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Iraq Report: December 15, 2000

15 December 2000, Volume 3, Number 42

SADDAM SAID TO BE CLOSE TO NUCLEAR ARSENAL. A recent Iraqi defector who was trained as a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told an MIT audience that Baghdad has solved most of the engineering problems of constructing a nuclear weapon, the "Boston Globe" reported on 9 December. But Khidir Hamza said that it still needs to develop the capacity to enrich uranium or otherwise acquire enriched uranium to build one.

Hamza, who served as Saddam Husseyn's top nuclear advisor from the mid-1980s to 1994, added that "if international sanctions are lifted, it will give Saddam a free hand to rebuild the program and he will have, probably within two to three years, a nuclear program in production mode."

In other comments, Hamza said that Iraq's nuclear program had been aided by old reports from the World War II-era Manhattan Project and a Carter administration report on detecting nuclear problems. That report said that inspectors should look for large power lines feeding into a particular point. In response, Hamza said, Iraq buried the power lines leading to its projects. (David Nissman)

IRAQI ARMY ASSAULT ON YEZIDI TOWN FAILS. An Iraqi army unit laid siege to the town of Ba'adre and surrounding territory in the Shaykhan Administrative District of the Dohuk Governorate but later was forced to withdraw, Kurdish Satellite TV from Salah Al-Din reported on 10 December. The station reported that the inhabitants of that area, most of whom are Yezidis, held "demonstrations and marches and reaffirmed their loyalty to the Barzani path and renewed their support to the Kurdistan regional government." At that point, the Iraqis withdrew.

This is the first time the Iraqis have surrounded a town in this region with the clear intention of capturing it. Ba'adre is only 40 Kilometers south of Dohuk. Meanwhile, according to diplomatic sources in Ankara, the United States, Britain, and the Turkish government were aware of the explosive situation and there has been a flurry of activity to prevent a major incident.

Following the Iraqi departure, the demonstrators also reaffirmed that they "are the deep-rooted sons of the Kurdish nation." Kameran Xeyribeg, a Yezidi elder, said that "Let the whole world know that the Yezidis are Kurds. They are one of the most deep-rooted Kurds. Today, we, with our Muslim Kurdish brothers who are fasting today, are defending ourselves and the district of Ba'adre. We will defend the land of Kurdistan to the death."

The Iraqi National Congress (INC) response to Baghdad's assault was sharp. Sharif Ali bin Al-Husseyn said that the repeated attacks against Iraqi anti-aircraft facilities threatening the planes patrolling the two no-fly zones were "ineffective in changing the regime," according to London's "Daily Telegraph" of 13 December. He further asserted that "we believe the only way to save the Iraqi people is to change the rules of engagement." A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense, however, said that the rules of engagement were intended to protect pilots and not "not for attacking Iraqi troops on the ground." He added that "it is not our policy to work for he overthrow of Saddam Husseyn." (David Nissman)

IRAQI INTELLIGENCE STEPS UP TRACKING OF DISSIDENTS ABROAD. Qusay Saddam Husseyn has made important personnel changes in the Iraqi security services, particularly in their intelligence operations against dissidents outside Iraq, according to London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 7 December. The newspaper's source reportedly is the director-general of an Iraqi ministry who for understandable reasons has insisted on anonymity.

The source said that increasingly intelligence officers in Iraqi embassies abroad will concentrate on following Iraqi dissidents. He added that senior members of the Ba'th Party had been informed of the changes but were not given precise details. He also said that security measures had been increased often at the cost of worker productivity.

And the source said that this campaign will involve the recruitment of embassy personnel over the next year at the first and second secretary levels. Such people often have nominal responsibilities as commercial, cultural, or press attaches, but their real work, he said, is intelligence. (David Nissman)

INC CONDEMNS INTRA-KURDISH FIGHTING. The Iraq National Congress on 12 December condemned ongoing PKK attacks against PUK-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan, apparently fearful that Baghdad may exploit them and invade. Meanwhile, pro-PKK "MEDYA-TV" on 13 December carried a statement by PKK Council of Leaders member Nizamettin Tas, which said that "we are going to make the PUK's peshmerga strength ineffective. We will not finish it off, but we will render it ineffective. This does not mean taking cities or seizing land. It means breaking their will for war," reported the "Kurdish Observer" on 13 December.

The most worrying feature of the current situation is a report that Iraqi forces have been deployed along the border with Kurdistan, with some outlets, including London's "Al-Hayat" speculating that these forces may exploit the intra-Kurdish feuding to invade PUK-controlled territory. PUK sources have pointed to the deployment of Iraqi forces in areas controlled by the 1st Corps, on the Kirkuk border, and the 2nd Corps, on the Diyala border. Additionally, there reportedly are Republican Guard artillery units, infantry divisions, and an armored division deployed in that region

"Al-Hayat" repoted that there is already an Iraqi "operations room" in the Qadir Karim area, which "includes representatives from the Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK], the Mujahedin-e Khalq...and Kurds loyal to Baghdad." And the paper notes further that Saddam Husseyn met four times last week with Defense Minister Staff General Sultan Hashim Ahmad as well as the Iraqi leader's son, Qusay. (David Nissman)

IRAN URGES REACTIVATION OF ALGIERS ACCORD WITH IRAQ. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told visiting Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister for International Affairs Riyadh Al-Qaysi that Tehran would like to see the full implementation of the 1975 security accord with Iraq in order to pave the way for the normalization of relations, Xinhua reported on 10 December. Kharrazi said that the two countries should solve "minor issues" first before they could effectively solve other issues related to relations.

The 1975 Algiers accord was signed by Saddam Husseyn, then Iraqi vice president, and the Shah of Iran. It obliges the two sides to halt actions undermining each other's security, and provides for non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Iran, which was then a strong supporter of the Kurds, especially the movement of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, cut off support vital for the Kurdish cause. And the United States, which also had been on the Kurdish side, also cut off aid.

Meanwhile, London's "Sunday Times" reported on 10 December that a recent defector from the Iraqi intelligence services has claimed that Saddam Husseyn has stepped up operation against Iran, despite these public diplomatic overtures.

In addition to Saddam's increased support for the Mujahedin-e Khalq -- which on 3 December shelled Mehran, a city in the south of Iran -- Saddam reportedly has also begun assisting other opposition groups among Iran's minorities. Iraqi intelligence has been ordered to give weapons and other support to Sunni Arabs in Baluchistan, Iranian Kurds, Turkmen in the deserts north of Tehran, and Arab Shi'ites in Ahvaz.

The chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq has ruled out the possibility of an Iraqi-Iranian normalization process resulting in a deal under which each country will end its support for and hosting of the Mujahedin-e Khalq and Iraqi opposition factions, according to the Kuwait's "Al-Ra'y Al-Amm" of 12 December. He claims that Iran believes that "there will be no normalization unless the Algiers agreement of 1975 has been implemented." (David Nissman)

SADDAM DONATES ONE BILLION EUROS TO PALESTINIANS. A joint meeting of the Revolution Command Council and the Iraq Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party on 9 December agreed to set aside one billion euros from Iraqi oil export revenues for one year, Baghdad radio reported. According to the station, 300 million euros will be provided to the families of martyrs and those wounded in the intifadah, and the other 700 million will be used to purchase food, medicine, and other basic supplies. A Palestinian Authority official told Radio Free Iraq that Iraqi aid is already pouring into Palestine, and the Palestinian embassy in Amman reports that about 30 trucks from Iraq had already crossed into the area under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Baghdad's pointed use of the euro as the denomination of this assistance reflects a policy discussed by Dr. Abd-Al-Mun'im Rashid, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, in Baghdad's "Al-Qadisiyah" of 7 December. He explained that the "euro marked the birth of a new monetary system" and that it had "a wide range of specifications and more liquidity and dependability than the U.S. dollar." (David Nissman)

SYRIA-IRAQ PIPELINE INCREASES SYRIAN OIL EXPORTS. Iraqi exports to Syria, which do not fall under the UN oil-for-food program, have allowed Damascus to increase its exports internationally, according to the Dow Jones report of 11 December. And such exports in turn may be providing a new source of income for Baghdad.

Crude oil exports from Syria have risen by 140,000 barrels per day (b/d) in December to a total of 430,000 b/d, according to "Dow Jones" of 11 December. The "Middle East Economic Survey" said the increase came after Syria started receiving 150,000 b/d after 20 November of an agreed 200,000 b/d of Basrah light crude from Iraq.

MEES added that apart from the 140,000 b/d rise, "a further 40,000 b/d is still available to Syria's state-owned oil trading organization Sytrol. And it noted that "it is further understood that the economic agreement between the two countries provides for cash payment and barter trade for the crude purchases, with the final price put at approximately $20 a barrel -- similar to favorable terms for Jordan's cross-border oil." (David Nissman)

ARABIZATION IN KIRKUK INTENSIFIES. Sulaymaniyah's "Kurdistani Nuwe" on 30 November reported that Baghdad's Arabization program has intensified via the distribution of land to 80 Iraqi Arabs who will thus displace the local Turkmen and Kurdish population. The paper cited a report in the 27 November "Sawt Al-Ta'mim," a newspaper which is under the control of the Iraqi government.

Lieutenant-General Sabah Nuri Alwan, the governor of Kirkuk (Al-Ta'mim), distributed the land deeds to "those whose incomes are limited." At the celebration accompanying the deed distribution, the recipients "expressed their love and admiration to the leader, "the Mujahid, Saddam Husseyn."

Irbil's "Hawlati" of 3 December noted that Iraqi security forces had conducted a campaign of attacks on houses in the areas of Tazah and Tuzkhurmato and arrested numerous Turkmen, including Muslim clerics and prominent preachers. (David Nissman)

TURKMEN FRONT BACKS IRAQ'S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. Irbil's "Turkoman Ale" on 3 December featured an interview with the newly-elected chairman of the Turkmen Front (TF), San'an Ahmad Agha, that the Turkmen leader had given to the Turkish newspaper "Turkiye" on 27 November. The Turkmen Front leader said that his group wants to secure the legitimate rights of Iraqi Turkmen within the framework of Iraq's territorial integrity. "These rights," he said, "should be guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution and the Turkmen should live side by side with their Iraqi brethren." Agha added that that "we share the same destiny with the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIAN LEADER MEETS BRITISH DIPLOMAT. Ya'qub Yusuf, the leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, received Liane Saunders, secretary of the British embassy in Ankara, on 27 November, according to Irbil's "Bahra" on 30 November. The two discussed the political situation and peace in the region.

At a press conference following a meeting with Mas'ud Barzani a few days earlier in Salah Al-Din, Saunders had said that the British often visit Kurdistan to bring the stances of the KDP and the PUK closer. She also pointed out that "the future of this region is linked to Iraq and the extent of its compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 December 2000). (David Nissman)

PKK CENTERS IN CIS HIGHLIGHTED. Kurdish activism is increasing across the post-Soviet states and that is one of the reasons that the Commonwealth of Independent States has decided to set up an anti-terrorism center, Ibrahim Mammadov argued in Baku's "Azadlyg" of 8 December. He said that Russia intends to use the center to coordinate moves against the Chechens. But one aspect of the decree setting up the center suggests that Moscow may have a broader agenda: The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in not included in the decree, and it is expanding its activities throughout the whole CIS.

PKK centers are called variously "Kurdish home," "Kurdish cultural center," and similar euphemisms. They carry out propaganda work among the local populations, especially Kurdish youths. The Kurdish cultural center in Saratov, for example, is attracting recruits to fight for the PKK. Other centers identified include Kurdish cultural centers in Almaty and Chimkent in Kazakhstan, Yerevan in Armenia, Tbilisi in Georgia, and Krasnodar in Russia.

Recruits for fighting with the PKK, Mammadov said, are sent to the Moscow center and interviewed by leaders of the "Kurdish home" there. Then, they are sent on to Yaroslavl Raion, from whence they proceed to a military training and rehabilitation camp, located within the Solnechnoye Pioneer camp in Gavriloyamsky Raion. There, they are given a one-month ideological course on "Kurdish culture, history, and the PKK's struggle." After passing, they receive forged documents, $50-$100, and are sent to military camps in Iran and Turkey via the routes Moscow-Yerevan-Iran, Moscow-Tbilisi-Yerevan-Iran, Moscow-Tehran-Urmia, or Yerevan-Tehran. Each center has concrete areas of responsibility.

The PKK's Caucasus coordination center, Mammadov reported, is located in Yerevan. A report on the August-September activities forwarded to the coordination centers in Iran and Iraq, says that local cells have been set up in Armenia's Talin, Alagoz, and Oktembryam areas under the name of Kurdish cultural centers. The PKK also has a special training center in Yerevan, and a hospital in Masis, where wounded from Iraq and Turkey are being treated.

Mammadov adds that official circles in Iran "are trying to channel the settlement of the 'Kurdish problem' along a path that suits them by creating certain conditions for Kurds living on the Kurdish-Iranian border, and especially for PKK activities...Assistance is being rendered to numerous PKK secret bases and camps in Maku and Urmia." In addition, there are some 10 military and supple bases along the Iran-Iraq border. One of the bases concerned, in the village of Dolkharp, was attacked by the Turkish Air Force. At that time, the camp was moved to a location near the Iraq town of Qala Diza.

Iran reportedly hopes to monitor PKK activities by allowing them to hold congresses, conferences, and other meetings on its territory and thus channel them into directions that meet its own interests. After the arrest of PKK leader Ocalan, for example, Iran created the conditions for them to hold the 6th conference of the Kurdish national movement in Tehran in the spring of 1999, and the 7th congress of the PKK in early 2000 in Kalatukan, on the Iran-Iraq border. There, the future action plan was discussed.

The peaceful gestures made by the political and diplomatic wing of the PKK, including their "unilateral ceasefires" may have a more ominous meaning given the size and activities of the Kurds in CIS countries and Iran. (David Nissman)