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Iraq Report: September 14, 2001

14 September 2001, Volume 4, Number 29

SADDAM SAYS U.S. HAS ONLY ITSELF TO BLAME. Saddam Husseyn said on 12 September that the United States had only itself to blame for the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Reuters reported. He said that "he who does not want to reap evil should not sow evil," IRNA reported the same day. The Iraqi dictator added that the U.S. has been exporting evil, corruption, and crime and now is "reaping the thorns sown by its rulers." On 11 September, the day of the attacks, Baghdad Television carried a commentary by Sa'd Yasin Yusuf who said much the same thing: "The American cowboy is reaping the fruits of his crimes against humanity. It is a black day in the history of America, which is tasting the bitter defeat of its crimes and disregard for people's will to lead a free, decent life."

"The massive explosions in the centers of power in America, notably the Pentagon," he concluded, "is a painful slap in the face of U.S. politicians to stop their illegitimate hegemony and attempts to impose custodianship on people. It was no coincidence that the World Trade Center was destroyed in suicidal operations involving two planes that broke through all U.S. security barriers to carry out the operation of the century and to express rejection of the reckless U.S. policy."

The official newspaper "Al-Iraq" added that "what happened in the United States yesterday is a lesson for all tyrants, oppressors and criminals...It is the prestige, arrogance, and institutions of America that burn," AFP reported on 12 September. (David Nissman)

GCC URGES IRAQ TO IMPLEMENT UN RESOLUTIONS. The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council have urged Iraq to implement Gulf War UN resolutions, AFP reported on 8 September. At the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Jeddah, the ministers called on Iraq to "implement UN Security Council resolutions in order to put and end to the suffering of its people." They also said that they were "prepared to take part in any humanitarian initiative toward that end," the agency reported.

The ministers also denounced the Baghdad regime's "irresponsible pronouncements...containing threats against its neighbors" while asking Baghdad to "respect the security, independence, and sovereignty of Kuwait" and cooperate with the UN to resolve the issue of 600 prisoners and people missing since Iraqi forces were expelled from the country.

The next day Iraq lashed out at Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, accusing them of being behind the pronouncement regarding Kuwait. An Iraqi government spokesman said the statement by the GCC was a "flagrant attempt to promote the position of the Saudi and Kuwaiti regimes, which are directly involved in the daily U.S.-British criminal aggression against Iraq," AFP reported on 9 September. (David Nissman)

IRAQ BACKS MINDANAO PEACE PROCESS. The Iraqi government has expressed support for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration and the peace process in Mindanao with the rebels, as it upheld Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, the "Manila Journal" reported on 11 September. This was learned from Dr. Parouk Hussin, a presidential adviser on Muslim Mindanao concerns and one of the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front-Executive Council. Hussin returned recently from a visit to Baghdad, where he led 89 Filipino and foreign businessmen and seven top government officials who visited a Baghdad international fair.

The Iraqi ambassador to the Philippines, Salah Samarmad, said the meeting showed positive signals for the establishment of Manila-Baghdad relations "even on a limited basis." Iraqi officials also discussed the establishment of a refinery in Mindanao with Iraqi crude oil.

Hussin said, "It now seems to be the time to be actively involved with Iraq. While waiting for the mutual lifting of the sanctions, the Philippines must pursue involvement in the oil-for-food program." This was the primary purpose of the delegation's visit to Baghdad beyond an effort to revive trade, socio-cultural, religious, and political relations between Manila and Baghdad. He added that Iraqi officials vowed to accept Filipino workers, especially in medical fields, and are ready to buy the country's pharmaceutical products. (David Nissman)

ARAB LEAGUE REBUFFS IRAQ. Iraq had requested that an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on 9-10 September discuss the issue of Iraqis and Kuwaitis missing since the 1991 Gulf War, AFP reported on 8 September. To this end an Iraqi delegation led by Dr. Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi, Iraq's foreign minister, was to take part in the 116th session of the Arab League Council at the level of foreign ministers.

Arab foreign ministers rejected the Iraqi request on 9 September. But they commissioned Arab League chief Amr Musa to present a report on the subject to Jordan's King Abdallah II, who was charged with following Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations at the last Arab summit in March.

The Iraqi request to present the issue was blocked by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait insists the missing persons should only be addressed within the framework of UN Security Council resolutions. It maintains that 605 Kuwaitis disappeared during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and claims the missing are still being held in Iraq. (David Nissman)

IRAQI DEFECTOR TALKS WITH INTELLIGENCE CHIEF VIA TELEPHONE. Tahir Habbush, chairman of the Iraqi Mukhabarat (Intelligence), spoke by telephone with Iraqi defector Ala Abdulqadir Al-Majid, who was in Jordan at the time (see "RFERL Iraq Report," 7 September 2001), according to "Iraq Press" of 6 September. Habbush urged Ala' Al-Majid to keep "a low profile" should he decide not to return. Sources who do not wish to be named say the authorities would like Ala to avoid "shroud[ing] his defection in any political connotation."

"Iraq Press" reports that Ala' Al-Majid had told AFP over the weekend of his intention to defect. He cited financial reasons at the time. Al-Majid was dismissed from the special security branch charged with Saddam's personal protection in the late 1980s. He claimed to hold information on the missing Kuwaitis in Iraq, although this is unconfirmed.

What is known, however, is that Jordan's intelligence chief Sa'd Khayr made a surprise visit to Kuwait on 4 September, and it is thought by some analysts that Al-Majid may have something to reveal concerning Iraq's relations with Kuwait. While Al-Majid was in Jordan, he also contacted another dissident relative (also a cousin of Saddam's), Major Izz Al-Din Al-Majid. He had fled Iraq with General Husseyn Kamil in 1995.

Ala' Al-Majid is said to have amassed considerable wealth, especially after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He is now believed to have vast commercial links in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Morocco. It appears that his business interests have come into conflict with those of Uday and Qusay Saddam Husseyn, and this may have been another incentive to defect.

It is uncertain what promises Ala' Al-Majid extracted from Habbush, if any. The defector is also said to have been deeply involved with the smuggling of cigarettes, a business that Uday reportedly controls in Iraq. (David Nissman)

IRAQI FM CALLS ON JAPAN TO DISTANCE ITSELF FROM U.S. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi said on 9 September that Tokyo should distance itself from U.S. policy toward Baghdad in the interests of Japanese companies working in Iraq, AFP reported on 9 September. He added: "The Japanese government has shown no desire to do this, as is witnessed by its support of the U.S. aggression against Iraq."

Tokyo has often called on Baghdad to respect its obligations toward 11-year-old UN resolutions and voiced support for the U.S.-British military action against Iraq in 1998. In August 1998 Baghdad refused to sell oil to Japanese or British firms, apparently in reaction for these two countries' support for the sanctions imposed on Iraq. (David Nissman)

CHINESE COMPANY PULLS OUT OF $28 MILLION MOBILE PHONE DEAL WITH IRAQ. A Chinese company, Hua Wei Technology, has pulled out of a $28 million mobile-phone deal "for unknown reasons," a company spokesman told Iraqi newspaper "Al-Rafidayn," AFP reported on 5 September. Hua Wei Technology is a large telecoms equipment manufacturer based in Shenzen alleged to have installed fiber-optic cables to help upgrade Iraq's air defenses.

Iraq had announced on 19 August it was to take delivery in early 2002 of a mobile-telephone exchange ordered from a Chinese company but blocked for more than two years by the UN sanctions committee. Both Hua Wei and the Chinese information industry ministry refused to comment on a report alleging that Hua Wei Technology has cooperated in the rebuilding of Iraqi air defenses.

A French contract for Iraq's purchase of some $75 million worth of telecommunications equipment from Alcatel, however, has gained U.S. approval, according to U.S. and UN diplomats. The U.S. administration has continued to block a $330,000 Alcatel contract for fiber-optic equipment, according to the "Washington Post" of 5 September.

On 10 September Iraq said it had invited offers from international firms to set up a mobile-telephone network after Hua Wei's pullout from the deal. According to AFP on 10 September, Hasan Al-Ma'ini, director of Iraq's telecommunications firm, claimed Hua Wei "reneged" on their earlier agreement.

Ma'ini also said that Iraq's telephone services would greatly improve after the UN sanctions committee approved of the contracts with Alcatel. Alcatel is to build an international telephone exchange with a capacity of 1,200 lines and a microwave telephone network linking Baghdad with the central and southern provinces. It will also link existing telephone exchanged in Baghdad and set up new exchanges with a capacity of 280,000 lines. (David Nissman)

AL-ASAD TO VISIT IRAQ SOON. Arab diplomatic sources say that Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad will make an official visit to Iraq either this month or the beginning of next, according to Amman's "Al-Dustur" of 9 September. Sources say the visit is a "continuation of Damascus's reconciliation efforts between Kuwait and Iraq and an attempt to clear the atmosphere amid the current circumstances that the Arab nation, and the Middle East, is going through," according to "Al-Dustur."

The Qatar News Agency noted on 9 September that, "Syrian-Iraqi relations have noticeably improved since Dr. Bashar Al-Assad assumed office last year." The agency added that Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Miru paid a visit to Iraq recently, the first of its kind for many years. The Syrian president visited Kuwait last month, but several Syrian and Kuwaiti officials denied that he had offered to mediate between Kuwait and Iraq. (David Nissman)

INDIA TO PROVIDE IRAQ WITH SKYBUS RAILS. India has agreed to provide Iraq with high-tech Skybus rails as part of its effort to boost cooperation between New Delhi and Baghdad, according to Delhi's "Business Standard" of 10 September. Digvijay Singh, deputy chief of the Indian delegation that visited Iraq last week, said that they are also going to build a railway line between Baghdad and Mashoba. Singh, India's minister of state for railways, said that in the course of his three-day visit to Iraq he held formal discussions with Iraqi officials on the two major projects. Singh, who was also minister of state for industry and commerce at the time of the visit to Iraq, said that besides wheat, India would send tea, basmati rice and pharmaceutical items to Iraq in return for oil. Last year, Iraq and India agreed to trade oil for wheat, with New Delhi giving 35,000 tons of wheat for $250 million of Iraqi crude oil. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD COMMENTS ON LINKING IRANIAN, IRAQI, AND SYRIAN RAILROADS. The managing director of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Railway Organization, Mehdi Rahmati, said that Iran, Syria, and Iraq will begin studies on the implementation of a project to link their railway networks, IRNA reported on 8 September. He said at the conclusion of a meeting in Aleppo with his Iraqi and Syrian counterparts that the three sides had reached agreement on a joint study of the issue. Rahmati said that Syria and Iraq were insisting on a speedy implementation of the project.

In the first phase, Iran's railway in the south would be connected to the Iraqi nationwide railway through the Hosseinieh station near Khorramshahr. Iraq has agreed to the construction of a bridge on the Arvand River to facilitate Iranian train services to Iraq. Iranian trains would then be able to continue on to Basra. Participants in the trilateral meeting had also agreed on a joint venture project that will be implemented by Syria and Iraq to build the 147 kilometer Albo Kamal-Dir Al-Zur road in Syria. (David Nissman)

EIGHT MILITARY FACTORIES RESTORED TO FULL PRODUCTION. Iraq has restored and expanded a range of military production lines throughout the country, according to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 8 September. Opposition sources say the factories are meant to produce missile components and nonconventioanl weapons. So far, at least eight factories are operating at full production. The effort is being lead by Qusay Saddam Husseyn, Saddam's youngest son and allegedly his designated successor.

Missile production is presented as coming under the 150 kilometer ceiling set by the UN. But development programs are meant to easily increase the range of those missiles to 650 kilometers. Last month, CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin said that Iraq is hiding an arsenal of missiles with a 650 kilometer range, which can target Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. (David Nissman)

GERMANY PUTS CHARGE D'AFFAIRES IN BAGHDAD. German diplomat Claude Robert Ellner has been his country's charge d'affaires in Baghdad since the beginning of September, the Duesseldorf business paper "Handelsblatt" reported on 4 September. A decision reportedly has already been made on purchasing buildings for a new office and a residence, though a Foreign Ministry spokesperson did not want to confirm that information. Instead, Berlin stresses --"obviously in consideration for the U.S. alliance partner" -- that no additional change is planned in Germany's policy toward Iraq.

The main manager of the Federation for German Industry (BDI), Ludolf von Wartenburg, and other members of the BDI have consistently demanded an opening up of Germany's policy toward Iraq and the presence of an ambassador there. Germany feels that it is at a competitive disadvantage against competitors from other countries. "Therefore, German industry expects an emancipation, in particular from the United States, regarding Iraq but also Iran and Libya," he demanded. (David Nissman)

TURKEY HOLDS MEDICAL SUPPLIES FAIR IN BAGHDAD. The Ankara Chamber of Industry announced that Turkey is holding a four-day medical supplies trade fair in Baghdad, organized at the behest of the Iraq minister of health, AFP reported on 7 September. On 10 September Deputy Prime Minister Hikmat Al-'Azzawi, who is also finance minister, said that "it is premature now to think of establishing free-trade zones with non-Arab countries neighboring Iraq." According to AFP of 10 September, he was referring to both Turkey and Iran. On the other hand, he also said that Iraq was prepared to cooperate "with all its neighbors, whether Arab or foreign, if they demonstrate readiness" to do the same. Twenty-seven Turkish firms are participating in the four-day fair. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD STEPS UP ARABIZATION POLICY. In addition to the daily expulsion of Kurdish families from Kirkuk and other regions that are targets of arabization and the resettling of Arabs from the center and south of Iraq in their houses, some of Baghdad's decrees strike people there as being so contradictory that even Iraqi officials do not know how to deal with them. According to the Sulaymaniyah Kurdish newspaper "Kurdistani Nuwe" of 5 September, a document No. 43107 issued by the president's office demands that efforts be made to pressure the members of Kurdish families who have changed their name from Kurdish to Arabic and whose names remain Kurdish to change their names into synonymous Arabic names. This document was sent to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.

Also in August 2001, the Ministry of the Interior sent a document to the Department of Statistics demanding that during the expulsion of any Kurdish family from Kirkuk, false names and numbers should be written on the documents that are usually issued for them by the governorate office to the checkpoints, and the document should not be registered in their records.

"Kurdistani Nuwe" believes that the intention behind these measures is to destroy any evidence that the Iraqi government has expelled Kurdish families from Kirkuk in case of accountability by official sides, particularly the United Nations. In this way, Iraq could easily deny the allegation.

In the beginning of August 2001 the Ba'th Party sent a document to branches within the Baghdad-controlled north demanding that Kurdish members of the Ba'th Party at the rank of "party comrade" and who have changed their identity into Arab are included by the measures of the allocations of plots of land and party donations, but they should receive plots of land in the center or southern cities, but these should be outside the cities of Kirkuk, Mosul, Diyala, Tikrit and Baghdad.

However, all Kurdish Ba'th Party members who left the region controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government after 1992, and who have changed their identities to Arab are deprived of all privileges, like allocation of rent and financial aid. "Kurdistani Nuwe" thinks this is because of their participation in the 1991 uprising. They are blamed for staying in Kurdistan after the uprising. (David Nissman)

IRAQI ARMY ATTACKS VILLAGE IN KRG. A source in the Kurdistan Communist Party (the Kurdish branch of the Iraqi Communist Party) charged that a large Iraqi Army unit had attacked a Kurdish village in the contact areas with Kurdistan, the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" reported on 9 September. The army unit was compelled to withdraw after a clash that lasted three hours in the village of Dawzah Imam in the Kafri district, which is under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Iraqi Army unit was backed up by tanks and armored personnel carriers. It is also noted that several villages in areas close to the government's control have been subjected to constant artillery shelling by Iraqi Army units stationed along the contact lines.

A Communist Party leader told "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" that "the military operations which the Iraqi Army carries out against Kurdistan from time to time so as to terrorize and intimidate the citizens are a desperate attempt by the Iraqi Army command to raise the morale of its soldiers, keep them in a constant state of alert, and also maintain the atmosphere of tension in the region." (David Nissman)

TALABANI MEETS BARZANI ENVOY ON SECURITY. Jalal Talabani, general secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), received Hoshyar Zebari, the personal envoy of Mas'ud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to discuss developing and coordinating a common strategy toward security and stability in the region and ways of combating the threat of self-proclaimed armed Islamic extremist splinter groups in Halabcha and surrounding areas, "Kurdistan Newsletter" reported on 10 September.

"Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 11 September announced the formation of a new fundamentalist organization in northern Iraq called "Soldiers of Islam" ("jund al-Islam"). The Jund Al-Islam broke off from the Islamic Unity Movement in Kurdistan. It is led by Abu-Abdallah Al-Shafi'i. According to "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," this was one of the topics discussed by Talabani and Zebari. (David Nissman)