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Iraq Report: November 16, 2001

16 November 2001, Volume 4, Number 37

SADDAM HUSSEYN HOLDS MEETING WITH SONS ON SUCCESSION. London-based "Al-Zaman" on 6 November reported that Saddam Husseyn held a meeting on 4 November with his two sons, Uday and Qusay, Revolutionary Command Council Deputy Chairman Izzat Ibrahim, and the directors of the security services to put into place the mechanism for Saddam's succession, particularly in case of emergency. Although the "Al-Zaman" sources ruled out the possibility of Saddam relinquishing his post, they nevertheless said, "He is concerned about the possibility that he may be targeted in a military operation." They added that he has put in place a contingency plan which divides responsibilities between his two sons and his deputy, Izzat. The sources added that "over the past few months, Saddam has begun to reorganize the security leaderships, and has handed over some of the important files to his two sons."

The sources revealed that three senior intelligence officers have been forced to retire. There has also been talk of disagreements within the intelligence services and charges of negligence. This has now led to the retirement of Isma Abd Khidr, director of counterintelligence, Salih Abd-Al-Rahman Al-Tikriti, former head of the Russia station, and Muhammad Khudayr, head of the department of inquiries and investigations in the intelligence service. The charges against them include "negligence in following up on the activities of Iraqi dissidents." Khudayr is also said to have supervised the assassination of the engineer Mu'ayyad Al-Janabi in Amman. (David Nissman)

SADDAM'S ABILITY TO WEAPONIZE SMALLPOX DUBIOUS. Jane's "Foreign Report" of 15 November carries an unconfirmed report to the effect that Iraq has been actively developing a biological warfare weapon capable of spreading smallpox.

Iraqi scientists are said to have stored smallpox bought in recent years from Russian scientists.

The "Foreign Report" staff asks how dangerous Iraq's biological program is. They quote a Middle East specialist familiar with the Iraqi efforts. He said that Iraq has not yet worked out how to launch a Scud missile with a biological warhead through the atmosphere in small containers at a specific target. "It is most unlikely that this problem has been solved," he said. "It is unknown if even the Americans or the Russians have solved it."

An Israeli source said, "These weapons, including the devastating VX, can be carried to their target by the Al-Husseyn [an Iraqi Scud] missile." It is feared that if an Iraqi missile loaded with VX gas hit Tel Aviv, and even if it formed a crater and was buried in the earth, tens of thousands of houses would immediately need to be evacuated.

However, the preparations for the launching of a Scud at Israel would be spotted because the ability to detect preparations for an attack from Iraq toward Israel, Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia are much better today than 10 years ago. To prepare a Scud for launch takes at least several hours. During this time, an American spy satellite would spot it and the Iraqi launching area would be wiped out before a missile is fired. (David Nissman)

IRAQI JOURNALISTS FLEEING COUNTRY. Some 50 Iraqi journalists have fled the country this year, according to the "Iraq Press" of 11 November. Saddam Husseyn's eldest son, Uday, who runs the country's Iraqi Journalist Syndicate and is the largest media magnate in the country, is said to have expressed frustration at the situation.

He is said to have chastised editors for the exodus and expressed his anger at the growing number of journalists fleeing the country. He held a meeting at the National Olympic Committee and adopted plans to limit the exodus, including tougher travel procedures to ensure that those leaving on official trips return home.

A senior journalist, speaking under condition of anonymity, said Uday told his father that the journalists were leaving because of the UN trade sanctions. However, many have left after being harassed and persecuted by Uday himself.

The media is heavily controlled and censored in Iraq. Criticism of the government is prohibited and criticism of Saddam, the Revolutionary Command Council, and the Ba'th Party carries the death penalty.

Freedom of movement and expression for journalists is severely restricted. Many journalists have been imprisoned and tortured, and some have been executed for writing articles critical of the government's performance. (David Nissman)

SECURITY TIGHTENED ON ROADS FROM CENTRAL, SOUTHERN IRAQ INTO IRAQI KURDISTAN. "Iraq Press" of 12 November reported that Iraqi authorities have stepped up security measures on roads leading into the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) from other parts of Iraq. Sources are travelers arriving in Irbil. They report that there is a noticeable increase in the number of checkpoints and the security officials manning them.

They say that travelers are subject to intensive searches, and some are interrogated. Kurds and Arabs not resident in the KRG are not allowed to proceed. Roads to the region are closed to traffic after 7 p.m. and mobile checkpoints stop passengers and vehicles for questioning and investigating. The government has also increased the number of armed patrols charged with chasing and apprehending smugglers.

The fight against smugglers is in line with instructions from Saddam Husseyn to halt the halt the smuggling of commodities from government-held areas to the KRG. The crackdown on smugglers has led to an acute fuel shortage in northern Iraq. (David Nissman)

UAE-IRAQ FREE TRADE AGREEMENT DETAILED. On 2 November the UAE signed an agreement with Iraq setting up free trade zones between the two countries. The agreement was initialed by Shaykh Sultan al-Fahim bin Sultan al-Qasimi, minister of economy and commerce, and Muhammad Mahdi Salihi, Iraq's minister for trade and commerce, the "Khalij Times" reported on 3 November.

Shaykh Sultan is in Baghdad in connection with the Baghdad International Fair. He called on UAE companies to tap into the huge Iraqi market and utilize the rich trade opportunities that exist between the two countries. He also said that the objective of UAE participation in the fair was to "reaffirm the country's strong commitment to bilateral relations with the Iraqi people and also to open up the huge Iraqi market for UAE companies."

He pointed out that this was a good time to hold consultations on customs tariffs by the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) as representatives of all member states were in Baghdad for the fair.

Another round of discussions on the issue will be held in Muscat in December in order to finalize details on the plan to advance the unification from 2005 to 2003. He said that the UAE was ready to implement the customs union from 2003, as decided at the Riyadh meeting of customs officials in October. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN INC MEMBER SAYS CHRISTIANS SUFFER IN IRAQ. Albert Yelda, an Assyrian representative with the Iraqi National Congress (INC), said that Christians in Iraq are suffering a backlash following the September atrocities in the United States, "Catholic World News" reported on 6 November.

Yelda said, "They no longer dare to wear their traditional crosses. They are being called 'crusaders.' They do not receive food rations." Yelda, a Chaldean, was selected by six convening Assyrian political parties at the INC summit 3-5 September 1999 in London to be Assyrian representative on the Executive Council of the Iraqi National Congress.

Yelda called Saddam "an atheist leader" and, likening him to Hitler and Stalin, said he "hates minorities." (David Nissman)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER AT UN IN NEW YORK. The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri al-Hadithi, in New York for a UN session, met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, according to INA on 13 November. They discussed ways to boost friendship and cooperation between the two countries to serve their national interests.

Al-Hadithi also met with Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa, with whom he discussed items listed on the agenda of the 56th UN General Assembly and matters of mutual interest to the Arab League and Iraq.

He also met with the Irish foreign minister and reviewed bilateral relations and Iraq's relations with the UN Security Council. Al-Hadithi spelled out Iraq's explicit stand on Resolution 1284 and stressed the need for the UN Security Council to implement its obligations under the UN Security Council's resolutions.

Finally, al-Hadithi met with Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar'a, with whom he discussed fraternal relations and the ever-expanding cooperation between the two countries and ways to promote it. (David Nissman)

KUWAITI FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES IRAQI THREATS IN WASHINGTON. Kuwaiti Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah visited Washington in order to confer with U.S. President George W. Bush and U.S. officials, according to KUNA on 6 November. It is the first high-ranking contact between the U.S. and Kuwait since 11 September.

A Kuwaiti official described the visit "as support to U.S. efforts to form a campaign against all sorts of terrorism." Shaykh Sabah's message focused on three main topics: the recent Iraqi threats against Kuwait, U.S. media campaigns against Saudi Arabia, and attacks against Islam.

Recently Iraqi Vice President Tariq Aziz said, "Kuwait is part of Iraq." In this regard, Shaykh Sabah's position is that Iraq is a terrorist country "and its useless statements every now and then will not help get the country out from its isolation which was caused by its aggression on Kuwait in 1990." (David Nissman)

IRAQI MILITARY OFFICIALS ATTEND SYMPOSIUM ON MILITARY DRILL. Staff General Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and deputy commander in chief of the armed forces, attended a symposium on analyzing the 10th golden falcon drill, which was carried out by the First Army Corps and the Fifth Army Corps, Baghdad Television reported on 10 November.

Also attending the symposium were Qusay Saddam Husseyn, a member of the Iraq Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party (ASBP) and deputy secretary of the ASBP's Military Bureau, and Staff General Sultan Hashim Ahmad, minister of defense, along with other senior army officers.

Following the symposium, the defense minister sent a cable in which the men expressed their readiness to continue to make sacrifices and to be "at his excellency's beck and call." (David Nissman)

SADDAM PRAISES ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION. On 6 November, Saddam Husseyn met with Fadil Muslim al-Janabi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization (AEO), and a number of researchers and experts affiliated either with the AEO or Military Industrialization Organization (MIO), Baghdad Radio reported on 6 November.

Saddam told them: "When the human mind is alive and has a great goal, then it does not stop pursuing its goal even if it is besieged. It rather seeks better means to attain that goal even under siege.... Progress continued [despite the embargo] because the Iraqis have an objective."

On 12 November, Baghdad Radio reported that Saddam met with Abd-al-Tawwab Mulla Huwaysh, the deputy prime minister and military industrialization minister, the Army Helicopter Gunship Corps command, and a number of MIO researchers and engineers.

The attendees "beseeched God to provide them with additional capabilities that would help a new scientific achievement every day so that they can give it as a gift to their leader Saddam Husseyn." (David Nissman)

SADDAM CALLS FOR DIALOGUE WITH KURDS. Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn met members of the pro-Baghdad Kurdistan Democracy Party (KDP) in Baghdad on 12 November and renewed a call for dialogue with the KDP, according to Reuters on 12 November. A similar call for dialogue was rejected by the KDP in July. The Kurdistan Democracy Party is not related to the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Mas'ud Barzani. The former was set up by the Baghdad administration in 1974.

The Kurdish delegation was led by its secretary-general, Ahmad Muhammad Sa'id al-Atrushi, who presented Saddam with a symbolic sword and shield.

Saddam also warned Kurds living in areas of northern Iraq outside of Baghdad's control that he may resort to force if they refuse the dialogue. AFP reported Saddam as saying on 13 November: "Wisdom must be the foundation of any dialogue to resolve problems between people. But if wisdom is unable to achieve dialogue,� the Iraqi sword should be used to recover rights." He added, "We are not incapable of using arms, even in the presence of the Americans and British in the north and south of the country."

He was allegedly aiming his remarks at Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, for refusing Baghdad's invitation to open a dialogue.

To emphasize his point Saddam moved troops to the south of Irbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk, reported the "Turkish Daily News" on 14 November. He is also displaying missiles in clear sight of the public in Kirkuk and Mosul.

Earlier, Iraq accused the UN of squandering money allocated to Iraqi Kurdistan under the UN's oil-for-food program, Reuters reported on 7 November. Iraqi officials who are members of an Iraqi delegation to meetings of a committee assigned to monitor the program said, "The UN office of Iraq's oil-for-food program is committing financial violations that have resulted in an unacceptable waste of the money allocated to the north from oil revenues generated by the program." No details of the violations were given.

In New York, the UN Office of the Iraq Program declined to comment on the Iraqi allegations, but UN officials said the program's books were audited twice a year. With regard to a suggestion that Iraq join in the audits, UN rules bar member nations from participating in audits in order to prevent political interference in program activities. (David Nissman)

PKK WILL NOT LEAVE IRAQI KURDISTAN. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has said it has no intention of abandoning its strongholds in Iraqi Kurdistan, "Iraq Press" reported on 8 November. A senior PKK leader, Ali Mohammed, has said his group is ready to negotiate with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The PKK took refuge in the mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan due to military pressure by the Turkish army.

The PKK's presence in the region has been a source of instability for years. Both the KDP and the PUK have tried to drive them out of their regions.

Mohammed's remarks, however, point to a change in PKK policy. It is unclear what drove the PKK to call for a peaceful settlement of outstanding issues with both the KDP and PUK. Mohammed said that they would probably start talks with the PUK, which is perceived as more sympathetic to the PKK than the KDP. He added that Iraq was a possible target after the war in Afghanistan, and that the PUK "needs to utilize the situation and start talking to the PKK." (David Nissman)

JUND AL-ISLAM REORGANIZES. The Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Hawlati" reported on 28 October that the Jund Al-Islam is trying to strengthen and consolidate itself at the same time as it holds talks with the Kurdistan Islamic Group and a wing of it led by Mala Krekar with a view toward reunifying all three groups.

The Jund has also established forces in Shram Mountain and laid mines along its front lines.

Economically, the Jund is busy importing fuel and cement from Iran to areas under its control and selling it. It also collects taxes on goods passing through the region.

Due to the fighting with forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), all schools in areas under the Jund's control have been closed down. Families living at or near the scene of the fighting have been displaced and are now settled in Sayd Sadiq, living in tents in the foothills of the mountains. (David Nissman)