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Iraq Report: July 13, 2002

13 July 2002, Volume 5, Number 20

'AXIS OF EVIL' PURSUING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Britain's "Financial Times" on 9 July published the first results of a three-month investigation it conducted into the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, countries that were branded an "axis of evil" by U.S. President George W. Bush. The report concluded that all three countries are actively seeking to acquire nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. It also singled out Iraq for cultivating ties with Ukraine in its efforts to rebuild its WMD arsenal. The publication of the report came just days after talks broke down between the UN and Iraq, as a result of Iraq's continued refusal to allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country. (Ayad Ahmed)

NO IRAQ-UN AGREEMENT ON INSPECTIONS AND SANCTIONS. Two days of talks in Vienna between UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraq Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi have failed to produce an Iraqi agreement to allow UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq. The AP quoted Annan as saying on 5 July that "there has been some movement, but obviously not enough." He went on to say that the Iraqis needed to consult with Baghdad. Before the announcement, Annan and Sabri spoke privately but were apparently unable to come up with any face-saving measures. Diplomats, however, did agree to continue talks in Europe in the coming months, but no date was set for the next round of official talks.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said on 5 July that the administration was not surprised that the talks failed, pointing out that Iraqi statements prior to the talks foreshadowed their outcome. "Iraqi representatives continue to raise issues aimed at preventing and delaying a focus on its core obligations," she said. "We see no basis or need for prolonged discussions of Iraq's obligations."

Reuters on 5 July also quotes an unnamed State Department official as saying: "We are not surprised that the Iraqi regime did not agree." The source continued, "Neither the accounts of the previous discussions nor Iraq's public statements have shown any indication that the Iraqi regime is prepared to comply with UN Security Council resolutions."

Naji Sabri had made it clear that he wanted answers to many of the questions he submitted at the last talks in May, ranging from U.S. "regime change" threats to a timetable for the lifting of sanctions. Annan, however, has repeatedly replied that he is not in a position to answer any political questions concerning U.S. policy. But Sabri went on to accuse the Security Council of violating its own resolutions: "We need assurances from the United Nations," he said. "We are the victims of illegal practices forced by the United States on the Security Council. We have lost 1.67 million citizens as a result of the sanctions the Security Council imposed in clear violation of international law."

Before allowing inspectors to return, Iraq has been demanding the United Nations lift sanctions imposed on it after the Gulf War to free Kuwait. Under Security Council resolutions, sanctions can be lifted only when inspectors certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons have been destroyed, along with any missiles that could deliver them. Inspectors left Iraq in December 1998 just before the U.S. and its allies carried out operation Desert Fox to punish Iraq for having blocked the inspectors' work.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi daily "Babil," owned and supervised by Saddam's son, Uday, published an article on its website on 7 July titled "Questions Without Answers." The article is attributed to "Abu Hatem," a nom de plume widely believed to be used by Uday. The article focuses, in part, on the failed talks with the UN, saying: "...the talks are not for the sake of fulfilling the UN resolutions but for another basic aim, which is in their imagination: that Iraq produces germ and chemical warfare weapons, and that it still possesses long-range missiles.... The U.S. fear of the existence of these weapons and materials is due to the fact that the Americans and their military commanders say: we must not pressure Saddam Husseyn and force him into an embarrassing corner by, for example, coming close to Baghdad, as he would definitely use them against us. Thus they are desperately trying to learn the truth about the delusions and imaginations that exist in their minds: Do they really exist or not?"

"Babil" on 8 July accused UN Secretary-General Annan of adopting an "irresponsible" attitude during last week's failed talks in Vienna by aligning himself with U.S. wishes. "The irresponsible attitude of the United Nations was deliberately aimed at moving the situation in favor of the wish and desires of the United States," the Iraqi paper said, adding: "The scenario drawn up was aimed at leading our talks with the UN secretary-general into an impasse, as the President of the U.S. administration of evil (George W. Bush) wanted."

There was one positive outcome to the Vienna talks: Iraq agreed to return Kuwait's national archives that were looted during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990-1991. (Ayad Ahmed)

...BUT MOST COUNCIL MEMBERS WANT TALKS TO CONTINUE. Some Security Council members are growing impatient with the slow progress of the UN talks with Iraq, but most want them to continue. The German news agency dpa on 8 July quotes British Ambassador to the UN Jeremy Greenstock -- whose country holds this month's rotating Security Council presidency -- as telling reporters after a closed-door council briefing, "Certainly, the great majority of members of the council want these discussions to continue." Baghdad's state-controlled "Al-Jumhuriya" daily reported on 9 July that the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement the previous day asserting that Russia "totally rejects any possible military action against Iraq, insisting that the situation cannot be resolved by other than political and diplomatic means, based on Security Council resolutions." Russia also called for continuing the UN talks. Russia, France, and China often have adopted a conciliatory approach to Iraq at Security Council sessions. (Ayad Ahmed)

DISSIDENT IRAQI OFFICERS PREPARE TO ATTACK. The U.S. will launch a military strike against Iraq "within a few months," exiled former commander of the Iraqi Republican Guard General Najib al-Salhi said in remarks published on 8 July by the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily "Al-Hayat." Leaks to the U.S. media of possible attack scenarios were a "clear message from Washington to the Iraqis of its determination to overthrow the regime," al-Salhi said, but he added, "Military strikes should aim to root out the head of the regime and not the infrastructure or civilian targets." He also called on Iraqi opposition groups to "unify their activities...and cooperate to help set up a democratic regime" in Iraq after Saddam's removal. Najib al-Salhi defected in 1995 and is one of 70-90 former Iraqi officers meeting in London to discuss overthrowing the Iraqi regime.

The three-day meeting of Iraqi military officers is being hosted by the Iraqi National Coalition, according to London's "The Times" on 11 July. American and British diplomats are attending the event as observers, and an anonymous "U.S. source" was quoted as saying: "This is entirely their own show. They have organized it themselves and are running it on a shoestring. Frankly, we are impressed with what they have achieved."

The organizers want the meeting's participants to declare that the military would not succeed Saddam's regime, according to "The Times," and they want the military to restrict itself to defensive duties while the country has a democracy that reflects the country's major ethnic groups. Some officials in Washington and London, however, would like to replace Saddam with a strong leader who could restore stability and avert possible ethnic conflicts, "The Times" wrote. General Nizar Khazraji is the most prominent example of such a leader -- he is the former Iraqi chief of staff, the most senior defector from the military, and many Iraqi officers remain loyal to him. He will not attend the London meeting, however, because he is being investigated for war crimes, particularly the use of chemical weapons against Kurds and Iranians. (Ayad Ahmed, Bill Samii)

U.S. PLAN CALLS FOR MASSIVE ATTACK ON IRAQ. A draft U.S. military plan for an invasion of Iraq envisions a multipronged attack involving tens of thousands of Marines and soldiers, probably invading from Kuwait, "The New York Times" reported on 5 July. Citing a person familiar with the document, the paper said the highly classified plan calls for air, land, and sea-based forces to attack from three directions in a campaign aimed at toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Husseyn.

A source familiar with U.S. strategy towards Iraq, however, is quoted by Reuters on 5 July as saying that the plan appears to be an outdated version of one prepared by the Pentagon's Central Command many months, if not years, ago. The source, who asked Reuters to withhold his name, went on to say that the Central Command's commander, General Tommy Franks, has since presented a refined version of the plan, putting more emphasis on the use of Iraqi opposition forces and U.S. air power.

President Bush has openly declared his desire to remove Saddam by military force if necessary, but has offered few details of how he plans to accomplish that goal. The document cited by "The New York Times," however, envisions hundreds of war planes based in as many as eight countries unleashing a massive air assault aimed at thousands of targets, including airfields, roads, and fiber-optics communications sites. The plan also calls for special operations forces or covert CIA operatives to strike at depots or labs used for storing or manufacturing Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction, and the missiles to deliver them.

Commenting on the newspaper's report, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on 5 July: "The Pentagon engages in contingency planning of all types around the world." He dismissed any speculation about the significance of the reported plan. The paper quotes an unnamed senior defense official as saying: "Right now, we're at the stage of conceptual thinking and brainstorming. We're pretty far along." The Pentagon spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, also told "The New York Times" on 11 July: "It is the responsibility of the Department of Defense to develop contingency plans and, from time to time, to update them."

The Central Command document does not contain -- according to the New York Times News Service -- a time line of when American forces could start deploying to the Gulf region, or how long it would take to put them in place. Nor does it answer one of the big questions facing administration officials: how will Saddam react if there is a large buildup of conventional forces, such as the U.S. had in the Gulf War? "The Iraqis aren't just going to sit on their butts while we put in 250,000 people," a military analyst told the news service.

In an editorial on 6 July, "The New York Times" pointed out that congressional leaders, including top Democrats, have rushed to voice approval for the popular notion of getting rid of the Iraqi leader. "They have not, however, lived up to their responsibility for demanding a full public discourse about how to pursue this attractive goal with maximum chances of success and minimum risk to American forces, interests, and alliances...War with Iraq, if it comes, is still many months away. What is urgently needed now is informed and serious debate," the paper said. (Ayad Ahmed)

KURDISH LEADERS RELUCTANT TO ATTACK SADDAM. The two main Kurdish political groups in northern Iraq -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Mas'ud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani -- have expressed their reluctance to support U.S. moves against Saddam Husseyn. The New York Times News Service reports on 8 July that the Kurdish leaders interviewed during the past week in northern Iraq want "assurances" that any new post-Saddam regime will be a "democratic, pluralistic, responsible government" that would safeguard Kurdish interests within a federal framework before they consider any support for U.S.-led military or covert action aimed at toppling the Iraqi leader. Meanwhile, a PUK official told Reuters on 8 July that his group's "peshmerga fighters" clashed with militants aligned with Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam), a group believed to be tied to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist network. The official indicated that at least nine PUK fighters and 12 Islamists were killed in the fighting. Jund al-Islam, some of whose members were allegedly trained in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, is also reported to enjoy the support of Saddam's government. (Ayad Ahmed)

BUSH REPEATS VOW TO OUST SADDAM. U.S. President George W. Bush on 8 July reaffirmed his pledge to force Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn from power, Western news agencies reported. "It is a stated policy of this government to have regime change [in Iraq]. And it hasn't changed. And we'll use all tools at our disposal to do so," Bush said. Bush declined to comment on a 5 July "New York Times" report that a draft military plan had been prepared for a possible multipronged attack on Iraq involving tens of thousands of U.S. troops, saying that "there [are] different ways" to achieve regime change. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a daily briefing that Iraq's failure to use the opportunity provided by the UN talks "to come clean for the world...would have to indicate suspicions about what they're up to." Boucher's assertion that Iraq has failed to indicate it intends to implement Security Council resolutions can be seen as a reminder of Washington's position that military action against the Iraqi regime does not require any additional UN mandate. (Ayad Ahmed)

BAGHDAD PREPARING FOR INVASION. There has been no official Iraqi response to the most recent report about U.S. war plans. Reuters, however, quotes Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz as saying on 7 July that a U.S. assault on Baghdad would entrench, not weaken, Iraqi president Saddam Husseyn.

Aziz, on a six-day visit to Cape Town at the invitation of South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, added: "Yes, we know they are preparing to attack Iraq...but I am not scared. We are very well prepared to protect the country, to protect our independence and to preserve our dignity."

While attending a small rally of ruling African National Congress supporters in a Muslim district of Cape Town, Aziz told the audience, "We will survive. Whoever in the Arab world and in the Third World fights the Americans will become stronger in the eyes of his people, so no other leadership is going to come to Iraq. We will continue leading Iraq."

On 9 July the South African news agency (SAPA) quoted Aziz as saying that Iraq has approached the UN to call for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990. "We presented to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York recently a number of concerns about the future of Iraq and the toll of the sanctions in that country," Aziz said in Pretoria before returning to Iraq. "We also raised the interference by the U.S. and the U.K. in Iraq's domestic issues and the plans by the two countries to attack us.... When two members [U.S. and U.K.] violate the council's resolution they themselves created, that [is] what needs to be solved and settled. We have done our best to implement all the provisions that were imposed on us, [including] the recognition of the sovereignty of Kuwait. Now the UN must act," Aziz said.

The pan-Arab, London-based "Al-Quds Al-Araby" also quotes the official Iraqi News Agency as saying on 7 July that the Iraqi National Assembly is to hold an "extraordinary session" this week to discuss ways to stand up to "American threats."

In other Arab press reaction, the English-language "Jordan Times" reported on 7 July that Jordan categorically rejects reports "alleging that the Kingdom's territories might be used by U.S. forces in their expected attack against Iraq." The paper cites British press reports this weekend that the U.S. was planning to launch a strike on Iraq from neighboring Middle Eastern countries, with Jordan used as a main launching pad for the attack. It adds that Jordan is doing its best, and is continuing its regional and international efforts, to prevent any strike against Iraq. (Ayad Ahmed)

NATION OF ISLAM LEADER VISITS IRAQ. U.S. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, during a two-day visit to Baghdad, on 7 July proposed inviting representatives of the Iraqi government to address the U.S. Congress "to defend themselves and their position." Speaking at a press conference, Farrakhan also said he would ask for a Congressional hearing ahead of any U.S. military action against Iraq. "We appeal to the fairness of the American people, that before one American soldier should be put in harm's way, or one bomb dropped on Iraq, that there should and there must be a Congressional hearing. This proposed war should be debated and those who desire war with Iraq should put before the American people the reasons that justify such an action," he said. He was on his third visit to Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War.

During his visit, Farrakhan met Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, who used the occasion to criticize U.S. policy towards Iraq. A report by Iraqi state television on 7 July quoted Ramadan as saying that the Bush administration "is terrorist and criminal and adopts the policy of arrogance and aggression to impose its hegemony on other peoples and plunder their resources." The Iraqi TV report went on to say that Farrakhan "expressed his pride in, and high appreciation for, the people of Iraq, led by President Saddam Husseyn, and what they have achieved thanks to their steadfastness, courage, and sacrifices; namely, their heroic stands against the U.S. policy of hegemony." (Ayad Ahmed)