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Iraq Report: September 7, 2001

7 September 2001, Volume 4, Number 28

TARIQ AZIZ TO BECOME 'HARD-LINER.' According to a report in the London-based "Al-Hayat" of 28 August, reliable sources have said that Saddam Husseyn has given Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz the task of making hard-line statements in reaction to Arab and foreign officials. This, according to the sources, "deprives him of his image as the experienced diplomat." At the same time, Saddam conferred on his Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi "an objective image" when he gave him the task of launching initiatives that indicate "a state of openness in Iraqi diplomacy."

The sources maintain that Saddam's pressures on Aziz increased after the arrest of Ziyad, Aziz's son, on charges of receiving commissions (bribes) for contracts concluded with foreign companies.

Saddam has also appointed four officials as his deputies in the cabinet in addition to Tariq Aziz is apparently a reduction in Aziz's power and influence. He had been responsible for Iraq's programs for deepening relations with pro-Baghdad Arab and foreign parliamentarians, as well as supervising Iraqi media branches from his position as Saddam's deputy in the Ba'th Party's "Pan-Arab Culture and Information Bureau."

The arrest of his son and his month-long detention in Al-Ridwaniyah prison have only increased the pressures on Aziz. "Al-Hayat's" sources say that Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay were behind the decision to arrest Ziyad.

Another report, in "Zinda Magazine" of 1 September claims that Aziz has already resigned his position as Iraq's deputy prime minister. It is added that Saddam Husseyn has accepted Aziz's resignation, but this is unconfirmed. (David Nissman)

IRAQI INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL DEFECTS TO YEMEN VIA JORDAN. Jordanian authorities have given an Iraqi who asked for political asylum in Jordan 48 hours to leave the country. According to Al-Jazirah Satellite Television of 2 September, the Iraqi, Ala' Al-Majid, is a cousin of Saddam Husseyn and was one of Saddam's escorts from 1970-1990. Since 1990, he had been working in the Iraqi Intelligence Directorate. He claimed that he began to oppose the policies of the Husseyn regime. "Al-Jazirah's" correspondent in Amman said that Jordanian authorities interrogated Ala' Al-Majid, who had been in Jordan only for two days, and banned him from having any outside contacts before leaving the country.

The defection may be linked to a purge Saddam is now conducting in his inner circle. "Iraq Press" reported from London on 3 September that feuding in Saddam's inner circle has become so intense that Saddam has ordered a purge of bodyguards charged with his personal protection. A source close to the Saddam Husseyn regime in Baghdad says the purge is concentrating on members of the Saddam clan of Albu-Nasir who are divided over power-sharing.

Among those purged is Lieutenant General Sufyan Al-Hazzaa, who was Saddam's personal escort. The conflict began after the murder of Husseyn Kamil, Al-Majid's cousin, who had defected to Jordan, returned to Baghdad, and was gunned down in 1996 despite Saddam's pledge of a pardon. Many members of the Albu-Nasir clan have demanded that Kamil's death be avenged.

By the same token, Saddam is now conducting a campaign to eliminate nepotism. He is said to have pointed his finger at the sons of a number of his aides, among them the son of Tariq Aziz.

AFP on 4 September reported that Al-Majid has refused to meet with the Iraqi ambassador, Yasin Sabah. Al-Majid told reporters that "over the last 10 days differences emerged with the Iraqi government that prevented me from returning." Informed sources told AFP that Al-Majid is expected to apply for asylum in Yemen.

In the meantime, the "People's Daily" of 4 September reports that the Jordanian government has denied that Al-Majid is seeking asylum, and states that he is only "an impostor who fled Iraq to avoid fraud charges." Also, the government says that he is not Saddam's cousin. (David Nissman)

REGULAR DAILY FLIGHTS TO START BETWEEN DAMASCUS AND BAGHDAD. Aviation sources have said that a private company will begin operating regular flights between Damascus and Baghdad on 1 September, report the London-based "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" on 29 August. These will be the first regular flights between the two countries for over two decades.

The announcement of the flights came as Syrian Prime Minister Mustafa Miru was holding talks with Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih on bolstering economic and trade relations between the two countries.

The private company has no connections with the Syrian or Iraqi airline companies, but it had to have official approval from both countries to start the flights. (David Nissman)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER ON U.S., ARAB ISSUES. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi was interviewed by "Al-Jazirah Satellite Television" on 29 August and given his chance to express his views on a number of issues.

He explains the no-fly zones by dwelling on the northern no-fly zone. He says that the purpose then was "to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies to thousands of Kurds, who were alarmed by the Western propaganda machine. At that time Iraqi media were destroyed and the country was mutilated as a result of the savage aggression and the devastating bombing that was continued for 42 days. The U.S. excuse at the time was that it needed the no-fly zone to stop Iraqi flights from interfering with the aircraft that dropped the so-called humanitarian supplies. But, that was just an excuse to enforce the zone, which continues to this day. In August 1992 another zone was enforced in southern Iraq."

He dismissed American claims that Iraq's air defense system was built with Chinese aid, especially with the help of fiber-optical cables supplied by the Chinese. He also states that due to U.S. pressures, the Iraqis are even deprived of mobile phones.

When asked about the different trends represented in the American position, Al-Hadithi says that whatever the situation in America, "we have not seen any difference between them."

The roles played by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in allowing the American airbases are strongly condemned, and he says that Iraq will only hear what they say if they "stop the aggression."

On Russia, he says they "proceed from good will" in the Security Council but can always be subject to pressure from others.

With regard to the betterment of relations with Syria, Al-Hadithi notes that "Syria's relationship with Iraq is distinct from that with the other Arab countries in view of the direct geographical link;" he adds that "the Syrian prime minister's visit to Iraq has contributed greatly to strengthening the basis of economic cooperation." Asked whether the improvement of relations with Damascus reflects positively on relations with Iran, he answered, "our relationship with Syria falls within our pan-Arab action, while the relationship with Iran is something else." (David Nissman)

IRAQI-JORDANIAN PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION TO START IN 2002. Jordanian Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Muhammad Al-Batayinah said that Iraq has shown complete readiness to supply Jordan with all its requirements of oil and oil byproducts now and in the future without any reservations or conditions. In a statement to the Amman newspaper "Al-Arab Al-Yawm" of 30 August, he said about the pipeline that there is full agreement with the Iraqi side on building the pipeline from Iraq to the Jordanian Petroleum Refinery in Al-Zarqa near Amman.

Al-Batayina added that a long-term agreement has been signed on providing Jordan with crude oil through this pipeline. He also said that a technical consultant for this project has been chosen in accordance with the recommendations of the joint technical committee formed by the two sides. A tender for building the pipeline will be submitted before the end of this year and construction will start during the first three months of 2002. The project will be complete in 24-30 months.

The benefits to Jordan of this project are that Jordan's requirements in crude oil will be covered through the pipeline and transport costs will be reduced as there would be no need to use tanker trucks to transport oil from Iraq. (David Nissman)

TURKISH BUSINESS DELEGATION IN BAGHDAD. A Turkish business delegation left for Iraq on 29 August headed by Foreign Trade Undersecretary Kursad Tuzmen, according to the Anadolu News Agency on 29 August. A statement from the Ankara Chamber of Industry (ASO) said that the 109-man delegation was formed in cooperation between the Foreign Economic Relations Board and the ASO. The delegation is to hold a series of meetings in Iraq until 3 September, the day the Baghdad International Fair ends.

Executive Board Chairman of the Konya Chamber of Commerce Huseyin Uzulmez said that they would set long-term strategies with Iraq before the lifting of the embargo.

On arrival they were received by Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Al-Salih, who stressed the importance of the promotion of relations with Turkey, and added that Iraq planned to buy small cars from Turkey.

Al-Salih noted that contracts signed with Turkish companies in the ninth period of the oil-for-food program amounted to $263 million, and that this would increase during the tenth period.

Subsequently, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan met with Tuzmen and said that the trade exchange between Iraq and Turkey remains below the two peoples' expectations. Tuzmen expressed Turkey's desire to diversify fields of cooperation with Iraq, according to Baghdad Radio of 1 September. The meeting was also attended by Amir Muhammad Rashid, who heads the Iraqi side of the Iraqi-Turkish Committee and the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad.

Similar subjects were discussed in the meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Hikmat A-Azzawi and Tuzmen. Al-Azzawi also stressed the importance of establishing free-trade zones, reported Baghdad Radio on 1 September.

On 3 September, Tuzmen said that Turkey and Iraq had signed contracts worth $350 million, In an interview with "Anatolia" on 3 September, he said he believed the exports from Turkey to Iraq will develop in the future to around $850 million. The contracts have been signed in a number of fields, including railway cars, locomotives, construction, fertilizers, and food. (David Nissman)

UDAY AS ELVIS. Uday Saddam Husseyn received three Iraqi officials in his office separately dressed in a suit with a two-colored jacket similar to that once worn by Elvis Presley, movie star Anthony Quinn, and former boxing heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. The officials treated to this were Abd Al-Tawwab Al-Mulla Huwaysh, deputy prime minister and minister of military industrialization; Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf, minister of information; and Dr. Muhammad Al-Rawi, president of Baghdad University, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 2 September. (David Nissman)

IRAQ BLAMES IRAN FOR BAGHDAD BOMBING. An explosion in the Al-Rasafah area of Baghdad Province, which wounded several people as well as private property and several vehicles, occurred around midnight on 3 September, according to a UPI report the next day. Iraq Public Security issued a statement blaming Iran for the act.

Its statement said, "Iraq holds the Iranian authorities responsible for this cowardly operation and reserves for itself to respond at the time it deems fit."

These allegations come at the anniversary of the opening of the war with Iran, which began on 4 September 1980. An article in "Al-Iraq", a pro-government, Kurdish affairs-oriented newspaper on 4 September said: "Today, 21 years after the Iranian aggression, we sincerely hope that what happened then will not be repeated. We hope that the people in Iran most concerned with this issue will understand that the strong, capable Iraq under the leadership of President Saddam Husseyn will forever remain impregnable to colonialists, invaders, and those who have designs on it." (David Nissman)

IRAQI CHEMICAL WEAPONS BUILDUP REPORTED. The "Sunday Telegraph" of 2 September reported that at least 20 specially trained Iraqi soldiers are dead and up to 200 have been hospitalized after taking part in a chemical weapon exercise that went wrong. News of the accident emerged last week amid concerns that Saddam Husseyn has rebuilt his chemical weapons arsenal.

Intelligence sources reported that the soldiers were based in the Za'farniya region south of Baghdad. A diplomat said that they were training in the Al-Suwayra and Basmaya camps three months ago. After the accident, new soldiers were brought in.

In the past three months, eight military factories have been working at almost full strength. The "Sunday Telegraph" says that the most significant of them in the unpopulated Syrian border area of Al-Qayem is said to be building chemical weapons and missiles. According to a Western military observer, "the Al-Qayem base has only recently expanded It just passed under the control of Saddam's son and heir Qusay."

There is also evidence that Saddam's most sophisticated Chinese-built radar tracking systems are back to strength. (David Nissman)

GCC FOREIGN MINISTERS TO DISCUSS IRAQ. Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will hold their 80th session in Jeddah to discuss political and economic issues on all Gulf, regional, and international levels, reported KUNA on 2 September. GCC diplomatic sources told KUNA that the foreign ministers are expected to discuss Iraq, Israeli aggression against Palestinians, and the Iranian occupation of the three UAE islands, Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.

With regard to Iraq, the foreign ministers are expected to discuss Iraq's threats against its neighbors and also its attempts to dodge the issue of Kuwaiti and third-country POWs.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaykh Muhammad bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa also asserted the importance of finding a solution to the issue of Kuwaiti POWs in Iraqi prisons. Al-Khalifa, who is now in Kuwait, said that his visit was in line with the persistent coordination between the two countries' leaderships on all matters of concern, a point stressed also by the Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. (David Nissman)

INDIAN DELEGATION FETED IN BAGHDAD. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi received Najma Heptulla, chairwoman of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and deputy chairwoman of the Indian parliament's upper chamber, and her delegation. Al-Hadithi said that the Foreign Ministry is ready to cooperate and coordinate with India at all international conferences and forums. Heptulla said her visit has come to express India's solidarity with Iraq. She also expressed satisfaction with the progress of relations between the two countries in various fields, reported Baghdad Radio on 31 August.

The next day, Heptulla was received by Saddam Husseyn. Heptulla conveyed to him a letter from Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dealing with bilateral relations. According to Baghdad Radio of 1 September, she also conveyed Vajpayee's assertion that the roots on the Iraqi-Indian relationship ran deep, which is something that requires the two countries to expand and develop them and diversify trade exchange.

Saddam said that Iraq had chosen the relationship with India in 1974. He said: "We were not besieged at that time and our economy was not suffering. Our choice of the relationship with India, however, was based on a strategic view of India's relations not only with Iraq, but also with the Arabs.... We are pleased because Mr. Vajpayee is a bold decision-maker who holds on to the decisions he makes and that is why we are content with the relationship with India." (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD CLAIMS FOREIGN AGENCY BURIES SNAKE, CROCODILE EGGS IN NORTH. Baghdad Radio reported on 3 September that a "foreign agency" operating in Iraq buried a number of boxes containing cobra eggs in the area of Aynkawah. And another foreign agency placed quantities of snake eggs in September 2000 close to the Koy Sanjaq junction near Al-Sulaymaniyah.

Baghdad Radio also claims that citizens coming from Al-Sulaymaniyah have also said that large quantities of crocodile eggs were found in a lake.

The "foreign agency" allegedly planting the eggs is described as "humanitarian.". This, Baghdad says, "is proof that the agency is the source of these eggs." The report also points out that "most foreign agencies working under the cover of humanitarian slogans are affiliated with intelligence services of sides known for their hostility to Iraq." It adds that the agencies exploit conditions in that area with the aim of destroying it and "harming our Kurdish people there." (David Nissman)

DAM PROJECT NEAR KHANAQIN AIDS ARABIZATION. The Iraqi government's plan to build a dam near Khanaqin, which will cause flooding of some Kurdish and Turkmen villages near Kalar, in Kirkuk Governorate, as well as the contact lines between Iraqi government forces and the Kurdistan Regional Government, reported Salah-Al-Din's Kurdistan Satellite TV on 2 September.

As part of its arabization policy, Iraqi authorities have started handing out title deeds of land in the Makhmur area to Arabs. One local newspaper reports that last month the title deeds to six villages were passed on to an Arab shaykh. (David Nissman)

TALABANI TO GIVE PRIORITY TO UNDERPRIVILEGED. Jalal Talabani, general secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), stressed the need to give priority to the underprivileged in the municipal agenda, as well as to living conditions in the poverty-stricken areas, at a meeting with the Sulaymaniyah Municipal Council, according to "Kurdistan Newsline" of 2 September.

He also discussed the Council's activities with regard to improving public services in connection with beautifying and cleaning Sulaymaniyah, especially access roads and main entrances to the city.

In addition, he proposed sending personnel abroad for job training in the fields of local and city management, administration, and municipal services in order to improve their expertise. In the campaign to improve their environment, the Council will be assisted by Peshmerga forces (military) and PUK bureaus. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN PATRIOTIC PARTY SENDS LETTER TO WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM. The Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) sent a letter on 30 August to the World Conference on Racism, which began on 31 August. The letter asked the conference to pay attention to the Assyrian nation, which is suffering under the arabization policies of the Baghdad regime.

Methods used to implement this policy were detailed, such as the destruction of Assyrian villages and the infrastructure of the Assyrian community. The Assyrian community is prevented from learning and improving their native language and literature, and schools curricula have been completely arabized.

The APP asked that these measures be condemned and that the conference put pressure on Baghdad in this regard. (David Nissman)