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Iraq Report: September 1, 2000

1 September 2000, Volume 3, Number 30

SADDAM'S MISSILE FACTORY LOCATED BY GERMANS. According to a report in Hamburg's "Bild" on 25 August, the German intelligence service (BND) has located a secret missile factory in Iraq some 40 kilometers southwest of Baghdad. The journal said that this facility, called the "Al-Mamun" factory, employs some 250 engineers and demonstrates that "Iraq had the will and the personnel for developing missiles." Reportedly, the factory is working on plans for missiles with a range of 3,000 miles, far longer than the missiles Iraq recently tested. But following this report, "Babil," a Baghdad newspaper controlled by Udayy Saddam Husseyn, dismissed the "Bild" claims in an article entitled "What are these falsehoods?" (David Nissman)

NEW IRAN-IRAQ WAR SAID TO BE 'IMMINENT.' Abd-Al-Rahman Al-Rashid, chief editor of London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," suggested on 28 August that a new Iran-Iraq war is "imminent." He claims that "there is no doubt that Iran is waiting for an opportunity" because Iran wants to "impose its peace conditions on Baghdad." At present, there is only a ceasefire between the two countries.

According to Al-Rashid, the basic reason for an impending war is that "Iraq has continued to host the Iranian opposition forces, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, which has succeeded in achieving serious penetrations inside Iran and has hit major government targets inside Tehran itself." Moreover, he said, "Iran knows that its forces are now capable of crushing the ragged Iraqi forces if a new war breaks out and will win it in a relatively short time. War is not far off because Iran now has enough legal evidence that justifies its right to retaliate against the Mojahedin-e Khalq attacks and strike at the country hosting it."

A 29 August release from the Iraq Foundation written by Rend Francke makes a similar point. It says that the "state of rising tension with Iran may be welcomed and encouraged by the Iraqi regime." The release adds that "Iraq has been galled by the rapprochement between Iran and major Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, countries which Iraq claimed to be defending against the 'Persian menace' in its eight-year war with Iran." Furthermore, encouraging an escalation of Mojahedin-e Khalq activities can be used as a bargaining tool to pressure Iran to deliver to Saddam Iraqi oppositionists who have taken refuge in Iran.

One indication supporting such projections came on 29 August when Iraq notified the United Nations of its concern that Iran and Kuwait had reached a deal on their maritime border, according to the "Gulf News" on 30 August. In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf said: "Iraq, being one of the countries which has a coast on the Arabian Gulf and due to the effect of the deal on its rights...issued a statement in this regard on July 27." (David Nissman)

ANOTHER OPPOSITION FACTION FORMED. According to London's "Al-Hayat" of 28 August, an unknown number of opposition figures has organized under the name "Union of the Sons of the Two Euphrates" (Ittihad Abna' Al-Furatayn) to seek to overthrow Saddam Husseyn's regime. A union spokesman, Shaykh Abd-Al-Ali Al-Humaydawi, said the group will support the true Iraqi national and tribal action and will "struggle along" with other Iraqi political movements and parties. Al-Humaydawi promised to establish good relations with all opposition parties and coordinate seriously with them to bring about security and peace in Iraq. He also appealed to the Kurdistan Democratic Party under Mas'ud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under Jalal Talabani to set their differences aside and resort to dialogue to make the democratic experience in Iraqi Kurdistan a success. (David Nissman)

GCC MEETING TO FOCUS ON IRAQ. Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jabar Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti first deputy prime minister and foreign minister, told KUNA on 28 August that the upcoming meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Jiddah will focus on the group's attitude toward Iraq. Al-Sabah said that the ministers will review Iraq's implementation of the UN resolutions related to its invasion of Kuwait, including UN resolution 1284, which Iraq is still rejecting, as well as consider Baghdad's recent public criticism of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the official newspaper of the Iraqi Ba'th Party, "Al-Thawrah," on 28 August continued its media campaign against Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It wrote: "The Saudi and Kuwaiti rulers have involved themselves in a situation which does not only reflect their shortsighted view of the radical change that has taken place in the Arab and international attitude toward Iraq, but also confirms their lack of the minimum of national political will to even save face. Otherwise, how have they imagined that their cries and false appeals for help against an alleged Iraqi threat could stop the Arab and international political and media trend, which demands the removal of the unjust embargo on Iraq following the collapse of all its legal and political excuses?"

On 28 August, "Babil," the newspaper run by Udayy Saddam Husseyn, joined in these attacks. It carried a polemical article defending Saddam Husseyn's speech of 8 August, which started the torrent of insults. In an accusatory manner, the paper asked: "whose interests are the Saudi and Kuwaiti regimes advancing as they persist in pursuing policies hostile to Iraq? What is behind their unreasonably anti-Arab and inhumane line? Why do they falsely profess concern for the well-being of the people of Iraq when in the meantime they do not spare any effort or money to facilitate air strikes against these same?..."

The secretary general of the National Progressive and Patriotic Front (NPPF), Abd-Al-Ghani Abd-Al-Ghafur, continued the drumbeat of accusations when he said over Baghdad Radio on 29 August that "the fact that U.S. and U.K. planes set out from Saudi and Kuwaiti territories and receive funding from the ruling regimes in each country makes them directly responsible for martyring and injuring thousands of Iraqis." (David Nissman)

IRAQ DISCUSSES TRADE WITH EGYPT, JORDAN. Iraqi Minister of Trade Dr. Muhammad Mahdi Salih is in Cairo to take part in the eighth session of the joint Iraqi-Egyptian Committee for Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, according to a report from Baghdad Radio on 28 August. Talks start on 30 August. In a statement to the Iraqi News Agency prior to his departure, Salih said talks from the Iraqi side will center on bilateral economic and trade cooperation. They will also involve possibilities for increasing the volume of bilateral trade with a view to bolstering Arab economic integration.

On his way to Cairo, Salih made a stopover in Amman to meet with Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu-Al-Raghib to discuss the same issues. The Jordanian leader reportedly said that ties between Baghdad and Amman "will witness a new stage of positive cooperation in the interest of the two fraternal peoples and countries." (David Nissman)

IRAQI INTELLIGENCE OFFICES OPENED IN ARAB CAPITALS, MOSCOW. According to Amman's "Al-Hadath" newspaper on 28 August, Baghdad has opened intelligence offices in a number of countries which maintain ambassadorial-level relations with Iraq. The paper cited sources in the Iraqi Communist Party, who added that Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky has placed one of the offices of his party at the disposal of the Iraqi intelligence services. The paper said that the director of the Qatari office is Brigadier-General Shukr Ahmad Al-Ubaydi, the former director of intelligence in Kirkuk. His assistant is Colonel Nuri Khaz'ai Al-Tikriti. (David Nissman)

ICP SAYS KUWAITI PRISONERS IN RADWANIYAH. The Iraq Communist Party (ICP) claims that up to 150 Kuwaiti POWs are being held at the Radwaniyah detention center west of Baghdad, where there are major tank concentrations intended to protect the Iraqi capital. The party says that the prisoners are divided into special sections: the first is called the "animal" section, where those opposed to the regime are held; the second section is the discipline section, a special section reserved for those sent specially by Saddam Husseyn, a member of his family, or Saddam's deputy, where they receive the punishment prescribed by the person who sent them; finally, there is a special prison under the supervision of Qusay Saddam Husseyn that holds the Kuwaiti prisoners. (David Nissman)

SLAVNEFT TO DEVELOP LARGE OIL FIELD IN IRAQ. Slavneft President Mikhail Gutseriev has told the press that the Iraqi authorities have invited his company to develop an oilfield containing an estimated one billion barrels of oil, according to Interfax of 29 August. Last week Gutseriev and a Slavneft delegation were in Iraq where he met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the leadership of the Oil Ministry and the government oil-trading company SOMO (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 August 2000).

Gutseriev said that Slavneft experts will fly to Iraq shortly in order to study the possibility of participating in a project to develop the oilfield as soon as the sanctions are lifted. According to an AP report of 30 August, a Slavneft spokesman said under the condition of anonymity that the contract between Iraq and Slavneft will take effect only if the sanctions imposed by the UN against Iraq are lifted. The name of the oilfield in question is to be kept secret, a condition insisted upon by the Iraqi government. (David Nissman)

SERBIAN, IRAQI OFFICIALS DISCUSS HEALTH COOPERATION. An Iraqi health delegation in Serbia toured the Hemofarm pharmaceutical plant in Vrsac, in the northern province of Vojvodina, according to a report from Tanjug on 27 August. They were hosted by Yugoslav Minister of Health Miodrag Kovac. Their talks focused on expanding bilateral relations in the health and pharmaceutical industry fields. The Iraq delegation was led by Iraqi Health Minister Umar Midhat Mubarak.

On his way back from Serbia, Mubarak stopped in Damascus to discuss Syrian-Iraqi ties in the health and pharmaceutical industries. A report from SANA on 28 August said Syrian Health Minister Dr. Muhammad Iyad Al-Shatti stressed the importance of increasing existing bilateral health cooperation, particularly in the areas of scientific research and medicine. (David Nissman)

SADDAM ORDERS NEW NATIONAL ANTHEM. Saddam Husseyn has directed Iraq's poets to come up with a new national anthem because he has concluded that the current one is too heavy going, according to AFP on 27 August. He said they should "prepare the words of an anthem which could be sung with enthusiasm by fighters on the battlefield, by the valiant men of anti-aircraft defense, by people at work, and by women going about their business." Saddam said that the words of the new anthem must be "short, so they may be sung on joyous occasions and not only during challenging times." The existing national anthem starts with the words "a country which has stretched its wings to the horizon and is bathed in the glory of civilizations." It was written in the 1970s by a Ba'th Party poet, and the music written by a Lebanese composer. (David Nissman)

SYRIA-IRAQ RAPPROCHEMENT SAID INCREASING. The Jordanian Ministry of Information has concluded that Syria and Iraq are working hard to eliminate "the old hatred" between them, according to "Middle East News Online." The ministry suggests, however, that what it calls the U.S., Israeli, and Turkish triangle is working relentlessly to prevent any rapprochement between the two countries. The reopening of the Banias-Kirkuk line affects the level of Iraqi oil exports through Turkey. (David Nissman)

RUSSIAN AIRLINE TO MAKE REGULAR FLIGHTS TO BAGHDAD. An official of Russia's Vnukovskiye Airline (VAL) told ITAR-TASS on 29 August that his airline is ready to make regular flights to Saddam International Airport in Baghdad. The flights will be made by either the Tu-154M, Tu-204 or Il-86 aircraft. Russia's Foreign Ministry and the Transport Ministry's State Civil Aviation Service are reportedly considering the matter. (David Nissman)

IRAQ'S DROUGHT NOW WORST IN CENTURY. In order to attempt to reduce the effects of a drought through which Iraq has suffered the last two years, some Iraqi National Assembly members have suggested that the water supply to garages and ice-making factories be cut off, according to a Xinhua report of 28 August. They noted that Iraq is in urgent need of generators to produce enough electricity to pump water to areas were the water shortage is most severe. Iraq has complained that many contracts it signed with foreign companies on the purchase of equipment, materials, and spare parts to cope with the drought have been put on hold by the UN Sanctions Committee. (David Nissman)

KNK AGAINST ARABIZATION FOR ASSYRIANS, TURKMEN. The Kurdish National Congress (KNK) has called for the establishment of a national federation in the Middle East and offered itself as a representative of the Assyrians, Keldani, and Turkmen, as well as the Kurds, "Ozgur Politika" reported on 25 August. The KNK also pledged to take steps against Baghdad's Arabization policy--a policy that is being pursued in those sections of southern Kurdistan which are under the rule of Baghdad. In addition, the KNK called on the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) to join forces in helping the people who were forced to abandon their homes to return to their land. And the KNK expressed its support for the federal parliament that was established in southern Kurdistan in 1992. (David Nissman)

MASS RESIGNATIONS REPORTED FROM TURKMEN FRONT. "Kurdistan Satellite Television," which comes from Salah Al-Din in the KDP-controlled region of Iraqi Kurdistan, reported on 22 August that 83 members of the Turkmen Front have resigned. In a joint statement, they said: "When the leadership of the Turkmen Qardashlyg Ojaghy [Turkmen Brotherhood Union] took its historic decision in withdrawing from the Turkmen Front, problems started in the ranks and institutions of the Front. Responsibilities were given to unsuitable people who did not have any role in the struggle of the Turkmen nation and never had any patriotic stance." No other Kurdish sources have confirmed this story. (David Nissman)

PUK MINISTRY LAUNCHES WEBSITE. The PUK'S Ministry of Humanitarian Assistance and Cooperation has launched a website to communicate its achievements and activities to the rest of the world. The website is located at http://www.geocities/minohac. In Sulaymaniyah, where the site is maintained, there are now several Internet cafes where people can check their e-mail daily. Learning English is on the increase, and Kurds can use such online services as "hotmail" to get an e-mail address. (David Nissman)