March 7, 2003

Iraq News Wire

March 7, 2003
Iraq |

In this wire:

I. Yasser Arafat's Holiday Greetings to Saddam Hussein

II. On the Eve of a Possible War

  1. Wartime Legislation: Rescinding the Amputation of Deserters' Ears
  2. Islamist Sources: 400 Arab-Afghans Reached Northern Iraq
  3. Iraq Establishes its First Home-Security Tribunal
  4. WebCam in Baghdad to Rally International Public Opinion
  5. Qusay in Charge in Case of Saddam's Absence
  6. Baghdad Offers Tehran a 'Strategic Partnership'
  7. In Baghdad, the First Targets of the War are Known
  8. Kurdish Officials: Baghdad Evacuates Oil Equipment from Karkuk
  9. Saddam Orders Recruitment of Arab and Foreign Physicians
  10. Incentive to Members of the Civil Defense
  11. Saddam Strengthens His Ties with Iraqi Clans
  12. Iraq's Vice President: There is no Iraqi Opposition - Only American Agents
  13. Uday Compares the Anticipated War to a Saloon Brawl
  14. Efforts to Unveil the Truth about Iraq's Biological Weapons

III. A Close Look at Saddam's Maneuverability

  1. In a meeting with Iraqi Police Commanders - Saddam Assesses Lack of Resources
  2. Understanding Saddam's Way of Dealing with Crises

IV. Ethnicity in Iraq

  1. Turkmen: Karkuk's Oil Belongs to All Iraqis - Demand Larger Representation
  2. Analysis: Ethnic Realities in Iraq

V. Leader of Ansar Al-Islam Talks about Meeting Osama Bin Laden in 1988, Funding, Relations with Baghdad and Tehran, and Latest Military Operation in Northern Iraq

VI. Reaction to Hizbullah's Proposals on Iraq

VII. Economic Development Ideas: Turn Prisons into Tourist Attractions andExport Torture Methods to Civilized Countries

VIII. Iraqi Opposition: News and Opinions

  1. The Prospect of Creating an 'Active' Political Leadership
  2. Interviews with Two Shi'a Opposition Leaders, Brigadier General Najib Al-Salhi and Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim

I. Yasser Arafat's Holiday Greetings to Saddam Hussein

In recent weeks, Yasser Arafat has communicated messages of congratulations to Saddam Hussein via telegram. On February 5, he sent Saddam a telegram in honor of the 'Id, in which he wrote "...[may Allah] repel all dangers that loom presently over us in our region... may Allah the Powerful protect Iraq from the great dangers and evils that loom over it and together, hand in hand [we will march]..."[1]The telegram, which also included a plea for "any kind of support and assistance from you [Saddam] in these difficult times [that] will enable us to continue our persistence and resistance," was published in the Iraqi newspaper Al-Jumhuriya. On March 5, Babil reported that in honor of the Islamic New Year, Yasser Arafat sent another telegram to Saddam Hussein, urging him again to "walk together, hand in hand until we reach 'Al-Quds Al-Sharif' [Jerusalem]." The following are excerpts from the letter:

"Your Excellency President Saddam Hussein, Greetings and Allah's blessings on you."

"While our glorious nation is celebrating the New Hijra Year [the Islamic New Year], and in these difficult and sensitive times… we send you, and through you to your distinguished government and your people – our brethren – in the name of the Palestinians, people and leadership, and from me personally, our sincerest and warmest congratulations and prayers to Almighty Allah that it will be a year of prosperity to all our peoples and the countries of our nation, and that cooperation and support among them be enhanced in order to face present dangers and challenges."

"[We pray to Allah] to grant our Palestinian people total victory, in the land of Al-Israa wa Al-Mi'raj [according to the Koran and the Islamic tradition, Prophet Muhammad's night ascent to heaven to Jerusalem, and his return], as Allah had promised it, to live free, independent and a master in its Palestinian State, with its capital Al-Quds Al-Sharif… Once again we send you our heartiest brotherly wishes, and may Allah grant you health, happiness, and success… and let us march together, hand in hand until we reach Al-Quds Al-Sharif, with His support…"

"[Signed] Yasser Arafat, President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO."[2]

II. On the Eve of a Possible War

1. Wartime Legislation: Rescinding the Amputation of Deserters' Ears

"The Iraqi government rescinded numerous decisions and procedures dealing with military deserters, among them the decree to amputate the ears of deserters… also rescinded is the law imposing the death penalty on smugglers of foreign currency… An Iraqi official explained that these changes signify that the leadership, headed by President Saddam Hussein, was intent on enhancing judicial fairness and lifting emergency provisions…"[3]

Concurrently, "The Revolutionary Command Council decided to impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of armed looting during war… and anyone committing un-armed looting more than once… The Council also imposed 15 years of prison on anyone convicted of falsifying his military [service] card…"[4]

And, "after 12 years, the Iraqi government lifted the ban on moving furniture between provinces in Iraq… Sources in the Ministry of the Interior explained that the ban… was issued in 1991 in order to 'limit immigration from the provinces to Baghdad' …The same sources also said that the new law eliminates the need to obtain security clearances for moving food-ration cards, signing rental agreements, selling properties, getting import and export licenses, and working in goldsmithing."[5]

Finally, "the Iraqi papers lifted a five-year ban on publishing obituaries." Babil, which published this report, explained that the "ban was imposed in 1998 due to the extravagance in spending among the mourners, especially serving food and cigarettes, which affected the prices of these commodities in the market."[6] The London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat commented on the report saying: "At last, the Iraqis will know their dead."[7]

2. Islamist Sources: 400 Arab-Afghans Reached Northern Iraq

Al-Sharq Al-Awsatreported that "Sources close to the [Islamist] fundamentalist movement in London said that 400 'Arab-Afghans' crossed the Iranian and Turkish borders into Iraq ten days ago [third week in February]. These informed sources told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in a phone conversation, that the 'Arab-Afghans'… may participate in suicide missions against the American forces when the land war starts and that some Al-Qa'ida leaders were among those who arrived in northern Iraq…"[8]

3. Iraq Establishes its First Home-Security Tribunal

"The Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council, the highest ruling body in Iraq, dissolved the special courts established by the Ministry of the Interior, the General Security Administration, and the intelligence apparatus, and established instead a home-security tribunal in conjunction with the Ministry of Legal Affairs… An official source in the Ministry of Legal Affairs said that this special legislation, in the present unique circumstances where Iraq is facing the threat of war, is a clear and sure sign of the path of justice in Iraq."[9]

4. WebCam in Baghdad to Rally International Public Opinion

Kamal Qubeisi reported that Iraq has been showing mounting interest in public opinion following the anti-war demonstrations in various cities around the world. Therefore, Iraq started as of February 18, 2003 "to implement a project called 'WebCam in Iraq' which places cameras in various areas in Baghdad to transmit, via the Internet to millions of viewers in five continents, scenes of everyday life in the Iraqi capital. The hope is that [those scenes] will garner sympathy when the war starts, and that public opinion will rise again to protest…" According to the report, the project is carried out by a group of unidentified independent foreign journalists, and the purpose is to get viewers to identify with the Iraqis, who will come across as regular human beings, who live in a regular country not unlike their own.[10]

5. Qusay in Charge in Case of Saddam's Absence

"Informed sources inside Iraq told Al-Hayat that in the first week of February, President Saddam Hussein issued instructions to his senior assistants that would enable commanders of [army] brigades and divisions to deal with an American attack without waiting for his orders. [The sources] revealed that Saddam's assistants understood from his instructions that, in his absence they could defer to his son Qusay as a last resort. They considered that a message that he selected Qusay as his replacement in case of his complete and final absence."

"The same sources said that Saddam's 'inner most circle' believes that he will distance himself completely as soon as the war starts and will cease any contact with the command, so that no one would know his changing whereabouts, 'which will certainly be outside the presidential palaces and the bunkers that the Americans are getting ready to attack." Finally, the sources indicated that Saddam "has been planning his disappearance without putting anything on paper or sharing the information with anyone, including his secretary Abd Hamoud, who is the most senior person in his entourage… The only possible exception is that Qusay himself may know the whereabouts of his father, if necessary…"[11]

Earlier, the pro-Iraqi daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London) quoted leaders of the Iraqi opposition as stating that "the Iraqi President decentralized the [command of the] Iraqi army, and in an effort to be ready for urban warfare in Iraqi cities, gave his son Qusay the responsibility for coordinating the urban defense warfare…"[12]

6. Baghdad Offers Tehran a 'Strategic Partnership'

In a dispatch from Baghdad, Al-Hayat's correspondent Abd Al-Latif Al-Sa'dounquoted observers in Baghdad as saying that the purpose of the recent sudden visit of Iraq's foreign minister Naji Sabrito Tehran was to "discuss once more what [Baghdad] calls 'a strategic partnership between the two neighboring countries' to face an American war, where Tehran could become the second target after Baghdad." According to this report "Iraqi officials are not optimistic that their neighbor Iran will accept the 'partnership' principle, but they hope at least for a more favorable response to the Iraqi point of view than before, and to put it in a context of 'practical procedures,' such as exercising some pressure on the armed Iraqi-Islamic opposition, which is active in Iranian cities close to the Iraqi border…" The report goes on to say that "diplomatic sources in Baghdad maintain that the Iraqi government may be ready this time to discuss [in return] limiting the activities of Mujahideen Khalq, the Iranian opposition organization which is active inside Iraq…"[13]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsatdaily, reporting the same news, wrote that Iraq is also proposing to settle the maritime borders between the two countries based on the Algerian Agreement.[14]

In a political analysis from Tehran, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan asked "why did Tehran agree to receive Iraq's foreign minister Naji Sabri, when only last month it had refused to do so, and had presented Iraq with four pre-conditions that Iraq did not implement?" The paper maintains that "Iran is trying to play all the cards… Tehran, according to Iran's foreign minister, does not object to an American military attack on Iraq if the UN endorses it, [and] interacts actively with all the Iraqi opposition forces [while it also] received Iraq's foreign minister. [All this] reflects the essence of the Iranian position which tries to hold all the intermingled and intertwined strings." According to the paper, the main purpose of the Iranian position "is to send a message to the U.S… not to ignore the Iranian role in a regional crisis, and that Iran… should be a central player… especially when redrawing the Iraqi political map after the fall of Saddam…"[15]

7. In Baghdad, the First Targets of the War are Known

"The citizens of Baghdad areworried that Al-Dora refineries, which supply the city with energy, will be among the first targets of the American fighter planes in case of war… Dathar Al-Khashab, director general of the refineries said that security provisions have been made following the air raids on the refineries in 1991… [However] we cannot prevent the raids, we can only contain the losses…"[16]

8. Kurdish Official: Baghdad Evacuates Oil Equipment from Karkuk

"Sources in the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) who asked to remain anonymous, reported that in preparation for war, Iraq started at the end of January to remove equipment and materials belonging to the government's North Oil Company from the oil-rich city of Karkuk… the operations are carried out clandestinely and [the equipment] is headed to undisclosed destinations." Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, which published this report, remarked that it could not verify the information with an independent source and added that previous reports noted that "the Iraqi leaders intended to set the oil wells on fire in case of an American invasion of their country…"[17]

On the other hand, the pro-Iraqi daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi quoted "Iraqi opposition sources in the Kurdish areas, and Middle East experts who refused to be identified by name… [stating] that the Baghdad regime has started to plant mines in oil wells in preparations for blowing them up." The paper goes on to report that "Iraqi officials have not confirmed nor denied this information, but Uday Saddam Hussein,Saddam's elder son, had vowed that he would not let the U.S. control Iraq's oil reserves…"[18]

9. Saddam Orders Recruitment of Arab and Foreign Physicians

"Dr. Zuheir Al-Azzawi, chairman of the First Scientific Conference for the Olympic Hospital, said that the President-Commander Saddam Hussein, may Allah protect him, ordered the Ministry of Health to bring in Arab and foreign physicians to work in health establishments in Iraq… He added that those physicians would assist the Iraqi physicians in complicated procedures, and [the Iraqi physicians] would benefit from their advanced expertise after being deprived of pursuing medical scientific advancements due to the sanctions imposed by the evil American and British administrations."[19]

10. Incentives to Members of the Civil Defense

"The Ministry of the Interiordecided to increase [monetary] incentives to members of the Civil Defense Administration in order to advance technical and administrative performance… The incentives for officers will be increased from 12,000 to 19,000 dinars (about 6-9 U.S. dollars), while incentives to the ranks will increase from 9,000 to 13,000 dinars, and incentives to employees [will rise] from 15,000 to 17,000 dinars…"[20]

11. Saddam Strengthens his Ties with Iraqi Clans

"The Iraqi newspapers have been publishing telegrams and declarations of allegiance to Saddam during the last few months, some of them written in blood, from heads of Iraqi clans and tribes especially in the southern provinces and the Central Euphrates… This coincides with the government's efforts for the last several years to strengthen its ties with the heads of the clans and tribes in various areas in Iraq, and supplying them with weapons, money and ammunitions. President Saddam Hussein and many of the party and governmental leaders have been meeting with them from time to time…" The article points out that there are thousands of clans in Iraq and that even the monarchy in Iraq had recognized their unique position and legislated a special law giving the heads of clans total autonomy over members of their clans, such as conflict-resolution, imposing punishments, even jail sentences…"[21]

12. Iraq's Vice President: There is No Iraqi Opposition - Only American Agents

On the eve of the Arab Summit in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Iraq's Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadhanstated in an interview with Al-Hayat Al-Jadida [Palestinian Authority] that "the Iraqi people are ready for war, they will fight back and win. This is a sure thing, but unfortunately Bush does not want to understand it, because he and his administration are arrogant and conceited…" Asked about the possibility that Iraqi opposition leaders would assume power after the war, he said that "this is nonsense, because the Iraqi people support their leadership and will refuse any outside intervention in their domestic affairs. There is no opposition outside Iraq, there is only a group of American agents who are their people's enemies, so who will accept them in Iraq?" Ramadhan denied emphatically that some Arab countries urged Saddam to step down voluntarily, and said: "We will not accept such [a] suggestion, be it Arab or non-Arab. It contradicts all international conventions…"[22]

13. Uday Compares the Anticipated War to a Saloon Brawl

"…Uday Saddam Husseinpublished an editorial under the pseudonym 'Abu Sirhan' in which he opined that the main purpose of the attack was to serve the interests of Israel… and that it could include a strike on Iran's nuclear reactor. He predicted that it would not be possible to contain the results of the anticipated war, and that it would have ramifications [for] the whole region, the world, and [for] the U.S. itself. He compared it to a Western movie where a man enters a saloon to kill one of the patrons and ends up killing everyone and destroying glass and furniture and no one escapes, except the piano player who is unaware of what is happening around him…"[23]

14. Efforts to Unveil the Truth about Iraq's Biological Weapons

Babil, published and managed by Uday Saddam Hussein, issued a brief report on Iraqi efforts to dismantle its biological weapons program:

"Supported by the UN, the Iraqis have been trying hard in the last few days to unveil their biological weapons production program, which is the most clandestine episode in their serial efforts to arm [themselves]... On Sunday evening, the UN experts and Iraqi officials responsible for the armament program met to ensure the destruction of large quantities of anthrax and VX nerve gas... An international expert in this area, who asked to remain anonymous, commented that the results of the Iraqi biological armament program were outstanding..."[24]

III. A Close Look at Saddam's Maneuverability

1. In a meeting with Iraqi Police Commanders - Saddam Assesses Lack of Resources

In a recent meeting with representatives and commanders of the Iraqi police force, Saddam Hussein talked extensively about several domestic issues such as Kurdish aspirations, his expectations of the police despite the fact that they lack equipment and provisions, and his decision to grant a general pardon to most criminals in Iraq. The following are excerpts from a report on the meeting:

On the issue of the Kurds in the north, Saddam responded to the Chief of Police's assertion that "the police force is capable of fighting crime everywhere in Iraq, even in the north [alluding to the autonomous Kurdish area]." He said: "May Allah bless you… the north is your north, its citizens are your brothers and they are part of the Iraqi people. However, we want the residents of the north to be convinced, on their own, that the plan that they thought would serve their interests, is in fact a warped plan and that they should act on a plan supported by the nation as a whole, after being endorsed by Allah, and not just by certain elements who live in Suleimaniya or Irbil or Dahouk… If they are convinced of that, the problem will be easy…"

On the subject of the general pardon Saddam said: "When one of your people strays from the lawful path… if you present him with the right model, he will change his ways and return to the right path. Based on this point of view, the leadership made the decision to free all prisoners and pardon them. We were looking for an opportunity for us and for them… therefore, when the opportunity presented itself clearly, when the Iraqis unanimously selected whoever they wanted to be their president… we said that the prisoners and the incarcerated were part of this unanimous decision, and that it would be sad for any Iraqi whose spirit accomplished such national greatness to spend one day in jail. On this basis, and because the Iraqis are generous, we thought that, on this occasion, the majority of them may forgive those whom we pardoned… although they were hurt by them… When we freed people who committed crimes or robberies, we depended on the generosity of the Iraqi people, that they would forgive us, because they know that the leadership… even if it erred in some partial issues it had only meant [to serve] the interest of the people, their honor, security, present and future…"

And about the conditions within the police force: "…The Chief of Police talked… about the very difficult times that the force has gone through because of insufficient, and even lack of, equipment and capabilities… especially at the start of the sanctions…" Saddam reacted by saying: "…If all the capabilities were equal at all times and circumstances, what will distinguish you? And what will you tell your sons and grandsons…? What will you say to your colleagues in North Africa for example?… Will you tell them that the crime rate is such and such because we do not have cars and wireless, etc.? But now you can tell them that we experienced days when a policeman did not even have a chair to sit on… nevertheless his belief did not waver… they will be astounded while listening to you… and history will note that too…"[25]

2. Understanding Saddam's Way of Dealing with Crises

Sabah Salman, Saddam's former press secretary, published an analysis of Saddam Hussein's approach and philosophy to crisis situations, and his way of dealing with them. The following is a synopsis of the article:

According to him, there is no 'crisis team' that discusses and deals with crises, and that "in all the crises that occurred since 1968… it was President Saddam Hussein alone who pulled all the strings and made all the decisions…"

The writer described incidents that demonstrate Saddam's intuition and ability to maneuver and survive dangerous situations. He cited for example, the failed attempt in 1959 of several Ba'athists, including Saddam himself, to assassinate then Iraqi P.M. Abd Al-Karim Qassem. Following the failure, Saddam advised his colleagues to leave their hiding place, despite clear instructions from the Ba'ath party to remain there until new instructions. His rationale was that taking life-threatening risks was justified as long as there was a cause, but since the attempt failed the situation turned into "a needless suicide…" So, he left the hiding place, and avoided being arrested with the rest of the conspirators when the police stormed the place.

Then there was the Kurdish problem that vexed earlier regimes and "was the most important problem that [Saddam's] regime inherited." Saddam sought a peaceful resolution because he knew that his regime did not have the power to resolve it any other way. According to the article, he even circumvented the official negotiations between his government and a Kurdish delegation in Baghdad, and met personally with Mustafa Al-Barazani, the leader of the Kurdish movement, and agreed with him on the Kurd's autonomy, which led to the declaration of March 11, 1970. This was, according to Salman, "a tactical solution that allowed the regime to strengthen itself while trying vigorously to empty the March 11 declaration from its contents…, to eliminate the traditional leadership of the Kurdish movement… and to drive a wedge among its leaders by luring some of them into the government's ranks…"

Later, when the Shah of Iran agreed with the U.S. to help the Kurds, Saddam resolved to put an end to the 'Iranian connection' and signed the 1975 agreement with the Shah. "He sacrificed half of Shat Al-Arab [the river separating the two countries in southern Iraq] to put a stop to the Iranian support to the Kurds…"

Salman goes on to describe Saddam's tactics in dealing with international oil companies, and how he rejected advice not to escalate the conflict with them, and insisted on nationalization "when the national support was at its very peak… and [when he was able to] take other measures that ensured his success, such as the friendship and cooperation agreement with the Soviet Union, the establishment of a National Front with the Iraqi Communist Party, and by controlling the oil tankers…"

Talking about the conflict with Iran, Salman wrote that Saddam believed that Iraq would be the "first target for Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution." Therefore, he embarked on domestic reforms that included removing political elements that were too controversial or had Islamic symbolism. "…Then he concluded that the best defense was offense and that regional and international sentiments were against an Iranian victory… He also emphasized the dangers to the Arab world if the 'dam' [Iraq] collapsed, and the Khomeini tide swept the region…"

Finally, Salman wrote that Saddam's tactics in all past crises were to "deflect the ball from his goal, i.e. to protect the regime from any danger. The question is would he be able to do so this time? I doubt it." [26]

IV. Ethnicity in Iraq

1. Turkmen: Karkuk's Oil Belongs to All Iraqis - Demand Larger Representation

"Juneid Mangho, an officialin the Iraqi Turkmen Frontand its representative at the Committee for Coordination and Continuity [established at the Iraqi opposition conference in London] said that the Front refused a Kurdish demand to dissolve its militias, and cautioned of disagreements with the Kurdish parties because the proposed 'federalism plan' and the suggested 'map of the Kurdish area' do not take into consideration areas where the Turkmen live… He said that the Turkmen, who constitute 10% of the population in Iraq and enjoy Turkey's support, were entitled to have political representation in Baghdad commensurate with their demographical weight."

"…He reiterated the Turkmen's support [of] the integrity of Iraq … and said that the Kurds drew the borders of an area they called Iraqi Kurdistan… where Turkmen live, without asking for our opinion… They say it is a Kurdish area, and we say it is a Turkmen area… We are not against the idea of federalism as a regime, and parts of the plan may be acceptable, but we should be consulted… and there should be a referendum among the Iraqi people as a whole to determine its position towards federalism…"

"He admitted that, following the regime change in Baghdad, the Turkmen would demand greater political rights, and should become part of the government… He added that Karkuk's oil is a resource that belonged to all the Iraqis and no one group should benefit from it more than others…"[27]

2. Analysis: Ethnic Realities in Iraq

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan published an analysis by Abdallah Khalaf about the dynamics of ethnic relations in Iraq. Khalaf maintained that "dividing Iraq into three groups, the Shi'a in the south, the Sunni in the center, and the Kurds in the north, is an 'Imperialistic Plan' hatched after the July 14, 1958 revolution and meant to create ethnic strife, knowing that Iraq throughout its history did not experience any conflicts between its two main denominations… This political scheme portrays the south as Shi'i, while the center is Sunni. But the reality is that the south, including Basra, is a mixture of Shi'a and Sunni… and the center, including the Baghdad province, is composed of Sunni, Shi'a, Armenians, Assyrians and Turkmen. There is no area in Iraq which is exclusive to one group ... And whoever says that the north [is] constituted of [exclusively] Sunni Kurds is mistaken, because there are 'Fadhoul' Kurds who are Shi'a…"[28]

V. Leader of Ansar Al-Islam Talks about Meeting Osama Bin Laden in 1988, Funding, Relations with Baghdad and Tehran, and the Latest Military Operation in Northern Iraq

"Mullah Kreikar, leader ofAnsar Al-Islam, whom Washington suspects of having ties with Al-Qa'ida, revealed that in 1988 he met with Osama bin Laden… in the posh neighborhood of Hayat Abadin Peshawar, the center of the Arab-Afghan's command at the time… He said that the meeting took place in a luxurious villa that belonged to one of the Saudi Emirs, and that seven other high level Saudis attended it…" According to Mullah Kreikar "the purpose of the meeting was to provide relief for families of victims of the Iraqi chemical attacks on Halabja in March 1988…" Mullah Kreikar insisted that he did not know the identity of Osama bin Laden until he left the meeting and that he never visited the villa again nor had ties with Al-Qa'ida.[29]

Al-Hayat'scorrespondent Nazar Aaghri interviewed Mullah Kreikar at his residence in Oslo. The following is a summary of the interview:

"Q: Why all the fuss about you now?"

"A: …The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] tried to eliminate us, but they failed… then they tried [to do so] diplomatically with Tehran and Ankara. But the Turks were not convinced by Al-Talabani's reports that we trained Turkish dissidents in our area. And the Iranians refused to believe his claims that we were a Sunni movement hostile to the Shi'a. Then he tried to attract the Americans by sending them reports that we had ties with Al-Qa'ida, and so on…"

"Q: It is said that Iran supports you and provides you with a safe haven…[or at least] you have its endorsement."

"A: It is not so. Since the very first day of our movement, Iran has been eying us with suspicion, which is part of how they look at the Iranian Sunna, especially the Kurds… We did not hide anything from the Iranians, and we told them that we would expand the struggle inside Iran if the Iranian government tried to pressure us…"

"Q: Where do you get weapons and ammunition? Some say that elements within the Iranian government provide you with them."

"A: Not true. The Kurdish area is full of weapons. For $100 one can purchase a Kalashnikov, seven magazines, two hand grenades, Kurdish outfits, shoes, food and more… they are available in the black market… and if you want, you can rent a canon or a missile launcher for a period of time, then return them to their owners."

"Q: Where do you get the money to buy those items?"

"A: Biyara, which is the area we control, is on the main commerce route between Iraq and Iran… we collect $10 from each car transporting merchandise. And there are also the contributions that we collect from our supporters and sympathizers all over the world, and especially Europe."

"Q: Are you trying to establish an Islamic Kurdish State?"

"A: We do not. Such a Kurdish state is no more than a fantasy that tantalizes the emotions of juveniles and young adults…"

"Q: Do you want to change the central regime in Baghdad?"

"A: Yes indeed…"

"Q: But you don't carry out any military acts against Saddam Hussein's regime, and you only fight the Kurdish parties."

"A: This is not true. When I was 17 years old I downed an Iraqi plane. It was a Russian plane with a Cuban pilot and I carried and waved his head happily. Our movement is located in the far northern part of Iraqi Kurdistan and has no geographical proximity to Iraq's Arab area, therefore we should not be blamed for not attacking the Iraqi forces…"

In answer to a question, Mullah Kreikar contended that "there was [a] Western conspiracy to fight Islam," but defended his decision to find refuge in a Western country "which is part of the conspiracy." He said that he fled oppression and wanted to ensure the safety of his children. When pressed further by the interviewer about his leaving his comrades behind, he maintained that "not everyone can leave the area…" and that he would have preferred to "live under a tree there than become a minister here…"[30]

In a later interview with Al-Hayat, Mullah Kreikartalked about his group's latest operation against the PUK, in which one of PUK's intelligence officials was captured. "Mullah Kreikar explained that the PUK was trying to fragment Ansar Al-Islam from within while he was in prison in Holland. That they contacted one of the members of his organization and offered to pay him $40,000 to secede, and promised him more if he succeeded in convincing 150-200 other members to join him…"

According to Kreikar, the man revealed the offer to an official in the organization, who encouraged him to continue the charade until the end. "The negotiations continued for four months, until the final meeting on February 8… when three members of Ansar Al-Islam surprised Al-Talabani's delegation and opened fire killing six people, among them a special envoy of the Kurdish leader… Kreikar denied that there were any civilian casualties in this operation…"[31]

VI. Reaction to Hizbullah's Proposals on Iraq

Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hizbullah,proposed to resolve the domestic Iraqi crisis by reaching an 'interdenominational agreement' based on national reconciliation and the establishment of a national unity government, similar to the Lebanese model that ended the war in 1989. The following is a brief summary of a report on the topic:

According to Al-Hayat "[Arab] sources interested in Nasrallah's proposals said that they would be hard to implement… but they contained several positive elements, among them:"

"1- They transcend the conflict that exists… between those aligned with the present Iraqi regime, even though they may oppose its oppressive policies towards the domestic opposition, and those supporting an American war to topple it. This initiative proposes a third alternative that does not corner the Arab countries… into choosing between America and Saddam."

"2- Nasrallah's initiative reflects the differences between Hizbullah [a Shi'a organization] and the Iraqi Shi'a opposition, personified in the Iran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution… Reports indicated that Hizbullah criticized the Council for coordinating efforts with the Iraqi opposition [the secular Iraqi National Congress], which maintains contacts with Washington…"

"3- The initiative reflects a discord between Hizbullah and a group within the Iranian administration that espouses 'active neutrality' towards the Iraqi crisis, and maintains contacts with the American administration as a way to protect Iran's national interests… A similar discord emerged between Tehran and Damascus and led last month to postponing the visit of Syria's president to Iran…"

According to this analysis, the initiative strengthened Hizbullah's position and respect in Arab circles because of the perception that the party, which has a Lebanese Shi'a base, avoids sectarian policies in its ideologies and practices and adheres to an open political viewpoint in Lebanon and towards various Palestinian forces.[32]

On the other hand, Nasrallah and his proposals were attacked by a Shi'a organization known as Aal Al-Beit, which published an open letter and distributed it in Beirut (February 23, 2003) telling him that it would have been more appropriate for him not to get involved in "petty quibbles… and narrow personal interests… but to support his Shi'a brothers in Iraq in their struggle against the regime, instead of coming up with suggestions to save this regime and strengthen its hold over us…"

The open letter included a list of 124 names of religious scholars, clerics, and theological students who disappeared or were tortured and killed by the Iraqi regime and asked: "…Is this the type of interdenominational agreement that your are proposing?..."[33]

VII. Economic Development Ideas: Turn Prisons into Tourist Attractions andExport Torture Methods to Civilized Countries

In a sarcastic article, Khalid Al-Qishtini, a liberal Iraqi writer living in London, suggested ways to augment the gross national income of Arab countries by "exporting torture methods to civilized countries, whose laws prohibit torturing inmates." He goes on to say that "the other economic opportunity is to encourage tourism by turning prisons and detention camps into important tourist destinations." He added: "I have mentioned several times in the past that Iraq could live in perpetual prosperity if it depended on tourism as a resource that will never be depleted, unlike oil and sulfur. I have mentioned Iraq's archeological and religious sites… but I forgot to mention… that we have in Iraq prisons and political detention camps more horrifying than those in South Africa [Qishtini mentions how South Africa turned Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, into a tourist destination]. But, how can Robben Island compare to Naqrat Al-Salman or Abu-Ghreib… where hundreds of detainees, all of them distinguished scientists, poets and intellectuals went in and disappeared with no trace?…"

The writer goes on to talk about specific dungeons and detention chambers where some of the most famous Iraqi prisoners were held or tortured and writes that the prison in the city of Al-Kout "is considered by some as one of the wonders of the world, second only to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon… a testament to the Iraqi ingenuity and skill in designing prisons…"

Qashtini concludes his article by writing that the promotional tourism brochures for the Iraqi prisons should include "colorful pictures of incomparable torture devices… walls smeared with blood… boxes full of uprooted nails and amputated fingers, piles of torn hair, and rare films about human debasement… And in this age of tourism, Iraq will take first place in the world in prison tourism… Naturally, what I say about Iraq is true too about many countries in the Middle East, whose prisons are no less horrifying than those in Iraq."[34]

VIII. Iraqi Opposition: News and Opinions

1. The Prospect of Creating an 'Active' Political Leadership

"The idea of creating an active political opposition leadership surfaced again after being shelved at the London conference two months ago due to lack of consensus inside the opposition on one hand, and the American reservation that this leadership may turn into a 'provisional government' in Iraq on the other. Al-Hayat received information about an agreement between the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, the two main Kurdish parties [PUK and KDP], and Ahmad Chalabi'swing in the Iraqi National Congress [INC] to adopt the principle of establishing a 'political leadership' at the February 15, 2003 meeting of the Committee for Coordination and Continuity, which was established at the London conference…" According to Al-Hayat, some opposition elements expressed "strong apprehension that this issue may lead to a crisis between the opposition and the U.S…"[35]

2. Interviews with Two Shi'a Opposition Leaders, Brigadier General Najib Al-Salhi and Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-'Amm published an extensive interview with Brigadier General Najib Al-Salhi, a Shi'ite who is the secretary general of the opposition group known as the Free Officers and Civilians Movement. The following are excerpts from the interview:

"Q: Will you, as the opposition, take a military action against the regime, or are you deferring it to the Americans?"

"A: The opposition activities are continuous, but mostly on the political and informational levels… If [the opposition] decides to move militarily, this decision will have nothing to do with the American attack."

"Q: There are regional and local concerns that the American forces might stay in Iraq for a long time…"

"A: This will be determined … by the conditions that will exist after Saddam… if the situation stabilizes… there will be no need for them to stay, and we will ask them to leave."

Asked about the percentage of Iraqi officers who opposed Saddam, Al-Salhi estimated it at around 95%, but added that they could not act against him because they had the rank, but no authority. He said that only about 20 people had any authority within the Iraqi army. He expressed his belief that in the first phase after the American attack, the anti-Saddam officers would not defend him, and in the second phase they would actually cooperate with the American forces in order to avoid security chaos.

"Q: What are the problems facing the American forces?"

"A: First: how to make contact with the Iraqis. Second: Saddam will hide his forces in the cities among the civilians, and the American forces will face the problem of dealing with these forces, and may sustain a large number of human casualties… By doing so [Saddam] wants to control the civilians and prevent the American planes from attacking the army inside the cities. He wants the American planes to raid the cities to inflict human casualties among the civilians, in order to use that in his propaganda war against America…"[36]

The Lebanese Al-Safir published an interview with the leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, in which he said that "his party received numerous reports… about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction [WMD] and that if the UN were serious in its work it should open a dialogue with the Iraqi opposition on this issue, because the Iraqi people suffered the most from such weapons…" Asked why the U.S. did not contact him in order to get this information, he replied that "the Americans and others did contact us, but we made it clear that we did not deal with anyone but the UN on this issue. It is the right way to handle such a sensitive issue."[37]

In late December 2002, the Babil quoted Abd Al-Aziz Al-Hakim, Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim's brother, as stating that: "We have information concerning the updating of Iraq's WMD… and we have detailed information about some [of their] locations. We are ready to share this important information with the UN." Babil went on to comment that "this renegade did not clarify whether the information was sent to Washington, which has insisted also that it had information about Iraqi weapons…"[38] In a recent interview with PBS's Elizabeth Farnsworth, Al-Hakim expressed his opinion that "if [the American attack on Iraq] is a war of invasion and occupation the American forces will face strong resistance. But if the Americans come to help the Iraqis to determine their fate and to rule themselves, there will be no resistance…" He then reiterated this point by saying that the Iraqis themselves should overthrow the regime with the help of the U.S. He pointed out that the people share several commonalities with the U.S., such as the need to establish democracy in Iraq and to disarm Iraq from weapons of mass destruction. But he cautioned against an American anti-Arab and anti-Muslim position that would create "very sensitive feelings against the U.S." [39]

[1]See MEMRI's Special Dispatch No. 475 - Holiday Greetings from Yasser Arafat to Saddam Hussein: Holiday Greetings from Yasser Arafat to Saddam Hussein

[2]Babil (Iraq), March 5, 2003.

[3]Babil (Iraq), February 3, 2003.

[4]Babil (Iraq), January 26, 2003.

[5]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 21, 2003.

[6]Babil (Iraq), February 19, 2003.

[7]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 17, 2003.

[8]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 1, 2003.

[9]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 25, 2003.

[10]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 19, 2003.

[11]Al-Hayat (London), February 19, 2003.

[12]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London February 4, 2003.

[13]Al-Hayat (London), February 10, 2003.

[14]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 11, 2003.

[15]Al-Watan (Kuwait), February 11, 2003.

[16]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 9, 2003.

[17]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 3, 2003.

[18]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 4, 2003.

[19]Al-Iraq (Iraq), January 25, 2003.

[20]Babil (Iraq), January 25, 2003.

[21]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 4, 2003.

[22]Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), March 2, 2003.

[23]Al-Hayat (London), January 24, 2003.

[24]Babil (Iraq), March 2, 2003..

[25]Babil (Iraq), February 26, 2003.

[26]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 17, 2003.

[27]Al-Hayat (London), February 6, 2003.

[28]Al-Watan (Kuwait), February 8, 2003.

[29]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 1, 2003.

[30]Al-Hayat (London), January 26, 2003.

[31]Al-Hayat (London), February 13, 2003.

[32]Al-Hayat (London), February 13, 2003.

[33]Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), February 24, 2003.

[34]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 28, 2003.

[35]Al-Hayat (London), February 7, 2003.

[36]Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), February 3, 2003.

[37]Al-Safir (Lebanon), January 22, 2003.

[38]Babil (Iraq), December 28, 2002

[39]PBS Newshour (U.S.) February 25, 2003.

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