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Iraq Report: November 15, 2002

15 November 2002, Volume 5, Number 38

IRAQ ACCEPTS RESOLUTION 1441... In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said on 14 November that Iraq, "Will deal with Resolution 1441, despite its bad contents," the Iraqi News Agency reported the same day. The letter said Iraq is "prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable," but also hinted that Iraq will not tolerate improper conduct by "ill-intentioned" weapons inspectors. Sabri added, "The people of Iraq will not choose to live at the price of their dignity, country, freedom or sanctities, and they would rather pay with their lives if that was the only way before them to safeguard what they must safeguard." Iraq has long contended that the UN resolution and return of weapons inspectors constitutes a violation of its state sovereignty. Sabri concluded the letter by saying he will soon forward another letter to the secretary-general in which he will "state our observations [of] the measures and procedures contained in SCR 1441 that are contrary to international law, [the] UN Charter, the facts already established, and the measures contained in previous relevant resolutions of the Security Council." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AFTER ATTACKING SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS. In his letter to Secretary-General Annan, Sabri asserted that some member states -- specifically Mexico and Syria -- failed to hold their ground and were intimidated by the United States in the debate over the resolution, Iraqi News Agency reported on 14 November. The letter said: "Nothing seems more reprehensible than the silence maintained by those who represented their nations in the Security Council.... They treated the claim made by the British representative [who said it would be inappropriate to include a reference in Resolution 1441 to the lifting of sanctions] as if it were of no significance to them." He called on UN member states to "adhere to the UN Charter and international law," and "not to the whims and uncontrollable instincts of those who threaten the world with their evil schemes [and] weaponry and those who seek to achieve their interests narrow-mindedly by resorting to bargaining at the expense of truth, justice, and fairness." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

HOW THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE PLAYED OUT... The Iraqi National Assembly voted unanimously on 12 November to reject UN Security Council resolution No. 1441 in its recommendations to the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), and said it would "authorize the political leadership to take the appropriate decision to defend Iraq's independence, sovereignty, and dignity," Reuters reported. Iraq Satellite TV broadcast live coverage of the first day of debate on 11 November, in which numerous assembly members referred to the resolution as "unjust" and called it a "pretext" for a U.S. military attack on Iraq.

In a speech sent to the Iraqi National Assembly, Uday Saddam Hussein, son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, criticized UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China and nonpermanent member Syria for voting for UN Security Council resolution No. 1441. Uday Hussein stated, "Some states that [voted for the resolution]...are the same countries that pretended that they would use the veto against resolution 1441 of 2002," Al-Jazeera Satellite TV reported on 12 November. Hussein added, "Before we enter into economic deals with this or that party, Arab or foreign, we should first use some sensors to determine what positions this or that party might take." Hussein was apparently referring to the vast economic and oil contracts Iraq has signed with the three states in recent months. Annual trade turnover between Iraq and Syria is estimated at $4 billion, while Russian companies control the rights to sell 40 percent of Iraq's oil on world markets and nearly a dozen Russian companies have oil agreements with Iraq valued at some $1.5 billion (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 September and 18 October 2002). In his letter to the National Assembly, Uday Hussein also said Iraqi diplomacy "must be given enough time to engage in political action and achieve some reciprocal conditions," Al-Jazeera reported.

The National Assembly resumed debate on 12 November and voted after a statement issued by the assembly's Arab and International Committee was read. The assembly's recommendations were submitted to the RCC, which is chaired by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The recommendations were not considered binding on the RCC, which ultimately accepted Security Council resolution No. 1441 on 13 November.

Speaking to Iraq Satellite TV on 12 November, Iraqi National Assembly Speaker Sadoun Hammadi said that the National Assembly's decision to reject UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was a "sound and balanced" decision. Hammadi said the decision "expressed the Iraqi people's opinion about this ill-intentioned resolution...which is designed...for the purpose of provoking Iraq and finding a pretext to carry out aggression against it." He added that Iraq will take the necessary steps to encourage "friendly parliaments" in the world and other international organizations to reject U.S. "aggression." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN PREPARES INSPECTION TEAMS. United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Muhammad al-Baradi'i are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on 18 November ahead of an advance team in order to begin preparations for inspections. "Baghdad will have until 8 December to provide the United Nations with a list of dangerous weapons it still might have, as well as civilian chemical and biological 'dual-use' components that might have military applications," Reuters reported on 14 November. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told ITAR-TASS on 13 November that approximately 40 countries will send representatives to Iraq for arms inspections. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UNMOVIC CHIEF SHEDS LIGHT ON DEFINITION OF 'MATERIAL BREACH.' United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) chief Hans Blix discussed the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution No. 1441 in an interview with the London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" on 10 November. Blix said that although the resolution gave much responsibility to UN weapons inspectors, the decision to go to war ultimately remains in the hands of the UN Security Council. Asked to define what would constitute a "material breach" of the resolution, Blix cited a denial of access to any site or failure to provide for inspectors' safety. He added that inspectors would submit regular reports on "the facts and events" and the Security Council would decide whether a violation had occurred. Blix told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that he and Muhammad al-Baradi'i, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), would arrive in Baghdad ahead of an advance team on 18 November. Blix added that a small number of inspectors would reach Iraq around 20 November, and that the total number of inspectors would eventually reach 100. Iraq will have 30 days to submit a full inventory of all programs involving weapons of mass destruction. UNMOVIC itself will have to submit their evaluation of Iraq's programs within 60 days from the beginning of their work. (Kathleen Ridolfo, David Nissman)

IRAQ CALLS UP RESERVE OFFICERS. Iraqi reserve officers have been instructed to report for duty by 5 December, according to a 11 November report by the Iraqi weekly "Nabd al-Shabab," which is run by Uday Hussein. The weekly quoted an "informed source" at the Defense Ministry's Mobilization and Statistics Directorate that said that the officers were told to report to the directorate for "documentation" and to submit photographs along with ration and housing cards, identity cards, and nationality cards. Officers currently residing outside Iraq are required to report to the embassies and missions in their country of residence. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS ON ARAB LEAGUE STATES TO TAKE MEASURES... During an address to the Arab League on 10 November, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri called on Arab League members to activate the Collective Arab Defense Pact to ward off "colonialist aggression," Iraq News Agency reported. Sabri appealed for solidarity among Arab member states, saying, "This call is based on Iraq's realization that the entire Arab nation is in the same boat going in the same direction and that no one will survive without the survival of all." Sabri reminded Arab leaders to maintain their commitment to the resolutions of the Beirut summit and called on the Arab states to "threaten" to take measures against "colonial and foreign aggression against Iraq or any other Arab country," including the use of Arab land or airspace for foreign militaries, downgrading relations with the United States and Britain, boycotting the U.S. dollar, and halting oil exports to "countries involved in the aggression." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND DISCUSSES ARAB LEAGUE'S REACTION TO UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION. In an interview with Iraq Satellite TV on 10 November, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri discussed the Arab League's reaction to UN Security Council Resolution No. 1441 of 8 November. The emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo over the weekend discussed the resolution and issued a final statement welcoming it, while reiterating that the resolution does not constitute a basis for the use of military force against Iraq. The Arab League also called for Arab nationals to accompany weapons inspectors from UNMOVIC throughout Iraq. Commenting on the Arab League's decision, Sabri said, "We asked that the inspectors who were chosen to perform the tasks of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission include, out of 245 inspectors, a handful of Arab nationals. The Arab nationals would not work as inspectors, but rather as support personnel." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DID TURKEY SELL IRAQ NERVE GAS ANTIDOTE? Iraq ordered large quantities of atropine, a drug used to counter the effects of nerve gas, according to a 12 November report by "The New York Times." U.S. officials told the daily that the size of the orders "far outstripped the amount Iraq could conceivably need for normal hospital use." Iraq is thought to have ordered 1.25 million doses of the drug, which is also used on heart-attack patients, as well as in ophthalmology. It is also used as an antidote to block the effects of nerve agents such as VX and sarin, two agents Iraq has admitted producing in the past. "The New York Times" also quoted one U.S. official as saying that Iraq also placed orders for the chemical agent obidoxime chloride. In addition, on 13 November quoted unnamed sources as saying that the orders from Iraq included "Geiger counters and wash-down showers, which are used to detect radiation in the atmosphere."

In Turkey, "Anatolia" reported on 13 November that the firms that manufacture atropine said that they never received an order from Iraq. In addition, Health Ministry Undersecretary Sefer Aycan told "Anatolia" that "The New York Times" report was "baseless." He added, "We did not receive such a request from [the] Iraqi government, and we did not make such an official export. All exports and imports of medicines are made through [the] Health Ministry Directorate General of Medicine and Pharmacy." Aycan said however, that the antidote could have been transported to Iraq through the illegal shuttle trade between the two states.

U.S. officials first learned of the alleged order from the UN. Atropine is not currently on the UN list of products banned from Iraq under the Oil for Food program. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said it was not clear whether the orders were delivered to Iraq, CNN reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ DENIES SPYING ON U.S. FACILITIES. A spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry denied an ABC-TV news report that Iraqi diplomats are spying on U.S. embassies and military installations, Iraqi Satellite TV reported on 12 November. The spokesman called the report "another addition to the record of lies and fabrications spread by the evil U.S. administration's agencies and its officials." reported on 11 November that U.S. "sources" indicated that there is evidence that Baghdad has ordered its diplomats to undertake surveillance activities of U.S. diplomatic and military sites. ABC reported that the sites under surveillance include the U.S. embassies in Jordan and Finland, U.S. Navy facilities in Bahrain and Spain, and a cemetery in the Philippines where the U.S. ambassador was scheduled to attend a Veteran's Day ceremony on 11 November.

Iraqi Ambassador to Jordan Sabah Yasin denied the charges, according to a report by Amman-based "Al-Arab al-Yawm" on 12 November. Yasin also denied the allegation that the Iraqi Embassy in Amman rented an apartment opposite the U.S. embassy. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UKRAINE CLAIMS IT STEPPED IN AND HALTED DISCUSSIONS ON SELLING RADAR SYSTEMS TO IRAQ. Ukrainian presidential administration head Viktor Medvedchuk said the Ukrainian Security Service and the Defense Ministry halted talks between state arms exporter Ukrspetseksport and a Jordanian middleman attempting to buy Kolchuga radar systems for Iraq, Interfax news agency reported on 12 November. According to the report, Medvedchuk recalled that former Ukrspetseksport head Valeriy Malev "really held such unofficial talks, but they were not held at the level of signing protocols, making offers, or concluding deals. The talks concerned a request on the possibility of a sale." As a result, he contended, the Ukrainian state security services, along with the intelligence directorate of the Defense Ministry, intervened and advised Malev to terminate talks with the Jordanian. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

YUGOSLAV ASSEMBLY COMMISSION INVESTIGATING ARMS SALES TO IRAQ UNDER QUESTION. Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic expressed his opposition to the formation of an Assembly Commission of Inquiry to investigate the military cooperation of Yugoslav companies with countries under a UN embargo, according to BETA of 13 November. This has lately become an issue because of the close connections formed between Yugoslavia, on one hand, and Iraq and Libya, on the other (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 1 November 2002).

Zivkovic claimed that such a commission would lead to "all sorts of peculiar statements." Nonetheless, the speaker of the Chamber of Citizens, Dragoljub Micunovic, has taken the opposite position. He said: "It is important that this is investigated as soon as possible, to avoid the state bearing the responsibility for the work of various criminal groups and individuals trading in arms."

Yugoimport, a government enterprise, has been trading in arms. Micunovic said that because Yugoimport is a government agency, "it is not sufficient for the government to check itself." He pointed out that the Commission of Inquiry's approach would be "unbiased." (David Nissman)

IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETING REPORTEDLY POSTPONED. "The Washington Times" reported on 15 November that a representative from the Iraqi National Congress (INC) has confirmed that a meeting of Iraqi opposition groups planned for 22-25 November in Brussels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002) has been postponed. The daily reported that Iraqi opposition groups gave conflicting reasons for the meeting's cancellation, including disputes between organizers and difficulties in obtaining visas for participants. Hamid al-Bayati, the London-based representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told AFP that the meeting will not take place for at least two weeks. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDS AND ISLAMISTS CLASH IN IRBIL PROVINCE. The Al-Sulaymaniyah daily "Hawlati" reported on 11 November that several people were killed during clashes in the village of Zamak (bordering Iran) between Kurdish peshmerga (militia) forces and Islamic militants from Ansar al-Islam. The daily reported, "Three fighters from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] and two from Ansar al-Islam were killed in the clashes in which both sides also suffered other casualties." According to an 11 November report by AFP, four Ansar al-Islam members were arrested in Irbil by Kurdish forces, while other members fled to the Iraqi city of Mosul. Last week, PUK leader Jalal Talabani told "The New York Times" that Iran promised to assist the PUK in ousting Islamists from northern Iraq. In addition, the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) recently announced it will form an army after a number of members of the militant Islamic fighting group Ansar al-Islam decided to return to the KIG (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 November 2002). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDISH PARLIAMENT PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS. The Kurdish parliament in northern Iraq announced it has set up a committee to prepare for legislative elections, reported on 12 November. According to the website, elections will be held by July 2003. The committee consists of representatives from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the Assyrian Christians. The website noted that "the KDP [currently] holds 51 seats and the PUK 49 in the parliament which was elected in 1992 and met last October 4 for the first time since bloody clashes between the two factions peaked in 1996." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PUK APPOINTS NEW MINISTERS, JUDGES. Barham Salih, the prime minister of PUK-controlled territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Al-Sulaymaniyah, has appointed three new ministers, reported on 11 November. The appointments to the Agriculture, Economy, and Health Ministries were the first in seven years. In a related event, PUK newspaper "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 8 November that the Kurdistan Regional Government also appointed three female judges. "Kurdistan Nuwe" noted that the judges were appointed "on the basis of qualification and suitability." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TALABANI DENIES AMERICANS TRAINING PESHMERGAS IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in Ankara on 11 November, denied reports that Americans have started to train 5,000 peshmergas (militia) in northern Iraq, although he claimed he would be pleased if they did so, according to the Istanbul "Cumhuriyet" on 13 November.

In a report in "The Los Angeles Times" by Robin Wright on 12 November, Talabani claimed that "now, there is all kinds of cooperation with the United States. Militarily, there is all kinds of cooperation." Both the Pentagon and the CIA have said they could not confirm reports of increased cooperation with the Kurds or of any new commitments to protect them.

The paper also reported that Kurdish leaders are to hold talks with American officials later this month. Northern Iraq, or Iraqi Kurdistan, is important for the Americans because if there is to be a U.S. invasion of Iraq, it is likely to come through Kurdish territory. (David Nissman)

TURKISH OFFICIAL APPOINTED HEAD OF TURKMEN FRONT. An official in the Turkish Peace Monitoring Force in Iraqi Kurdistan was appointed as the official in charge of the Koysanjaq branch of the Turkmen Front (also called the "Turkoman Front"). The official is Walid Ali, and he replaces Muwaffaq Muhammad.

"Brayati," which reported the event on 11 November, also noted that the appointment constitutes "direct interference in the affairs of Kurdistan and exposes the blatant support Turkey is giving to the Turkoman Front."

"Brayati" says further that the appointment will increase tensions between the various Iraqi Turkmen political parties and the Kurds. (David Nissman)


By David Nissman

The formation of another Kurdish Islamic army, announced by the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) in its newspaper "Komal" on 19 October, adds another element of instability to the region. The accompanying unrest was heightened by a report from the Al-Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Hawlati" on 11 November ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November) noting a clash between forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Ansar al-Islam in which three peshmerga (militia of the PUK) were killed as were two members of the Ansar al-Islam. It will be recalled that the Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam) is an offshoot of the Jund al-Islam (Army of Islam) which also began as a military force of the KIG. The question must be asked: why does the KIG need an army?

On the surface, the answer is easy: the KIG needs an army to fight with the PUK because the main strength of the KIG is on the territory controlled by the PUK. In the past, KIG armed groups have been supported by Iran, and are based in the region closest to Iran. The best known locality in this region is Halabcha, which was gassed by Iraq in 1988 and resulted in 5,000 deaths (the town still has lingering effects from the attack) and is heavily under the influence of Iran. There had been, and is, an agreement with Iran that the PUK would not interfere with the rights and authority of the Muslim groups on its territory. In 2001, Iran warned the PUK not to attack any of these Islamic groups, according to Harem Jaff in of 12 September 2001.

But the configuration of power in the region has changed. This was largely brought about by the rapprochement between Jalal Talabani's PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which permits a greater degree of coordination and collaboration between troops of the formerly opposing Kurdish factions. It also weakens Iran's position as a powerbroker between the Muslim groups and the PUK. Most important, the situation has the potential to bring Iranian armed forces in contact with, if not confrontation with, Turkish armed forces, which have roamed freely over KDP territories for several years.

History should not be forgotten: for 200 years Ottoman and Iranian armies fought each other for control of the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan. Now there is another threat of an invasion, namely an invasion led by U.S.-coalition forces of Iraq itself, if Baghdad fails to comply with the latest UN resolutions on weapons inspections. It should be borne in mind that any invasion of Iraq could come from the north, that is, over the territory of Kurdistan.

In an interesting note, Jalal Talabani, secretary-general of the PUK, earlier this month denied meeting Iranian officials and discussing the elimination of the Ansar al-Islam, although he did admit meeting Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who heads the very powerful Shi'ite movement in southern Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Movement in Iraq (SCIRI). What actually was discussed between the two is still unknown (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 November 2002). But if a discussion was held on the elimination of the Ansar al-Islam, it would have been to the point. The Ansar, as was mentioned earlier, is an outgrowth of the Jund al-Islam, and Mala Bapir, the emir of the KIG, decided to create a new army (jund). This decision was taken by the KIG in mid-October. In other words, he is recreating the very same type of organization which he earlier condemned.

Yet the Al-Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 9 November that Jalal Talabani said that "Iran has promised to help us to drive out the terrorist anti-Islam supporters [meaning the Ansar al-Islam] from the border area that is under their control." He said further that "this group is hostile to the U.S., the Kurdish people and the people of the Middle East. We have not requested help from the U.S. We hope to deal with this problem with the help of our brothers in Iran in order to cleanse the area from this terrorist group. The Iranian brothers have promised to offer us help to carry out this plan."

Talabani also stressed the point that he had conveyed a message to Turkey, Iran, and Syria that the "Kurds are determined to remain within the framework of Iraq because the Kurds support a united Iraq with a parliamentary, federal and democratic regime, and do not support any secessionist movement."

The primary worry of Turkey and Iran, the most important and lasting players in the region, is the development of a movement in the direction of Kurdish independence because of the size of their own Kurdish minorities who might find some fuel for their own nationalistic tendencies in an independent Kurdistan formed from part of Iraq. When one considers that Iraq is a relatively new country, in the sense that it was formed only in the period after 1920 after the loss of the empire by the Ottomans, in this sense it is up for grabs.

In this context, one must ask what Mala Bapir and his KIG want. The creation of another Muslim militia, perhaps radicalized like the Jund al-Islam and its successor the Ansar al-Islam, can only stimulate neighboring powers, such as Turkey and Iran, to make their own claims to the area. One thing is clear: the creation of this new militia, or army, will not be a force for stability.