August 31, 2002

Iraq News Wire

August 31, 2002
Iraq |

I. Kurds, Iraq, and the Prospects of War
Jalal Al-Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK], said that the Kurds would "welcome the American forces in Kurdistan if their purpose was to protect the Kurds against any attack by Saddam Hussein… Al-Talabani was clarifying his earlier statement that was understood as an invitation to American forces to make the Kurdish region a launching position for a strike against the Iraqi regime…" [1]

A few days later, the Iraqi News Agency reported that "Muslim scholars in the [pro-Iraqi] self-ruled region of Kurdistan condemned the treacherous, fabricated lies of the criminal traitor Jalal Al-Talabani. In their statement they called on all Muslims and all humanitarian organizations in the world to stand as one in defending Islamic Iraq and its pure land against American threats…" [2]

The Iraqi Ba'ath party daily Al-Thawra published an article titled: "Our Kurdish people: one hand and one voice with the leader Saddam Hussein and a united strong Iraq." The article strongly condemned Al-Talabani's statement and said that "our Kurdish people are looking forward to the day when our land will be purified from those gangs that sold their souls to the spiteful foreigner…" [3]

In an interview with the Arabic London daily Al-Hayat, Al-Talabani expressed his opinion that following the transitional period after the American strike, Iraq "will go through a period of disagreements, but not bloody power struggles…" He stressed that: "[although] the Kurds enjoy a 'de facto independence' they are Iraqis and are interested in restoring national unity, even at the cost of some of their current rights…" [4]

Baghdad Calls the Kurds to Jihad
"…A statement from the Legislative and Executive Councils of the [pro-Iraqi] self-ruled region of Kurdistan called on the Kurds in the north to 'proclaim Jihad and to exercise their national duty by defending Iraq, which faces threats from the evil American administration and deep seated Zionist hatred…" [5]

Baghdad Warns: An American Strike Against Iraq Will Have a Ripple Effect on Everyone
This message has been a recurring theme in the Iraqi press as of mid-July. The following are a few examples:

"Iraq has been warning its neighbors repeatedly that the whole region will be destabilized in case Iraq is subjected to a military strike. The first such warning was issued by Saddam's elder son Uday who called on Iran not to participate in any American strike against Iraq. He said that Iran is the third country that will be subjected to partitioning, following Iraq and Saudi Arabia …" [6] The daily Babil "warned the U.S. and the U.K. from implementing their threats against Iraq because 'the danger will effect everyone, including those who believe that they are mere observers or beneficiaries'…" [7]

II. Ansar Al-Islam
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat recently chronicled the evolution of the 'Islamic Movement' Ansar Al-Islam which has recently made headlines in northern Iraq:"The movement was established in 1988 by a group of Muslim clergy. Later, when Muslims from Iran and Turkey joined its ranks, it changed its name from 'The Islamic Movement in Iraqi Kurdistan' to 'The Islamic Alliance' and was active in Halabja, Tawila, and Biyara close to the Iranian border. In 1993, when it tried to extend its influence in the area, it engaged in a bloody battle with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)… At its inception, the movement consisted of three main factions:"

I. "The Faction of Mulla Uthman 'Abd 'Al-Aziz,… which was considered the moderate faction within the Movement."

II. "The faction of Ali Babir, which was the most extremist… later, it seceded from the Movement and formed 'The Islamic Group in Iraqi Kurdistan'…"

III. "The faction of Mulla Kreikar (Nijm Al-Deen Faraj) who had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq from an early age. He is described as an extremist fundamentalist, with a Masters degree from Pakistan… In mid-2001 he also seceded from the Movement… and then was appointed the leader of Ansar Al-Islam. In the 70's he lived in Afghanistan for an extended period of time…"

"Jund Al-Islam was established as an alliance between the three factions, with a new leader nicknamed Abu Abdallah Al-Shafi'i [Ja'far Hassan Qouta]. He left Kurdistan to go to Afghanistan in 1993 when fighting broke between the Movement and the PUK. On September 1st, 2001, Jund Al-Islam issued a statement accusing the Kurdish secular parties of heresy and affiliation with foreigners, and singled out the PUK by name."

In September 2001, bloody clashes took place between Jund Al-Islam and the PUK. And following that, "on December 5, 2001 came the announcement of the establishment of 'Ansar Al-Islam in Kurdistan' through an alliance between Jund Al-Islam and 'The Reform Organization.' Mulla Kreikar was selected as its leader… Abu Abdallah Al-Shafi'i became his organizational assistant and his military assistant was As'ad Mohammad Hassan… The organization has a council consisting of 15 members (Kurds) and a military board consisting of the commanders (Kurds) of eight battalions." [8]

News reports from Oslo have indicated that Mulla Kreikar arrived in Norway in 1993 and obtained political asylum there, which he still has despite the fact that he has not returned to Norway in the last two years.[9]

According to the London Arabic daily, Al-Hayat, Jalal Al-Talabani, who controls the border area close to Iran, estimated the number of the Ansar Al-Islam group in northern Iraq at "about 100-120 Arabs who fought in Afghanistan and created an alliance with armed Islamic Kurds…" He said that two active Islamic movements in the area 'Hamas' [a group that seceded from the 'Islamic Movement' in 1997 and called itself 'Islamic Hamas in Iraqi Kurdistan'] and a group called 'Al-Tawhid' which also joined the alliance. He expressed his opinion that the "Ansar Al-Islam is not a cohesive group because it includes elements who support Al-Qa'ida and others who were trained in Afghanistan but are not pro Al-Qa'ida…" Al-Talabani said that he could not determine whether the alliance had any connections with Saddam Hussein's regime, but added that there was information that Iraqi intelligence was present in its ranks. [10]

Another report by the Saudi London-based Arabic daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted Al-Talabani claiming that "the number of members [of Ansar Al-Islam] increased after the American attack on the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan and that most of the members are Arab Afghans who arrived in northern Iraq via Iran…"

The report goes on to say that the man known as 'Abu Wail,' who is thought to be the contact between Al-Qa'ida and the Iraqi regime is, according to Al-Talabani, still at large and that he is with the leaders of Ansar Al-Islam who are entrenched in the area of Biyara. The report concludes that "according to information, 'Abu Wail' is the only Arab among the leaders of Ansar Al-Islam [who are Kurds]."[11]

On the other hand, Muhammad Hassan Muhammad, who is in charge of public relations in Ansar Al-Islam, denied the existence of Al-Qa'ida fighters within the ranks of his organization and said that he would welcome anyone who wanted to visit the area "to check the veracity of this claim."[12]

III. Iraq's Relations with its Neighbors

Turkish and Kurdish 'Verbal Battles' Have Recently Erupted Over the Fate of Northern Iraq. The following are a few examples:

Turkey's Defense Minister: Northern Iraq is Part of the 1920 Turkish National Covenant
"…Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said that Ankara was closely watching the developments in northern Iraq, which he described as part of the 1920 Turkish National Covenant, and therefore under the safekeeping of Turkey. He said that the territory was forcibly separated from Turkey during the Independence War… and that Turkey would oppose any attempt to take advantage of the situation in the region, whatever force was behind such an attempt".[13]

In reaction to this statement, the KDP's newspaper, Khabat published an article titled "The time of threats and menace is over" in which it said that despite repeated statements and assurances from Kurdish leaders, "Turkish officials continue to claim that the U.S. intends to establish a Kurdish state [in northern Iraq]…the question is why… it is clear to all that Turkish officials covet the city of Mosoul and consider it their inheritance from the colonial Ottoman state…they forget that international conventions annexed it to the independent Iraqi state…and no earnest son of this region would want to link himself [again] with Turkey…" [The paper continues with a harsh attack on Turkey's policies towards the Turkish Kurds][14]

In a meeting with party activists in northern Iraq, Mas'oud Al-Barazani, head of the KDP, stressed that "Kirkuk is an old Kurdish city, and it is not subject for any deals… The party has articulated this position clearly and openly…"[15]

Meanwhile, "the Turkish National Security Council, in its meeting in August discussed the possibility that Al-Barazani may declare Kirkuk, Irbil, and Mosoul - where Turkmen are the majority - as an [independent] Kurdish region … The NSC stressed that Iraq's territorial integrity was of vital importance."[16]

In reaction to that the Turkish deputy PM - Devlet Bahceli reacted by stating that: "Mas'oud Al-Barazani's statement is unacceptable. He talked nonsense. He is unaware of the real power of the Turkish army…"[17]The efforts to contain the tension between the two sides were extended to the military arena, whereas the spokesman for the KDP denied reports published by Turkish newspapers that the Kurds were mobilizing troops near the Iraqi/Turkish border."[18]


Saddam Extends His Hand to Tehran: We Wish the Iraq-Iran War Did Not Take Place
"…In a meeting with several senior Iraqi officials on the 14th anniversary of the end of the Iraq-Iran war, Saddam Hussein said: 'The most important thing after the end of the war is that our hearts are clean from any hatred or malice. We are sorry for what had happened, and wish that it did not happen… We wish to cooperate with Iran …[and hope that] the Iranians will start cooperating as neighbors to develop [mutual] interests…"[19]


Egypt Will Not Allow American Ships to Use Suez Canal to Strike Iraq
The London Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi's correspondent in Cairo, Hassanayn Karoum, reports on a statement by President Mubarak's political advisor Usama Al-Baz to the opposition weekly Al-Geel. Al-Geel's reporter Ilham Abd Al-'Al wrote:"Usama Al-Baz, political advisor to the president of the Republic, told Al-Geel exclusively that Egypt will not allow American ships to pass through the Suez Canal in order to strike at Iraq, and that it objects to any military action against Iraq. Al-Baz warned of the danger such a move would pose for the entire reigion.""Al-Baz also told Al-Geel that the issue of international inspectors concerns the UN and the Security Council, not the U.S., and that therefore, the U.S. has no right to take any military action against Iraq and also no right to interfere in Baghdad's domestic affairs or to impose a specific leadership on the Iraqi people."[20]

IV. The Iraqi Opposition: News and Opinions

A New Opposition Alliance?
"Iraqi dissidents are about to announce the formation of a new opposition organization… called 'The Supreme Council for National Salvation' headed by former Iraqi chief of staff, lieutenant general Nazar Al-Khazraji. The council will include eight Sunnis and two Shi'ites [all of them former high ranked officers or officials]… Al-Khazraji said that the council is one way to avoid a civil war in Iraq and partitioning the country since its members enjoy high credibility and an honorable past in the military and national political arenas in Iraq …"[21]

The following day, Al-Khazraji denied the formation of the new council. [22]

V. Women's Rights

The Kurdish National Assembly Outlaws 'Honor Crimes'
"…The law that forbids punishment of crimes of honor [against women suspected of adultery] was approved after extensive debate… The speaker of the National Assembly said that women suffered injustices … and that their lives were at risk because of a pretext that had no legal or religious basis, but in fact contradicted the edicts of Islam…"[23]

[1] Al-Qabas (Kuwait), August 15, 2002.

[2] Iraqi News Agency (Iraq), August 19, 2002.

[3] Al-Thawra (Iraq), August 19, 2002.

[4] Al-Hayat (London), August 21, 2002.

[5] Al-Hayat (London), August 9, 2002.

[6] Babil (Iraq), July 15, 2002.

[7] Al-Hayat (London), July 28, 2002.

[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 22, 2002.

[9] Al-Hayat (London), August 23, 2002.

[10] Al-Hayat (London), August 21, 2002.

[11] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 24, 2002.

[12] Al-Hayat (London), August 22, 2002.

[13] NTV (Turkey), August 20, 2002.

[14] Khabat (Kurdish Democratic Party organ), August 23, 2002.

[15] Khabat (Kurdish Democratic Party organ), August 16, 2002.

[16] Sabah (Turkey), August 25, 2002.

[17] (Turkey), August 24, 2002.

[18] Al-Hayat (London), August 25, 2002.

[19] Al-Hayat (London), August 9, 2002.

[20] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 14, 2002.

[21] Al-Rai Al-Amm (Kuwait), July 30, 2002.

[22] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 31, 2002.

[23] Khabat (Kurdish Democratic Party organ),August 16, 2002.

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