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Iraq Report: June 23, 2000

23 June 2000, Volume 3, Number 20

BAGHDAD CALLS FOR OVERTHROW OF GULF LEADERS. Baghdad's official paper "Al-Jumhuriyah" on 18 June called for the armed overthrow of monarchies in the Gulf region, AFP reported. The paper said that "we urge all armed resistance movements which were active in the Arab Gulf during the British presence to regroup their revolutionary rank and file to throw out the colonialist occupiers." It added that the people of the Gulf would be in a position to launch an armed struggle against the United States "once they have overthrown their weak and treacherous leaders."

The same article attacked the Arab League, arguing that that organization "should assume its responsibility by defending the Arab Gulf and driving out the invaders," and saying "the silence of this alliance raises suspicions over its possible implication in plotting" against Iraq.

The Baghdad article came the day after a Saudi newspaper, "Al-Dammam Al-Yawm," called for the overthrow of Saddam Husseyn. Discussing the sanctions and the ways in which Saddam is sometimes able to profit from them, that paper wrote: "In fact, ending the Iraqi people's suffering is a humanitarian demand, first and foremost, because it is inhumane to keep them in this difficult impasse. The international community should move the Iraqi people out of this blocked road unless some big powers are really interested in keeping Saddam Husseyn in power. In fact, keeping Saddam in power was not a remote possibility after, and even before, the aggression on Kuwait. However, a solution that will set things right is that the valiant Iraqi people should move in order to remove Saddam from power."

A columnist, Jihad Al-Khazin, writing in London's "Al-Hayat" on 16 June, echoed "Al-Dammam Al-Yawm." He said that "The Arab countries must make a decision. Instead of sympathizing with the Iraqi people and calling on the Iraqi regime for the 17th time to implement the international resolutions as the Damascus Declaration countries have been doing so far, a real effort to topple him [Saddam] with all available means and methods before he destroys what remains of Iraq...Toppling Saddam Husseyn will only prevent the recurrence of stupidities like the ones when the Arab countries expressed sympathy with the Iraqi people in the wake of the allied raids at the end of 1999 and Saddam replied by calling on the Arab people to topple the same governments that try to help him." (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD'S 'BABIL' SAYS ARAB REGIMES 'ISOLATED.' The Baghdad newspaper "Babil," which is operated by Udayy Saddam Husseyn, on 13 June carried an article headlined "The Arab Regimes, Schizophrenia or What?" and signed by Dr. Qays Muhammad Nuri. The article suggests that "the isolation of Arab regimes began to grow...since the international position regarding the sanctions regime began to change in favor of Iraq and its just cause." He continues with the assertion that "these [Arab] regimes cannot depart from the line drafted to them by Washington. This way, the Arab regimes are playing the same bad tune played by those who claim to be advocates of freedom and human rights, a tune of which the world is sick and tired." And he suggests the following diagnosis: "the Arab nations," he says, "are suffering from a severe case of schizophrenia and inability to diagnose the danger that threatens the future of the whole Arab nation." (David Nissman)

IRAQI 'EXPAT ORGANIZATIONS' FRONT FOR IRAQI INTELLIGENCE. A group of Iraqi opposition organizations--including The Iraqi Islamic Call Party, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Kurdistan Communist Party, the Council of Iraqi Tribes, the Islamic Action Organization, and the Islamic Accord Movement--claim that Iraqi intelligence agencies have set up new "expatriates' organizations" as a cover for Baghdad's efforts to undermine genuine opposition groups. The statement, published in London's "Al-Zaman" on 13 June, adds that these groups are designed "to throw dust in people's eyes...and convince Iraqis abroad that their actions are purely humanitarian and that their only objective is to remove the blockade imposed on our people. In time, however, they revealed themselves to be offshoots of the regime's intelligence services."

The statement claimed that these groups had held an annual international conference in Copenhagen in which official figures took part and pointed out that "these associations pose a threat to Iraqis abroad and particularly to the dissidents among them, since they spy on their activities and gather information about them which is sent to Iraq and used to threaten their families that are still in the homeland."

In a possibly related matter, Shakir Al-Khafaji, head of the sixth conference of Iraqi expatriates, said that contacts are currently underway with members of the U.S. Congress to form a delegation to visit Iraq to "get acquainted with the Iraqi people's suffering as a result of the unjust embargo clamped on it," according to Baghdad Radio of 14 June. He noted that several activities to expose the war of mass annihilation waged by the U.S and Britain have been staged in Europe, and last month they organized a seminar in Michigan "in the presence of Scott Ritter...who exposed UNSCOM's relationship with the CIA and the Mossad and its role in plotting against Iraq." (David Nissman)

SADDAM RELEASES SOME PRISONERS... Saddam Husseyn has issued a directive calling for the release of some of the country's 120,000 prisoners, London's "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" reported on 17 June. The paper said that a Justice Ministry commission will review each possible release to prevent those who pose a danger to the society from being put back on the street.

Those affected by the release program are those serving long prison terms in connection with accidental homicide, provided that the families of the victim and the convicted person submit a final family or tribal conciliation document to the court. The families must also pay the usual blood money to the victim's family. Among those explicitly excluded from this early release program are those convicted of political, moral, and drug crimes, illicit trading, as well as monopoly and supply violations.

An estimated 1,200 prisoners are likely to be released. The London paper said that it expects Saddam to issue similar decrees to release other classes of prisoners in the near future. (David Nissman)

...EXECUTES OTHERS. Jeddah's "Ukaz" on 16 June reported that Iraqi authorities executed 45 political prisoners during the second half of May in Abu Ghraib prison. Meanwhile, SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) said that opposition members had ambushed and killed Hatim Tali Al-Zaydi, a member of the Muhammad Al-Qasim Command in Al-Thawra city in Baghdad. The SCIRI report added that on 2 June, another group attacked the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party offices in the Al-Hubaybah area of Baghdad. Three were killed and three injured in the attack. (David Nissman)

U.S. COMMITTED TO PEACE IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. A U.S. State Department delegation, led by Stuart Brown, head of the political-military Section at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, and David Bame, political adviser to Operation Northern Watch, met with senior Iraqi Kurdish leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to a report from Sulaymaniyah in the "Kurdistan Observer" on 15 June.

While in PUK-controlled Sulaymaniyah they met with the senior leadership of the PUK and other local parties as well as the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) public service ministries involved with the UN's oil-for-food program. The delegation issued a statement saying that both the PUK and the KDP had reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process and resolving the differences between the two leading Kurdish political parties as envisaged by the Washington Accords and the Ankara Agreement.

The U.S. statement also commended the KRG for its success in improving the security in the region as well as its implementation of the UN oil-for-food agreement.

Later, in an interview with the PUK weekly "Al-Ittihad," Bame stressed that the KDP and PUK rapprochement reflected the implementation of the Washington Accords. And he said that "we respect both leaderships for what they are doing to resist these pressures to abandon the process, and to work for the people and with the people to overcome these pressures." (David Nissman)

WASHINGTON AGREEMENT TO BE REVIEWED. The U.S. administration has invited representatives of the two Kurdish parties controlling Iraqi Kurdistan to Washington to discuss progress on the implementation of the Washington Accords signed between the two parties--the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), KurdishMedia reported on 14 June.

Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader, reportedly has accepted the invitation, but the news agency could not yet confirm whether Mas'ud Barzani has also accepted.

The two parties have held more than 50 meetings of the Higher Coordination Commission to try to work out a modus vivendi. The PUK claims it is pushing for progress in the accord, but it says that it has not received a response from the KDP. Meanwhile, a KDP spokesman on 31 May confirmed that "the KDP is totally committed to the full implementation of the Washington Agreement signed in September 1998 under the auspices of the U.S. government, disregarding all interpretations which are alien to the original text."

KurdishMedia notes in conclusion that: "Nonetheless, if after nearly two years and after over 50 meetings between the two parties no progress has been achieved, [then] questions must be raised. It is either that the accord is not practical or the parties are unwilling to implement it. In either case a new formula must be proposed." (David Nissman)

NEW BA'TH REGIONAL COMMAND TO BE ELECTED. Citing informed sources, London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" said on 16 June that Iraq's Ba'th Party will choose a new Regional Command sometime in the next several months. Currently, Ba'th Party by-elections are taking place; they will be over by the beginning of August. The winners of these elections will then participate in regional conferences, long delayed because of the sanctions regime. (David Nissman)

BELARUS-IRAQ COOPERATION COMMITTEE TO MEET. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hikmat Al-Azzawi will take part in the second session of the Belarus-Iraq bilateral intergovernmental committee for cooperation in Minsk on 16-20 July, Interfax-West reported on 15 June. But he may not receive the welcome he expects: Vladimir Zametalin, Belarusian deputy prime minister, said on the same day that "cooperation between Belarus and Iraq is developing exclusively within the frameworks of the existing trade regime stipulated by the UN memorandum 'Oil in Exchange for Food.'" He complained that he was dissatisfied by the fact that "the dynamically developing cooperation between Belarus and Iraq is being discredited more and more by those countries that support preservation of the harsh sanctions against Iraq." And he said that assertions by mass media and U.S. politicians about the military cooperation between Belarus and Iraq are "a lie." (David Nissman)

YEMENI, IRAQ TRANSPORT MINISTERS TALK TRADE. Yemen's transportation minister, Abd-ul-Malik Al-Sayani, visited Baghdad recently to conduct talks with his Iraqi opposite number, Ahman Murtada Ahmad. Yemen has often called for an end to the UN sanctions on Iraq. And even though it is one of the poorest of the Arab countries, Yemen angered many of them for its perceived backing of Iraq during the Gulf War. In this latest set of contacts, the two sides agreed to form a joint committee of officials, technicians and legal advisers to discuss the activation of joint cooperation in the various fields of transportation. (David Nissman)

IRAQ MAY PAY KUWAIT $16 BILLION IN REPARATIONS. The UN Compensation Commission, which responds to claims arising from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991, has preliminarily agreed that Iraq should pay Kuwait $16 billion compensation for losses sustained by its oil industry during the Gulf War. The amount is to be confirmed after consultations with the governments of major powers. Moscow reportedly has already questioned the amount, arguing that it will have severe humanitarian consequences for the Iraqi people, and it has insisted that sanctions be imposed by the UN Security Council rather than the UNCC. (David Nissman)

QUSAYY INSPECTS TROOPS ALONG KRG BORDER. Qusayy Saddam Husseyn, the second son of Saddam Husseyn and designated successor, recently inspected the Republican Guard units stationed along the borders of the Kurdistan Regional Government. His visit came shortly after Samir Abd-Al-Aziz Al-Najm, secretary of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party's military bureau, toured the army units deployed in the north, London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 18 June. The two visits have sparked speculation that Baghdad might be planning to enter Kurdistan should a dispute erupt between the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

The paper suggests that such speculation may be justified: Saddam Husseyn recently ordered Samir Al-Tikriti to grant military units and formation commanders financial rewards and cars, a prologue to a large-scale military operation. Al-Tikriti was recently promoted to the post of member of the Iraqi Ba'th Party Regional Command. (David Nissman)

TURKEY MAY UPGRADE BAGHDAD REPRESENTATION. Following a recent visit to Baghdad by a senior Turkish foreign ministry official, Ankara reportedly is considering upgrading its representation in the Iraqi capital to ambassadorial level, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 20 June. Iraq has pressed for this for some time, and Turkey may now be prepared to move in this direction because of its unease about "developments in northern Iraq," where the Kurds are using some of the symbols of an independent state. The Turkish paper says that "Ankara wants to send a clear signal that Baghdad should be the only place to solve the problems in Iraq, including its northern territories." (David Nissman)

PUK-TURKEY TIES IMPROVING. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has sent a second delegation to Ankara. Led by Kosrat Rasul, the "prime minister" of that part of the Kurdistan Regional Government under the control of the PUK, it will meet with senior Foreign Ministry officials. Saadet Oruc, commenting on the matter in the "Turkish Daily News" of 19 June, said that the PUK's participation in two successive meetings "gives clues of an increasing relationship between Ankara and the PUK." In the past, it was Mas'ud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party which had the stronger ties with Turkey. A report by "Anatolia" of 19 June says that a meeting of the PUK Chairmanship Council on 6 June decided to improve relations with Iran and Turkey, saying that they "would continue relations with Turkey in every field." (David Nissman)

CAR BOMB EXPLODES IN SULAYMANIYAH. "Kurdistani Niwe" reported on 18 June that a taxi packed with 10 kilograms of TNT exploded in Sulaymaniyah, a city under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), injuring 18 civilians. A "Kurdish Media" analyst on the same day noted that earlier this month, another terrorist incident had taken place in Hawler, a city under the control of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). That analyst suggested that these events may have been instigated by Baghdad in an effort to destabilize the region and stimulate the animosity that prevails between the KDP and PUK. As of now, neither Kurdish party has blamed the other for these events. (David Nissman)

TURKMEN FRONT NAMES NEW LEADER. The executive committee of the Turkmen Front elected a new leader following the resignation of Widad Arsalan. Kan'an Shakir Aziz Aghali, the leader of the Movement of Independent Turkmens, was appointed head of the Turkmen Front from 10 June to 15 August, according to a report in "Turkmen Eli" of 14 June. After that time, Mustafa Kamal Bayjili, leader of the Iraqi Turkmen National Party, will assume the post until the Turkmen's second conference is convened. The conference will elect a new leader.

In a move that may have broader implications, the Turkmen Consultative Council also decided not to participate in opposition activities unless "the basis has been defined by the front." Participants in the meeting stressed the need to support the Turkmen Front representation and to continuously introduce the Turkmen cause to the world and to defend it within international circles. In early May, the Kurdistan Liberation Party suspended relations with the Turkmen Front arguing that the Turkmen Front "clearly undermines the struggle of our people" because "it urges the Baghdad regime to once again put the people of Kurdistan under its control, which means repeating past tragedies once again." The Consultative Council also appealed to the Palestinians not to become a tool in the hands of the Baghdad regime, and demanded the regime to stop practicing ethnic-cleansing policies. (David Nissman)