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Iraq Report: September 20, 2002

20 September 2002, Volume 5, Number 30

WILL WEAPONS INSPECTORS MAKE A DIFFERENCE? UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced on 16 September that Iraq has unconditionally accepted the return of the UN weapons inspectors, "The New York Times" reported.

Specifically, Annan said: "I can confirm to you that I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying its decision to allow the return of inspectors without conditions to continue their work."

"The New York Times" the same day carried a somewhat less optimistic view of the arms inspections by Gary Milhollin and Kelly Motz filed from Washington. They say at the outset: "Whatever one's stance on how best to handle Saddam Husseyn, it is crucial to understand one thing: United Nations inspections, as they are currently constituted, will never work." They point out that UNMOVIC personnel are UN employees "who are likely to be hobbled by the UN's notoriously inefficient bureaucracy" unlike their predecessor, UNSCOM. UNMOVIC inspectors are not set up to make effective use of intelligence.

Finally, the authors point out: "UNMOVIC is also stuck with a deal the United Nations made in 1998 on 'presidential sites.' Iraq is allowed to designate vast swaths of land (big enough to contain entire factories) that the inspectors can visit only after announcing the visit in advance, disclosing the composition of the inspection team (nuclear or biological experts, for example) and taking along a special group of diplomats. This loophole creates refuges for mobile items and could defeat virtually any inspection effort." (David Nissman)

CHINA DENIES SUPPLYING IRAQ WITH PARTS FOR NUCLEAR PROGRAM. China denied on 17 September that it provided parts for Iraq's atomic weapons program and dismissed allegations that it shipped specially configured aluminum tubing that might have been destined for Iraq, reported on 17 September.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, said Beijing opposes the spread of weapons of mass destruction and strictly controls all such technologies. He added a story distributed by AP last week involving information from an international nuclear official was "purely a fabrication."

If there are grounds for the story, the piping would have been destined for a project supervised by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Military Industrialization Minister Abdul Tawwab al-Mulla Huwaysh. A report in the London "Spectator" of 15 September focuses on Huwaysh and the efforts being made by his ministry. (David Nissman)

ALLEGED ANSAR AL-ISLAM LEADER ARRESTED IN NETHERLANDS. A BBC report by Hiwa Osman on 13 September announced that the "leader of a Kurdish rebel group with alleged links to Al-Qaeda was arrested at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport en route from Tehran to Norway. Identified as Mullah Krekar (a nom de guerre: his real name appears to be Najm Al-Din Faraj Ahmad), he allegedly heads the Ansar al-Islam (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September). As it now stands, Mala Krekar is also wanted by Jordan on a drug-smuggling charge, according to the Oslo "Aftenposten" of 15 September. Jordan has requested his extradition and has six days to provide grounds for the narcotics charge.

Mullah Krekar, or Mala Krekar as he is known in the Kurdish sources, was a refugee in Norway. Norwegian authorities revoked his refugee status in August because he had traveled back to Iraq and stayed there for long periods. If he heads the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, it is a relatively recent promotion. It was announced only last year that Mala Krekar, then a former military commander of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK), a spin-off from the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan (IUMK), was considering joining the Jund al-Islam (Army of Islam), which later became known as the Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam). According to a report in of 24 September 2001, Mala Krekar actually joined the Jund. By October of that same year, he is noted to have been a leader of a dissident wing in another fundamentalist wing of the Kurdish Islamic Group (KIG) and was then conducting talks with the Jund about merger, according to the Al-Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Hawlati" of 12 November. These talks proved fruitless.

Last year, at any rate, the leader of the Jund al-Islam was Abu-Abdallah Al-Shafi'i, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 11 September 2001. Al-Shafi'i has been identified as an Afghani-Arab, possibly of Egyptian or Syrian origin.

Mala Krekar is also strongly linked to Afghanistan since the 1980s, according to the BBC. He studied Islamic law in Pakistan under the mentor of Osama bin Laden. (David Nissman)

PUK DENIES USING BAGHDAD HELP IN FIGHTING AL-QAEDA. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has denied receiving weapons from Baghdad to fight against Al-Qaeda in Kurdistan. Latif Rashid, the PUK representative in London, told AFP on 14 September that: "These are [Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister] Tariq Aziz's dreams. Of course it's not true." He was responding to a statement made by Aziz on 13 September, when the latter claimed that Baghdad had given Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK, help in the PUK's fight against an alleged Al-Qaeda-linked group, the Jund al-Islam or Ansar al-Islam.

In fact, the reverse may be true. Iraqi intelligence may have supplied the Al-Qaeda-linked organization with weapons to fight the Kurds (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2002).

Aziz claims, furthermore, that Talabani, whose PUK shares control of Iraqi Kurdistan with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), sought Baghdad's help to combat the Al-Qaeda extremists and, according to Aziz, "We gave him weapons and equipment."

Rashid continued to say: "Such statements are not surprising from a government that accused President [George W.] Bush of coming up with a series of lies and fabrications" in his speech at the UN General Assembly on 12 September.

Rashid also noted that Ansar al-Islam included former Iraqi intelligence operatives, but that the PUK did not know if these elements still had ties with Iraqi intelligence. (David Nissman)

ANSAR AL-ISLAM ACCUSES MAIN ISLAMIST PARTIES OF BEING CLOSE TO ATHEISM. Two statements released to the Kurdish newspaper "Hawlati" on 9 September by the Kurdish Islamist movements Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) addressed the subject of the Ansar al-Islam. The IMK had issued its statement about the Ansar al-Islam on 18 August, which said: "We consider the policy that Ansar al-Islam is currently adopting as an act that is in conflict with and against the fundamental principles of the sacred Islamic religion. It is against the demands and wishes of the people of Kurdistan as well." The IMK statement added that it regards the acts committed by the Jund al-Islam to destabilize the region as "a repulsive stain on the sacred face of Islam."

The KIG had also issued a statement at the end of August that said it had a great deal of legitimate criticism and complaints against the Ansar al-Islam, and that the KIG believed that, "As a result of many of their erroneous views, Ansar al-Islam has committed such wrong acts and conduct that they have blemished the name of Islam and the Muslims."

The Ansar al-Islam's consultative commission answered both statements on 2 September and said with regard to the IMK that, "You have once again expressed your commitment to the quadrilateral Tehran Accord, particularly the 10th provision in which you recognize your friendship with atheism and alienate yourself from the upholders of the Islamic faith. Indeed this change of faith will cost you dearly and heavenly both in this world and the other." It also made the charge that both the IMK and KIG are close to atheism.

In connection with the KIG statement, the Ansar rejoinder said: "The Islamic Group accuses us that our deeds are against the Islamic law. This is an accusation that lacks proof and evidence. The Islamic Group knows the Ansar al-Islam and its leadership very well, and it is aware that the only issue we are committed to is the Islamic law."

The Ansar points out that both the IMK and the KIG have been tempted by large sums of money. It also noted that since the split of the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan (IUMK) into the IMK and the KIG and the establishment of Ansar al-Islam, this is the first time that the issues raised have provoked the Ansar to respond so sharply to the other two Islamic movements. (David Nissman)

RUSSIAN ISLAMIC COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ON U.S. PLANS TO ATTACK IRAQ. Geydar Dzhemal, chairman of Russia's Islamic Committee, in an interview on Ekho Moskvy Radio on 11 September claimed that not only did the United States not succeed in proving that the events in New York (World Trade Center, or WTC) had Islamic roots, but also, "U.S. plans to attack Iraq prove that the Republican administration did not abandon its plan to increase a zone of destabilization in Eurasia."

He was contradicted by Yevgenii Sevastyanov, former chief of the Federal Security Service directorate for Moscow and the Moscow region, who asserted that the pilots flying into the Pentagon and WTC were connected with Al-Qaeda has been "legally established." He said nothing about the "zone of destabilization." (David Nissman)

IRAN WARNS TURKEY AGAINST OCCUPYING NORTHERN IRAQ. A commentary by Mohammad Mollazadeh in Tehran's "Seda-ye Edalat" of 2 September carries a warning to Turkey against any occupation of Northern Iraq. He foresees the following developments if Turkey should proceed with such an occupation: Firstly, the Turkish Army will occupy Iraqi Kurdistan, which will trigger involvement in a "drawn-out" guerrilla war with Iraqi and Turkish Kurdish parties; secondly, a limited occupation of Mosul and Kirkuk with the aim of gaining a share in Iraq's future; thirdly, the partitioning of Iraq and annexing northern Iraq to Turkey.

Mollazadeh claims, "One cannot have the slightest doubt about one fact -- Turkey's military move in northern Iraq is basically implausible without the coordination and inclination of America." Even though opinion is divided in Turkey about such a move, it is clear that the elite that is "in convergence with the army generals" has agreed to cooperate with America "in the hope of gaining a share in Iraq has the upper hand."

The basic strategy, he says, is to partition Iraq into ethnic-religious units. But this will have no impact on the Turkish hope of crushing the Kurdish movement inside Turkey. "A unified Kurdistan with a bigger population and an increased ability for military confrontation will lead Turkey into dismemberment also." Any cooperation between American and Turkey will end in Turkey being the loser.

Mollazadeh suggests the maximum concession that might be given to Turkey after the overthrow of Saddam Husseyn's regime is recognition of the Turkmen minority in sensitive areas of Iraqi Kurdistan as Turkish nationals. This will arouse Kurdish hostility. (David Nissman)

TURKISH TROOP STRENGTH IN NORTHERN IRAQ: 15,000. A Mesopotamia News Agency report dated 16 September says that local sources asserted the number of soldiers now in Iraqi Kurdistan at some 15,000 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September). In the last week alone, two brigades have been sent to the border between Turkey and Iraq.

In addition, large numbers of Cobra and Sikorsky helicopters have been sent to the region. The Turkish Army units were dispatched by the Kayseri Command Brigade. (David Nissman)

TURKISH GENERAL ON U.S. POLICY VIS-A-VIS IRAQ. Retired Major General Armagan Kuloglu, now head of the Department of Geopolitical and Strategic Research at the Eurasian Strategic Research Center (ASAM) in Turkey, was interviewed by the Ankara edition of the Istanbul magazine "Nokta" on 14 September about the geopolitical situation in Iraq in view of a possible U.S. attack. He asserted that the "geopolitical situation of the U.S. prior to 11 September 2001 was to provide for the flow of petroleum to the West in a sound manner by providing for the Security of the Persian Gulf, and secondly, to provide for the security of Israel." In the subsequent period, two new dimensions have been added: "to prevent the Middle East becoming the storage depot for weapons of mass destruction" and "to prevent the Middle East from becoming the source for terrorism." This has placed Iraq at the center of attention.

The security of Israel within Middle East policy started to become more important, and thus lobbies and think tanks started to take initiatives strengthening the hawks' wing on the subject of intervening in Iraq. In their view, an intervention in Iraq became a necessity. However, the United States "was unable to create an environment for this in domestic and international public opinion."

"Nokta" asked him if the air attacks last week on various Iraqi targets meant that this operation has started." General Kuloglu said no. The general was also asked why the matter was not finished during the Gulf War. He pointed out that one view of this would be that the United States did not go beyond that point (and finish the Saddam regime) "in order to leave an opportunity for itself for intervening in the Middle East centered on Iraq." He does not feel there would be an actual U.S. intervention in the region until after the November elections.

Where the Turkish national interest figures into this is more elusive. Kuloglu stated that, "The point here is not to gain, but not to lose." From the Turkish viewpoint, he explained, "The United States could make various promises to Turkey," but, "[We] have to formulate these promises in a manner considering our national interests very well and it is necessary for us to connect all these to written agreements." The current state of negotiations between Turkey and the United States are not known. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD UNIVERSITY HOLD SYMPOSIUM ON 11 SEPTEMBER. The Center of International Studies at the University of Baghdad held a symposium on the regional and international dimensions of the 11 September terrorist incidents, according to a report on Iraq Satellite Television on 11 September. Five research papers were discussed, each paper headed by Saddam Husseyn's views of these incidents with an analytical perspective presented by the researcher. All that was said was made clear to the United States and the western world in a series of meetings and letters by Saddam Husseyn in September and October of last year.

The papers dealt with the changes in U.S. policy toward the region and the European vision of the "so-called fight against terrorism." The commentary pointed out that while questions are still being raised, some have found answers, and others remain a mystery and "will probably not find answers except through an admission by the U.S. administration of...the evil it had planted in the world." (David Nissman)

FRANCE, RUSSIA, CHINA TO CREATE 'MIDEAST MUNICH'? An article by Alexander Adler in "Paris Match" of 13 September notes that, "In the war on terrorism, a Mideast Munich obtained by France, Russia, and China at the United Nations would only be a step backward in order to jump better. [But] Saddam would not leave it at that." He traces the story of the alleged Iraqi involvement in the events of the World Trade Center and finds that any indictment of Iraq would be not enough "to make them active accomplices of Al-Qaeda" and thus "would be relatively weak on this point and not very convincing for the international community."

Adler points to the massive stores of the elements of chemical warfare that Iraq is known to possess (VX, Tabud, Sarin) and especially bacteriological weapons. The problem is that Saddam Husseyn's neighbors -- Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and even Syria -- "think they can progressively succeed in curbing his misdeeds, with the protective assistance of the United States." But open war could plunge all Iraq into total anarchy, which may prove to be contagious for his neighbors.

After analyzing all the factors inherent in the present Iraqi situation, including an America isolated by the international community, Adler states Bush may have to gain additional time in order to win the world community over, "Whatever happens, Bush is therefore right to take up his pilgrim's staff and gain the time he needs." (David Nissman)

BARZANI REITERATES CLAIM TO KIRKUK. Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, gave an interview with the Kuwait daily "Al-Qabas" that was published by the "Kurdistan Observer" on 16 September. In it, he discussed relations with Iran and Turkey. He warned both countries that any intervention on their part in Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of a U.S. attack would be "costly" and backfire on their own security and stability.

He reiterated his stand on Kirkuk (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September), asserting that Southern Kurdistan will not give up Kirkuk in the framework of a new federated state in Iraq. Kirkuk is currently under Baghdad's control.

Asked about the possible U.S. attack on Iraq, he said that the United States has not informed the Iraqi opposition parties about the date of any military attack. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT JOINS IRAQI OPPOSITION MOVEMENTS. On 14 September, the U.S. State Department announced to Assyrian political leaders that the next round of meetings involving the Iraqi opposition "big six" would be held in New York on 18 September, the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported on 16 September. Although Assyrians had taken part in some earlier opposition meetings, their participation in the 18 September represents "the first instance that Assyrians will participate in the more intimate and critical leadership circle of major opposition groups."

The invitation is due in large part to the Assyrian Coalition and the Assyrian American League, which lobbied for an invitation to the meeting. The Assyrian Coalition's designated representative, Mr. Kanna, is secretary-general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the predominant Assyrian organization in Iraq.

Assyrian political observers have noted that the invitation of the Assyrian Coalition's representative "is due in large part to the realization by the U.S. that the Coalition represents an important step in Assyrian political unity." An Assyrian analyst is quoted as saying that the New York meeting may be a final attempt to "forge a cohesive Iraqi opposition prior to military action against the Iraqi regime." (David Nissman)