13 July 2001, Volume 4, Number 21
WEST LOOKING AT IRAQ'S USE OF MISSILES. Western governments are studying Iraq's use of ballistic missile technology to test-fire surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) last week near the Kuwaiti border, Reuters reported on 8 July. A senior Western defense source said "no one is naive, and with United Nations observers absent from Iraq for almost three years, Iraq is getting more and more dangerous."
The same day, Kuwait's "Al-Ray Al-'Am" also quoted Western defense sources who said that Iraq was testing "advanced" SAMs prior to their deployment against U.S. and British war planes that patrol the no-fly zones over southern and northern Iraq.
The Reuters report said that the range of the Iraqi SAMs appears to be within the limits imposed on Iraq after its defeat in the Gulf War, but Western officials are exploring possible violations of an arms import ban and looking into whether some countries are secretly abetting them. (David Nissman)
TWO IRAQI DIPLOMATS ASK FOR U.S. ASYLUM. Two Iraqi UN diplomats reportedly have asked for asylum in the United States, "The Times" of London said on 4 July. According to police sources in New York, Muhammad Al-Humaimidi, Iraq's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, walked into a Manhattan police station and requested political asylum for himself, his wife, and three sons. Also, Fala Hasan Al-Ruba'i, who ranked fourth at Iraq's UN mission, also asked for asylum for himself and his wife. An RFI reporter mentioned that he is well connected with senior Iraqi intelligence circles. Muhammad Al-Duri, Iraq's ambassador to the UN, would neither confirm nor deny the defections. (David Nissman)
IRAQ SIGNS NEW OIL-FOR-FOOD AGREEMENT. On 9 July, Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations opening the way for phase 10 of the program. This phase will be for five instead of six months, UPI reported. The MOU makes the plan retroactive to 4 July and allows Baghdad to sell its oil and use some of the proceeds to purchase humanitarian relief goods. Some of the proceeds are paid toward Gulf War reparations.
Phase 9 of the program expired on 4 June. At the same time, Britain (supported by the U.S.) introduced a draft resolution to the UN directed at stopping the smuggling of oil through Baghdad's neighbors and streamlining the sanctions regime. Iraq objected to this resolution and then stopped pumping oil. Following the failure to revise the sanctions, the oil-for-food program has commenced operating again as it was before. By 9 July, pumping to either of Iraq's export terminals had not begun, although several oil tankers are waiting at the terminals, according to "Dow Jones International News" of 9 July. (David Nissman)
UDAY THREATENS TO MURDER A KURDISH JOURNALIST. KurdishMedia.com of 8 July has reported that R.M. Ahmad, a respected journalist for KurdishMedia.com and resident of Great Britain, has received a murder threat in an e-mail from Uday Saddam Husseyn, Saddam's oldest son. In it, he warned Ahmad to stop his activities on the Internet. The text is as follows: "To Mr. Ahmad, This is a warning message to the holder of this e-mail, Mr. Ahmad, by the name of the government of Iraq, we'd like to inform you that we have been able to allocate (sic) your current residency, and since months we have been monitoring your activities on the net and the public against the country of Iraq. So we call to stop all your activities and your reports against your home -- Iraq. Our brave young tough agents are able to stop people like you in the time and place that we will determine...Down to U.S.-U.K. and all their agents, Republic of Iraq, Odi Saddam Hussain." KurdishMedia.com notes that the address of the sender is email@example.com, and it is dated 5 July. It found further that that uruklink is registered and administered by a French company: ImagiNET Hostmaster, ImagiNET France, located in Paris. (David Nissman)
NEW WAVE OF EXECUTIONS IN SOUTH. On 3 July, "Iraq Press" reported from Damascus that 10 people were killed in an arrest sweep security forces conducted against a village in southern Iraq, in Dhikar Province. It was claimed that the inhabitants of the village were providing refuge to dissidents who carry out hit-and-run attacks on security and government targets in the region. It is not known how many people were arrested.
On 11 July, "Iraq Press" reported that five students from the University of Basra were executed by the authorities and that 20 Iraqi refugees were put to death following their repatriation from Iran. They were among the nearly 3,000 refugees in Iran who were repatriated in the last two years. The executions were carried out in the cities of Basra, Kut, and Baghdad. The refugees had fled to Iran following the execution of Imam Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr in 1980.
Another event which may be related is that in the early morning of the same day 16 missiles struck Baghdad, according to Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television. The Iraqi authorities have not commented on the type of missiles used nor the party responsible for it. It is felt by Iraqis abroad that this attack may be retaliatory in nature for the executions in the south and suspect that the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iran (SCIRI) may have launched the missiles. Subsequently, Hamid Al-Bayyati, a spokesman for SCIRI, confirmed that SCIRI had launched the missiles in an interview with Radio Free Iraq. (David Nissman)
SADDAM SAYS IRAQ 'CANNOT BE ISOLATED.' At a meeting with officials of his atomic energy agency and military industrial organization, Saddam Husseyn said that "Iraq cannot be isolated from humanity" and denouncing what he called "the Zionist media" of distorting the situation, Baghdad radio reported on 7 July. (David Nissman)
IRAQI MPS IN MOROCCO. An Iraqi delegation from the Iraqi parliament arrived in Rabat, Morocco, on 6 July to hold talks with the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Abdelaziz Alaoui Hafidi, to explain Iraq's stance on the international sanctions, said the Moroccan News Agency on 7 July. The Moroccan official reiterated Morocco's support for lifting the embargo. Ahmad Rashid Rawi, vice speaker of the Iraq Council and head of the delegation, deplored the "intelligent sanctions" as a conspiracy aiming to impose a permanent tutorship on the Iraqi people. (David Nissman)
PUK, KDP MEET TO DISCUSS KURDISH PARLIAMENT. The Higher Coordination Committee (HCC) meeting between Mas'ud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), met on 9 July to discuss the normalization of relations between the two Kurdish parties, London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 8 July. Previous improvements in their relationship included decisions to allow displaced peoples to return to their homes and to demilitarize the contact lines between the two administrations.
The HCC, established in the wake of the 1998 Washington Peace Agreement, is expected to give a new interpretation to areas of disagreement regarding the work of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. It is thought that an agreement on this issue will enable both parties to open representative offices in each other's areas and to prepare to elect a new parliament within nine months. Jalal Talabani, General Secretary of the PUK, stressed that the PUK is working toward unifying Kurdistan under the rule of one elected parliament and unified government, in a speech delivered at the University of Sulaymaniyah, according to "KurdishMedia.com" of 8 July. (David Nissman)
IRAQ CONDEMNS TURKISH AGGRESSION IN NORTH. In a letter to Amir Musa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Acting Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said that in the period between 17-19 June, carriers loaded with 50 tanks headed for the district of Irbil (Irbil is the capital of KDP-controlled northern Iraq). Also, 40 other tanks headed toward Duhok and Zakho districts, part of which are now located at Bamarni Airport, according to INA of 9 July.
Aziz claimed that this repeated aggression is an encroachment on Iraq's airspace and territory and a violation of the UN Charter. He also claimed that the Turkish government justified its violations on flimsy pretexts, such as tracking groups threatening Turkish security. And he demanded that the secretary-general urge the Turkish government to "put an end to such provocative and unjustifiable acts and respect Iraq's sovereignty."
At the same time, both Kurdish and Iraqi government sources have said that Saddam is preparing for an offensive to end Kurdish self-rule in the north, reported the "Middle East Newsline" of 8 July. They said that Saddam has amassed as many as 10,000 troops along the no-fly zone and near the town of Shihan.
On 7 July, Baghdad's "Al-Iraq" said Iraq will restore the Kurdish region to his control after a decade of autonomy. It is said that about 5 million Kurds live in the area under the Kurdish autonomy. The "Middle East Newsline" also cites the Ankara daily "Zaman," which says that the United States plans to divide Iraq into three areas: the northern area would be reserved for Kurds; the middle for Sunnis; and the south for Shi'ites. This plan will allegedly by completed in August.
In a similar context, "KurdishMedia.com" on 7 July reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had renewed the commitment of the British government to protect Iraqi Kurdistan. He said this to First Secretary of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG-Irbil) Hoshyar Zebary. (David Nissman)
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN NORTHERN IRAQ MARKED BY VIOLENCE. AINA (the Assyrian International News Agency) on 2 July reported that the elections in northern Iraq were marred by discrimination against "basic Assyrian political, civil, and human rights". Prior to the elections, the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) claimed that the elections were rigged and prepared for a boycott to be declared on 23 May.
The Assyrians claim that the Kurdish (Behdinani and Sorani) tribal leaders have taken great pains to present themselves to the world as respecting political rights and diversity within the regions, yet there have been constant claims that both the KDP and PUK have been persecuting the Assyrians in recent years. However, to offset the chances of an erosion of international support for the Kurdish cause, major Kurdish leaders called for a meeting with ADM leaders to prevent a possible boycott.
According to AINA, "the 23 May ADM press release...urged Assyrians to participate in the elections." The ADM claimed that later integrating elections would increase Assyrian representation in the future. AINA also asserts that smaller Assyrian parties had already been pressured by the "KPD-PUK alliance" into compliance. "It is now widely believed that the meeting between the ADM and KDP was highlighted by overt threats of violence against the Assyrian leadership throughout northern Iraq. The ADM acquiesced to Kurdish demands because of the fear of more assassinations of Assyrian leaders and unprovoked attacks against unarmed Assyrian villages."
Assyrian leaders in the diaspora have called this pressure "gun-barrel democracy." Abgar Maloul of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) said in an interview with AINA that "coercing political participation by threats is not consistent with democracy." (David Nissman)