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Iraq Report: October 12, 2001

12 October 2001, Volume 4, Number 33

SADDAM CONDEMNS STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTAN... Saddam Husseyn called the attack on Afghanistan an "act of aggression," and said that force would not restore peace and security, according to AP on 7 October. In other comments, he denounced U.S. support for Israel and said that if the U.S. has evidence about Osama bin Laden's role, "why don't they let the whole world see it to make their stand and rationale strong? Is just saying they have evidence enough in the future to start a war against a country?"

Saddam Husseyn remains the only Arab leader not to have condemned the attacks against U.S. cities. Moreover, on 8 October, the Iraq National Assembly denounced U.S., British, and "world Zionism's" aggression. Concluding its statement, the National Assembly called on world parliaments and "the peace- and freedom-loving peoples to work seriously to stop this aggression." It also called for "avoiding threats and the use of force and aggression, which are being pursued by the state of terrorism, the United States, and its evil allies."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said that the United States has delivered a stern warning to Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn that he would pay a heavy price if Baghdad took advantage of the 11 September crisis. Specifically, Iraq was told not to make any moves on the Kurds and to keep its hands off its neighbors.

An article in the Baghdad newspaper "Babil," which is controlled by Uday Saddam Husseyn, on 8 October claimed that "the U.S. administration's policy has always been a sponsor of terrorism and its source. If it forfeits this terrorism, then it becomes unwanted. Its aggression on Afghanistan now and the aggression it is launching along with Zionism on Iraq and Palestine are only a form of organized terrorism against the innocent peoples of the world. The United States must get a dose of its own poison from those who do not accept injustice." (David Nissman)

...AS BAGHDAD ASKS OIC TO CONDEMN U.S. ACTION. Speaking at an emergency meeting of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference in Qatar, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi called on the Muslim ministers assembled there to condemn the U.S. strikes on Afghanistan, Reuters reported on 9 October. He told reporters that "it is a hope, more than an expectation, that Muslim countries should defend themselves and their religious values which are being targeted by the new U.S.-Zionist war campaign." (David Nissman)

TURKEY SAYS KURDS EXAGGERATE BIN LADEN'S ROLE. Chief of the Turkish General Staff General Huseyin Kirikoglu has said that Kurdish claims on the war against Kurdish groups in northern Iraq were "exaggerated," according to the Istanbul centrist newspaper "Radikal" of 3 October. Security officials who talked to "Radikal" said that neither the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) nor Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) had complained about these groups until 11 September, but are now "yelling for help." It is a Kurdish effort to incite the U.S. to arrange operations against Iraq.

Turkish sources say they do not know what the U.S. will do or on what basis, but stress that "Turkey could never accept the establishment of a 'de facto' Kurdish state."

At the same time, of 4 October says that PUK forces have captured an "incriminating videocassette belonging to the Jund Al-Islam. In the video, Jund Al-Islam shows the mutilated and decapitated bodies of slain PUK peshmergas on the eve of 24 September. Some of the Jund Al-Islam fighters are dressed in Afghan clothes and speaking Dari, while others are heard speaking Arabic.

A source in the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan (IUMK) have denied that it is a part of the fighting between the PUK and the Jund Al-Islam, and dissociated his movement from the policies of the Jund because of what he called the "excessive ideas" of the Jund, according to a report in "Al-Hayat" of 6 October.

Ihsan Abd-Al-Aziz, the son of the IUMK's guide, Shaykh Ali Abd-Al-Aziz, in London also denied the presence of the so-called "Afghani Arabs". He added that he had contacted the U.S. administration and the British government to invite them to send delegations to verify the reports and statements of the PUK. He did not deny the presence of Sunni Iraqis. He pointed out that groups of non-Kurdish Islamists from Mosul and Al-Ramadi had come to Kurdistan and joined his movement. He accused the PUK of sponsoring the extremist groups that dissented from his movement earlier this year in a bid "to weaken us and strengthen them." (David Nissman)

IRAQI FM CLEANING HOUSE. An Iraqi official told "Iraq Press" on 6 October that a major reshuffle has taken place in Foreign Ministry ranks in which a number of veteran diplomats were dismissed. Two senior Foreign Ministry deputies, Nabil Najim Al-Tikriti and Ismail Al-Ways, have already lost their jobs in the biggest shakeout since the 1991 Gulf War. The significance of the changes is that the two diplomats are members of Saddam Husseyn's tribe. As a result, they had wielded tremendous influence. The Iraqi official said that Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi had expressed his displeasure at their performance in a letter to Saddam.

In his letter, Al-Hadithi had complained that Al-Tikriti and Al-Ways were hindering his work and prevented him from adopting a new approach to dealing with the world.

The anonymous Iraqi official pointed out that Saddam's son, Qusay, was very close to Al-Hadithi. It is rumored that this attachment that encouraged Al-Hadithi to purge his ministry of two men he considered rivals. And initially, Al-Hadithi was said to have been interested in keeping Nizar Hamdun, but Hamdun is also expected to go within days, and it is unclear whether he will be sent abroad on a new diplomatic mission.

Al-Hadithi has also summoned Iraq's ambassadors and envoys abroad to brief them on the changes as well as the approaches his ministry intends to adopt in the future. (David Nissman)

KDP SHUTS DOWN TURKMEN STUDENT ORGANIZATION. On 1 October, security forces of the KDP-controlled Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) closed down the offices of the newly established Turkmen Student Organization, according to of 5 October. The office was closed down because the organization was not licensed by the relevant authorities in the KRG. Turkmen parties do not recognize the KRG and are unwilling to apply for licenses for opening offices of their organizations. Following the incident, the Turkmen Eli Party, the Independent Turkmen Party and the Turkmen National Party, and leaderships of other parties and student association disseminated a number of statements in which they described the action by the Irbil security authorities as an attack on the freedom of Turkmen political parties. (David Nissman)

KUWAIT ASKS UN TO TELL IRAQ TO HALT 'PROVOCATIONS.' Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah denied Iraqi accusations of exploiting its oil fields and urged the UN chief to ask Iraq to halt this ongoing provocation, according to the "Kuwait Times" of 6 October. In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Shaykh Sabah said, "By insisting on this aggressive approach, Iraq aims at evading its obligations to implement relevant Security Council resolutions, thus threatening peace and security in the region." He urged Annan to stop these practices, which represent a dangerous threat to Kuwait's security and stability. He noted that such accusations drove Iraq to invade Kuwait on 2 August 1990. (David Nissman)

IRAN ACCUSES IRAQ OF SOWING DISCORD IN IRANIAN-ARAB TIES. The "People's Daily" on 9 October reported that Iran on 8 October denounced Saddam Husseyn's remarks on Iran-Arab relations as sowing discord in ties between Iran and Arab countries. On 7 October, Saddam told a cabinet meeting that Iran is the source of all enmity toward Arabs. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi rejected Saddam's assertions as "baseless and racist." He stressed that Iran-Arab ties are based on brotherly relations and deep religious, historical, and cultural ties. Iran and Iraq have yet to sign a peace treaty ending the 1980-1988 war which claimed 1 million lives on both sides. (David Nissman)

EGYPTIAN MINISTER TO VISIT BAGHDAD IN NOVEMBER. Egyptian charge d'affaires in Iraq and Ambassador Husseyn Al-Zughbi said that Egyptian-Iraqi affairs will witness a significant qualitative development in the near future, according to MENA on 4 October. He said that Egyptian Public Enterprises Minister Mukhtar Khattab, accompanied by a high-level delegation, will visit Baghdad in November to take part in the inauguration of the Baghdad International Fair, to be held 1-15 November. The current volume of trade exchange between the two countries is now $2.6 billion. Some 75 Egyptian companies will showcase their products at the fair, including household and electrical appliances, foodstuffs, computers, generators, agricultural machinery, and automobiles. (David Nissman)

IRANIAN OFFICIAL CALLS FOR DIALOGUE BETWEEN IRAN, IRAQ. The advisor to the president of Iran and head of the International Center for Dialogue among Civilizations, Ataollah Mohajerani, said on 7 October that Iran and Iraq are in need of dialogue more than other countries because they have partly ruined dialogue through war, reported IRNA on 7 October. Mohajerani, in his meeting with Iraqi charge d'affaires Abdulsattar Al-Rawi, stressed the role of dialogue in Iranian-Iraqi relations. He expressed the hope that Iranian and Iraqi academic centers would be provided with the chance to conduct a dialogue. The Iraqi charge d'affaires expressed satisfaction with the formation of Iran's International Center for Dialogue Among Civilizations and said the goal behind the center was unity and solidarity. (David Nissman)

TURKEY CLOSES HABUR GATE TO IRAQ. Turkey has closed its border crossing with Iraq to both passengers and cargo, according to "Iraq Press" of 4 October. The closing is a blow to the oil-smuggling business and to the economy of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is unclear why the Habur crossing was closed.

The next day, Mehmet Kececiler, state minister in charge of customs, stressed that the Turkish customs gates were open, and denied reports that the Habur gate had been closed. He said, "Contacts established with the Habur Customs Directorate and the Sirnak Governor's Office revealed that there are only hitches stemming from the dichotomous administration on the Iraqi side and the attempts of the Iraqi Kurdish Democratic Party to increase the passage fees," according to "Anatolia" of 5 October.

On 8 October Unal Cakici, the Silopi head official, said that transit vehicles, apart from trucks carrying fuel oil and tankers carrying fuel oil, continue through Habur, reported "Anatolia" on 8 October. He added that on 18 September Iraq had stopped giving diesel fuel to the northern part of Iraq. However, the passage of tankers carrying crude oil continued.

In the Kurdish enclave, prices of essential commodities have risen, and the dinars in circulation there have weakened against the U.S. dollar. There is also an acute oil shortage following an Iraqi government decision to slash oil supplies to Iraqi Kurdistan. (David Nissman)

IRAQ EVACUATES HOSPITALS, RATIONS MEDICINES. "Iraq Press" reported on 7 October that the authorities had reduced medical supplies to hospitals and moved a large portion of their UN-supervised medical purchases to army warehouses. The move is part of an emergency plan the Health Ministry has taken in anticipation of U.S. and allied military strikes. The armed forces, as part of an emergency plan, and diverted half the Health Ministry's strategic reserve of medicines to the military. Iraqis arriving in Amman have said that several hospitals have been evacuated and shelters resupplied with medical supplies. They said that state-run hospitals stopped dispensing medicines following the strict rationing of the last few weeks. (David Nissman)

AL-AZHAR FIGURE VISITS IRAQI KURDISTAN. Dr. Mahmud Ashur, a religious authority from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, has visited Kurdistan. He was the first figure ever to visit Kurdistan from Al-Azhar, which is one of the most distinguished institutions of Islamic learning in the world, according to the Cairo paper "Roz Al-Yusuf" of 29 September.

Ashur met with KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani and a number of clerics. He concluded an agreement to grant a number of scholarships to the Ministry of Awqaf [religious endowments] and Islamic Affairs. The scholarships include higher studies opportunities for the region's students.

Ashur said, "We never imagined that Egypt and the revered Al-Azhar enjoyed such great status to the Kurds." Barzani said that the Kurds' morale was boosted to have Al-Azhar with them after a long period of isolation. And he added: "It is our duty to give every attention to the demands of the Kurds. And we ask other institutions and organs in Egypt to follow Al-Azhar's steps in strengthening brotherly ties with the Kurds, which is in the interest of the central state [Iraq] in the long run." (David Nissman)

KCP JOINS PUK IN FIGHT AGAINST JUND AL-ISLAM. announced on 4 October that the forces of the Kurdistan Communist Party (KCP) have joined the PUK in order to defend the region and participate in the fight against the Jund Al-Islam militants in the Hawraman area.

While analysts from say that "this development has shown that the Kurdish parties do not see the ongoing conflict between the PUK and Jund Al-Islam as an internal conflict between two Kurdish parties," and "all Kurdish political parties including KCP participate directly in the fighting against Jund Al-Islam militants," a monthly circular published by the Grassroots Movement of the Workers Communist Party of Iraq, was run by the Irbil newspaper "Payami Komunizm" of 30 September emphasizing that the main parties are grouping together out of their own self-interest. The circular says the most important question is: "Who is responsible for the threat of these Islamic forces and groups?"

As for the PUK and the KDP, "the rivalry of the two ruling parties in Kurdistan and their conflict with the Islamists is not to protect the lives of the people in this region against the threat of these forces. Rather it has been to protect their control, authority, and influence against each other and to further preserve their interests in their regions and in the areas where the Islamists are active." At the same time, the Islamist forces must be opposed. (David Nissman)

PUK, IUMK LEADERS MEET TO DISCUSS JUND THREAT. For the first time since the fighting started between the PUK and the Jund Al-Islam, Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK, and Mulla Ali Abd-Al-Aziz, leader of the Islamic Unification Movement of Kurdistan (IUMK), met to discuss the conflict. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been trying to bring the Islamic factions, particularly the IUMK, together, according to of 10 October.

Iran has promised assistance to the IUMK to enable them to retaliate against any possible offensive by the Jund Al-Islam. In consequence, the IUMK militants have taken new positions in the hills around Tawila and promised the PUK to prevent attacks by the Jund from areas under IUMK control. Analysts believe that the Talabani-Abd-Al-Aziz meeting would cause a deterioration in the relations between the IUMK and the Jund Al-Islam, and that fighting could break out at any minute. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD PAPER SAYS TURKMEN GROUP IS TURKISH SPY FRONT. The Baghdad newspaper "Al-Iraq", which is aimed at the Kurdish population remaining under Baghdad control, on 3 October claimed that a Turkmen society in Irbil, in the KDP-controlled Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), is according to "sources...familiar with Turkish activity and attempts to turn the Turkmen against the Kurds in Irbil points to the formation of a so-called 'Iraqi Turks Cultural and Solidarity Society' known as 'Darnak'" is actually a front for Turkish intelligence activity.

"Al-Iraq" claims the "plan" was discovered when "Darnak" issued an appeal saying, "Turkmens were an active element in the region, but they were exposed to injustice on several occasions by their Kurdish brethren through armed attacks on their bases in 1966, 1998, and 2000." The Baghdad newspaper says that the purpose of the appeal is to provoke differences between Kurds and Turkmens in Irbil "which is the aim of Turkish intelligence."

While conflicts between the Kurds and the Turkmens have occurred at the times specified by "Al-Iraq," they have been worked out between the parties concerned. What the Turkish objective would be behind such provocations is unclear. (David Nissman)