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Iraq Report: July 7, 2000

7 July 2000, Volume 3, Number 22

IRAQI MISSILE TESTING RAISES CONTROVERSY. The question of Iraq's capacity to build and deploy weapons of mass destruction and the ability of international weapons inspectors to prevent Baghdad from exercizing it was given new prominence by a report in the "New York Times" on 1 July concerning an Iraqi missile test.

Because the range of the Al-Samud rocket tested is less than 150 kilometers (95 miles), this test does not violate restrictions placed on Iraq by the UN. But it has raised concerns because the plants where it was produced were destroyed by American and British air strikes in December 1998. Apparently, these facilities have now been rebuilt.

A correspondent for the London "Independent" said on 3 July that the timing of the reports of the missile tests over the past weekend "suggest[s] that the U.S. and the U.K. may be planning to escalate their military attacks on Iraq, as it approaches another crunch over weapons inspections." The paper adds that "the tests are another sign that current British and American policy is failing, with no signs of any new initiatives or ideas."

A U.S. State Department spokesman appeared to lend weight to those suggestions. He said on 5 July that "[I]n the absence of United Nations inspectors on the ground -- carrying out the Security Council mandate restated as recently as December 17 in the new Resolution 1284 -- uncertainties about the significance of these activities will persist. As time passes, our concerns will increase." (David Nissman)

OIC GIVES IRAQ THE COLD SHOULDER. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at its Kuala Lumpur meeting issued a communique calling on Iraq "not to again use military force or any other forces in an aggressive or provocative manner to threaten its neighbors or UN operations in Iraq." The statement also directed Baghdad to resume cooperation with the UN weapons monitoring operation, according to a report from AFP dated 30 June.

One of Iraq's representatives at themeeting, Sa'dun Al-Zubaydi, said "this meeting has been as much a failure as it is a disappointment." And he claimed that "we are in a corporation owned by Saudi Arabia." Iraq had wanted a resolution calling for a lifting of the sanctions imposed against it. Instead, the OIC communique endorsed UN Security Council Resolution 949 calling on Iraq not to use military force against its neighbors.

That did not happen, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf walked out of the closing section of the OIC conference. But Iraq did receive some support. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar also criticized the OIC's refusal to consider calling for a lifting of the sanctions. He said, "the title and content of the resolution on Iraq is one important example, to which Malaysia has its own reservations."

The Baghdad government daily "Al-Jumhuriyah" on 3 July condemned the stands taken by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait at the conference, arguing that "the infidelity of these two criminal regimes has reached such a point that they called for a continuation of the aggression and the embargo against the Iraqi people." (David Nissman)

AZIZ: KUWAIT 'CLOSED CHAPTER' FOR IRAQ. Tariq Aziz told Milan's "Corriere dell Sera" on 28 June that, as far as Baghdad is concerned "the Kuwait chapter is over and done with once and for all. We have agreed to and recognized its international frontiers."

But as far as the sanctions are concerned, Aziz said that "our government does not accept the principle that it san be punished for ever." In other comments, Aziz suggested that anyone who claims that Baghdad is not distributing the food and medicines it receives under the "oil-for-food" program is "either a spy or a blatant liar." And concerning the recent vote in the Italian Lower House in favor of lifting the embargo, Aziz said that Italy "has a responsible foreign policy, and pointed out that "the economic and business community in Italy...realizes that normal relations have to be resumed with Iraq. A step in that direction would benefit everyone in this area." (David Nissman)

AZIZ MEETS WITH YUGOSLAV MINISTER. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz met with Branislav Ivkovich, Yugoslav Minister of Science and Technology and member of the Serbian Communist Party Command, in Baghdad on 28 June. Iraqi television reported that Aziz had stressed the Iraqi leadership's interest in developing ever closer ties with Yugoslavia to reinforce the struggle against U.S. hegemony and imperialism. Ivkovic thanked him for their support for the Yugoslav people in their struggle against the U.S. imperialist aggression. (David Nissman)

AZIZ BLAMES U.S. FOR POPE'S FAILURE TO VISIT UR. Tariq Aziz, Iraqi deputy prime minister, told Turin's "La Stampa" on 27 June that Pope John Paul II had not visited Ur because "there is an ongoing aggression against us on the part of the United States, of Britain, and of Iran, and then there is the embargo. We are not in a position to guarantee his safety." He said that the no-fly zones "conceal and Anglo-American attempt to dismember Iraq." (David Nissman)

SYRIAN DEPUTY CALLS FOR RAPPROCHEMENT WITH IRAQ. Syrian Deputy Mundhir Al-Musili has called for uniting the two ruling wings of the Ba'th Party in Syrian and Iraq, according to London's "Al-Zaman" of 29 June. A specialist on Kurdish issues, he said that he is an advocate of communication and rapprochement between Syria and Iraq and for removing any traces of the disagreements between them. (David Nissman)

AL-SAHHAF ASKS SYRIA TO DEMAND LIFTING OF SANCTIONS. General Bashar Hafiz Asad, commander in chief of the Syrian Armed Forces and heir presumptive to the presidency of his late father, received Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf in Damascus. After the meeting, Al-Sahhaf said that he had briefed General Al-Asad on the impact of the unjust embargo imposed on Iraq and the need for Syria to play a clear role to demand its lifting, it was reported on Damascus Radio on 1 July. The meeting was also attended by the Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Al-Shar'a, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Dr. Riyad Al-Qaysi and the head of the Iraqi Interests Section in Damascus. (David Nissman)

IRAQ PRESSURES RUSSIA, CHINA TO IMPLEMENT OIL DEALS. The "Middle East Economic Survey" on 3 July reports that Iraq has decided not to sign any more upstream agreements unless the international oil companies concerned are ready to start implementation on the ground. Dow Jones reported on the same day that this policy "reflects Iraq's frustration with the lack of progress on the part of the Russians and the Chinese toward carrying out any exploration and development work in Iraq itself in connection with deals signed in 1997." The decision will apply to all international oil companies, including the national oil firms from countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Algeria, and India. (David Nissman)

KURDS PROTEST KIRKUK ARABIZATION. Five Kurdish political parties -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, the Kurdistan Communist Party, and the Kurdish Socialist Party -- have appealed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and members of the UN Human Rights Commission to stop the arabization process in the Baghdad-controlled Kirkuk region, according to "Al-Ittihad" of 25 June.

The five parties detail the steps Baghdad is taking to implement this process: the destruction of villages near Kirkuk city; the expulsion to the south of Iraq; the renaming of schools, streets, and city districts; the construction of new roads to justify the demolition of neighborhoods; and the alteration of 1957 census records to include later Arab migrants. (At the time of the 1957 census, Kurds formed 48 percent of the poulation, Arabs 28.2 percent, and Turkmens 21.04 percent.)

At the same time, Baghdad is encouraging Arabs to settle in Kirkuk, and four major districts of Kirkuk Governorate have been transferred to the administration of other governorates in order to reduce the number of Kurds in Kirkuk. (David Nissman)

WASHINGTON MEETING FAILS TO RESOLVE KDP-PUK SPLIT. Meetings in Washington last month between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) failed to resolve differences in their approaches to the implementation of the September 1998 Washington Agreement, London's "Al-Hayat"reported on 3 July. Citing Kurdish sources, the paper said that the two still do not trust each other and remain locked in a dispute over control of revenues collected in the northern portion of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). During the sessions, Sandy Berger, the presidential Adviser on National Security Affairs, warned both delegations of the consequences of either party cooperating with the regime of Saddam Husseyn.

On 4 July "Al-Hayat" published another article on these meetings, including a lengthy "clarification" from Hoshyar Zibari, a member of the KDP Political Bureau, concerning the 3 July "Al-Hayat" report. He said that both sides had in fact reaffirmed their commitment to the Washington Agreement and that the current Washington talks had achieved some progress towards putting into place the mechanisms to overcome recent difficulties. He also said that the difficulty with the PUK was not one over revenues, but did not go further.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Franklin Kramer told the two that "any encroachment or attack against the liberated region of Kurdistan from above or below the 36th parallel would be regarded by the U.S.A. as stepping over the red line and that it would respond to it," according to a report on "KurdSat" on 1 July. (David Nissman)

PUK URGES TURKISH BUSINESSMEN TO VISIT KRG. Kosrat Rasul Ali, the prime minister of the PUK-controlled Kurdistan Regional Government, visited Turkey last week for talks with the Turkish government before his trip to Washington to meet with U.S. Vice President Al Gore and congressional leaders. He expressed his gratitude to Turkey for allowing the use of Incirlik airbase to protect the people of Kurdistan under Operation Northern Watch.

According to the PUK media outlet "Kurdistan Newsline" of 22 June, the delegation urged their hosts to "encourage Turkish businessmen and the Turkish Chamber of Commerce to visit the Kurdish region, invite businessmen and facilitate travels for people to and from the PUK area."

Rasul Ali said that the PUK has received a promise in the talks for a "fair number of visas to be issued every day." This will be according to a previously extant system whereby a quota of visas is allocated the KDP, the PUK and the Turkmen Front.

A week later "Medya-TV" on 30 June reported that a group of Turkish businessmen were in fact exploring investment options in the KDP-controlled part of the region.The delegation also met with Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and other officials to discuss a $5 billion investment program of the United Nations. (David Nissman)

U.S. DELEGATION MEETS WITH TURKMEN FRONT. A U.S. delegation led by political advisor David Bame met with an Iraqi Turkoman Front delegation led by Riyad Sari Kahya, who is a member of the Turkmen Front Executive Committee and leader of the Turkmeneli Party, according to a report in the Irbil newspaper "Turkmeneli" of 18 June.

The U.S. side reaffirmed that the Turkmen are one of the main elements in the area, and the U.S. comprehends their role in the future solutions for Iraq. For his part, Riyad Sari Kahya said that the Turkmen and the Turkmen Front are working to consolidate human rights and peace and to prevent bloodshed. He added that the Turkmen want to solve problems through dialogue; also, he reaffirmed that any solution will not be comprehensive without Turkmen participation.

Also present at the meeting were Sabah Kurachi, deputy leader of the Turkmeneli Party, and Salem Atraqchi, a member of the political bureau of the Movement for Independent Turkmen. (David Nissman)

INC REJECTS TURKMEN DELEGATE AT WASHINGTON MEETING. London's "Al-Hayat" of 28 June reports that the Iraqi National Congress has rejected the inclusion of a Turkmen representative in their Washington delegation to meet members of Congress and American Vice President Al Gore. "Al-Hayat" said that "Turkey had contacted the U.S. State Department to ensure the inclusion of a Turkoman representative at the meeting with Gore...but the INC leadership rejected this. An Iraqi source that took part in the meeting told 'Al-Hayat' that the INC has nothing against Mustafa Diya, the Turkoman representative, but objected to the way in which Turkey tried to impose a representative on the INC".

On 3 July, the Iraqi Turkmen Organization sent a letter of protest to Gore concerning the exclusion of the Turkmen: in the letter, the group said that "we strongly condemn and protest the exclusion of the Turkmen representatives by the INC from the Washington meetings" and added that "we expect the United States government to remind the Iraqi opposition groups that no solution is possible to the Iraqi problem without the Turkmen participation." (David Nissman)