24 June 2002, Volume 5, Number 18
BUSH ADMINISTRATION POLICY ON IRAQ. "The Washington Post" on 16 June reported that President George W. Bush has authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to use all means at its disposal, including the use of lethal force, to capture Saddam Husseyn. A front-page lead by the well-known investigative reporter Bob Woodward said that President Bush signed an intelligence order early this year which expanded a previous presidential finding designed to oust Saddam.
The newspaper said the new order calls for: increased support to Iraqi opposition groups and forces inside and outside Iraq including money, weapons, equipment, training, and intelligence information; expanded efforts to collect intelligence within the Iraqi government, military, security service, and overall population where pockets of intense anti-Saddam sentiment have been detected; and possible use of CIA and U.S. special forces teams similar to those deployed in Afghanistan since the 11 September terrorist attacks. Such forces would be authorized to kill Saddam if they were acting in self-defense.
"The Post" said that the Bush administration has allocated tens of millions of dollars to the covert program. But the newspaper reported the CIA Director George Tenet had told President Bush that the CIA effort alone, without accompanying military action and economic and diplomatic pressure, has probably only a 10 to 20 percent chance of succeeding. A source was quoted as saying that CIA covert action should be viewed as "preparatory" to a military strike so the agency can identify targets, intensify intelligence gathering on the ground in Iraq, and build relations with alternative future leaders and groups if Saddam is ousted.
U.S. congressional leaders said that they supported President Bush's decision to take covert steps to overthrow Saddam Husseyn. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said, "We should try to do it first covertly or with special operations but, if not, be prepared to do what's necessary." Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "I don't think there's any question that if Saddam Husseyn's around five years from now, we've failed." Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member on the Select Intelligence Committee, said, "I believe the president is on the right track, he's determined to do this, and I'm certainly going to support him." Democrat Tom Daschle (D-SD), the Senate majority leader, said that there was "broad support for regime change in Iraq." Congressman Dick Armey (R-TX), the House majority leader, said, "I'm sure [it] is wise and a prudent thing to do."
Iraq dismissed the reports. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri on 17 June told reporters in Baghdad, "It is not new...the United States has been conspiring against Iraq over the last 30 years." He went on to say: "U.S. policy is trying to deceive world public opinion from time to time. We have been confronting U.S. aggression and we have heard a lot of such threats over the last 11 years," Reuters reported.
Former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter interpreted the news as a U.S. bid to kill any notion of Iraq allowing back weapons-inspection teams. Ritter, who has become an opponent of U.S. policy on Iraq, said that Iraq would now try to insist that nobody who might be a CIA operative would be on the inspection teams. Writing in the "Los Angeles Times" on 19 June, Ritter said that during his time as a chief inspector there were dozens of personnel described as missile experts and logistics experts but who were in reality drawn from U.S. units like Delta Force and the CIA Special Activities Staff. He also said there were teams of British radio-intercept operators, who listened in on the conversations of Saddam Husseyn's inner circle.
Ritter wrote that now President Bush has specifically authorized American covert-operations forces to remove Saddam, the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime that has shown itself susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence services hostile to Iraq. The leaked CIA covert operations plan, he continued, effectively kills any chance of inspectors returning to Iraq.
On 19 June, "The New York Times" reported that many in the Bush administration expect attempts at ousting Saddam Husseyn short of an all-out military assault will fail. It said that there was also disagreement over how to proceed with a more robust military strategy. The newspaper reported that the previous day CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks had presented Pentagon officials with a strategy paper that laid out his military requirements for toppling Saddam Husseyn. General Franks was scheduled to brief President Bush on 19 June.
On 20 June U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said that Saddam Husseyn represented a "gathering danger" to the U.S. "We are greatly concerned about the possible link-up between terrorists and regimes that have or seek weapons of mass destruction. In the case of Saddam Husseyn, we've got a dictator who is clearly pursuing and already possesses some of these weapons. A regime that hates America and everything we stand for must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction."
Cheney was speaking at a political fund-raiser in Detroit but stopped short of saying there were any established ties between Baghdad and the Al-Qaeda network. But he said that the possibility of such links was too great to ignore, especially in light of Saddam's defiance of UN weapons-inspection programs and international oversight. "This gathering danger requires the most urgent, deliberate, and decisive response. It is very clear that our enemies are determined to do further significant damage to the American people. Wars are not won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy anywhere necessary, to preempt great stress to our country," he said.
President Bush had concluded last October that the U.S. had to act against Saddam, according to a long analysis in "The Wall Street Journal" of 14 June. The newspaper reported that in the chaotic days after the 11 September hijackings, President Bush had sided with those calling for restraint. But in late October the president received a "series of chilling briefings" that persuaded him that Iraq posed a major threat to the U.S. The briefings referred to intelligence reports of an even more spectacular attack. The president was said to be particularly concerned that four former Pakistani nuclear scientists had been in touch with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Although Iraq could not be linked to any nuclear plot, it topped the list of countries with possible arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and the apparent will to use them. Iraq was judged irresponsible enough to make its arsenal available to Al-Qaeda, the newspaper reported.
President Bush directed his top national security aides to form a doctrine of preemptive action against states and terrorist groups trying to develop weapons of mass destruction into a foundation of a new national security strategy, "The New York Times" reported on 17 June. The newspaper reported that Iraq was clearly first on the target list for such action. It said that the strategy probably would be completed in August, but it would make it clear that the U.S. has options beyond armed intervention. These options would include joint operations with Russia and other powers. (Simon Henderson)
IRAQ TO DEMAND ANSWERS FROM KOFI ANNAN. Iraq appears to developing its response to U.S. pressure for the return of UN weapons inspectors. On 16 June Saddam Husseyn met some of his closest associates and most senior advisers to discuss what the official Iraq News Agency (INA) said were "the topics of the next round of dialogue with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan."
Apart from Saddam, those attending the meeting were: Izzat Ibrahim (vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, or RCC), Tariq Aziz (deputy prime minister and member of the RCC), Ali Hassan al-Majid (Saddam's cousin and a member of the RCC), Sadoun Hammadi (speaker of the National Assembly), Hikmat Ibrahim al-Azzawi and Abdel Tawwab Huwaysh (deputy prime ministers), Ahmed Khudayyir (head of the presidential office), Mohammed Sahhaf (minister of information), and Naji Sabri (foreign minister).
INA said that Iraq had presented a number of essential questions for review by the UN Security Council but had not received any answers. A memorandum would be sent to Kofi Annan demanding clear answers. Iraq had called on Annan not to delve into "specific partial issues, but rather to discuss basic issues on the basis of international law and not on the basis of U.S. wishes and those who support them." The official statement went on: "The true solution lies in a full, comprehensive and final lifting of the blockade. Within this solution, there should be an agreement on an appropriate transparency that exposes the lies of the Americans and those who are saying with them that Iraq possesses chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons of mass destruction." (Simon Henderson)
SADDAM WARNS MINISTERS ABOUT CORRUPTION. In an extraordinary address at the regular council of ministers meeting on 13 June, Saddam Husseyn warned his ministers not to be corrupt. The report of the meeting was carried on state television. Without any trace of irony, given the prominence in business dealings of his own sons, Saddam said: "All of you are married and have families. Certainly, you are concerned with their reputation because any harm to their reputation will also harm your reputation. Everyone of us does his best so that our sons will not become deviants."
Apparently more pointedly, Saddam went on: "The sons of a minister are the employees of his ministry. Do not be annoyed by my frankness. You are clean. However, some of you do not exert efforts to keep others clean. I will not be satisfied if the minister himself is clean. I want the minister to exert efforts in order to keep the people who work with him clean." He continued, "If our administrative departments become corrupt, this means America has defeated us." But then later Saddam said, "My remarks are not addressed to a certain minister." (Simon Henderson)
U.S. EXPELS DIPLOMAT FROM IRAQI UN MISSION. On 14 June the U.S. declared persona non grata Abdul Rahman Saad, a first secretary at the Iraqi mission to the United Nations in New York City. Saad has to leave the U.S. by the end of June. "The New York Times" reported he was listed as being in charge of economic affairs at the mission but American officials believe he was the chief intelligence officer and tried to recruit American citizens. The Iraqi mission sent a letter to the American mission in response, asking for more information. Iraq said that it regarded "the activities of Abdul Rahman Saad to be within his official capacity." The Iraqi ambassador to the UN, Mohammad al-Douri, said that Saad was an economist who served on a UN committee that deals with economic and social affairs. He said that Iraqi diplomats frequently meet with Americans and other foreigners about the impact of the embargo on Iraq. "I have to talk about the plight of the Iraqi people. They consider this spying?" al-Douri said.
Ten other Iraqi diplomats have returned home in recent years leaving behind unpaid credit-card bills totaling more than $75,000, "The Sun" newspaper of New York reported on 20 June. The newspaper said that the 10 diplomats, which it quoted a source as saying were a combination of "real diplomats, spies, and thugs," had served at the Iraqi mission at various times from 1993 until earlier this year. All 10 diplomats had accounts at the Chase Manhattan Bank branch in the lobby of the United Nations. The newspaper said that banks are generally reluctant to issue credit cards to diplomats but all 10 had presented letters from the financial attache at the Iraqi mission vouching for them. All ran up their credit card bills in the weeks before they left the U.S. for other assignments. (Simon Henderson)
OIL EXPORTS HIT BY CHANGE IN PRICING POLICY. Iraqi oil exports remained low at about 443,000 barrels per day for the week ending on 14 June. This was 71,000 barrels per day more than the previous week, but far from Iraq's sustainable export rate of about 2.2 million barrels per day, the "Financial Times" reported on 18 June.
The newspaper reported that Iraqi crude exports had fallen because of a dispute on retroactive pricing as authorized by the United Nations. The policy, whose strongest supporters are the U.S. and Britain, seeks to prevent Iraq successfully demanding to be paid a surcharge by purchasers of its crude. Baghdad says that retroactive pricing is keeping oil buyers away and denies that a surcharge exists. On 12 June Iraq protested strongly in a message to UN Secretary-General Annan that the actions of the U.S. and British representatives on the oil committee were "illegal." The next day Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri protested again, saying Iraq's oil exports had been reduced by 500,000 barrels per day and this would "have a negative impact on the oil revenues of the UN oil-for-food program." On 18 June Russia issued a fresh call to end the pricing scheme, which it said was hampering Moscow's interests in the region. Russian oil buyers form the majority of purchasers of Iraqi oil.
In its review of energy statistics for 2001, the oil company BP noted that a 2.7 percent decline (720,000 barrels per day) in OPEC oil production during the year came primarily from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. "The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2002" said that the decline was almost exactly offset by increases in non-OPEC production. Launching the review, BP Chief Executive Lord Browne said, "The market sustained a secure flow of energy because there are diverse sources of supply." He noted that "the U.S. imported 55 percent of its oil needs [in 2001] but it did so from 60 different countries, no one of which accounted for more than 16 percent of the total." He added, "that diversity can be sustained because there are now a number of major sources of supply coming on stream" and "those concerned about energy should concentrate their efforts on maintaining that diversity." (Simon Henderson)
COMPANIES GIVE UP REPARATION CLAIMS UNDER IRAQI PRESSURE. During the last four years, 185 companies have quietly dropped a total of $2.9 billion in reparations claims against Iraq for commercial damage during the 1990-91 Gulf War, "The Wall Street Journal" reported on 19 June. The companies included giant multinationals such as DaimlerChrysler and GlaxoSmithKline. The newspaper reported that they had effectively walked away from millions in dollars in cash that is rightfully owed them by the Iraqi government because of a combination of Iraqi pressure and the companies' desire to do business with Iraq in the future.
Baghdad has been able to do this partly because the UN has granted it tremendous influence in awarding contracts as part of the oil-for-food program, "The Wall Street Journal" reported. It reported that when Iraq discovered that many of the companies for aid contracts also had filed war-related claims, it began telling them that dropping claims was a pre-condition for winning aid contracts. It quoted a letter to a Danish medical supply company from the Iraqi Ministry of Health: "We wish to draw your attention to the fact that your firm has presented a claim to the UN. You are kindly requested to withdraw your claim...otherwise we will stop dealing with your firm forever."
The newspaper said that U.S. officials regarded Iraq's tactics as blackmail but quoted an Iraqi official as defending it. Companies "make their own free decisions. It is not blackmail. It's not pressure. It's all legal and normal practice in international relations with regard to the settlement of claims," said Samir al-Nima, the Iraqi ambassador to the UN in Geneva.
Although the UN does not divulge either the names of the companies that have dropped claims or those that have received contracts from Iraq, "The Wall Street Journal" was able to review confidential UN records. It said that DaimlerChrysler withdrew its claim worth $30 million for losses related to vehicles and spare parts early last year. Since then, Iraq has awarded it six contracts for trucks and spares totaling $13 million and the company is negotiating to sell 100 more trucks. The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline withdrew a $1 million claim for goods seized by Iraq in Kuwait and has since been awarded contracts worth $27.7 million. The Austrian construction company Voest-Alpine even sent back a small award of nearly $40,000 as a goodwill gesture to Iraq. (Simon Henderson)
MILITARY EQUIPMENT IS 'BEING SMUGGLED VIA SYRIAN RAILWAY.' Iraq is receiving military equipment, including parts for weapons of mass destruction, via railway from Syria, "The Times" of London reported on 10 June. Quoting unnamed intelligence sources, the newspaper said that Iraq was using the link to import a range of weaponry, including tanks sold by Bulgaria to Syria some years ago, air defense equipment, Scud missile guidance systems, and surface-to-air missiles. The tanks were originally bought by Syria from Bulgaria several years ago while the surface-to-air missiles originally came from the Czech Republic. The newspaper said that the intelligence reports indicate that Baghdad may be receiving components for its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons program.
Syria, currently a member of the United Nations Security Council, opened the rail link between Aleppo and Mosul in August 2000. The route is used for some of the freight covered by the oil-for-food program. Although they are historical rivals, the two countries have improved relations in recent years. Iraqi oil has been transferred to Syria for more than a year through a rehabilitated pipeline, in contravention of UN rules. The oil is used domestically, enabling Syria to increase its own oil exports. Damascus denies this arrangement, saying that any oil in the pipeline is for testing it.
On 17 June, the same newspaper reported that Iraq was smuggling nuclear-related equipment banned by the UN on board aircraft that have been flying relief aid to Syria. Baghdad has sent more than 24 aircraft to Syria, carrying humanitarian supplies to help victims of a dam collapse. Unnamed intelligence agencies were quoted as saying that one aircraft carried flow-forming machines. These are used to make the sophisticated centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other aircraft carried back to Baghdad tank parts and spares for the Iraqi air force. (Simon Henderson)
IRAQ URGES KUWAIT TO MOVE TOWARDS BETTER TIES. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has called on Kuwait to take steps towards reconciliation after their agreement at the Arab summit in Beirut in March. The two countries agreed to end a war of words and cooperate on people missing since the 1991 Gulf War. Sabri said on 17 June in Baghdad, according to INA, that Iraq's media had been instructed to avoid any reference that may annoy the state of Kuwait. Iraq's Foreign Ministry sent a letter on 17 June to the International Committee of the Red Cross saying it was willing to discuss the issue of the missing persons.
On 9 June U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Kuwait for talks with Kuwaiti leaders, "The Washington Post" reported the next day. While there he also spoke to U.S. troops at Camp Doha, the U.S. pre-positioning facility that lies between Kuwait City and the border with Iraq. He told 1,000 assembled service personnel, "You are the people who stand between freedom and fear, between our people and a dangerous adversary that cannot be appeased, cannot be ignored, and cannot be allowed to win." (Simon Henderson)
DEBATE CONTINUES ON WHETHER ATTA MET IRAQI AGENT IN PRAGUE. "The Washington Times" reported on 19 June that U.S. intelligence officials have not yet seen evidence from the Czech government to confirm reports that one of the 11 September hijackers, Mohammed Atta, met an Iraqi agent in Prague. The newspaper said that differences on the meeting have triggered a dispute within the U.S. defense and intelligence establishments over Iraqi government involvement in terrorism and support of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Those in the U.S. intelligence community who oppose the Bush administration's hard-line policy towards Iraq have sought to dismiss intelligence on the Iraqi connection to 11 September. Intelligence officials acknowledge that Atta passed through Prague earlier in 2000 but are not able to place the second visit. In April 2001 the Czech government expelled the Iraqi diplomat he is alleged to have met, Ahmed al-Ani, for intelligence activities. (Simon Henderson)
IRAQI-AMERICAN CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON A FUTURE DEMOCRATIC IRAQ. A group of Iraqi-Americans organized a conference in Southfield, Michigan, on 1 June to discuss Iraq's future. Sponsored by 20 organizations, the event was attended by more than 300 people representing many ethnic and religious affiliations, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, Kurds, Mandaeans, Shia and Sunni Arabs, and Turkomen. The two organizing bodies were the Iraqi Democratic Union of America and the Iraqi Forum for Democracy. The organizers said that regime change in Iraq was not enough but should also be coupled with establishing democracy in Iraq, according to a report from the U.S. State Department's Office of International Information Programs. (Simon Henderson)
TURKOMAN REPRESENTATIVES SPEAK OUT. Representatives of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as well as a representative of the Iraqi Turkoman Front and speakers from the U.S. and Europe, attended an 8 June conference organized by the American University in Washington. Sami Kohen writes in the Turkish newspaper "Milliyet" that Ozdem Sanberk from the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation also made a presentation. Kohen said that the Kurdish representatives stated they envisage a federal system in Iraq in the post-Saddam period. While this was not unusual he noted that as Iraqi federal republic would be composed of two sections, one Kurdish, the other Arab, with the Kurdish section having extensive autonomy. He reported that in their presentations the Kurdish representatives did not make clear statements on what would be included in the Kurdish federated region, not openly mentioning Kirkuk. A participant who asked about this was applauded by Kurds attending the conference but did not receive a reply.
According to a report by kurdishmedia.com, the representative of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, Orhan Ketene, stated that Kirkuk is the Turkoman capital "and it will stay that way." Meanwhile the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported on 12 June that the Turkoman Front had asked Turkey to protect Iraqi Turkomen and help them obtain equal rights with other Iraqis. The front's representative, Mustafa Ziya, had just met with officials at the Middle East Department of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Afterward he spoke to journalists about the issue of Kirkuk. He responded to Kurdish demands for Kirkuk to be in a future Kurdish part of the Iraqi federation by saying: "On behalf of the Turkoman Front, I say that it is out of consideration. Kirkuk's history is clear. Everybody expresses his opinion but everyone has to see historical facts."
On 8 June the Turkoman Front newspaper, "Turkomaneli," published in Irbil, reported on a meeting of Turkoman leaders chaired by the leader of the Turkoman Front, Sanan Ahmad Agha. He stressed that "any plan that ignores the rights of the Turkomans and Assyrians or any other group from our people will not be successful." (Simon Henderson)