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Iraq Report: June 25, 1999

25 June 1999, Volume 2, Number 23

SECURITY COUNCIL CONTINUES TO DISCUSS SANCTIONS. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council continue to discuss the sanctions regime, but they have not yet reached any agreement on the major issues. French Ambassador Alain Dejammet commented after a meeting on June 21 that "we have not yet reached a stage where it would be possible to say that the P5 has a common position." And British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock acknowledged that "some fundamental difficulties still remain."

The five are focusing on the Anglo-Dutch draft resolution introduced last week. In its wake, France introduced another proposal, and there is also a Russian-Chinese proposal to consider. The Anglo-Dutch proposal would suspend the UN export embargo program for renewable periods of 120 days if Baghdad complies with some basic disarmament requirements. In contrast, the French and Russian-Chinese proposals call for all sanctions against Iraq to be lifted once a new weapons monitoring regime is in place in Iraq. With some reservations, the US has now come out in support of the Anglo-Dutch plan.

Baghdad's "Babil" newspaper, which is owned by Uday Saddam Husseyn, claims that the Anglo-Dutch proposals would in fact impose new conditions for ending the nine-year long blockade of Iraq. The paper claimed that "the so-called British draft is a wicked Anglo-American attempt to dictate new conditions to Iraq." Moreover, a senior Ba'th party official told AP that Baghdad will not accept the British proposal because it fails to provide for the "immediate lifting" of sanctions. And in a speech to a visiting delegation of Russian parliamentarians, Abdulghari Abdulghafur reasserted that "Iraq will accept nothing short of an immediate lifting of sanctions." (David Nissman)

"UNIFIED IRAQI GROUPING" TO MEET. The Unified Iraqi Grouping is to meet this week to outline its objections to the approach favored by Al-Jalabi and the Iraq National Congress. According to the 22 June "Al-Zaman," this group hopes to organize an alliance of all Iraqi groups who are opposed to working within "the U.S. framework." The paper said that its leaders currently have extensive contacts with a variety of groups, including Kurds not affiliated with the two main Kurdish parties.

It is uncertain how much progress the UIG will make because of the continuing split in its ranks between those who want to attract other Iraqi groups currently cooperating with the US and those who want to openly oppose such groups.

The group's organizing committee includes representatives of the Islamic Call Party, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Ba'th Party (Iraq Command), the Arab Socialist Movement, the Assyrian Movement, and the Turkoman Movement. In addition, several prestigious non-aligned Iraqis have been asked to participate. The most notable of these is the scholar Dr. Muhammad Bahr al-"Ulum, who refused to attend the Windsor and Washington meetings last month.

In a statement released 21 June, this committee said that "despite all the complications of the unification process, unity can be achieved if every faction puts Iraq's interests above personal and party interests." And it indicated that the group would support giving Kurds special status in a federalized Iraq.

Bayan Jabr, the manager of the SCIRI office in Lebanon, told Reuters why these groups had gotten together: He said "so far eight years have passed and they [the Americans] haven't done the job and maybe they need another eight years." Jabr suggested that Washington wants to create in Iraq a situation like that in Turkey, one where the military has kept the Islamists from wielding power. As a result, he concluded, "We can't trust them." (David Nissman)

KURDISH GROUPS CONVENE AGAIN IN WASHINGTON. Representatives of the two main Kurdish groups in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), met in Washington again last week together with Elizabeth Jones, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. Also present at the meeting were observers from Turkey and Great Britain. But the two groups remained far apart on many issues.

In a 17 June press release from the Kurdistan Regional Government European Representation, the session focused on an end to media to media attacks, an elimination of the PKK presence in Iraqi Kurdistan, an exchange of party representative offices, the resettlement of internally displaced persons, raising revenue, increasing the role of parliament and the formation of a joint interim government, and the normalization of the situation in the region including the formation of a commission for voter registration�much the same agenda as during their last Washington meeting in September 1998.

The KDP representative at the meeting accused the PUK of providing support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to the 18 June "Turkish Daily News." But the PUK representative denied these charges and pledged "it would never back he terrorists".

The PUK's alleged support for the PKK has aroused concern in Ankara. Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Sermet Atacanli said that "We had some concerns about that in the past. We are closely watching the developments."

A earlier statement by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, in the context of two seeming PKK attacks on their territory in May, pointed out that these events prove that the PUK is "unwilling to fulfill its obligations evolving from the [Washington] agreement." (see RFERL Iraq Report, 2-22).

Another point of disagreement between the KDP and PUK concerns power sharing. The PUK interprets the September 1998 Washington Agreement as calling for a 50-50 power-sharing arrangement with the KDP. The KDP, on the other hand, insists on the arrangements which existed after the 1992 regional elections, where the KDP received 51 percent of the vote while the PUK took in only 49 percent. (David Nissman)

MURDER CASTS LIGHT ON ASSYRIAN-KURDISH RELATIONS. The Assyrians over the past few months have accused the Kurds in northern Iraq of having been involved with the abduction of young Assyrian girls, attacks on the clergy, cultural and linguistic persecution, and land expropriation. Now murder has been added to the list.

On 19 June the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that the body of a young Assyrian woman was found by a shepherd near the Dohuk dam. The victim was Helena Sawa, a housekeeper for Izzeddin Barwar, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) political bureau.

The reason why an Assyrian woman might be a housekeeper for a Kurdish leader provide an insight into the ways in which power is exercised in this region. Sawa's father was a member of the KDP and was killed by Iraqi forces in 1991. At that time, the law mandated that all families whose members had been martyred in the war against the Iraqi forces were to receive a pension from the Kurdistan Regional Government. After two months, however, Sawa's pension inexplicably ceased even though other Kurdish families around them continued to receive theirs.

The Sawas appealed to the authorities. The KDP said that if their daughter Helena would become housekeeper to the high-level official Barwari, the pension would resume. She was allowed one monthly visit home, and was due to take this visit at the beginning of May. She never appeared. AINA maintains that Barwari and the KDP blocked an investigation into a possible crime.

AINA concludes that "the Helena Sawa tragedy resembles a well-established pattern of Kurdish authority complicity in attacks against Assyrians in the northern Iraqi provinces."

Since this story broke during the latest round of talks between the KDP and PUK in Washington, it has the potential to create a bad atmosphere around hopes to build a democratic, pluralistic society in Kurdistan. Recognising this problem, the mission of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan to Germany has issued a statement on 21 June in order to offset some of the negative propaganda. The statement says that the murder squad of the Dohuk police are investigating the affair. In addition, Mas'ud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party has ordered the establishment of an independent three-man commission to look into the murder.

According to some reports, Izzettin Barwar, who has been accused of the crime by some Assyrian circles, was in fact in Damascus when the body was found. But that may not exonerate him completely, and he remains a target of the investigation. (David Nissman)

ASSYRIANS TO UNITE FOR KURDISTAN CENSUS? In Iraq self-identity has always been entwined with religious identity, not only in the Arab communities, where the distinction between Sunni and Shi'i is clear, but in the Christian communities as well. This pattern has allowed the authorities to fragment ethnolinguistic communities and reduce their potential as challengers to the center of power in Iraq. Such has been the fate of the Assyrian community in northern Iraq.

Because of religious differences, the Assyrian community in northern Iraq has been divided into the Assyrians and the Chaldeans for administrative and census purposes. According to the Assyrian International News Agency on 13 June, '"Never has the government of Iraq recognized Assyrians as anything other than a religious minority. Moreover, with Chaldeans belonging to a different Assyrian Christian sect, the communities were always considered distinct by the government."

The prevalent mentality in Baghdad, Kurdistan, and among the Assyrians themselves has allowed this situation to continue. But recently two factors -- the forthcoming electoral census in areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government and a decision by the U.S. Census Bureau, taken in April 1999 to include both groups under the common rubric of Assyrians� have led many there to reconsider past practice.

AINA maintains that the decision "is considered significant in the mainstream Assyrian community primarily since it arose from with the community and secondarily was confirmed by U.S. government research." AINA points out that the decision is especially noteworthy because it follows statements by various Assyrian patriarchs as well as a statement by the Assyrian American National Federation and the Chaldean Federation of America that their respective communities comprise one people.

These decisions will have a direct impact in northern Iraq where both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) plan to hold their electoral census. AINA maintains that the Kurds had planned to count Assyrians and Chaldeans as two separate groups in order to fragment the Assyrian Christian communities in order to minimize their demographic significance. It is now clear that demography has increasing political significance and that the greater the number of Assyrians, the greater the extent of their power within the Kurdish parliament to be.

AINA also feels that this decision will have an impact in Baghdad: "With a consensus agreement by the communities, the government of Iraq will find still greater opposition to its policy of refusing to recognize the Assyrians and continuing to formalize and institutionalize artificial divisions of the Assyrian people into separate communities. The Iraqi government will also find it impossible to continue to ignore what will now number as the third largest demographic group in Iraq."

Under the terms of the September 1998 Washington Agreement, the parliament in Kurdistan is to be established on the basis of a "unified, pluralistic and democratic Iraq." The agreement asserts that seat must be set aside for representatives of all the groups living in the region -- in this case, Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrians. Thus, a unification of the Assyrian communities on an ethnic basis is likely to have major political consequences for them. (David Nissman)

IRAQ'S OIL PRODUCTION INCREASING. In an address to the Iraqi Parliament, Iraq's oil minister claimed that his country was on track to regain its standing as the second largest oil exporter in OPEC. Iraq currently has the capacity to export 2.2 million barrels per day, putting it in second position after Saudi Arabia. Amr Muhammad Rashid, the oil minister, also predicted that Iraq's oil production will jump to 3.5 million bpd in the first quarter of 2000. This would mean exports of some 3 million bpd after allowing for domestic consumption.

In his address, Rashid also said that Baghdad is not against talking to U.S. oil firms about investment and other oil dealings with Iraq. U.S. officials have said in the past that it is not against U.S. law to talk with Iraqi officials but that it is illegal for U.S. firms to sign any agreements with Iraq.

Because Iraq has been largely without foreign investment since the Gulf War, Baghdad says it needs about $30 billion in investments in the oil sector alone. Moreover, Baghdad is not getting help from its traditional partners. Rashid told the Baghdad newspaper "Al-Iqtisad" on 21 June that Chinese and Russian firms are not honoring oil contracts with Baghdad and would soon receive a warning. He added that "the oil ministry will revise the contracts" signed with Russian and Chinese companies charged with developing the southern fields if they do not keep their contractual commitments. (David Nissman)

A "SECRET ARMY" IN IRAQ? According to Amman's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 6 June, a political organization working inside Iraq is seeking to topple the regime through armed struggle and has launched military operations against the headquarters of the regime and the ruling Ba'th Party. According to informed sources in Amman, the paper said, yet another organization is working inside the Iraqi Army to topple the regime. But there is not yet independent confirmation of either claim.

That group supposedly launched an attack against Ba"th Party headquarters in Al-Kut on the night of 25-26 May killing several party officials and guards.

In response, Iraqi authorities have reportedly begun to reinforce the security agencies in order to root out the "organizational structures" of this organization. At the same time, the paper said, another secret organization called "The Iraq Army Secret Organization" [al-Tanzim al-sirri li al-jaysh al-Iraqi] is working toward the overthrow of Saddam Husseyn by the end of this year. According to a pamphlet distributed military barracks and security agencies, the pamphlet maintains that "the Iraqi Army is now more prepared to topple Iraq's political and military leadership, which drove the country to a real catastrophe."

Whether any of these organizations is allied to, or the same as the "Iraqi Army Officers' Secret Organization -- General Command", which had made 2 attacks on 15 May, including an attack on the Ba'th Party building in Al-Shu'la city, killing eleven, or whether they are more than rumors remains unclear. But such reports do suggest that dissent may be increasing inside Iraq, dissent that is being channeled by groups not included under the umbrella of the U.S. Iraq Liberation Act.. (David Nissman)