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Iraq Report: June 2, 2000

2 June 2000, Volume 3, Number 17

UNMOVIC ADVISORY PANEL BEING STAFFED. Hans Blix, the head of the new UN arms inspection agency, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), is now staffing his advisory panel, "The New York Times" reported on 25 May. A core staff of some 40 people is expected to be in place by the end of June. A U.S. expert will probably be put in charge of training and equipping the inspection commission, the paper said.

An advisory "college of commissioners" consisting of 16 arms control and weapons experts from around the world have met with Blix twice to review his first report on the establishment of UNMOVIC. The U.S. representative in the college of commissioners is Robert Einhorn, assistant Secretary of State for arms control.

Iraq has condemned the commission in strong terms, demanding that sanctions be lifted before arms inspections can continue. Most recently, on 26 May, Baghdad Television said that "once again, the United Nations confirms that it is using the revenues Iraq has earned through the oil-for-food-and-medicine program irresponsibly, demonstrating unwarranted wastefulness and extravagance."

But at the same time, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf said on 29 May that his country was ready to work with the new UN humanitarian coordinator Tun Myat of Myanmar and added that "the application of the oil-for-food program does not present any problem, if you do not take the political aspect of this program into account," reported AFP on 29 May.

An unnamed U.S. official told "The New York Times" that "Iraq has become clearer and clearer in its rejections. We think this is very unfortunate. Iraq needs to understand that if it wants sanctions to be suspended or eventually lifted there is only one route to that goal, and that route passes through full cooperation and compliance."

Blix has also been subjected to criticism, some of it sharp. He has been accused of being too soft on the Iraqis in the past when he was in charge of nuclear monitoring. In addition, his plans to include "cultural training for UNMOVIC members is considered a sop to those in the UN friendly to Iraq, who demand that Iraqis be treated more diplomatically after years of tougher inspection techniques. (David Nissman)

ACADEMIC 'BRAIN DRAIN' LEADS TO FIRING OF MINISTER. The dismissal of the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, 'Abd Al-Jabbar Tawfiq Muhammad, announced in a terse report on Baghdad Television on 18 May, was the subject of a report by 'Ali 'Abd Al-Amir from Amman in London's "Al-Hayat" on 25 May. Al-Amir says that a source claimed Muhammad was fired "for his failure to stem the emigration of Iraqi professors abroad and for his delay in implementing an order calling for the transfer of a number of professors from Baghdad University and Al-Mustansariyah University to new colleges carrying the name of Saddam in Baghdad and in the governorates."

The same source said that some 2,000 university professors and scientists have emigrated abroad in the last five years.

The travel abroad of professors and specialists in medicine, engineering, physics and chemistry was forbidden by Baghdad until 1998, but those with passports with false names or who bribed passport officials to remove their names from the stop list continued to leave. Moreover, Baghdad itself allowed the resignation of 10 percent of Iraqi university professors and allowed some professors to sign contracts with Arab universities in Libya, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman.

Among the reasons faculty members want to leave Iraq is poor pay: Professors at Iraqi universities receive a monthly salary of 10,000 to 25,000 dinars ($5-$12), while professors at the Saddam colleges receive more money as well as health and housing benefits. (David Nissman)

IRAQ RIVER PROJECT POSES ECOLOGICAL THREAT TO GULF. The Al-Shatt Al-'Arab River in Iraq, which is formed by the confluence of the Tigris, Euphrates and Karun rivers, has now been drained due to river diversion and the completion of a man-made canal called the "third river." This draining is causing the loss of internationally important wetlands, according to a report in the "Kuwait Times" of 25 May.

Baghdad's Minister of Irrigation Mahmud Diyab Al-Ahmad announced that Iraq has built a canal linking the Tigris River to the central province of Diyala. Al-Ahmad said the canal, 10 miles in length, was built in two months and called it "the leader's gift" in honor of President Saddam Husseyn who ordered its construction in March, AFP reported on 29 May.

Faiza Al-Yamani of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and Dr. Ali Al-Khuraibet, general manager of Environmental Consultants, told the "Kuwait Times" that the physical manipulation of the Tigris, Euphrates and the Shatt Al-Arab basins has brought about a significant change in the amount of fresh water being discharged into the Gulf. Al-Yamani stressed that the river projects and the environmental changes accompanying them have had adverse effects on fish production.

Because the Shatt Al-Arab basin has drained a large agricultural, industrial and urban area of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and the northern Gulf, and a variety of chemicals, including petroleum hydrocarbons, PCBs and organochlorine compounds have become ever more evident in the Shatt Al-Arab waterway. These are affecting the northern marine environment of Kuwait. In addition, Kuwait is arguing that the diversion of water and the drainage on the marshlands are affecting Kuwait's northern marine ecosystem, including its biotic and abiotic components, and the marshlands are becoming a non-point source of pollution affecting fish resources owing to a change in the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the northern marine zone of Kuwait after draining the marshlands.

The basic problem, explained the two experts, is that the Tigris and Euphrates have been manipulated for a long time, and the waterlogging problem, which is one of the consequences of this manipulation, itself prompted Iraqi authorities to build a canal (the "third river") from Baghdad to the Gulf. The water that flows from the Tigris and Euphrates flows into large marshy areas which have been drained causing a change in the salinity and nutrients in the northern Gulf.

A secondary problem, the two Kuwaitis said, is that "the environment is now indisputably part of the contemporary political landscape" and "the politics of the environment tackles issues of the sustainable use of ecosystems at local, regional and downstream countries." (David Nissman)

AL-SAHHAF MEETS WITH RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS. Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf received Nikolai Kartuzov, Russian ambassador for special missions and personal envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the meeting, Kartuzov delivered a message from the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation on bilateral relations, reported Baghdad Radio on 26 May. Al-Sahhaf affirmed that Iraq is eager to promote the unique relationship between the two countries.

Al-Sahhaf also met with a Ukrainian delegation led by Undersecretary at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Aleksandr Midanek. The two discussed ways to promote relations between the two friendly countries in all fields that serve their joint interests. Midanek said that his country is ready to promote relations with Iraq in all fields, stressing that the Ukrainian government and people support the efforts exerted to lift the unjust embargo from Iraq. (David Nissman)

IRAQI, SERBIAN ASSEMBLY SPEAKERS MEET. Iraq National Assembly speaker Sa'dun Hammadi, received Dragan Tomic, president of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, in Baghdad, reported Baghdad Radio on 28 May. They discussed ways of "enhancing" parliamentary relations between the two countries. Tomic said Iraq's and Yugoslavia's struggle and steadfastness have become a model to be emulated, and called on world parliamentarians to work seriously and swiftly "to lift the unjust blockade that had been imposed on Iraq for ten years." (David Nissman)

SYRIAN-IRAQI TIES EXPAND. Baghdad Radio reported on 27 May that Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid had received Dr. Dawud Hayru, the head of a Syrian economic delegation now visiting Iraq, to discuss means of developing bilateral ties in the oil industry "to serve joint interests." [AFP of 27 May gives the name of the Syrian head of delegation as 'Haydar' and identifies him as director of the oil marketing office in Syria's Council of Ministers.]

Baghdad and Damascus had agreed in 1998 to restart a pipeline that can carry up to 1.4 million barrels a day from Kirkuk to Banias, a Syrian port on the Mediterranean.

Dr. Hayru also met with Adnan 'Abd Al-Majid, Minister of Industry and Minerals, and discussed the work of the ministry, according to another Baghdad Radio report of 27 May. Hayru "expressed optimism over the role that industrialists and businessmen play in strengthening cooperation between the two countries." He also expressed the Syrian companies' readiness to help implement projects and exports Iraq's needs. (David Nissman)

GERMAN INDUSTRIALISTS DEVELOPING BILATERAL RELATIONS WITH IRAQ. Hikmat al-'Azzawi, deputy premier and minister of finance, addressed a German delegation now visiting Baghdad on the need to bring German-Iraqi relations back to normal. According to a report on Baghdad Television of 28 May, he was speaking with a German trade delegation led by Ludolf von Wartenberg. Wartenberg is the managing director of the Federation of German Industry.

Members of the 78-person German delegation include specialists in oil and gas drilling, telecommunications, medical supplies, construction, transportation, and air navigation equipment, according to AFP of 28 May.

Al-Azzawi said that Iraq attaches great importance to the visit, especially since the delegation includes representatives of well-known German industrial companies, and said that the development of economic and industrial relations between Iraq and Germany "should be coupled with political and diplomatic progress," reported Baghdad Radio on 28 May.

DPA reported on 28 May that in an announcement timed to the German delegation's arrival, that Iraq's aim to is reach a total of six million barrels a day of oil production. In April, production reached 2.63 million barrels a day.

Wartenberg is quoted by Baghdad Radio on 27 May as saying that his delegation's visit to Iraq is important and useful in developing bilateral cooperation. In statements to reporters, Wartenberg said that the delegation will discuss with the German government the outcome of its visit to Iraq and its meetings with top officials in order to find ways to activate bilateral cooperation. In his interview with DPA he said that the size of the German delegation should be a clear indication about "the extent of the German government's and companies' interest in expanding industrial and trade links with Iraq."

The German charge d'affaires in Baghdad said that the visit by German businessmen and representatives of German companies illustrates Berlin's efforts to activate ties with Iraq. (David Nissman)

PRO-SADDAM COMMUNIST PARTY BEING ESTABLISHED. According to a statement sent to Dubai from the Iraq Communist Party, as reported by AFP on 30 May, Iraq's ruling Ba'th Party is attempting to set up a separate Communist movement which will support President Saddam Husseyn. Members of the Ba'th Party are being siphoned off to join the new group, the ICP claims. The leader of the party will be Yusif Hamdan, a former communist who remained loyal to Saddam Husseyn.

Hamdan had announced his intention to establish a new Communist Party after the government announced that it would allow a multiparty system. The requirement of all new parties under the new Baghdad ruling is to remain loyal to and acknowledge the supremacy of the Ba'th Party. No new parties have yet emerged under this system. Hamdan ran for Parliament last March but failed to win a seat. (David Nissman)

PRO-BAGHDAD FORCES MASSING IN NORTH. A report from Irbil by a correspondent from the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 27 May indicates that armed units of pro-Iraq Kurdish tribes are massing in several positions in northern Iraq, particularly in the Ba'idrah subdistrict near Dahuk as well as in some areas between Mosul and Irbil. They are said to be armed with field weapons and backed by Iraqi Army units which were brought there following special training.

The report says that "chieftains of the armed tribes and commanders of these armed units spoke of "their readiness to attack the northern governorates [the Kurdistan Regional; Government: ed.] and liberate them from the filth of the agents of Israel and the United States."

There have also been corroborated reports that a special force led by Qusayy, Saddam Husseyn's second son, stormed a village between Mosul and Irbil, making several arrests, and leaving with them. "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat's" correspondent says that sources in Iraqi Kurdistan believe these moves are provocative and "intended to intimidate the people and increase their apprehension."

Baghdad's moves to threaten the region are probably timed to the issuance of a special report by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry which says that stability in Iraq's Kurdistan region cannot be reestablished unless what it calls the abnormal situation ends and central authority is reestablished. "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 26 May published excerpts from this report in which Iraq claims it faces problems in protecting the rights of minorities because of direct foreign military interference in its internal affairs.

The report also states that "The Iraqi government has held a series of dialogues with the Kurdish parties for the purpose of reaching a solution that will put an end to our Kurdish people's suffering. But the political pressures exerted by the United States on some of these parties have prevented the attainment of an agreement." Following the March elections, the Iraqi National Assembly announced that "this will be the year of national unity and Kurdistan's return to central government." (David Nissman)

KPD RESPONDS TO PUK CRITICISMS. At a press conference on 22 May, Sami Abdul-Rahman, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government and member of the KDP Politburo, responded to questions about the allegations made by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo member, in the official PUK newspaper "Kurdistan-i Niwe" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 May 2000). Abdul-Rahman maintains that "the PUK appointment of a leader of the region is illegal and is an obstacle to the forwarding of the whole peace process."

The creation by the PUK of a Cassation (appeals) Court in Sulaymaniyah with parallel functions to that of the Cassation Court in Irbil is also a bone of contention. Abdul-Rahman says that "the [original] Cassation Court was established during the time that the joint regional government was functioning. When the PUK occupied Irbil, they added five more judges to it and even after the the PUK occupation ended, this court continued to function, with the inclusion of these new members. We did and do respect the decisions of this court. The PUK has made this into a problem."

The basic issues which must be resolved, according to the deputy prime minister, are: meetings of the joint interim assembly; revenue sharing; establishment of a joint regional government; and elections.

He stresses that, as KDP President Mas'ud Barzani said there is no "way back to the 50-50 sharing of government."

Abdul-Rahman adds that the PUK has been obstructionist on virtually every issue. He also notes that PUK had started the internal fighting in the spring of 1994 which lasted until 1997, and that this was responsible for the dissolution of the joint regional government. And he calls for the PUK to join the KDP in the work of rebuilding the country and strengthening the process of normalization.

Shoresh Ismail, a PUK administrator interviewed in the Kurdish independent/pro-PKK journal a week later, on 29 May, made no reference to the statements by Sami Abdurrahman, but he did discuss the chances for another civil war between the Kurds. In response to a question about discussions among the parties to achieve "internal peace", he said that "we must abominate and anathematize civil war, and we should prevent the enemy, which is constantly sowing the seeds of discord among the Kurdish people, from carrying out its plan successfully. Our nation may lose all its gains with a civil war." (David Nissman)

ROLE OF WOMEN IN IRAQI SOCIETY HIGHLIGHTED. Nasreen Mustafa Sideek, minister of reconstruction and development in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spoke on "Women Status in Iraq" at a panel at the Kennedy School Alumni Refresher. Her paper was published in the "Kurdistan Observer" on 28 May.

She argues that women have had freedom and extensive opportunities of education in her home region. She also points out that "as minister of reconstruction and development in the regional government I would not hold the position that I do if it wasn't for...the recognition of my Kurdish leadership for the role that women could play in the society." In Iraq as a whole, and in the KRG in many respects, "the structures already exist for greater public service by women to happen. It is already happening, but it is, so far, very limited."

As far as the KRG is concerned, she explains that "of the 35 members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party central committee that leads the region, only one is a woman. Of 60 members in the Kurdish Regional Parliament, three are women. Of 20 cabinet members in the Kurdistan Regional Government, two are women (both are engineers and in charge of engineering ministries). We also have women Deputy Ministers, Director Generals, and university professors."

She points out some additional factors that have enabled some women to advance in the society including the "humanitarian intervention by the international community that began following the Kurdish refugee crisis of early 1991" which "helped to accelerate the contribution of women in public service." Kurdish families permitted their daughters to work for UN agencies and international NGOs.

Her own experience has led her to conclude that "the achievement of true democracy that is grounded on political and social freedom for both men and women in Iraq will be the opening for the change that is so urgently needed." (David Nissman)

IRANIAN KURDISH DELEGATION IN SULAYMANIYAH. IRNA reported from Sanandaj, in Kurdestan Province (Iran), on 27 May that an Iranian cultural-artistic delegation had arrived in Sulaymaniyah in PUK-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan. The delegation is to take part in a three-day conference to commemorate prominent Kurdish cultural figure Mowlavi Kurd.

Members of the Iranian delegation, which consists of writers, poets, and journalists, will present several articles and also deliver speeches.

The delegation is headed by Bahram Valad-Beigi. (David Nissman)