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Iraq Report: August 17, 2001

17 August 2001, Volume 4, Number 25

EXPLOSIONS ROCK IRAQI MILITARY INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) reported that Islamic Resistance Forces attacked on 2 August "a sensitive MIO installation in the Al-Taji area north of the capital Baghdad," according to the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Hayat" of 12 August. In this attack, two guards were killed, two wounded, and one of the attackers was injured. The attack resulted in an explosion in the installation.

Another explosion occurred at the Al-Qadisiyah Military Installation in the Al-Zubayr area of Basra.

At the same time, Saddam's younger son Qusay, who is both chief of the Special Security Service and deputy chief of the Ba'th Party's Military Bureau, began an investigation with Staff Major General Sa'id Ibrahim in mid-July. After one week, Qusay ordered that Ibrahim be placed under house arrest on suspicion that he was in contact with Iraqi opposition groups inside Iraq. (David Nissman)

EXPLOSIVES SEIZED IN IRBIL. Security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Irbil confiscated a vehicle loaded with TNT explosives, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Zaman" of 11 August, reported the "Kurdistan Observer" of 11 August. According to Kurdish security, the vehicle was sent by Baghdad to be detonated at the UN headquarters in Irbil. In a routine check, 15 kilograms of TNT were found concealed in the vehicle.

The driver of the seized vehicle confessed that Iraqi security placed explosives inside the car and ordered him to drive it to UN headquarters in Irbil.

Bombs exploded on 10 August in Dohuk and Zakho. The Dohuk explosion occurred near a building operated by a non-governmental organization. That explosion in Zakho occurred near the center of the city. Neither bomb caused human casualties, although considerable damage to buildings was done. (David Nissman)

SADDAM ADVISOR SEEKS ASYLUM IN SWEDEN. According to KUNA of 14 August, Saddam Husseyn's advisor, Sadiq Sha'ban, fled to Sweden last week to seek asylum. According to SCIRI, Sha'ban is a military engineer and served as both ambassador to Sweden and as a special advisor to Saddam Husseyn.

Sha'ban acted as escort to Saddam on his trips outside of Baghdad. Sha'ban had left Iraq for Jordan under the pretext that his wife was sick.

His ties with the Iraqi regime began to end because he was critical of the regime's killing of Saddam's son-in-law Husseyn Kamil. (David Nissman)

SADDAM NOVEL TO BE STAGED. Saddam Husseyn's alleged novel, "Zabibah and the King," is to be turned into a patriotic musical to be performed at the Iraq National Theater, according to an article in "The Daily Telegraph" of 14 August.

The story, which is set in Babylon, concerns a love triangle featuring a cruel husband, thought by Iraqi literary scholars to represent America; a wife, a sort of 'everywoman'; and an insecure king, thought to represent Saddam.

According to Philip Smucker, the author of "The Daily Telegraph" article, Western intelligence officials have studied the text for clues about Saddam's megalomania.

The story itself is both a love story and a discussion about how to succeed the king. Its high point arrives when Zabibah is raped, on 17 January, the same date that American-led forces launched the offensive that drove Iraq out of Kuwait. The king captures the rapists, avenges Zabibah's honor, and dies.

The question is, of course, did Saddam write it? (David Nissman)

SYRIA, IRAQ SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan and Syrian Prime Minister Mustafa Miru signed a series of cooperation agreements heralding a new period of bilateral relations between the countries. The agreements open the way for the establishment of seven joint companies in the industrial, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications fields, as well as cooperation in the transport, health and trade sectors, according to AFP on 13 August. The countries hope to double their bilateral trade from $500 million to $1 billion.

Ramadan stressed that Iraq is committed to support Syria in all fields, "including military" in the event of armed conflict with Israel. Iraq stressed that any aggression against Syria would be considered an aggression against Iraq.

Miru restated Syria's opposition "to all hostile pressures and moves against Iraq and attempts to interfere in its internal affairs." In this context, Baghdad Radio said on 13 August that the Syrian side had expressed its denunciation of the continuation of the conspiracy of the ceaseless embargo and aggression against Iraq and its full support of Iraq's demand to lift the embargo. (David Nissman)

PAKISTAN, IRAQ DISCUSS BILATERAL RELATIONS. Saddam Husseyn has received Tariq Ikram, the Pakistani minister of state, head of the office for encouraging Pakistani exports, and personal envoy of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, according to Baghdad Television on 12 August. During the meeting, Saddam received a letter from Musharraf on friendship and cooperative ties between Pakistan and Iraq and how to enhance them. The letter expressed Pakistan's desire to develop bilateral relations in the interest of both countries.

Ikram expressed his satisfaction with the development of bilateral ties. He also praised the outcome of the meetings of the joint Iraqi-Pakistani Committee for cooperation in all fields, especially science and technology.

Saddam pointed out "if the Iraqi and Pakistani governments view the essence of their relationship away from foreign interference, they will find that it is a good relationship. However, when there is foreign interference, these relations are influenced by the desires of foreigners and not by the two peoples' desire and the good legacy they have."

The "Business Recorder" of Karachi pointed out on 14 August that the Iraqi government has sought Pakistan's expertise through Tariq Ikram in exploration and the development of oil and gas in Iraq. In a subsequent meeting with Amir Muhammad Rashid, Iraq's minister of oil, Ikram briefed Rashid on the various technical cooperation programs underway between the two countries. Rashid also expressed his appreciation for the training facilities offered by Pakistan's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to eight Iraqi field officials last April. (David Nissman)

PHILIPPINES WANTS LARGER PART IN OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM. The Philippines will seek greater participation in the UN-sanctioned oil-for-food program in Iraq, AFP reported on 14 August. This will be one of the topics to be discussed between Philippines Foreign Secretary Teofisto Gingona and Iraqi Minister for Housing and Building Ma'n Andallah Sarsam on his arrival in Manila.

Sarsam is heading a large delegation. His visit is aimed at enhancing bilateral cooperation between both states.

Philippine participation in the oil-for-food program is recent. A local firm imported $2.4 million of agricultural equipment from Iraq. Now, local oil companies have also expressed an interest in participating in the program by importing Iraqi oil, which the Philippine Foreign Office said was being sold for a dollar less than the prevailing world crude rate. (David Nissman)

FOCUS ON IRAQ'S DEBT TO BULGARIA. According to the Bulgarian Finance Ministry, Iraq owes Bulgaria some $1.3 billion, plus $300 million in annual interest that Iraq refuses to accept. A recent article in the Sofia finance journal "Kapital" of 11-17 August focuses on the various machinations used in an attempt to retrieve this sum.

"Kapital" points out that the sum is equal to approximately one-eighth of Bulgaria's foreign debt. Efforts were made to collect the money in the past, but these all led nowhere. An effort was even made to involve a former U.S. ambassador. A source familiar with the various schemes pointed out "most of the debt was accumulated through Bulgaria selling arms to Iraq prior to 1989, which explained why the Americans so categorically rejected any attempt to settle it."

A Bulgarian economist said "in case Iraq had any intention to repay its debt to Bulgaria, it could use the annual joint committees held by the two countries to reach an agreement on the issue." In short, any expectation that the various means suggested to collect, or recoup the money is unrealistic. (David Nissman)

IRAQI OIL INDUSTRY HIGHLIGHTED. In an interview with the Baghdad newspaper "Al-Ittihad" on 4 August, Iraqi Oil Minister Dr. Amir Muhammad Rashid announced that approximately 50 Iraqi oil, engineering, and mechanical firms produced equipment worth $250 million to secure oil industry requirements over the last two years. In his statement to "Al-Ittihad", the minister said that Iraq had decided to secure oil industry requirements by relying on national production to develop oil fields and oil industry sectors.

He also pointed out that "what makes us more confident about the national industry is the fact that the Military Industrialization Organization firms and the ministries of Oil and Industry and Minerals managed to manufacture small-size oil refineries last year." He added that Iraqi companies also built reservoirs and made other oil industry-related equipment, including control panels, pipes, and electrical transformers, as well as chemical material. (David Nissman)

RUSSIAN ENVOY ON KUWAITI POWS IN IRAQ. Russian envoy Nikolai Kartuzov stressed in Kuwait that his country would continue exerting efforts in Iraq to find a solution to the issue of Kuwaiti POWs detained in Iraqi prisons, according to KUNA of 11 August.

Kartuzov met with Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, to whom he delivered a letter from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. The letter encompassed a number of issues including the Iraqi crisis and bilateral relations.

Also under discussion were the "smart sanctions," which he claimed would harm the Iraqi people but not the regime. (David Nissman)

JORDAN INCREASES BAGHDAD FLIGHTS. Royal Jordanian Airlines has announced it will increase the number of flights to Baghdad from three to four as of September, according to Jordanian Television, Channel 1 on 12 August. Jordanian Minister of Transport Nadir Al-Dhahabi said the decision was taken in view of the growing economic relations between the two countries and the facilities being provided by the Iraqi authorities.

Iraqi citizens will receive a discount on return tickets: Baghdad-Amman will only cost $200 for an economy class return ticket, instead of the usual $315.

Al-Dhahabi said that eventually the airliner hopes to fly to Baghdad daily. (David Nissman)

TALABANI, BARZANI MEET WITH UN DELEGATION. Jalal Talabani, general secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), held talks on 12 August with United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Ton Myat concerning the latest developments in the Kurdistan region in implementing UN Security Council Resolution 986, the oil-for-food program, according to "Kurdistan Newsline" of 13 August. The UN delegation also included Deputy Coordinator for Kurdistan Affairs Husseyn Alfi, and others.

Talabani made a number of suggestions to the UN delegation to improve the implementation mechanism of the program in Kurdistan. The two sides discussed various humanitarian, service, and development projects within the realm of the UN resolution and ways of improving the implementation process.

Subsequently, the UN delegation journeyed on to Salahuddin, where it met with Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Barzani urged the UN to start buying grain from needy Kurdish farmers, instead of importing it from abroad. Barzani also asked for UN aid in resolving the chronic power shortages in Kurdistan, according to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 15 August. (David Nissman)

PUK, KDP REACH PARLIAMENTARY AGREEMENT. The leader of the House in the Kurdish parliament, Dr. Roj Nuri Shawais, announced that the PUK and the KDP have reached a major agreement about the parliament in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to a report on of 12 August. The PUK has accepted the results of the election to the 1992 parliament, while the KDP has agreed to hold the first meeting of the parliament in Irbil (KDP-controlled sector of Iraqi Kurdistan) and the second in Sulaymaniyah (in the PUK-controlled sector of Iraqi Kurdistan). The KDP will lead the parliament for three months, with the PUK in charge for the next two months.

According to the agreement, a general election should be held to elect a new parliament six months from the date of the first joint session of the present parliament. This means that, at the conclusion of the two-month term of PUK leadership, the present parliament will reach the end of its final term. (David Nissman)

KIRKUK ETHNIC CLEANSING INTENSIFIES. "Kurdistan Newsline" on 9 August reported that a new, intense campaign of ethnic cleansing is taking place in Kirkuk and other places in Kurdistan under Baghdad's control, according to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 9 August. The Iraqis are planning to settle 6,000 Arab families in the Laylan, Qara Hanjir, and Shwan areas of Kirkuk.

As part of Baghdad's incentive policy of arabization, 22 food distribution franchises have been granted, free of charge, to the new Arab settlers. According to the reports, Iraqi authorities issued directives to all official bodies to facilitate the arabization policy, known as "the Ten Thousand Families." The new settlers are replacing indigenous Kurdish and Turkmen families that have been displaced by the authorities. The new Arab settlers receive a free plot of land and each family is provided a grant of 10,000 Iraqi dinars ($32,000) as an incentive for settlement. (David Nissman)

KURDISTAN ANNOUNCES GENOCIDE SURVEY. The prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Dr. Barham Salih, met with a delegation of representatives from all NGOs operating in the KRG. The agenda included KRG proposals regarding NGO work in the region, which will be forwarded to the UN in New York as well as to UN agency workers in the region. The purpose of the session was to better coordinate the vital work of NGOs in the region.

It was also announced that the first phase of an informational survey of victims of the Iraqi Anfal campaign has been completed, according to "Kurdistan Newsline" of 13 August.

"Anfal" refers to the official Iraqi campaigns in 1987-1988 that systematically destroyed towns and villages in Iraqi Kurdistan and forced surviving inhabitants into concentration camps. The Anfal campaigns cost more than 182,000 people their lives and saw more than 4,000 houses destroyed. Of the affected towns, the best known is Halabcha, which was hit by chemical weapons (mustard gas, sarin, tabun and VX); five to seven thousand inhabitants died instantly.

Official Iraqi documentation shows that Iraqi forces used biological, and chemical weapons during these campaigns with clear genocidal intent. The Anfal campaigns constitute the largest civilian population ever exposed to chemical and biological weapons in the world. (David Nissman)

MESOPOTAMIAN MARSHLANDS, MARSH ARAB SOCIETY DISAPPEARING. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) issued a press release in August on the gradual disappearance of the Mesopotamian marshlands, the largest wetland in the Middle East and one of the most important freshwater wetlands in the world.

Despite many warnings, the release points out that there "has been little immediate action to avoid this process." The wetlands are located at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq. In previous times, the wetlands covered an area of between 15,000-20,000 square kilometers -- today, they cover only about 1,300 square kilometers.

The decline of the marshlands resulted from the damming of the two rivers upstream of the marshes, as well as drainage schemes implemented since the 1970s. The immediate cause, according to the UNEP release, is the massive drainage of the marsh carried out since the second Gulf War.

In human terms, the disappearance of the marshlands has meant the collapse of Marsh Arab society. Some 40,000 of the estimated 500,000 Marsh Arabs live in refugee camps in Iran. The rest are internally displaced within Iraq. It marks the beginning of the end of one of the more ancient cultures in the world.

The impact of this desiccation process has also been felt by the area's wildlife. The disappearance of the marsh has had implications for migratory birds. Some 40 species of wildfowl are now at risk, and mammals and fish that only existed in the marshland are now considered extinct. (David Nissman)