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Iraq Report: September 26, 1999

26 September 1999, Volume 2, Number 35

UNSC PERMANENT MEMBERS SEEK AGREEMENT ON IRAQ. Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council met in London on 15 September to try to formulate a new UN Iraq policy, but the meeting failed to reach agreement on a number of issues. It did, however, agree that on-site inspections must resume and that humanitarian conditions for Iraqis living under sanctions must improve. At the same time, the Iraqi propaganda campaign designed to sway international public opinion to end the sanctions and the U.S.-British bombing campaign continues unabated.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office spoke for many at the meeting when he said that "progress was made, but eventual success is not certain; they agreed that the discussion should continue," according to a 15 September AP report. He added that meetings were continuing in New York, and he expressed the hope that the foreign ministers of the 'permanent five'--Britain, France, China, Russia, and the United States--can conclude an agreement during the opening of the 54th UN General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Washington continues to demand that Iraq must comply with a UN mandate to abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction before sanctions are eased, according to a 16 September Dow Jones report. This condition has been rejected by Iraq and its chief supporters on the Security Council--China, France, and Russia.

A State Department official, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said "our view continues to be that the basis for any change in sanctions is Iraqi compliance. It means that you do not offer the Iraqis a change in sanctions as an inducement to comply. That's putting the cart before the horse."

On 15 September, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said on Baghdad radio that the meeting between the permanent UNSC members is "of no concern to Iraq" and that Iraq demands a denunciation of the U.S.-British aggression and a lifting of the sanctions. On the same day, Iraq's Information Ministry spokesman accused U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk of "presenting prevarications and insults" about Iraq. In a statement carried by Baghdad Television on 15 September, Indyk was said to have displayed "emotion and nervousness" because of Iraq's "success" in chairing the Arab League Council session and the "relatively positive" results it achieved.

In the same context, Iraqi Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Hamdun claimed that Washington had "lost its mind" because of Iraq's role in chairing the recent Arab League Council session. He added that U.S. "fabrications" are "not worthy of a reply" and proceed from Washington's "growing feeling of weakness" vis-a-vis "escalating trends in international public opinion" that favor Baghdad.

Baghdad clearly feels it has a chance to win a victory in the propaganda battle it is waging to put an end to the sanctions. This is a point stressed by the Iraqi press in the earlier part of last week, especially in the Baghdad newspapers "Al-Qadisiyyah" of 12 September, and "Al-Jumhuriyah" and "Al-Thawrah" of 13 September. Baghdad's position may have been reinforced by a statement from a UN official.

Douglas Jehl, writing in "The New York Times" on 20 September, said that the dispute over the plans to revive the international weapons inspections now poses increasing risks to the social fabric inside Iraq. Hans von Sponeck, who is the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said "don't play the battle on the backs of the civilian population by letting them wait until the more complex issues are resolved." He claimed further about the dangers of "using the human shield" in the hopes of coaxing Iraqi concessions on arms issues. (David Nissman)

THE DEBATE OVER WEAPONS INSPECTIONS INTENSIFIES. The major issue concerning Iraq in the news this week is the debate over the future of weapons inspections in Iraq at the UN General Assembly. The most important aspect of this is the debate among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The question to be resolved is the nature of the linkage, if any, between weapons inspections and the sanctions against Iraq.

The United States and Britain both support the Anglo-Dutch proposal, which has been floating around UN corridors for a couple of months. It would link the progress of a new regime of weapons inspections with the gradual lifting of sanctions. Most importantly for the debate is that neither Russia, China, nor France want to prolong the sanctions and would prefer to return to the old days of doing business as usual with Iraq in order to regain some of the billions of dollars owed them and perhaps make some more profits through the exploitation of Iraq's vast oil wealth.

The Russian and French proposals would commit Iraq to some form of weapons inspections, but lift the sanctions first. Iraq has said often it would not accept any proposals if Iraq is not consulted beforehand. The state of play was described by Barry Schweid in an AP report on 21 September. He suggested that France was "moving in the U.S. direction, while China was said to be unlikely to be the only holdout if Russia and France came aboard." But Russia is standing fast in its opposition to the Anglo-Dutch proposal and, hence, the U.S. position.

Iraq's position is also unchanged. As far as weapons inspections are concerned, Crossette says that the only surveillance the Iraqis are likely to accept would be non-intrusive monitoring without the short-notice or challenge-type inspections characterized by UNSCOM.

The chances of reaching agreement on any specific approach to the Iraqi question in the near future are slight: an AFP dispatch of 22 September quotes French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as saying that he has the impression there is a "global impasse" on Iraqi; British Foreign Secretary Robin Cooke agreed, and expressed his doubts that anything would be achieved by the end of the week.

It is clear, however, that the majority of members of the Security Council--permanent and not--feel that only some kind of continued weapons inspections would be necessary. The major question is not the inspections, but the sanctions themselves.

The London-based "Mideast Mirror" quotes an article by Mubder Alwaiss in this week's "Al-Majalla." He claims that as a result of the human cost of the nine-year embargo, "the Iraqi people are caught between the repression practiced by the Saddam [Husseyn] regime and the economic embargo which the U.S. insists on maintaining." (David Nissman)

INC TO HOLD CONGRESS IN NEW YORK. The Iraqi National Congress (INC) will hold its first full congress in New York in October, according to the "Guardian" on 15 September. It last convened a full congress in 1992. The INC also announced that it would work closely with the newly organized Centrist Democratic Movement at the UN and expressed the hope that at least some delegates would have the chance to meet with U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The announcement, made in London on 14 September, is part of the propaganda battle being waged between the Iraqi opposition and the Baghdad regime to influence international attitudes before and during the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with members of the Iraqi opposition in New York on Monday. According to wire service reports, she insisted that any easing of sanctions against Iraq must include the return of weapons inspectors to that country and must not enrich Saddam Husseyn for "palaces and poison gas."

Riyadh Al-Yawer, an INC official based in London, praised Albright "for her efforts to compel the Iraqi regime to abide by the United Nations Security Council resolutions that protect the people of Iraq."

At the meeting, other members of the opposition told Albright that they support lifting the caps on the "oil-for-food" program to allow Iraq to export more of its oil. But they added that there must be a mechanism to ensure that oil revenues will be used for food and medicine, not to enhance Iraqi military capabilities.

Following the meeting with Albright, the INC together with the Centrist Democratic Iraqi People's delegation issued a press statement in which they listed the five requests that would be made of the United Nations and its members with respect to Iraq: the establishment of human rights monitors throughout Iraq; the enhancement of the role of the UN in defining the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and oversee the purchase and distribution of foods and medicines; the resumption of weapons inspections, especially for weapons of mass destruction; the broadening and strengthening of no-fly and no-drive zones; and the establishment by the UN Security Council of an Iraqi War Crimes Tribunal. (David Nissman)

MILOSEVIC RECEIVES NEW IRAQI AMBASSADOR. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic received on 15 September the newly appointed extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Iraq to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tanjug reported on 15 September that the ambassador, Sami Sadun Kati (as given), presented his credentials.

Sadun praised "the heroic struggle of the people of Yugoslavia against the aggressors and expressed Iraq's readiness to participate in cooperation with Yugoslavia with the aim of realizing joint interests."

Milosevic stressed Yugoslavia's "openness towards the expansion of ties and cooperation between Yugoslav and Iraqi partners."

Tanjug on 20 September mentioned that Kati was received on the following Monday, 20 September, by Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj, to whom the Iraqi ambassador stressed the interest of Iraqi companies for the continuation of economic cooperation, especially projects in the sphere of electrical power, telecommunications, irrigation, and industry. (David Nissman)

BRITISH EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT PAPAL VISIT TO IRAQ. The British Foreign Office confirmed on 20 September that it was pressing John Paul II not to meet with Saddam Husseyn during his pre-millennium visit to the Middle East this December. According to a report issued by the London Press Association, the Foreign Office contends that Husseyn has the reputation of using state visits to try to "legitimize its brutal policies."

The Foreign Office spokesperson added that "we are not aware at this stage that the Pope will meet Saddam Husseyn. But we are in contact with the Vatican on a wide range of issues, including Iraq."

The potential impact of a papal visit to Iraq has also been reflected in the Arabic-language press. The Saudi writer Abdallah Al-Qafari had an article in the London-based "Al-Hayat" on 16 September called "Developments in the Iraqi Question: An attempt to Understand," in which the Pope's upcoming visit has a role as a leit-motif amid a number of questions brought about by the incoherence of current U.S. policy. Al-Qafari makes the point the visit "will not be to U.S. liking." He notes further that "the Vatican's entry is just a sign of the depth of the crisis that is facing the U.S. administration in choosing its future options." (David Nissman)

KDP-PUK HIGHER COORDINATION COMMITTEE MEETS. The 43rd meeting of the Higher Coordination Committee, which consists of officials from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), came to an end in Koysanjak on 17 September. It discussed steps needed to implement the Washington Agreement signed between them in September 1998. A Reuters dispatch from Ankara of 17 September points out that few steps had been taken thus far in resolving the issues between the two Kurdish parties.

A KDP spokesman quoted the joint statement following the meeting, and said "both sides express their commitment to all parts of the [Washington] agreement and promise to implement them in order to bring peace and stability to Iraqi Kurdistan."

The two most important points at issue are that the PUK claims the KDP is not sharing revenues from the illicit oil-smuggling trade to Turkey, and the KDP maintains that the PUK is not doing enough to honor a promise to "deny sanctuary" to Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Several issues were brought closer to resolution. The two sides agreed to deploy heavy weapons away from KDP-PUK frontlines and to reduce the deployment of troops along these lines. They also agreed that each side would facilitate the return of 30 internally displaced families to their homes. A PUK statement on the meeting notes that "this is to be a prelude to a more systematic and expanding repatriation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the PUK-KDP conflict"

At the same time that the KDP and PUK are beginning discussions about returning IDPs to their homes, a new class of IDPs is being created. Kurdish Media on 20 September, citing "Kurdistan Niwe," the organ of the PUK, reports that the Iraqi regime is deporting Kurdish families from areas under its control to PUK and KDP-controlled regions of northern Iraq.

Media issues were also brought closer to resolution. The meeting called for an end to negative press statements by restraining their media outlets "from engaging in rhetoric not conducive to the spirit of reconciliation."

One possible reason for the relatively positive tone of the Higher Coordination Council (HCC) meeting was that U.S. Ambassador Beth Jones, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, had recently written to the leaderships of the KDP and PUK urging progress in the peace process.

Whether meetings such as that of the HCC and its accompanying statements will actually give any impetus to the peace process between the PUK and the KDP remains to be seen. A September 17 commentary in the "Kurdistan Observer" by Siamand Banaa raised precisely this question. He noted that "Higher committees, middle committees, politburo committees and all manner of committees keep shuffling back and forth to 'implement the Washington peace process.' Optimistic and sometimes terse 'statements,' cushioned in cloudy phraseology, are what the masses have come to expect regarding the progress towards peace, elections, and unification, our people's ultimate goals."

And he added that a return of the PUK's MPs to parliament would not be construed as a concession to the KDP, but "a concession to the struggling people of Kurdistan and to reality." Moreover, he pointed out that this will truly reinvigorate the peace process, and bring unity to the Kurdish national movement. (David Nissman)

KPD ASKS PKK TO WTHDRAW FROM IRAQ. Sami Abdurrahman, chairman of the politburo of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), called on the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) to leave the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan. According to Anatolia on 21 September, Abdurrahman, in an interview with the Radio Free Iraq, said that the Iran-Iraq-Turkey triangle was not a buffer zone, and added that the Turkish and Iranian armies, as well as the KPD peshmergas [soldiers] were on their respective borders.

Abdurrahman also pointed out that due to massacres by the PKK, 420 villages near the border were evacuated and cannot be reconstructed due to the presence of the terrorist organization.

On the subject of the PKK's "unilateral ceasefires," he added that they had declared such a ceasefire after the KPD-PKK conflict in 1995, but "a few months later they restarted antagonistic attitudes against our people. The PKK's promises in the past are not convincing and do not have validity."

He suggested that "the leading staff of the PKK has to review their general policy, tactics, attitudes and relations they set up with the countries in the region on the basis of fighting against the Kurdish people on behalf of the Kurdish people." (David Nissman)