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Iraq Report: January 14, 2000

14 January 2000, Volume 3, Number 2

IAEA TO START 'LIMITED' INSPECTION REGIME. The International Atomic Energy Agency announced on 12 January that it would begin inspections in Iraq in the near future but that these would be "very limited" in nature. AFP on 12 January said that these inspections have nothing to do with the more stringent monitoring ordered by the UN Security Council since the end of the Gulf War. An Iraqi Foreign Ministry official said that these inspections will take place within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty signed with the IAEA in 1972, Iraq television reported on 12 January.

The five-man IAEA team is expected to start its work on 21 January. It members will monitor the condition of quantities of natural uranium, as well as 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium left under seal when inspectors were forced out in December 1998.

France hailed Iraq's agreeing to allow IAEA inspections. AFP on 12 January reported that Anne Gazeau-Secret, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said that France had asked Iraq on 17 December to allow the IAEA to complete its mission, and viewed Iraq's stance as "positive." (David Nissman)

EKEUS TO HEAD UNMOVIC? UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reportedly has asked key Security Council members to consider appointing Rolf Ekeus, currently Swedish ambassador in Washington, to the post of heading UNMOVIC, the name of the new arms inspection commission to supervise the disarming of Iraq. According to an article in "The Washington Post" on 12 January, Ekeus' name was put before the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with a list of other candidates.

Ekeus has extensive experience in Iraq. He headed UNSCOM--the precursor of UNMOVIC--from 1991 to 1997. And according to the Washington paper, Ekeus would consider returning to the position. During his tenure at UNSCOM, he was able to remain on good terms with key Security Council members. But Iraq has said it will not cooperate with the new commission. (David Nissman)

JORDANIAN ECONOMIST ADVISES 'OPENING UP TO IRAQ.' Fahd Al-Fanek, a leading Jordanian economist, argues in the 13 January "Mideast Mirror," that the solution to his country's economic difficulties "lies in opening up to Iraq." He adds that the downturn in the Jordanian economy over the last decade was the direct result of sanctions imposed on Baghdad. Because the sanctions also hurt Jordan hard, he concluded by adding "observing the sanctions regime is a suicidal policy."

Al-Fanek argues that he has Jordan's interests at heart rather than Iraq's. As far as the U.S. concerned, he says "the Americans, who allowed Jordan to import Iraqi oil because they recognized how dire the situation was in Amman, should not be angered if the trade involves more than oil." And he points out that he only wants Jordan to deal with Iraq in the same manner as Syria, Iran, and Turkey. "While observing the embargo in name, these countries have been implementing it loosely for years." (David Nissman)

WAVE OF EXECUTIONS, ARRESTS IN IRAQ. The Iraq Communist Party (ICP) on 6 January accused authorities in Baghdad of executing 40 members of the armed forces, according to a Reuters report on 6 January. The ICP's Human Rights Center, in Shaqlawa in northern Iraq, said that it blamed the executions on General Ali Hassan Al-Majid, known also as "Chemical Ali," who is a cousin of Saddam Husseyn and a member of the Revolutionary Command Council.

According to the ICP's statement, Ali Al-Majid had set up a special military court at the headquarters of the fourth Army Corps in Umara, which "lacked any semblance of justice and denied the defendants even the most fundamental human rights, such as the right to defense and the appointment of a lawyer."

While ten of the victims were named, it was unknown when these executions were carried out. Reuters said the report could not be verified. There was no comment by Baghdad.

"Chemical Ali" received his sobriquet for his role in gassing the Kurds in Halabche in 1988.

In a perhaps related event, the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on 6 January reported that an "Iraqi group based abroad" has announced that over the last few weeks a "ferocious arrest campaign" has been launched, targeting "pan-Arabists and Nasirites." The group issuing the statement was the "Pan-Arab Organization for Human Rights in Iraq." (David Nissman)

AZIZ FAILS TO SHIFT BEJING. Tariq Aziz's trip to China ended without Beijing shifting its position on sanctions. Bejing�s "China Daily" reported on 8 January that Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao said that Iraq should cooperate with the United Nations to honor Security Council resolutions. At the same time, he said, Iraq's territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence should be respected by the international community.

Baghdad Radio on 8 January, however, did not report China's request that Iraq cooperate with the Security Council. Instead, it focused on China's desire to develop commercial and economic relations with Iraq. Two days later, the Xinhua news agency reiterated Beijing�s position, calling on all major powers to "express their good political will" on the settlement of the Iraq issue. (David Nissman)

IRAQ SHORES UP INFLUENCE IN MALAYSIA. Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz arrived in Kuala Lumpur for a four-day official visit to Malaysia on 11 January. His purpose was both to enhance existing ties between the two countries and explain the effects of the UN sanctions and resolutions against Baghdad.

The visit was important for Baghdad because Malaysia, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council joined China, France, and Russia in abstaining in a December vote on a resolution requiring the establishment of a new arms inspection agency to complete the dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

On 12 January, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pledged continuing support for Iraq's efforts to have UN sanctions imposed on Iraq nine years ago lifted for good. According to "Bernama" of 12 January, Abdullah said it was vital for the Malaysian and Iraqi permanent UN members to ensure whatever measures adopted by the new arms inspection agency, UNMOVIC, "would enforce optimism toward lifting of sanctions."

This initial Bernama report suggests that Malaysia advised Iraq to permit arms inspectors to re-enter the country. A Malaysian official, close to the Badawi-Aziz meeting, however, said that Malaysia had not done so. "Rather," he said, "what is desired is further clarification by the UN that this agency's work will lead to the lifting of sanctions," reported Dow Jones on 12 January. (David Nissman)

INDEPENDENT NGO FOUNDED IN NORTHERN IRAQ. The new Iraqi Institute for Reform and Democratic Culture founded by the liberal politician and former minister of the Kurdish Democratic Party, Husseyn Sinjari, is notable because it is the first NGO in Iraq.

In an interview with the "Turkish Daily News" on 12 January, Sinjari said that he hopes to use it to introduce democratic culture--tolerance and acceptance of others--in order to pave the way for democracy and the establishment of democratic rule. He stressed the importance of Iraq's unity, asserting that "I see the future of northern Iraq within Iraq, but within a federal Iraq."

As far as his relations with Baghdad are concerned, Sinjari said, "if the government of Iraq seriously allows political opposition to emerge, we should accept that and work for national reconciliation." He explained: "Of course, we cannot accept being part of the existing Iraqi government. I reiterate that we are in opposition but different--honest opposition, not the kind of opposition connected to foreign interests." Moreover, he said that "there is a need to give cultural rights to other minorities such as Turkomans, Assyrians, and people of various origins. The Kurds are also a key element for the future of Iraq." (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD DENIES SUPPORTING PKK, OPPRESSING TURKMEN. The Iraqi Embassy Press Secretary in Turkey, Zabin Al-Qubaysi, denied that Saddam Husseyn was supporting the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), or that Saddam's son Qusayy was providing a base for the PKK.

According to the Istanbul daily newspaper "Zaman" of 5 January, he pointed out that Mahmuran, the town where the Baghdad-supported PKK base allegedly was located, is under UN control, and added that making such claims was a U.S. effort to disrupt Iraq's relations with Turkey.

Such allegations have been frequently made, most recently by the semi-official Turkish news agency "Anatolia" on 9 December (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 17 December 1999).

In a similar vein, Al-Qubaysi also rejected assertions that the Iraqi Turkmen in Kirkuk and Mosul were being forced to move out, and noted that there was no discrimination against Turkmen in Iraq. A UN Report on Human Rights dated 15 October 1997 details a number of problems concerning the Iraqi Turkmen, including forced resettlement, forced migration, and the closing of Turkmen schools and media centers (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 March 1999). Al-Qubaysi claimed that "a Turkmen has as much right as any Arab to settle where he wants in Iraq."

He also expressed Saddam Husseyn's wishes for the improvement of Iraq's relations with Turkey and stressed that the idea of establishing a haven for the PKK despite knowing Turkey's sensitivities had "no rhyme or reason." (David Nissman)

THE KAKAI RECONCILIATION. There is rarely good news out of the very complex mosaic of peoples in northern Iraq in recent years. However, "Kurdish Media" of 5 January has published an article by its correspondent Said Kakei from Halabche.

Jalal Talabani, the general-secretary of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) has reached an agreement with the Kakais of Halabche city and its suburbs permitting them to practice their religion (Kakaism) openly in a "gemkhana" (place of worship" for the first time in 1,350 years.

Talabani committed himself to this following a meeting with representatives of the Kakai community on 29 December 1999. This brings an end to the religious rivalry "between the leaders of the Talabani tribe, a Sunni Muslim Qadiri sect, and those of the Kakai."

This reconciliation process casts light on the fabric of Kurdish society in northern Iraq for three reasons: it brings to the surface a long-lasting inter-Kurdish sectarian dispute and demonstrates that steps can be taken to settle such problems; it explains, indirectly, one of the factors behind the antagonism between Mas'ud Barzani and Jalal Talabani; and third, it captures a potential candidate for high office in the Kurdistan Regional Government working the hustings and compromising an ancient position in order to take some potential votes away from his opponent.

Kakaism stems from the word for "brotherhood." As a belief, it is a combination of Zoroastrianism and Shi'ism, similar to Yezidiism. It arose as the result of a conflict between the Umayyad rulers of Islam and the Zoroastrianism priesthood, and gained momentum on the plain of Sharazur, near the city of Sin (present-day Halabche). A millennium ago, Kurdish Zoroastrian clergymen called Ali (the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad and then the supreme leader of Shi'ism). Because Kakais are forbidden from cursing Satan on religious grounds, many Muslims refer to them as devil-worshippers, hence the Muslim antagonism toward their beliefs resulting in the repression of the Kakais for more than a millennium.

The second point has to do with the relationship between the two great Sufi brotherhoods (tariqat) in Iraqi Kurdistan: the Naqshbandi and the Qadiri, as well as the relationship between Barzani and Talabani. A leading scholar on modern Iraqi Kurdistan, Michael M. Gunter, in his work "The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq (St. Martins Press, 1999, p 70)" notes that "the fact that the Barzani and Talabani families were also associated with the two great rival Sufi orders in Iraqi Kurdistan...possibly provided a greater impetus to their rivalry." One consequence of this rivalry in the last decade is that the Kakais backed Barzani and the KDP against Talabani and the PUK. It appears that the stance of the Qadiris against the Kakais had been, up to last December, more uncompromising and unbending.

Connected with the Sufi rivalry is the division of the two parts of Iraqi Kurdistan along dialectical (in the linguistic sense) lines. The Barzanis are generally more closely connected to the Behdinani Kurds, who, in turn, are closely akin to the Kurmanji Kurds (of Turkey), and the Talabanis with the Sorani Kurds.

According to Kakei, there are some 300,000 Kakais in Kurdistan. More importantly in the present and future political process, Kakei makes the point in his article in "Kurdish Media" that the present government and Barzani "enjoy an overwhelming support of the Kakais." In the event the election in the KRG actually scheduled for last year takes place in the foreseeable future, Talabani's gesture of reconciliation to the Kakais may sway enough votes in the direction of the PUK to bring a political victory into the realm of possibility.

As Kakei says, the way this reconciliation is implemented depends on the Kakai priesthood on one hand, and the Muslim capability to "live in peace with other beliefs and religious practices." (David Nissman)