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Iraq Report: July 21, 2000

21 July 2000, Volume 3, Number 24

IRAQI HIT SQUADS HEAD FOR ARAB, EUROPEAN COUNTRIES. London's "Al-Zaman" reported on 15 July that Iraqi opposition sources have monitored the arrival in Damascus and Amman of two Iraqi hit squads on their way to Arab and European destinations to implement a plan for the liquidation of Iraqi opposition figures. On 10 July "Al-Zaman" had reported on an Iraqi plan, codenamed "Hawk-1[saqr 1]" (see RFERL Iraq Report, 14 July 2000). The sources said the finance, supply and control centers for the liquidation effort will be based in Ankara, Belgrade, Brussels and Bucharest. Some opposition figures reportedly have taken precautionary measures, and some of the states in which the opposition figures reside have adopted security measures to protect them, the paper said. (David Nissman)

IRAQ TO BUY ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES FROM RUSSIA. Iraq has ordered 150 advanced Russian IGLA mobile air defense systems capable of destroying allied aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones, London's "Sunday Telegraph" reported on 16 July. The deal, worth $90 million, also includes launching devices and maintenance kits for the missiles. Last year, the paper says, the Iraqis had negotiated a $150 million arms package with former Russian prime ministerYevgeniy Primakov, but after details of the plan were revealed and after the U.S. accused the Russian authorities of violating the sanctions regime, Moscow backed out of the deal

In a related development, Iraq recently tested its own short-range ballistic missile. The test came just after Iraqi defense experts attended a demonstration arranged by Rosvooruzheniye, a Russian state-owned company responsible for military exports, at the Kolomna Machine-Building Design Bureau near Moscow.

The "Sunday Telegraph" says the Russians will ship the missiles to Lebanon once an Iraqi deposit reaches a Beirut bank account. Meanwhile, the "Wall Street Journal Europe" says on 17 July that Russia hopes to use these sales to get back part of the $7 billion Baghdad still owes Moscow. (David Nissman)

TARIQ 'AZIZ TO VISIT MOSCOW. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq 'Aziz is set to visit Moscow 25-28 July to discuss both the ending of the international sanctions regime and improved bilateral relations, Interfax reported on 17 July. Moscow has said that it wants the UN Security Council's resolutions on Iraq implemented, but it also wants in the words of the Russian foreign ministry "to launch an effective mechanism of international monitoring of Iraqi military programs and move at the same time towards lifting the sanctions." A Russian foreign ministry official was quoted as saying that increasing of bilateral cooperation in the oil industry "is contingent on the lifting of the UN sanctions on that country." (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD CRITICIZES GORE MEETING WITH OPPOSITION. Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan criticizing the 26 June meeting between U.S. Vice President Al Gore and a group of Iraqi oppositionists, according to a report from the official Iraq News Agency on 14 July. Al-Sahhaf claimed that the joint statement issued by the Vice President's office pledged to work with this group "to undermine Iraq's unity and to train 140 hireling agents to carry out terrorist, sabotage, and espionage acts.

Al-Sahhaf called on the Secretary General to live up to his legal and moral responsibilities under UN terms and stand firmly against such U.S. hostile acts that in themselves pose a threat to the security and stability of a sovereign UN founding member state. (David Nissman)

U.S. ALLOCATES $8 MILLION TO INC. London's "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" on 11 July published an analysis of the minutes of the London meeting of the Iraq National Congress (INC), during which its leader Dr. Al-Chalabi announced that the U.S. will provide the INC with $8 million for one year. Of that sum, $1 million will go for the annual expenses of the London office, employee salaries and other expenses. Some of the remainder will pay for the opening of INC offices in Jordan, Syria, and other countries neighboring Iraq provided the countries approve. In addition, $1.9 million will reportedly be used to set up two INC television stations, one in London and the other in northern Iraq. The London operation is to be a satellite television channel. And $680 thousand will go toward the establishment of a radio station and a newspaper. (David Nissman)

A FRANCO-AMERICAN RAPPROCHEMENT ON IRAQ. American and French government views on Iraq reportedly are converging, "Al-Zaman" said on 14 July. The paper based its conclusions on a meeting the day before between Frank Ricciardone, the U.S. State Department official responsible for Iraqi affairs and senior French officials. In recent years, Paris has opposed to outside interference in Iraq's domestic affairs, but the inflexibility of Baghdad has reportedly convinced France of the need to work more closely with Washington. (David Nissman)

MOVEMENT ON SYRIAN-IRAQI TIES? A critical turning point in the relationship between Iraq and Syria took place on 20 June when the Iraqi foreign minister requested a meeting with Bashar Al-Asad, according to the Paris newspaper "Al-Watan Al-'Arabi" on 14 July. The paper says that "the capitals that count around the world...have... begun to watch out for signs of a possible thaw in Syrian-Iraqi ties and a new axis between Damascus and Baghdad as Bashar Al-Asad assumes his new presidential duties."

Official Syrian sources said the meeting was primarily to offer Al-Asad condolences on the death of his father although they acknowledged that the two had "touched on" bilateral ties, other observers suggest that by receiving the foreign minister, Al-Asad was in effect reaching out to Saddam. That has certainly been Baghdad's reaction: The official Iraq News Agency quotes Iraqi Foreign Minister Al-Sahhaf as having told Al-Assad that "Baghdad thought that Syria could play a significant role in any effort to end the sanctions regime." (David Nissman)

RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN IRAQ AND JORDAN? A meeting last weekend between Jordan's King 'Abdallah and Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan may set the stage for a warming in relations between the two countries, according to an analysis in the "Mideast Mirror" of 17 July. London's "Al-Hayat" noted on the same day that Jordan hopes to regain some of its share of Iraq's external trade, which it has lost as relations between Iraq and Syria warmed up. (According to "Al-Hayat", Iraq has a policy of linking trade with other Arab countries to their political stands toward it.) For its part, Baghdad has requested that flights between Amman and Baghdad be resumed, noting that UN sanctions do not prohibit commercial flights. Up to now, Jordan has argued that only the Security Council can decide that.

Under the previous Jordanian premier 'Abdurra'uf Rawabdah, tensions between the two countries had increased. But the current Jordanian government under Abu-Al-Raghab is considered to be more inclined to be supportive of many of Iraq's goals. Curbs on visiting Iraqi officials and the activities of Jordanian anti-sanctions campaigners have been eased, and the lifting of sanctions against Iraq is one of the government's top policy objectives.

According to Bassam Badareen of London's "Al-Quds Al-'Arabi", who is also cited by the "Mideast Mirror, Ramadan also requested that flights between the two capitals be resumed, that Jordan step up its diplomatic moves to organize an Arab initiative against sanctions, that the two countries expand trade beyond the confines of oil-for-food, that Amman demonstrate greater "technical" leniency in complying with the embargo, and that the Jordanians help to open direct or indirect channels of dialogue with the United States.

At the same time, Ramadan assured the Jordanians that Iraq would never let political considerations affect the flow of Iraqi oil to Jordan, suggesting that Baghdad wants a stable partnership that will not be seriously affected by the advent of new governments that may be relatively more or less friendly toward Iraq. And in conclusion, he raised the "security issue" concerned the presence of the Iraqi opposition in Jordan and the large number of Iraqi officers who are in touch with the opposition movements, foreign embassies and the UN High Commission for Refugees. (David Nissman)

IRAQI DELEGATION IN BELARUS. Iraqi Vice Premier Himmat Al-'Azzawi led a delegation to Belarus on 15 July to attend the second meeting of the Belarus-Iraq Cooperation Commission and visit industrial enterprises there, Interfax reported. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko told the visitor that "we are categorically against military and economic pressure on Iraq", and that Belarus is "ready to broaden and intensify trade and economic relations...which undoubtedly will benefit both sides," according to a report from Interfax-West of 17 July. (David Nissman)

SADDAM SAYS LITTLE IN REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY SPEECH. On the 32nd anniversary of 17-30 July Revolution, which brought Saddam Husseyn to power, the Iraqi leader made a short, flowery, and philosophical speech in which he noted that "the July Revolution is not a common course chosen from among many possible course. Rather, it is a state of evolution and ascent towards what is deemed to be almost impossible" and suggested that before the revolution Iraq "was a wasteland that had no agriculture to be taken into account and no livestock to be proud of although it had much water. Is it possible that life and land suffer from thirst while water exists?" (David Nissman)

IRAQ DENIES DISMISSAL OF BA'TH PARTY CADRES. The Iraqi Embassy in Amman has denied a report appearing in Amman's "Al-'Arab Al-Yawm" on 6 July, and in the 14 July issue of the RFERL Iraq Report, that the Iraq Regional Command of the Ba'th Party had dismissed 81 senior cadres. (David Nissman)

IRAQI NATIONAL TURKMEN PARTY LEADER IN BERLIN. Muzaffer Arslan, Chairman of the Iraqi National Turkmen Party, visited the Turkish community in Berlin on 12 July, according to an "Anatolia" report of 12 July. He told the group that no foreign government apart from Turkey could defend the rights of the Turkmens living in Iraq. Arslan also discussed Baghdad's efforts to change the ethnic identities of Iraqi Turkmens, a campaign which he said reflected Iraqi concern that "the Turkmen people would wish to be included in Turkey." (David Nissman)

KDP FORCES ATTACK TURKMEN FRONT HEADQUARTERS. On 12 July, KDP forces launched an attack on the Iraqi Turkmen Front headquarters in Irbil, according to reports in the "Turkistan Newsletter" of 13-14 July. Two Turkmen security guards were killed and three others seriously injured. The building was heavily damaged, and the KDP confiscated files and archives. Last month, the Turkmen Students' Union building was attacked twice. That building is still occupied by KDP police.

In a press release from the "Iraqi Turkmen Organization - North America," Orhan Ketene, the USA coordinator, wrote "it is very disturbing to us to see the KDP blinking an eye to Turkey and helping its forces against the PKK, and telling the Turkish authorities that they are brothers with the Turkmens, but in the meantime they use the same means of oppression and suppression that the Saddam regime used against them...The KDP so far has been creating too many problems for the Turkmens, it has reached the level that the so-called 'safe haven' is unsafe for the Turkmen people."

Following the attacks, representatives of the Turkmen Front met with Nechirvan Barzani and other officials of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KRG). According to a report on Kurdistan Satellite TV from Salah Al-Din of 13 July, good relations between Kurds and Turkmens were reaffirmed. Barzani stressed that "everyone in Kurdistan should abide by the law and the KRG's instructions.

Sabah Ketene, president of the Association of Iraqi Turks, however, claimed at a press conference on 14 July that "north of the 36th parallel Barzani wants to annihilate the 2.5 million Turkish population in Iraq and south of that line Saddam wants to annihilate them." According to an "Anatolia" report of 14 July, he urged human rights organizations and world public opinion to see the realities of Turkmen life under the KDP in the north and Saddam Husseyn in the south. (David Nissman)

SIXTY PKK GUERRILLAS BREAK WITH OCALAN. On 19 May, 60 PKK guerrillas broke with Ocalan's call for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue, a policy they denounced as one of "liquidation and betrayal", according to a report in of 11 July. Thirty of them were seized by a division loyal to Ocalan and imprisoned in caves in South Kurdistan (Northern Iraq), and the other thirty took refuge in the mountains. In statements to his lawyers, Ocalan allegedly ordered that those opposed to his policies be given the maximum penalty.

In Ocalan's meeting, he said: "Their offense is very grave. It must be opposed vigorously, these are conditions of war, we're in the most critical period, the most severe penalties must be imposed. It's a matter of internal treason...Is it possible to brand these escapees as enemies?..."

The report asks: "When Ocalan himself has been sentenced to death and is sparing no pains in the campaign in Europe to have the death penalty abolished, how can he pronounce the on guerrillas who are opposed to his policies and do it with the full knowledge of the Turkish state and by the means of his lawyers, then inform the organization of it?"

This event also prompted an "Open Letter To The Presidential Council of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) From German Socialist MP Ulla Jelpke, et al.", dated 11 July which was distributed over "Arm The Spirit" [] on 17 July. It " calls on the PKK's Presidential Council "to adhere to the laws of war when it deals with internal affairs...we expect the party to issue a clear statement - to the relatives as well - about the situation of these people. If the reports of their detention are true, then we also demand their immediate release." And it concludes: "If we do not receive an adequate reply soon, we will undertake our own investigation of this matter." It is signed by several people, mostly human rights activists. (David Nissman)