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Iraq Report: June 8, 2001

8 June 2001, Volume 4, Number 20

The next issue of "RFE/RL Iraq Report" will appear on 13 July.

IRAQI OIL EXPORT SUSPENSION CONFIRMED. The United Nations on 4 June confirmed that Baghdad has suspended its petroleum exports. Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that "we can confirm that loadings at Ceyhan, Turkey, have stopped." Loadings of two vessels at Mina Al-Bakr, however, were continuing because "these vessels had begun loading operations before the halt came into effect." Security Council officials said that any disruption of the supply of oil would lead to humanitarian hardships in Iraq, but UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, however, told reporters that the decision to stop exporting oil was in the hands of the Iraqi leadership. (David Nissman)

MOSCOW SEES PROGRESS TOWARD LIFTING SANCTIONS. On 1 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that UN Security Council resolution 1352 points to the possibility of lifting sanctions, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 June. Although the resolution itself does not do that, the ministry stressed that the resolution shows the intention of the council to "agree on new procedures for goods supplies to Iraq within a month." The same day, Iraq's Tariq Aziz summoned the Russian, Chinese, and Tunisian ambassadors and announced Baghdad's rejection of the UN resolution. He said it was based on concepts laid down in the Anglo-American draft resolutions on the so-called 'smart sanctions' that Iraq already had categorically rejected, Baghdad Radio reported. (David Nissman)

KURDISH FUNDAMENTALISTS CLASH IN NORTHERN IRAQ. Two wings of a fundamentalist Kurdish movement clashed in Dujaylah near the Iranian border, "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 1 June reported. The dissident wing calls itself the "Islamic League of Iraqi Kurdistan." (David Nissman)

QUSAY SADDAM LOOKS LIKE SADDAM'S SUCCESSOR... Paris' "Al-Watan Al-'Arabi" on 1 June said that recent developments in Iraq show that Saddam's second son, Qusay Saddam Husseyn is the only successor. The paper said that "observers think that the most serious decision of [the recent Ba'th congress, which re-elected the Regional Command of the party in Baghdad, marked the beginning of the process of establishing Qusay Saddam Husseyn in that role." The paper said that the party's bylaws had been amended to allow for young people to be elected. Qusay is 46. In addition to his election to the Regional Command, Qusay was also elected a member of the Revolution Command Council (RCC), the highest political authority in Iraq. Two days later, Saddam appointed Qusay as his deputy, along with Latif Nusayyif Jasim, in the command of the party's military bureau. (David Nissman)

...AS ALGIERS SIGNS OIL COOPERATION DEAL WITH BAGHDAD. Iraq and Algeria have signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the oil sector, Radio Baghdad reported on 30 May. The accord calls for the development of joint projects in Iraq's Tuba field. (David Nissman)

...AS 'UDAY'S PRESS EMPIRE DESCRIBED. 'Uday Saddam Husseyn, Iraq's largest media magnate, with a television and radio station, and eleven newspapers, is holding talks with the Lebanese Press Industries Company to set up a large press in Baghdad, "Iraq News" reported on 29 May. Uday wants his new press to supply the press with sophisticated printing machinery and equipment. According to the paper, Iraq's expanding external trade under the oil-for-food program has increased demand for advertising, primarily by foreign companies. At present, some 35 newspapers are published in Iraq. Four of them are government-owned, eleven are owned by Uday, and the rest printed in the provinces or institution-owned. All, of course, follow the official line. As a result, the contents of the papers duplicate each other in more than 90 percent of the cases. (David Nissman)

SYRIA-IRAQ RAPPROCHEMENT CAUSES CONCERN IN AMMAN. Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz recently hosted several Jordanian senior officials and explained why Iraq might veer toward Syria and away from Jordan if Jordan approved or went along with the smart sanctions, London's "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" reported on 1 June. This appears to be why the Jordanian Foreign Minister Abd-Al-Llah Al-Khatib recently traveled to Damascus on a fact-finding mission to sound out the Syrians on the tactics they would use on regional issues.

Aziz reviewed the practical steps that had been taken to restore "the historic Iraqi-Syrian relationship." There are now four flights a week on the Damascus-Baghdad route; these flights are very profitable. Syrian goods are flooding Iraq, especially foodstuffs, clothes, equipment, and cotton supplies. The borders between the two countries are open, and Syrian companies are opening branch offices in Baghdad. Outside the trade protocol between the two countries a $1 billion trade exchange is being discussed. The official protocol totals another $1 billion.

According to unidentified "sources" cited by the paper, there may be a secret agreement to transport large quantities of oil to Syria some of which is sold on behalf of the Iraqis. This would provide Iraq with the necessary liquidity to withstand the smart sanctions. (David Nissman)

ALGERIANS SIGN $25 MILLION IN CONTRACTS IN IRAQ... Algerian businesses have signed contracts worth $25 million during a visit to Baghdad, Algiers' "La Tribune" reported on 2 June. The contracts deal with agribusiness, detergent products, the pharmaceutical industry, hydraulic equipment, paper and school supplies, ceramics, packaging, agriculture, and the mechanical industry. (David Nissman)

CONFERENCE APPEALS TO UN TO STOP ARABIZATION. An April 2001 academic conference in Irbil issued a memorandum that has now been sent to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The memorandum urged the international community to intervene to block the further arabization of the Kirkuk area and also to end the ethnic cleansing of that region. It asks that the UN force Baghdad to reveal the fate of thousands of Kurds and others who have been detained and then disappeared. And it calls for an expansion of the safe haven to include Kirkuk. (David Nissman)

KURDS PREPARE FOR CHANGED POLITICAL SCENE IN IRAQ. The "reconciliation" between the Kurdish parties administrating the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is driven by a review of priorities in anticipation of the possible consequences of the failure of the ongoing negotiations between Baghdad and the United Nations on the new sanctions system and in preparation for the expected political changes, according to a commentator from Irbil writing in London's "Al-Hayat" of 29 May.

The rapprochement and coordination between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has descended to deeper levels than the differences in views over the distribution of customs revenues, unification of the two administrations, and the reactivation of the KRG parliament.

Current Kurdish moves toward coordination with Baghdad are a result of increased confidence in the Kurdish establishment and the Kurds' success in establishing a solid defense system that can handle any conventional attack by Baghdad on Kurdistan. Over the last two years, Kurdish military leaders both trained a semi-professional military force and exploited the international market to obtain good weapons in the same way as Iraq, namely, by using the smuggling networks. Thus, the defense network resulting from these efforts became an actual deterrent to attacks from the Baghdad-controlled areas.

At the same time, the Kurdish leaders are aware that they cannot rely on firm Western stands toward the Iraq issue. These caused them to turn to Baghdad with specific initiatives. In this context, PUK leader Jalal Talabani made the teaching of Arabic compulsory at the start of the next school year. and promised not to use any regional party for developing oil production from wells in his areas.

The major stumbling block remaining between the KDP and PUK is the question of the unification of the PUK and KDP administrations. Leader of the KDP Mas'ud Barzani said to "Al-Hayah" that "I personally do not see any problem in the presence of the two administrations at the crucial transitional stage." But Talabani disagrees. (David Nissman)

NEW KURDISH 'VOICE OF MESOPOTAMIA' BEGINS BROADCASTS. The pro-PKK television station Medya-TV announced on 31 May that a new Kurdish broadcaster, "Denge Mesopotamia" (Voice of Mesopotamia) has been launched. It broadcasts on 15230 khz from 1100-1300 and on 15770 khz 1700-1900. FBIS said on 1 June that the Voice of Mespotamia had been heard on 31 May and 1 June on 15770 khz between 1400-1600. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIANS DECRY BAGHDAD'S POLICIES. The 23rd Assyrian Universal Alliance World Congress expressed its concerns about Iraqi oppression of the Assyrians in Bet Nahrain, "Zinda" reported on 29 May. The congress declaration condemns "steps being implemented by the Iraqi government to change the population demographics on the Nineveh Plain," as well as the destruction of historical buildings and archeological sites. And it denounced "the implementation of a policy in Kirkuk, Mosul, Ein Sifneh and elsewhere to prevent Assyrians, Kurds and Turkmen[s] from buying land for the construction of homes unless they are willing to change their legal (census) nationality designation to Arab." (David Nissman)