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[casi] News, 10-15/01/03 (2)

News, 10-15/01/03 (2)


*  At Your Service
*  Iraqis buying guns to fight invasion
*  Iraq's Shiites Describe Reign of Fear
*  Forbidden fruit: Iraq dates hit by war and sanctions
*  Ground under Saddam's heel, southern clans are seething


*  Iraq government cuts petrol supplies to Kurds
*  Iraq government restores petrol to breakaway Kurds
*  Ansar issues chemical war threat
*  Kirkuk: Iraq's northern tinderbox
*  Delicate Iraqi Kurd Notes Batter Mighty U.S. Dollar
*  Iraqi fundamentalist leader deported from the Netherlands


*  Western planes again attack Iraqi air defenses
*  US hits anti-ship missile launcher in Iraq
*  Iraq says six civilians wounded in US-British bombings

INSIDE IRAQ,,3933-538987,00.html

by Greg Watts
The Times, 11th January

KNEELING before Pope John Paul II during Mass in St Peter's Basilica, Rome,
Father Andreas Abouna must have experienced mixed emotions: sadness that he
will be leaving London, and a mixture of joy and anxiety at the prospect of
returning to his homeland of Iraq, as the new Assistant Bishop of Baghdad.

Father Andreas was one of 12 new archbishops and bishops being ordained by
the Pope, in a Vatican tradition which takes place each year on the Feast of
the Epiphany. The rest of the group came from Italy, Vietnam, South Korea,
Ireland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Benin and Spain. Four will be papal
representatives in Asia, Africa and the UN, two secretaries in the Roman
curia and six diocesan bishops.

Born in northern Iraq, Father Andreas, 59, has, for the past 11 years, been
chaplain to the UK's Chaldean Catholic community, who come from Iraq and
live mainly in the London area. The Chaldean Church, which is an
Eastern-rite Catholic Church, resumed full communion with Rome in the 16th

Unsurprisingly, St Peter's was packed for such an event. Among the global
congregation were around 50 Iraqis from Britain, along with Monsignor
Vincent Berry, representing the Diocese of Westminster, and members of the
Benedictine community at Ealing Abbey, where Father Andreas occasionally
celebrates Mass.

As the long procession of bishops and priests slowly entered the nave, heads
began to crane expectantly. Then applause began to break out and flashbulbs
went off, as the Pope, clad in gold and white vestments, and sitting on a
mobile platform, wheeled by four men in suits, came into view. Despite being
82 years of age, frail and suffering from Parkinson's disease, he is
determined to carry on as the 263rd successor to St Peter. Two bishops
assisted him throughout the two-and-a-half- hour sung Latin Mass.

After the readings and the gospel, which told the story of the visit of the
Magi to the Christ Child in Bethlehem, came the ordination of the 12 new

The Pope anointed each of them with the oil of chrism and then laid his
hands on them to symbolise apostolic succession. Each was presented with a
crozier, symbolising his role as shepherd, a silver ring, representing his
marriage to the Church, and a mitre and book of the Gospels. They then
embraced the cardinals and numerous bishops gathered around the sanctuary
and received their blessing.

In his homily, the Pope said: "Faith in Christ, the light of the world, has
guided your steps from your youth to your offerings of yourselves in
priestly ordination. To the Lord you did not give gold, incense and myrrh,
but your lives. Now Christ asks you to renew that self offering, so that you
may exercise in the Church the episcopal ministry."

In February, Bishop Andreas will leave his flat in West Ealing for the
offices of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad. As Raphael I Bidawid,
Patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans, is suffering from poor health,
Bishop Andreas will have to take on extra responsibilities.

Having lived through the Gulf War, he well knows what difficulties may lie
ahead as the US gets tough with Saddam Hussein. "It is the will of God, so I
have to go," he said after the Mass.

Gulf News, from Reuters, 13th January

Bedouin gunshop owner Yassin Al Jabbouri says Iraqi civilians are arming
themselves to challenge the American invader.

Iraqi clan groups, a key force in the country, are stocking up on rifles and
pistols from the Iraqi capital's 45 retail gun outlets, taking heed of
government calls for the populace to ready itself for a U.S. invasion,
Jabbouri says.

The United States is boosting its forces in the Gulf ahead of a possible
attack to end President Saddam Hussain's 23-year rule saying he is hiding
weapons of mass destruction.

"I have a tribe of 200,000 people and 12,000 of them are in Baghdad ready to
fight. We are all human shields against America," the 50-year-old Bedouin
chief said.

"There has been growing interest in buying weapons. It's in the interests of
Iraqis to have weapons to face the American fighters...We are all military
now," he said, adding that Iraqis would be keen to punish American troops
for the suffering of Palestinians fighting U.S. ally Israel.

Gun culture is deeply ingrained in Iraq, where possession of guns is seen as
a mark of honour among the 150 or so Bedouin tribes. They form a critical
base of support for Saddam, himself of Bedouin origin.

Baghdad is festooned with large posters of the Iraqi leader in various poses
handling guns, which anyone over 25 can buy.

Pro-Saddam street parades over recent weeks have featured groups of men,
women and children marching with an array of weapons. The United States says
Iraqis will be glad to see the back of Saddam.

The state set up a popular defence force two years ago, ostensibly to fight
with the Palestinians. The state distributes arms for free to all members of
the ruling Baath Party, thought to number over two million.

"This is the one I'm going to fight with," Jabbouri said, pulling out a
$1,500 Italian-made rifle. "Everyone has three or four guns each now.
There's no tribe that doesn't use arms. Even my wife can fire a good shot
over a distance."

Rifles, from Beretta Italian originals to cheap Turkish copies, range from
$200 to $1,000, Jabbouri said.

by Daniel Williams
Washington Post, 14th January

DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 13 -- Ali Hamaadi, a bookkeeper from the southern
Iraqi town of Kufah, remembers being caught not long ago in a rain of little
leaflets dropped from on high by an unseen U.S. plane. Uniformed members of
a militia called Saddam's Fedayeen quickly cordoned off the neighborhood, he
recalled, and began collecting the papers as if they were winning lottery

"I didn't dare pick one up," Hamaadi said at the home of a friend in
Damascus. "I didn't even glance up or down. It would mean execution for

Hamaadi was sipping tea with a half-dozen Iraqi visitors and refugees who
have trickled across the border in recent weeks. Some came to avoid a war
they think is inevitable. Others came for medical care, and a few to see
relatives among the estimated 400,000 Iraqis, including Kurds, who have
taken up residence in Syria over the past two decades.

They brought tales of increased vigilance by President Saddam Hussein's
multi-layered Baath Party observation corps, militia members and police
officers, all tasked to keep an eye on the restive Shiite Muslim population
in Iraq's southland. The Shiites, many of them poor and dissatisfied, make
up the majority of Iraq's 24 million inhabitants. Beyond the thousands of
U.S. troops poised for a possible invasion, the Shiites constitute the
greatest potential threat to Hussein's grip on power.

Shiites rose up against the government in 1991. They were encouraged by
Iraq's swift defeat in Kuwait and the call of President George Bush to
rebel. But the United States, with jets, helicopters and troops within
striking distance, declined to support the revolt. Hussein's loyal military
units assaulted Shiite towns and villages, hunted rebels down and crushed
the revolt.

Memories of American timidity 12 years ago were strong among the visitors
from Kufah. This time, they said, Shiites will think twice before exposing
themselves. "When we are sure that Saddam's security apparatus has
collapsed, we will arise," Hamaadi said, "but not before."

The visitors were wary of speaking to a reporter. Those who said they might
return to Iraq before war breaks out feared reprisals. Others had relatives
inside the country and did not want their names in print. Their accounts of
life in Kufah are difficult to verify. But in Damascus, they spoke about
subjects that their compatriots in Iraq would steer clear of when speaking
with reporters in the habitual company of government guides.

Even in the seclusion of an anonymous cinder-block house on the outskirts of
Damascus, they were cautious. Why these detailed questions? Why the desire
to know about security matters? Aren't our opinions enough? "The Syrians
don't ask these questions when we come to the border. Why do you?" asked

Kufah lies 10 miles northeast of Najaf, a major Shiite religious center.
Najaf is the burial place of Ali, the Shiite martyr whose battle with
Sunnism precipitated the major Islamic schism, and Kufah is where he was
killed. The Shiite-Sunni split is one of Iraq's defining divisions. Sunni
Muslims have traditionally formed the core of Iraq's ruling elite. Many
Iraqis regard Hussein as a defender of Sunni prerogatives.

One traveler from Kufah, a retired government employee, ventured that
"Saddam is finished." However, he added, the Iraqi leader is trying hard "to
ingratiate himself with the people." Fees on permits to leave the country
have been slashed and rations of flour, beans, lard, sugar and rice
increased in recent months.

A prisoner amnesty last fall was regarded by the Kufah residents as a
travesty. They said the government released only common criminals. Relatives
of political inmates, they said, continue to line up at government offices
to inquire about the fate of their kin. Officials from Human Rights Watch
have received similar reports.

In Kufah, Baathist officials routinely visit private homes to count heads,
the visitors here said, carrying notebooks full of names and asking where
everyone is. They occasionally draft at least one male member of a family
for two months' service in the Jerusalem Army, a militia created two years

"They put us there just to make us think we are fighting for Palestine,"
said a bookstore owner. Recovery of Jerusalem as the capital of a
Palestinian state is a pan-Arab rallying cry. "Everyone will run when the
bombs fall," the bookseller continued. "This is just a way Saddam tries to
keep us busy."

The recruits are taught to use a gun, but no one gets to take a weapon home.
Uniformed, salaried members of Saddam's Fedayeen patrol the streets.
Residents volunteer, "but only to get something to eat," the bookseller

The visitors from Kufah said they listen to foreign radio broadcasts at
night -- either the BBC Arabic service or Radio Sawa, the U.S.-funded news
and music station. "The rhetoric on Sawa is not bad, but it won't make us
American," Hamaadi said.

He and the others are loyal to Dawa, a Shiite resistance organization inside
Iraq. It is reputed to have a large, clandestine following.

Dawa boycotted the recent exile conference in London on grounds that many of
the exile leaders were American puppets. The U.S. government has been leery
of Dawa because of its association with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite
movement that the State Department has listed as a terrorist organization.

A Dawa official in Damascus said his organization has no "working
relationship" with Hezbollah. In any case, Dawa is lying low in advance of
the expected U.S. invasion, the official said. The invasion is unnecessary,
he argued, because Iraqis could overthrow Hussein if U.S. bombers would pin
his troops in their barracks for a time. He rejected the prospect of U.S.
military rule in Iraq.

"This idea shows a misunderstanding of Iraqi feelings," he said. "We don't
want anyone's occupation."

The Dawa official said about 60 of his relatives are jailed in Iraq. He
expects many Iraqis will be tempted to carry out vendettas against
pro-Hussein activists should the government collapse.

"Only against criminals, of course" he took pains to say. "Many people only
cooperate with Saddam in order to get by. No one wants killing for killing's

The retired government employee piped in with an exception. "There was a
Baathist who hit me on the head with a rifle butt because I didn't know
where my brother was. He, I will kill."

by Andrew Hammond
Yahoo, 13th January

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqis are finding a brief respite from talk of
impending war in the tangled love-life of the country's most famous
entertainment export in the Arab world.

The United States is threatening to invade Iraq to remove President Saddam
Hussein over the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction programme.

But the media in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world is abuzz with reports
that popular Iraqi singer Kazem al-Saher has left his Iraqi first wife for
another woman.

Newspaper sales rose on the news and tongues are wagging in Baghdad, where
the heartthrob no longer lives and access to the lively Arabic entertainment
media is limited.

"He married her in Paris," said one woman in a fashion boutique in the
affluent Karrada district of Baghdad. "No, but she's Spanish," her companion
chirped in. "Anyhow he's free to do what he wants."

"No, no," frowns Walid Khaled, who works in one of a chain of music shops
owned by Saher's family. "It's not true."

Government paper al-Jumhouriya, sounding displeased at the news, asked Saher
to make a public statement. "We will reserve judgement on whether to believe
it until Saher decides whether it is true, or that he will not take a second
wife," it said.

The singer, known for pop videos featuring dozens of dancing women, has been
based in Cairo with his Iraqi wife and two sons since making it big outside
Iraq in the mid-1990s.

But at home, Saher is still idolised.

"Kazem is everything for people here. He speaks to everyone in his songs and
he is very humble. He is an ambassador for Iraq," Khaled said.

"People are wishing and praying he will come back," he said of the romantic
balladeer, who last year had a song ranked number six in a BBC worldwide
music poll of favourite songs.

Newsagent Abbad Jassem said interest in Saher's love escapades outside Iraq
had increased sales of entertainment papers and magazines, such as the
weekly al-Maw'id.

"When there is news about Kazem in the paper it sells three times as many
copies as normal," he said.

On sale for the equivalent of 25 U.S. cents, the weekly offers translations
of reports in Egyptian, Lebanese and Gulf magazines that don't make it into
the country or sell at prices which only the rich can afford.

But not everyone was bothered by the reports.

"I heard people talking about it. But I don't care. I didn't have any
reaction at all," said Soad, a veiled woman shopping in Karrada.

by Neil MacFarquhar
International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 14th January

BASRA, Iraq: The hundreds of packages of dates stacked on the concrete floor
and metal shelves of the venerable Al-Moosawi Co. are remarkable for one
curious absence.

The label does not mention that they are Iraqi. The brand itself, "Dubai
Dates," is misleading enough, but the name "United Arab Emirates" runs up
one side of the package decorated with a drawing of a date bouquet.

Anyone handling the packages - and their predominantly Russian labels signal
their ultimate destination - would have no idea they were grown around this
southern port city.

That is the whole point, of course. Iraqis resort to subterfuge to avoid
United Nations sanctions preventing exports of a product once viewed as more
desirable than even the country's crude oil. The UN bans all exports from
Iraq except under the oil-for-food program.

"Nobody wants to hear about anything called Iraqi dates or, for that matter,
about anything made in Iraq," lamented Fathi Atallah Raja, the Baghdad
spokesman for the Iraqi Date Processing Marketing Co., a semiprivate
collective that handles all sales.

To a certain extent, the story of Iraq's dates mirrors the Iraqi experience
since Saddam Hussein assumed control of the country. What was once a
thriving industry finds itself inexorably fading after 23 years filled with
war, economic sanctions and a negligence driven by the pursuit of industrial
development and other, more lethal projects.

Iraqis crow that the reputation of their dates was once such that Americans
set sail with a whole shipload of date palm saplings to plant in California
in the 1930s. Exports of Iraqi dates spanned the globe.

War wrought the first devastation. Millions of trees in what Iraq boasts was
once the largest date forest in the world, on the Fao Peninsula, just south
of here, were either burned or felled by shrapnel during the raging battles
of the 1980-88 war with Iran.

What were once majestic stands of palms are gone, replaced by a stunted,
nightmarish landscape of decimated trunks and blackened stumps. The former
population of 16 million date palms around Basra is now estimated at 3

The Gulf War also took its toll, with a mysterious outbreak of disease
afterward that some blame on depleted uranium shells.

Iraqi scientists identified the disease as a fungus, fusarium, that attacks
the crown of the tree, causing it to topple and leaving the flaccid trunk
weirdly twisted. It is known around here as Mad Palm Disease.

"The heart of the palm turns from white to black and it creates a bad
smell," said Abbas Mahdi Jassim, director of the Center for the Study of
Date Palms at the University of Basra. "We link it with the war because we
didn't know this disease before."

The only way found to prevent the spread has been to fell the trees and burn

Jassim, who earned a doctorate in horticulture from Kansas State University
in 1988, is trying to regenerate tens of thousands of trees through tissue
culture in test tubes. On several occasions, the chemically intensive
process has attracted the attention of UN weapons inspectors trying to
determine whether the medium in which the tiny sprouts grow might have a
more sinister use.

Dates have long been a staple around the region's deserts - they are rich in
minerals and vitamins and last for months without refrigeration. The Koran
includes 18 mostly laudatory references to dates. The official date
encyclopedia lists 627 varieties in Iraq, and everyone champions a favorite.

Great nostalgia for the finest Iraqi dates lingers throughout the Arab

A Saudi household wishing to show a guest particular honor will bring out a
basket of the exquisite Barhi variety, now cultivated there. Egyptians of a
certain age, when hearing that a traveler is going to Iraq, will urge,
"Bring back dates."

Growers in the Emirates and Saudi Arabia have bred millions of Iraqi date
palms, becoming the main suppliers of the finer varieties that have all but
disappeared in Iraq. Growers here sniff that others can never replicate the
combination of conditions that give Iraqi dates their luscious, chewy

"Sure other countries can grow the trees, but the dates of Basra have a
special taste," boasted Sayid Abdel Rida Moosawi, the patriarch of the clan
that founded Basra's first date processing factory in 1959.

Moosawi rails against what he calls American piracy in the Gulf, stopping
Iraqi products like dates - exports are now less than one-fifth what they
were before the Iran-Iraq war.

by Neil MacFarquhar
International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 15th January

KARBALA, Iraq:The Shiite Muslim clan that oversees the gilded shrine of
Abbas, where officials of Iraq's ruling Ba'ath Party were hanged during the
rebellion against President Saddam Hussein after the last Gulf war, decided
recently that Iraq's ruler might need reassurance that no sequel was under

So 50 of them sent him an oversize petition written with their blood.

"We declare that we will volunteer to defend our victorious Iraq and its
holy land," read the flowing, five-centimeter (two-inch) high maroon script
in part. "We give you our commitment as loyal men to stand behind the banner
of 'God is Great,' to stand against the evil West, the infidels and
international Zionism."

Ever since that last uprising, Saddam has tried to buttress his popularity
across southern Iraq, the heartland of the country's 55 percent majority
Shiites. The region holds vast oil fields and Iraq's limited gateway to the
sea and is generally considered his most vulnerable point in the event of an
American-led invasion.

On one hand, Saddam has bestowed favors, donating, for example, gold and
silver to slather across the domes of the Shiites' holiest tombs. Meanwhile,
senior clergyman deemed insufficiently subservient have either died under
mysterious circumstances or disappeared.

The south of Iraq bears a passing resemblance to its famous shrines: golden
accolades to the government shimmer on the surface; underneath, everyone
suspects, are the cracks and the festering wounds of a population who feels
that its time is long overdue.

Given that the first President Bush encouraged the Shiites to rebel after
the last war and then left them to be slaughtered, there may be some initial
hesitancy, but once assured that a real change of power is under way, the
expected uprising of the south could prove more sweeping than the last.

"The Shiites want more power, want their religious authorities to be
autonomous," said a Western envoy in Baghdad. "There is no question that
this area represents the most dangerous threat to the regime."

Some analysts believe that Iraqi forces would move faster to try to quell
any rebellion in the south than they would against an allied invasion. The
governors across the south have been changed recently and are called to
Baghdad for frequent security meetings, diplomats report.

In October, Saddam summoned all the tribal leaders in the area to his palace
and placed a Koran between their hands, ordering them to swear not to allow
a repeat of the 1991 rebellion, according to opposition sources interviewed
in London.

There is some concern that the potential scale of any uprising could rip
Iraqi society apart.

"What happened in the spring of 1991 was a civilian slaughter that had
nothing to do with human rights," said Wamidh Nadhmi, a professor of
political science at Baghdad University. "Ba'athist officials were murdered
or burned alive."

"If there was something like that now it means more bloodshed inside Iraq
between Iraqis," he said. "It means both sides are using absolute violence
to try to conquer the other."

The 1991 rebellion was sparked by soldiers retreating from Kuwait. The utter
lack of communications within the country, whether radio or television
broadcasts, gave them the sense that Saddam was no longer in control.

The rebels deployed inside the holiest tombs in Shiite Islam. In Najaf, 80
kilometers (50 miles) south of here, they took over the tomb of Ali,
Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law. His son Hussein and his half-brother Abbas
have similar shrines just a few hundred yards apart in Karbala; their deaths
here in 680 prompted the schism that led to the creation of the Shiite
branch of the faith. (Saddam had his family chart redrawn to prove he is
their descendant.)

The rebels used an underground prayer room in the Abbas Mosque to hang 20 to
30 local leaders of the Ba'ath Party. Tanks rumbled into the holy cities to
retake the shrines, blasting holes in the domes and tearing the heavy cedar
doors off the hinges. Reporters who visited the city shortly afterward said
blackened corpses lay in the streets.

The mosques have been repaired. A pleasant, far wider, palm-lined plaza now
links the shrines of Hussein and Abbas. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
visit yearly, including some 5,000 a week from Iran under Iraq's attempts at
détente with its neighbors.

Officials around here also seem to suffer from a certain amnesia when it
comes to those events.

In the immediate aftermath, the officers who helped retake the city admitted
that the rebels were soldiers. The accepted version now holds that Iranian
saboteurs with perhaps a few Iraqi deserters used the confusion of the time
to infiltrate the border and sow havoc.

"I would like to explain to you that in 1991, the Iraqi people did not
participate in the violence," said Ahmed Jawad Hassan, the assistant
guardian of the Abbas Mosque, talking over glasses of sweet tea surrounded
by huge backlighted pictures of Saddam. Mosques are usually devoid of
pictures in the Middle East but Saddam's are even hung on the shrine.

Residents interviewed in the presence of an official from the Ministry of
Information tend to say they were out of town during the uprising.

"The community did not achieve anything from these events," said one such
man selling pastries across from the Hussein mosque. "Stores and houses were
looted, the water and electricity were cut off. I hope nothing like that
ever happens again."

The 1991 uprising spread even to tiny hamlets, where rebels burned police
stations, government identification card centers and other official
buildings. In Baghdad, a man from Karbala, speaking out of earshot of any
official, predicted mayhem. All that it will take for the entire Shiite
population to rise up, he suggested, will be word that the scion of a
venerated clerical family, the Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, has landed
somewhere in the south. The ayatollah, whose family was driven into exile,
leads the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Resolution in Iraq, an opposition
group based in Iran.

"Don't get me wrong, people respect Saddam as a strong guy, with a brave
heart," said the man, wading into the kind of statement that could easily
lead to his arrest. "But they are much more aware of who he is now than they
were 10 years ago. Now they know he is a criminal. So any uprising will be
much bigger this time."

That higher awareness is attributable in no small part to the continued
death and disappearance of respected clergymen, many under mysterious
circumstances. To begin with, about 105 senior clerics and other religious
scholars disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 uprising.

The UN Commission for Human Rights has documented a series of incidents as
of June 2001 in which high-ranking clerics died mysteriously, mostly in auto
accidents or assassinations.


Yahoo, 12th January

SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Iraq's government has cut off petrol
supplies to the breakaway Kurdish-run north of the country, Kurdish
officials said, sending prices soaring and ordinary Kurds rushing to stock
up on fuel.

 The officials said they did not know why the fuel supplies, brought across
the front lines between Iraqi government troops and the Kurdish north in
tankers, car fuel tanks and gerry cans, had been shut off for a second day
on Sunday.

But the move comes amid U.S. preparations for a possible war in Iraq over
Baghdad's alleged weapons of mass destruction, with thousands of American
troops being despatched to the Gulf.

The apparent embargo points up the fragility of the Kurds' de facto autonomy
from Baghdad won when U.S. and British planes began enforcing a no-fly zone
over the area in 1991 after Iraqi troops put down an uprising against
President Saddam Hussein.

Aside from a small oilfield in the east of the area and a converted refinery
near the city of Sulaymaniyah which once refined sugar, north Iraq's three
million Kurds rely almost entirely on supplies brought from the
government-held region.

Pump prices had more than quadrupled on Sunday compared with before the
blockade, some petrol stations closed down altogether for lack of fuel while
long queues formed at others as drivers sought to fill up while they could.

One Kurdish official in the city of Sulaymaniyah, in the east of the rugged
enclave, said petrol had been cut off before due to wrangling over prices
with Baghdad.

Iraqi Kurds would join other opposition groups in running the country under
U.S. scenarios for a post-Saddam Iraq should a U.S.-led invasion topple the
present government.

The Kurds played a leading role in mustering opposition parties in a
conference in London last month and are due to host a further meeting of
leaders opposed to Saddam near the eastern city of Arbil later this month.

Yahoo, 13th January

SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Iraq's government resumed petrol
supplies to the country's breakaway northern Kurdish region on Monday after
halting them at the weekend.

"Iraqi government officials said it was for technical reasons," said a
spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the eastern
half of the mountainous area.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which runs the western half, said the
government periodically disrupted supplies to maintain its own strategic

As the United States prepares for a possible war in Iraq, Iraq's Kurds have
played a leading role in mustering opposition parties in a conference in
London last month.

They are also due to host a further meeting of leaders opposed to President
Saddam Hussein near the eastern city of Arbil later this month.

The short-lived fuel stoppage demonstrated the fragility of the Kurds'
de-facto autonomy from Baghdad rule, won when U.S. and British planes began
to enforce a no-fly zone over the area in 1991, after Iraqi troops quashed
an uprising against Saddam.

The Iraqi government has long profited from petrol and diesel sold to the
two Kurdish parties which control the mountainous north as a way to get
around U.N. sanctions.

The fuel is brought across the front lines between Iraqi government troops
and the Kurdish north in tankers, car fuel tanks and jerrycans, generating a
vital source of income for many on both sides of the divide.

Aside from a small oil field in the east of the region and a converted
refinery near the city of Sulaymaniyah which once refined sugar, northern
Iraq's three million Kurds are almost entirely reliant on supplies brought
from the government-held region.

by Damien McElroy
Gulf News, from Daily Telegraph, 13th January

Mullah Mohammed Hasan, the new leader of Ansar Al Islam, a radical
Taliban-style mini state in Northern Iraq where ricin and other chemical
agents have been tested as potential weapons, has vowed to use his arsenal
to fight America and its allies if a war is launched against Saddam Hussain.

Ansar has also given shelter to Abu Musaab Al Zarqawi - the Al Qaida
quartermaster responsible for planning the terrorist group's attacks - in
its camps, according to Kurdish officials in the area. The group has told
recent visitors to its enclave that it holds stocks of the deadly chemical
agents ricin, cyanide gas and aflatoxin.

Some of its weapons are what the group calls "spoils of war'' - stocks
captured as it has expanded the territory under its control - while others,
thought to include chemical agents, have been smuggled into the enclave from
Iraq, almost certainly with Saddam's blessing.

Its threat last week to use this arsenal against American-led invasion
forces fighting the Saddam regime could seriously disrupt the Pentagon's
plan for a battle front pushing south from the Turkish border - either by
direct chemical attack on American troops or by diverting Kurdish fighters,
hostile to the Iraqi dictator, into a backyard battle against an Islamic

Baghdad lost control of the three Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq after
the domestic uprising set off by Iraq's 1991 defeat in Kuwait. The region
has been ruled since then by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), two anti Saddam factions that adhere to a
moderate interpretation of Islam.

The mountainous tracts near the border with Iran have traditionally held to
a strict religious way of life, however, and Iraqi Kurds from these villages
were recruited to al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

On their return home to PUK territory, they merged a variety of radical
organisations into the Ansar movement in 2001 and established their
breakaway anti-PUK enclave. Following the fall of the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan, scores of Arab Al Qaida fighters have joined them after
escaping through Iran.

Saddam is believed to have been secretly supporting the Ansar enclave with
money and military assistance because they share an enemy in the PUK. The
Sunday Telegraph reported last year that members of his Republican Guard had
been seen in two Ansar-run villages by Western intelligence officials on a
reconnaissance mission.

Ansar's founder, Mullah Fatih Kraker, was arrested in Holland last
September, but the group has continued to grow rapidly and now has 2,000
fighters, compared with fewer than 600 six months ago - many of them Arabs
who fled from Afghanistan.

"If America invades Iraq, we will attack its troops,'' Hasan told the
Turkish journalist Namik Durukan, who was smuggled into the Ansar
"capital'', Biyare, last week. "Our relations with others is based on their
attitude to God. If they are against our God, we will attack them.''

Durkan reported seeing hundreds of foreign fighters in the region. "Bearded
warriors with arms on their backs walk in the streets with their children,
followed by their wives wearing the chador,'' he said. "They say they have
come for jihad and a government that rules with sharia.''

A sprawling wooden mosque complex dominates the centre of the town from
where the mullahs of the radical Islamic group are spreading a reign of
terror across the eastern part of the Kurdish territory. From Ansar's
stronghold on the Sharazoor Plains, its fighters have moved across the
Shineray mountains to capture dozens of villages, where they have imposed
the strict rules of the Sharia.

The strategic passes into the mountains, which are pockmarked with caves and
ravines, command access to the Iran-Iraq border. Ansar territory is guarded
by units equipped with mortars, heavy machineguns and rocket launchers. The
area has been described as an Iraqi Tora Bora, the mountainous stronghold
where Al Qaida made its last stand in Afghanistan.

Much of Ansar's stock of chemicals was smuggled in by Abu Wa'il, a former
agent of the Iraqi secret service, Mukhabarat; his present whereabouts are
unknown. He provided the logistics for smuggling from Saddam-controlled
areas, and the funding to acquire weapons and materials, almost certainly
with Baghdad's approval.

Kurdish officials say that Ansar is experimenting with chemical weapons on
animals and humans. Since the arrival of Al Zarqawi, Ansar has dispatched at
least one team of would be suicide bombers, wearing tailored waistcoats
studded with TNT, in a failed attempt to assassinate a Kurdish leader. The
devastating effects of chemical weapons are well known in the area. At the
foot of the mountains lies the city of Halabja which suffered an Iraqi
chemical weapon attack in 1988. Residents are now afraid that a second batch
of deadly poisons will descend from the mountains, this time from the
radical Islamic group.

"Ansar has taken chemical weapons left over from the Iran-Iraq war,'' said
Mohammed Aziz, a Kurdish official in Halabja. "We feel the pressure of
waiting in fear that they will throw chemicals on us again and hell will

Behind the Shineray range, the valley's civilian life has been extinguished.
Even villages nominally controlled by the PUK fear the spread of the
mullahs' rule.

The fighters of the PUK, expected to be a Washington ally, are engaged in a
desperate battle to contain Ansar but Mullah Mohammad claims that his group
has killed 1,000 Kurdish peshmerga - mountain fighters - since last year.

"We have the videos of hundreds of dead PUK,'' Mullah Mohammad boasted. "We
slit their throats and leave them on the roads for the PUK to come and bury

by Scott Peterson
Kurdistan Observer, from The Christian Science Monitor, 13th January 
BARDA KAROMAN CAMP, (Southern Kurdistan) - During the day, the expelled
Kurdish family can barely fit inside their makeshift A-frame tent, with its
paper-thin tarp covering.

They fit better at night, when all eight members of the Karem family squeeze
together like cordwood on the stone-cold floor, huddled close under eight
thick woolen blankets.

These Iraqi Kurds are among the latest to be forced from the northern oil
city of Kirkuk, as part of Saddam Hussein's long-standing "Arabization"
campaign. Its aim is to ethnically cleanse Kirkuk and make it an Arab city.

Kirkuk looms large for US strategic planners because Kurds like the Karems
claim the city - and its wealth - as their historical heritage. But Turkey
warns that any attempt by Iraqi Kurds to seize control of Kirkuk - as they
did briefly during a 1991 uprising - will spark a Turkish military reaction.

Turkey announced last week that it has boosted its military strength inside
northern Iraq to 12,000 troops, with armor. It is concerned that any
increase of Kurdish sovereignty in northern Iraq will prompt unrest among
Turkish Kurds.

But it's the determination of Kurdish families - some 100,000 ethnic Kurds
and Turkmen were expelled from Kirkuk during the past three decades - that
is expected to present a key challenge to any American occupation of Iraq.

"In the night I can't sleep, because I worry about my children," says mother
Hamdiya Abdulrahman Karem, standing outside her tent home just inside the
border of the Kurdish controlled territory of northern Iraq.

Kirkuk is the likely fulcrum of US military plans for deployment in northern
Iraq. The area is one of two leading Iraqi oil sites with more than 10
billion barrels of proven reserves, analysts say. But competing claims to
the city by Kurds, Turkmen, and Turkey - complicated further by decades of
enforced demographic change by Iraqi governments - promise to entangle US

"If the Kurds wake up one morning and find that Iraqi military checkpoints
aren't there, they will be back in Kirkuk in a matter of minutes," says John
Fawcett, an Iraq expert and author of a recent Brookings Institution report
on displaced people in Iraq.

"It could be a race for Kirkuk ... that is prone to agent provocateur
attacks," Mr. Fawcett says. "It wouldn't take too much to get Kurds fighting
each other, Kurds fighting Turkmen, Turkmen calling in the Turks, and
whatever remains of the Iraqi military.

"It could be quite a distraction for an invading army," Fawcett adds. "I'm
not absolutely confident that these scenarios have been thought through in
US military circles."

Despite Turkey's warnings about Kirkuk, the Kurds aren't backing down.
"Kirkuk is an important issue for us - it embodies the suffering of Kurds
and the most brutal ethnic cleansing," says Barham Salih, prime minister of
one of two main Kurdish factions in northern Iraq. "Kurds can't feel safe in
Iraq until the historical injustice of Kirkuk is redressed. Iraq can't be at
peace without reversing ethnic cleansing."

Mr. Salih says it is "naive to think it can be solved by force only." But
establishing justice after so many years of forced population shifts can be
a minefield for outsiders, as the examples of Bosnia and Kosovo attest.

"Some people have been away from their ancestral homes for up to 30 years or
more - do they have the same rights as those who were moved out of a home in
Kirkuk last week?" says Michael Amitay, director of the Washington Kurdish

The "Arabization" of Kirkuk is only one facet in a much broader policy that
Baghdad has used to control this oil-rich and fertile land, while trying to
crush opposition among populations embittered by Mr. Hussein's repressive

An estimated 800,000 Kurds were forced to move from 4,000 villages blown up
and bulldozed in northern Iraq during Baghdad's Anfal campaign of 1988. UN
and human rights groups put the death toll at upwards of 100,000; poisonous
gas was used against scores of Kurdish villages.

In southern Iraq, Shia Muslims who make up the majority of Iraq's population
have been hardest hit, with the draining of marshes and brutal tactics -
including assassination of key leaders - resulting in some 200,000

In the north, the last census of Kirkuk thought to be accurate was taken in
1957. It showed Turkmen with a plurality in Kirkuk city, and Kurds with a
plurality in the wider province. Arabs are now in the majority throughout -
creating a potentially explosive mix.

It is widely believed that "as soon as the battle begins, Arabs and others
who have been resettled in Kirkuk will see.

the writing on the wall and get out of town," says Mr. Amitay, who notes
that most Arabs left during the brief Kurdish seizure in 1991.

The collapse of the Kurdish uprising then caused another exodus of up to 1.5
million Kurds, who fled to Turkey and Iran. But while dislocation is part of
life here, that doesn't ease the predicament of the Karem family.

They lived on edge in Kirkuk for many years, and watched many Kurdish
neighbors be forcibly evicted. "The police came to our house and told us to
go six times, but we refused. Finally they said: 'If you do not go tomorrow,
we will capture you and put you in prison,' " says Mrs. Abdulrahman.

The family piled their possessions and six children into a truck, and -
steeped in anger - left the five-room house where they had lived for 21

Now wood is stacked for winter burning beside this flimsy tent; the youngest
son, Mohamed, plays with a bent and rusty nail. But the forced departure is
a mixed blessing, since here they are free of Hussein's regime.

"The balance is between living in a big house and being afraid, or in a tent
and living in peace," Abdulrahman says.

"We worried for our lives there, about security, about our father and
[older] brother. If they were arrested, we would be alone," echoes daughter
Scala Hassan Hamid, 18, who notes that the men were pressured to join
Hussein's "Jerusalem" militia force. "The big change here is that now I have

"All of us are waiting for the US to attack Iraq, and finish with this
regime," says Hidayet Fayaz, a camp resident. "If the Americans attack Iraq,
all of us will become guerrillas to liberate our city."

Which is what US planners are worried may happen. A tripartite agreement
between the US, Iraqi Kurds, and Turkey could stem a bloody result, though
even if one were brokered, that "doesn't mean things can't go wrong very,
very quickly," says Iraq expert Fawcett, who visited northern Iraq last
Kirkuk presents a double challenge for American forces. "It's not just how
you fight and win the war - I'm sure they've thought through virtually
everything on that. But how do you deal with the population bomb? How do you
adjudicate disputes?" asks Fawcett.

Preserving official documents in Kirkuk - from birth and land ownership
records, to lists of who was forced out and who was moved in - will be key
to preventing future headaches. But that's a tall order for soldiers who
will be expected to wage war at the same time.

"It's very tricky, and we've never gotten it right in any of these
interventions; we've always screwed it up," Fawcett says. Unless American
forces establish an "adjudication process that has some rule of law to it,
rather than rule of the Kalishnikov ... the US military is going to be
sitting there [imposing] martial law for some time."

Tehran Times, 14th January

SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq -- In time of war the U.S. dollar is usually a safe
haven, but in Iraqi Kurdistan the greenback is taking a battering from
tattered and torn banknotes not recognized by any state.

Kurdish currency dealers packed into the concrete stairwell that serves as
the foreign exchange market in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah shout
the latest prices, waving one arm wildly and nursing bundles of cash in the
other, Reuters reported.

As each scrap of news comes in suggesting their country may be edging closer
to war, the dollar slips further on the market.

The rise of the local "Swiss dinar" as it is known, has been driven by a
shortage of notes and a perception that it will become Iraq's new currency
after a U.S.-led war.

Warnings by experts that it may simply be scrapped have fallen on deaf ears.
"Our dinar is strong, because America is going to attack Saddam," said
dealer Bestoon referring to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "When Saddam
leaves, the economy will improve."

Kurdish currency dealers take it for granted that Washington would quickly
win any war with Baghdad and they are pretty sure they would remain safe
from harm. "There won't be any problem here," said Muhammad, clutching a
fistful of dinars. "No one here is afraid."

The Kurds of northern Iraq broke from Baghdad's rule after the 1991 Persian
Gulf war protected by a U.S. and British no-fly zone which stops Saddam's
forces attacking them from the air.

And when in the wake of that war, the Baghdad government changed their
banknotes, the Kurds stuck firmly to the old ones printed in Switzerland and
known locally as "Swiss dinars".

Then the "Swiss" dinar stood at 90 to the dollar, by 1995 it was around 45,
in the two years before the September 11 attacks it traded between 17 and
19, last July it stood at 15, a month ago it was 10, on Sunday it was down
to just over seven.

Loath to anger neighboring states who might see it as a step towards
statehood and not sure of public acceptance, Kurdish authorities have so far
avoided printing new notes, but no banknotes, even top quality Swiss ones,
last forever.

The blue 10 dinar and brown five dinar notes are now all at least 10 years
old; grubby and dog-eared, many are simply falling apart.

"This situation has nothing to do with any financial principle," said Adnan
Mufti, the foreign affairs representative for one half of the Kurdish-run
enclave and until two months ago economy minister. Everyone expected change
in Iraq, he said. "They believe, in my opinion wrongly, the Swiss dinar will
become the new currency, so they are all changing their savings from dollars
into dinars and taking even more dinars out of circulation."

by Toby Sterling
News & Observer, 14th January

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - The Dutch government has deported to Norway
the Kurdish leader of an Iraq-based Islamic fundamentalist group believed to
have ties to al Qaida, a Justice Ministry spokesman said Monday.

Mullah Krekar, head of the radical Ansar al-Islam, has been in detention in
the Netherlands for four months, and was scheduled to begin hearings next
week on an extradition request by Jordan on drug charges.

But the Dutch Minister of Defense decided personally to reject the
extradition request and deport Krekar after Jordanian prosecutors failed to
define exactly which laws he had broken, said Victor Holtus, a justice
ministry spokesman.

"When it became clear those answers weren't coming, and faced with the
probability that without this vital information, Krekar would probably be
set free, (Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner) made the decision to send him
to Norway," Holtus said.

He said that the Norwegian government had agreed to the move, and that
Krekar would be taken into custody on arrival. He said Norwegian
investigators are carrying out their own investigation of Krekar, but
declined to elaborate.

Krekar, who was born Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, is leader of a group of 500 to
600 Islamic militants in the mountains of northern Iraq that is on the U.S.
government's list of terrorist organizations.

Krekar was arrested at the airport outside Amsterdam on Sept. 12, after Iran
had denied him entry and sent him back to Europe, tipping off western
governments that he was on his way.

After his detention, Norway said it would revoke Krekar's refugee status and
FBI agents interrogated him on Ansar al-Islam's alleged links to al-Qaida.


The State, from Reuters, 10th January

WASHINGTON - Aircraft taking part in U.S.-British patrols attacked five air
defense targets in the "no-fly" zone in southern Iraq on Friday in response
to attempts to shoot down the warplanes, the U.S. military said.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi military spokesman confirmed there were air strikes but
said they hit civilian targets. He said Iraqi air defense units had fired on
the planes.

The U.S. Central Command said in a statement the attacks were "in response
to Iraqi acts against coalition aircraft."

They targeted a military command and control site at Tallil and four cable
repeater communications targets between al Kut and Basra in the latest in a
mounting number of exchanges in the no-fly zones over northern and southern

The attacks occurred at about 3:15 p.m. local time (7:15 a.m. EST), the
command said, adding that all aircraft left the area safely.

It was the second time in three days that planes had struck cable repeater
sites in the south. The Pentagon says fiber optic cables are part of a
sophisticated air defense communications network of radars, command posts
and anti-aircraft batteries.


by Michael Evans, Defence Editor and Nicholas Blanford in Kuwait City
The Times, 14th January

THE United States raised the stakes with Baghdad yesterday by attacking an
anti-ship missile launcher in southern Iraq within range of US warships in
the Gulf.

US strike aircraft attacked the launcher site in the southern no-fly zone
near Basra with precision-guided bombs. RAF aircraft were not involved.

The latest attack on Iraqi weapons systems came as the Ministry of Defence
in London announced that a reconnaissance party of about 20 soldiers had
arrived in Kuwait to study logistic requirements for British troops if the
Government decides to deploy a ground force for a campaign against Iraq. The
party from 102 Logistic Brigade, based at Gutersloh in Germany, will stay in
Kuwait for about two weeks. Brigadier Shaun Cowlam, commanding officer of
the brigade, is leading the party, which is studying locations for a British

The MoD said that the party would return to Germany after completing its
study and would then report on all the requirements for a ground force.

After yesterday¹s raid south of Basra, a spokesman for US Central Command
said that the anti-ship missile-launcher posed a threat to shipping.

The US aircraft carrier, USS Constellation, is operating in the northern
Gulf, its FA18 and F14 strike aircraft launching daily flights over Iraq for
Operation Southern Watch, the no-fly zone mission.

The spokesman indicated that the missile system, believed to be a
Chinese-made Silkworm, had been locking on to warship radars at the northern
end of the Gulf. The Silkworm has a range of about 60 miles and could hit
ships operating in that part of the Gulf. Unlike Iraqi anti-aircraft
systems, which have been firing almost daily on American and British
aircraft, no Silkworms have been launched against ships.


BAGHDAD, Jan. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- US and British warplanes on Monday wounded
six Iraqi civilians in their latest bombings in southern Iraq, an Iraqi Air
Defence Command spokesman said.

The coalition warplanes targeted civil and service installationsin the
southern province of Basra, about 480 km southeast of Baghdad, and six
civilians were injured by the attack, the officialIraqi News Agency quoted
the spokesman as saying.

While the US military said the bombing was actually aimed at destroying the
anti-ship missile launcher which posed a threat to coalition maritime forces
operating in the north Gulf.

Basra is located within the so-called southern no-fly zone, parallel to
another one in northern Iraq.


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