26 May 2000, Volume 3, Number 16
SECRET IRAQ-ISRAEL TALKS HIGHLIGHTED. Secret talks have been going on for the last 15 months between Baghdad and Jerusalem, according to an article in the London "Observer" on 21 May. Iraqi representatives reportedly have told Israel that if Jerusalem works to end Baghdad's isolation, Baghdad will tone down its anti-Israel rhetoric and arrange for more than 300,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon to be airlifted to new lives in Iraq.
A press spokesman for the Israeli government has flatly denied the story, according to Radio Free Iraq's Jerusalem correspondent.
Rumors about the resettlement of Palestinians have been circulating in Iraq for some time (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 31 March 2000). And even though a representative of the Palestine National Authority has rejected this idea, Baghdad's continuing effort to evict Iraqi minorities from northern cities under its control have lent these rumors some weight.
Nonetheless, Baghdad on 23 May dismissed the "Observer" report as a compilation of "cheap lies" intended to wreck Iraq's ties to the Palestinians, according to a report from AFP on 23 May. The head of Iraq's official news agency, INA, said "these fabrications are aimed at damaging the constant stand of Iraq in support of the Palestinian cause." And Iraqi leader Saddam Husseyn reiterated that Zionism remained Iraq's "permanent and most hostile enemy." (David Nissman)
IRAQI VP, FOREIGN MINISTER IN YEMEN. Baghdad Radio reported on 21 May that Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan and Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf traveled to San'a to take part in festivities surrounding Yemen's National Day. Ramadan said that Iraq's participation underlines the role that President Saddam Husseyn played in achieving Yemeni unity "and defending it against regional and international plotting." Bilateral talks during the visit are intended to focus on promoting ties. In addition, Ramadan is expected to meet with other visitors to discuss Iraq's call for the lifting of UN Security Council sanctions. (David Nissman)
HAMMADI CONTINUES LOBBY EFFORTS IN FRANCE. Iraqi Parliament speaker Sa'dun Hammadi has called for the re-establishment of "full and complete" diplomatic relations "at the ambassadorial level" with France, AFP reported on 19 May. At a lecture to the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, he claimed it would be a practical way to "erode the sanctions against Iraq." He also encouraged France to join in Iraq's call for the repeal of UN Security Council Resolution 1284, which he said is "even worse" than Resolution 687.
Hammadi said that his talks with French officials had centered on lifting the sanctions, putting a stop to attacks by British and American aircraft, halting the illegal enforcement of the no-fly zones, and resuming passenger flights between the two countries. He added that he had urged France to participate actively in the reconstruction and development plan Iraq will implement, and stressed that France can play an active part in this because France is a major industrialized country. In other comments, Hammadi dwelt on relations between Iraq and Arab states, saying that "Iraq is maintaining good relations, albeit with varying degrees, except for one state, or two states."
But in an interview in Paris he granted to the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" on 23 May, he claimed that "Arab regimes bear a heavy responsibility for the continuation of sanctions against Iraq," reported the "Mideast Mirror" on 23 May. (David Nissman)
BUTLER SPEAKS ABOUT IRAQ'S ARSENAL. In an interview with the "Guardian" on 24 May, Richard Butler, former chief weapons inspector for the now disbanded UNSCOM, argues that Saddam Husseyn has built up an arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly nuclear weapons over the past 18 months. Butler says that he has evidence from his time in Baghdad that Husseyn has kept weapons of mass destruction hidden from the UN.
Iraq has built up the range of its missiles to 375 miles, Butler says, arguing that "I have seen evidence they have been attempting to procure missile manufacturing equipment from the West through front companies." He is convinced that Iraq still has stores of the nerve gas VX, which he described as more dangerous than Sarin or anthrax.
And Butler alleges that the UN Security Council is impotent in the face of the Iraqi danger, largely due to the fact that France, China, and Russia have put their own self-interest ahead of tackling Iraq. (David Nissman)
FRANCE ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR QATARI INITIATIVE. France has officially announced its support for an initiative proposed by Qatari Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad Bin-Jasim Bin-Jabr Al-Thani at the recent Kuwait conference "The Future of Kuwaiti-Iraqi Relations" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 May 2000), according to "Al-Watan" of Doha on 19 May. The initiative calls for cooperation between Baghdad and the UN, stressing Kuwaiti-Iraqi normalization and Gulf-Iraqi normalization. The French statement said that "it is a welcome initiative and conforms well to France's goals" and added "we are willing to coordinate with Qatar."
The French ambassador to Qatar, Bertrand Bozensou, noted that the visit of the director of Middle Eastern and North African Affairs at the French Foreign Ministry is expected to visit Doha on 10 June, and explained that this visit will be a suitable opportunity to discuss what the two countries can do together to give the Qatari initiative the hoped-for effectiveness and role.
The spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on 22 May to Xinhua that "the Qatari Foreign Minister recently put forth some suggestions, which are worthy of our attention, on realizing normalization of relations between Kuwait and Iraq as soon as possible," and added that "the Chinese government has all along supported and welcomed all efforts that would benefit the restoration of a normal situation in the Gulf; and it would like to continue to maintain contacts with relevant sides, including Qatar..." to bring peace and stability to the region.
Not all players in the Iraq game have had positive responses to the Kuwait conference or the Qatari initiative. The Kuwait newspaper "Al-Ra'y Al-Am" of 19 May claims that high-ranking U.S. political sources told them that the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) has prepared a special report on Kuwait's recent official and popular positions.
The report is quoted as saying that "during the symposium on future relations, some Kuwaiti National Assembly members and other influential political and economic figures voiced willingness to normalize ties with Iraq, regardless of the current regime, which still refuses to implement international resolutions on its invasion of Kuwait."
"Al-Ra'y Al-Am" says that the report raises questions about whether Washington is required to take a tougher stand on Iraq and the international resolutions than the Kuwaitis themselves. Sources assert that the NSC report and a similar Congressional report basically warn Kuwait that its policy will have very negative consequences." As far as Shaykh Hamad Bin-Jasim Al-Thani's initiative is concerned, the report points out that Kuwaiti officials did not respond to it in a clear, decisive manner.
Al-Thani himself said in Cairo in talks with Arab League Secretary-General Ismat Abd Al-Mejid that his ideas on lifting the embargo had been well received by various Arab states, according to MENA on 21 May. He also explained that there was no Qatari initiative. He had merely thrown out "ideas that we want to develop with our Arab brothers." (David Nissman)
OPPOSITION LEADER ON 'TRUST CRISIS' IN REGION. Jamal Al-Wakil, secretary-general of the Islamic Conciliation Movement, told Kuwait's "Al-Siyasah" on 23 May that he rejects any reconciliation with Saddam Husseyn's regime, adding that countries of the region are suffering from a "trust crisis with the Iraqi regime let alone the mistrust between Saddam Husseyn and his own people." He also denied that the opposition's objective is to divide Iraq and said that "everyone is working to build a plural state, in its political, religious and ethnic sense, which respects the will of the people." And he said that the recent seminar on future relations between Iraq and Kuwait "was not aimed at reconciliation with the regime." (David Nissman)
BULGARIA TO EXPORT SPARE PARTS TO IRAQ. Bulgarian Economy Minister Petar Zhotev said that "Bulgaria is ready to provide Iraq with the spare parts it needs to rebuild its oil installations and also buy (Iraqi) oil," AFP reported on 22 May. Zhotev is in Iraq to open the joint Iraqi-Bulgarian commission in Baghdad. He told INA that Bulgaria "has suffered enormous losses following the freezing of cooperation with Iraq." Iraq's minister of energy, Adnan Abd Al-Majid, said that Baghdad was "working to increase trade with Sofia in various fields." He invited "Bulgarian companies to guarantee the needs of Iraq in the oil-for-food program." (David Nissman)
KATYUSHA-ATTACK SUSPECTS BEING ROUNDED UP IN BAGHDAD. Baghdad police have launched a wave of arrests against suspects in the Katyusha rocket attack on the presidential palace in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 May 2000). This roundup is taking place in Baghdad neighborhoods populated by people of southern origins, according to the London-Based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 20 May.
Iraqi security services reportedly are now convinced that those who carried out the attack are still in Baghdad and unable to leave.
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Diplomatic sources in Amman told the paper that Iraq and Iran intend to hold political talks "soon" in which officials from both countries will discuss ways to ease the situation that will preclude the recurrence of incidents in which positions in Baghdad, Tehran, and other cities are targeted. The diplomatic sources maintained that a comprehensive deal to render Baghdad-Tehran ties quieter and healthier is the only way to freeze the activities of the opposition forces. (David Nissman)
ARABIZATION, DEPORTATIONS FROM KIRKUK CONTINUE. A report from the Sulaymaniyah "Kurdistani Nuwe" dated 6 May reveals a chilling picture of the deportation and Arabization policies now being pursued by the Ba'th Party in the Kirkuk region. Groups affected by this are Kurds, Turkmen, and Shi'a Arabs who were resettled here many years ago.
Among the targeted groups are the Kakay Kurds. In the city of Rumadi the Aghas [dignitaries] of some 400 Kakay families who were deported from their own areas have asked Saddam Husseyn to be allowed to return to their place of origin. Husseyn's adviser responded that they could not return because their lands have been distributed to Arab tribes. However, they are allowed to go north to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-controlled territories and take their families with them.
Ba'th Party teams have asked members of this community to provide them with information about their families, especially those who live abroad. They must provide them with full details of their addresses and the nature of their asylum. The heads of Kirkuk districts have to provide the names of those families whose members include soldiers who have defected, Peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers), or working with foreign organizations in Kurdistan or abroad.
By the end of April, this policy had intensified. Families in all districts of Kirkuk received forms they had to fill out concerning becoming Arab, family location during the 1947 and 1957 population censuses, number of the family living abroad or in Kurdish-controlled areas, number of family members arrested on political charges, religious belief, location during the 1991 uprising, and affiliation to parties of the "Kurdistan Front." Every family had to provide the deeds to its house to the authorities. The deed is returned after it changes its ethnic affiliation to Arab. Families providing inaccurate information will have their house deeds confiscated and a family member will be detained until the rest of the family is deported.
The regime's intentions are clear: a large number of Kurdish and Turkmen families are to be deported, either to Kurdistan or to central and southern Iraq. This process has also fueled rumors that Palestinians are to be resettled in the Kurdish and Turkmen properties. (David Nissman)
PUK ON PKK, KDP. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan authorities told the "Turkish Daily News" of 20 May that the PUK has been working since late April to create buffer zones against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in order to prevent PKK terrorists from infiltrating Turkey. The PUK's Ankara representative, Shezad Saib, said that "we need stability in northern Iraq and we cannot let the PKK spoil this atmosphere of stability and security. Because we do not believe in terror activities doing any good, we have started to create buffer zones to block the PKK. Ankara is satisfied with the PUK's position towards the PKK. This will help to build better relations."
According to Saib, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has started to threaten the PUK. He said that Sami Abdurrahman, deputy prime minister of the KDP in northern Iraq, had publicly declared that the PUK was against peace in the region. He added that official KDP newspapers had written articles calling for military solutions to resolve disputes with the PUK. (David Nissman)
PUK OFFICIAL ON RELATIONS WITH KDP. Faridoun Abdel Qadir, the chief of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) delegation at the Higher Coordination Committee (HCC) peace talks, rejected the Kurdistan Democratic Party accusation that the PUK was "derailing the Washington Accord" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 January 1999, for a summary of the points in the Washington Agreement). The release was published in a PUK media outlet, "Kurdistan Newsline" of Sulaymaniyah on 17 May.
Specifically, he singled out statements made by Sami Abdurrahman, chief of the KDP delegation to the HCC, at an Irbil institute in which he blamed the PUK for obstructing implementation of the Washington Accord.
Qadir claimed that the KDP allegation that the establishment of an Appeals Court in Sulaymaniyah and the PUK's election of a president for the region set back the implementation of the Washington Accord is "blatantly false."
The primary issue between the two parties, he said, is the division of revenues. Qadir points out that "if you look at the text of these accords, you see that most of the key elements pertain to issues relating to revenues." He asks rhetorically, "has the KDP allocated the share of revenues from the Ibrahim al-Khalil border crossing that is due our region (of Sulaymaniyah), 21 months subsequent to the signing of the Washington Accord?"
Although the KDP claims it sent 110 million Iraqi Dinars (ID) to Sulaymaniyah in two installments, Qadir says "information received from the concerned state parties to the accords claim that the revenues raised in KDP-controlled areas of Iraqi Kurdistan exceed $35 million, that is, ID 700 million. And information sources of the PUK itself indicate that over the last 21 months the revenues raised in KDP-controlled areas exceed ID 12 billion."
He concluded with a threat: "Just as we gave notice in the HCC meeting held in Shaqlawa on 2 May 2000, we hereby reiterate that we will not tolerate further procrastination and temporizing from the KDP regarding these revenues. We intend to publish and broadcast the schedules and the statistical financial charts we have at our disposal in sufficient detail for the people of Kurdistan to draw their own conclusions."
In addition, he accused the KDP of not taking action on the formation of a single joint government and parliament, normalization of relations in all Kurdish regional towns and villages, and the conduct of new general elections. (David Nissman)
ARMENIAN-KURDISH RELATIONS HIGHLIGHTED. The Library of Congress' Armenian Seminar on 24 May will sponsor presentations by three scholars from Armenia on the historical and cultural relations between the Kurds and the Armenians. The scholars are from the Caucasian Center for Iranian Studies in Yerevan and the Mashtots Institute of Manuscripts.
Dr. Garnik Asatrian will discuss early Armenia-Kurdish contacts, Dr. Raya Amirbekian will talk about the Peacock Angel as a Visual Symbol in Oriental Art in the context of the Armenian-Kurdish-Iranian cultural contact zone, and Victoria Arakelova will raise the issue of "The Zaza People: A Kurdish Tribe or a New Ethno-Political Factor."
The Armenian interest in the Kurds is partly based on the fact that Armenia is home to more than 50,000 Kurds. (David Nissman)