As the date of the referendum on the Iraqi presidency drew near, and in the wake of heightened diplomacy concerning Iraq's position on international arms inspections, the Iraqi media further intensified its glorification of Saddam Hussein and his leadership. A few weeks ago, in a simultaneous move, all the official online Iraqi newspapers, such as Al-Thawra, Al-Jumhuriya, Iraqi News Agency, etc. posted pictures of Saddam Hussein on their portal pages. The weekly Al-Iqtissadi, which is managed by Saddam's son Uday, dedicated a permanent section, until the referendum, to letters of support to Saddam from readers/citizens. On the other hand, several articles in Arab publications, as well as statements by Kuwaiti officials in particular, highlighted what they described as the evil aspects of Saddam and his regime.
1. Saddam States He Will not Abdicate the Responsibility of Defending His Country
"Iraqi president Saddam Hussein declared that he could not abdicate the responsibility of defending Iraq, which was an honor that was not to be relinquished. He added that Iraq wanted to rule itself by itself … 'but whoever preceded us did not protect this treasure and did not demonstrate it in a befitting manner…'"
2. Uday Saddam Hussein Promises Enemies' Heads Will Roll
"Uday Saddam Hussein threatened that the heads of Americans, Brits and others will roll all over the place if they attempt to get close to Iraq's borders to invade it…" Uday added that his family was proud to be targeted by the U.S., and that "this is better than targeting the country's infrastructure…"
3. More Statues of Saddam
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "An Iraqi sculptor says 'Yes' to the reelection of Saddam Hussein by creating nine new statues [of the Iraqi president]." The report from Baghdad said that the artist Khalil Khumeis intended to finish the project and to exhibit the statues on October 15, which is the referendum date for the presidency in Iraq. One of the new statues will be eight meters high and will be the largest ever made of Saddam. The report goes on to quote the artist as stating that Saddam "will get 100% of the votes this time..." [In the last referendum the approval rate was 99.96%.]
4. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar Prophesied the Emergence of Saddam, While a Tunisian Ba'thist Foresaw His Destructive Role
"The official Iraqi daily Al-Jumhuriya said that the builder of the historical city of Babylon 'prophesied the emergence of President Saddam Hussein,' who would rebuild the city that the first Babylonian king had built. The Iraqi newspaper talked about an archeological tablet which was found in the 1980's, and dates back to 570 B.C. According to the paper, the tablet proclaims that '…Whoever finds this tablet, let him anoint it, then inscribe his name and deeds on it, and return it to its place…' According to Al-Jumhuriya, another archeological find stated that: 'He who rebuilds Babylon will always defeat his enemies.' The paper added that: 'there is a great significance and symbolism in that, because it signifies the prophecy of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar about Saddam Hussein, who is the first person who ordered the rebuilding of Babylon, and whose name is inscribed on the new corner stone, for the first time since Nebuchadnezzar built the city.'"
At the annual festival at the site of the historic city of Babylon, the organizers produced a light-and-sound show based on "a Sumerian legend in which love of country overcomes the powers of darkness, as a contemporary representation of Iraq versus the U.S…" The festival itself was held under the slogan "From Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein."
5. Religious Edicts: For and Against Aiding the U.S.
Religious leaders continued to issue contradictory edicts [Fatwa], allowing or prohibiting action against Saddam's regime, and/or cooperation with the U.S. and its allies. Following the edict issued by the Shi'ite Imam Mahammud Hassan Fadhl Allah allowing collaboration between religious and secular parties to topple Saddam Hussein, the official daily Al-Iraq reported: "Bashir Hussein Al-Najafi [no details, however it is safe to assume from his name, 'Al-Najafi', that he is a Shi'ite cleric from the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq] issued a Fatwa obligating Muslims to fight back the American oppressor and his kind, and to refrain from aiding him in any way…" The Fatwa said that: "Allah's wrath will be upon any Islamic government, organization, or party that acts differently…"
On the other hand, "A distinguished Shi'ite religious leader, Ayatollah Sadiq Al-Husseini Al-Shirazi, who is a member of the Iraqi opposition and resides in the religious city of Qum (Iran) called for relentless but lawful efforts to free the Iraqi people from what he described as the 'grievous oppression' that they have been enduring for several decades…" The Kuwaiti paper Al-Watan, which published the statement, commented on it: "It contradicts another Fatwa issued by Ali Al-Sistani, who resides in Najaf (Iraq), and who prohibited any cooperation with the U.S. and considered any attack on Iraq aggression against all Muslims…"
From Tehran, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan asked Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution [Iraqi opposition supported by Iran] for his opinion on two reported edicts issued by Al-Sistani and by Muhammad Sa'id Al-Hakim forbidding cooperation with the U.S. He answered: "There was no indication until now that these edicts were indeed issued. The situation in Iraq is very difficult, and we believe in the sanctity of cooperation between the Iraqi people and the U.S…" In his statement, Baqir Al-Hakim described the Iraqi regime as a "terrorist regime" and said that, "it is the worst regime that the region ever had; it puts despotism, racism and ethnic strife at the top of its priorities. We have been trying to topple this regime for the last 20 years, but we believe that it is wrong to do so through an overreaching war… We believe that the Iraqi people are responsible for accomplishing that [change of regime], and not [someone] from the outside…"
In Egypt, Sheikh Muhammad Sayid Tantawi, head of Al-Azhar, stated that: "no Muslim country is permitted to allow the U.S., or others, to use its territories to strike Iraq or to facilitate aggression against any Muslim nation or country…" In a statement to the Saudi daily Okaz, Tantawi said that the U.S. had no right to attack Iraq.
6. Egyptian Journalist: The U.S. Intends to Remove All Employees of the Iraqi Military Industry
"Egyptian newspaper writer Muhammad Hassanain Haykal revealed what he termed as an American plan to resettle abroad all the Iraqis currently employed in military industry. He mentioned that the number was between 20,000-22,000 scientists, specialists, and technicians…" Asked whether President Bush was trying to avenge his father's "unfinished war," he answered that such opinions did not make sense because "the Americans plan everything, and Bush senior stopped the war because Colin Powell told him that it accomplished its purpose, and because the Arab countries within the alliance said that they faced domestic pressures…"
1. Organization Denies Ties to Al-Qa'ida or Baghdad
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily quoted a statement issued by Ansar Al-Islam in which it said that Mulla Kreikar, the leader of the organization, who is in custody in Norway, announced through his Norwegian lawyers that he was ready to meet with American officials if they wanted to verify the information that was published by the media about "his ties with Al-Qa'ida and the Iraqi government." The statement further declared: "Mulla Kreikar is convinced that there is no truth to the information and documents published against him; he is sure of himself and has the courage to confront whoever wants to confront him..." The statement asserts: "The organization never had any ties, connections, dialogues or direct, indirect, public or secret correspondence with the Iraqi regime, and that it is not ready to start any such relations in the future…" The statement also expressed willingness to open the areas under the control of Ansar Al-Islam to inspection for "alleged materials" [referring to recent allegations that Ansar Al-Islam possesses chemical/biological weapons], and went on to say that those allegation "were just American psychological pressure on the Kurdish parties to convince them to participate in the American plans to strike Iraq…" [Meanwhile, a Dutch court agreed to extradite Mulla Keikar to Jordan where he had been accused of drug dealings].
Similarly, an official in The Islamic Union Organization in northern Iraq [member of one of the two regional governments in the autonomous Kurdish region] issued a denial about the existence of Al-Qa'ida members in northern Iraq, as well as any ties with Saddam Hussein's regime. He said: "a look at the map of the region shows that Iran, Turkey and Syria, who refuse to harbor members of Al-Qa'ida, surround northern Iraq. Therefore, it is impossible for anyone to infiltrate into our territories…"
On the other hand, in response to a question of whether the existence of Ansar Al-Islam in areas adjacent to the Iranian border requires deployment of American ground troops, the official spokesman for the Kurdish PUK, Sa'di Ahmad Bira said: "The existence of this organization is part of plans [hatched by] elements that oppose change in [the status quo] in Iraq… [Ansar Al-Islam] is unable to cause disruptions without support from other parties… We have information indicating that there are some ties between Ansar Al-Islam and remnants of Al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, and that they receive direct support from Al-Qa'ida…" When asked whether there were ties between the organization and Iran, he said that he had no evidence to that effect.
2. 150 Members Desert to Join "The Islamic Group"
Al-Hayat daily quoted the Kurdish newspaper Ja Mawa Ra as reporting that "150 members of Ansar Al-Islam split from the organization and joined The Islamic Group organization, which is also active in the border areas [with Iran]." According to the Kurdish newspaper, "Ansar Al-Islam lost a lot of its popularity recently because some of its armed members desecrated holy Kurdish religious sites…"
1. Turkey Rejects the Kurds' Brand of Federalism
The Kurdish regional parliament met for the first time after the reconciliation between the two main political parties in northern Iraq. It discussed a constitutional draft, which calls for the creation of a federal system in Iraq. Turkey responded immediately with a statement by P.M. Ecevit who said that although the proposal was just a draft, and therefore not official, it was "unacceptable in its present format, because it practically abolishes Iraq… and treats Baghdad as if it is non-existent…" He added that although the document talked about northern Iraq as a federal region [within Iraq], the scope of the authority that was granted to it exceeded such status to the point of giving it "an independence status..." Ecevit stressed that "if this draft becomes official, Turkey will not accept it…"
2. Al-Barazani: The U.S. Deceived Us in 1991
In an extensive interview with Al-Hayat daily, Mas'oud Al-Barazani, leader of the KDP was asked "whether he had guarantees that the Iraqi opposition would not be deceived this time around, the way it was in 1991." He answered: "Today's situation is different than 1991. True, the uprising did not take place as a result of American promises or requests. The Iraqi people rebelled by their own free will. But it is also true that the Americans deceived the Iraqi people in the sense that they allowed the Iraqi army to use its tanks and fighter planes against the uprising. Today the problem concerns the U.S. directly, it has become an issue between the American government and the Iraqi regime…"
3. Al-Talabani and Al-Barazani Continue Their Integration Efforts
"The two Iraqi Kurdish leaders signed several agreements forged by bi-lateral committees, in an effort to complete the peace process in Iraqi Kurdistan… According to these agreements, each party will be allowed to establish branches in areas under the control of the other party, and citizens of the region will enjoy freedom of movement between various areas in the region… Both leaders also stressed their intentions to include all political parties in the region in the peace process …" In a statement to Al-Hayat daily, the two Kurdish leaders pledged that, "they will never revert back to in-fighting", and promised the Kurds a more prosperous future.
4. Iraqi Revolutionary Council: Kurds Permitted to Participate in Presidential Referendum
"Iraq's Revolutionary Council decided to allow eligible Kurds to vote in any Iraqi province in the presidential referendum. This was a departure from the 1995 law that required voting in each one's birth place… The referendum will take place in only 15 out of the 18 provinces in Iraq. The three provinces that were excluded are Sulemaniya, Irbil, and Dahouk, which have been within the autonomous region in northern Iraq since 1991." [Iraqi media reported that the total number of Iraqis eligible to participate in the referendum was 11,561,979 voters.]
5. Al-Talabani Calls on Arabs to Evacuate Karkouk
The chairman of the Kurdistani National Federation, Jalila al-Talabani, has called on Arabs who live in Kurdish areas, which are still under the control of the Iraqi government, to evacuate.
A Kurdish source from Kurdistan News center in al-Suleimaneyah said that al-Talibani stressed during a meeting with several Kurdish forces officers on Tuesday that Karkouk is a "Kurdish city" and that the Turkmans and the Assurs ethnic groups are brothers to the Kurds as well as the Arabs who used to live in the area before introducing "the Arabization policy and they have the right to stay in their homes." Al-Talibani called on the leaders of the Kurdish forces to develop their fighting skills by training on advanced weapons. He stressed the importance of the current phase in the history of the Kurds and the developments expected on the Iraqi arena which requires the "re- arrangement of the Kurdish house." This is, however, the first time in which a Kurdish leader called directly on Arabs who were resettled in the Kurdish areas to evacuate.
Al-Talibani signed several agreements of normalization of relations with the leader of the Kurdistani Democratic Party, Masoud al-Barazani, in Dukan to the north of al-Suleimaneyah, before a meeting for the united parliament to be held next Friday in Irbil.
Both al-Talibani and al-Barazani signed the agreements they have reached during the two past weeks. Kurdish officials said that the agreements will be "enforced" immediately.
This is, however, the first meeting between the two Kurdish leaders to try settle their differences through reviving the united parliament since signing their agreement on September 8 in Salah Eddine, which falls under the control of the Kurdistani Democratic party.
1. Iran Denies Statement that it Will Overlook Accidental Violations of Its Airspace by U.S. Airplanes
"Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran's defense minister, said that his country would not consider American planes 'hostile' if they enter Iranian airspace by mistake after the beginning of the military operations against Iraq." He added that "such unintentional and harmless violations cannot be considered hostile, if indeed it is proven to be a mistake, and when geographical consideration are taken into account…" [The Iraqi daily Babil was the only newspaper that reported this statement in one sentence.] A few days later, "Iran's foreign ministry contradicted Ali Shamkhani's statement, as reported by Kuwaiti newspapers, and said that any violation of its airspace would not be tolerated…"
2. Iranian Official: The Day Saddam is Toppled will be the Happiest Day for Iranians
In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan, deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament Muhammad Riza Khatemi said that "the day Saddam Hussein is removed from power, regardless of how it is done, will be the happiest day for the Iranian people." He added that the "Iranians considered Saddam an opportunist who could not be trusted and who did not honor international agreements nor moral values..."
3. Kuwait: Iraq Might attack Kuwait with Chemical Weapons
Kuwait continued its intensified campaign against the prospect of a chemical attack by Iraq. "For the second time in so many days, a senior Kuwaiti official, this time the defense minister Sheikh Jabir Al-Mubarak Al-Sabbah, expressed his opinion that Iraq might attack Kuwait with chemical weapons if the U.S. attacks [Iraq]… In a statement to the press he said that 'the Iraqi regime does not have any moral deterrents and the question is not whether it intends to use chemical weapons against its neighbors, but whether it has such weapons…'" [Kuwait's ambassador to the U.N. Muhammad Abu Al-Hassan echoed these sentiments saying that the Iraqi regime is not trustworthy, and that Kuwait's experience with it is enough to convince Kuwait to take precautions against the probability of a chemical attack.]
In another statement, Al-Mubarak described Kuwait's missile defense system as "one of the best in the world, because it is supported by very advanced reconnaissance capabilities…" An unidentified source at the ministry of interior revealed that the "ministry prepared 'a special plan' to secure the domestic front and to deal with any 'terrorist activities' that threaten [Kuwait's] security in case of an American-British attack on Iraq…"
On the religious front: Kuwaiti authorities issued instructions to Imams and preachers in mosques to refrain from discussing the anticipated strike against Iraq. A source in the ministry of Islamic affairs said that: "the new instructions are an extension of previous ones… and added that discussing politics from mosque pulpits had no merits…"
4. Kuwait's Parliamentarians: We Should Pay Our Share in the Cost of a Strike Against Saddam
"Members of the Kuwaiti parliament expressed their strong support for the decision that Kuwait should pay its share, as determined internationally, in the cost of the anticipated strike against Saddam, and [in the efforts] to relieve the region and the Iraqi people from the danger of his continued rule… They also said that every peace loving country in the world should support [the effort] to get rid of the evils of the Iraqi regime…"
5. Egypt: A Demand to Investigate Iraqi Bribes to Egyptian Politicians and Intellectuals
In a dispatch from its reporter in Cairo, Al-Hayat daily reported that the Egyptian writer Mamdouh Al-Sheikh, formally requested that the attorney general, Maher Abd Al-Wahid investigate news reports about Iraqi pay-offs to Egyptian nationals, who in turn campaign for the Iraqi regime. The request cited a news report published by Al-Hayat on May 5th, 2002, in which it quoted Jordanian sources as saying that: "Egyptian and Lebanese politicians established companies and used their positions to further ties between their countries and Iraq…[and that] the Iraqi regime gifted quantities of oil to Egyptian and Syrian artists who visited Iraq and pledged support to its regime…" Al-Sheikh went on to say that the Egyptian newspaper Sawt Al-Umma also published a report on September 30th written by Dr. Suleiman Abdallah Ahmad, in which he said that [Egyptian] intellectuals were helping Iraq at the expense of the poor Iraqi people…