January 9, 2003

Iraq News Wire

January 9, 2003
Iraq |

In this wire:

I. Saddam: The Modern Day Saladdin

II. The Iraqi 'Day of Martyrdom'

III. Iraq's Prison System: Torture, Amnesty, and Status of Political Prisoners

IV. Northern Iraq

  1. Update on Ansar Al-Islam
  2. Iraqi Efforts to "Arabize" the Kurds
  3. Kurdish Officials on Iraqi War Crimes
  4. Three Kurdish Women Appointed as Judges
  5. Kurdish Oil
  6. Reconciliation between Two Kurdish Parties

V. The Iraqi Opposition

  1. Interview with Iraq National Congress Representative in Lebanon/Syria
  2. The Iraqi Opposition Conference in London: Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Kuwaiti Observers
  3. Organization Calling for Reconciliation with Saddam
  4. The Role of Shi'a in the Movement
  5. The Iraqi Communist Party Speaks
  6. Jordan vs. the Iraqi Opposition

VI. Iraq's Relations with Its Neighbors

  1. Iraqi-Palestinian Relations
  2. Iraqis in Jordan
  3. Reactions to Saddam's "Apology" to Kuwait

VII. On the Eve of Possible War

  1. Iraq is Set to Welcome Volunteers and "Human Shields"
  2. Early Distribution of Food Rations and a Special Reprieve for Martyrs
  3. Iraqi Refugees and Iran
  4. Iranian Dissidents Prepare to Leave Iraq
  5. Report: Syria Gets Ready to Absorb One Million Iraqi Refugees, and a Syrian Denial

I. Saddam: The Modern Day Saladin

Iraq recently marked the 9th anniversary of the declaration of 'The Faith Campaign,' whose main goal is "to educate a generation that believes in Allah, loves its country and believes in the Arab nation, its mission, and goals." [1]

On this occasion, the pro-Iraqi daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi published an analysis from its correspondent in Baghdad in which it said that Saddam "elected to seek refuge in Islam against the radical movements that swept numerous Arab societies… even if such a move angered the secular Ba'ath party … According to experts, in 1991 the Iraqi authorities tried to hide behind Islam in order to avoid new tremors, especially since they faced a Shi'a uprising in the south an a Kurdish one in the north during the second Gulf War… In 'The Faith Campaign,' the rank and file of the Ba'ath party had to go back to the classrooms to learn Islamic doctrines. Islamic universities were established as well as special radio stations that broadcast the Koran. Bars closed down, and restaurants were barred from serving alcoholic beverages… Imams at the mosques… hail the Iraqi president and describe him as a modern day Saladin… The Imam of one of the largest mosques in Baghdad said that people are convinced that the U.S. is launching a crusade against the Iraqis and Muslims, therefore they are defending their religion [by fighting back]…" [2]

II. The Iraqi 'Day of Martyrdom'

On December 1st, Iraq marked 'The Day of the Martyr'. On this occasion the Iraqi press published poems and articles glorifying martyrs and martyrdom. Al-Jumhuriya daily published an article titled "Martyrdom is a Will and a Choice" in which it said that: "…Martyrdom had a special essence in Islamic and Arab history and the martyrs had a great status in the eyes of Allah, and society bestowed on them the position that they deserved…" The paper goes on to list ten special attributes of martyrdom, such as: "Martyrdom is a free choice that stems from a true conviction in a holy or a national issue… It is the motivator for the struggle against everything hostile and false… [It] proves that death creates life and attains goals… [Martyrdom] has no set time or place… it is the answer to a need… when martyrdom is the only way to defeat aggression and tyranny…" [3]

On the same subject, Al-Iraq daily stated: "…The honorable religious scholars agree unanimously that martyrdom is a great honor and a divine gift that Allah bestows upon selected [individuals] among His followers. It is a [divine] selection as evidenced by His words [in the Koran] 'and He makes you martyrs' and His pronouncement on behalf of the martyr: 'Do not consider those who were killed for the cause of Allah dead, but alive beside their God'…" The article goes on to enumerate the six rewards that the martyr receives for his act: "With the first drop of blood he is given absolution and he can see his seat in paradise. He is spared the torture of the grave. He is secure from the Great Horror [of Judgment Day]. He is crowned with the crown of glory. He marries black-eyed [virgins]. He can vouch for seventy of his relatives [to enter Paradise]." The article quotes the clergy's interpretations of the Hadith [oral traditions] as saying that the martyr does not feel pain, that martyrdom is the highest level of Jihad for the cause of Allah and His word, and for defending the country, property and honor. [4]

III. Iraq's Prison System: Torture, Amnesty, and Status of Political Prisoners

A Kurdish prisoner, Raid Qader Mintek who spent eight years in Iraqi jails and was included in the general amnesty, described in an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat some of the events that he witnessed there, such as an incident where "an Iraqi citizen was brought to jail after being accused of stealing an automatic rifle belonging to Uday Saddam Hussein. A few days later Uday himself came to the prison, and cut a few of the man's fingers with a sword. Then it was discovered that the man was not guilty, but actually a member of one of the Tikrit clans [Saddam's birthplace], so Uday apologized and paid the man 25,000 dinars, the equivalent of $10 at the time..." [5]

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Amm, in an article written by Hamid Al-Maliki and titled "What Amnesty are They Talking About?" reported that the news from inside Iraq indicates that "mass executions of prisoners and political detainees are still going on, which implies that the 'so called amnesty'… is nothing but a big lie with a propaganda goal, namely to create confusion concerning the repressive measures that the regime uses against our people and the opposition…" According to the article, once again plastic bags with body parts are found on the streets of Baghdad, and the Iraqi secret service surrounds these cases with secrecy and conceals information from relatives. [6]

The Iraqi Communist Party issued a statement declaring that the fate of thousands of Iraqi political prisoners is still unknown and expressed its fear that "they were killed in execution campaigns of political prisoners that went on for several years…" [7] Also, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted a report published by the independent Kurdish paper Ja Maw Har that the Iraqi authorities executed six political prisoners during the month of October. [8]

"Isbu'iya Media, a Kurdishweekly published in Irbil [northern Iraq] reported that on November 8, 2002 Iraqi authorities executed eight officers who worked in a missile depot in the area of Biji, in the Tikrit Province north of Baghdad. They were accused of blowing up the depot earlier. The executions were carried out under the direct supervision of Ali Al-Majid, Saddam's cousin…" The weekly listed the names and ranks of the officers. [9]

A news report from Beirut reported that Lebanese security forces found an Iraqi dissident executed by hanging in his apartment in Sur. He was also beaten on his head with an iron bat. According to the report Walid Ibrahim Al-Miyahi has been waiting for an immigration permit to the U.S. [10]

IV. Northern Iraq

1. Update on Ansar Al-Islam:

Ansar Al-Islam: Still a Security Problem

"Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq maintain that the radical group Ansar Al-Islam, thought to have ties with Al-Qa'ida, is still considered a security threat to them despite the arrest of its leader..." According to an official in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK], whose forces are trying to keep track of the group, "Ansar Al-Islam... planted mines in all of the south-eastern area of Kurdistan..." He added: "They have important military weapons, heavy machineguns, mortars and ammunition. We think that the Iraqi regime, and possibly Iran too, supplied them with these weapons, but we cannot verify that 100%..." [11]

Another Kurdish report from Al-Suleimaniya [northern Iraq], says that Ansar Al-Islam carried out an armed raid on the outskirts of the city of Halabja (north-east of Suleimaniya) and was confronted with combined forces of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and PUK. The incident resulted in six fatalities and 14 injuries. According to the dispatch "the preliminary investigation indicated that one of the fatalities among Ansar Al-Islam was an 'Arab Afghan' [who fought or trained with Al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan]…" [12] Two other clashes, which resulted in additional fatalities, were reported later. [13]

Casualties in Clashes between Kurds and Ansar Al-Islam in Northern Iraq

"More than 50 people have been killed in battles between the PUK and Muslims [identified later as members of Ansar Al-Islam] that the PUK accuse of having ties with Al-Qa'ida in Iraqi Kurdistan…" According to a PUK official, the battles involved artillery fire. He added that "among the casualties of Ansar Al-Islam were two Syrians, two Palestinians, and two Iraqis… Another [Kurdish] security source revealed that a suicide attempt against the head of security in Suleimaniya was thwarted, and the culprit, who was trained in a camp belonging to Ansar Al-Islam, was arrested…" [14] In an earlier report about the battles, Kurdish sources said that 30 civilians were also killed, and that "about half of the military [Kurdish] casualties were executed by Ansar Al-Islam after their apprehension… Kurdish military eyewitnesses confirmed the official reports about atrocities committed by Ansar Al-Islam… among them, pouring gasoline on a soldier and setting him on fire before shooting him." [15] quoted a report by the Kurdish daily Hawlati [December 16, 2002] that "the head of Ansar Al-Islam in Kurdistan, Abu Abdallah Al-Shafii, who had trained in Afghanistan, was killed in fighting between elements of his group and PUK." Albawaba, however, noted that there was no confirmation of this report from an independent source. [16]

And in a special dispatch from northern Iraq, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that the number of Ansar Al-Islam members has increased to about a thousand due to an influx of Arab and foreign fighters who fled from Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. The article quotes a suicide bomber who was arrested recently when he tried to approach a PUK camp: "there are many Arabs, Syrians, and Iraqis, as well as Iranians and Turks, and even four Americans [members of the group]… many of them trained in Afghanistan…" [17]

Al-Talabani: Iran Promised to Help Expel Ansar Al–Islam from Iraqi Kurdistan

"Jalal Al-Talabani, leader of PUK, said that Iran promised to provide military assistance to expel the fundamentalist members of Ansar Al-Islam from a patch of land that they control within the area under the control of his party… Al-Talbani added, in an interview in Damascus, that he did not consult with the U.S. about this plan and that he did not expect anything from the U.S. for escalating the struggle against the radical fundamentalists in Iraqi Kurdistan… He did not provide any details about the nature of the Iranian support and refrained from mentioning a date for the beginning of the attack [against Ansar Al-Islam]…" [18]

2. Iraqi Efforts to "Arabize" the Kurds

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas published an in-depth report from its correspondent in northern Iraq detailing the history and results of the efforts of the central government in Baghdad to 'Arabize' the Kurdish region in the north. Following is a synopsis of the report: The early manifestations of this policy started with the establishment of the Iraqi state in the 1920's, however it crystallized following the coup of 1963 when Michel Aflaq coined the concept 'Kurdish Arabism.' Within a few weeks of the coup, a strong military campaign was launched against the Kurds, with the participation of Syrian troops. The central regime decided to settle armed groups from western Arab clans in the Kurdish areas, as a first step to 'Arabize' the region, however, Kurdish armed resistance undermined the plan. In 1968, the Iraqi regime started another campaign and, taking advantage of deteriorating relations with Iran, removed tens of thousands of Kurdish families from areas adjacent to the Iranian border under the pretext that they were supporting Iran. The campaign continued until 1980, when preparations for the war with Iran got underway. According to several sources, the number of displaced Kurds reached 1,168,416. Add to this horrifying number, an unspecified number of men between the ages of 18-30 who were moved, and disappeared with no trace. And add again about 200,000 people whom the regime kidnapped in 1989 during the infamous 'Al-Anfal Operations' and who disappeared also with no trace.

The report continues with details about other measures that the Baghdad regime has been taking against the Kurds in order to force them to leave their region, such as "demolishing businesses and small stores along the route of the oil company in Karkuk, depriving their Kurdish owners their livelihood..." and "distributing land in the Karkuk area among Iraqi officers, and getting official pledges [from them]… to refrain from employing Kurdish farmers on their lands..." and "after arresting and executing Kurdish and Turkmen clergymen, the Iraqi regime 'imported' imams and preachers from Al-Ramadi and instituted them in mosques in Karkuk… it also replaced all the Kurdish and Turkmen teachers in Islamic schools with Arabs..." Finally, the report stated that: "the Iraqi regime coined the term 'correcting the ethnicity' [in the official ID cards and documents], in order to force non-Arabs in areas controlled by the central regime to change their ethnic identity to 'Arab,' otherwise they would be subjected to displacement…" [19]

3. Kurdish Official on Iraqi War Crimes

"The Kurdish Human Rights Minister in Suleimaniya, Salah Rashid, said that his government completed the statistics of victims of the 'Al-Anfal Operation' and the chemical attacks in the city of Halbja, and is now ready to submit them to any international tribunal that looks into the war crimes committed by the Iraqi regime against the Kurds in Iraq… He indicated that close relatives of the victims who submitted claims to his office, were encouraged to submit similar claims to the U.N. and other human rights organizations to indict the Iraqi regime…" [20]

4. Three Kurdish Women Appointed as Judges

"The government of Kurdistan led by the PUK … announced the appointment of three additional women judges in Al-Suleimaniya… PM Barham Salih expressed his hope that this step would be a beginning for Kurdish women to assume their place in other governmental sectors… The PUK government had appointed the first female judge earlier this year, an unprecedented step on both the Kurdish and Iraqi levels." [21]

5. Kurdish Oil

In a report from northern Iraq, Al-Qabas pointed out that recent geophysical surveys in the Kurdish region indicated that there could be as many as 70 major oil wells there, in addition to three of the richest oil wells in the world that currently exist in the region. Additionally, "the cost of oil production in the north [of Iraq] is far lower than in the south..." The report goes on to say that the autonomous administration in northern Iraq does not own even one drop of the local oil, and that the region depends on the central regime for fuel and oil allocations. "This way, the central regime is still holding the oil and gas card against the Kurds and other citizens of the region, and is playing it when determining many of its political positions. However, the regime refrained from using this card in a radical way, such as stopping the flow of oil [to the Kurds], even when its relations with the Kurdish leaders deteriorated…" [22]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported from Suran military base in northern Iraq that Hamed Affandi, the commander of Kurdish militias in Suran, declared that "his forces will attempt to control the oil rich fields close-by if the U.S. launches its military strike against Saddam…" The newspaper commented on this statement, as well as on the Kurdish constitutional draft which declared Karkuk as the future Kurdish capital, and said that: "The Kurdish attempts to extend their control beyond the protected region [the no-fly zone] to the oil rich fields that surround Karkuk and Mosul, are fraught with political and military dangers that may undermine the Pentagon's plans…" One of the dangers, according to the newspaper, is opening a new front that may become a distraction from the main objective of removing Saddam Hussein from power. [23]

6. Reconciliation between Two Kurdish Parties

In a report from its correspondent in northern Iraq, Al-Hayat daily reported that the Iraqi Kurds are living in fear of being deceived again by the great powers and that they would become "the crumbs in a conflict of interests between the parties involved in the Iraqi problem." According to the report, this fear prompted the leaders of the two main Kurdish parties "to swallow the bitter pill and to reconcile, despite the enormous sensitivities that exist between them… since 1979." The report concludes with a quote from the German Marshal Helmut Von Moltka, who said: "It is impossible to vanquish the Kurds if they are united..." [24] In an earlier report, Al-Hayat stated that when talking off-the-record, "Kurdish politicians do not hesitate to express their fears that the destruction of the Iraqi military apparatus may create a vacuum and ethnic strife. Some of them recall horrifying scenes from the uprising in the south in 1991, and insinuate that such an explosion of violence may pave the way to an Iranian and Turkish direct or indirect intervention. Kurdish politicians oppose replacing one dictatorship with another, but concede at the same time that the [Iraqi] opposition may not be ready to take the helm immediately and restore democracy and stability…" [25]

V. The Iraqi Opposition

1. Interview with INC Representative in Lebanon/Syria

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir published an extensive interview with Izzat Al-Shahbandar, representative of the INC in Syria and Lebanon and one of the organizers of the opposition's conference in London. Asked about his reaction to the position of Ahmad Chalabi, head of INC, about rejecting oil contractswith Russia and France, and negotiating instead with American companies. He replied that those issues would be in the hands of the future administration in Iraq, "however, we will definitely differentiate, in our relations, between the interests of countries that supported the regime in Iraq, and those who stood by the Iraqi people and their struggling national forces…"

Al-Shahbandar, who is a Shi'a Muslim, was asked about the demise of the uprising in Iraq in 1991, and whether the "fear from a Shi'ite expansion" may deter Gulf States from supporting them again. He said that: "The Gulf States realize more than anyone else the scope of the tragedy that occurred in Iraq and the region because of Saddam's regime." And he added: "Our national agenda for change does not get its legitimacy or power from others." Asked about Iran's position he said: "There is a difference between interference and support. We have been in contact with all interested and good [intentioned] parties, and we did not notice any willingness in Iran to interfere." Asked about the Iraqi regime's initiative to form a national unity government, he said that: "Whenever the regime feels under pressure, whether for domestic or international reasons, its efforts on this issue escalate… We have no intention in sharing power with it … and the only way to avoid war and save Iraq from disasters is if Saddam and all those who are with him relinquish power immediately…" [26]

2. The Iraqi Opposition Conference in London

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily reports from Baghdad that the Iraqi official media ignored the opposition conference in London, therefore "most of the Iraqis had no opportunity to follow the proceedings…" Al-Sharq Al-Awsat points out that since foreign newspapers are banned in Iraq, and since only a few Iraqi officials can receive foreign television programs, the only way the average citizen can get such news is by listening to foreign radio stations. The paper goes on to quote a foreign diplomat who stated that "the Iraqi opposition distanced itself from the people, who no longer consider it its representative…" The paper then quoted an Arab diplomat who said that "the Iraqis will never agree to be ruled by an 'Iraqi Karzai'… the ties that the Iraqi opposition forged with the U.S. were a grave mistake… even the harshest opponents of Saddam will not agree to be ruled by an American puppet…" [27]

The Turkish daily, Daily News , quoted [November 6, 2002] a source close to Iraqi opposition groups stating that Syria, Turkey, and Iran will send observers to the Iraqi opposition's upcoming conference in order to gather information about the latest developments. However the paper indicated that the Turkish foreign ministry denied sending observers to the meeting. [28] Kuwait, for its part, announced that the Kuwaiti embassy in London will be in charge of representing Kuwait in the conference, however this presence "will be limited to the opening [session] only." [29]

Concerning the next opposition conference agenda, Al-Quds Al-Arabi [London] reported that it will not include "the issue of federalism and the establishment of a transitional government, to avoid exacerbating the ongoing discourse among the various factions…" According to the paper, observers consider this omission "a new setback for the Kurdish-Shi'a alliance within the opposition…" [30] [An earlier report by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat said that the Iraqi Democratic Assyrian Movement expressed its disappointment with the 'federalism plan' which was submitted by the two major Kurdish parties to the Kurdish parliament recently.] [31]

3. Organization Calling for Reconciliation with Saddam

"Abed Al-Jabar Al-Kubeisi, leader of the Iraqi National Alliance, which claims that it has been negotiating with the Iraqi regime about political reforms, called in Baghdad [December 15, 2002] for 'reconciliation' with Saddam Hussein's regime and said that 'the first priority is to defend the homeland'… Al-Kubeisi, who has returned to Iraq after living in exile in France for 26 years, said that 'he found in Baghdad an atmosphere of forgiveness, which will contribute to reconciliation efforts and to a national dialogue...' He added that Tariq Aziz had informed him formally that he was allowed to return to Iraq, to establish a party and to publish a paper…" [32]

4. The Role of the Shi'a in the Movement

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily published an historical analysis by Khalid Al-Qashtini about the role of the Iraqi Shi'a in government, the army and later in the opposition movement. According to the writer, Iraq inherited the Ottoman mentality, and later the Turkish mentality, of hostility towards Iran and the Shi'a. "When the Iraqi monarchy was established, there was not one Shi'ite officer in the Iraqi army… The Sunni leadership was convinced that the [Iraqi] Shi'a would align themselves with their Shi'a brethrens in Iran. And that became their pretext to exclude the Shi'a from the military academy, the leadership of the army and from the security forces. This is how the army and the security institutions remained in the hands of Sunna who were extreme in their sectarianism."

"This is a dangerous problem that the present opposition leaders rarely dealt with. Those army generals will resist any regime transfer to the hands of the Shi'a. If a Shi'ite government emerges, elections or no elections, they will keep the tradition of the Iraqi army by moving against it and by ousting it. Naturally I heard many Shi'a talk about the necessity to change the army leadership. But how?... Are there enough Shi'a generals to take their place?..." The writer goes on to say that if the Sunna lost control over Iraq they have no one to blame but themselves, because "their seventy year rule was marked by corruption, pillage, exploitation and disregard…" [33]

In an analysis of the opposition conference in London, Hassan Salman [described as an academician and a member of the Iraqi opposition] pointed out that the absence of several Shi'a organizations and prominent [Shi'a] dissidents weakened the conference, and that the conference will be responsible if the rights of the Shi'a are compromised due to pressures from "strong [parties] and the U.S...." The article goes on to say that the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution , the Shi'ite organization that attended the conference, refused to accept any American training, financing, or weapons for the following reasons: "The Badr Legion, which is the military force of the Supreme Council , has an Iranian command and is subject to the control of the Revolutionary Guard. Therefore , it cannot be under an American command. Additionally, the political and ideological indoctrination of these people conflict with the American plan, since most of them grew up with the slogan 'death to America'…" [34]

A few days later, "the authoritative Shi'a jurisprudent Ayatollah Hussein Al-Sadr harshly condemned the representatives of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution who participated in the London conference and considered their participation 'a kind of cooperation with the American infidels, which is prohibited by Islamic law… because America is the enemy of the Shi'a, Sunna, Muslims and Christians alike…" [35]

5. The Iraqi Communist Party Speaks

The Iraqi Communist Party called for "continued efforts to unify the Iraqi opposition for the sake of our nation's interest in getting rid of the dictatorial regime and replacing it with a democratic one…" The party's announcement included criticism of some aspects of the opposition conference in London and attacked the "foreign military option and the unilateral American war [against Iraq], which is the worst and most destructive of all options…" The statement went on to call for unifying the opposition "based on a national agenda, and not on an American war, and then appealing to the international community for assistance [in implementing it]…" [36]

6. Jordan vs. the Iraqi Opposition

"Official Jordanian sources expressed concern about possible retaliation by Iraqi opposition members, in case they assume power… The Islamist Jordanian newspaper Al-Sabil said that Ahmad Chalabi, the head of INC, Major General Wafiq Al-Samarrai, the former chief of Iraqi intelligence, and Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, consider Jordan an ally and a supporter of the current Iraqi regime. The paper quoted the same sources as saying that those opposition leaders would [still] refuse to grant Jordan the same preferences that the Iraqi government has granted it especially concerning oil, commerce agreements, and educational missions…" [37]

VI. Iraq's Relations with Its Neighbors

1. Iraqi-Palestinian Relations

The close relationship between Iraq and the Palestinian Authority continues. On Monday [December 17, 2002] "Deputy PM Tariq Aziz received a delegation of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine headed by Fahd Suleiman, member of the political bureau and secretary of the central committee. The delegation expressed its solidarity with the Iraqi people in facing the U.S. threats, and called for lifting the unjust embargo on Iraq…" [38] For its part, Iraq sent 40 trucks carrying fertilizers as a present from Saddam to Palestinian farmers. An Iraqi official said that this shipment "is part of the unlimited support that Iraq extends to the brave Intifada in the occupied land…" [39] Another convoy of trucks carrying medical supplies was sent from Iraq at approximately the same time. [40] And according to, Saddam's contributions to the Palestinian suicide bombers reached $280,000. [41]

2. Iraqis in Jordan

A report published by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat talks about Iraqis who live and work in what has become known as 'Little Iraq' in the Jordanian Capital, Amman. According to the report, there are quite a few portraits of Saddam Hussein in coffee houses and small businesses in the area, however, "when examined closely, one realizes that most of Saddam's portraits are hanging in stores belonging to Palestinians..." The reporter wrote that the Iraqis with whom he talked were reluctant to get into political discussions, and exaggerated their praise of Saddam, especially in the presence of others. "I realized that they felt that it was not worth jeopardizing their lives, or even worse, endangering the lives of their relatives in Iraq by expressing negative opinions about Saddam to a visiting journalist…" According to the report, the number of Iraqis seeking to leave Iraq has increased dramatically recently, and goes on to say that some recent arrivals described how the government has been distributing food, medicine and large amounts of money to clan leaders [in an effort to secure their support]. However, "there is no evidence of mass distribution of arms among these clans, considering it a dangerous enterprise for Saddam who does not have guarantees that these arms will not be used against his regime…" [42]

According to another report, official Jordanian statistics indicate that about 400,000 Iraqis reside in Jordan, most of them illegally. Jordan is forced to reexamine its old 'open borders' policy, which has been in effect since the Gulf War. [43] Recent news reports indicate that the number of Iraqis arriving in the Jordanian capital has gone down following new measures enacted by the Jordanian authorities, among them refusing entry to Iraqis 40 years old and younger, and limiting the residency extension period for Iraqis in Jordan. [44] On the other hand, Al-Jumhuriya reported thatfollowing the general amnesty in Iraq, hundreds of Iraqis who had fled the country to Jordan congregated in front of the embassy in Amman asking to return to their country. [45]

3. Reactions to Saddam's "Apology" to Kuwait

Kuwaiti officials and media reacted in unbridled anger to Saddam's message to the Kuwaitis in which he apologized for invading their country. The main theme throughout the responses was that Saddam in fact incited the Kuwaitis against their rulers and 'tried to drive a wedge between them.' According to Al-Rai Al-Amm daily, Kuwaiti parliamentarians in a special session, expressed their hope that the Iraqi people would be 'delivered' from Saddam's regime. The paper quoted one of the members of parliament saying "we hope to see Saddam dragged or killed in the streets of Baghdad…" [46]

Al-Watan's reaction was even harsher, saying: "This cursed despot will remain unchanged throughout his criminal life… He will always harbor hostilities and greed towards Kuwait and the rest of his neighboring countries… This barbarian, with his savage clique will remain the center of corruption and destruction of all morals and values, and will never learn from his past experience, from the destruction of Kuwait's infrastructure, from the crimes that he committed against the Kuwaitis and the carnage that he committed against all humanity, his demented wars against Iran, Kuwait, and his own people, and his horrific crimes are living testaments that don't need additional proof…" [47] Egypt's President Mubarak advised Iraqi officials "to stop the hollow rhetoric that brought upon them enough [problems]… and reacted to Saddam's 'apology' by saying: 'He cursed them and urged them to revolt against their rulers… is this an apology?'..." [48]

VII. On the Eve of Possible War

1. Iraq is Set to Welcome Volunteers and "Human Shields"

The official daily Al-Thawra reported that "The Jordanian National Mobilization Committee," which was established in 1996 by Jordanian opposition and independent personalities, announced the beginning of a voluntarism [campaign] with the goal of recruiting 100,000 Jordanians to be sent to Iraq to defend its installations in case of an American-British attack." [49] A few days later, Babil daily said that Iraq is getting ready to welcome Arab and foreign volunteers "who stated their willingness to become 'human shields' at installations and locations that may be targeted by the U.S. in the upcoming possible war…" [50] A few days later Al-Thawra reported again that Iraq is expecting 10,000 volunteers from Eritrea. [51]

2. Early Distribution of Food Rations, and a Special Reprieve for Martyrs

"Iraq's Ministry of Commerce started to distribute food rations for the months of February and March in what observers consider preparations for a possible American attack… The ministry had also distributed two-month rations for December and January…" [52] And in its meeting on December 25, 2002, Iraq's cabinet decided to forgive 'Iraqi martyrs' from their governmental debts, and any interest due on them, effective from the day of martyrdom. However, the decision excluded debts that are due to governmental banks. [53]

3. Iraqi Refugees and Iran

"Iran announced that 202,000 Iraqi refugees live within its borders… and that 6000 refugees returned to their country voluntarily during the last year…" According to Al-Hayat , Iraqi refugees hesitate to return to their country fearing repercussions, and many of them demand guarantees protecting them from punishment. [54]

"…Iran's Ministry of Interior announced that it would be able to receive half a million Iraqi refugees at border crossings in Khuzistan, Karmanshah, Kurdistan, and Ilam. However, the director of the Foreign Immigration Office, Ahmad Husseini stressed that: "The refugees will not be allowed to enter into Iran, except if their lives were in danger, and that they would not be allowed to enter the cities…" The Iranian ' Committee for the Iraqi Crisis,' composed of representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, interior and health, as well as the security forces and the Red Crescent, will be in charge of the refugee issue." [55] In Iraq, the president of the Iraqi Red Crescent, Hisham Al-Sa'doun, denied the news that Iraq participated in meetings with neighboring countries to discuss plans for providing food and medical assistance to potential Iraqi refugees in those countries. He said that: "The Iraqi [citizen] will not leave his country no matter how severe the conditions." [56]

4. Iranian Dissidents Prepare to Leave Iraq

Al-Hayat daily reports from unnamed U.N. sources in Vienna that: "the opposition Iranian organization, Mujahideen Khalq , is getting ready to leave its camps in Iraq in preparation for a possible American military attack." According to the same sources, a number of senior commanders and their families moved to European capitals recently, and that the organization closed its offices in Baghdad. Field commanders are busy destroying military and security documents that they cannot move outside Iraq. "The organization, which has about 20 thousand members in Iraq, has not decided yet what to do with these forces in case of a war." [57]

5. Report: Syria Gets Ready to Absorb One Million Iraqi Refugees, and a Syrian Denial

Damascus - "Informed sources said that official preparations [have been] made to deal with about one million Iraqi refugees along the Syrian borders, in case of a military strike against Iraq, despite the fact that Syria refuses to legitimize any American military action… The estimates of the number of refugees [to Syria] have gone up after Jordan decided to close its borders to Iraqis between the ages of 18-40… International organizations and Syria agreed to keep [the preparations] secret in order not to create the impression that they are endorsing a military strike…" [58]

A few days later Syria formally denied the report saying that "neither Syria nor the Red Cross made any preparations to construct clinics or tent-cities along the border with Iraq..." [59]

[1]Al-Iraq (Iraq), December 20, 2002.

[2]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 13, 2002.

[3]Al-Junhuriya (Iraq), December 1, 2002.

[4]Al-Iraq (Iraq), December 1, 2002.

[5]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 23, 2002.

[6]Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), November 1, 2002.

[7]Al-Hayat (London), November 4, 2002.

[8]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 28, 2002.

[9]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 17, 2002.

[10]Al-Hayat (London), December 5, 2002.

[11]Al-Hayat (London), October 24, 2002.

[12]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 6, 2002.

[13]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 27, 2002.

[14]Al-Hayat (London), December 13, 2002.

[15]Al-Hayat (London), December 7, 2002.

[16], December 17, 2002.

[17]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 14, 2002.

[18]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 7, 2002.

[19]Al-Qabas (Kuwait), October 14, 2002.

[20]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 13, 2002.

[21]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 5, 2002.

[22]Al-Qabas (Kuwait),October 14, 2002.

[23]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 20, 2002.

[24]Al-Hayat (London), October 14, 2002.

[25]Al-Hayat (London), October 12, 2002.

[26]Al-Safir (Lebanon), November 2, 2002.

[27]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 16, 2002.

[28], November 7, 2002.

[29]Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), December 5, 2002.

[30]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 17, 2002.

[31]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 16, 2002.

[32]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 16, 2002.

[33]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 19, 2002.

[34]Al-Safir (Lebanon), December 20, 2002.

[35]Al-Hayat (London), December 23, 2002.

[36]Al-Hayat (London), December 23, 2002.

[37]Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), December 18, 2002.

[38]Iraq News Agency (Iraq), December 18, 2002.

[39]Al-Thawra (Iraq), December 17, 2002.

[40]Al-Thawra (Iraq), December 20, 2002.

[41] (Iraqi opposition), December 19, 2002.

[42]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 20, 2002.

[43]Al-Hayat (London), October 5, 2002.

[44]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London) November 14, 2002.

[45]Al-Jumhuriya (Iraq), November 6, 2002.

[46]Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), December 16, 2002.

[47]Al-Watan (Kuwait), December 12, 2002.

[48]Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), December 18, 2002.

[49]Al-Thawra (Iraq), December 17, 2002.

[50]Babil (Iraq), December 23, 2002.

[51]Al-Thawra (Iraq), December 27, 2002.

[52]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 23, 2002.

[53]Al-Thawra (Iraq), December 27, 2002.

[54]Al-Hayat (London), November 4, 2002.

[55]Al-Hayat (London), November 10, 2002.

[56]Al-Hayat (London), December 1, 2002.

[57]Al-Hayat (London), December 20, 2002.

[58]Al-Hayat (London), December 20, 2002.

[59]Al-Hayat (London), December 24, 2002.

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