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Iraq Report: December 7, 2001

7 December 2001, Volume 4, Number 40

IRAQ ACCEPTS 'OIL-FOR-FOOD' EXTENSION, BUT NOT TRADE CONSTRAINTS. Iraq announced on 3 December that it accepts the extension of the oil-for-food agreement, but will not agree to a new trade review list designed to prevent Iraq from importing items with military potential, reported AFP on 3 December.

The new UN Security Council Resolution 1382 amounts "to a new attempt to circumvent Iraq's legal rights as stipulated in previous Security Council resolutions," charged Iraq's party newspaper "Al-Thawra."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri al-Hadithi said on 1 December that "those who concocted this resolution sought to ignore Iraq's right to obtain a lifting of the embargo, skirt the provisions of the (1966) memorandum of understanding, which established the oil-for-food program, and clamp new restrictions on Iraqi imports."

Kuwait called on the international community to make Iraq comply with Resolution 1382 "through all means," according to AFP of 2 December.

Resolution 1382 opens the way to a reform in six months of the sanctions against Iraq and a possible return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. It also provides for the adoption before the end of May 2002 of a list of products which could be used for military ends and which Baghdad would not be able to import without prior agreement by the Security Council. (David Nissman)

IRAQI OIL SMUGGLING UNDER SCRUTINY. The UN committee that monitors sanctions on Iraq is considering adding four new inspectors at one of two Iraqi export terminals in an effort to prevent oil smuggling from the port, according to AP on 4 December. Norway's UN ambassador, Ole Peter Kolby, chairman of the committee, said the company that inspects Iraqi oil shipments, Saybolt International BV, had requested the additional inspectors at the Gulf port of Mina al-Bakr.

According to U.S. Vice Admiral Charles Moore, who is in charge of the multinational sanctions team in the Gulf, said Iraq has smuggled an estimated 11.6 million barrels of oil through the Gulf this year, down from an estimated 20 million barrels over the same period last year. (David Nissman)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER RALLIES ARAB SUPPORT. Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Hadithi was received by Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar'a on 2 December. Present at the reception were Muwaffaq Nassar, director of the special bureaus of the Foreign Ministries, and Muhammad Rif'at al-Ani, head of the Iraqi interests section in Damascus, reported Syrian Radio on 2 December.

Talks between them concerned the need to forge an effective Arab position on the current situation. The new phase of the oil-for-food program, approved by the UN Security Council, was also discussed.

Concerning the possibility of an attack on Iraq, al-Hadithi said: "We are not concerned with these matters. The Zionist media and the officials associated with Israel are the ones launching such threats."

Al-Hadithi journeyed on to Qatar, where he met with Qatari Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad bin-Jabr al-Thani in Doha on 2 December. They discussed regional and international issues of mutual concern, according to Baghdad Radio of 3 December. (David Nissman)

SCIRI LEADER SAYS IRAQ DEPLOYING FORCES IN ANTICIPATION OF U.S. STRIKE. Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), visiting Kuwait, told the Kuwait newspaper "Al-Qabas" on 28 November that Iraq is expecting an American strike after the destruction of the Taliban and is preparing itself militarily.

He said that Iraq is deploying its forces along the border with neighboring countries. It is also digging trenches, dismantling large plants, and creating alternative command centers. Al-Hakim expects a popular uprising to take place if a strike against Iraq takes place.

He added that one of the regime leaders, Ali al-Majid, recently met with southern tribal leaders and threatened them with annihilation if they carry out an uprising.

Al-Hakim noted that the Iraqi opposition has made several contacts with the Kurds and opposition leaders in Syria and Britain, and Islamic forces to study the situation and adopt appropriate steps for Iraq and the region in the event that the American strike takes place.

The problem is that a change of regime in Iraq could threaten other countries in the region.

However, al-Hakim also said that the countries in the region and the international community view the Iraqi regime as a terrorist regime. The other current problem is the Palestinian issue which is the primary issue for the Arabs. Resolving this question, al-Hakim said, takes precedence over the Iraqi issue. (David Nissman)

TRIBAL CHIEFS PLEDGE FEALTY TO SADDAM. Baghdad Television on 3 December carried a telecast on Saddam Husseyn's meeting with tribal chieftains from Basra and Maysan governorates. Basra Governor Ahmad Ibrahim Hamash, Maysan Governor Mahmud Fizi al-Hazza, and the secretaries of the Ba'th Party in the two governorates also attended the meeting.

After Saddam welcomed the tribal chiefs, Shaykh Salam al-Maliki, head of the Bani-Malik tribes in Basra governorate, gave a speech in which he pledged absolute loyalty to him in the face of the "enemies of God and humanity." Following him, Abbas Mohammad al-Uraybi, head of the Bo-Mohammad tribes in the Maysan governorate, also pledged allegiance to Saddam Husseyn. Another tribal chief from Basra then read a poem in praise of Saddam, containing the lines: "If you order us, we will bring America to Baghdad and tell you, honor it with your feet."

Other tribal leaders spoke, including one who recited another poem, lines of which are: "From inside America, how five planes flew! This never happened in the past. An unprecedented setback, in which 6,000 infidels died. Bin Laden did not do it."

Saddam Husseyn then delivered a short speech, saying: "I do not think we need to mobilize if anyone thinks about attacking Iraq. This is because mobilization is already there, whether in terms of faith inside hearts or inside the mends...."

Following these panegyrics, another tribal chief delivered another speech in which he outlined the need for some services. Saddam said that the state tries to look after citizens' needs. (David Nissman)

IRAQ CLAIMS RECALL OF HIJAZI FROM TURKEY NOT CONNECTED WITH ATTA. An official of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry has denied that the recall of Faruq Hijazi, former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, was connected to his meeting with Mohammad Atta, reported Baghdad Radio on 1 December.

The Iraqi spokesman explained that Ambassador Hijazi had completed his term in Ankara, and had been assigned to another diplomatic mission two months earlier.

The spokesman added, "As for the accusations against the ambassador, he was exercising his diplomatic duties at the Turkish capital on the dates that the accusations claim [he met with the suspect] and the Turkish government is well aware of this." The spokesman said that these accusations are part of the hostile Zionist media campaign against the Arab and Islamic nation.

The "Turkish Daily News" on 29 November reported that diplomatic sources said Hijazi was "called back to Baghdad at very short notice." Hijazi is said to have met with Osama bin Laden in Kandahar in December 1998. Hijazi is also said to have met with 11 September suspect Mohammad Atta in Prague last April. These allegations were reported by the Al-Jazirah television station and the BBC, who claimed that Hizaji's recall was directly related to these incidents. (David Nissman)

IRAQI IRRIGATION MINISTER SAYS TURKEY NOT COMPLYING WITH WATER-SHARING AGREEMENT. Iraqi Irrigation Minister Rasul Abd-al-Husayn Sawadi told "Al-Hayat" on 28 November that Baghdad and Damascus have "totally identical views" on the need for Turkey to resume the meetings of the tripartite technical committee on the waters of the Euphrates River. He noted that Turkey had failed to comply with the Syrian-Turkish agreement that stipulates the flow of 500 cubic meters per second of Euphrates water to Syria.

Sawadi added that "our two countries support the principle of dialogue, good neighborliness, and historical relations with Turkey."

Syrian Irrigation Minister Taha al-Atrash says that water flowing in from Turkey has remained "at about 43 cubic meters per second less than stipulated in the agreement". This may be due to the drought which has affected the region over the last three years.

Sawadi wants to increase the amount of water flow Syria and Iraq share to some 666 cubic meters per second. It is known that Syria is complying with a 1960 agreement to pass on 58 percent of Euphrates River water.

Ankara announced during the first visit by a Syrian irrigation minister to Turkey in August its agreement "in principle" to resume meetings of the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish committee in return for Atrash's agreement to build joint dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers that it shares with Turkey. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rise in Turkey, and flow through Syria and Iraq en route before emptying into the Persian Gulf. (David Nissman)

IRAQ, IRAN TRY TO RESOLVE OUTSTANDING PROBLEMS. The official news agency INA said that Iraq and Iran want to resolve problems left over from the Iraq-Iran war and boost bilateral ties, reported AFP on 3 December.

During a meeting on 3 December between Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan and Iranian charge d'affaires in Baghdad Amir Said Irawani, they "stressed the need to endeavor seriously to solve outstanding problems and boost cooperation in all fields in the interest of both peoples."

Iran and Iraq have yet to normalize ties after the end of their conflict, which ended in 1988. The issues still unresolved are the POWs and support for each other's dissidents.

On 3 December a senior Iranian military officer, General Abdollah Najafi, chairman of the Iranian POW committee, said the POW issue was now "97 percent settled." Despite earlier reports on this issue, Najafi implied that there are still points to be resolved on the POW question.

Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Hadithi said last month that he was prepared to visit Tehran at any time, but Baghdad's envoy in Tehran said his trip had been put off because of "U.S. threats" against Iraq. (David Nissman)

IRAQI DIPLOMAT ASKS FOR ASYLUM. An Iraqi diplomat posted to the Arab League is seeking political asylum in a European country, reported AP on 2 December. Talal Barakat, the diplomat, had been ordered to return to Iraq at the end of his tour, but refused to go, according to the Iraqi National Accord. Barakat is still in Cairo.

The Iraqi Embassy in Cairo gave conflicting reports about Barakat's whereabouts when contacted by AP. The Iraqi mission to the Arab League did not return calls, and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and security officials would not comment on the affair.

"Al-Mu'tamar" the Iraqi National Accord newspaper published in London, said that Barakat was last seen at a party in an Arab embassy in November where he told colleagues he was returning to Baghdad. (David Nissman)

INDONESIA SEEKS OIL-EXPLORATION DEAL WITH IRAQ. Indonesia's state energy firm Pertamina said on 4 December that it is seeking an oil-exploration deal with Iraq and also to take part in the oil-for-food program under the United Nations, according to AFP on 4 December.

Pertamina director Baihaki Hakim said he hopes a planned visit to Iraq by Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz could help his country reach a deal. After talks with Haz, Hakim said: "We hope that the contract can be signed when the vice president is in Iraq. We would like to buy the oil from Iraq under the UN program because we want to buy crude oil from [the] Basra oil field and refine it into fuel in Indonesia."

Iraq signed an agreement with the UN on 3 December renewing the oil-for-food program until 30 May 2002 (see above). (David Nissman)

SADDAM OFFERS NEW DIALOGUE TO KURDS. Official Iraqi media have reported that Saddam Husseyn has offered a fresh dialogue to the Kurds living in northern Iraq, according to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 29 November He made this offer during a talk with Fuad Arif, a Kurd loyal to the Baghdad regime.

Saddam said: "The important thing is dialogue. The Kurdish people are our people and he who tries to sow disunity between Iraqis must be criticized." He added, "we want the Kurdish people to make a choice and stick by that choice."

Two weeks earlier, he warned the Kurds that he would resort to force if a dialogue could not be established.

INA reported his reception of Fuad Arif, and the "Kurdistan Observer" relayed the INA report on 30 November.

The Legislative Council of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (Baghdad-controlled) held an ordinary session on 1 December, according to Baghdad Radio. Baha al-Din Ahmad, speaker of the council, in a meeting with the head of the (pro-regime) Democratic Party, said that "the abnormal situation in the autonomous regions cannot continue, thanks to the awareness and will of our people who reject all foreign interference attempts."

Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has also come out in favor of a peaceful solution between northern Iraq and Baghdad (see below). AFP reported on 30 November. However, he warned that the KDP would retaliate if attacked. (David Nissman)

BARZANI OPPOSES INDEPENDENT KURDISH STATE. Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the KDP, said the Kurds ultimate aim was to live in a democratic, peaceful, and federal Iraq, reported "Iraq Press" on 3 December.

He said, "It is wrong to assail the Kurds because they seek the establishment of a federal system in a multiparty Iraq." He added that his party will not "carry out any step that will not be in the interests of the Kurdish people."

Barzani stressed that while the Iraqi Kurds were still searching for a peaceful solution to their case, "federalism is a natural Kurdish right which cannot be relinquished."

He also said that the Kurds were not working for an independent state because "they understand that the situation in the international arena does not allow that to happen."

He made these remarks at a gathering in the province of Dahuk as Iraqi troops were massing in areas close to the region's main cities and Saddam Husseyn has been issuing mixed signals. Husseyn has called for a dialogue and threatened to reoccupy Kurdish cities if the Kurdish parties turned down the offer (see above). It was unclear whether Barzani's remarks had anything to due with Saddam's promises or threats.

Saddam Husseyn has rejected a multiparty or federal system in Iraq.

Barzani noted that "acknowledging the issue is the only path to spread peace and security in the region." (David Nissman)

TALABANI SUPPORTS TURKMEN, ASSYRIAN RIGHTS. Jalal Talabani, the secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), reaffirmed the PUK's support for the rights of Turkmens and Assyrians in the Kurdistan region, according to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 28 November. In separate meetings with the Turkmen Front and Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), he stated the PUK's stand of solidarity with Turkmen and Assyrian aspirations and vowed continued cooperation and coordination between the PUK, the Turkmen Front, and Assyrian Democratic Movement.

Kanan Shakir of the Turkmen Front expressed his appreciation of the PUK's stand. He also briefed Talabani on issues of concern for the Turkmen community, especially related to public services.

The ADM delegation was led by Yonadim Yousif Kanna, the secretary-general of the ADM. He was accompanied by other high-ranking leaders. The two sides reaffirmed historic and traditional friendly ties between the Kurdish and Assyrian peoples and agreed to continue the close consultation process between the PUK and ADM on a regular basis. (David Nissman)

IRAQIS WARNED ON SATELLITE DISHES AGAIN. Local newspapers have published a renewed warning from Baghdad on the use of satellite dishes, reports "Iraq Press" on 3 December. The warning shows that the use of dishes is spreading in Iraq in spite of the harsh penalties. Residents of Iraq are banned from using satellite dishes, modems, and faxes, all of which are freely available in the semi-independent Kurdish regions of northern Iraq.

The newspapers say that new sensors have been imported by the government that can detect the presence of satellite dishes even if they have been concealed. Occasionally, authorities mount large-scale operations with helicopters to hunt for the dishes.

An Iraqi in possession of a satellite dish faces confiscation of the dish, a hefty fine, and six months in prison. Almost two years ago, Saddam Husseyn promised Iraqis limited access to a selected number of satellite channels but this promise has not been fulfilled. (David Nissman)

SADDAM ALLEGEDLY PENS NEW NOVEL. Iraqi literati are saying that a new Arabic novel, due to hit the stands shortly, was allegedly written by Saddam Husseyn. According to AFP of 3 December, Baghdad intellectuals have told them that the novel, entitled "The Impregnable Fortress", though unsigned, was written by the president.

Iraqi state television has said it was a story of the "fight against evil" and consists of "episodes of a journey in the world of virtue."

According to the press, revenues from the book sales will go to "the poor, orphans, and the needy, as well as works of charity," as was the case with Saddam's alleged first novel, "Zabibah and the King." (David Nissman)