8 December 2000, Volume 3, Number 41
IRAQI TROOPS CROSS 36TH PARALLEL. Iraqi military forces have entered areas lying north of the 36th parallel, a reliable Kurdish source in Irbil has told London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 10 November. The paper noted that Iraqi forces are forbidden from entering these regions which have been subject to British and American patrols of the no-fly zone for the past nine years. This latest encroachment reportedly took place in a village in the Irbil plain close to the area which separates the governorate of Ninaweh from the Kurdish regions outside of Baghdad's control.
The Kurdish source said government forces "came to the edge of the village where they dug trenches and set up fortifications. The soldiers began intimidating the people of the village to force them to abandon it." In the preceding year, Iraqi forces had crossed the demarcation line at the village of Unwaynah, between Irbil and Ninawah, and also shelled the villages and areas along the line.
The source also reported that Iraqi authorities have set up execution committees to kill women accused of moral offenses without trial. These committees consist of officers from Saddam's Fadayin militias and members of the Union of Ulama from the Ministry of Awqaf. They have reportedly beheaded more than 200 women in Baghdad and Mosul alone. (David Nissman)
SADDAM, SONS DIRECTLY LINKED TO MURDERS. Saddam Husseyn and his sons are involved in mass murder, according to a defector from the Iraqi Mukhabarat, the internal security service, London's "Observer" reported on 3 December. This is the first time that a senior member of the regime has acknowledged what has been commonly accepted for many years. According to Captain Khalid Al-Janabi, who earlier gave a long interview to RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, on which the "Observer story is based, Saddam's office issued directives in March 1998 which led to the "cleaning out" of Iraqi prisons.
Janabi said that he and three other officers from other state bodies were appointed as the "supervisory committee" to select and oversee the liquidation of 2,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. He added that in the section of the jail housing the prisoners targeted -- mostly prisoners from the south who were accused of joining parties and taking part in anti-government activities. And he commented further that "there was, of course, no foundation for such activities, but accusing people of such activity is standard procedure." Under the direct command of Qusay Saddam Husseyn, the president's son, all 2,000 were liquidated during the course of a single day.
In other comments, Al-Janabi described phonetapping and the use of the tapes as a tool for lackmail. The standard procedure is that a woman employee of the Mukhabarat will approach the victim. There are about 90 women employed in this sphere by the Mukhabarat. Normally, the targets of such operations are military officers suspected of plotting against Saddam Husseyn. These operations are under Qusay's supervision.
Asked why he is speaking out now, Al-Janabi said that "we are the ones who protect Saddam, and it is we who have brought Saddam to where he is now. We cannot remain silent while Saddam dishonors us, in exchange for our positions and our interests." (David Nissman)
UN CONDEMNS IRAQ FOR 'WIDESPREAD TERROR.' The UN General Assembly condemned Iraq for using "widespread terror" and systematic torture to repress dissent, according to a Reuters report of 5 December. It also urged the country to abide by international human rights treaties.
The UN resolution also says that the Iraqi government suppresses freedom of thought, expression, information, association, assembly, and movement through fear of arrest, imprisonment, execution, expulsion, house demolitions, and other sanctions.
The resolution also says that Iraq should respect the human rights of all ethnic and religious groups, and urges the government "to cease immediately its repressive practices aimed at the Iraqi Kurds, Assyrians, and Turkmen." (David Nissman)
THE VOLUNTEERS WHO WEREN'T. "Iraqis say that there has been no such thing as 'volunteering' [to serve in a jihad on Jerusalem] because everyone [in Iraq] is a volunteer," London's "Al-Zaman" reported on 30 November. Six weeks earlier, Baghdad had announced that it was opening the door for volunteers to fight on the Palestinian side, but the latest report shows that those who were listed as "volunteers" were in fact compelled to agree to take part. Most students became "volunteers," the paper says, after the Iraqi authorities decided that a member of each Iraqi family should volunteer. Many of the participants in the training say that it was only a propaganda exercise: the military couldn't afford to pay them or even provide food. And as a result, the jihad campaign is now over, and the students have returned to school. (David Nissman)
SYRIA CAREFULLY CALCULATING IN TIES WITH IRAQ. Syrian officials calculate precisely every step they take in their relations with Iraq so as to not let them be at the expense of Syria's relations with its international and regional allies, according to a report from Damascus published in London's "Al-Hayat" on 30 November. The paper adds that this is why they received Mas'ud Barzani last week immediately after Bashar Al-Asad's meeting with Izzat Ibrahimov, vice chairman of the Iraqi Revolution Command Council, and Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz's talks in Damascus.
Damascus also wants to "assure" Kuwait that the development of its relations with Baghdad is based on the principle that "Iraq's return to the Arab fold is in the Arab's interest." Moreover, Syrian officials do not want relations with Baghdad to be against the Security Council resolutions that imposed the blockade on Iraq. In other words, they are "sending a message to the Americans but not to the extent of finally making them angry."
The thorniest matter of dispute at present is the operation of the oil pipeline between the two countries. No Syrian or Iraqi official has confirmed that oil is now being pumped through the pipeline, but it appears likely that it will shortly begin operations because the pipeline has nothing to do with the sanctions against Iraq. External factors also influence these developments, primarily the decline of U.S. popularity because of close ties with Israel in the Palestinian intifadah. (David Nissman)
IRAQI FOOD RATIONS INCREASED FOR RAMADAN. President Saddam Husseyn has increased and then doubled food rations to mark the start of Ramadan, INA reported, according to an AP dispatch on 26 November. The official Iraqi agency said that the monthly rice ration had been increased 18 percent, to 7.7 pounds, the sugar allotment by 25 percent to 5.5 pounds, cooking oil by 40 percent to 3.85 pounds, and tea by 67 percent to 250 grams. Iraq has been rationing food since the effects of the trade sanctions imposed by the UN began to be felt. (David Nissman)
SUDANESE PRESIDENT TO VISIT IRAQ. Sudan's president, Lieutenant-General Umar Hasan Al-Bashir, has said that he intends to visit Iraq, according to Baghdad Radio on 4 December. Al-Bashir told the Iraq News Agency that his visit is to express solidarity with Iraq and "enhance the good ties binding the two sisterly countries." He said further that relations between the two countries were "good and strategic" and noted that they will witness noticeable development in the upcoming stage. The Sudanese president also denounced what he called the "aggression" launched by the U.S. and Great Britain, and demanded the immediate lifting of the sanctions. (David Nissman)
PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN GOVERNOR TO VISIT IRAQ, LIBYA. Interfax on 4 December reported the Chechnya's Moscow-appointed governor, Akhmad Kadyrov, plans to visit Iraq and Libya in December to seek humanitarian assistance. The visit was arranged when Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was in Moscow several months ago. (David Nissman)
BELARUSIANS REACT TO PLANNED LUKASHENKA TRIP TO IRAQ. Belarusians are divided about the wisdom of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's plans to go to Baghdad, Minsk's "Delovaya Gazeta" reported on 1 December.
Aleksey Vaganov, the president of a private corporation and member of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, said that the president needs not go to Iraq because "the most promising markets for our country are those of Africa, Southeast Asia, and, of course, the Middle East." Meanwhile, Petr Nikitenko, director of the Belarus National Academy of Sciences' Economic Institute, said: "We need to be going to all countries so that the products and manufacturing techniques of our commodity producers may enjoy demand...To what extent might we have an interest in cooperation with the Middle East? It would be good to have various sources of energy resources. But it should be considered how much this would cost, whether we could obtain from there cheaper oil than from Russia."
Others queried expressed no clear opinion on Lukashenka's planned journey. In general, the feeling was that the trip might be useful, but it was not really necessary at this time. (David Nissman)
SLAVNEFT PLANS OILFIELD DEVELOPMENT IN IRAQ. According to a report from the Minsk-based news agency "Belapan" of 30 November, a Russo-Belarusian Slavneft delegation will visit Iraq in December to draw up an agreement to develop an oil field there. Company experts believe the successful implementation of these plans would gradually bring up its level of oil recovery to 20 million tons a year. They reportedly now believe that the company will reach that level in five years and not the 10 they had estimated earlier. (David Nissman)
IRAQ TO OPEN EMBASSIES IN FOUR CIS COUNTRIES. Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf said on 3 December that Iraq will soon open embassies in four countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States: Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 December. Baghdad hopes in this way to smooth the negative consequences of the international economic blockade imposed by the UN after the Gulf War 11 years ago. Once these missions are open, Iraq will have embassies or other missions in 62 countries. (David Nissman)
U.K. EMBASSY SECRETARY VISITS IRAQI KURDISTAN. KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani received in Salah Al-Din Dr. Liane Saunders, first secretary of the British embassy in Ankara, and two advisers for humanitarian affairs from the U.K. Department of International Development, Irbil's "Brayati" newspaper reported on 28 November. They reportedly discussed Barzani's trip to European and Arab countries, the peace process in general, and the role of the British government is supporting the peace process. At a press conference the next day, Saunders said that "we regularly visit Kurdistan in order to bring closer the stances of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). She also said that "the future of this region is linked to Iraq and the extent of its compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions." (David Nissman)
PKK MEMBER CLAIMS PUK PREPARING FOR WAR. PKK Council of Leaders member Osman Ocalan said that the PUK is preparing for war, according to a report in the "Kurdish Observer" on 4 December. At the same time, Ocalan explained that the PUK was cooperating with Turkey and Iran. He pointed to PUK confiscations of private vehicles as evidence of his charges. And he added that Turkey had sent 12 truckloads with weapons and ammunition, as well as a 70-person group of military personnel who are carrying out scouting and intelligence activities for the PKK.
Ocalan warned that "new clashes could occur within a few days." He claimed that the PUK had held back from peace talks, and that Jalal Talabani, the leader of the PUK, had refused to accept a KHK (Kurdish National Congress -- widely believed to be in sympathy with the PKK) delegation in the region. Ocalan stressed that "the situation is dangerous here. Everyone must be aware of this danger and use their capabilities to try to thwart a negative situation...The PKK is strong in every respect and will give a response."
Concerning the visit of the KHK, Ocalan noted that the delegation, invited by Talabani, had been waiting in Tehran for a week. The KNK statement, issued after they realized they were not continuing on to Al-Sulaymaniyah (the capitol of PUK-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan), mentioned that they had received a telephone message from the PUK's representative in Tehran saying that only the leader of the delegation, I. Sherif Vanli, would be permitted to journey to Al-Sulaymaniyah. This suggestion was rejected by the delegation. They also maintained that the PUK's attitude was "contrary to the interests of the people of Kurdistan."
A Reuters report cited by the "Kurdistan Observer" on 4 December claimed that an attack by the PUK on 4 December had claimed 15 lives on both sides on 4 December. The latest clash took place in a region called Boti and also in Kanicenga, close to the Iranian border. The clashes reportedly involved some 5,000 PUK militia. (David Nissman)
ASSYRIANS HIGHLIGHTED BY HUMAN GENETICS STUDY. A 1994 book entitled "The History and Geography of Human Genes" has sparked a series of articles including several about the Assyrians. One of these, "The Genetics of Modern Assyrians and Their Relationship to Other Peoples of the Middle East," by Dr. Joel J. Elias, appeared in "Zinda" on 27 November.
Elias points out that the object of the book was to use core populations of the native indigenous people of an area that could be used to trace human population origins, relationships, and migrations. Some 491 different human populations, including Assyrians, were examined.
Some elements that determine identification with the group are obvious; overt factors, such as a shared language as well as cultural, religious, social and geographic features. Elias argues that "the use of language along with genetics to define groups is very useful, but linguistic change can occur much faster than genetic change and languages are sometimes replaced by others of a totally different origin in a very short time," as Cavalli-Sforza and his researchers say in the 1994 volume. They also said that "only genes almost always have the degree of permanence necessary for discussing" the changes in population that took place in the history of our species.
Analysis of the Assyrians shows that they have a distinct genetic profile that distinguishes their population from any other population. "It is important to understand that this applies to the population as a whole, not to any one individual."
One reason for the similarities in Assyrian genetic makeup, Elias says, is "the relatively closed nature of the community as a whole." A conclusion reached by Cavalli-Sforza is that the "genetic origin of groups that have been surrounded for a long time by populations of a different genetic type can be recognized as different only if they have maintained a fairly rigid endogamy for most or all of the period in which they have been in contact with other groups."
The closest genetic relationships to the Assyrians are with the native populations of Jordan and Iraq. There is also a close relationship with seven populations of the region, even though these populations contain members of three major language families: Indo-European (Iranian, Kurdish), Turkic (Turkish), and Semitic (Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese -- Arabic; Assyrian -- Aramaic). Elias argues that "an underlying genetic homogeneity has been 'masked' by great cultural, religious, and linguistic heterogeneity."
The study thus does two things: it confirms the uniqueness of the Assyrian population as a whole, and it establishes genetics as a major criterion of a population group, potentially overriding elements such as language, religion, and other social and historical components which were formerly considered to be primary determinants. (David Nissman)
ASSYRIAN ARCHBISHOP ASKS FOR LIFTING OF SANCTIONS. Assyrian-Catholic Archbishop Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad told the Vatican news agency Fides that he hopes that the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN will be lifted, according to a report in "Zinda" of 27 November. Matoka is the leader of the Assyrian-Iraqi Catholics, which number about 50,000. He told Fides that Iraqi Christians are leaving the country, trying to get visas for the U.S., Canada, or Australia. The Assyrian-Catholic Church has been in communion with Rome since 1783. It has some 150,000 members, two-thirds of whom live in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon), spread over nine dioceses. The rest live in the United States. (David Nissman)