18 October 2002, Volume
SADDAM HUSSEYN PURGES SECURITY ESTABLISHMENT.
A report in the "Sunday Times" of 13 October by Marie Colvin says that Saddam Husseyn has been conducting a high-level purge of his senior security officials. In the last month alone, three important commands -- air defense, military intelligence, and the special security office -- have changed. Colvin points out that among those moved or replaced are Tikritis, people from Husseyn's hometown of Tikrit. She writes: "The fact that he appears to be suspicious of Tikritis shows how paranoid he has become about the possibility of being betrayed to the Americans in the buildup to a possible war aimed at ousting him."
One of the most important changes is that a high-ranking general, Zuhayr Naqib, has been appointed as head of Iraq's military intelligence. He replaced General Walid Tawfiq al-Nassiri, who in turn has been named the governor of Basra, Iraq's largest southern city. In a similar move, the former head of the Mukhabarat intelligence service, General Hakim Hassan Ali, was named governor of Kirkuk, a city rich in oil and suspected to be a major target in any possible U.S. military thrust.
Colvin also points out that Husseyn has been spending less time in Baghdad. He is believed to be dividing his time between two presidential compounds, one north of Tikrit and the other the closely guarded presidential palace in Radwaniyah. (David Nissman)IRAQ, RUSSIA, THE UN, AND OIL.
Alfa-Eco, a member of Alfa Group, one of Russia's largest financial and commercial conglomerates, sealed a 20 million-barrel deal with Iraq, Reuters reported on 10 October. It is one of the largest Iraqi oil-supply deals in the history of the oil-for-food program. As Iraq has made serious efforts in recent months to reestablish commercial ties with its former customers, some speculate that economic incentives might influence Russia's stance in the UN Security Council. Currently, Russian companies control the rights to sell 40 percent of Iraq's oil on world markets. Almost a dozen Russian companies have oil agreements with Iraq, representing an estimated $1.5 billion (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 October 2002), but little oil has been produced due to the constraints of current sanctions. Additionally, Iraq's debt to Russia stands in the billions. Thus, if the United States succeeds in forcing regime change in Iraq, Russian companies stand to lose their rights to these potentially lucrative oil fields. The pressure on Moscow to defend these rights is growing. Reuters reported on 17 October that Russian oil company LUKoil has said it is pressing Moscow to seek guarantees from Washington that it will safeguard Russian interests in Iraq after Saddam Husseyn, while one Iraqi opposition leader, Sharif Ali Bin al-Husseyn, has said that any new government in Iraq would not necessarily honor previous oil deals negotiated by the current regime.
In a related development, the George W. Bush administration held a U.S.-Russian oil and gas summit in Houston, Texas this month to discuss increasing Russian oil exports to the United States. (Kathleen Ridolfo)ECEVIT SAYS U.S. DIRECTING IRAQI KURDS.
Anadolu Agency reported on 13 October that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit accused the United States of "directing" Iraqi Kurds toward independence after the Kurds reviewed a draft constitution for Northern Iraq in the event that Saddam Husseyn is overthrown. Stressing Turkey's concern about developments in Northern Iraq, he said Turkey has to develop a "more effective policy" and added: "We have an interesting relation [sic] with the United States. We're very close allies despite the geographical distance between us. The United States can sometimes lead us to unwanted situations but we have to say stop after a certain point."
Claiming that he thought President George W. Bush had more on his mind than merely toppling Saddam Husseyn, he was not pressed to explain the comment, although oil is believed to be part of it.
Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) responded to Ecevit's refusal to accept the draft constitution approved by the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in a 14 October interview with Al-Jazeera television. Barzani said: "First of all, the problem concerns Iraq and the Iraqi people; it is not Turkey's problem. If we, as Iraqis, have agreed among ourselves on this project, then I do not believe that Turkey or any other state has the right to interfere, reject, or accept. This is an Iraqi affair and an Iraqi problem and it should be left to us, as Iraqis, to resolve our problem without outside intervention."
A few days earlier, Istanbul's CNN Turk Television on 10 October reported that the Office of the Chief of the General Staff [OCGS] in Turkey has accelerated its efforts for an Iraqi operation. Force headquarters and units were instructed to prepare operational plans. The operational plans "envisage all kinds of possible scenarios in the event of a U.S. operation." (David Nissman, Kathleen Ridolfo)TURKEY TO SET UP 'SECURITY BELT' IN NORTHERN IRAQ IF U.S. ATTACKS.
Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said in an interview with NTV Television that if a U.S. operation against Iraq triggered a refugee exodus, Turkish troops would move into Northern Iraq to stop the wave within Iraqi borders, AFP reported on 14 October. Cakmakoglu said, "This will be a force of a number sufficient for such a job. This will at the same time [ensure] our border security and constitute a security belt."
Turkey fears the Kurds will attempt to establish an independent state if the United States actually attacks Iraq. This could, in turn, incite Kurds in Turkey to separatism. Cakmakoglu continued to say, "The Turkish armed forces are a deterrent force both with respect to its size and its weapons.... [And] if this deterrent force impedes the situation we do not want in Iraq, it will have completed its objective." (David Nissman)TURKEY PREPARES FOR CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL WARFARE.
The Turkish Interior Ministry has ordered the repair of all sirens in Turkey and will set up training teams that would guide people in the event of chemical or biological warfare, according to a news report on Istanbul's NTV on 13 October. The ministry has sent instructions to all governors to check all sirens and repair any faulty ones. It has also asked the governors to set up teams comprising experts from the Agriculture and Health ministries, the Department of Meteorology, the Atomic Energy Institute, and police departments. Efforts reportedly have also been made to send gas masks to eastern and southeastern Turkey, near the Iraqi border. (David Nissman)TURKISH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER REJECTS KURDISH STATE WITH KIRKUK AS CAPITAL.
Turkish parliamentary speaker Omer Izgi told Anadolu Agency on 13 October that the Turkish government cannot accept a Kurdish state being established with Kirkuk as its capital. He pointed out that Iraqi Turkmen inhabit the regions of Kirkuk, Mosul, and Al-Sulaymaniyah. His implications were that the Iraqi Turkmen, who were formally among the guardians of the Ottoman Empire, are still under Turkish protection.
He explained at a press conference in Konya, "It is impossible to set up a Kurdish state, especially with Kirkuk as its capital in that region." Elaborating on Turkey's rejection of such a Kurdish entity, he went on to say, "Even if they try to establish a state, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Al-Sulaymaniyah cannot be given to this state."
Meanwhile, Turkish deputy parliament speaker Murat Sokmenoglu accused KDP leader Barzani of trying to provoke a war with Turkey. He said, "Kirkuk cannot be a capital in Northern Iraq because Kirkuk is under the control of Baghdad and Saddam's soldiers. It is a dream of the Kurds to declare Kirkuk as their capital because Kirkuk and Mosul are Turkmen cities. Intentions of those who consider Turkmen as nonexistent in their constitution and shout for a war are clear. Turkey will not fall into this trap, but it will not neglect protecting Turkmen."
KDP leader Barzani responded to these recurrent Turkish charges in an interview with Al-Jazeera Satellite TV on 14 October. He said: "Of course, Turkey is a neighboring country that participates in the protection of this region with the United States and Britain. We look forward to establishing good relations and cooperation with Turkey. But, it must be clear that we are Kurds and part of the Iraqi people, and we are the ones who will determine our destiny, even on the subject of the Turkmen. The Turkmen are our brothers. We will defend their rights. We will decide with them on our common interests without any foreign interference." Barzani added, "As far as we are concerned, we are not ready to discuss the identity of Kurdish Kirkuk, no matter what the cost. At the same time, Kirkuk, Mosul, Basra, and Irbil are Iraqi cities." (David Nissman, Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. STOCKPILING IN TURKEY?
Turkish NTV Television reported on 10 October that there has been an increase in air traffic at the Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey over the last few weeks, as the United States prepares for a possible military intervention in Iraq. According to the report, The United States has asked Turkey to raise the ceiling of military equipment that can be stocked in Incirlik, but the Turkish government has not yet responded.
Meanwhile, CNN Turk reported on 15 October that the United States has officially requested the use of Turkish territory and bases from which to operate, should it launch a military strike against Iraq. However, an unnamed official from the Turkish Foreign Ministry denied that the request has been made. Then, on 16 October, the Turkish newspaper "Sabah" reported that Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer will host high-level government officials at a state summit to address certain U.S. requests and the situation in Northern Iraq. Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit, Deputy Prime Ministers Devlet Bahceli and Mesut Yilmaz, Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel, and Chief of the General Staff General Hilmi Ozkok are all expected to attend. The summit is slated to begin on 17 October in Ankara. The decisions to be made at the summit will be finalized in a meeting of the National Security Council (MGK) scheduled for 22 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)PRESIDENTIAL REFERENDUM IN IRAQ.
Saddam Husseyn was "unanimously" chosen to lead the Iraqi people for another seven years, according to the results of the second presidential referendum, held 15 October. The results were announced by Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, who said that all 11,445,638 Iraqis eligible to vote did so and all checked "yes." According to a press release from the International Alliance for Justice of 15 October, Saddam won a similar referendum in October 1995 with 99.97 percent of the vote.
Iraq Satellite TV broadcast a meeting between Husseyn, RCC members, and the speaker of the National Assembly on 17 October, in which the president said, "You have achieved the expected results. I do not mean myself, Comrade Izzat, the comrades in the command, and the other officials. I mean all the party members and the people. The people always search for the honest persons to lead them." Husseyn considered the referendum a response to the Bush administration's stated policy of regime change in Iraq.
An opinion poll conducted informally in Iraqi Kurdistan showed 1.8 percent voting in favor of Saddam Husseyn, while 94.5 percent voted against the incumbent president and 3.7 percent had no opinion, according to a report from AFP filed from Dubai on 16 October. The poll was conducted by the Irbil-based Iraq Institute for Democracy. (David Nissman, Kathleen Ridolfo)HUSSEYN WAR GOVERNMENT CHARTED.
The French website "Intelligence Online" (http://intelligenceonline.com) of 10 October has charted Saddam Husseyn's "war government," to be activated if and when hostilities with the United States begin. Holding the top position in the "war government" is Husseyn's second son, Qusay Saddam Husseyn, who is the commander of the Republican Guard as well as the Special Security Service. Defense minister is Sultan Hashim Ahmad, and his equivalent in the Ba'ath Party is Lataif Nasim Jasim. Coming next in the hierarchy is Ali Hasan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali" for his war crimes in Halabcha, where he poisoned some 5,000-8,000 Kurds by dropping chemical elements in their midst. His equivalent in the Ba'ath Party is Tariq Aziz. The rest of the war party comprises Husseyn's relatives.
"Intelligence Online" sees the Iraqi strategic plan to counter the U.S. offensive focusing the defense on Baghdad and moving sensitive government services to heavily populated areas of the city. Ultimately, it is envisaged that chemical weapons will be used as a last resort. (David Nissman)ASSYRIANS INCLUDED IN BUSH'S IRAQI POLITICAL FORMULA.
In President Bush's address presenting the U.S. case against the Saddam Husseyn government, he mentioned directly the Assyrians as part of the formula of a future Iraq. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) on 10 October said: "In a historic and highly symbolic gesture, the U.S. president also referred to Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Syriacs) in his address, stating that with the liberation of Iraq 'The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis, and others will be lifted.'"
The AINA report stated that, "Notwithstanding the official Iraqi government position of denying Assyrian existence and referring to Assyrians simply as Christian Arabs, Assyrians had not fared better in their dealings with the ostensibly democratic Iraqi opposition." Furthermore, since the Gulf War, the AINA report claimed, one of the major impediments to Assyrian recognition has come from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
The reason for this KDP hostility to the Assyrian case is that the KDP wishes "to thwart any possible political competition in their bid to fully cleanse and occupy the historically Assyrian provinces in northern Iraq."
This has been overcome largely due to aggressive Assyrian lobbying by the Assyrian American League (AAL) and the Assyrian Coalition.
Within the Iraqi opposition there are also some groups sympathetic to Assyrian inclusion, such as the Iraqi National Accord (INA) and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The AINA report also pointed out that Iraqi Turkmen groups, facing political exclusion and stonewalling, have also found common cause with the Assyrian groups. (David Nissman)GCC SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPLAINS GCC STANDS ON IRAQ.
Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdel-Rahman al-Atiyyah arrived in Kuwait to explain the "deep-rooted brotherly ties among the GCC states" according to a report from KUNA of 13 October. Queried whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would participate in the coming GCC summit in Doha, he said that Saudi Arabia has persistently supported GCC activity in all spheres.
He also urged Iraq to promptly implement UN Security Council resolutions so that the Iraqi people can avert any suffering and the country can secure its territorial integrity. When asked about rumors that a number of GCC member states received requests for their territories to launch a military strike against Iraq, he replied: "I have not heard about such a thing."
He also stressed the importance of Iraq releasing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals, and condemned the killing of an American marine on Failaka Island.
He said his visit to Kuwait falls within the framework of "persistent coordination and consultation with Kuwaiti and GCC officials for the sake of boosting GCC joint action." He is scheduled to begin official talks on 15 October by meeting acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. (David Nissman)IRAN USING PKK AGAINST BARZANI, TALABANI GROUPS?
CNN Turk Television's correspondent, Kemal Yurteri, claimed on 17 October that Iran has intensified its relations with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) in an effort to retain some leverage in Northern Iraq. Turkish intelligence maintains that a high-level Iranian delegation held a meeting with the PKK on Kandil Mountain on 1 October. In this meeting, Iran promised to support the PKK (now known as Kadek) as long as it remains in conflict with Talabani, the secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Allegedly, Iran also promised to support the PKK if it fights against the Kurdish Democratic Party and the PUK.
According to the latest information, Iran has also supplied the PKK with weapons and given it military training. The Turkish report says Iran believes that the agreement between Talabani and Barzani will make a possible U.S. operation against Iraq easier and hopes to use the PKK as a tool of pressure. (David Nissman)ANNAN MEETS WITH CHINESE OFFICIALS.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan traveled to Beijing on 14 October to meet with Chinese Prime Minister Jiang Zemin, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, and other officials to discuss the situation between Iraq and the UN Security Council. Beijing's official English-language paper "China Daily" (http://www.chinadaily.net) reported on 15 October that both Jiang and Tang emphasized China's view that the Iraq issue should be resolved through political channels, specifically the Security Council. Annan emerged from the meetings confident that an agreement between members of the Security Council is at hand. However, the Chinese did not hint at how they would proceed when the Security Council began debating the Iraq question this week.
Meanwhile, Taipai Central News Agency (http://www.can.com.tw) reported on 16 October that Deputy Prime Minister Lin Hsin-I met with cabinet officials to draw up countermeasures in view of a prospective U.S. war against Iraq. The measures addressed possible trade and oil-price fluctuations. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BLIX REBUFFS IRAQ'S TERMS.
IRNA reported on 15 October that the Iraqi government has failed to comply with the agreements it reached with Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector. According to the IRNA report, Iraq has sent two letters to Hans Blix, the UNMOVIC chief, in response to a letter he wrote a week earlier asking Iraq to confirm agreements reached at the Vienna talks on 8 October. A UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "They are not confirming the conclusion of the Vienna talks."
The Iraqi letters, signed by an adviser to President Saddam Husseyn, however, reaffirmed Baghdad's readiness to receive the inspectors under the arrangements agreed on for inspections from 1991-98.
Diplomats have told reporters that they were disappointed by Iraq's letters, which failed to show full cooperation with UN disarmament experts. (David Nissman)
U.S. 'OCCUPATION' PLAN HAS EVERYONE NERVOUS
By Kathleen Ridolfo
A plan circulating over the last week that the United States might militarily occupy Baghdad has drawn comment from Iraq and its neighbors, especially Turkey and Iran. The plan, confirmed by senior U.S. administration officials and outlined in "The New York Times" on 10 October, is modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, in which the United States would install a military viceroy in Baghdad. Many U.S. officials have noted that the plan has not been formally approved by the administration. According to "The New York Times," the plan "would put an American officer in charge of Iraq for a year or more while the United States and its allies searched for weapons and maintained Iraq's oil fields."
Regional reaction to the proposed plan has been less than enthusiastic. In Iran, Hamid-Reza Asefi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, commented on the proposed plan on 14 October, saying, "Those who raise such plans are not familiar with the conditions of the region, and never know that they cannot attain their objectives through such issues," the Iranian News Agency (IRNA) reported. Former Iranian President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told IRNA on 13 October that the plan would create more resistance toward America in the region. He said, "This is another psychological war of its type and America wants to say that, 'I can go ahead to the extent of occupying Iraq and choosing a governor for that country.'"
U.S. NATO ally Turkey has also expressed discomfort with the idea. In a 12 October interview with CNN Turk, Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit accused the United States of ulterior motives (i.e., oil) in Iraq. Asked whether the United States intended to act as a police force of the world or to divide Iraq after Saddam Husseyn and establish a new oil order, Ecevit said, "It has been obvious for some time that certain circles in the United States -- I believe under the influence of Britain as well -- are interested in reorganizing the oil region in the Middle East."
As the United States continues to lobby for international support, the plan seems to be sending a strong message to Iraqi opposition groups. It now appears that the plan would scale back the initial role for the Iraqi opposition in a post-Husseyn government. Some Iraqi opposition members have already expressed their displeasure with the reported plan, fearing they will be sidelined during the restructuring phase. A political bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Fu'ad Ma'sum, told London-based "Al-Hayat" on 12 October, "We oppose the formation of a military government and reject any U.S. invasion of Iraq." He added, "The plan contradicts the statements that U.S. officials made at their meetings with us and other parties and forces, particularly at their meeting with the Group of Six in Washington back in August." Likewise, Sharif Ali Bin-al-Husseyn, leader of the Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Movement, told "Al-Hayat," "If we reject Iraqi military rule, how can we accept U.S. military rule? There is no need for a U.S. military presence to fill the vacuum after Saddam goes, especially with the existence of institutions and infrastructure in Iraq." It is likely that the U.S. administration will need to address the opposition's concerns, given the distrust some groups feel toward the United States due to the failures of previous administrations to follow through on U.S. commitments.
Not least, the Iraqi government of Saddam Husseyn seized the opportunity at hand and accused the United States of having no interest in abiding by the agreement forged between UN weapons inspectors and Iraq. Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Muhammad al-Duri told Egyptian radio on 14 October that the United States plans to attack and occupy Iraq, regardless of the deal struck between UN weapons inspectors and Baghdad. Al-Duri said: "The USA does not want the return of the inspectors. The USA became very sad when an agreement was reached in Vienna by Mr. Blix and the Iraqi delegation, headed by Dr Amr al-Sa'di. Everyone knows -- I think not only in Iraq but all officials in the Arab homeland know -- that the USA has prepared a plan to strike and occupy Iraq, and accordingly it does not want anything to stop this, even if it is the return of the inspectors, especially as they are sure that the inspectors will find nothing." Al-Duri added that the "scheme" of the United States is to obtain Middle East oil.
While senior administration officials stress that the plan would seek to avoid the pitfalls of political restructuring that Afghanistan is experiencing, the plan appears to be interpreted quite differently by Iraqis seeking a role in the post-Saddam era, and Iraq's neighbors. In a region that has been historically dominated by outside forces, it is not likely that a U.S. plan of this nature will soon win over regional support.