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Iraq Report: April 2, 1999

2 April 1999, Volume 2, Number 13

WILL SADDAM HUSSEYN AID MILOSEVIC? Presidents Milosevic and Saddam Husseyn reportedly have agreed to join in a "mutual assistance pact to enable them to withstand the effects of allied bombing raids," according to London's Sunday Telegraph on 28 March. Their agreement was reached before Operation Allied Force was launched last week possibly when a Serbian delegation visited Baghdad earlier this month.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the quid pro quo of the alliance is: "The Serbs agree to help Saddam rebuild his air defense capability in return for receiving Iraqi assistance in withstanding the huge bombardment now being inflicted by allied aircraft.�

The Iraqis are now relying on antiquated SA-2 and SA-3 Soviet missile systems, no match for the sophisticated US and British aircraft now patrolling the no-fly zones. The Serbs can supply them with the more sophisticated SA-7 systems which have been updated and modified by Serbian engineers. Such installations could pose a serious threat to Allied aircraft patrolling Iraq.

Again, according to the British paper, Iraq can supply Milosevic with two commodities most needed for his military effort: oil and money. The Serbian war machine cannot function without oil, and Iraqi hard currency could help to pay salaries of the Serbian military.

This new phase in Serbian-Iraqi relations began earlier this month when a Serbian delegation, led by Serbia's deputy defense minister, Lt.-General Jovan Djukovic, visited Baghdad. This mission came on the heels of the visit to the Iraqi capital by Serbian chemical and biological weapons expert Ivan Ivanovic, who also paid a visit to an Iraqi pharmaceuticals plant in Samarra. UN weapons inspectors say that this plant is a site for the production of chemical weapons. (David Nissman)

"OIL-FOR-FOOD" PROGRAM DEBATED. Even as a U.S. Congressional committee criticized the �oil for food� program which allows Iraq to sell some oil to buy food and medicine, the Middle East Economic Survey on 29 March reported that the United Nations and Iraq have discussed the possibility of allowing international firms and service companies to resume work on Iraqi oilfields. In addition, the Middle Eastern Economic Survey said that "It is understood that the (U.N.) humanitarian panel is interested in lifting the financial ceiling on Iraqi oil exports, which currently stands at $5.2 billion every six months." The reason behind the present discussions is to complete the development "of around eight oil fields with potential production capacity of approximately one million barrels a day.� Such proposals are likely to be opposed by the U.S. Congress. At the debate in the Energy and Power Subcommittee last week, lawmakers attacked the oil for food policy, saying that it "may be harming American producers while not meeting the United States' stated aim of removing Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn from power." Representative Ralph Hall claimed that the oil for food program "may be disruptive of worldwide crude oil markets and could spawn a lot of abuse." A State Department official at the hearing defended the policy, saying "elimination of the oil for food program would lead to an erosion of support within the worldwide community for continued sanctions against Iraq." A recent Energy Intelligence Group Iraq report discussed the possibilities of reopening work on Iraqi oilfields. According to Iraqi sources, the projects in the works have an estimated overall capacity of one million barrels per day of which some 300,000 barrels per day could be brought on within one year under a "crash program." And initial development costs are moderate. Iraq's proven reserves are some 112-billion barrels. Companies from France, Russia and China are all lined up at the starting gate. U.S. administration sources told AP that the Iraqi production has a negligible effect on U.S. oil prices, which have been in a serious slump all year. "Yet congressional Republicans note that when OPEC recently proposed cutting production by an amount similar to Iraq's output, worldwide crude prices rose by about $2 a barrel." (David Nissman)

UN'S "OIL FOR FOOD" PROGRAM INCREASES KURDISH DEPENDENCY. A PUK-KDP memorandum to the UN released on March 11 touches on a number of very sensitive issues concerning the international approach to Iraq and its people, as well as Iraq's approach to the UN and Iraq's approach to its own people. The Joint Memorandum encapsulates the experiences of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the last seven years, and contributes the benefit of its own experience and hindsight concerning the UN programs.

The Memorandum asks the review panels to work toward the implementation of UNSC Resolution 688, which demands that the Government of Iraq end repression against its own citizens. According to the document, areas of current KRG concern include the policy of forced relocation pursued by Baghdad. The document points out that "nearly half a million Kurds have fallen victim to this policy of forced relocation which has been intensified and escalated since last year."

The Memorandum also raises the issue of missing persons. While the UN has required that Iraq disclose the fate of hundreds of missing Kuwaiti prisoners of war -- a matter which Iraq has refused to face head on as recently as the recent Arab League Consultative meeting held in Cairo a few days ago (see RFERL Iraq Report 2-12) -- the UN is urged in this document to make inquires about an additional 180,000 Kurds missing since the Anfal campaign of 1987 and 1988.

Non-governmental organizations, particularly those engaged in mine-clearing operations, need UN encouragement and support, the Memorandum says. Iraq had planted the anti-personnel weapons throughout Kurdish territory "and has shown no remorse for the pain and death they have caused." Baghdad has also refused to provide any meaningful assistance, "and has withheld the appropriate location maps from agencies organizing the minesweeping effort."

One of the most serious shortcomings is found in the "Oil for Food" program, about which the Kurdish regional authorities were never consulted. According to the Joint Memorandum: "It is still unclear how the UN discharges its mandate on behalf of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan. The GOI (Government of Iraq) increasingly forces its decisions on the formulation and implementation of the northern program. Consequently, the role of the Kurdish administration, as a partner in the program, is being undermined."

One result of the current UN interpretation of the program is that the program currently requires the importation of large quantities of grain and other foodstuffs and is thus undermining the economy in a serious way. The problem is that "imported food and grain should supplement" rather than replace local products. As a consequence, the rural economy is being undermined, and there is a danger of a reverse migration of farmers to the urban centers. This same phenomenon had occurred elsewhere in Iraq. On March 17, Radio Free Iraq reported that the farmers in northern Iraq were able to reap an abundant wheat harvest in 1998. Credit for this was partly due to the seeds, fertilizers and spare parts for agricultural machinery that were imported through the UN humanitarian program. The farmers were forced to store a large part of the harvest and this had led to them enduring financial loss, as UN statistics show. As a result of their inability to recoup the costs, some farmers were forced to turn to other crops or stop planting their lands. In the final reckoning, this means that the humanitarian program, known as 'Oil for Food', had the effect of undermining one of the UN's main aims in Iraq: rebuilding the farming base among the 3,2 million residents of the northern area to help them become self-sufficient. The problem is that the northern wheat, before the UN allocation reached Iraq, was selling at $250 a ton; the UN-subsidized wheat sold for $55 a ton.

It should not be the international intention to create this type of economic dependency, the Memorandum says, and the KRG has protested. "It is vital the UN purchases part of the grain produced locally so that the local farmers remain active on their land and continue as producers instead of turning into aid-dependent consumers." (David Nissman)

WILL THE CENSUS IN THE KRG BE DELAYED? Areas of the Kurdish Regional Government also include domestic issues which in the longer run may prove to be more threatening to its stability than the price of grain.

A point raised in an afterword to the Joint Memorandum concerns the process of the formation of the joint regional government between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (see also "The Election Will Definitely Not Take Place In June" Kurdistan Observer, 23 March). This procedure has so far been slow, thus violating the temporal guidelines established in the Washington Agreement. An important point is raised in the afterword (by Alexander Sternberg, Iraq-l and Kurdistan Observer, 24 March) is that "on some of the most vital issues, the two major parties of Kurdistan...are already working closely together. although no joint provisional government -- as foreseen by the Washington Agreement of last September-- has been set up yet."

One of the primary issues outstanding is the question of forming a transitional joint cabinet. This was a point of contention in the past between the KDP and the PUK; the PUK insists that the cabinet be formed on a 50-50 basis. The KDP maintains that this formula would only paralyze decision-making by a future regime.

The KDP maintains that the results of the 1992 elections, in which the KDP garnered some 51 percent of the vote and the PUK the rest should form the basis of the new caretaker cabinet. In addition, a generous share would be offered the Assyrian and Turkoman minorities in that government.

Taking all these factors into consideration, and bearing in mind that a yet-to-be taken census will become the basis for the due electoral processes highlights the question of when such a census might occur, what its results would be, and what effect they would have on the composition of future governments. Even more, would sharp discrepancies in the different demographic weight of these different groupings play in Northern Iraq? Why would it matter? In a world which thinks about "human" rights as a primary determinant for rights, what role should ethnic rights play?

According to an informal census conducted by Alexander Sternberg in the summer of 1998, the numbers of the ethnic minorities are much lower than the minorities themselves would predict. Given a total population within the Kurdish Regional Government's territory of between 3.7 to 3.9 million, With regard to the Assyro-Chaldean population within that territory, the reported population was surprisingly low: somewhat under 40,000. Turkoman population for the same territory ran about 50,000.

There are many factors which could account for these low numbers, including the dislocation and disenfranchisement of populations through Baghdad's policy and the voluntary departure of people from the region. But the complexity and potential explosiveness of these issues has led Sternberg to conclude that the elections will not take place on schedule because the census will take longer to organize than hitherto thought.

During the Ottoman period, different ethnic groups were grouped under a millet system, which each recognized ethnic group had its own form of organization to deal with the perceived interests of the ethnic group concerned. This had the effect of minimizing conflicts between Constantinople and ethnic power centers as long as the Ottoman Empire was politically viable. Basically, a system similar to that advocated by Northern Iraq's ethnic minorities is not dissimilar to that which existed in the region in the 18th century. Whether such a system is needed in a world where human and property rights are to prevail remains an question. (David Nissman)

KDP, PUK TO CURB PKK ACTIVITY WITHIN IRAQI KURDISTAN. The Higher Coordination Committee for Peace between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan met in Koya on 25 March. Among the decisions the committee took were that each side were to open a representation office on the other's territory and to form a joint military committee to cut back on the strength of both sides' troops on contact lines. This military committee "will also monitor the illegal moves of the gunmen of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on the Kurdistan region's territory and protect its borders." (Salah Al-Din: The Voice of Iraqi Kurdistan, 25 March -- the Voice of Iraqi Kurdistan is the KDP radio station). (David Nissman)

PKK TERRORISM CONTINUES IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. A statement from the Governate of Dohuk describes recent instances of PKK terrorist activity in the Dohuk region of Iraqi Kurdistan (Governorate of Dohuk: Press Release, 29 March). A spokesperson for the Governor of Dohuk, A. A. Taib, has announced the arrest of a Syrian Kurdish PKK terrorist who was planting TNT high explosive devices at a summer resort where large numbers of people were to gather to usher in Newruz (the Kurdish New Year) on 21 March. Under questioning, the terrorist confirmed that "the PKK's aim was to turn Newruz celebrations into a bloodbath."

On 10 March another PKK terrorist set off a blast near the main office of the Turkoman Front in Duhok city, killing himself and injuring five civilians. (David Nissman)

MED-TV SHUTDOWN AND KURDISH TELEVISION The closing of the Kurdish television sender MED-TV by the British media regulators (RFERL Iraq Report, 2-12) has been much discussed in the media recently, most often inaccurately. The primary false assumption is that MED-TV is the only international -- or national -- Kurdish satellite television. It is not. There is also a new sender which has been broadcasting since the beginning of the year -- KTV, or Kurdistan Television, broadcasting by satellite to Iraqi Kurdistan. KTV has also been the victim of some disinformation.

On 24 March the Jordanian weekly Al-Sabeel reported that the Kurdistan Democratic Party pays "more than one million US dollars per year to Israel to use an Israeli satellite in order to broadcast a television project on it" (, 25 March).

The newspaper added that the Israeli company allegedly helping Barzani's Kurdish television because "Barzani stands against Ocalan and is linked with good relations with the U.S., Turkey, and Israel." This assertion was promptly denied by a well-informed source on Iraqi Kurdistan, who said: "Since when are Eutelsat and Intelsat Israeli satellites? We are broadcasting over these two satellites on the following coordinates, using partly satellite time of Bosnian Television and partly of an...Arab satellite TV from the Gulf." This was corroborated by Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring on 23 March. (David Nissman)