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Iraq Report: February 11, 2000

11 February 2000, Volume 3, Number 6

BLIX TO START WORK ON 1 MARCH. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the UN Security Council that Hans Blix will begin working on 1 March in his job as head of UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification, and Control Commission). In the meantime, Blix, a former director of IAEA, will work on organizing this new arms control body. (David Nissman)

AN IRAQI SHIFT ON RESOLUTION 1284? "A senior Iraqi official" told MENA on 29 January that Baghdad's rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 1284, which links weapons inspections and the return of inspectors to Iraq with the suspension of sanctions "is not final but capable of being developed." Then on 7 February, "Middle East Economic Survey" quoted Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Nizar Hamdun as having said that his government would be prepared to take a fresh look at Resolution 1284 if changes were made to it.

British officials have indicated to the press that the UN Security Council is prepared to allow Iraq time to reconsider its refusal to allow weapons inspectors back in the country. British Defense Minister Geof Hoon said that Iraq "had an opportunity, not an indefinite opportunity, but certainly an opportunity to recognize the strength of feeling in the international community." He added that he thought that Iraqi leader Saddam Husseyn "has to be given time to consider carefully the implications and reach the right conclusion." (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD SEEKS OPEC REINTEGRATION. Iraq is seeking a full integration with OPEC for the first time since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Amir Rashid, Iraq's oil minister, told the "Financial Times" that Baghdad is ready to restrain its output as part of that reintegration. He said that "we are saying we are willing to put ourselves under restraint even if oil prices fall." But he noted that Iraq's reintegration depends on UN actions unblocking hundreds of contracts for oil field equipment. Commenting on the possibility that Iraq will once again be a player in OPEC, the "Financial Times" suggested that such a move would spark new frictions between Baghdad and Saudi Arabia. (David Nissman)

UAE: IRAQ'S GULF ACCESS KEY TO STABILITY. United Arab Emirates officials have suggested that Kuwait allow Iraq access to the Gulf in order to promote regional stability. UAE Defense Minister Shaykh Muhammad bin Rashid Al-Maktum said on 7 February that "If the issue is that Iraq needs an outlet to the water what is the problem if Kuwait offers that, if it is a guarantee for stability?" He was quoted by Kuwait's "Al-Watan" newspaper as having added "This is how I think...and I do not think there is an objection if one of your brothers has different views as long as the aim we are all aspiring to is the same."

London's "Al-'Arab Al-'Alami" reported on 9 February that Al-Makhtum's office had received numerous messages expressing support for his "courageous stance." Sources said that Shaykh Muhammad's stance is an extension of positions adopted by UAE President Shaykh Zayid Bin-Sultan Al-Nahayyan.

Kuwait refuses to have any direct dealings with Iraq and maintains that the greatest threat to regional security is President Saddam Husseyn himself. But because the UAE was one of the participants in the Gulf War against Saddam, the new statement by its defense minister puts additional pressure on Kuwait to change its position. (David Nissman)

IRAQ INTENSIFIES ACTIVITY IN NORTH AFRICA. In the last two weeks, Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih has been talking trade with Tunisia and Morocco. On 28 January, Salih met with Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi to discuss developing trade cooperation and boosting the Iraqi purchase of Tunisian goods.

A week later, the trade talks between the two expanded in Baghdad. There, Salih stressed Iraq's eagerness to promote economic and trade relations with Tunisia. And Baghdad Radio reported on 5 February that the visit by the Tunisian delegation to Iraq "will result in the conclusion of many contracts within the framework of the current oil-for-food and medicines formula, particularly the new paragraphs that were added to the current stage covering the import of construction, health, and basic electricity material." Tunisian Trade Minister Mondher Znaidi, who led the Tunisian delegation, expressed the hope that all efforts will be made to end the embargo.

On 26 January, Salih met with Moroccan Minister of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts Alami Tazi in Baghdad. According to Baghdad Radio on 26 January, they too discussed "maintaining the supply of goods from Morocco to Iraq within the oil-for-food program."

Then, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf left for Rabat for talks on bilateral ties and the means to strengthen and develop them.

A Moroccan organization, the National Committee for Supporting Iraq, is now urging the UN Security Council to put an end to the "abnormal situation of imposing Resolution 1284." "MAP" reported from Rabat on 17 January that the National Committee had urged international organizations, including the Arab League, to announce their non-compliance with the embargo resolution and to take steps to break it. (David Nissman)

OPPOSITION LEADER ON AL-DA'WA PARTY. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari, a member of the political bureau of the Iraqi opposition Al-Da'wa party, discussed the differences within the Iraqi opposition, the differences of opinion within Al-Da'wa itself, and the role of Islam in a wide-ranging interview with Nidal Al-Laythi which appeared in the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Zaman" on 2 February.

He argued that the anti-Husseyn opposition requires a "comprehensive framework for all forces, encompassing their religious, national, and political variations."

Differences within Al-Da'wa itself make this prospect a distant one. A case in point involves the resignation of the Shaykh Al-Asifi, Al-Da'wa's former official spokesman, who left the party leadership because he believes that the "Islamic Al-Da'wa Party must be organically linked to the jurisdiction of 'Ali Khamene'i, the guide of the Islamic Republic [of Iran]." He also reportedly thinks that there should be "actual implementation" of what Khamene'i thinks or what is thought by any person who represents Khamene'i in the various positions of the party." Al-Da'wa does not accept the position in the Iraqi context. Al-Ja'fari points out that, as a party, "we are not a regionalist, racist, or nationalistic movement."

As far as its relations with the United States are concerned, Al-Ja'fari said that "the party has turned down two invitations to meet with representatives of the U.S. administration." Meanwhile, within Iraq, Al-Da'wa attached "special importance to its jihad action to continue and escalate the confrontation [with the regime] by qualitative actions, such as the one that took place in Al-Dajil and the assassination attempt against Udayy."

Al-Ja'far noted that the first anniversary of the murder of the Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Al-Sadr (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 February 1999) is approaching--20 February--and may become the occasion for new actions against the regime. (David Nissman)

RCC PASSES NGO LAW. The Revolution Command Council (RCC) has issued Societies Law 13 for the year 2000. According to the pro-government newspaper "Al-Iraq" of 3 February, the law specifies that "the goals, programs and activities of societies should not conflict with the principles and objectives of the great 17-30 July revolution, the independence of the country, its national unity, and its republican system." The law also stipulates that such societies must not aim at causing rifts or sowing division among various ethnic groups, religious faiths, and religious sects.

Among the general rules, the law stressed that "a society cannot join or merge with a society, or a body, or a club that is located outside Iraq without the permission of the minister" and that "society cannot receive or solicit funds of any kind from inside or outside Iraq and it cannot transfer such funds to any person or quarter outside Iraq without the permission of the minister.

The law supersedes Societies Law No. 11 of 1960 and gives the minister the power to issue instructions to implement it. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD PUSHES INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH. Ihsan Muhammad Al-Fahd, director-general of the Research and Development Committee of the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, announced that nine scientific research centers plan to initiate and execute 159 research projects in agriculture, medicine, textiles, construction, nutrition, energy, environment, and packing this year. London's "Al-Quds Press" said on 8 February that last year, the Baghdad ministry fulfilled 128 projects. The Council of Ministers allocated 5 percent of these companies' profits for research and development and will provide direct support for the researchers. (David Nissman)

ISLAMIC POLITICS IN KRG HIGHLIGHTED. The Islamic movement in Kurdistan has a long and intricate political history, and that is the focus of an article written by the Kurdish writer Uthman Ali in the London-based independent newspaper "Al-Hayat" on 2 February.

Ali argues that the "Islamist parties and groups in the region will noticeably grow in the future." He adds that at the beginning of the 20th century, writers and poets "called for a Kurdish Islamic entity that would preserve for the Kurds their national identity." And he points out that most of the leaders of the Kurdish national movement in the 19th and 20th century were shaykhs holding to Sufi doctrines, such as the al-Naqshbandiyah and al-Qaditiyah.

The Muslim Brotherhood also attempted to put down roots in the Kurdish communities of northern Iraq in the 1960s, but, Ali says, it lacked relevance to the Kurdish situation.

During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran gave aid to Kurdish Islamic movements, and also translated works on the Iranian revolution into Kurdish, including works by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr. Ali also notes that Iran supported the efforts of Abbas Shabak, who formed the Kurdish Islamic Army.

One of the most widespread of the modern Islamist movements was the "Islamic League in Kurdistan, formed in 1978. Ali points out that many religious scholars in the countryside supported it, and "many youths influenced by the Afghan jihad movement joined it."

At present, the two strongest Islamic movements, the Islamic Movement and the Islamic Union Party, have made efforts to reconcile the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Ali says that "pragmatic leaders, who are more open to the experiment in democracy, now lead the Islamic Movement. Its leader (guide) is Shaykh Ali Bin-Abd-ul-Aziz. He is known to have cordial relations with Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK. The Islamic Movement also has close ties to the Iraqi National Congress, as well as the European Union and the U.S., which had designated it to be among the parties seeking a democratic regime to replace the current one.

Ali considers the Islamic Union Party to be "the most organized, most cohesive, and most popular within the Islamist current." It is also a partner in the KDP cabinet in Irbil. While it does not hold any portfolios in the PUK government in Sulaymaniyah, it does maintain friendly relations with the PUK. It is believed that whoever wants to gain victory in the upcoming elections in Kurdistan must form an alliance with the Islamists. (David Nissman)

TURKS LINK ISLAMIC UNITY MOVEMENT TO HIZBULLAH, BIN LADEN. The Turkish Interior Ministry has concluded that there are "close ties" between the Turkish fundamentalist Hizbullah Party, the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan (IUMK), and Usama Bin Laden's organization, Al-Qa'idah. But ministry sources did not provide any additional details to London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 6 February. These sources, however did claim that Hizbullah is preparing to declare a jihad in Turkey with the aim of proclaiming a Kurdish Islamic republic in southeastern Turkey.

IUMK has its offices in Irbil, in KDP-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan. They were subject to a bomb attack at the end of January (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 28 January 2000 and 4 February 2000). (David Nissman)

PUK VICTORIOUS IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani, claimed an "overwhelming" victory in elections to the municipal councils in the PUK-controlled areas of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The information director of the PUK announced that the PUK has won 53 of 58 municipal councils. The Movement of Islamic Unity won four councils, and the Party of Islamic Union won one, according to an AFP report of 4 February. Mas'ud Barzani's KDP did not particdipate in the elctions after the PUK blocked roads from areas of KDP control.

The KDP had been asked by the PUK to hold elections in the areas under its control, but they refused. Just prior to the elections, Sami 'Abd Al-Rahman, deputy head of the KDP, told Salah Al-Din's "Kurdistan TV International on 2 February that everyone knows that "the KDP organizations, supporters, and members are not free in the areas under PUK control." He refers to the expulsion of 70,000 KPD sympathizers from Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk, and continues to say that "we did not want to involve ourselves in a media war over the municipal elections issue because we felt that it would become another point of dispute between us and them."

Following the election Talabani, was asked by Radio Monte Carlo on 5 February if he still would call on the KDP to form a joint government. He answered that he had been in communication with Nichirwan Barzani, whom Talabani would support in a joint government with PUK participation and Nichirwan Barzani as President. He stressed that "this was and is conditional on the normalization of relations in the three major cities: Irbil, Dohuk and Suleymani." (David Nissman)

UN GROUP TURNS DOWN ANC. The application of the Assyrian National Committee for consultative status was rejected by the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, "Zinda Magazine" reported on 1 February. When the Committee discussed the ANC's application, the Lebanese representative said that the application should be rejected because the group's goals contradicted the Charter of the Committee since the ANC does not respect the principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But ANC officials were not discouraged. According to a letter written by its senior leader, "No matter how many questions we answer or how many representatives we send, the opposition to our application will not go away." The ANC maintains the campaign against their application has been carried out by "the Iraqi observer and [a] few other representatives from Arab countries. They claim that the reason for this campaign is that "it monitors abuses against human rights, including the linguistic and cultural rights of the indigenous people in Iraq where a campaign of 'ethnocide' and 'Arabization' have been carried out against the history and culture of these indigenous peoples." (David Nissman)