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News, 13-20/12/02 (4) INSIDE IRAQ * Hussein's Obsession: An Empire of Mosques * Iraq renovates its shelters, but few want to use them * The Lion, On His Den: an Interview with Iraqi Dissident Ghazwan Al-Mukhti * Iraq to have multiparty and opposition system * Iraq's Shortage of Medicine May Grow More Severe * Inside the ice cream factory paralysed by import bans NEARLY INSIDE IRAQ * Iraqi exiles in Jordan fearful of regime change * Iraqis may not welcome invading U.S. troops as liberators * Iraqis board buses for long journey home KUBAYSI * Interview in Baghdad with Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, a leading member of the patriotic Iraqi opposition INSIDE IRAQ http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nyt/20021215/ts_nyt/hussein_s _obsession__an_empire_of_mosques * HUSSEIN'S OBSESSION: AN EMPIRE OF MOSQUES by John F. Burns Yahoo, from The New York Times,15th December BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 14 For a glimpse into Saddam Hussein's cast of mind as he weighs the threat of another war with the United States, there are few more revealing places to look than the Mother of All Battles Mosque, a vast, newly constructed edifice of gleaming white limestone and blue mosaic that the Iraqi leader oversaw from blueprint to completion on Baghdad's western outskirts. First, the minarets. The outer four, each 140 feet high, were built to resemble the barrels of Kalashnikov rifles, pointing skyward. The inner four, each 120 feet high, look like the Scud missiles that Iraq fired at Israel in 1991 during the Mother of All Battles, known to Americans as the Persian Gulf war. At their peak, these inner minarets are decorated with red, white and black Iraqi flags. There is more. Inside a special sanctum, treated by the mosque's custodian with the reverence due a holy of holies, there are 650 pages of the Koran written, it is said, in Mr. Hussein's blood. As the official legend has it, "Mr. President" donated 28 liters of his blood about 50 pints over two years, and a famous calligrapher, Abas al-Baghdadi, mixed it with ink and preservatives to produce the handsome writing now laid out page by page in glass-walled display cases. A reflecting pool that encircles the mosque is shaped like the map of the Arab world. At the far end, a blue mosaic plinth sits like an island in the clear water. The plinth is a reproduction of Mr. Hussein's thumbprint, and atop is a stylized reproduction, in gold, of his Arabic initials. In this, as in all else, no expense has been spared. Officials put the cost of the mosque, in a country where many families live in abject poverty on $10 or $15 a month, at $7.5 million. Mosque-building on a scale, Iraqi officials say, that no Arab leader has undertaken since the days of the great Abbasid caliphs who ruled the Arab world from Baghdad until the middle of the 13th century has become Mr. Hussein's grand obsession. He has set out to make Baghdad the undisputed center of Islamic architecture, as it was under the Abbasids, and the only thing that has stopped him from building even bigger, the officials say, is a concern not to outstrip the Islamic holy places in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. A few miles from the Mother of All Battles Mosque, two others are rising that will dwarf it. One five times the size, with many similar features in celebration of Mr. Hussein, is to be known as the Mosque of Saddam the Great. It is visible in skeleton form on the bulldozed plain that used to be Baghdad's airport, and is due to be completed in 2015. A mile or two beyond, in a gigantic cluster of domes that seem borrowed from the design book for Las Vegas, is the Al-Rahman Mosque, meaning "the most merciful," heading for completion in 2004. Part of the message the Iraqi leader is sending with his mosque-building is that he, Saddam Hussein, is the natural leader of an Arab world yearning for past glories under the banner of Islam that fluttered atop the Arab armies that conquered much of the ancient world after the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632. But the lesson encoded in the Mother of All Battles Mosque, or Umm al-Mahare, as it is called in Arabic, seems to be much narrower, and aimed like its Kalashnikov-and-Scud minarets at a more selected audience: the United States. With United Nations weapons inspectors now heading out every morning with powers to search the secret laboratories and weapons-making plants that were at the heart of Mr. Hussein's ambitions to turn Iraq into the Arab superpower, the Iraqi leader has had to do something that he says outright, in almost every speech, he abhors having had to do: bow down before the power of the outside world, led by the United States. On several occasions recently, the Iraqi leader has spoken of his concern that Iraqis meaning himself, as the country's absolute ruler not be seen to be "weaklings" and "cowards." But along with this, there has been another message, and it is the one written in stone and marble at the Mother of All Battles Mosque: That Iraqis are natural warriors, that they search ceaselessly for what Mr. Hussein called last week "the great meanings inside themselves," and that they are like coiled springs waiting for the moment of "anger and revolt" when they can avenge the wrongs done them by their enemies. In short, that they are ready for war, as Mr. Hussein said at a cabinet meeting this week, when he told his generals "that your heads will remain high with honor, God willing, and your enemy will be defeated." To Americans, and to many Arabs, it might seem chimerical that Mr. Hussein could present himself as a man who has brought Iraq glory in war. Iraq's eight-year war with Iran in the 1980's ended in a battlefield stalemate, no ground gained, with at least 500,000 Iraqis, and as many Iranians, dead. The Persian Gulf war, which was triggered by Mr. Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, ended after six weeks of American bombing and less than 72 hours of land warfare, and the abiding image, for Americans, of Iraqi soldiers scrambling out of desert bunkers with their hands raised in surrender to American troops. But at the Mother of All Battles Mosque, the inescapable message is that Mr. Hussein wants Iraqis to think of the battle for Kuwait as a glorious chapter in their history, one they should be ready to re-live if America once again chooses to launch its missiles and bombs and tanks at Iraq. Seen through this perspective, the gulf war was a victory, not a defeat, for Iraq, and its people should welcome a new chance to follow Mr. Hussein if the time comes to land a new punch on America's nose. Many who know Iraq, and the United States, and can make even a layman's estimate of their relative military strengths, would regard this as illusionism of a piece with Iraq's persistence in holding onto Kuwait in 1990 under American threats, and boasting of certain victory, until the denouement. What is harder to say, given the closed nature of Iraq under Mr. Hussein, is whether it is an illusionism like Winston Churchill's in 1940, baying at the Nazi armies in France while knowing that Britain's land forces were in no shape to repel an invasion, or whether it is something much grimmer for Iraq, the failure of a leader who lives in a tightly protected seclusion to grasp the realities that press in keenly on others. Although Mr. Hussein is said to have visited the mosque frequently during its construction, lending himself to the project as a kind of architect-in-chief, in the way that Mao in China and Kim Il Sung in North Korea used to do with every hospital and bridge and dam, officials at the mosque say that they have not seen him there since before the mosque opened last year on April 28, Mr. Hussein's birthday. The absence of "Mr. President" on the day of the opening was a striking lacuna they attribute to the heavy demands on the Iraqi leader's time. "Perhaps he was too busy," they say. But the imam at the mosque, the chief cleric, is pleased to tell reporters what he believes Mr. Hussein had in mind with the mosque. What he says comes as no surprise. Was the mosque a symbol of Iraq's defeat of America in the gulf war, he was asked. "Exactly, you have divined it well," said Sheik Thahir Ibrahim al-Shammari, his face shining with a look of something like beatitude. But was this not stretching a point a little, he was asked, given the fact that Iraqi troops fled the battlefield in Kuwait so fast. The imam smiled. He had heard the questions before, and fielding them was to him about as easy as batting away a child's softball pitches. "Well," he said, coming back at his questioner with the cleric's equivalent of a sucker punch, "I am not, of course, a military man. I am not a man to speak of battles, won or lost. But the building of this mosque, and other mosques, what is that if not a victory? The resistance Iraqis have shown to 12 years of American aggression, what is that if not a victory? No, what you see here is decidedly a monument to victory, define that as you will." One thing the mosque's keepers appear to have learned from meeting reporters is that the architectural flourishes the Kalashnikov minarets and the Scud-like towers beside them may be a little over the top for the Western taste. Accordingly, the presentation has changed. Where once visitors were told what seems obvious how the elegant cylinders of the inner minarets slim to an aerodynamic peak, like a ballistic missile tapering at the nose cone they are now assured that no such references were ever in the architects' minds. But there is no such reticence about the features that memorialize Mr. Hussein. Sheik Shammari was happy to run through the details: The outer minarets 43 meters in height, for the 43 days of American bombing at the start of the gulf war. Then inner minarets, 37 meters in height, for the year 1937; numbering 4, for the fourth month, April; and 28 water jets in the pool beneath the minarets, for the 28th day all in all, the 37-4-28, for April 28, 1937, Mr. Hussein's birthday. The mosque is one of the few buildings in Iraq where there is no portrait of Mr. Hussein. But more striking than that, there is no memorial, within the mosque, for the 100,000 Iraqis the government says died from American bombing during the gulf war. Few independent experts who have studied the 1991 bombing campaign consider the figure remotely credible, but, in any case, the war's Iraqi victims go unheralded. Outside, in the mosque's spacious grounds, there is a memorial to the dead of the Iran-Iraq war, but that, too, seems more a paean to victory than an acknowledgment of suffering. Alongside heroic, Soviet-style figures of ordinary men, women and children carved into the white limestone, there is a quotation from Mr. Hussein's message on the occasion of the cease-fire with Iran in August 1988, describing the moment as "a great day, a day of days." The seeming lack of a human dimension was underscored on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, by the fact that the mosque was all but deserted at the height of the day, apparently because ordinary Iraqis prefer to gather in large numbers at the lovely old mosques in the center of Baghdad. Sheik Shammari said that 2,500 people had attended the noonday prayers, at which he had called for "God's mercy" on Palestinian suicide bombers a favorite topic of Mr. Hussein, who has promised cash payments of $25,000 to the family of every Palestinian blowing up himself, and Israelis. But mainly, he said, he had spoken of the certainty of Iraq's victory over the United States. "I told them, `Our enemy has very advanced weapons, and in this they are stronger than we are,' " he said. "But I also said, `But we also have weapons that they do not have. We have our faith, Islam, and we have our great leader-president, Saddam Hussein. These are weapons far stronger than anything our enemy has.' " Incongruously, for a cleric of a mosque that seems political to the peak of its dome, the sheik said he preferred not to speak of politics. But then he thought it over, and could not resist. There was a president, he said, without mentioning any country, who was "steeped in the blood" of Iraqis, and who had a "crazy, paranoid" vision of the world that was driving him on to war, regardless of the sufferings it would bring. "If we want to be merciful, we would call him a Satan," he said. "He has absolutely no sense of reality, none at all." He was speaking of President Bush. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-515304,00.html * IRAQ RENOVATES ITS SHELTERS, BUT FEW WANT TO USE THEM by Janine di Giovanni in Baghdad The Times, 16th December IRAQ is preparing to renovate more than 30 bomb shelters around the capital as a war led by the United States appears increasingly likely. Most residents will be reluctant to use them, however, after the incineration of more than 400 Iraqis in the al-Amariyah shelter during the Gulf War. On February 13, 1991, Iraqi civilians, mostly women and children, sought refuge in the shelter. That night, two American "smart" bombs landed in the ventilation shaft of the two storey building. With the exit doors sealed, the temperature rose to 482C (900F). There were only 14 survivors. Most of the bodies were too badly burnt to be identified. Many were buried in a mass grave in Abu Ghareb, outside Baghdad. Rahim Batawi Hazaa, 53, a builder, is one of the survivors. His wife, two daughters and two sons were so badly burnt they could not have a proper burial. Mr Hazaa is still tormented by his decision to take his family to a shelter. "If we had stayed in my house, things would be different," he said. The family had spent three days in the countryside, trying to forget the bombs as they celebrated the three-day feast of Eid al-Fitr. When they returned to Baghdad, neighbours said that the bombing had been particularly bad. "I thought it best if we slept at the shelter," he said. It was a bitterly cold night. His family packed some sandwiches, their gold and money and walked from their home in a prosperous neighbourhood to the nearby shelter. Men and women were separated and given individual bunks with blankets. The al-Amariyah was considered to be the safest and most comfortable of the Baghdad shelters. It took three years to build and was meant to protect against nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. It was equipped with showers, beds, stores of food and a small hospital. Mr Hazaa had played with his two sons to get them settled before bed. He had fallen asleep, but just before midnight he woke up and remembers feeling anxious. "I suddenly thought I should take my family and go," he said. But he drifted off again. His next memory was of an explosion that threw him out of bed and down a corridor. He blacked out, and when he woke up, his leg was burnt and his head was covered in blood. Someone dragged him through a door. He woke up later in a hospital. "I kept asking for my family. They told me they were in the next room. Eventually when they told me the truth, I realised my life was gone." The youngest casualty was a 22-day-old baby, Heba Abid al-Satar; the eldest was Shehba Ahmed, an 81-year-old grandmother. The photographs of the dead have been collated by Intesar Ahmed, 41, who has the job of looking after the shelter, now a shrine to the dead. Ms Ahmed said that emergency workers had described the scene as like something out of Hell ‹ corpses were so badly burnt that the faces had melted. "Families kept looking for their loved ones, but there were no faces," she said. http://www.counterpunch.org/quandt1217.html * THE LION, ON HIS DEN: AN INTERVIEW WITH IRAQI DISSIDENT GHAZWAN AL MUKHTI by Joe Quandt Counterpunch, 17th December "President Sukarno of Indonesia once said, 'We silence the enemies of freedom.'" Ghazwan Al-Mukhti slumps back in his chair, silently gauging the effect of that absurdly ironic statement on his listeners. And Ghazwan is an Iraqi who lives his ironies: a denouncer of Saddam regime inequities who continues to live in Iraq; a man who worked hard to provide for his family and his retirement, only to have his assets frozen in foreign banks as a result of U.N. Resolution 687; a heart attack-age guy who's trying to quit smoking, but liberally helps himself to my cigarettes all thru 2 separate conversations; a well spoken professional who peppers his gravel-voiced diatribes with pungent American profanities. He's been asked to join the Voices in the Wilderness Writers Project, a unique attempt to give Iraqis an Internet forum. VitW is the Chicago-based group that has been working since '96 to end the economic sanctions against Iraq. I give him a call, and he agrees to meet me in the dining room of the Al-Fanar Hotel, Voices' headquarters in Baghdad. Ghazwan studied geophysics at Cal Berkley, and graduated with an engineering degree from Marquette in '67. For most of his career, he sold medical supplies to hospitals. He says he has too scientific a mind to be a writer, yet he has written dozens of articles over the years, critical not only of the U.N. sanctions against his country, but also the current regime in Baghdad. "I never wrote until I had to vent my frustration over Iraq being singled out for punishment," he says. Iraq, once boasted the highest standard of medical care in the Middle East outside of Israel. He bemoans the 12-year information gap that the sanctions created when they cut Iraq off from world developments in the medical field. Compounding the problem, thousands of health care professionals have been lost to death or emigration. Altogether, 2 million people have left Iraq since the sanctions were imposed. "Are they political refugees? Are they economic refugees? If they leave Iraq, they must claim political asylum because no country will recognize economic refugees. And these are highly qualified people we're talking about, scientists, professors. My own brother-in-law is in a camp in Sweden. "The U.S. accepted refugees from the north (Kurdish Iraq) in '92. They took anyone, doctors, peasants. They (the U.S.) said that Mr. Sadddam was threatening the Kurds. Then the Kurdish leaders Barzani and Talibani invite Mr. Saddam to mediate some problems between them. They ask him to do this!" This request made the American position look ridiculous. The U.S. retaliated for this affront to their credibility by bombing Baghdad itself that January. The prestigious Al Rasheed Hotel took a hit, injuring many foreign guests and killing 2 employees. We discuss Halabja, the Kurdish town where Saddam supposedly "gassed his own people". It is a card that the Bush administration plays often because it plays well with the American press and public. In fact, the gassing of the town occurred during a battle between Iraqis and Iranians at the end of their 8-year war. A U.S. Military College report at the time found that most of the Kurds there had died of cyanide, a gas used exclusively by the Iranian army. A Roger Trilling article in New York City's Village Voice, 5/1/02, confirmed this. "Why was the (true) Halabja story buried? Why, when Al Gore speaks against war with Iraq, does CNN cut his speech in half? He leans forward in his chair again.."Who gave the order to cut Gore?"..and let's the question dangle. "When Jimmy Carter comes out against the war, it's buried. In the U.S., who do you point at? Here, when we want to point the finger at our censor, we point at the Ministry of Information." (I stop the interview, concerned about printing what he's saying. He assures me that he's been criticizing his government for years. "If they wanted to shoot me, they would have done it by now.") "In 1988, your Congress passed a resolution calling for (limited) sanctions against Iraq (oil imports, weaponry) because of Halabja. President Reagan vetoed it." That House resolution was virtually copied in 1990 to become U.N. Resolution 687 (the sanctions measure that has been in place ever since). Yet despite the bitter fruit of those sanctions, 500,000 Iraqi children dead of malnutrition and treatable diseases since 1991, Americans seem blithely unaware of it all. "The average American, when it comes to international politics, is illiterate. The smallest school child anywhere knows more about the world than an American. Illiteracy and democracy-that's a contradiction." Taking up the oxymoron of America "imposing democracy" on other nations: "I have a headache ('headache' is his metaphor for the Saddam regime). I don't complain to you about it. But you say you want to fix my headache. You will cut off my head to fix my headache!" On the Bush administration's current favorite to replace Saddam: "Impose an Al-Chalabi dynasty? A crook and embezzler who had to run out of the country in the trunk of a car? "That's our middle class now, criminals. The sanctions squeezed out the middle class, and crooks and embezzlers took their place." His wife's career is an object illustration in what happened-she was a gynecologist who in 1979 was being paid $300 a month by the government. In 1991 her salary shrank to $60. In 2000 she retired because she was only getting $15 a month. Ghazwan sold and serviced medical equipment from '74 to '90, the year of the Gulf War. He had done very well for himself up to that point, but "I gave myself an early retirement," meaning that suddenly he could find no work. "I'm a double victim of sanctions. I put my money in foreign banks, and then the sanctions froze the Iraqi assets. Now I have to borrow money to live." He squints and smiles. "I fight the sanctions now so my kids don't have to leave me some day, just when I'm too fucking old to do anything anymore! "I think Mr. Saddam is laughing now. He's laughing because the Americans are proving him right with their double standards. Mr. Rumsfeld was in Baghdad to re-establish relations with Iraq in '85. He was fully aware of the Amnesty International report on this (the Saddam) regime. But today suddenly he says that he can't deal with this regime? "Between 1948 and 1998, there are 50 U.N. resolutions Israel has not abided by. This double standard of the Americans (ignoring the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians while demanding Iraqi compliance with tough U.N. resolutions) is making the U.N. irrelevant." Dennis Halliday, former U.N. Director of Iraqi Relief Programs, has said much the same thing. Blaming U.S. coercion and deal making in the Security Council, Halliday says frankly, "The U.N. is dying." And he labels the sanctions "a genocide". The U.S., in its dependence on military solutions to solve its problems, is sowing the seeds of further violence against Americans. "And it's not only the poor and disenfranchised who will be responsible" for acts such as the recent attacks on Americans in Kuwait and Jordan. America foreign policy is radicalizing what Ghazwan calls the "Pepsi Generation", the young and affluent Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Egyptians. He tells the story of the Baghdad professional man who came home on 9/11/01, stupefied by what had happened in New York and Washington. There, clustered around the TV were his son and a bunch of his friends-celebrating. What unnerved the man was not only that they should welcome such a tragedy, but that these kids, up to then, had never before evinced any interest in political matters. When the brother of the man who perpetrated the Kuwait attacks was questioned, he said that his brother had seen something about the Palestinians on TV, and had acted out of a sense of helplessness and rage. No matter how corrupt their governments are, "average Arabs are in solidarity with their fellow Arabs. An Egyptian feels the same voicelessness as a Palestinian." We discuss the depleted uranium (DU) problem in Iraq. During the Gulf War, the U.S. and Britain fired 300 tons of DU shells and bullets, exposing Iraqis and American servicemen alike to its radiological and chemical toxicity. 110,000 Gulf War veterans have applied for disability benefits; the military refuses to recognize most of these claims, which include cancers, genetic mutations among their children, immune disorders, and memory loss. Meanwhile, cancer in parts of southern Iraq has risen by 1800%. "Suppose a cruise missile hits a building, a hospital. Reconstruction of the building spreads the radioactive dust all over. The isotope-it's like you've inhaled a nuclear generator, and now it's trapped in you. Oxidation takes place, and the rainwater washes DU oxide into the soil, the plants. Animals eat the plants." On what he would do if America invades Iraq: "I can't leave here, I'm too old. I built things, I worked on public projects here. I'm a part of this country. Last night my wife wakes up in the middle of the night, she can't sleep. She says, 'Ghazwan, what will we do, where will we go?" I told her, 'we'll stay in our house and wait for the bombs. What else can we do?' I ask you, is that any way to live?" He's successfully ducked a writing assignment by instead giving me a full-length interview. I congratulate him on the ruse, and that's his cue. "Now I must go. We are ruled by women. If I don't go now, I won't be allowed to go out tomorrow night." By the time the interview ends, various Voices members who've stopped into the dining room for a quick meal sit clustered around us. And as he strides out of the room, someone mutters admiringly, "What an old lion." Afterwards, Farah Mokhtareizedeh remembers that the first time she met him he'd said, "Voices in the Wilderness? Are you sure you don't mean 'Voices Lost in the Wilderness of America?'" Joe Quandt is a member of Voices in the Wilderness. This interview was conducted in Baghdad in October. He can be reached at: email@example.com http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/021218/2002121816.html * IRAQ TO HAVE MULTIPARTY AND OPPOSITION SYSTEM Arabic News, 18th December The chairman of the Iraqi national opposition coalition, Abdul Jabbar al-Kubeisi, said that the Iraqi authorities permitted him to found a party in Iraq. Al-Kubeisi, who does not support toppling the Iraqi regime said "The Iraqi deputy Premier Tareq Aziz informed us that we can, as from now, start working to found a party in Iraq." He added "we can practice the political work awaiting (the end of legal ban) by new constitution and other decisions on party- pluralism." al-Kubeisi did not fix a date for the issuance of the new constitution, but only noted that this constitution will be drawn and submitted for the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and then on the Iraqi parliament. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8995-2002Dec18.html * IRAQ'S SHORTAGE OF MEDICINE MAY GROW MORE SEVERE by Peter Baker Washington Post, 19th December BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The infant lay sleeping on a bed, an intravenous tube disappearing beneath the worn gray blanket as her mother dabbed at tiny bubbles around the baby's mouth. The mother, Saadiya Saif, had rushed to the hospital with her 40-day-old daughter, Zahraa, because of the baby's cough and fever. Doctors diagnosed a chest infection. As they do nearly every day for some patient, they prescribed the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. Within a few days, the doctors said soon after she was admitted Tuesday morning, Zahraa should be well enough to go home, where she will continue to take ciprofloxacin in syrup form. But antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, commonly known by its brand name Cipro, may soon become harder to obtain here under a new U.S. proposal to tighten international sanctions on Iraq. Because ciprofloxacin can be used to counter anthrax exposure, the U.S. government wants to keep President Saddam Hussein's government from stockpiling it, fearing such a supply would make it easier for him to launch a biological attack while protecting his own troops. Similarly, doctors at the Saddam Teaching Hospital for Pediatrics here use gentamicin to treat urinary tract infections, doxycycline to help those with cholera or diarrhea, and streptomycin in cases of tuberculosis. All three would be added to the list of restricted items if the U.N. Security Council agrees to the U.S. proposal. "We're a developing country and infections are common diseases here, not like in Europe or the United States, so antibiotics are vital," said Mohammed Hassan, the 28-year-old chief resident presiding over wards of children at the pediatrics hospital. "There's no thinking of humanity, there's no thinking about the patients in our hospital." Around Baghdad, word of the possible new restrictions has drawn a mixture of outrage and resignation. Few really question adding high-tech navigation systems, missile testing equipment, radio intercept devices, night-vision technology and communications jammers to the U.N. list. And many shrugged at the idea of more shortages of everyday items. After more than a decade of privation, many Iraqis have adopted a weary acceptance of reality. Others, though, saw the effort to impose new restrictions as more evidence of American hostility. At the Mishin complex in south Baghdad, a rollicking bazaar where automotive parts are sold, Hisham Ali bristled at the idea that the large tires he sells might be restricted. "This is oppression," he exclaimed. "They're trying to affect my living. They're trying to destroy the whole economy." "Why do they focus on tires?" asked Jasim Sadiq, 35, a farmer who was buying some tires. "Do they think they're weapons?" U.S. officials put certain large tires on the list because of concern they could be used for military equipment. Yet Mohammed Fadhil needs them for his truck, so he can bring potatoes to the city. After each harvest, he loads 16 tons of potatoes and makes the journey to Baghdad, turning around to do it again a half-dozen times. In preparation for the January harvest, Fadhil, 40, spent his afternoon roaming through the market looking for new tires imported from such places as Turkey, China and India. The sanctions have long embittered Iraqis, who consider them a chokehold on their lives. But now, at a moment of confrontation with the United States, the proposed changes strike many as even more punitive. Beyond the antibiotics and tires are a host of other products that would be restricted, including atropine, organophosphate pesticides, activated charcoal, large hydraulic lifts, meteorological equipment, satellite dishes, full-motion flight simulators and even speedboats. U.S. officials came up with the 36 categories of items in their proposal this month after concluding that Hussein's government has been exploiting the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program to buy products with the ability to enhance his military power. Over the last five years, for instance, Iraq has imported more than 3.5 million vials of the drug atropine, which can be used to treat cardiac arrest, but also is an antidote for nerve agents. With his own army inoculated, Hussein might be less inhibited in unleashing chemical weapons on enemy troops, U.S. officials fear. If the 36 items are added to the restricted list, they would not necessarily be banned for import. But the United States would be able to block them on a case-by-case basis, or at least impose a monitoring system before they are approved. Negotiations on the U.S. proposal are supposed to be wrapped up by the end of the month, but Russian and French diplomats have raised objections. As a practical matter, the most modern and effective medicines already are hard to come by here, even some of those used to treat routine illness. At the Hanoudi Pharmacy on Yasser Arafat Street, most shelves long ago were emptied of drugs and stocked instead with shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream and deodorant. On back shelves that still contain medicines, some bottles date to 1980 or earlier, according to the owner, J. Hanoudi. "If you go to a drug store in America, you see everything available. Here we have nothing," said Hanoudi, 60, the image of an old-time pharmacist with dwindling gray hair and a red sweater who has been behind the counter here since 1969. "Every day, every time, we can't help people. What can we do?" Even without the new restrictions, Hanoudi said he cannot get atropine or inhalers for asthmatics or insulin for diabetics. What he can get, he said, he cannot get enough of. "If I need 1,000, there is 10," he said. Just then, a man walked in and asked for capsules with fusidic acid to treat a bacterial infection. "I haven't got it," Hanoudi said. "Could you get it for me?" the man asked. "I can't. It hasn't been available for a long time." The Ministry of Health disburses medicines to hospitals and pharmacies each month depending on what it receives through the U.N. program. In November, Shatha Edward Harak, another pharmacist, received a two-month allotment of 300 packages of acetaminophen, 200 vials of ampicillin, 30 iron injections for those with anemia, 14 vials of procaine penicillin, 12 doses of thiamine and two packages of the laxative Sennalax. She got 24 packages of ciprofloxacin from Syria and eight from India, and sells them for as little as 10 cents, depending on the dose. Harak said supplies are somewhat more available than they were in the years immediately after the Persian Gulf War, before the U.N. Security Council revised the sanctions program to allow more humanitarian goods into Iraq. The U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF, reported recently, for instance, that the child malnutrition rate fell from 32 percent in 1996 to 23 percent this year. But Carel de Rooy, the UNICEF director for Iraq who announced the improvement, also noted that the numbers mean nearly 1 million Iraqi children still suffer from chronic malnutrition. The Iraqi government has said 1.7 million children have died from disease, lack of food or other causes linked to the U.N. sanctions, which were imposed after Hussein's troops invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990. Western health specialists have contested that figure, putting the number closer to 500,000. Whatever the count, the notion of further restrictions on ciprofloxacin and other inexpensive, commonly used antibiotics has left Harak and her customers baffled. "Is this for rockets or bombs?" said Mohammed Ibrahim, a 39-year-old driver who came by for some ciprofloxacin to recover from bronchitis. "I just want to take my medicine to get well. I just want to breathe." Harak picked up the theme. "This is not for war. This is for people to live. Let the people live." http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,863259,00.html * INSIDE THE ICE CREAM FACTORY PARALYSED BY IMPORT BANS by Rory McCarthy in Baghdad The Guardian, 20th December When the UN imposed import controls on Iraq to close down Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes the staff of the Baghdad Dairy thought they had little reason to worry. Since 1958 the privately owned company, boasting one of the best-known trademarks in Iraq, had been a prosperous business producing high-quality milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream. After the Gulf war in 1991 it found that most of its equipment and many of the chemicals it relied on from abroad were labelled as potential "dual-use" goods, which could also be used to build nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Hundreds of items were put on a list of banned imports. "Our production was paralysed and several of our lines shut for good," said Adnan Khadir, the dairy's production manager. "We just couldn't import what we needed." Overnight so many production lines ground to a halt that the dairy was forced to close. Hundreds of other apparently innocuous businesses across Iraq suffered the same fate. Now the issue of dual-use equipment stands at the heart of the standoff between Iraq and the US. Baghdad claims that it has no more nuclear, chemical, biological or long-range missile programmes. Washington insists that many Iraqi sites described officially as civilian projects are still dual-use facilities. Iraq claimed for years that its largest chemical agent laboratory, al-Muthanna, which made mustard gas and the deadly sarin and tabun, was no more than a pesticide factory. When it was first inspected in 1991 one UN official described the laboratory as "perhaps the most dangerous place on earth". The UN attempted to shut down these secret factories by putting hundreds of chemicals and pieces of technical equipment on a banned import list, known as the goods review list. Private industry was badly hit. The Baghdad Dairy was banned from importing a centrifuge machine, which was to be used to make cream and ice cream. The company still has an old centrifuge machine in its dilapidated three-storey factory in a suburb of eastern Baghdad. UN teams may decide to inspect the premises. Also banned from the dairy were the chemicals vital to sterilise their equipment. Even yeast was on the list. They were forbidden from importing the machines and paper needed to make the cartons which kept the milk they produced fresh. "The list is ridiculous. Nearly everything we need is dual-use," said Mr Khadir. "We believe nothing is impossible and we try to survive. The fate of many families depends on us staying in business." When the factory finally reopened in 1996 it was able to produce only cream and pasteurised cheese. Managers had to scour local markets for often low-quality chemicals to replace those banned. Production has fallen from 80 tonnes a day in 1990 to five tonnes a day now. Quality has slumped and the staff of 600 has been cut back to 35. Hundreds of similar potential dual-use sites were listed in detail in the weapons programme declaration that Iraq handed to the UN this month. On the eastern outskirts of Baghdad production at the Babylon Paint factory has almost completely halted. The company can no longer import any of the iron oxides, carbon, cobalt or thinner that it once used to make paint. "We don't make weapons here. We can't even make paint," said the managing director, Khalil Mustafa. "Our speciality was making good things, paint that made things look refreshed and new again. Now it's over." NEARLY INSIDE IRAQ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2002/12/16/MN60064. DTL * IRAQI EXILES IN JORDAN FEARFUL OF REGIME CHANGE San Francisco Chronicle, 16th December Amman, Jordan -- Nazem Odeh has a dream about the future of his homeland, Iraq. "It will be a country where everyone will have a place to live and work, and a place for his thoughts," said the 36-year-old poet and literary critic, who lives with his wife and two children in a tiny apartment here, navigating carefully among columns of books in Arabic on literature and philosophy piled up on the stone floor. "Its government will be credible and honest." Odeh left Baghdad four years ago, he said, because the regime censored everything he published and the secret police followed him wherever he went. Yet his dream does not involve the ousting of Saddam Hussein, especially one brought about by a U.S. military strike. "Everyone is afraid of a regime change because no one knows how it is to be carried out, how many lives it would cost," Odeh said. Odeh's view seems to fly in the face of a basic assumption of the Bush administration -- that ordinary Iraqis, both inside and outside the country, would rise up as one in support of such a move. It is an assumption shared by an assortment of Iraqi exile groups currently meeting in London to plot the outlines of a post-Hussein Iraq. But Odeh is afraid of them also. "We don't know what kind of a government we would have if it happens," he said. "If it is made up of the opposition that is corrupt and once was close to Hussein, it is bad. If it is handpicked by the United States, and has no respect for the feelings of the Iraqi people, that is also bad." There are an estimated 300,000 Iraqis currently living in Jordan. Some, like Odeh, seek refuge from a repressive regime that has killed and tortured hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Others came for medical treatment, mostly for cancer and heart diseases, which they are unable to obtain from Iraq's dilapidated medical system. Most, according to the Jordanian office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), are here out of basic need, fleeing a society squeezed mercilessly by ruinous wars and by the economic impact of their country's isolation. But none of those interviewed here over the past several days showed any desire to return under the auspices of American action. Neither did they appear to support what most of the rest of the world has said is desirable: the eventual departure of Saddam Hussein. "Strong people like us need a strong leader like Saddam Hussein," said Mohammida, 38, who has lived in Jordan for four years. "We don't want any new regime, especially one that is imposed on us from outside," she said. "What we want is for the (U.N.) sanctions to be lifted so that we can live in prosperity again." Like many Iraqis here, Mohammida asked that her last name not be used, afraid that Jordanian immigration authorities would track her down -- her one- month visa long having expired -- and deport her home. It is also possible that some of the Iraqis interviewed were afraid of speaking publicly against the Baghdad regime, aware perhaps of the presence of Iraqi secret police, whom Jordanians acknowledge operate here. But it is also clear that many exiles hold U.N. economic sanctions, imposed on Iraq since 1990, chiefly responsible for their plight. "Because of the sanctions, people don't have access to medicine and very little food," said Fatima, 45, who lives in a squalid two-room apartment in the mostly Palestinian Baqaa refugee camp, about 8 miles north of Amman, with her son, his wife and their two children. "A war would only make it worse." The majority of Iraqis here, especially the economic refugees, share that view, say aid officials. "People feel that an attack on Iraq would destabilize the country even more, " said Jamal Hattar, the director of the Jordan branch of the Vatican-based Caritas International aid group. "They don't see regime change as a solution to their problems, a light in the end of the tunnel." While there is debate about whether the suffering has been caused by the sanctions themselves or by the way they have been manipulated by Baghdad's ruling elite, all Mohammida knows is that she now lives in a stripped-down room, also in the Baqaa camp, with her three children, ages 5, 6 and 11. The door to their room doesn't close completely; there is no furniture, the walls are cracked and the wires in the single electric socket are dangerously exposed. Still, she insists, no government suits Iraq better than the present one. "Saddam is a ruler who understands us, knows our needs," she said. After Hussein's decision Oct. 20 to issue a large general amnesty to the nation's prisoners and Iraqis living abroad -- a gesture largely viewed as a public relations gesture aimed at the West -- a surprisingly large number of exiles have asked Iraqi embassies for one-way travel documents to return to their homeland. An Iraqi embassy official in Amman said that in November, nearly 3,000 Iraqis asked to return home, and almost all of the applications were approved. He said several hundred Iraqis have applied and received similar documents from Iraq's diplomatic missions in Syria and Lebanon. Mohammida is not one of them. Her husband, who lives outside of Baghdad, lost his job as an official with the Iraqi Ministry of Education and barely survives on welfare. Mohammida, who earns money as a baby sitter here, is afraid that she would not be able to feed her children if she returned home. Neither is Odeh, who is awaiting UNHCR's response to his request for political asylum in the United States, Canada or Britain. The agency has been granting refugee status to some 700 Iraqis annually, about 25 percent of those who apply, the U.S. Committee for Refugees reported last year. Meanwhile, Odeh and the other exiles dream their dreams. Asal, a 42-year-old engineer who lives in Amman, is one of the few Iraqis who openly acknowledge criticisms of his homeland's leader. "Saddam is responsible for the U.N. sanctions, because he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He is responsible for not sharing the money in equal ways. He is responsible for the poverty," Asal said. But all Hussein needs, Asal continues, is a little push, though not from the Americans. "Saddam should stay. I'm sure he can improve and become democratic under pressure." said Asal. When queried about how a man who has used chemical weapons against his own people can be expected to reform, Asad answered evenly, "Democracy and equality is possible under this government . . . without any military action." http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/2002/12/17/news/world/4754652.htm * IRAQIS MAY NOT WELCOME INVADING U.S. TROOPS AS LIBERATORS by Mark McDonald Miami Herald, Knight Ridder News Service, 17th December AMMAN, Jordan - Khaled Jamal was a front-line soldier when Iraq invaded Kuwait a decade ago, and now he's been called back to active duty to prepare for what his superiors believe is a certain American invasion. Tall, swarthy, the father of six, Jamal is a corporal in the Iraqi reserves. In recent days he has been visiting Iraqi friends and relatives who live in neighboring Jordan. But he has been given two weeks to get back to Baghdad and back into uniform. "I have to go back to fight, to defend my family and my country," he said Wednesday, sitting barefoot on a carpet in a friend's home and sipping a glass of strong, sweet Jordanian tea. "Iraqi people are used to war. Kids who were 5 years old in the Gulf War are now soldiers. They're ready to fight." Jamal's willingness to go home to fight what most experts consider a hopeless battle against a superior American force casts doubt on the contention of some in the Bush administration that the Iraqi people will greet invading U.S. troops as liberators. While many Iraqis might be happy to see Saddam Hussein pushed from power, many others remain staunchly nationalistic and hostile to American attempts to install a pro-Western government. Jamal, 34, an infantryman who as a teenager fought in the Iran-Iraq war, said he knows the Iraqi military is no match for American firepower. If there's a war, he said, he's sure that he and his countrymen would lose. "But we'll do our best, and we'll use all our weapons," he said, emphasizing the word "all" but adding that he doesn't think the Iraqi arsenal includes weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad does not seem tense or fearful, Jamal said. The government recently doubled rations of foodstuffs and household staples. Some say the increases are meant to help citizens stock up before hostilities break out; others say they're meant to curry favor with a restless public. "I like Saddam, and people naturally follow the leaders of their countries," he said. "Look at Bush. He won the election with fewer than 50 percent of the votes, but Americans are still following him because he's their leader. Saddam is our leader." Since the Gulf War, Jamal has been activated three times, mostly for specialized training, including drills for chemical and gas attacks. "American gas," he said. "Of course." While in Amman, Jamal has been staying with a childhood friend, Fadal Mohammad, an accountant who fled from Iraq to Jordan two years ago. Mohammad, originally from Baghdad, is one of an estimated 300,000 Iraqi refugees who have poured into Jordan in the 11 years since the Gulf War. The Jordanian government is worried that hostilities in Iraq could lead to a huge and immediate exodus of new refugees. Mohammad Adwan, Jordan's Minister of State for Political Affairs and Information, said Thursday that his government "won't allow huge floods of refugees." "We simply can't absorb them," he said. Fadal Mohammad, who is single, left Iraq to make more money, and perhaps to make his way to Europe. His government-regulated salary in Baghdad, he said, was $5 a month. In Jordan, as an exporter of rugs, he makes $1,000 a month. "It's Saddam who has destroyed the Iraqi economy, not the [U.N.] sanctions," said Mohammad. "Saddam spends everything on weapons." If Jamal and Mohammad have very definite and very different opinions about the Iraqi leader, the two old friends seem to have agreed to disagree. For example, when Mohammad calls Hussein "a man of terror," Jamal manages a pained smile but says nothing. Perhaps Jamal and Mohammad don't argue because they know they might not see each other again: Jamal is being activated, war seems certain, and this time, after surviving two previous wars, perhaps his battlefield luck will have run out. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/19_12_02/art12.asp * IRAQIS BOARD BUSES FOR LONG JOURNEY HOME by Hussain Abdul-Hussain Daily Star, Lebanon, 19th December Some 75 Iraqis illegally residing in Lebanon were deported on Wednesday, with the Iraqi government picking up the transportation tab, officials at the country's embassy here said. Embassy official Khaled Shweish told The Daily Star that the 75 had left Iraq illegally. "But after the presidential amnesty issued recently by (Iraqi) President Saddam Hussein, these people could go back home without any fears of facing any charges," he said. Shweish added that they were not refugees. "They are people who had entered the country illegally and consequently do not hold any legal Iraqi or Lebanese residency documents," he said. Ali Ahmed, 35, along with his wife and two daughters, expressed his joy while boarding one of two buses parked next to the embassy in Hazmieh and headed for Baghdad. "The tough socioeconomic situation in our country forced us to leave in February. We crossed the Iraqi-Syrian border and paid $200 to be smuggled into Lebanon," Ahmed said, Sitting on his luggage with his daughter in his lap holding a picture of the Iraqi president, Ahmed said he had hoped to travel from Lebanon to Europe as a UN refugee. He said he was told: "If you make it to Beirut, the United Nations will take care of you and your family and will give you asylum in a European country." However, his search for asylum stalled in Lebanon. "There are numbers of Iraqis who are still waiting for the UN asylum arrangement. I knew a few of them who have already been given UN documents and sent to Canada or Sweden, but after they had stayed for sometime here," Ahmed said. Ahmed said his time in Lebanon was difficult and saw him quickly spend the small amount of money that he had borrowed while in Baghdad. "I tried to look for a job to feed my family, but few businesses employ illegal Iraqi residents," he said. Ahmed's wife, Tayseer, said that a family can survive if relatives are nearby, "but it is not easy to live in a country, illegally, unemployed and as total strangers." "We considered going back home as far back as March, a month after our entry, but we feared facing charges for our illegal status in our own country," she said. "After we heard of the presidential amnesty - God bless our leader Saddam Hussein the great - we could not wait to make our trip back." Asked whether it was safe to go back to Baghdad with a US-led war looming, Samir, 42, replied: "It is better to die at home than to live in a cold country that has treated us as complete strangers." Most of those waiting for the buses said they could not afford the cost of their trip back. "The Iraqi government is funding their return and has pledged to pay all the expenses of any Iraqi who wants to return," Shweish said. He added that the embassy was unaware of the number of Iraqis illegally residing here. KUBAYSI http://www.freearabvoice.org/interviews/alKubbaysi.htm * INTERVIEW IN BAGHDAD WITH ABD AL-JABBAR AL-KUBAYSI, A LEADING MEMBER OF THE PATRIOTIC IRAQI OPPOSITION Interview conducted by Ibrahim Alloush in Baghdad, 13 December 2002 Free Arab Voice (online news agency), sent through list FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you became an oppositionist? Al-Kubaysi: My name is Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi. I graduated in civil engineering from the American University in Beirut in 1967. I remember that the last test I took that year took place on the 5th of June - the day of the great set back. I had joined the Arab Socialist Baath Party in 1958 at the age of 15. I was arrested in 1959 in the days of Abd al-Karim Qasim, and again in 1960 because of my student activism. In 1961 I went to Beirut and came back to Iraq after obtaining my university degree. When I came back, I was required to perform my military service. I entered the reserve officers' school and graduated at the head of my class. That gave me the right to choose the place where I would serve my period of military conscription. I chose the al-Walid base near the Jordanian border. The Palestinian resistance movement was in its infancy then. I used to spend my leaves in Jordan - ten days every three weeks. I used to transport whatever weapons I could bring over, since the nature of my work as an engineer of airstrips and bomb shelters involved frequent trips to Jordan as part of my job, and I drove a military vehicle that was not subject to customs inspection. After 17 July 1968, when Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr came to power in Iraq I was arrested for a period of nine and a half months. I was then released but re-arrested a month later for a period of a year and seven months. I was then released in June 1971. FAV: Why were you arrested by your Baathi comrades who had just then taken power? Was it for some specific charge, or because you belonged to the other wing of the Baath Party? Al-Kubaysi: Yes, there was no specific charge. Maybe the first arrest was just a precautionary measure because they had recently come to power. But the second period of incarceration came after someone confessed that I was in the military branch of our wing of the Baath Party. That was arrest without trial by the way. But after I was released I returned to work at the oil company where I had been working before, and it was a government-owned oil company, incidentally. Then I remained in Iraq working in the secret organization of the other wing of the Baath Party until August 1976. FAV: What happened in August 1976? Al-Kubaysi: The top man in charge of secret work of the party in Iraq, Ahmad al-Azzawi, was assassinated in Damascus. He had been a member of the pan-Arab leadership of the Party headquartered in Syria. I was called on to go to Damascus to take his place. FAV: So you showed your cards? Al-Kubaysi: I went to Damascus with no intention of coming back. I had been working underground. I left the country for Cairo and from there went to Damascus to become the official of the secret organization in Iraq . . . FAV: And you didn't go back to Iraq until . . .? Al-Kubaysi: Until 11 November 2002, when I returned to Baghdad. FAV: What were you doing in Syria? Al-Kubaysi: I was a member of the Pan-Arab leadership of the Baath Party, in charge of the office concerned with relations with all the Iraqi opposition groups, both Arabs and Kurds. In 1980 the Democratic National Patriotic Front was formed in Damascus, uniting all the groups that were Iraqi opposition parties. They had no chief, but there was a general secretariat, and I was one of its members along with [Kurdish leader] Jalal al-Talibani and Aziz Muhammad from the Iraqi Communist Party, and Awni al-Qalamji, and others. Membership in the Secretariat of the parties did not go to individuals but to the parties and every party could chose its representative to the Secretariat. FAV: But the relations with the Syrian regime began to sour after that? Al-Kubaysi: On 13 July 1982 we issued a declaration in the name of the Baath Party and the Front condemning attempts by Iran to attack Iraqi territory. Specifically, we had taken a stand against the war from the beginning, and against the entry of Iraqi forces into Iran. So it wasn't reasonable after that for us to agree to the entry of Iranian forces into Iraq. This worsened our problems with the Syrian regime. Things came to a head some years later when Iran occupied Faw Island, and we issued a declaration condemning the attempts at occupying Iraqi territory. As a result of that I was put under house arrest in Damascus. A number of my Iraqi Baathi comrades who were loyal to the Baath wing that was ruling in Damascus were arrested and were not released until 1989. After that came the story of Kuwait, I mean, when Kuwait returned to Iraq. At that point there were meetings with the Syrian leaders. They asked me to return to work with them, but I refused. So I was again placed under house arrest, after I had briefly been let out. That continued until exactly a week after the end of the Second Gulf War. After that, the security guards from around where I lived were taken away. But I had no way to travel outside the country because I had no passport. During the First Gulf War [the Iran-Iraq War] Iraqi opposition forces began to leave Syria, among them the parties that have an Arab nationalist character, and some Communists who had severed their connection with the Communist Party because of the Communist Party's fighting with the Iranian army and because the Communist Party had fallen under the rule of the Kurds and the political influence of the Syrian leadership. After the end of the Second Gulf War [the US Aggression against Iraq, 1990-1991] Iraqi oppositionists left in greater numbers from Syria, going to Europe. As for me, I stayed in Syria until 1997. In 1996 they returned to me my Syrian diplomatic passport. When I used it, I never returned to Syria. FAV: How were your relations with the Iraqi opposition groups in Syria at that time? Al-Kubaysi: We shared a common stand against the Iraqi regime and for democracy and freedoms in Iraq. But political developments led to a split in the opposition into two blocs. These blocs crystalized during the second period of the First Gulf War and during the 30 Nation Aggression Against Iraq. One bloc of the opposition was made up of the official Communists and the two wings of the Kurdish national movement. The other opposition bloc represented the Arab nationalist forces and those Communists who refused to cooperate with Iran. FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar, you have come to Iraq as a representative of the Iraqi National Alliance together with a delegation that includes five others who represent other wings of the leadership of the Alliance. What exactly is the Iraqi National Alliance and who belongs to it? Al-Kubaysi: The same groups that took a stand in Syria against the American aggression against Iraq and later left for Europe. Before that they were the same people who had a position on Iran's invasion of Iraq. All these groups held a congress in Sweden in June 1992 where they formed the Iraqi National Alliance based on a view of the events that had taken place and on the basis of a condemnation of the embargo on Iraq and a demand for the spread of freedoms there. The groups that participate in the Iraqi National Alliance are: The other wing of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, The Socialist Unity Party (of Nasserite orientation), The Arab Labour Party (Arab Nationalist - Marxist), The Arab Socialist Movement (the remainder of the Arab Nationalists' Movement, mostly inclined to Marxism), The Kurdish Islamic Army, The Kurdistan Peace Party (an elite of Kurdish intellectuals and journalists), The patriotic current in the Iraqi Communist Party, A group of independent political and intellectual figures. FAV: What real political weight do all these organizations have with Iraqis in emigration? Al-Kubaysi: We really have no way of posing the question in that form. Iraqi citizens abroad left home in search of a living and none of the opposition parties have any real weight with them. This is true not just of us but of the Iraqi opposition forces that obtain funds from the Arabian Gulf regimes and which enjoy the political facilities that America imposes on the states of the world. They have means, but they don't have any mass following. The number of Iraqi opposition organizations abroad is 173, most of them being mercenary and having no authentic roots either in Iraq or abroad. FAV: OK. So, do you have a mass following inside Iraq? Al-Kubaysi: Yes, we have a mass following inside Iraq. This is because we haven't come out of nowhere. But we don't have organized forces. Historically, the Arab nationalist current in Iraq had two wings: the Baath and the Arab Nationalists' Movement. We paralleled or more than paralleled the currently ruling Baath current. Our masses are in agreement with the regime in broad patriotic and Arab nationalist terms, but not on the issue of freedoms, which are still a matter on which we differ. The ruling party rules by itself. The masses whom we met when we came here support the regime in its patriotic and Arab nationalist orientations, and are ready to fight in defense of Iraq against the embargo and any aggression. But they believe that the spread of political openness will strengthen the resiliance of the homeland to aggression and embargo. These masses welcomed our arrival. They considered it a step on the right path. Even if the regime wants to kill us we must fight together with it against aggression. If we don't, we will lose the justification for our existence. FAV: You have anticipated my question regarding the reasons for your return to Iraq . . . Al-Kubaysi: Since 1992, our political line has been against the American projects, and a condemnation of those forces that cooperate with the foreigners. We endorsed the steadfastness of our people, the rebuilding of our country and their standing up to the embargo. Since that time we have been convinced that Iraq has entered into an historic confrontation which will have many pages; the last was not turned in the year 1991. It is a confrontation that will continue in many different ways. We are not convinced that the embargo will be lifted in a year or two. This confrontation demands that an opportunity be given to releasing political freedoms. On this basis we have appealed for a patriotic reconciliation to strengthen the resilience of our people to the embargo and aggression. In September 2000 we convened the Second Congress of the Iraqi National Alliance in London. It was attended by 104 delegates from other countries. And I'd like to point out that the congress was entirely self-funded by the participants. FAV: Haven't the Americans tried to build bridges to the Iraqi National Alliance or to make contact with you? Al-Kubaysi: Never. This is because our position on them is well known. We call for fighting them. We held demonstrations against them in front of the American embassies in western Europe to demand an end to the embargo and in protest against the continued American genocide of Iraqi children. FAV: What about the other opposition forces, the ones that cooperate with America, such as the Iraqi National Congress? Have they not tried to coordinate with you? Al-Kubaysi: They are creatures of the Central Intelligence Agency. These are groupings that were hidden in deep freeze that they brought out and thawed out a little. Many of their figures were part of the regime, by the way. When things got bad in the country, they simply "packed their bags" and left to join the other side. FAV: What about the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq? Have they tried to contact you? Al-Kubaysi: the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is an Iranian card (arm). Its base is with some of the Iraqi prisoners captured in the Iran-Iraq war and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Among their leaders there is not one native Iraqi. Even Baqir al-Hakim is originally from Isfahan, Iran, not Iraq. And they haven't tried to make contact with us either. FAV: And in the Kurdish north of Iraq? Al-Kubaysi: Up there there are the official Communists and the two Kurdish wings that existed before 1991. These are movements that are native to Iraq. As to the Kurdish movements, we are in contact with certain individuals. As to the political movements, we cut off contact with them in 1991. As regards the Communists, two patriotic blocs have split off from them. One of them is with us in the National Alliance (the bloc of Khalid Salam and Ahmad Karim) and the other bloc is the Advanced Cadre (the bloc of the member of the Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party, Baqir Ibrahim al-Mousawi). We are in weekly contact with them. They don't want to enter into any coalitions before their own organization has crystallized. The official Iraqi Communist Party is under the influence of the Kurdish National Movement, but more than half of its rank and file members at least are patriotic individuals about whom there can be no doubt. If there were in Iraq a call for reconciliation, and if we are able to create an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect, I believe that those brothers in the Iraqi Communist Party would not accept the course of their current leaders and would return to their country to form their own patriotic Communist bloc. The real bloc in the Communist Party is patriotic, without doubt. But the American efforts directed at Iraqis abroad and the lack of détente inside Iraq puts this patriotic bloc in its present situation. As to the leaders of the Communist Party, they have drowned in Kuwaiti money. The US State Department issued a list of 17 Iraqi organizations that have been receiving funds from it when it was asked by the US Congress which parties outside the Iraqi National Congress are receiving American money. This list included the name of a club or platform of Iraqi Communist intellectuals in London. FAV: Are we to understand from all that that there is no Iraqi opposition abroad with any weight or credibility which could form an alternative to the regime? Al-Kubaysi: No! [There isn't.] FAV: Even those who are with the Iranians? Al-Kubaysi: You said "Iraqi", not extensions of the Iranians. Be aware of the fact that the opposition abroad is split up along ethnic and confessional lines. If America brings them in, there will be massacres in Iraq, because they are oppositions that are narrowly restricted in terms of what religious and ethnic groups belong to them. Not only that, but there are six or seven Turkmen parties, for example. In addition there are three Assyrian organizations. These have never established Iraqi organizations; rather they have established a climate and a basis for the growth of real domestic civil warfare. There will be blood-letting if they are fated one day to take power. From this we see the importance of the movements in our Iraqi National Alliance and of the rank-and-file of the Communist Party (whose leaders are now pursuing a destructive and unpatriotic course). The real patriotic Iraqi oppositionists today are the ones who own nothing and are supported by no foreign state. If they came to Iraq, they would come together on the basis of their patriotic line in it. Even the Kurds. I am not saying that the Kurdish movement as a whole is a creature of the Mossad and CIA, but there is no doubt that the Mossad and the CIA take advantage of the Kurdish movement. FAV: Since these are your positions, why has it taken you so long to return to Iraq? Al-Kubaysi: Let me first make clear that I am not a criminal who has come back under some sort of amnesty. There was an environment of very costly infighting. For example, my two brothers were executed in 1981, for no reason other than being my brothers. Such an environment of infighting requires a long time to create an atmosphere of trust. The leadership in Iraq was meeting us in the past while totally focused on the work of lifting the embargo. Our viewpoint was that the precondition for confronting the embargo was the spread of an atmosphere of reconciliation with Iraqi patriots, not the postponement of such a reconciliation. Let me make clear that we have no aspirations to taking power, nor will we accept a share in power. But we want a chance to fight in defense of the homeland. After occasional meetings over a period of years we received an official invitation to come, based on a resolution of the Iraqi leadership to engage in preparing legislation, as we have been told, to provide for political pluralism and freedom of the press for political parties, and also providing for undertaking a series of measures to create an atmosphere of tolerance. We were supposed to arrive two months ago, but we did not receive the necessary entrance visas until the beginning of November. FAV: How were you received? How did your meetings with officials go? Al-Kubaysi: We were received well and the meetings were warm. The officials praised our making the effort to come. We presented the need for mutual respect and the spread of an atmosphere of reconciliation, and we presented the need for permission to be granted for political parties to be formed and for the emergence of a free press ON THE BASIS OF RESISTANCE TO AGGRESSION AND AMERICA'S PROJECTS IN THE REGION. We emphasized the importance of working to rally the forces and make national unity firm again, noting that these are the basic tools for resistance. We might not be able to win militarily, but we can resist and resistance is what can raise the cost of aggression to the extent that it forces the enemy to withdraw. We said that we hope that the leadership will be flexible in dealing with the matter of weapons and inspections because the fact that war does not happen is itself a victory for Iraq. FAV: Did you find the leadership receptive to what you proposed about pluralism on a patriotic basis, and are there actual steps being taken in this regard, and a specific schedule? Al-Kubaysi: A Supreme Committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Dr. Izzat Ibrahim to prepare a constitution and a law of political party pluralism and a law on the press that gives parties the right to issue newspapers. We were told that the preparation of drafts will take at least a month. After that these laws must be brought to the Legislative Council, and this will take some time too. But as for us in the Iraqi National Alliance, we have been told that we can implement these rights immediately under the provision that they are "under construction". FAV: Will you make use of this offer? Al-Kubaysi: We must go back to Europe to discuss these matters with our brothers. It is possible that some of us will come to work on the basis of this offer within three months, and that after that a larger number of us would come at the start of next summer. But until that time, the Iraqi state can, and indeed must, resolve to augment these laws to facilitate life for the citizens, and to cancel all the measures of a coercive nature. For example, with respect to the infighting amongst patriotic forces that has gone on since 1959, we hope that a decree will be issued whereby all those who fell or were killed in this internal struggle from all parties will be considered martyrs for Iraq and not martyrs of this or that political party. This will help many families regain status and reduce the administrative hindrances to their exercising their civil and natural rights and it won't cost the regime anything. Similarly, there must be compensation for the families of those executed and whose property was expropriated. Also the language used with all the opposition groups must be the language of reconciliation. They have said that every Iraqi oppositionist, however far he's gone in attacking the regime may return without being questioned or interrogated or pursued. They have said that the only ones they will pursue will be those who take part in American or Zionist intelligence efforts. We hope that this position will be reflected in announcements and in official statements. However an Iraqi abroad may have erred, this goes back to American efforts and the absence of any reconciliatory dialogue domestically in Iraq. We must break up this American effort by means of internal reconciliation. The biggest bloc of them is not treacherous, but patriotic. We differ from some of them, yes, but to fight among ourselves, or make one another our enemy? No. Some of them have attacked us in our demonstrations yet inspite of that we have not lost our vision with respect to them. We must save them from the circle of error, and the Iraqi state bears responsibility for this. Iraq is a country that has become great abroad by mounting a confrontation on behalf of the Arabs and all of humanity against American aggression. It is appropriate for this country to have a domestic project that is also great. FAV: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing? Al-Kubaysi: Yes. I want to say that limiting the confrontation with aggression to the geography of Iraq is not in the interest of the Arab Nation. I am not talking about fighting the aggressors outside of Iraq here. Rather I am saying that we must build a model for political life in Iraq that binds the whole Arab Nation to it. It must be a positive model for the entire Arab Homeland. We must build a political life that we can be proud of, a model for the Third World beyond the Arab Homeland. All of humanity will one day discover that they are indebted to the Iraqis for confronting American savagery. So we must cause the "dictatorship card" to fall from America's hand, the way we have made them drop the excuse of "mass destruction weapons". We know that they do not want democracy. Democracy does not come from missiles and gunboats. We have an Arab National project for renaissance and we want to fight the Zionist project in our countries. We must, therefore, build a fighting political force. The issue is not only an issue of stability of the regime. It is an issue of how to spread the project of Arab renaissance throughout the Arab homeland. I do not want a government post as long as I live. I only want my right to an independent opinion, not subjected to the authorities. We know that the leadership in Iraq was told more than two weeks before UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was passed that Iraq's problems could be solved if it agreed to establish relations with "Israel" in the framework of a so-called "just and lasting peace", and that they rejected this unequivocally. They remain insistent upon this rejection, and we cannot differ from them. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk