28 July 2000, Volume 3, Number 25
PUTIN TELLS AZIZ NOT TO BOW TO WESTERN 'BLACKMAIL.' On 26 July, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin told Aziz that the two countries have an "eternal friendship" and should expand cooperation "in every sphere"--including working to lift the sanctions regime against Baghdad, Moscow's "Kommersant" reported on 27 July.
Putin told Aziz also that "the Iraqi leadership is not going to submit to blackmail" over efforts to bring its leaders to trial for war crimes, adding that any war crimes tribunal would have to indict the U.S. "because they are criminals and they have killed people blatantly and deliberately," the "Turkish Daily News" reported the same day.
Aziz has traveled to Moscow often, but this time he is there at the invitation of the Russian government. And "Kommersant" speculates that Putin's decision to meet personally with Aziz "confirms speculation about Russia's desire to restore its former allies to the orbit of its interests."
During his visit to the Russian capital, Aziz also met Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov to discuss Russian assistance in opening the West Al-Qurnah oil field. According to "Kommersant," this time, Aziz got his way, and Lukoil will start operation in the near future. He also met with Duma members, including Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, leader of the radical Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. And Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is slated to meet with Aziz on 28 July on his return from Bangkok.
The U.S. Department of State criticized Moscow's decision to receive Aziz, suggesting that such sessions reduce pressure on Baghdad to meet UN terms.
IS BAGHDAD PLANNING TO ATTACK SULAYMANIYAH? A recent defector from Iraqi military intelligence told London's "Sunday Times" on 23 July that Baghdad plans to attack Sulaymaniyah in PUK-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan. The forces supposedly consist of three divisions of infantry and three armored divisions. The defector said that the Iraqi operation, called "Operation Justice," will mirror its August 1966 invasion of Kurdistan in which Saddam's forces penetrated as far as Irbil and destroyed the headquarters of the Iraq National Congress.
In addition to attacking PUK strongholds, the campaign would seek to recapture two sites which supply central Iraq with water. The defector said that Saddam Husseyn believes that the Kurds are currently cutting off the supply to Iraq. The Kurds have denied this, arguing that current shortages reflect the drought and the lack of snow last winter. According to the defector, officials in Baghdad believe that the U.S. lacks the will to intervene against such a thrust, which in any case would be just below the 36th parallel both because of upcoming elections and because of divisions in the UN Security Council. (David Nissman)
ABDALLAH II SAYS 'TENSION' OVER IN JORDANIAN-IRAQI RELATIONS. Jordan's King Abdallah II told London's "Al-Quds Al-'Arabi" on 19 July that "the phase of tension in Jordanian-Iraqi relations is over." He said that the air had been cleared as a result of his frank discussions with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan three days earlier.
King Abdallah said that differences between Amman and Baghdad over the past 10 months were personal, rather than strategic, because Jordan had asked an Iraqi official to leave the country immediately, which Iraq considered an insult. He explained that Jordan had only acted in Iraq's interest, as the U.S. wanted to arrest this official. Abdallah did not name the official, but the press has suggested that it was Iraqi Vice President Izzat Ibrahim, who was receiving treatment abroad. The Americans reportedly had demanded his arrest and extradition, but the Jordanians preferred that he leave immediately in order to avoid any tension in its relations with the United States.
The kind added that he expects an exchange of visits by Jordanian and Iraqi officials. (David Nissman)
YUGOSLAV TRADE DELEGATION IN BAGHDAD. Yugoslav Minister of Trade Borislav Vugovic arrived in Baghdad on 25 July with a delegation of defense, finance, trade, and agriculture officials as well as 60 Yugoslav businessmen, AFP reported on 25 July.
Vugovic met with Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih to look at "ways to reinforce bilateral economic and commercial cooperation through contracts within the oil-for-food program." INA said Iraq was interested in buying Yugoslav electronic equipment, medicine, medical equipment, and produce-transport vehicles. (David Nissman)
WALLOONS TO BENEFIT FROM BELGIAN-IRAQI TIES. The Brussels newspaper "Le Soir" said on 24 July that Walloon Agriculture Minister Jose Happart's visit to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 14 July 2000) had resulted in the promise of an agricultural deal worth "several hundred million francs, perhaps a few billion." The major beneficiaries will be Walloon breeders and producers.
"Le Soir" noted that "at a time when many foreign companies are stepping up their presence on the juicy Iraqi market so that they do not miss the lifting of the embargo, this process might seem motivated by Wallonia's commercial interests."
In fact, the paper said, it is part of a larger picture, involving Belgium's commitment to the normalization of relations with Iraq, implying that Belgium might adopt a leading position in assuring the lifting of the sanctions. Happart explained that he had received the authorization of Foreign Minister Louis Michel to respond to the invitation sent by his Iraqi opposite number.
There have been other developments in Belgium over the past few months in this direction: Brussels has named a diplomat responsible purely for Iraq who will reside in Baghdad. Hans von Sponeck, the former UN coordinator in Iraq who resigned over the sanctions, has been invited to present his views to the Foreign Relations Committee in November, and Michel had stated in parliament that "politically, the embargoes were neither reasonable nor useful." (David Nissman)
PAKISTANI-IRAQ BILATERAL TRADE 'ENHANCED.' Pakistani Minister of Information Javed Jabbar and Iraq's ambassador to Islamabad, Abdul Karim Aswad, said that their countries recently have taken several steps to enhance bilateral trade and cooperation, "Asia Pulse" reported on 20 July. They pointed to the recent visits to Baghdad by senior Pakistani officials and suggested that the two countries were now prepared to cooperate on the exchange of media information. (David Nissman)
KUWAITI-RUSSIAN MILITARY COOPERATION HIGHLIGHTED. General Valery Manilov, first deputy of the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told "KUNA" on 21 July that Kuwaiti-Russian military cooperation is now "excellent in every sense of the word." Manilov said that Russia and Kuwait have an interest in deepening their cooperation in the military area and in exchanging information in the technical field so as to bolster mutual confidence and deepen friendly relations between the two countries.
The visiting Russian general also said that Moscow was ready to supply Kuwait with advanced weaponry based on the principle of bilateral cooperation and the consolidation of mutual confidence.
In the same interview, Manilov asserted that there was no military cooperation between Russia and Iraq, and that talk of Russian technology finding its way to Iraq was a "flight of fancy." Moreover, he said, Russia will not violate the sanctions regime under any circumstances. (David Nissman)
IRAQ CRITICIZES SAUDI-KUWAITI MARITIME BOUNDARY ACCORD. Baghdad will not recognize any demarcation of maritime boundaries in the region which does not take Iraqi interests into account and therefore will not recognize a 2 July accord between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait defining the maritime border between those two states, Baghdad radio reported on 18 July.
Iraq's reaction appears to have been especially harsh because Saudi and Kuwaiti sources have told the media that their agreement opens the way for Kuwait to begin negotiating with Iran on delineating the continental shelf between those two countries.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said: "Given Iraq's position as a Gulf littoral state sharing land and sea borders with Kuwait and Iran, Iraq emphasizes that any demarcation of maritime borders that does not take Iraq's legitimate rights into consideration in accordance with international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea cannot be legally binding on Iraq and that Iraq will not recognize it."
According to the Kuwaiti newspaper "Al-Qabas" of 19 July, a senior Kuwaiti official has played down Iraq's objection to the agreement because "Iraq does not have the right to protest to the demarcation of Kuwaiti-Saudi sea borders. This issue does not concern Iraq as the area is far from its borders."
In addition, Iraq does not have the right to object to its borders with Kuwait as these borders were demarcated in 1993, and the borders were endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 833 in May 1993. (David Nissman)
SADDAM RECEIVES INDONESIAN ENVOY, SCORES IMF. Iraqi Leader Saddam Husseyn has received Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, Indonesia's trade and industry minister, according to a report from Baghdad Television of 20 July. Panjaitan handed over a letter from President Abdurrahman Wahid expressing Indonesia's desire to develop joint relations with Iraq and expand cooperation in the economic, political, and cultural domains. Saddam warned Panjaitan that "you must keep yourself very distant from the trap of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). You are aware that one of the most important factors of strength and influence is money and economy in general, that the IMF is a Zionist-U.S. trap to exploit and weaken peoples of the world." (David Nissman)
UN SPEEDS UP OIL-FOR-FOOD CONTRACT APPROVAL PROCESS. The UN Office of the Iraq Program "Oil-For-Food" announced on 19 July that in line with Security Council Resolution 1284, the Security Council Committee responsible for approving applications for the export of humanitarian supplies under the oil-for-food program has approved an additional list of goods eligible for expedited approval procedures. The new list covers oil spare parts. Last March, the UN approved two other lists of goods subject to this speeded-up procedure, including medical goods and agricultural equipment and supplies. (David Nissman)
PEACE MONITORING GROUP MEETS IN ANKARA. The Peace Monitoring Group, set up by the opposition groups KDP and the PUK to secure a cease-fire in northern Iraq, met in Ankara earlier this month for the first time in two years, "Anatolia" reported on 20 July.
Representatives from Turkey, Britain, and the United States were also in attendance.
The group decided to deploy the Peace Monitoring Group in the Koysanjaq region, which is in the PUK-controlled Kurdistan Regional Government, and also to meet again in the near future. (David Nissman)
EXPROPRIATIONS SPARK CONFLICT IN SHAYKHAN, MOSUL. Ba'th Party members have been given property, including land, houses, and other possessions, seized from Kurds deported from the Shaykhan Administrative District and a region near Mosul, the Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Rizagari" reported on 16 July. These seizures sparked clashes in Mosul on 2 July between local inhabitants and emergency security force officers. Meanwhile, inside Iraqi Kurdistan, fighting broke out in Sulaymaniyah in the PUK-controlled part of the Kurdistan Regional Government between police and Asayish (security forces) on one side, and the Iraqi Communist Workers Party (ICWP) on the other, Irbil's Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Regay" reported on 19 July. The paper also reported that the PUK Interior Ministry had directed that the headquarters of all opposition parties be moved outside the city following a car-bombing incident in Sulaymaniyah last month. The ICWP refused to move and organized a demonstration, which led to clashes with the Asayish. (David Nissman)
TALABANI MEETS TURKISH OFFICIALS. Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader, is in Ankara this week for talks with Turkish officials on recent developments in Iraqi Kurdistan, AFP reported. The news service said that Turkey reportedly will ask Talabani to take additional measures against the followers of Ocalan, the head of the PKK.
At their meeting, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit thanked Talabani for having begun to take "more effective measures" against the PKK.
Talabani responded that "we have rid our region of PKK military presence, starting from 1998." He said there were still groups of them in his region, but that they were contained in rural areas.
The Germany-based, pro-PKK "Ozgur Politika" reported on 22 July that the PUK's attacks against the PKK had been the subject of discussions among five Iraqi Kurdish parties on 20 July--representatives of the PUK, the PKK, the Conservatives Party, the Kurdistan Democratic Movement, and the Kurdistan Socialist Democracy Party. The PUK had asked for the parties' support in its attacks on the PKK, but did not receive it. (David Nissman)
ANKARA WARNS KDP ON ATTACK ON TURKMENS. The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the KDP's Ankara representative, Safeen Dizayee, to warn the KDP to be more cautious in its relations with the Turkmen, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 21 July. The warning came after an armed attack on the Turkmen Front headquarters earlier this month during which two Turkmen were killed.
At the time of the meeting, more than 200 Iraqi Turkmen assembled in Ankara's Segmenler Park and marched toward the British embassy. Sabah Ketene, chairman of the Iraqi Turkmen Association, accused the KDP of not respecting the Turkmen's basic cultural and political rights..
State Minister M. Haluk Cay, who is responsible for Turkic-speaking countries and Turkish groups abroad, said that Turkey would not permit a Kurdish state to be established in northern Iraq. Cay said that during the meeting with Dizayee Turkey urged KDP officials to put an end to such events by finding and punishing the people responsible. He also said, "actually, it is not even appropriate to have these groups represented in Turkey."
Cay concluded by stating: "Turkey attaches great importance to the life and property tights of Turkmen. It is struggling to prevent the negative effects of a lack of authority and to protect Turkmen security in northern Iraq." Later, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told Seran Kasap, deputy chairman of the Turkmen Front, that "we expect the Iraqi Turkmen to create a bridge in the bilateral relations between Turkey and Iraq." He further stressed that Ankara's support for the Turkmens would be increased, according to a report in the "Turkish Daily News" of 25 July.
Meanwhile, Hassan Korkmaz, president of the Canadian-Iraqi Turkmen Cultural Association of Windsor, and Ismail Sukru, President of the Canadian-Iraqi Turkish Culture and Mutual Aid Association, protested the Iraqi attacks on Turkmen there. (David Nissman)
FORMER KURDISH PARLIAMENTARIAN ASSASSINATED IN IRBIL. Ismat Hassan, a former PUK member of the Kurdish parliament, was assassinated in Irbil (Hawler), but no one has been arrested or even charged with the crime, the Voice Of America's Kurdish Service reported on 18 July. A KDP spokesman said that his group does "not wish to accuse anybody until the end of their intensive investigations." KurdishMedia.com says that he "was one of the rare members of the PUK who stayed in Hawler after it fell under the control of the KDP. (David Nissman)
HALABJA MEDICAL INSTITUTE INITIATES TREATMENT PROGRAMS. Representatives of the Washington Kurdish Institute and the University of Liverpool met in Marly Le Roi, France, to launch a program of medical assistance for the survivors of chemical and possibly biological and radiological weapons attacks throughout Iraqi Kurdistan. The program is operated under the aegis of the Halabja Post-Graduate Medical Institute.
HMI researchers have identified 250 villages and towns as well as 31 other strategic areas bombarded by chemical weapons throughout Iraqi Kurdistan during 1987 and 1988. In these areas, the researchers have uncovered high incidences of cancer, cardiopulmonary disease, congenital anomalies and other major medical disorders.
Participants at the French meeting, including medical personnel from Iraqi Kurdistan and representatives of international humanitarian NGOs called on the international community to devote more resources to this program given the scale of medical problems now affecting some 250,000 people in Kurdistan. (David Nissman)
LONDON CRITICIZES IRAQ FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. In its annual report on human rights around the world, the British Foreign Office criticized a wide range of Iraqi violations of human rights, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and inhumane treatment and punishment of the Iraqi people.
The report released last week also accused Baghdad of consistently blocking reporting on the atrocities being committed. Noting that Baghdad is responsible for providing information for about 600 Kuwaiti and other foreign nationals still missing in Iraq, the London report said that Iraq has refused to provide any information or to attend the commission chaired by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is charged with resolving these cases.
Concerning the sanctions regime, the report argues that "those who try to blame UN sanctions for the prevailing situation often ignore the fact that revenue from illegal oil sales are wasted on new palaces and theme parks...Saddam Husseyn celebrated his birthday with a cake three meters high, whose ingredients would have fed a hundred children for thirty days." And it calls on Iraq to cooperate wholeheartedly with the United Nations and to allow the newly appointed special rapporteur on human rights, Andreas Mavromattis, to visit Baghdad.
In response, Iraq National Assembly Speaker Sa'dun Hammadi said that Iraq cooperates with the International Committee of the Red Cross on the fate of Kuwaiti and Saudi missing persons, Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television reported on 23 July. And he said that Baghdad is ready to resume its participation in the committee in charge of the issue of missing persons if the United States and Great Britain withdraw from it.
Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Shaykh Salam Al-Sabah immediately suggested that Hammadi's statement could be "a maneuver" by Baghdad to prolong the suffering of the POWs who have been in Iraqi detention camps since 1991, according to a report by the "Kuwait Times" of 24 July. (David Nissman)
KURDISH RELIGIOUS GROUPS CALL FOR END TO JOINT KDP-PUK ATTACKS ON PKK. The pro-PKK "Kurdish Observer" of Neu-Isenburg reported on 21 July that the Kurdistan Alevi Federation, the Yezidi Association of Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Islamic Movement have criticized the PUK and the KDP for their attacks on the People's Defense Forces (formerly known as the ARGK, or the military wing of the PKK). Their statements, the paper says, suggest that the U.S. and Turkey are behind these attacks. The Yezidi Association statement claimed that the attacks were "knives of treason stabbed into the back of Kurdishness." (David Nissman)