1 November 2002, Volume 5, Number 36
BAGHDAD ORDERS PARDONED MILITARY DESERTERS TO RETURN TO DUTY. The Iraqi News Agency website reported on 30 October that the Iraqi government has ordered all military personnel pardoned by Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn to return to their posts within 30 days. According to the website (http://www.uruklink.net/iraqnews/), "the amnesty for absentees, deserters, and those convicted or detained for reasons having to do with military service gives the latter a 30-day deadline from the decree's issuance date to return to their units." The order applies to Iraqis inside and outside Iraq, in accordance with Revolutionary Command Council Decree No. 225 of 20 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI INTELLIGENCE CONTACTING OPPOSITION ABROAD. According to a 30 October report on alqanat.com, Iraqi intelligence officers will embark on a mission to contact Iraqi opposition officials abroad. The website reports that the delegation, which includes Brigadier General Ala' Ahmad, Colonel Hazim al-Musawi, and Colonel Ra'id al-Nasiri, will travel to Arab and foreign capitals such as Damascus, Paris, Prague, and Bucharest in the coming days. The report also noted that diplomatic sources in Baghdad said that, "Iraqi intelligence officers who were designated for the assignment would carry passports that do not include their real names." Alqanat.com is affiliated with Egypt's al-Azhar University and Mosque. The report has not been confirmed by any other sources. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQ CRITICIZES U.S. 'PRESSURE' ON INSPECTORS... An anonymous spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry criticized U.S. President George W. Bush on 31 October, saying that Bush 'pressured' the executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, Hans Blix, and the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad El-Baradei, in Washington this week, Iraqi News Agency reported. The spokesman called this week's meeting between U.S. administration officials, Blix, and El-Baradei "part of a campaign of U.S. pressure to pass the aggressive U.S. draft resolution." The spokesman added, "These conditions [of the draft resolution] aim at declaring a colonialist war on Iraq in the name of the United Nations, which would mean taking over the United Nations and fully subjugating the UN Security Council to this evil [U.S.] administration's lust for war, destruction, and killing." The spokesman called on the UN Security Council to urge Blix and El-Baradei to resist U.S. pressure. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
...AND CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT MONITORING OF INSPECTORS. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan called for individuals and members of the media to accompany UN weapons inspectors when they return to Iraq, Reuters reported on 29 October. According to the report, Ramadan said, "We will not allow the inspectors to be the sole source [of information] because we don't trust them." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
KUWAIT CLOSES NORTHERN BORDER AREA. Kuwait designated a large area around its northern border as a "military zone," according to an announcement by the Kuwaiti Defense Ministry on 27 October. The area runs parallel to the demilitarized zone between Kuwait and Iraq. Telegraph.co.uk reported that the primary reason for the zone was to ensure the security of U.S., U.K., and Kuwaiti forces, which are scheduled to continue joint exercises in the area this winter. "A spokesman for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense said: 'The Americans have a problem with security and so we have to get people out, for both the public's and the Americans' safety. We understand the distress this will cause, but we don't want anybody getting shot by mistake, especially during the winter season when many Kuwaitis visit the area,'" the website reported. The area is a popular tourist spot, as well as home to farmers and Bedouin.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Shaykh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah said his government was undertaking measures to maintain a stable situation inside Kuwait. He added that the government would undertake the distribution of gas masks to the public and would take steps to prevent displaced Iraqis from entering Kuwait, should an armed conflict erupt. Al-Sabah said that Iraqis would be allowed to enter the 10-kilometer demilitarized zone that is currently under the supervision of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission. His remarks were made in a press statement following a closed-door session of the National Assembly on 30 October, Kuwait News Agency reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQ RETURNS KUWAITI NATIONAL ARCHIVES. Iraq has returned Kuwaiti documents seized during the 1991 Gulf War, according to a report by Iraqi News Agency on 30 October. Iraqi Ambassador Ghassan Muhsin Husayn said 1,648 boxes and sacks of documents were handed over to Kuwait. INA reported, "There were also five truckloads of archives and documents for the state security agencies, the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Information Ministry, the Oil Ministry, and the Transportation Ministry, as well as the Antiquities and Museums Department and the Citizenship Department." In addition, 5,879 documents related to the Iraq-Kuwait border were also returned.
The process of returning documents began on 19 October and lasted for 10 days. The United Nations and the Arab League supervised the return of documents. The UN had expected the turnover process to take up to two months. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAN WILL ALLOW IRAQIS TO FIGHT WITH THE U.S. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said that Iraqi Shi'ites would be permitted to launch an attack on Iraq from Iran, should the UN Security Council allow for a use of force against Iraq, according to a 25 October report on the telegraph.co.uk website. Kharrazi said: "We don't think that changing the regime from outside is legitimate. If the United Nations Security Council decides to use force, that is something else. The UN and its members have to comply with that resolution."
Kharrazi said that fighters of the Badr Corps, the military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, headed by Shi'ite Iraqi opposition leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Haqim, would be free to cross the border if they chose to fight Saddam Husseyn's regime.
The Badr Corps is made up of thousands of former Iraqi officers, soldiers, and civilians who have fled from Iraq to Iran over the years. The group claims to have approximately 10,000 armed men inside Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 August 2002). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IDF GENERALS SAY IRAQ DOES NOT HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS. The Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" reported on 30 October that the chief of intelligence of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Major General Aharon Ze'evi, and the head of the IDF's Department of Intelligence Research, Brigadier General Yosi Kuperwasser, told the Israeli inner security cabinet that Iraq does not pose a life-and-death threat to Israel and does not possess nuclear weapons. The generals said they consider Iraq a "strategic world threat." According to "Ha'aretz," the military's intelligence assessment was that the United States is not working toward maintaining stability in the region but instead is interested in making internal changes in the Arab states. The generals reportedly viewed a U.S. attack on Iraq as an expression of a 'conflict between civilizations.' (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BARZANI'S TRIP TO TURKEY. The prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Nechervan Idris Barzani, met with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Ogur Zyal on 24 October. According to a report by Kurdistan Satellite TV, Barzani said that the meeting successfully cleared the air between the KDP and Ankara. Barzani told reporters: "We discussed at length our relations and discussed the issues that led to tension in our relations. We hope that the meeting would herald the start of normalization in our relations. On Turkey, we are friends and we would like our friendship to continue. Our relations over the years proved that they were in our mutual interest, and there were many joint issues that we managed to solve together."
Barzani stressed that the Kurdistan regional government will work to ensure the rights of the Turkomans, adding: "Kirkuk is an Iraqi city. Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians and other ethnic and religious groups live in it. The importance of Kirkuk for us is not because of its oil but because of its being a geographic part of Kurdistan. We hope that Kirkuk becomes a city of fraternity for all Iraqis."
Barzani's delegation also met with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) representative in Ankara, Bahroz Galali, as well as with the U.S., British, Danish, Dutch, and French ambassadors. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
KDP, PUK INTERIOR MINISTRIES TO INCREASE COOPERATION. The two separate interior ministries of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan met in Irbil and agreed to increase cooperation in order to provide better service in protecting the lives of the people and to facilitate work in providing security and peace, KurdSat reported on 25 October. Present at the meeting were the two interior ministers, their deputies, and the general directors of the internal security forces.
They also decided to institute joint checkpoints in order to facilitate and expedite movement between the two regions of Iraqi Kurdistan.
At a separate meeting, it was also decided to unify driver's licenses and car registrations. (David Nissman)
PUK LEADER ON IRAQI 'FUNDAMENTAL' SOLUTION. Barham Salih, leader of the PUK government, said that the situation in Iraq and the region cannot be improved without having a "fundamental" solution to the issue in Iraq, reported "Kurdistani Nuwe" on 22 October. Salih, in an interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" while on a visit to Syria and Lebanon, said that, "We will knock at the doors of Arab, Islamic, and regional countries, as well as the United States so that they can bring about international support to help the people of Iraq end their miseries and to bring about pluralistic and democratic change."
Salih stressed that, "We have reiterated to the Americans the need for them to be committed to an Iraqi national alternative and to help the Iraqis achieve their rights and realize their own destiny with their own hands."
On the role of the PUK in the event of an attack on Iraq, he said, "We do not have any clear picture before us regarding this issue." He also discussed Kurdish-Turkish relations, saying: "The Turks are sensitive to the demands of the Kurds in Iraq and fear the establishment of a Kurdish state. However, we would like to reiterate, to them and to others, our commitment to the unity of Iraq, and I believe that Turkish fears pertaining to proposals made by Kurds are baseless."
Salih also pointed out that he had recently received a letter from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell affirming Washington's support for the program of democratic change in Iraq. (David Nissman)
KURDISH POLITICAL PARTIES DISCUSS DRAFT CONSTITUTION. A UPI dispatch bylined Ihsan Al-Mufti of 27 October reported that 35 political parties gathered in northern Iraq to discuss proposals for a draft constitution that would make Iraqi Kurdistan an autonomous part of a federal Iraq. There are drafts being circulated by the PUK and by the KDP. The purpose of the meeting, according to Muhammad Haji Mahmud, head of the Democratic Socialist Party of Kurdistan, was to debate the various proposals and to finalize "a unified Kurdish text that seeks a federal, free, and democratic system in Iraq."
The final text is to be submitted to the Kurdish parliament and then proposed to the rest of the Iraqi opposition groups. Mahmud noted that a large number of intellectuals and lawyers are expected to take part in the discussions before a final draft is presented to the parliament.
The day before, official Kurdish delegations held talks with Turkish officials in Ankara, as well as with Western ambassadors, aimed at clarifying the Kurdish position. Turkey has been very concerned that this is only a step toward Kurdish independence. The Kurdish delegations assured Ankara that they had no intention of declaring northern Iraq an independent Kurdish state. (David Nissman)
NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTS IRAQ'S IDPS. A report released on 29 October by the Brookings-SAIS project on internally displaced persons (IDPs) highlights the more than 1 million IDPs in Iraq and the reasons behind their displacement. According to the report, there are some 600,000-800,000 displaced persons in the north of the country and an estimated 300,000 in the south. One of the primary reasons is that "over the past thirty years, the government of Iraq has relied upon a policy of deliberate expulsion of people from their homes in order to punish and subdue recalcitrant populations (i.e., the Kurds and Shiites), secure valuable land and oil-rich areas (i.e., Kirkuk, southern marshes), and stamp out political opposition."
Victims of these policies are the Kurds in the north and Shi'ites in the south, including the Marsh Arabs. Also notable are members of the smaller Turkmen and Assyrian minorities.
Those displaced in the north within the territories of the Kurdistan Regional Government are unable to return to their homes because the Iraqi Army destroyed their villages and planted landmines. According to the report of the U.S.-based organizations, the solution lies in de-mining the region, rebuilding the countryside, and resettling the IDPs in the cities.
Even more challenging is finding solutions for those expelled from Kirkuk. Prior to the government's decision to Arabize the region, Kurds and Turkmens formed the majority, with the Assyrians forming a minority. The study suggests that a population census be conducted and that an official body be created to compile and review property records.
Other recommendations focus on the Shi'ites and Marsh Arabs, much of whose lands have been deliberately destroyed by Iraqi government campaigns. A variety of return and resettlement programs are proposed. (David Nissman)
TALABANI HOLDS TALKS IN IRAN. Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK, arrived in the Iranian Kurdish city of Kirmashan on 27 October to begin holding talks with Iranian authorities, according to kurdishmedia.com on 28 October. On 28 October, Talabani flew on to Tehran to hold further talks with the Iranian government. Although the PUK did not reveal the issues being discussed, kurdishmedia.com noted that sources say that the elimination of the Ansar al-Islam is on the agenda. (David Nissman)
YUGOSLAV ROCKET SALE TO IRAQ FIZZLES OUT. According to the Belgrade newspaper "Blic" of 28 October, experts from the Sava Kovacevic Navy-Technical Repair Institute visited Iraq in July in the hope of establishing a long-term relationship with the Iraqi Navy to service rocket and other systems on warships. About a dozen officers and engineers spent 20 days in Iraq. The deal fell through largely due to international pressure on Yugoslavia, and it appears that the chances of business ties developing between the two countries are slight.
The trip was organized by retired Yugoslav Army General Novica Djordjevic. Before he was pensioned off two years ago, Djordjevic had been chief of one of the administrations of the General Staff.
"Blic" reported that the possible engagement of Yugoslav experts in Iraq was supposed to be a replacement for a current contract in Libya. About 30 of the institute's experts have a permanent arrangement for servicing combat systems in the Libyan Navy. Since the Libyans are gradually pulling out of the deal, the money from Iraq was hoped to be a "financial injection" for the institute.
BETA in Belgrade, also on 28 October, reported that Colonel Milorad Jovanovic, director of the Sava Kovacevic Naval-Technical Repair Institute in Tivat, Montenegro, refused to comment on the "Blic" story because he was unfamiliar with it.
In a related story, BETA on 28 October quoted Djordje Nestorovic, director of the Zastava Special-Purpose Products plant, saying that the affair surrounding the alleged sale of Yugoslav arms to Iraq "temporarily brought the export of products of this factory to a standstill" even to those countries that are not under UN sanctions. (David Nissman)
END NOTEWOULD SOMEONE PASS THE OIL, PLEASE?
By David Nissman
An issue commanding basically very little attention in the world media is that of the future of Iraqi oil reserves. As is well known, some one-third of Iraqi oil is in the Mosul-Kirkuk region of the country. In the event of an invasion of Iraq, these reserves would become a major bargaining chip, especially between Turkey, which has an old claim to it, and the United States, which may lead an invasion of Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 October 2002).
The issue is rendered somewhat more complex by the ethnic issues abounding in the area, both in Kirkuk and in Northern Iraq, which is also known as Iraqi Kurdistan. The primary issues this touches on are Kurdish autonomy within a future federal Iraq and the situation of Iraq's other ethnic minorities in the neighborhood, i.e., the Assyrians and Turkmens.
At a conference dedicated to the theme "Mosul-Kirkuk and the Future of the Turkmens" at the end of October at Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta, Dr. Muzaffer Arslan, former chairman of the Iraqi National Turkmen Party, said, "In one way or the other, Turkey is going to have to intervene in the region [Northern Iraq]." In a report filed by "Anatolia" on 25 October, Arslan also noted that both Mosul and Kirkuk were within the borders of the National Pact of 1919. He also discussed the oil reserves of the region -- it contains roughly one-third of Iraq's known oil reserves -- and stated that: "Turkey has a right as well to the region of the world that has the petroleum reserves with the longest life. Rather than hang around the doors of the IMF, Turkey should make use of its historic right in this region and give her people the possibility to live in prosperity."
A point constantly reiterated in Turkish media is their objection to a Kurdish entity in the region. To add fuel to the fire, the draft Kurdish constitution (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2002) proposes that the territory of Kurdistan be extended to include Kirkuk, a region traditionally populated by the Iraqi Turkmens. In a recent interview, Nechirvan Barzani, a regional official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party said the KDP was ready to give guarantees demanded by Ankara but that Kirkuk was in Iraqi Kurdistan geographically and that the people living there had to make a decision about the future of that city. He also dismissed the notion that Kirkuk's importance stemmed from oil, according to a report by Anadolu agency on 25 October.
The prominent Turkish columnist Mehmet Ali Birand, in an article in the "Turkish Daily News" on 19 October, posed the question, "Why is Turkey opposing the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq?" He asked that if such a state were to be established under a Turkish umbrella, what harm could that cause? On the other hand, if Turkey were to invade northern Iraq, it would create an enemy on their doorstep. In the long run, it would turn Turkey into "a force against which one has to fight in order to attain Kurdish independence." This would only destabilize the region. But a Turkey that cultivated friendly relations with a Kurdish state would be able, essentially, to control developments in the region.
In fact, a Kurdish entity in a federal Iraq would also be "under the Turkish umbrella" due to the presence of the Turkish Army directly to the north. Then, of course, the oil of Kirkuk and Mosul would remain in Iraq's hands. But if an invasion of Iraq, possibly spearheaded from the north, were to result in a Kurdistan under the Turkish umbrella, then the highly vaunted petroleum reserves would come, de facto, under Turkish control.
As Ilnur Cevik put it, in his editorial in the "Turkish Daily News" on 31 October, Turkey remains a "strategic partner" of the United States despite the fact that Washington can strike Iraq without Turkey's cooperation, but along with this partnership, "Turkey wants to be properly consulted on U.S. war preparations on Iraq," but they also want assurances on the future of northern Iraq, as well as on Kirkuk and Mosul.
The problem is that Turkey cannot be seen simply to commandeer Mosul and Kirkuk and their oil reserves, despite any older claims to the region. Someone has to give it the stamp of international approval.