's security forces.

A key piece in the administration's thinking remains the INC, the U.S.-funded organization headed by Ahmed Chalabi, who is based in London. As the administration has increasingly focused on the idea of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, the INC has recast the role it sees for itself. Rather than fielding a rebel army that would carry the brunt of the combat, INC officials now envision helping to coordinate air strikes and forming an interim administration in areas freed from Saddam Husseyn's control. (Ayad Ahmed)

...AS IRAQ CALLS UP RESERVISTS. The London-based "Iraq Press" reported on 13 May that the Iraqi authorities have called up a new batch of reservists to join the armed forces amid large-scale preparations to confront a possible U.S. military strike. The call, issued last week, is said to involve tens of thousands of reservists, including commissioned and noncommissioned officers.

Iraq is building up troop strength in areas it believes U.S. forces might use as a launch pad in its much-publicized bid to change the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn. "Iraq Press" says it has learned that there has been a massive redeployment of troops in both northern and southern parts of Iraq, as speculation mounts that the U.S. might arm dissidents in both areas and use them in any assault against Saddam.

The independent Iraqi Kurdish newspaper "Hawlati" reported on 13 May that "the Iraqi regime has been deploying forces along the border with the liberated areas [of Iraqi Kurdistan]." Citing "available information," the paper said that Iraqi forces have dug trenches along the entire border, adding that such a large force has not been deployed in the border region since the 1991 Kurdish uprising. (Ayad Ahmed)

RUMSFELD'S REMARKS ON POSSIBLE NUCLEAR ATTACK ON U.S. DERIDED. A report published by the website of the Iraqi government newspaper "Al-Thawrah" on 12 May (authored by Iraqi writer Matuq Al-Matuq quotes U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as saying that the U.S. might become the target of a nuclear attack from those who possess weapons of mass destruction, and that it is therefore the right of the United States to fight terrorism.

"As everybody now knows," the report says, "these statements are laughable, reflecting the lies and tricks of the Black House [ed.: sarcastic reference to the White House] administration. Rumsfeld knows full well who possesses nuclear weapons; namely, the five officially declared nuclear states as identified in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in addition to India and Pakistan. The other party that possesses the world's sixth nuclear arsenal is the Zionist entity." The writer goes on to say: "On 9 March 'The Los Angeles Times' exposed the aggressive intentions of the new American nuclear doctrine, that placed a number of countries under American nuclear threats. So whom is Rumsfeld trying to fool when he falsely claims that the United States might come under nuclear attack?"

The report affirms that "these statements are part of the evil U.S. administration's deception campaign to impose its domination and hegemony on the world and to threaten nations. We tell Rumsfeld: You should leave the world to live in peace and security. Creating a climate of international instability, war, threats, and crises and linking these lies to the illusions of weapons of mass destruction and so-called terrorism are nothing but weak pretexts the world community can no longer stand." (Ayad Ahmed)

IRAQI KURDISTAN TACKLES ILLITERACY. The Irbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), according to its Minister of Education Abdulaziz Ta'ib, is currently engaged in literacy training for approximately 41,000 individuals. Much of the training is occurring outside the auspices of the United Nation's oil-for-food program (Security Council Resolution 986), and depends upon revenue raised locally by customs duties and also by contributions of independent NGOs.

The Swedish-funded Diakonia organization arranged literacy training for 5,000 individuals spread across 188 centers in the cities of Irbil and Duhok. UNICEF has sponsored 577 centers and a seven-month course for 20,000 individuals that will end on 20 June. Reach, Norwegian Peoples' Aid, and the local Hiwa association have each opened six centers in and around Irbil especially geared to women's literacy.

Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (a local NGO) has engaged in health and hygiene education in eight of the new centers. In addition, the illiteracy eradication program has locally printed 214,400 new textbooks for use in present and future classes. The adult education program curriculum goes beyond basic literacy. Both the Bahdinani and Sorani dialects are taught, as is Arabic, English, math, science, history, and geography. The literacy program will soon expand to Zakho, Akre, Shaqlawa, Soran, and Megasur. At present, the literacy drive employs almost 1,200 teachers and 21 administrators. (Ayad Ahmed)

IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS SEEK ASSURANCES BEFORE SUPPORTING A U.S.-LED INVASION. David L. Phillips, the deputy director and senior fellow of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the goals for Iraq must be spelled out. Commenting in the 16 May issue of the "International Herald Tribune," Phillips points out that "recent negotiations between the UN and Iraq ended inconclusively. In the past three years the Baghdad regime has repeatedly obstructed efforts to resume monitoring of its program to produce weapons of mass destruction. As a result military action led by the United States seems inevitable."

"While U.S. allies...have so far resisted plans to invade Iraq, they would welcome a role in developing political and security arrangements" for a post-Saddam Iraq. Defining Iraq's "end-state" would encourage participation in a U.S.-led coalition and would reassure countries like Turkey of the U.S.'s commitment to regional stability.

Ankara has stated publicly that it opposes a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, raising concerns that military action would create a power vacuum, destabilize the region, and encourage separatism among Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority.

"Establishing a federal democratic republic [in Iraq] represents a structural solution," says Phillips, "which can help reconcile Turkish concerns with Kurdish aspirations. To this end, Iraq could be divided into three entities: a Kurdish, Turkmen, and Assyrian region in the North, a Shiite Arab area in the South, and a Sunni Arab belt in the middle," with a clear demarcation of boundaries between the entities.

The writer foresees a central government in Baghdad that would retain jurisdiction over defense and foreign policy, while a highly decentralized system of governance would include a local executive, assembly, and a security apparatus controlled by regional authorities. He also envisions a buffer zone between Turkey and Iraq that would help deter incursions by armed groups. A commercial agreement could expedite cross-border transport and trade, while provisions would need to be enacted to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, including the 2 million ethnic Turks in Northern Iraq.

"There is widespread agreement," according to Phillips, "that the world would be safer without Saddam, but debate persists on how to achieve this goal. Focusing on the end-state would advance cooperation and help harmonize the ambitions of stakeholders in the region." (Ayad Ahmed)

POLAND CONFIRMS LIFTING CIA AGENTS OUT OF IRAQ IN 1990. The Polish Office of State Protection (UOP) has officially announced for the first time that it extracted CIA agents from Iraq in 1990, Poland's leading independent daily "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 13 May. The UOP website states: "The operation of taking U.S. officers from Iraq by the Polish intelligence in 1990 was met with huge acclaim on the international arena."

Unconfirmed sources say that the operation was carried out by Gromoslaw Czempinski and commanded by Henryk Jasik. The CIA agents were reportedly disguised as Polish construction workers. Part of Poland's foreign debt was reportedly written off as a result. (Ayad Ahmed)

IRAQ PARTICIPATING IN INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT MEETING IN RIYADH. Iraq is participating in the Arab Organization for Industrial Development and Mining preliminary meeting. The two-day meeting convenes in the Saudi capital on 14 May.

In a statement carried by an Iraqi satellite television channel, the Iraqi minister of mining and industry and the leader of the Iraqi delegation to the meeting, engineer Muyassar Raja Shalah, said Iraq's participation "comes within the framework of the invitation extended by Dr. Hashim Bin Abdullah, Saudi minister of industry and electricity, with the purpose of coordinating Arab industrial integration and boosting capabilities in the fields of industry, energy, and mining."

"We are taking part because we believe in participating in all Arab activities and hope that we can work on developing and reinforcing Iraqi-Saudi economic and industrial relations."

Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmad Bin Abdulaziz, in a statement on 11 May to journalists covering a scientific and computer contest in Riyadh, commented on the visit by the Iraqi minister. Responding to a question on whether the visit heralds the return of normal relations between Riyadh and Baghdad, he said: "Iraq is a brotherly country. Moreover, Saudi-Iraqi cooperation existed for a long time and will continue in the future too." (Ayad Ahmed)

BA'ATH PAPER URGES U.K. TO CHANGE POLICY AND TALK SERIOUSLY. Iraqi writer Dr. Ibrahim Khalil Al-Allaf wondered in the 12 May issue of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party newspaper "Al-Thawrah" if British policy towards his country would change. "In all, or let us say most, of the positions that the British governments [have taken] towards Iraq and the Arab nation," says Al-Allaf, "the Zionist influence was clear and the higher British interest was absent. Now voices in Britain demanding a revision of British policy toward Iraq have begun to rise. A huge British parliamentary delegation, headed by Labor parliamentarian George Galloway, visited Iraq. Galloway noted that the call for reconsidering British policy towards Iraq is receiving growing support."

"We call on the British, out of the deep-rooted and diversified Iraqi-British consider their higher interests and distance themselves from the Americans and their arrogant acts of aggression against Iraq. We call on them to study the possibility of a serious, wise, and balanced dialogue with Iraq. This would be better for them than following the American mirage and the dreams of little Bush and his administration of changing the situation in Iraq to serve the American interests." The article concludes with a question: "But will the British officials in the government take this step?" (Ayad Ahmed)