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Iraq Report: March 19, 1999

19 March 1999, Volume 2, Number 11

U.S., TURKEY CONSULT ON IRAQ. Martin Indyk, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs, visited Turkey to discuss setting up "organized political consultation mechanism to discuss regional problems," including coordination on policies towarde Iraq, Anatolia reported on 12 March.

The Turkish side at these talks was headed by Ugur Ziyal, Foreign Ministry deputy undersecretary. He said that Turkey believed there should be four parameters to guide policy on Iraq: the preservation of Iraq's territorial integrity, political unity and sovereignty; the involvement of all Iraqis in any decisions about that country's future, Turkish opposition to being involved in changing regimes in other countries, and specific rules for operations in the northern No-Fly Zone of Iraq be established and maintained. At the same time, Ziyal repeated Turkey's understanding that Iraq was responsible for the U.S. bombing of Iraq because investigations determined that the United States "bombed Iraq within the framework of genuine self-defense."

During these sessions, U.S. officials stressed that Washington wants all future cooperation between Turkey and Iraq to follow the UN framework rather than to fall under the category of bilateral relations. Concerning the visit of Iraqi First Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to Ankara last month, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit maintained at that time that efforts are now being exerted to reactivate bilateral economic relations, but there were difficulties with this as well as restrictions imposed by the embargo on Iraq.

Among the difficulties are Turkey's claims that Baghdad has been supporting the PKK. Evidence of this was reportedly given to Aziz in Ankara. While Iraq has said it will respond to this material, Baghdad has not yet done so.

Another difficulty is that Iraq and Syria have requested a convening of the joint tripartite committee, of which Turkey is the third member. Turkey opposes such a meeting at this time. According to Anatolia, diplomatic sources have said that conditions must be right to realize the latest Syrian and Iraqi demands with regard to water, stressing that any negotiation based on the principle of "fighting terrorism in exchange for water" is unacceptable.

Earlier, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel had used a more concrete reason for Turkey's support of Operation Northern Watch (the joint U.S.-British patrolling of Iraq's no-fly zones from Incirlik airbase in Turkey). He said: "We don't want northern Iraq to be used as a base against Turkey. The flights from Turkey are within the framework of Operation Northern Watch. They have only an observation purpose to see if there is movement in northern Iraq" (Anatolia, 10 March). (David Nissman)

HAJJ FUNDS TO IRAQ STALLED IN UN COMMITTEE. Iraq's Foreign Ministry has claimed that representatives of the United States and Britain on the UN Security Council (UNSC) were using the "wicked measures of procrastination and prevarication" in order to prevent "Iraq from using its funds to facilitate the travel of Iraqi pilgrims to perform pilgrimage," according to a report on the Iraq Television Network on 14 March.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry termed this action an "encroachment on the rituals of true Islam and one of the methods of the dubious U.S.-British policy of wasting time so as to foil any attempt to pay Iraqi funds to the Iraqi pilgrims."

The American-British objective, it said, was to stall until the time expired to make these disbursements so that "the time of the pilgrimage becomes too close with the result that even if an agreement is issued by the Sanctions Committee [of the UNSC], Iraq will not have availed itself of it because such a great number of pilgrims need time to complete their papers and travel and be prepared to perform pilgrimage rites."

In reality, the problem is less complicated than it appears, but it will have the same effect. According to a report carried on Radio Free Iraq on 14 March, the United Nations was prepared to release $44 million from the 'Oil for Food' program to pay for 22,000 Iraqis to make the hajj. Iraq, however, wanted this money to be transferred to its central bank account; the UN wanted a humanitarian institution to make the exchange. Iraq threw up obstacles to this and now there is not enough time to execute the transaction. As a result, many Iraqi pilgrims will be unable to make the hajj even if Baghdad were suddenly to agree to the exchange.

Some pilgrims are making the journey from Iraq overland. Republic of Iraq Radio reported on 15 March that a "first batch" of some 2,000 pilgrims have already arrived in Saudi Arabia and that Saudi authorities have provided them with the facilities needed to perform the hajj rites.

The story would have ended there, had Iraq let it drop. However, two Iraq Airlines planes have also flown pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, and this has sparked a mini-debate in the UNSC as to whether these flights are in violation of Resolution 670, which may or may not mandate an air embargo. According to AFP on 17 March, Saudi Arabia has already turned down a U.S. request to seize the plane. A second Iraq Airlines plane is also carrying pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. This plane was seen off by Dr. Ahmad Murtada Ahmad, minister of transport and communications as well as director general of Iraq Airlines, INA reported on 17 March. (David Nissman)

UN SANCTIONS BLAMED FOR HOOF AND MOUTH OUTBREAK. As the result of a hoof and mouth epidemic among livestock in Iraq, 65,000 animals, mostly sheep, have died. Breeders say that the epidemic is the result of a shortage of rainfall and also a short supply of drugs and vaccines from the Iraqi State Veterinary Organization.

Dr. Fadil Abbas, director general of the Iraqi State Veterinary Organization, told Baghdad's "Alif Ba'" newspaper on 3 March that UN sanctions were to blame. He said that "there has been a big shortage of drugs and vaccines due to obstructions by Sanctions Committee 661, which considers some of these drugs and vaccines fo fall under the dual use category." Noting that this is the first time such an epidemic had spread to Iraq, he also complained that Iraq's scientific laboratory had been destroyed by UN inspection teams.

"Alif Ba'" reporters also toured the Al-Kindi company, which was established in 1990 for the production of veterinary drugs and vaccines by the Industry Ministry. Dr Munaf Husayn, its acting manager, said that "the company is finding it difficult to produce some vaccines due to the shortage of raw materials. UN inspection teams also used to interfere in our work. The company was hit four times and several of its buildings were destroyed." (David Nissman)

TATAR 'WAHHABIS' TO FIGHT AMERICANS IN IRAQ? Moscow's "Komsomolskaya Pravda" reported on 11 March that a school in Tatarstan's city of Naberezhnyye Chelny is now teaching "Wahhabism" and that some of its students have volunteered to fight for Islam in Chechnya and Iraq.

The Muslim Spiritual Administration in Kazan, learning that Wahhabism (an Islamic trend which it does not approve) was being taught in schools under its control, sent a commission from the Tatar Muslim Spiritual Association to the "Yulduz" Muslim high school last January to check the situation. According to the Moscow paper, "What violations they uncovered there we can only guess. But it did emerge that in the breaks between Arabic lectures the pupils there were shown propaganda films about Chechen combat formations."

It also came out that a preacher in the mosque attached to the school and an official of the school were involved in the recruitment of the students for Chechen detachments.

Some 14 youths there reportedly have expressed the wish to fight the Americans in Iraq and are already at military camps there, the paper said. And it also claimed that officials of the Naberezhnyye Chelny branch of the all-Tatar public center leadership have been openly recruiting young boys for the Iraq detachments. (David Nissman)

KURDS PROTEST BAGHDAD'S ARABIZATION POLICIES. On 10 March, Jawhar N. Salem, speaker of the house of the Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly, sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to protest what he called Iraq's systematic Arabization policies directed against Kurds, Assyrians, and Turkomans.

The area now under control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) covers approximately 54 percent of the region of Iraqi Kurdistan and contains 3.6 million people. Outside of this "safe haven" lies 46 percent of the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan and almost 2.5 million people of Kurdish, Assyrian, and Turkoman ethnicity. It is this area which is the subject of Mr. Salem's letter of protest.

His letter states that the KRG "remains anxious about the well-being of their brethren who suffer the cruel practices of the Iraqi regime in the unprotected region," the "Kurdistan Observer" reported on 17 March. In that region, it suggests, the Kurdish and other non-Arab population is subjected to a policy of "ethnic cleansing," including being evicted from their homes, altering nationality, and introducing tribal Arabs into Kurdish lands. Moreover, it says, to eliminate all traces of Kurdishness, the Iraqi authorities have changed place names, removed archaeological evidence, and denied non-Arabs the right to purchase land there. The KRG argues that all of these actions violate UN Security Council Resolution 688, and it calls for the UN to intervene. (David Nissman)

TURKOMAN OFFICIAL ON KDP-TURKOMAN PROBLEMS. An official of the Iraqi National Turkoman Party has called for UN supervision of next summer's elections in northern Iraq. According to Aydin Beyatli, "current political ambiguities in northern Iraq" were affecting the Turkoman population. He urged that "a solution to the crisis should be solved within the territorial integrity of Iraq,� the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 15 March.

Turkomans currently are experiencing difficulties in cooperating with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which they accuse of denying them their cultural rights. While Beyatli stresses that a solution must be found within Iraq's territorial integrity, he has said that the alternative would be the establishment of a Turkoman federation.

The concept of the establishment of a Turkoman federation, or some equivalent political entity, was also raised earlier this year. The leader of the Iraqi Turkoman National Turkoman Party, Mustafa Kemal Yaycili, said in January that the Turkomans had been left out of the Washington Agreement. He pointed out that "as it is, the plan being implemented under the Washington Agreement offers two options: the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, or a tripartite federation of Kurds, Shiites, and Arabs" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 January 1999.)

Riyaz Sarikahya, the head of the Turkmeneli Party, has proposed the establishment of an autonomous "Turkmeneli Region" between Mosul and Kirkuk (see "Turkish Daily News," 24 January 1999.)

Elections and who should particdipate in them are currently causing the most difficulty for Iraq's non-Kurdish minorities. The plan of the KRG calls for only those living in areas under Kurdish control -- also known as the "safe haven" -- to take part. An official spokesman of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Safin Diza'i, has made it clear that "only Turkomans living in Kurdish-controlled areas can take part in the elections. Some 90 percent of Iraq's Turkoman population live in Baghdad-controlled areas of Iraq.

A major issue before the international community is to find a formula acceptable to all parties concerned with the election to permit a wider participation in next summer's electoral activities. One of the reasons that this question is so intractable is that it inevitably raises questions about what a post-Saddam Husseyn Iraq will look like. Abbas Al-Bayyati, secretary-general of the Islamic Union of Iraq's Turkomans, said in January that a future regime should take note of the diversity of Iraq's population and "establish the basis for a pluralistic political system that absorbs all the components of the people within its legislative and executive mechanism, according to each component's percentage of the population."

Any such decision will also be significant for Iraq's future territorial integrity. If some sort of democratic, free modus vivendi cannot be found among Iraq's heterogeneous ethnic groups, Iraq seems certain to continue to be a source of regional instability long after the present regime is gone. (David Nissman)

TURKMEN COUNCIL ISSUES FINAL RESOLUTION IN IRBIL. The Turkmen Council, meeting in Irbil in northern Iraq, has issued a "final resolution" relating to activities of the Iraqi Turkmen Front. Proceedings of the Council also included a discussion of regional and international issues related to the Turkmen cause.

The resolution marked out its five most immediate concerns. The first point was a condemnation of the attacks on Turkmen political parties and establishments on 1 August 1996 and 10 November 1998 in Irbil, and compensation from local authorities for the damages was requested.

The second point was a condemnation of "the ethnic cleansing, oppression, discrimination, assimilation, and forced relocation applied by the Baghdad regime on the region outside the secured zone," according to the 16 March Internet edition of Turkistan-N.

Third, immediate action from Amnesty International and human rights groups for the immediate release of all Turkmens as well as all political prisoners arrested by the Baghdad regime on 31 August 1996.

Fourth, the "futile attempt to create puppet parties in the region in order to present the Turkmens as a divided people has been severely condemned." These efforts have had a certain degree of success in the international arena because the Iraqi Turkmens are only now emerging as a people with a clear agenda and plans for a common future.

The final point concerns continuing talks between the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) over compensation for damages to Turkmen establishments and organizations. Satisfaction of this debt will help to bring an end to the tensions existing between the ITF and the KDP and thus will bring a greater stability to the area.

Not mentioned in the resolutions is the census of the territory under the control of the KRG. Until recently, this was a matter of major concern to both the Turkomans and the Assyrians. The fact that the census has been delayed from April until the summer explain why it did not figure in the list of concerns. It also appears likely that some other arrangement will be made to establish representation in the parliament of the regional government.

On the international front, the Iraqi Turkmen Front is still chafing over its exclusion from the Iraq Liberation Act. The final resolution says: "Excluding the Turkmen Front from the seven organizations mentioned in the 'Liberation of Iraq' law will not help in the establishment of a pluralistic democratic Iraq. It is hoped that this mistake will be corrected in the near future." (David Nissman)