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Iraq Report: October 20, 2000

20 October 2000, Volume 3, Number 35

SADDAM CALLS FOR JIHAD IN PALESTINE. Saddam Husseyn and his government said on 17 October that "Palestine can only be restored through jihad, the mobilization and rallying of the resources of the Arab nation, and distributing roles on the basis of full liberation," Baghdad radio reported. In addition to this inflammatory call, the radio reported that Saddam has directed that food and medicine from Iraq be distributed to the Palestinians. (David Nissman)

SAUDI ARABIA DEMANDS RETURN OF HIJACKERS. Prince Abd-Al-Raman Bin-Abd-Al-Aziz, Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister and aviation and inspector general, has demanded that Baghdad return the two hijackers who commandeered a Saudi Arabian plane on 14 October, SPA reported. The aircraft has been returned to Saudi Arabia, but the two currently are in Iraqi custody after diverting the Jeddah-London flight to Baghdad. Iraq's precise relationship to the hijacking remains unclear. The British "Guardian" newspaper suggested that some in London think that Saddam Husseyn may have been somehow involved in the hijacking, and the paper said that security and intelligence services would like to know whether the two hijackers, previously identified as Saudi nationals, have links with Iraq. (David Nissman)

RUSSIA, IRAQ TO EXPAND CULTURAL COOPERATION. Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoy on 16 October signed a protocol with his Iraqi counterpart, Humam Abd-Al'Khaliq, calling for the two countries to increase cooperation in the cultural area, Baghdad television reported. The two countries plan to increase the number of exchanges by intellectuals, artists, theatrical troupes, folklore bands, musicians, and filmmakers. They also agreed to work together in restoring and protecting archeological sites. (David Nissman)

IRAQI-IRANIAN RAPPROCHEMENT CONTINUES. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi characterized his two days of talks in Baghdad as "positive," Reuters reported on 15 October. He said that the two governments had made progress in resolving "all pending issues." Among the agreements reached was a decision to revive a 1975 border and security pact "in order to set up balanced and good-neighborly relations." In this pact, Iraq ceded sovereignty over part of the Shatt Al-Arab waterway in exchange for an end to Iranian support for the Kurdish rebellion. Iran and Iraq also agreed to accelerate the exchange of prisoners of war and the remains of soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq war.

Prior to Kharrazi's arrival in Baghdad, "Iran News" wrote -- in a report that IRNA gave prominent play to -- that "the time has come for Iran and Iraq to improve their ties since sound relations between the two important countries in this volatile region are crucial in terms of convergence within the Islamic world and regional cooperation schemes."

But despite this article, other Iranians have cast doubt on the rapprochement between the two countries. In its commentary of 15 October, Islamic Republic of Iran Radio said that "it is not clear how far Iraq will remain faithful to its actual responsibilities, particularly once the five committees are activated, nor is it clear how far it will facilitate the workings of the committees." And another Iranian specialist on Iraq said that "we should have our doubts about the motivations of Iraq regarding this stage in relations between the two countries."(David Nissman)

QADHAFI WON'T VISIT IRAQ ANYTIME SOON. Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi told Al-Jazirah Satellite Television on 17 October that he has no intention of visiting Baghdad anytime soon. He told an interviewer that "If I were to visit Iraq at this time it would be considered one-upmanship and it would seem that Al-Qadhafi is part of a caravan that was led by Russian, French, and other planes. If we were to speak diplomacy-wise, my visit to Iraq would harm it. We are now trying to calm the international anger against Iraq and are trying to gradually improve its situation. If Al-Qadhafi visits Iraq now, it will move things backward. It would first raise objections from neighboring Arabs, such as Kuwait, who will say Al-Qadhafi is with Iraq, and soon they will start working against us. Moreover, the countries working for Iraq in the international forum would say that Al-Qadhafi's visit supports the current Iraqi stand, and that Al-Qadhafi will advise Saddam Husseyn not to allow inspection teams into the country and advise him to resist the U.S. and British planes because they represent a blatant aggression that wants to divide [Iraq] into three countries."

But Libya may be doing more than Qadhafi suggests. The Libyan leader himself said that "as for Libyan planes transporting goods to Iraq or visiting Iraq, then the Libyan people are free to do anything they want for Iraq." And reports that Abd-Al-Aziz Al-Mashari, the head of the association of Kuwaiti captives' families, said that "Qadhafi's son promised to ask the Iraqi leadership to release the Kuwaiti captives and close the detainees' file to restore Arab solidarity." (David Nissman)

GCC MAY LINK MILITARY COMMUNICATIONS. Defense ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members met on 17 October in Riyadh to consider linking together the military headquarters of the six countries -- Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- General Falih Al-Shatti told AFP. They also plan to consider linking their radar networks. In September, the Gulf chiefs of staff discussed increasing the size of the joint defense force created in 1986. Called Peninsula Shield, it includes from 5,000 to 22,000 troops. (David Nissman)

PKK SAYS PUK PLANNING NEW ASSAULT. PKK Council of Leaders member Osman Ocalan said that the PUK is reinforcing its military forces and bringing up heavy weapons to the regions in which the PUK-PKK clashes have been taking place, "Ozgur Politika" reported on 16 October. Ocalan added that there were no clashes now but that a war could break out at any moment. His view is that the PUK had been pushed by "certain international forces" into the war against the PKK and that these forces did not want a solution to the Kurdish problem. He called on the PUK to not become a tool in this plan and asked for peace and dialogue with them. He also claimed that the PUK officials and press continued to insult the PKK and its leadership. (David Nissman)

IRAQI THREATS BEHIND KURDISH EMIGRATION. In a new study, the Washington, D.C. office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's Bureau for International Relations blames Baghdad's policies for the rising tide of Kurdish outmigration from Iraq. Not only has the Iraqi government used force to kill many Kurds, the report says, but it has forcibly relocated and Arabicized the Kurdish cities of Kirkuk, Makhmur, and Khanaqin.

At the same time, internal instability resulting from the frequent conflicts between the PUK and the KDP also has been a significant factor in the emigration from the region, as has poverty. At present, almost 70 percent of Kurdish adults are unemployed and most lack access to basic health services.

The PUK report calls for an international security guarantee to the Kurdish regions of Iraq, an expansion of the oil-for-food program to allow for the reconstruction of infrastructure there, and organized repatriation of Kurdish refugees from various European countries. And it concludes that "[with] the EU's help, the Kurdish regional administration will bring about a healthier, more productive, and more democratic life for all of its citizens. This will encourage people to stay rather than flee and would even attract Kurdish refugees to return home." (David Nissman)

U.S. JUDGE REJECTS ASSYRIAN PROTEST. A U.S. federal judge has rejected an Assyrian protest, lodged by several groups, including the Assyrian National Congress, against the U.S. Census Bureau to change the ethnic category in the census from "Assyrian" to "Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac," the "Fresno (CA) Bee" reported on 12 October. The Assyrians had objected because the new classification lumps together ethnic categories (Assyrian) with religious categories (Chaldean) and linguistic categories (Syriac). The judge ruled that there was evidence presented to the court that "Chaldean is an ethnic group as well as a religion. The Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac category tabulates ancestry or ethnicity. It does not tabulate and will not result in the publication of religious affiliations."

Sargon Dadesho, president of the ANC, which had initially sued the Census Department, said that Assyrians believe the Iraqi government was behind the overturn of his suit. The judge in this case said the petition by the Assyrian organization was "long on rhetoric and short on the law" and maintained that there was evidence presented to the court that "Chaldean is an ethnic group as well as a religion."

Dadesho added that: "we don't like the idea of dividing our nation into three different nationalities, creating three nations out of one." While this decision may have little impact on Assyrians already in the United States, Dadesho continued, it almost certainly will have a negative impact on the Assyrian national cause in Iraq because this decision parallels measures taken against Assyrians in Iraq itself. (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report. 25 June, 1999). (David Nissman)