2 August 2002, Volume 5, Number 23
JORDAN, IRAQ UPSET AT SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT. Jordanian officials and the state-controlled press have been sharply critical of the resumption of the enforcement of Iraqi sanctions in the Red Sea off Jordan's only port of Aqaba. The U.S. has not stringently inspected shipping at the port of Aqaba since 1994. According to a 28 July Associated Press report, the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet assigned a British warship on 9 July to patrol the northern Red Sea. The 27 July Arabic-language Jordanian daily "Al-Ra'y," quoting "a responsible source" said, "The government has stressed to the U.S. side that it would be upset if such [inspection] procedures were applied." According to the 28 July issue of the London-based Arabic-language daily "Al-Hayat," Jordanian Information Minister Muhammad al-Udwan said that Amman "will refuse to subject ships at Aqaba's port to inspection." The following day, "Al-Ra'y" published a commentary titled "The Siege of Aqaba Again," in which the generally liberal columnist Fahd al-Fanik wrote, "If the report is true, the foolish U.S. decision requires total rejection and denunciation."
Iraqi oil imports remain a significant part of Jordan's trade. Oil and petroleum products accounted for 15 percent of Jordan's total imports in the first five months of 2002, Jordan's Petra news agency reported on 27 July, and Iraqi trade with Jordan is increasing, according to the 25 July "Jordan Times." Baghdad has removed 14 Jordanian firms from the anti-Israel blacklist, after they certified that they no longer traded with Israel. The 28 July "Financial Times" reported that Iraq is linking its international trade to other countries' political stance toward the Iraqi government. According to Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih, "Iraq is willing to promote relationships with countries that have a positive attitude...and [Baghdad] does have a desire to decrease economic and trade relations with countries which show a negative attitude." Salih's comments come one week after the Iraqi government halved imports of Australian wheat (See "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 June 2002).
According to the 27 July "Al-Ra'y," some shipping agents complain that the U.S. is unfairly targeting Jordanian smuggling, a sentiment shared by the 31 July left-wing Israeli daily "Ha'aretz." According to columnist al-Fanik, "What adds insult to injury is that the U.S.A. does not impose any kind of monitoring or inspection regime on Syrian, Turkish, Iranian, or United Arab Emirates ports, and singles out Jordan."
Under the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 986, the "oil-for-food" program, Iraq must sell its oil through the UN, which in turn applies the proceeds to Iraq's humanitarian needs. However, smuggling of oil and other goods remains rampant. According to the 28 July Associated Press report, a May 2002 U.S. government report found that Iraq smuggled up to 480,000 barrels of oil daily in March 2002, and that Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn had earned $4.3 billion from oil smuggling since 1997. According to "The Washington Post" of 14 February, Saddam raises approximately $1 billion annually through the Iraq-Syria pipeline. "The Wall Street Journal" reported on 2 May that Iraq raised an additional $300 million through illegal surcharges on its oil sales. The 25 July "Financial Times" cited oil analysts' estimates that Syria currently imports 150,000 barrels a day from Iraq outside the UN sanctions regulations.
According to a 30 July Reuters report, Iraq waived its illegal surcharge in a July contract with the Turkish state Tupras oil company. (Reports from northern Iraq indicate that Turkey no longer allows significant oil smuggling across its border so as to deprive Mas'ud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of customs duties. As a result, sources say that the KDP is now only paying 50 percent of local government officials' salaries.)
The Iraqi government has strongly protested UN enforcement of Iraqi obligations. According to a 27 July report on the Arabic-language Iraqi News Agency website, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan complaining that U.S. and Australian forces "continue to attack ships that transport civilian goods in and out of Iraqi territorial waters." Sabri complained that American and Australian naval personnel enforcing the UN sanctions interrogate Iraqi crews. However, inspections of ships repeatedly find smuggled Iraqi oil and foodstuffs, according to the U.S. State Department's International Information Programs (http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/iraq/iraq99a.htm). (Michael Rubin)
WILL PRINCE HASSAN HAVE A ROLE IN POST-SADDAM IRAQ? The surprise appearance of the Hashemite Prince Hassan ibn Talal of Jordan at the 12-14 July meeting of exiled Iraqi military officials has resulted in continued speculation about a role for the 55-year-old brother of Jordan's late King Husseyn. Prince Hassan denied that he "had any special agenda...either [Hassan or his cousin Sharif Ali] could plausibly be enthroned in Baghdad," according to the 12 August 2002 American weekly "The National Review." The 24 July "National Post" of Canada, and the 19 July "The Guardian" of Britain, speculated that Hassan's speech, which focused on his family's historical ties to Iraq, might signal the ascendance of Hassan as a reconciliation figure able to span Iraq's complicated ethnic, tribal, and political divides. Hassan's cousins ruled the Kingdom of Iraq until 1958, when leftist army officers executed his 19-year-old cousin King Faysal II in a bloody revolution. Hassan spent his boyhood summers in Iraq, according to the 19 July "The Daily Telegraph," while Sharif 'Ali, head of the Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Movement and pretender to the Iraqi throne, left the country when he was just 2 years old. "The Guardian" reported that Hassan had already won the support of high-level Pentagon officials like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi praised Hassan, according to the 15 July "Financial Times," calling the former Jordanian crown prince and regent a "friend of the Iraqi people."
The Jordanian press, however, was scathing in its criticism of Hassan's attendance. Hassan's nephew, Jordan's King Abdullah II, told the official Petra news agency, "Prince Hassan blundered into something he did not realize he was getting into and we're all picking up the pieces." Iranian reaction to a Hashemite role in post-Saddam Iraq was harsh. On 20 July, the hard-line Iranian daily "Siyasat-i Ruz" published a lengthy commentary arguing against any role for Prince Hassan or return to monarchy in Iraq, saying the Iraqi people should establish an Islamic theocracy. (Michael Rubin)
BAGHDAD EXPLAINS AL-JAZEERA SUSPENSION. According to a 25 July report in the official Arabic daily "Babil" -- edited by Saddam Husseyn's elder son Uday -- the Iraqi government suspended the Baghdad bureau of the Qatar-based pan-Arab satellite television channel Al-Jazeera for 10 days in response to "a certain program" in which correspondent Dyar al-Umari used unapproved "expressions and sentences." (The Al-Jazeera correspondent apparently referred to the "ruling Ba'th Party" rather than using its full title, the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party, and he also referred to Saddam as simply "President Saddam Husseyn" or "Saddam Husseyn" rather than using his longer official title; see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 July 2002.) The "Babil" commentary criticized the television bureau's closure because "there is coordination between the channel and responsible [Iraqi Ba'th Party] information officials," and so Al-Jazeera should be considered not just Arab, but Iraqi as well. The editorial continued that the closure of Al-Jazeera was counterproductive because "many channels are beyond the domain of our control, such as CNN, CBS, BBC, and others," and that these stations "because of the absence of coordination and cooperation...beam their malicious information ploys as they wish." The implication was that the Iraqi government had silenced a friend. This signals the likelihood that Dyar al-Umari will soon be rehabilitated. Iraq does allow some foreign correspondents and television crews to operate in Iraq, but it does not allow the general populace to watch foreign television. In the Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Iraq, however, Iraqis have the freedom to watch satellite television. (Michael Rubin)
PENTAGON PRAISES NO-FLY-ZONE PATROLS. Pentagon officials have strongly endorsed the continued enforcement of no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, according to "The Washington Post" on 26 July. One senior Pentagon official said, "I don't detect anything less than enthusiasm for the fundamentals, which is to keep the Iraqi regime from being a danger to its neighbors or the Iraqi people." Another Pentagon official said that no-fly-zone enforcement "keeps our skills high on knowledge of the area and keeps our competency high in flying over the area. The benefits you get from that -- should you decide to do something militarily -- are great."
Previously, some Washington commentators criticized the expense and militarily effectiveness of the no-fly zones. In a 29 March 2001 "Chicago Tribune" opinion article, Micah Zenko wrote that, "No-fly zones are a counterproductive mission in search of an overall strategy of dealing with the threat Saddam Hussein poses to the region and his people." (Zenko was a Brookings Institution foreign-policy researcher and former intern with the antisanctions group, Education for Peace in Iraq Center.)
U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Edward "Buster" Ellis, commander of Operation Northern Watch, told "The Washington Post" that the Iraqis have not succeeded in shooting down any allied aircraft because they no longer turn on their radar tracking systems, but rather fire antiaircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles blindly, although "the potential is there for them to get lucky enough." According to Ellis, the downside of the patrols is that the Iraqis have "honed their evasion skills and learned a lot about U.S. capabilities." On 28 July, Baghdad's official Republic of Iraq Television condemned "the U.S. and British ravens of evil" and said that the U.S. and British aircraft "were confronted by the heroes of our missile forces and ground defenses that have forced them to return accursed and defeated to their bases in the land of Kuwait." (Michael Rubin)
NEW EVIDENCE OF IRAQI WEAPONS DRIVE. Iraqi procurement agents have sought to purchase stainless-steel tubing used exclusively for gas centrifuges, "a key component in making the material for nuclear bombs," according to "The Washington Times" on 26 July. According to Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, stainless-steel tubing would be necessary to counteract the corrosiveness of radioactive gas. Former Iraqi nuclear-weapons program official Khidhir Hamza said that Iraq had approximately 400 potential uranium-enrichment sites at the time of his 1994 defection. Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn's own rhetoric is also cause for concern. In September 2000, Saddam publicly called for his "nuclear mujahedin" to "defeat the enemy," according to an unclassified CIA report to Congress on the acquisition of weapons technology (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/bian/bian_sep_2001.htm). According to the "The Washington Times," Turkish military intelligence has informed the Pentagon that Iraq possesses "at least one nuclear device," but Pentagon officials have not yet confirmed the report.
Recent intelligence reports indicate that Iraq is actively expanding its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, as well as its missile program, "The Washington Times" added. U.S. intelligence analysts are scouring satellite imagery for signs of the rumored Tahaddy biological-weapons laboratory, which is said to employ 85 scientists, according to "The Washington Post" on 31 July. According to the article, several recent Iraqi defectors have talked of the facility that they say includes underground testing facilities and stores strains of a pathogen resembling the deadly Ebola virus.
Prior to the Iraqi government's declaration that it would no longer allow UN weapons inspectors to do their job, UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) Chairman Richard Butler uncovered evidence that a facility in Daura had been used for biological-weapons production. Butler wrote to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that at Daura, "Research was also undertaken on viral agents for Iraq's biological-warfare program, including camelpox, enterovirus 70, and rotavirus." At Daura, Butler found diverted equipment originally acquired under the UN oil-for-food program (See "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 April 2002). Regardless, the state-controlled Republic of Iraq Television on 28 July "challenged" British Prime Minister Tony Blair "to produce one shred of evidence" that Iraq seeks to produce weapons of mass destruction. And Saddam told the station on 30 July that allegations of Iraqi weapons programs are "almost a joke." (Michael Rubin)
IRAQIS PREPARE FOR WAR. Two hundred fifty Iraqi members of parliament demonstrated in a 28 July "Down with America and Zionism" rally in Baghdad, United Press International reported. Parliamentarian Salim Kubaysi, head of the Arab and International Affairs Committee, told journalists, "Iraqis, who are trained to use all types of weapons, are capable of repelling any attack America might launch against their country."
The rise in rhetoric from Washington and Baghdad is having an impact on the Iraqi populace, according to the Iraqi opposition "Iraq Press." On 27 July, "Iraq Press" said that Qusay Husseyn's Special Security Force had established a cordon around Baghdad following reports of possible infiltration by armed opposition groups. Qusay Husseyn is the younger son of Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn and is considered a possible candidate for succession by the regime. Also on 27 July, "Iraq Press" reported that Saddam's older son Uday had launched a campaign to hunt down deserters -- reportedly as many as 10 percent of conscripts a, according to military police statistics. On 30 July, "Iraq Press" said that, "tens of thousands of residents are moving out of Baghdad to more secure sites as fears mount that the United States will soon unleash a massive air and missile bombardment of the Iraqi capital." As Iraqis conclude war is imminent, many are hoarding vital supplies and causing a sharp rise in consumer prices. The Iraqi government has also hoisted balloons over presidential palaces and other sensitive sites in an effort to hinder aircraft and cruise missiles, according to the 29 July "Iraq Press." (Michael Rubin)
TURKEY'S IRAQ BALANCING ACT. Turkish officials are seeking to balance their concerns over possible instability in Iraq should Washington press ahead with a military campaign with a desire to influence the formation of any post-Saddam Iraqi regime. On 31 July, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told the mass-circulation "Sabah" daily, "We are carrying out both military and political preparations." According to the 27 July "Turkish Daily News," the Turkish National Security Board (MGK) convened to discuss the recent visit of U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to Ankara (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 July 2002). The "Turkish Daily News" said that the MGK will follow a "wait-and-see" policy and does not plan to get involved in military operations, although Ankara will likely ask the U.S. to forgive Turkey's $4 billion military debt. According to the Turkish daily "Hurriyet," as cited in the "Turkish Daily News," the MGK also discussed its vision for a post-Saddam Iraq that would forbid the formation of a Kurdish state, protect the rights of Iraqi Turkoman, prohibit Kurdish control over Kirkuk and Mosul, prohibit U.S. land forces to cross the Turkish frontier, and forbid the "Greek or Armenian lobbies to act against Turkey."
However, there were signs of disunity among northern Iraq's Turkoman. On 22 July, the Kurdish-language independent "Hawlati" reported discord between the Turkoman Cultural Association and the Iraqi Turkoman Front. The Turkoman Front had complained of Kurdish repression; the former, which enjoys better relations with the KDP, responded with the fact that the complaint was made in the Turkoman's Turkomen-language "Turkomaneli" newspaper undercut such claims.
There are also many rumors of preparations for an Iraq campaign and its aftermath. The 29 July "Turkish Daily News" quoted Turkish government sources as saying that Turkish forces might move into northern Iraq and set up "a safety zone" for local residents in order to protect against any pro-Saddam reprisal attacks and also to stem any refugee influx into Turkey. As the Kurdish uprising collapsed in March 1991, more than 1 million Kurdish refugees streamed toward Turkey, leading to the creation of the present no-fly-zone-protected "safe haven" in northern Iraq. According to a 29 July report from the Turkish-language Anatolia news agency, Sirnak Governor Husseyn Baskaya strongly denied press reports of the preparation of refugee camps near the Iraqi border. "No preparations are being made in our region of the Turkish-Iraqi border. However, we know what has to be done in the event there is such a development," Baskaya said. (Michael Rubin)
FRANCE, GERMANY CALL FOR RETURN OF UN INSPECTORS TO IRAQ. In a sign of better relations between the U.S. and European Union, the leaders of both France and Germany renewed a call on Iraq to abide by its international obligations. French President Jacques Chirac on 25 July called for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq, according to AFP. Speaking at a press conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Chirac said, "The Iraqi regime and the Iraqi authorities would be well advised to accept the only solution possible, namely, the agreement with the UN secretary general on an unconditional return of UN observers." Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also ratcheted up diplomatic pressure on Baghdad by telling the 29 July "Le Monde" that France agrees with the U.S. that Iraq poses a "serious problem," and he added that "Baghdad would do well to respect Security Council resolutions." De Villepin's comments marked a sharp contrast with his Socialist predecessor Hubert Vedrine, who called Bush's Middle East policy in general and Iraq policy in particular "simplistic." On 30 July, Germany's ddp news agency reported similar comments by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who said: "Iraqi dictator Saddam Husseyn has to let UN inspectors into the country again, so that the production of weapons of mass destruction by him will be prevented. There are no differences of opinion on this issue between Europe and the United States." (Michael Rubin)
ISRAEL PREPARED TO DEFEND AGAINST IRAQI ATTACK. Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens said that Israel likely would retaliate against any Iraqi missile attack, Reuters reported on 29 July. "I think the rationale for not doing anything [in 1991]...does not exist at the present time." During Operation Desert Storm, Iraq launched 88 Scud missiles at Israel in what many commentators at the time believed to be an attempt to draw Israeli retaliation and undermine the 36-country coalition. According to Arens, Israel's new Arrow-2 missile-defense system would intercept Iraqi Scuds equipped with chemical and biological weapons. Arens also cited the newly operational Ofek-5 spy satellite, which gives Israel an independent source of intelligence on Scud-missile sites in Iraq's western desert. According to Arens, during the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. stymied an Israeli plan to disable Scud-missile launchers by refusing to share satellite footage.
Moreover, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has developed an alert system to warn the Israeli population of any incoming Iraqi missiles, the independent Hebrew-language "Ma'ariv" reported on 30 July. "Ma'ariv" also reported that the prime minister, defense minister, and chief of staff have each requested several days forewarning of any U.S. action. A forewarning of several hours would be insufficient, according to the report, and the IDF predicts an "avalanche" of demand at gas-mask distribution centers. (Michael Rubin).
IRAQI PROVISIONAL-GOVERNMENT PLAN POSTPONED. The Iraqi National Congress (INC) and Iraqi National Movement, a rival opposition group supported by the U.S. State Department, according to AFP, postponed a 26 July news conference to unveil a provisional Iraqi government. According to the 27 July London-based Arabic daily "al Hayat," Iraqi Kurdish groups had expressed their reservations. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) control approximately 10 percent of Iraq, an area roughly equivalent to Switzerland in size. According to "al Hayat," the formation of any provisional government prior to the liberation of Iraq from Saddam's forces might conflict with the de facto self-rule enjoyed by the PUK and KDP. KDP foreign-relations adviser Hoshyar Zebari also told "al-Hayat" that the KDP wished federalism as the basis of a post-Saddam Iraq. According to Zebari: "This federalism was endorsed not on an ethnic basis but mainly on geographical and administrative bases. Of course, we will hold negotiations with the future government of Iraq and will impose nothing on others. The Iraqi National Movement has expressed reservations over federalism based on ethnicity," "al-Hayat" reported. Mudar Shawkat, an Iraqi National Movement Executive Committee member, told the paper on 26 July: "A confederacy on an ethnic foundation would incite the feelings of minorities and other nationalities. On the other hand, the establishment of a confederation on a geographic and administrative foundation would bolster and safeguard national unity." On 27 July, the PUK's "Kurdistani Nuwe" denied rumors that the PUK would participate in any provisional government.
There appears to be renewed U.S. diplomatic support for the Iraqi opposition. On 27 July, "The Washington Post" reported that Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith had jointly invited several prominent Iraqi opposition leaders to Washington on 9 August. According to UPI, the invitees are INC head Ahmad Chalabi; INC spokesman and head of the Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Movement Sharif 'Ali; PUK President Jalal Talabani and KDP President Mas'ud Barzani; Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National Accord; and Ayatollah Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim, Iranian-backed leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. (Michael Rubin)
KURDISH ISLAMIST GROUP TARGETS RELIGIOUS MODERATES. On the night of 15-16 July, and again on the evening of 19 July, vandals desecrated the tombs of Naqshbandi sheikhs buried in the vicinity of Biyarah and Tawella along the Iranian border north of Penjwin, an area in which a fiercely Islamist and Al-Qaeda-linked militant group known alternately as Ansar al-Islam, Jund al-Islam, and Pishtiwanani Islam la Kurdistan (PIK) operates. The Naqshbandi is a Sufi order within Sunni Islam, and the area was home to a Naqshbandi religious college until the 18th century, the library of which is now housed in Sulaymaniyah's Awqaf library, according to the Fall 1999 "Iranian Studies" academic quarterly.
On 23 July, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) daily "Kurdistani Nuwe" published a 20 July statement from Adham Barzani, spiritual guide of the Kurdish Revolutionary Hezbollah in which he denounced the destruction as "a great sacrilege against all human and religious sanctity." The Iranian-backed Kurdistan Islamic Group condemned the desecration, but seemed to endorse repression of the moderate Sufi order. According to 20 July "Komal," the group's bimonthly organ, Kurdistan Islamic Group leader 'Ali Bapir said, "Even if it is for public interest, [remains] should be transferred with respect after consultation with religious scholars." The same day, "Komal" reported that Bapir would travel to Iran for consultations. The Taliban-like Jund al-Islam/Ansar al-Islam/PIK remains fiercely opposed to the more tolerant Islam practiced by Naqshbandi Sufis.
However, the group's intolerance may catalyze cooperation among other Kurdish groups. On 22 July, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on PUK President Jalal Talabani's meetings with leaders of the Naqshbandis. Talabani said: "From now on...our relation with every party in Kurdistan is based on their attitude toward this terrorist group [Ansar al-Islam]. As far as we are concerned, we support [the Naqshbandis] in every shape and form." On 2 April, Ansar al-Islam terrorists attempted to kill PUK Prime Minister Barham Salih (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 April 2002). On 24 July, Talabani addressed leaders of five allied political parties at his headquarters in Qala Cholan, north of Sulaymaniyah. The 25 July "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported that, "all six parties strongly condemned the latest crime this clique has committed against the sacred shrine of the leader of the Naqshbandi religious order." (Michael Rubin)
PUK AND KDP RAPPROCHEMENT CONTINUES. On 30 July, Barzani's KDP and Talabani's PUK agreed on "final formulas for resolving" issues still in dispute, according to an AFP report the same day. The two parties will hold joint elections within six to nine months -- "conditions in the area permitting" -- and will reopen offices in each other's areas, according to the 29 July independent Kurdish-language daily "Hawlati." The PUK and KDP had fought a brief civil conflict between 1994 and 1997 that resulted in an estimated 2,000 deaths, according to PUK and KDP medical officials. Relations have steadily warmed since January 2001. Both PUK and KDP cooperate in antiterrorism activities, as both have been targeted by the militant Islamist groups that in turn reportedly receive Iranian and Iraqi government support (See "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 April 2002). On 30 July, kurdishmedia.com reported that the provisional parliament would have no fixed headquarters, but would rotate between the KDP-administered city of Irbil and the PUK-center at Sulaymaniyah. (Michael Rubin)
PUK SEEKS TO CONTROL WORK PERMITS. According to a 22 July article in the PUK daily "Kurdistani Nuwe," the PUK-led leadership council decreed that Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish workers seeking employment with NGOs and foreign companies must first receive permission from the PUK's Interior Ministry. "Kurdistani Nuwe" attributed the decision to the need "to consolidate security in the region." However, NGO sources have privately complained that in the past, some PUK officials have sought to pressure international organizations to hire loyal PUK members for their coveted and lucrative local-employee positions. (Michael Rubin)
END NOTEARABIZATION, EXPULSION AS IRAQI GOVERNMENT POLICY
By Hiwa Osman
Iraq's Kurdish region is dotted with refugee camps and collective towns created over years of expulsion and mass deportation. Almost 23 percent of the population in the Kurdish-controlled area consists of internally displaced people (IDPs), according to a study conducted by UN's Habitat last year.
The majority of these IDPs have been expelled by the Iraqi government in a systematic campaign of Arabizing Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Sinjar, and Zammar -- areas that remained under Baghdad's control after the 1991 Gulf War -- and the creation of the safe haven in the north. Baghdad has expelled almost 200,000 Kurds since 1991; more recently, Turkomans and Assyrians have also been expelled. The U.S. Committee for Refugees said that nearly 100,000 were expelled by summer 2001. The UN special rapporteur on Iraq said last year that the forced deportation of non-Arabs was happening on "a large scale."
Historically, control over these areas has always been at the center of numerous rounds of talks and fighting between the Kurdish movement and successive Iraqi governments. The aim of the current Arabization policy is to change the ethnic characteristics and the demographic composition of areas that are oil-rich or that border Iran and Syria. The main motive for Baghdad in this Arabization is to "destroy the economic foundation for any possible attempt by the Kurds to separate themselves from Iraq," as an Iraqi government official told a Kurdish politician in one of their negotiation rounds, as well as to create new facts on the ground to rule out any Kurdish claims over these areas in the future.
Arabization takes many shapes and forms, all of which are aimed at uprooting the non-Arabs from the area. A common scenario finds a non-Arab family receiving a visit from a local security official, who tells them that they must leave and then takes captive one of the family's members. After setting a date for their expulsion, he then looks around the house and makes a list of household items that they are allowed to take with them -- usually this does not go beyond kitchenware and clothing. On the departure date, the family loads a car with its possessions and goes to the security office to bail out the detained relative and get a letter for the last government checkpoint. After the expulsion, the family's land, house, business, everything, is confiscated and given to newly arrived Arab settlers.
Another common method of expulsion is the "nationality-correction" procedure. Any non-Arab who must have official dealings with the authorities -- such as employment, registering children in schools, or car registration -- is asked to sign a form that says, "I wish to correct my ethnic origin to Arab." Those who refuse to sign the form are told that they have no place in the area because they are not Arab, and then they are expelled to the Kurdish-controlled area. Those who sign the document and agree to "correct" their ethnic origin are told they may as well go to the south because they are Arab.
This nationality-correction campaign is seen as a time bomb. "Once the situation changes and the perpetrators of Arabization disappear, there has to be a countercampaign of nationality correction to restore the damage caused," said a local Kurdish official in Sulaymaniayah. Many others who have ties with the Kurdish region or who have relatives living abroad are constantly harassed by the security forces until they leave voluntarily or receive the security officer's visit to tell them that they are being expelled.
Alongside expulsion, there is a campaign of "cultural genocide," according to Shalaw Ali Askari, the official in charge of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's Kirkuk organization. Sitting in his office in Takiya, a few kilometers from Kirkuk inside the Kurdish-controlled area, he receives, on almost a daily basis, newly expelled people from Kirkuk.
Recent reports say that the Iraqi government prohibits the use of Kurdish, Assyrian, or Turkoman names for newborn babies. While there are no restrictions on their selling their property, non-Arabs are not permitted to buy any property in the area, even after signing the "nationality-correction form."
Ali is a Kurd from the village of Qarahanjir, in Kirkuk Governorate. He left his village after participating in the 1991 uprising against Baghdad. His remaining family members in Qarahanjir "corrected" their ethnic origin but were still unable to buy back their own confiscated land from the government. "I'm expecting them to be expelled any day," he said. Their land was eventually given to an Arab army officer who came from Saddam Husseyn's town of Tikrit.
Lucrative incentives of money, land, and privileges are given to pro-Saddam Arabs who come and settle in the evacuated areas. A more recent policy of tying the Arab settlers to the new land is to offer the sum of $2,000 to those who bury their dead in local cemeteries.
After the Gulf War in 1991 and after the creation of the safe haven, a demarcation line was put in place between Baghdad and the Kurds who controlled the governorates of Sulaymaniyah, Arbil, and Dohuk. Following U.S. mediation, the Kurdish leadership and Baghdad reached an agreement to respect the demarcation line that put the areas that are being Arabized today under Baghdad's control.
"The deal was a bargain for the Iraqi government," according to Dr. Mahmoud Uthman, who was a member of the political leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan Front at the time. "They are doing whatever they want in these areas in full view of the international community."