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Iraq Report: July 27, 2001

27 July 2001, Volume 4, Number 23

SADDAM FORMS NEW DOMESTIC TERROR GROUP. "Iraq Press" reported on 19 July that Saddam Husseyn has formed a new commando group called "the ghosts" to carry out terrorist actions inside Iraq. The group is said to be supplied with the latest equipment and to have been recruited from among the Saddam Commandos which are led by Uday Saddam Husseyn. The new group has sweeping powers, including the right to arrest people in Iraq without warrants, and supposedly will be used against senior military and government officials thought to be disloyal. (David Nissman)

UN DRIVER FOUND WITH EXPLOSIVES IN HIS CAR. Kurdish authorities have blocked an effort by a Tunisian national in a United Nations vehicle to smuggle explosive from a Baghdad-controlled area into a Kurdish-controlled one, reported on 20 July. The website added on 23 July that several bombs have been discovered near Irbil and at sites where NGO and UN agencies have their headquarters. The Kurds have demanded that the United Nations issue a statement distancing itself from sabotage operations in Kurdistan. If such a statement is not forthcoming, the Kurdish officials said, they will be increasingly skeptical of UN operations there. (David Nissman)

FIVE REPUBLICAN GUARD OFFICERS EXECUTED. reported on 23 July that five members of the Amoraby Republican Guard division were executed in front of 2,000 Iraqi officers on charges of conspiring against the security of the state. (David Nissman)

MOSCOW RESTATES OPPOSITION TO SANCTIONS... Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that UN "sanctions against Iraq are ineffective" because they do not help ensure that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Interfax reported on 22 July. Putin added that conditions must be created so that UN inspectors can return to Baghdad, something possible only if sanctions are ended. (David Nissman)

...AND SADDAM WELCOMES RUSSIAN STAND. Saddam Husseyn said on Baghdad radio and television on 19 July that he welcomes Russia's approach. The Iraqi leader said that "during a meeting with a representative of President Vladimir Putin, I told him: We are pleased with your position, not because it aborted a Security Council resolution. At least 50 percent of the Iraqi oil revenues are stolen through the memorandum of understanding. If they present the draft resolution on the stupid sanctions, we will reject it even if Russia accepts it. In such a situation, the resolution will be worthless. Therefore, this was not the reason for our pleasure, but we were pleased because you knew the right way. When Russia knows the right way -- while bearing in mind the historical relations between Baghdad and Moscow and the geographical factor that makes you the closest big power to the Arab world and not to Iraq alone -- we will be happy. We are happy when Russia recovers." (David Nissman)

ONE MILLION INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS IN IRAQ. The U.S. journal "The New Republic" reported on 23 July that there are now close to 1 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, almost 400,000 more than in 1994. Most are Kurds and Turkmens who have been subject to Saddam's policy of ethnic cleansing. (David Nissman)

KUWAIT, ARAB LEAGUE AT ODDS OVER IRAQ. "Ukaz" of Jedda on 22 July reported that Kuwait has criticized what it called Arab League Secretary-General Amir Musa's official thanks to Moscow for foiling smart sanctions against Iraq. But sources close to the secretary-general say that Musa did not send any official thanks to Moscow. (David Nissman)

TURKEY PLANS TO INCREASE TRADE WITH IRAQ. Turkish State Minister Edip Gaydali said that Turkey plans to increase its trade volume with Iraq, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 24 July. Gaydali said that "we plan to increase the trade volume to $1 billion by the end of 2001." Until the Gulf War in 1991, Turkey and Iraq had a trade volume of $3 billion. Trade did not begin to revive until 1996. "Our main aim," he continued, "is to increase Turkey's share within the limits of the United Nations formula." Ankara's second aim is the removal of the sanctions on Iraq. Gaydali said that "we also want the sanctions to be lifted as soon as possible," according to "Anadolu" on 24 July. (David Nissman)

IRAQI PASSENGER TRAIN LEAVES FOR TURKEY. On 20 July an Iraqi passenger train left Baghdad for Turkey via Syria, the first such train in 19 years as a result of a new accord between Turkey and Syria, INA reported on 21 July. (David Nissman)

CHINA TO BUILD MOBILE PHONE NETWORK IN IRAQ. Baghdad's "Al-I'lam" on 21 July announced that the State Company for Telecommunications will soon start to build a wireless communication network in Baghdad with a capacity of 25,000 lines and that a Chinese company will participate in the project. The network is expected to expand to 100,000 lines in the near future, the paper said. (David Nissman)

STILL LITTLE INTERNET ACCESS IN IRAQ. Although access to the Internet is increasing elsewhere in the Middle East, there is very little of it in Iraq because the government prohibits the use of satellite dishes and monitors all fixed-line phone wires, the "Kurdistan Observer" reported on 23 July. (David Nissman)

IRAQI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE MEETS IN PUK-CONTROLLED KURDISTAN. A high-ranking delegation of the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce arrived in Al-Sulaymaniyah, the capitol of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan to discuss trade between all the cities in Iraq and Kurdistan. This is the first conference for the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce to be held in Al-Sulaymaniyah since the uprising in 1991. It is being held at the invitation of the Al-Sulaymaniyah Chamber of Commerce. (David Nissman)

PUK BRIEFS ITALIAN GOVERNMENT ON ARABIZATION. Bakir Fetah, a representative of the PUK in Italy, met with officials at the Italian Foreign Ministry Office to tell them about Saddam's policy of Arabization in Iraqi Kurdistan, reported on 21 July. (David Nissman)

PUK OFFICIAL ABDUCTED BY ISLAMIC GROUP. According to "Kurdistani Nuwe" on 18 July, a member of the PUK organization Committee in Tawilah was abducted by the Kurdistan Islamic Unity Movement. (David Nissman)

JOURNALIST DETAINED IN KDP-CONTROLLED IRAQI KURDISTAN. The Al-Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Hawlati" on 15 July published an open letter to the Irbil Regional Government in Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-controlled Kurdistan protesting the detention of Kurdish journalist Hashim Zebari and calling for his release. Zebari was arrested on 11 July along with two other people in Dohuk. No reason for the arrest was given. (David Nissman)

KDP MEETS WITH PUK ON SADDAM'S CALL TO DIALOGUE. The "Kurdistan Observer" reported on 24 July that the KDP had met with the PUK in Sulaymaniyah to discuss Saddam's call for a dialogue. A Kurdish source said that "the Kurds have always called for a negotiated settlement with the central government to the Kurdish question. The question is whether conditions for the success of the negotiation exist. These conditions are now under investigation." The peace process between the two Kurdish parties took another step forward when several hundred families were repatriated to Irbil and Sulaymaniyah. (David Nissman)

FIRST PKK DEFENSE CONFERENCE HELD IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. The first conference of the PKK's People's Defense Forces (HPG) was held between 28 June and 12 July in Iraqi Kurdistan with the participation of 194 commander-delegates and over 50 commanders and guerrillas as observers, the pro-PKK "Ozgur Politika" reported on 20 July. The conference evaluated the role of the HPG in the line of legitimate defense following changes in the strategy of the Kurdish national struggle, as well as tactical approaches conforming to the new period and organization. The day before the report on the conference appeared in "Ozgur Politika," a senior Turkish security official warned that expansion by separatist Kurds in northern Iraq could spark renewed fighting in the enclave protected by U.S. air patrols, reported Reuters on 19 July. The Turkish official said that "the PKK has taken 46 villages in northern Iraq that had been aligned with Talabani's forces. Fighting between the PKK and PUK could break out in the region any time because of this." (David Nissman)

NEW DAM THREATENS TO FLOOD ANCIENT ASSYRIAN CITY. The city of Ashur, the ancient religious capital of the Assyrian Empire, may be inundated as a result of waters rising behind a new dam near the city, "Iraq Press" reported on 23 July. The head of Iraq's Antiquities Department, Dr. Jabir Khalil, has issued an appeal to save the city and surrounding archeological sites. Khalil has already mobilized his department's resources for a salvage project. He said his people will resort to underwater excavation, a technique that it little-known by Iraqi archeologists. (David Nissman)