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Iraq Report: June 1, 2001

1 June 2001, Volume 4, Number 19

UN SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATES 'SMART SANCTIONS.' The United Nations Security Council is already discussing a U.K. proposal backed by the U.S. that would modify the sanctions regime against Iraq to allow more food and medicines to reach the Iraq people while tightening controls on military and dual use goods.

France suggested a compromise list of "smart sanctions," but its proposals were immediately attacked by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. Diplomatic sources, however, told London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 25 May that Iraq is seeking through these accusations to play "the game of creating divisions within the Security Council" by assailing one side while praising another. Aziz then accused France of having contributed to the formulation of the 'smart sanctions' the British proposed. But Paris denied that it has embraced the U.S.-British proposals on Iraq, and emphasized that it is Washington that has taken steps toward adopting the French position.

"Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" added that France has presented several proposals to amend the British draft resolution. Diplomatic sources said that France has expressed its willingness to back the British draft resolution if the amendments presented by the French are taken into consideration. Like Russia, France insists on seeing the list the U.S. and Britain plan to submit. According to diplomats from the Russian mission, Russia believes that it would be impossible to back the draft resolution before seeing the list of banned materials or materials that have dual use.

France, Russia, and China have insisted on being given more time to discuss the components of the British draft resolution. Earlier, Russian Middle East envoy Vladimir Sredin argued that "the comprehensive approach to a political solution of the Iraqi issue offered by Russia seems to be the most realistic one." He added: "the main thing is that it provides for lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq in exchange for the monitoring of weapons of mass destruction program," according to Interfax on 23 May. Sredin's comments were echoed by Russian First Deputy Ambassador to the UN Gennadiy Gatilov, who said that the draft resolution "warrants a serious discussion." (David Nissman)

NATO MINISTERS CONSIDER MODIFYING SANCTIONS. On the sidelines of the NATO conference in Budapest, the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Russia, and the United States held talks of the Iraqi sanctions issue, AFP reported on 29 May. According to a senior U.S. official, they came up with a "general agreement on the proposition and the goals" of the new sanctions regime to be examined. He noted "there has to be some sort of resolution by Monday (4 June)" at which time the British modifications would be examined. (David Nissman)

CABINET RESHUFFLE IN BAGHDAD. Muhammad Zimam Abd-Al-Razzaq was relieved of his duties as minister of the interior on 28 May, according to Iraq Television the same day. At the same time, Muhammad Hamza Al-Zubaydi was removed from his position as one of the three deputy prime ministers. Mahmud Dhiyab Al-Ahmad, minister of irrigation, was named Abd-Al-Razzaq's successor at interior while keeping his portfolio as minister of irrigation. Al-Zubaydi was not replaced. Abd-Al-Razzaq has been relieved of government duties so he can devote his time to running the Ba'th Party branches in Kirkuk and Niniveh, officials said. (David Nissman)

GLOBALIZATION MAGNIFIES IRAQ'S REGIONAL DIFFERENCES. A report prepared by Joseph Braude of the Pyramid Research Advisory Service notes that the demands of globalization are exacerbating differences between the Baghdad-controlled central portions of the country and the Kurdish controlled north.

After the Gulf War, the fixed-line telephonic network was almost completely destroyed. Braude writes that "the rehabilitation of Iraq's fixed-line network requires investments exceeding $1 billion over an implementation period of 7-10 years," according to the UN Office of the Iraq Program on 4 May. As of 25 April 154 bids for telecommunications sector contracts in Iraq worth $279 million were submitted to the UN's 661 Committee, which oversees the Iraqi government's commercial transactions. Some 83 contracts totaling $71 million were approved and 71 worth $208 million were either rejected or placed on hold.

In Kurdistan, a mobile phone service using digital trunking to connect to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) will be unveiled in June by Kurdish entrepreneurs. The PSTN is being rebuilt with fiber-optic cable, and Internet connectivity through Turkey allows for low cost international calls via voice-over IP.

Braude notes that "the advent of digital trunking and new fiber-optic cable infrastructure in Iraqi Kurdistan reflects new alliances between entrepreneurs that transcend tribal politics." After linking the Sulaymaniyah network to Irbil's, a UN-supported local telecoms venture called the Asia Company will bring several mountainous rural areas into a system of mobile telephony. Salahuddin University in Irbil is one of several institutions in the region offering high-speed Internet access to students and employees.

In Baghdad-controlled Iraq, extreme poverty and intensive control over information are hindering developments similar to that of Kurdistan.

The political ramifications of the mobile telephone project have attracted attention. In an interview published in Sulaymaniyah's "Al-Ittihad" on 11 May, Faruq Mala Mustafa, executive director of the Asia Company, said that "the mobile phone project in Irbil Governorate will be launched next month so that both governorates (Sulaymaniyah and Irbil) will be connected by mobile phones. Thereby, we will precede politics in uniting the people of the two administrations by covering the entire region and ensuring its contact with the outside world through this important network. We are pleased that we have succeeded in extending constructive and fruitful cooperation bridges between the two administrations and taking big steps towards uniting them. We have the full support of the leaders of the two parties, led by Jalal Talabani (PUK) and Mas'ud Barzani (KDP)." (David Nissman)

ALGERIAN ENERGY MINISTER IN BAGHDAD. Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Shafiq Khalil arrived in Baghdad on 27 May to discuss economic and political cooperation, Radio Baghdad reported. The radio added that because Khalil and his delegation flew in on the Algerian national carrier "the visit is also a serious contribution toward breaking the illegal air embargo imposed on Iraq." (David Nissman)

JORDAN TO RETURN IRAQI PLANES. Amman's "Al-Quds" on 24 May reported that Jordan is preparing to return Iraqi planes that have been detained at the Queen Alya International Airport since the Gulf War. The planes reportedly are in very bad shape and need, among other things, new engines. The paper said that Baghdad has asked that regular flights be resumed between the two countries. Initially, Jordan refused because Iraq insisted on a political statement about sanctions before the flights began. But the two sides finally agreed to flights when Baghdad dropped its insistence on such a declaration. Amman says that the number of flights will be "determined by supply and demand." (David Nissman)

SENIOR TURKISH DIPLOMAT TO VISIT BAGHDAD. Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Faruk Logoglu will make an official visit to Iraq, apparently to discuss "smart sanctions," the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 30 May. Turkey had said it supported these revisions but only if they do not impose additional costs on its economy and only if Iraq does not impose counter-restrictions on trade through Turkey. Meanwhile, Iraqi Oil Ministry Undersecretary Taha Humud Musa said that talks on construction of a natural-gas pipeline between Turkey and Iraq are continuing, the paper said. (David Nissman)

TATARSTAN TO SELL HEAVY VEHICLES TO IRAQ. Tatarstan's KamAZ plant will sell 800 heavy vehicles to Iraq, according to Russia's Military News Agency on 28 May. The company had supplied Baghdad with 400 trucks last year. KamAZ said it will seek approval from the UN Economic Sanctions Committee before proceeding. (David Nissman)

UKRAINIAN TRADE WITH IRAQ INCREASES. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, who was in Iraq between 19-21 May, said on his return to Kyiv that Iraq is interested in receiving food, steel reinforcements, and metal constructions, as well as the service of Ukrainian medical workers as part of the oil-for-food program. "This is a very serious market for Ukrainian goods," he said." Three Ukrainian companies have opened up representative offices in Iraq in the last year alone. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian State Statistics Committee said that exports to Iraq in the first quarter of 2001 were 456 times higher than the same period in 2000. (David Nissman)

KURDS DEMAND POLITICAL GUARANTEES. Kurdish visits to Western capitals have been intended to extract political and security guarantees, according to London's "Al-Hayat." But so far, these efforts have not been crowned with enormous success. The U.S. and Britain have pledged to ensure that the Kurdish administration continues to receive at least the same share -- 13 percent -- of the oil-for-food program goods as it has in the past. France has sent some positive signals, the paper said, promising to help provide assistance to keep the Kurdistan Regional Government functioning. But encouraged by even this show of support, Irbil and Sulaymaniyah have stepped up their contacts with Baghdad both to dispel Iraq's concerns that Kurdish unity presages a confrontation with Baghdad and also to gain more support from that quarter. (David Nissman)

TALABANI PRAISES IRAN FOR ITS SUPPORT OF KURDS. Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said in Sulaymaniyah on 25 May that Iran "was the only supporter of Kurds during their hard times," reported IRNA on 26 May. His remarks came at the opening of the first trade and industrial exhibition of Iran's Kurdestan Province. Talabani's claim about Iranian support was explained by Shahin Sorekli in "" of 28 May. He notes that "Middle Eastern politicians...often use a style in their speeches designed and tailored for local consumption" and that Talabani's statement about the Kurdish-Iranian relationship falls into this category. In fact, the IRNA dispatch was carried in toto by the "Tehran Times" on 26 May. (David Nissman)