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Iraq Report: November 30, 2001

30 November 2001, Volume 4, Number 39

IRAQ REJECTS CONDITIONAL LIFTING OF SANCTIONS. Baghdad has refused the conditional lifting of sanctions, even at the risk of being attacked by the United States, which demands the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, AFP reported from Baghdad on 27 November.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Hadithi told the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" that "we are not prepared to accept any modification to the memorandum of understanding" with the United Nations.

He was referring to the "smart sanctions" plan which was rejected by Baghdad and blocked by Russia at the UN Security Council last July.

U.S. President George W. Bush warned Saddam Husseyn that he must allow the weapons inspectors back in to prove to the world that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction.

Baghdad has repeatedly rejected Security Council Resolution 1284 of December 1999 providing for a conditional lifting of sanctions in exchange for the inspectors' return.

AFP also reported on 27 November that the "Jordan Times," in an editorial, urged Iraq to cooperate with the UN in order to avert any attempt by the U.S. to hit Baghdad as part of its antiterrorism campaign. (David Nissman)

RUSSIA TO 'DEVELOP AND DEEPEN' TIES WITH IRAQ. Russia wants to "develop and deepen" its economic and political ties with Iraq, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov, who attended a roundtable on Russian-Iraqi economic cooperation, AFP reported on 26 November. Participants in the roundtable, held on 26 November in Moscow, were Russian businessmen and lawmakers as well as a number of Iraqi government officials and parliamentarians. They called on Russian President Vladimir Putin "to take all necessary steps" to block UN proposed 'smart sanctions' on Iraq.

Smart sanctions, backed by Washington, would eliminate the embargo on civilian trade with Iraq and tighten controls in order to prevent oil-smuggling out of Iraq.

However, Saltanov said that it was becoming "increasingly difficult for Russia to fight alone" against a tightening of sanctions on Iraq. In addition, Iraq's situation was worsening since it is now in danger of becoming a "military target" for the United States in its fight against international terrorism.

The Iraq ambassador in Moscow, Mujir Duri, said Baghdad was "counting a lot on Russia's support."

Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the deputy speaker of the Duma, said he was convinced Russia could block the proposed smart sanctions in the UN.

Russian companies have exported $1.85 billion worth of goods over the last 10 months to Iraq; in 2000 exports totaled $1.25 million.

Interfax reported on 26 November that at the roundtable, Russian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Nikolai Dolgoshin announced that Russia would share in the bidding for the supply of food-grade wheat in the next phase -- the 11th -- of the oil-for food program. He also suggested signing a bilateral agreement on cooperation in agriculture. In addition to foodstuffs, Russia could supply farm machinery, equipment, fertilizers, and veterinary products as well as providing training in its higher educational institutions.

Also, ITAR-TASS on 26 November said that Russian ambassador-at-large Nikolai Kartuzov flew to Baghdad on 26 November for three days of consultations with the Iraqi leadership. He is scheduled to meet Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and officials from various ministries.

Saltanov said that despite the sanctions regime, "Russian-Iraqi economic cooperation has a tendency of permanent increase." Russian firms participate in the restoration of the Iraqi economy's infrastructure, including the oil industry, agriculture, transport, and communications. Cooperation is especially successful in the energy sector. Current projects for building electric stations in Iraq are estimated at almost $1 billion. (David Nissman)

SADDAM DELEGATES MORE POWER TO QUSAY. A report in the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Hayat" of 21 November says that reliable Iraqi sources have asserted that President Saddam Husseyn has delegated more presidential powers to his second son Qusay and entrusted to him the presidential office's private correspondence. The step was taken "to reduce the pressures on Saddam and train Qusay to administer the country's internal affairs in the president's absence due to sickness or when hiding if Iraq comes under a U.S. attack."

They added that the presidential portfolios that Saddam took care of were transferred to Qusay last month, "except for issues relating to national security and management of foreign affairs." The sources added that Abd Hammud, the president's secretary, has started to reroute the daily presidential post and correspondence addressed to Saddam directly to Qusay for action following an order he received from the president in early October.

Qusay became a member of the Ba'th Party's Regional Command in May, and Saddam appointed him his deputy in the party's military bureau, which has actual control of the army and air force. He has commanded the Republican Guards and security services since 1993. He has a firm grip on the vital elements of rule in Iraq.

Saddam has also made staff changes. The undersecretaries in the Foreign Ministry who were dismissed last month by Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Hadithi have started to work in new positions since early November. Nuri Isma'il Wis has become the president's secretary for party affairs, Nabil Najm Takriti has become the presidential office's deputy chief, and Nizar Hamdun has become a member of the Foreign Relations Department in the Ba'th Party's Pan-Arab Command. Riyad Qaysi was pensioned off. (David Nissman)

CHINA, IRAQ TO IMPROVE INFORMATION COOPERATION. The Iraqi ambassador to China, Usama Badr Din Muhammad, met with the president of the Chinese news agency Xinhua on 26 November to discuss the prospects of improving information cooperation between the two countries, according to INA of 27 November.

Measures necessary for the implementation of the cooperation agreement signed between Xinhua and Iraq in 1999 were also discussed at the meeting. In addition, talks also focused on the exchange of specialists and Chinese aid to Iraq for improving the quality of the information sector. (David Nissman)

TWO IRANIAN DELEGATIONS HEAD FOR IRAQ. Two Iranian official delegations have headed for Baghdad to discuss the normalization of relations and to determine appropriate solutions for two problems still pending between the two sides since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1989, according to of 23 November.

A source at the Iraq Ministry of Transport said that one of the Iranian delegations will discuss the return of Iraqi planes seized by Iran before and during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The talks are held within the framework of the recently signed agreement to revitalize relations between the two countries.

A second delegation will arrive in Baghdad to discuss the question of MIAs and prisoners in order to close this file as soon as possible. The official sources stressed that these talks are a follow-up to the official discussions between Iraq and Iran that lasted for 10 days and resulted in a final formula to resolve the question of Iraqi MIAs and prisoners. (David Nissman)

SADDAM'S BODYGUARDS ACCOMPANY OFFICIAL DELEGATIONS. Saddam Husseyn has ordered that at least one of his personal bodyguards should accompany Iraqi official delegations abroad, according to a report in the "Iraq Press" on 20 November. Under the ruling, the guards will attend meetings the delegates hold during their travels abroad and be present at all levels of negotiation.

Saddam's bodyguard force wields tremendous authority in Iraq. It consists mainly of family members and close relatives.

The "Iraq Press" claims that the presence of the bodyguards in the official delegations is bound to complicate matters, particularly for Iraqi technocrats holding influential posts at the ministries of foreign affairs, trade, industry, oil, and finance.

Not all bodyguards will be allowed to travel. The senior officers who escort Saddam in his television appearances will stay behind.

Every bodyguard accompanying an official delegation will be given $5,000 and a passport issued by the Special Security Forces. The bodyguard is required to submit a detailed report on the movements of the delegations and minutes of meetings to Saddam. He is also requested to meet the needs of Saddam and his family for goods and commodities unavailable In Iraq. (David Nissman)

RING OF SABOTEURS ROUNDED UP IN BAGHDAD. Baghdad Television announced on 24 November that a group of "criminal elements" had been arrested in Baghdad. They had been planning to carry out "various terrorist and sabotage operations in the governorate of Baghdad."

The television report was begun by a statement issued by the "Directorate of Public Security," which also claimed that these elements "confessed to their criminal actions and revealed the agent terrorist circles that prompted them to carry out these actions to achieve aggressive objectives set by the circles of evil and terrorism in the Iranian regime's agencies for the benefit of the U.S. administration and the Zionist entity." The statement promises that it will "strike against all those who try to disrupt their security and stability."

Following the statement, Baghdad TV showed a segment with the six members of the group confessing their involvement in these actions. Five of them also inculpated Iranian intelligence officers. (David Nissman)

IRAQI OPPOSITION ATTACKS 'GOVERNMENT PALACE.' The Iraqi opposition party Da'wa Islamiyya carried out an attack on a government palace in Baghdad, according to a party statement reported by Kuna on 23 November. It says that a group of operatives called Al-Sadr -- affiliated with the Da'wa Islamiyya -- attacked a government palace with four 81 millimeter mortar shells and then withdrew safely to their base. The statement added that it did not know the extent of damages, but that the attack did disrupt local security forces.

The attack came at a time when Iraqi security forces are on maximum alert. The statement claimed that any security preparations would be futile in the face of opposition assaults. It added that Da'wa Islamiyya "will execute more such operations in the future until the Iraqi regime is eliminated. (David Nissman)

SADDAM TO REPLACE POWER GENERATORS. President Saddam Husseyn has ordered that the electricity generators feeding his palaces and farms be replaced immediately, "Iraq Press" reported on 21 November. Many of the existing generators are old, do not work properly, and lack spare parts.

Iraq has taken a number of emergency measures following the 11 September attacks in the U.S. It is thought in Baghdad that although Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network has been blamed for the 11 September attacks, the Americans have not ruled out a military strike against Iraq.

Essential equipment and documents belonging to the Military Industrialization Organization, the security services, and the Ministry of Defense have already been moved to what authorities consider to be safer locations.

Iraqi travelers say that the pace of readiness and precautions are unprecedented in Iraq. Some of the measures were not implemented even in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait. (David Nissman)

SADDAM REPORTEDLY OFFERS ASYLUM TO BIN LADEN, MULLAH OMAR. The Karachi newspaper "Ummat" of 22 November carries an article saying that Saddam Husseyn has offered asylum to the top Taliban and Al-Qaeda leadership, including Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. In this regard, a delegation led by a senior official in the Iraqi government. Taha Husseyn, met with Mavlana Jalal ud-Din Haqqani in Kandahar and conveyed Saddam's offer to him. If the report is true, then it is at least the second time that Saddam has offered bin Laden asylum. Faruq Hijazi, the Iraqi ambassador in Turkey until his recent recall, contacted bin Laden in Afghanistan in late 1999 and offered asylum to him and some of his lieutenants (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 January 1999).

Taliban sources told "Ummat" that Saddam had also offered to provide financial support, military training, military advisers and arms to the Taliban and had sent the message that Iraq would stand by the Afghan people in the all-out war against the United States.

The sources said that the Iraqi delegation had been asked to wait for an answer to their message. Both Mullah Omar and bin Laden are said to have conferred with their aides. According to the sources, there is little chance of Omar leaving Afghanistan, but he might consider sending members of his Shura and non-combatant aides. (David Nissman)

SECURITY SERVICES MONITOR INTERNET. The State Company for Internet Services, the sole Internet service provider in Iraq, blocks access to sites and its employees supervise computers with Internet links, according to an article in "Iraq Press" on 27 November.

The first Internet cafe opened in Baghdad in 1999 with 15 computers for a population of more than 5 million people. Though private access to the Internet is banned, Iraqi universities and private computer offices in Baghdad offer courses on how to use it. A study published recently in local newspapers found that more than 100,000 people in Baghdad alone are willing to subscribe to the Internet if they would be allowed to.

The regime banned Internet usage in 1999 because it viewed it as an instrument promoting American and Western propaganda. It is unlikely that the regime, which also bans satellite dishes, modems, and fax machines, will ever permit free access to the Internet.

The state-run company which monopolizes the Internet is planning to open other Internet centers in the provinces of Anbar, Diyala, and Wasit -- bringing the number of government-run cafes in Iraq to 13.

However, Internet usage is spreading rapidly in Iraq's three northern provinces of Dahuq, Irbil, and Sulaymaniyah, which are not under Baghdad's control, but under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). There are three Internet service providers in the KRG. Private access is allowed and there was no blocking of sites until recently.

The Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Hawlati" on 19 November reported that in the KRG, websites belonging to Kurdish Islamists have been removed or blocked. These include: the website of the Jund al-Islam, "Ayyubi;" a website named after the Kurdish Islamist leader Mamosta Krekar; and Alay Islam and Ma'wa. "Hawlati" claims that "the disappearance of Kurdistan Islamists' websites is related to international pressure exerted by the U.S. and its allies on Islamic and fundamentalist movements." (David Nissman)

KURDISH OFFICIALS IN TEHRAN, ANKARA. Iran, in order to ease tensions between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Jund al-Islam, has held a number of meetings between the warring parties. Kosrad Rasul of the PUK was recently in Tehran. As part of that effort, Iran facilitated the signing of an agreement between the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) and the PUK, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 22 November.

Also, as a result of Iran's work, Ali Abdulaziz of the IMK was permitted to go to Halabcha by the PUK.

The signed agreement based on the Tehran accord between the PUK, the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), and the IMK focuses on the declaration of the political stances of the KIG and IMK vis-a-vis the Jund al-Islam and the prevention of further disturbances. According to KurdSat of 19 November, both the KIG and IMK were asked to distance themselves from the Jund.

Another PUK official, Omer Fettah, was in Ankara on 20 November meeting with senior Foreign Ministry officials responsible for Iraq. Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK, is expected in Ankara soon and a Turkish delegation is to visit the region shortly.

Ankara discussions were centered on economic matters as well as regional security. The PUK has called on Turkish businessmen to invest in the PUK-controlled area.

PUK sources have also said that the Jund al-Islam group was cornered and forced to settle along the border with Iran, which may indicate a decreased threat posed by the Jund. (David Nissman)

KURDISTAN 'RED FLAME' LEADER: KDP, PUK NOT REPRESENTATIVE. The Sulaymaniya-based newspaper "Hawlati" on 19 November interviewed the leader of the Kurdistan Red Flame (KRF) organization, Muhammad Penjwini, about the history and objectives of the KRF.

The KRF was created on 20 April 1984, seeking to fill the gap for a "progressive, organized leadership that could embrace all social classes and push them to confront the occupying Iraqi regime." The party believes in the "progressive ideology of social democracy."

Describing relations with the two dominant parties in the Kurdistan Regional Government, the KDP and PUK, Penjwini said: "Unfortunately, the parties which are around us, such as the KDP, do not attach importance to us -- not only to us, but also to militant people. We have been in the Qandil area in the past few years and have been neighbors to the PUK; we have had friendly relations. We have been sending them messages or envoys, but they have not answered us!"

Penjwini added that the PUK had arrested most of their members in 1991. Now, however, the KRF has sent another delegation to the PUK led by a "comrade Nabaz" and discussed bilateral relations. In addition, the LDP also attacked their headquarters recently.

The KRF considers itself "as the people's representatives."

With regard to the KDP, last year in June, the KDP, with the cooperation of the Iranian government, shelled the KRF headquarters. Asked why the KRF stayed in the mountains and did not go to the cities, he answered "there is no guarantee that, if we go to the cities, we would not be attacked and brought to the courts they [KDP, PUK] have established. These are the circumstances that force us to stay in the mountains."

With regard to the PKK, he says that while relations with them have always been good, they have improved since 1992. "We cooperate and defend each other."

Relations with the Iranian government are not good. Penjwini points out that Iran "is one of the occupiers of Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Red Flame struggles against occupiers." Asked by "Hawlati" if the tension between the KRF and the Iranian government was due to the KRF's cooperation with Iranian opposition groups such as the Mojahedin-i-Khalq and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Penjwini answers that "we could never be cut off from a revolutionary movement." (David Nissman)