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Iraq Report: January 15, 1999

15 January 1999, Volume 2, Number 2

KURDISH SUMMIT REAFFIRMS WASHINGTON AGREEMENT. The Kurdish summit between Mas'ud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) ended on 9 January. As Radio Free Iraq noted, this PUK-KDP meeting was called to draft a joint accord to execute the terms of the Washington Agreement the two groups signed in September 1998.

At the summit meeting, the two sides agreed to adhere to the terms of the Washington Agreement. The KDP specifically reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the flow of funds from KDP-controlled areas to PUK-controlled regions which are under the supervision of the Higher Coordination Commission (HCC) of the Kurdish Regional Government. The two sides also agreed that the situation in Kurdistan should be normalized as much as possible. To this end, a KDP representation office will open in al-Sulaymaniyah and a PUK office will be established in Irbil. The two will release certain prisoners and people who had been evicted from their homes will be allowed to return.

The Washington Agreement had established a timetable for the implementation of its provisions, but as Radio Free Iraq noted on 6 January, relatively little had been done up to then to implement them. But the provisions of the Washington Agreement concerning the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are now being carried out. The HCC has taken steps to ensure that no members of the PKK are granted sanctuary. And both the KDP and PUK have agreed to prevent any PKK member from gaining sanctuary in the areas they control and to block the PKK from undermining public order or violating the Turkish border.

The Kurdish Regional Government has been very active with regard to the PKK. In December, its Council of Ministers sent the Italian Ministry of Justice a lengthy "Memorandum on terrorist interference into the affairs of Iraqi Kurdistan in the last 12 months." (This document is available on the KRG web site, This memorandum details the role of the PKK in destroying public facilities; kidnapping, killing and wounding citizens and destroying their belongings; obstructing implementation of the 'Oil For Food' program; looting and plundering villages; and mining of public roads as well as private farms and water springs. The memorandum also urged the Italian government to try PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in its own courts or turn him over to an international tribunal.

U.S. reaction to the summit was very positive. State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 11 January that "the fact that the two parties are now sharing revenues is of major significance. With this financial link established, it should be much easier to coordinate administrative programs throughout the three northern provinces." (David Nissman)

IRAQI TURKOMANS FEEL EXCLUDED FROM WASHINGTON AGREEMENT. The changing geopolitical situation in northern Iraq is attracting attention from yet another participant -- Iraqi Turkomans -- and being blamed on another party -- Turkey. At a panel discussion in Ankara on 10 January, the Turkoman Front complained that it had been excluded from the process initiated in Washington, according to the "Turkish Daily News." Professor Hasan Koni told the gathering that for all practical purposes an independent Kurdish state was being established in northern Iraq and that this new state is preventing the 2.5 million Turkomans living there from exercising their rights.

Part of the blame for this lies with the Republic of Turkey, which the Iraqi Turkomans -- who are in fact Turks who remained in the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire -- view as their only protector. Ankara lacks a clear policy and others are exploiting this situation, the panelists said. Some Turkomans, who live in areas controlled by Mas'ud Barzani's KDP, believe that the KDP is even subjecting them to a policy of ethnic cleansing.

Former Health Minister Halil Sizgin told the panel that "when the decision for the establishment of two independent states [Palestine and Kurdistan] is made in May," Turkey should be aware of the situation. (David Nissman)

KURDS URGE EXTENSION OF NO-FLY ZONES. Barham Salih, the director of the Bureau of International Affairs for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has called on the international community to extend the northern no-fly zone so as to provide Iraqi Kurdistan with better security. Some 40 percent of Kurdistan, he notes, is not now covered under the present no-fly zone. And he argues in a statement released earlier this month that such a step "would provide the Kurdish people a credible international security guarantee against future Iraqi ground assaults."

In the past, Baghdad has subjected the Iraqi Kurds to attack by chemical weapons, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportation. During the 'Anfal' campaign, more than 180,000 civilians perished. And after the 1991 violence, over a million civilians left the country.

The Iraqi government�s latest assertion that the no-fly zones lack international validity, together with the constant threat posed by Iraq�s armed forces, suggest that Baghdad may plan to again step up repression against the Kurds as well as other Iraqis. Salih also points out that Baghdad has recently denounced international NGOs operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, especially those NGOs which have been engaged in clearing land mines in the countryside. He notes that the Iraqi military which planted these throughout Kurdish territory has refused to provide these NGOs with the necessary maps showing where the mines are located. (David Nissman)

FRENCH PROPOSALS ON IRAQ TO FUEL SECURITY COUNCIL�S DEBATE. On 13 January, the French government submitted its proposals on the Iraq crisis to the UN Security Council. These call for lifting the oil embargo while simultaneously establishing the monitoring of Iraq's efforts to continue building its weapons of mass destruction.

Russia's chief delegate to the UN, Sergey Lavrov, described the proposals as a "very important and useful move, offering a chance to start searching more fruitfully for a way out of the dead end." ITAR-TASS, 14 January).

According to the French Foreign Ministry, Paris believes that the current situation is detrimental to the pursuit of the Security Council's goals, regional stability, and the Iraqi people. Further, the French government believes that it is not possible to return to the situation prior to the U.S.-UK military strikes on Iraq. And third, Paris argues that it does not now seem possible to return to the situation prevailing prior to the military strikes on Iraq.

The Russian government appears to agree. Lavrov described the proposals as a "very important and useful move, offering a chance to start searching more fruitfully for a way out of the dead end," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 January.

Although the details of the French proposal were not immediately released, the London Arabic-language newspaper, "Al-Hayah" reported on 13 January that the French proposal gives precedence to permanent monitoring of Iraq's armaments in a manner that prevents any future rearming. And the French proposal calls for strict financial monitoring in order to prevent the use of oil revenues for armaments.

The French position is thus different from the position of continued pressure adopted by the U.S. and Great Britain on one hand, and it differs from that of China and Russia, despite Lavrov's supportive comments. In the hopes of gaining time and advantage, Baghdad has called attention to this division and also to the differences between the various Security Council members and the Saudi initiative.

But even if other governments conclude that France is making concessions, Baghdad does not agree. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan said on Baghdad Television on 13 January that Iraq did not accept the French proposal and that it "cannot accept or implement any formula proposed by any party about which Iraq is not consulted." (David Nissman)

IRAQ ALSO REJECTS SAUDI INITIATIVE. Iraq has rejected a Saudi initiative at the Gulf Cooperation Council which called for the lifting of trade sanctions against Baghdad. But despite Iraqi intransigence, the Saudi government appears likely to repeat its proposal at the upcoming Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on 24 January. According to a report filed from Jeddah by Muhammad al-Samman in the 10 January "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," the Saudi proposal would allow Iraq to purchase and sell all items -- including oil -- except for military equipment or dual use technology.

But on 11 January, a spokesman for Iraq's Culture and Information Ministry rejected the initiative, claiming that it "places restrictions on Iraq's freedom and sovereign decisions." According to the Republic of Iraq Radio Network, he claimed that "the Arab position that is required on the official level from the Arab states, and the Muslim position that is required from the Muslim states neighboring Iraq, is to respond favorably to the demands of the Arab people in those states, and to the demands of the Muslim nations, to immediately lift the measures related to the unfair embargo against Iraq."

Egypt's Consultative Council declared on 10 January that efforts to lift the sanctions on Iraq and prevent military strikes against its resources "were intended to lend support to the Iraqi people but not the Iraqi leadership, which is the party primarily responsible for the crisis of Iraq and the Arab nation." With regard to Saddam Husseyn's Army Day speech calling for the overthrow of Arab governments, the Egyptian statement said this was "cheap propaganda intended to drive a wedge between Arab people and their governments or to incite coups d'etat and revolutions inside the Arab countries." And the statement said that such calls show that Iraq's leadership "is suffering from illusions that have no basis in fact."

According to the Arab press, some 14 Arab states now back holding a ministerial meeting on 24 January, a session that could set the stage for an Arab summit in which Baghdad will not participate. London's "Al-Hayah" newspaper has noted that an "Arab diplomat in Riyadh" has ruled out any summit in which Iraq's Saddam Husseyn would be a participant. (David Nissman)

SADDAM'S 'WAR OF WORDS' OFF TO SLOW START. The 'war of words' Saddam Husseyn said he was launching in his Army Day speech has not yet triggered much of a response from the "Arab masses" who are its principal targets. Instead, his remarks have prompted some in the Arab world to call for the trial of the Iraqi leader by "a special international court on the basis of the same prerogatives that the international community had when the Nuremberg Court was formed in Germany to try the Nazi war criminals," as Riyad's "Al-Jazira" newspaper did on 7 January. Saddam's calls to topple Arab regimes drew a similar response in Gaza. The writer Hafiz al-Barguthi said that "the call that President Saddam Husseyn of Iraq made for Arab masses to move to unseat their leaders obviously has fallen on deaf ears and so has had no resonance" (Al-Hayah Al-Jadidah, 7 January).

Despite several Arab moves to condemn the American-British air strikes in Iraq last December -- e.g., The Arab Parliamentary Union took a position condemning the strike in Iraq, and an Arab League summit seems likely to be held at the end of this month -- the "war of words and vituperations" soon made such collective declarations impossible. The independent pro-government newspaper in Doha, "Al-Rayah," for example, wrote on 7 January that "Baghdad should take the initiative and stop this war of words immediately because persisting in this attitude will not lift the embargo imposed on the Iraqi people but will rather increase their suffering."

Iraq's response, however, has been continued defiance. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan said in an interview with the Moroccan "Al-Ittihad Al-Ishtiraki" on 7 January that "Iraq has wagered ... and will continue to wager . . . on the position of the Arab masses . . ."

And the Baghdad Television Network was quick to deny State Department spokesman James Rubin's assertion that Husseyn's call on the Arabs to revolt against some of their leaders proves that Iraq is isolated in the Arab world. A spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and Information claimed that neither Iraq nor Saddam Husseyn is isolated. Instead, he suggested, "it is the U.S. agents and henchmen in the region who are isolated."

But Baghdad did receive one enthusiastic vote of support: extreme Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky sent a cable backing Saddam, Baghdad Radio reported on 11 January. (David Nissman)

ARAB PAPER SAYS U.S. BEHIND LEAKS ON UNSCOM ESPIONAGE. An Arabic-language newspaper, quoting unnamed West European diplomatic sources, has suggested that the recent exposure of an espionage role of UNSCOM was a deliberate leak planned and executed by the CIA and DIA. The 13 January article in "Al-Quds Al-'Arabi" says that the exposure of the spying scandal and the leaking of harmful information about UNSCOM "were meant to serve specific U.S. political and military objectives" at this stage of the crisis between Baghdad and Washington.

The diplomatic sources reportedly also claimed that there had always been a thin line separating and linking reconnaissance, inspection, and data collection, on one hand, and espionage activity, on the other. The newspaper adds: "in fact, the difference between the two is in most cases no more than a verbal differentiation that has no basis in practice."

The sources point out that the U.S. was always the primary country concerned with UNSCOM's operations, and neither Washington nor UNSCOM tried at any time to conceal this relationship. A change was needed in UNSCOM's structure, function, and personnel in view of a shift in Washington's objectives. Until recently, the paper said, this objective consisted of containing Iraq and weakening the regime through political blockade, economic sanctions, and military monitoring; now, it is directed at bringing down the regime through more active and affective measures.

According to the analysis in "Al-Quds Al-'Arabi," by leaking the story of UNSCOM's espionage functions Washington achieved three major objectives: undermining the credibility of the UN, compelling Baghdad to reject any return by UNSCOM officers, and expanding the psychological war against Iraq. And by doing all three things, the paper argues, the U.S. will increase paranoia and uncertainty in Baghdad. (David Nissman)