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Iraq Report: July 30, 1999

30 July 1999, Volume 2, Number 28

IRAQI PARANOIA ABOUT BIOLOGICAL WAR. Baghdad has never accused the United Nations or the West of conducting biological warfare against Iraq, but a recent series of statements in the Iraqi press suggests that at least some Iraqi officials believe that one is taking place. And their conclusions are likely to increase paranoia among ordinary Iraqis about what the international community is doing against their country. That will only make future negotiations between Baghdad and the rest of the world that much more difficult.

Dr. Fadil Abbas, head of the Iraqi State Veterinary Organization, told the INA news agency on 26 July that the appearance in 1996 of the Asian snail-fly disease, some 6,839 cases of which have been registered in Iraq, is a product of what he called "criminal aggression and the embargo."

Concerning the more recent hoof and mouth epidemic about which, Abbas added that "the situation has [been] exacerbated with the existence of the UN inspection teams." As of now, he reported, more than 2.5 million cows have been infected with hoof and mouth of which more than half a million have perished (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 March 1999).

Not only are Iraqi livestock being attacked, according to this and other officials, but agriculture is as well. Iraqis have suggested that a demining expert had somehow planted locust eggs in the northern portion of the country (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 July 1999). Were they to hatch, these eggs presumably would create a plague of locusts across the country.

The most diabolical suggestion appeared in a recent edition of the Ba'th party newspaper "Al-Thawra." According to INA on 26 July, this paper reported what it said was the discovery in a UNSCOM laboratory of nine bottles which contain, or contained, VX gas. According to INA, "Al-Thawra stresses that these purely hostile political stances are an extension to the aggression and ongoing embargo employed against Iraq. All this is aimed at preventing the Security Council from fulfilling its legal obligations toward Iraq as stipulated in Resolution 687."

The Baghdad newspaper "Al-Qadissiya," Reuters reported on 27 July, carried a lead editorial stating that "American and British envoys have blackmailed the [UN] Security Council in order to prevent an analysis of these materials [the VX containers] because it would show that they had contaminated Iraqi missile warheads with the VX."

There are other explanations offered by the Iraqi press for these various events and epidemics: INA blames the snail fly and the hoof and mouth epidemics on a shortage of vaccines resulting from "the shelling of laboratories for the production of veterinary vaccines and the total destruction of major production factories of a humanitarian nature." UNSCOM has maintained that these facilities were also engaged in the manufacture of chemical and biological warfare components.

And the reported planting of locust eggs may have been pure invention since the person who allegedly planted the locust eggs was never in the area where they were supposed to have been put in the ground.

Even concerning the VX charges, "Al-Thawra" maintains that "the contents of these bottles were used by UNSCOM to pollute the heads of Iraqi missiles and then accuse Iraq of loading these missile heads, or some of them, with that gas."

Again, Iraq has never said that the UN is conducting a biological war against Iraq, and there is no evidence to support such a charge. But Baghdad's connecting of these various biological events with attempts to keep imposing the sanctions is close to such an accusation. (David Nissman)

SUDAN TO REOPEN KUWAIT EMBASSY. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail arrived in Kuwait on 25 July to reopen his country's embassy nine years after it closed when Kuwait accused Khartoum of backing Baghdad during the Gulf crisis.

Kuwait has slowly been rebuilding relations with Arab countries accused by the Kuwaitis of siding with Iraq during the Gulf war, AFP reported. Jordan reopened its embassy in March during a visit by Foreign Minister Abd-el-Ilah al-Khatib, and Yemen resumed diplomatic ties in May during a visit by Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel Kader Bajammal.

In the context of Iraq's development of its relations among other Arab countries, INA of 26 July reports that Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf praised the stand that the late King Hasan II of Morocco had taken on lifting the blockade on Iraq. He attended King Hasan II's funeral along with an official delegation led by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan. (David Nissman)

IRAQ, BELARUS SIGN NEW AGREEMENT. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Zametalin on 27 July signed a new joint trade and cooperation agreement between their countries, Iraqi television reported.

Some of its provisions in the areas of agricultural exchange are already being implemented. Zametalin said Baghdad expected it to lead to a broad expansion in bilateral ties in the areas of transport, communications, agriculture, science, and culture.

The two countries will now exchange ambassadors and form a Joint Iraqi-Belarusian Committee for Economic and Trade Cooperation. "The committee's main task will be to launch a common market between the two countries with a view to enhancing and following up the various aspects of bilateral cooperation without the use of brokers." (David Nissman)

BOSNIAN SERB-IRAQI COOPERATION INAUGURATED. SRNA -- the Bijeljina-based official news agency of the Bosnian Serb Republic -- announced on 26 July that the chairman of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) Vojislav Seselj, and the charge d'affaires of the Iraqi Embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), Walid Salih Al-Adhami, have held talks in Belgrade on the "criminal attacks by the USA against Iraq and the FRY." They also reached an agreement on cooperation between the SRS and the ruling Ba'th Party. The two sides are to hold their first meeting in September.

According to the SRNA report, the SRS statement stated that "it was emphasized with pride that the Serbian and Iraqi people had courageously opposed the hegemony and totalitarianism of the USA, and its wish to impose colonial relations in the world through the use of brutal force." (David Nissman)

UDAYY RESURFACES. During an assasination attempt several years ago, Udayy Saddam Husseyn was struck by at least 16 bullets. Since then he has been undergoing a gradual recovery. London's "Al-Majallah" reported on 11 July that "official Iraqi sources" now say that his recovery to date is a "first step toward regaining his personal and political positions." If true, Udayy could regain his position as number two in the regime, a position his younger brother, Qusayy, has assumed in recent months (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 23 July 1999).

A French youth delegation visited Iraq between 18-26 June and met with Udayy in his capacity as head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the Youth Welfare Committee. He told the French delegation: "The resumption of relations with us would serve France's interests well." In other comments, he denounced the United States, noting that "oil is the key to the world economy. The United States has everything except what Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, and Libya have, and the United States wants it all." (David Nissman)

U.S. OIL FIRMS CLOSED OUT OF IRAQ INVESTING. Sami Sharif, an undersecretary in Iraq's Oil Ministry, said that a bid by a group of U.S. oil companies to invest in the country's oil industry had been rejected because "the bid would threaten Iraq's sovereignty over its oil and break Baghdad's declared policy of giving contracts only to firms whose countries support the Iraqi position." The 27 July AFP report did not name the American firms involved. But it did say that Iraq plans to increase production to six million barrels per day over the next decade and was discussing bids with French, Russian, and Chinese oil companies. (David Nissman)

SAUDI PRESS ATTACKS SADDAM. Following Saddam Husseyn's National Day speech (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 23 July 1999), the Saudi press on 18 July attacked both the content of his speech and Saddam personally. "'Ukaz," for example, said that "there can be no stability without assimilation with the international community and the world and within the state itself." It added that "there can be no security in the absence of mutual trust between the ruler and his subjects." And it argued that there would be no decent life if there were no one to plan for the benefit of his nation and his people."

Moreover, "'Ukaz" blamed all of this on the mentality of Husseyn, pointing out that "he is a ruler who would not hesitate to provoke the whole world even if the price meant that his people would have to live without air to breathe."

On the same day, Riyadh's "Al-Jazirah" complained that "Saddam Husseyn insolently blamed all Iraq's problems and tragedies--which Iraq has been experiencing since Saddam and his clique took power--on Israel, the United States, and the Arab Gulf states." And it noted that Saddam's actions have hurt Arabs more generally, splitting Arab ranks, weakening the Palestinian cause, and forcing Arabs to make concessions ot Israel. (David Nissman)

NEW IRAQI 'YOUTH ARMY' TO PROTECT CITIES. Saman Nuh, the correspondent of London's "Al-Zaman" newspaper, reported from northern Iraq on 24 July that the Iraqi military will begin training young people in civil defense work. Specifically, students at Baghdad University's college will undergo a one-month program.

Nuh adds that "strong signals have emerged about the government's intention to form a new loyalist army from adolescents aged 12 to 17." This army, strongly reminiscent of the Volksturm created by Adolf Hitler in the last days of the Second World War to defend a crumbling Germany, will "defend the cities during troubles."

This organizational concept surfaced following Saddam Husseyn's instructions at a 20 July cabinet meeting. According to "Al-Zaman," a special committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz is supervising this program. (David Nissman)

PKK COMMANDER ON PUK, KDP. Ozgur Politika, a publication closely aligned with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), on 15 July carried an interview with the PKK Commander Duran Kalkan. In it, Kalkan provided some new details on recent Turkish incursions into "South Kurdistan" (Iraqi Kurdistan) as well as on the latest talks between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Washington.

Kalkan pointed out that the KDP and the PUK basically issued similar statements, revealing that "the parties from the South did not obtain from the U.S. -- who they trust so much -- what they wanted. In a sense, their latest statements reflect a disappointment and a hopelessness. It seems there are powers/actors who are hampering progress and preventing a solution in the South."

A report by Anatolia on 21 July said that the Kurdish Human Rights Association, which operates in Northern Iraq, condemned the "massacres which the terrorist PKK organization committed in Hajj 'Umran and Joman towns." And in fact, both the PUK and KDP had requested that the U.S. expand the no-fly zones to include all of Iraqi Kurdistan and provide the Kurdish-controlled territories in North Iraq with greater security guarantees.

As far as the KDP position against the PKK is concerned, Kalkan said that the KDP is allied with outside forces and is under their influence. (He is referring to the alliance between the KDP militia and the Turkish Army against the KDP). Kalkan alludes to calls of the Kurdish National Congress, which itself is closely aligned with the PKK, to strengthen Kurdish national unity. Kalkan stressed that the PKK supports the KNC's work and "will always abide by its decisions." He added that he thinks "the KNC should put more effort" in attempts to gain Kurdish unity. And he pointed out that "the KNC should include the KDP and any other organization into these efforts." (David Nissman)

PKK-SOUTH ORGANIZATION IN NORTHERN IRAQ. The Ankara edition of "Milliyet" reported on 26 July that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has established a new organization called "PKK-South" in Northern Iraq to use as its base for attacks on Turkey as well as against the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Halil Acar, a member of the PKK Central Committee and a veteran military commander, has been appointed to head the new organization.

According to Kurdish sources in the United States, the "PKK-South will be responsible for PKK activities in northern Iraq and will try to establish itself as a permanent Kurdish element in the region like the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

A report by London's "Al-Hayat" cited by "Milliyet" said that the new "organization is expected to carry out acts of sabotage in Irbil and Dahuq."

"Milliyet's" report also suggests that the PKK has intensified its activities, particularly its cooperation with the PUK, last year, although the PUK recently promised during its Washington talks with the KDP to end its PKK support. (David Nissman)