The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] News, 12-19/02/03 (5)

News, 12-19/02/03 (5)


*  Basra pinning its hopes on battle passing it by
*  Key aide of Saddam's son in Beirut defection riddle
*  The prisoner of Baghdad
*  Iranian dissident is war's first casualty
*  Iraqi defence minister


*  U.S. Planes Bomb Iraqi Missile System


*  Council will give Australian Iraqis a single voice
*  Iraqi exile groups divided over ousting regime


by Kim Ghattas
Financial Times, 15th February

The road from Basra to Baghdad stretches across kilometres of flat desert.
Palm tree oases and desolate villages punctuate the drive and every now and
then there are sandbags, foxholes and small groups of soldiers digging

If aUS-led war against Iraq started, this is the road that American tanks
from Kuwait would use to try to make their way to Baghdad. From what can be
observed on the road between Basra and the Iraqi capital, whatever obstacles
there might be in the way of thousands of US troops would be minimal.

In Basra, despite the proximity of US troops just kilometres away in Kuwait,
there is no sense of panic, at least not yet. But there is also a
realisation that, within days or weeks, the front line could be well past

"I think Basra will not be a big problem for the Americans because it is
close to Kuwait. It will be bombed heavily and cut off from the rest of the
country," said Basel Salem sitting in his electronic repair shop. "But
Baghdad will be a problem. I don't think they will be able to enter

Diplomats in the capital say most Iraqi troops have been sent up to the
north, a sign, they believe, that the south has already been given up on.

"It looks like they have decided to at least try to fight against the Kurds
they expect to come from the north but they don't believe they can keep the
mighty American army at bay in the south. And of course they will
concentrate on Baghdad," said one western diplomat.

Iraq's southern front is quiet for the moment. The 205km-long demilitarised
zone on the border between Iraq and Kuwait is still being patrolled by UN
cars. Iraqi soldiers on their border posts sit in the sun, armed with
binoculars. Behind the demilitarised zone there is no sign of any defensive
line on the Iraqi side. A few metres from the border, farmers are looking
after feeble tomato plants in a timid effort to turn desert into fertile

"We hear the Americans training, we hear the shooting, they are very near,"
said Ghaleb Ali. "We are not afraid. If the Americans come we will destroy
them. We have guns hidden in our well."

Defiance is everywhere and is so mechanical it almost sounds convincing. An
Iraqi official accompanying reporters during their trip around Basra was
asked why there were no Iraqi troops reinforcing near the border or the city
when US troops were massing nearby.

"Don't worry, the Iraqi army is very quick. When it starts, in three hours
our army will be everywhere," he said with a broad smile.

Basra would be the first Iraqi city that American troops would look to
control if they started an invasion of the country. It is the only port city
in Iraq and sits in one of the main oil-rich regions of the country. The US
would want to make sure Saddam Hussein did not have time to set fire to the
many oilfields around the city.

More than any other city in Iraq, Basra has borne the brunt of war for more
than two decades. During the eight-year Iraq-Iran war the city's proximity
to Iran and the heavily fought-over Fao peninsula meant that Basra was
shelled heavily.

In 1990 Iraqi tanks drove past Basra into Kuwait. Six months later they were
shelled by the Americans as they retreated from Kuwait. Even today, air raid
sirens wail every day in Basra, as US and British aircraft cross into Iraq
to patrol the southern no-fly zone. In December, five people were killed in
an air raid. Now the city is again preparing for war.

At the Basra teaching hospital, lessons from the past have been learnt. "We
had only two generators in 1991, now we have five. We can run on generator
power for 24 hours if there is a power cut," said Akram Hammoudi, the
director of the hospital. "It was very hard in 1991, but we're a lot better
prepared now."

Mr Hammoudi said the hospital was ready to receive up to 100 casualties a
day. During the Gulf war the hospital had to cope with 80-100 casualties per
day, many a result of the bloody uprising that gripped the south in the
aftermath of the Iraqi retreat from Kuwait.

The uprising, in 14 out of the country's 18 provinces, started in Basra and
was put down by the Iraqi regime when American air support failed to
materialise. About 100,000 people are thought to have died.

Iraqi officials today dismiss the uprising as a disorganised effort by
outside elements to spread chaos in Iraq.

It is difficult to inquire about this sensitive period in Basra but a
question about whether people expected "chaos" in the streets during a war
was met with a surprisingly candid answer.

"People will stay in their houses. There have been many wars here and we
learnt from this," said Mr Salem from the electronic repair shop.

"We must stay in our house, we learnt from 1991. It was a hard lesson."

by Philip Sherwell
Daily Telegraph, 16th February

Confusion surrounded the recent whereabouts of the right-hand man of Saddam
Hussein's oldest son Uday after Iraqi exile groups claimed he had defected
last week after disappearing from a hotel in Beirut.

The reports circulated for several days before Adeeb Shabaan emerged in
Damascus last night and insisted that he was in Syria on an unspecified work
trip and had not defected.

Mr Shaaban, 47, is officially head of the Iraqi Photographic Association and
a Baghdad newspaper editor, but in practice he has for the past five years
run Uday's private office and acted as his press officer.

He is based at Iraq's sinister Olympic Committee headquarters where the
basement is a notorious torture centre.

Mr Shaaban, who has intimate knowledge of the Iraqi regime's
sanctions-busting operations, had been sent to Lebanon by Uday to buy
jewellery, according to Iraqi exiles in Damascus and London. They say that
members of Saddam's family have been converting dollars into valuables as
the threat of war comes closer.

Mr Shaaban and his colleagues had arrived in Beirut after attending a
football competition in Saudi Arabia in their guise as a sports delegation.
He is understood to have been travelling with several million dollars in
cash to buy diamonds and jewellery.

"Uday cannot put the family's black money in the bank and he does not want
huge hoards of cash, so he converts it into portable valuables," said
Mashaan Jebouri, the Syria-based leader of the Homeland party, an Iraqi
opposition group.

Mr Shaaban has been involved at the highest level in the lucrative business
dealings that Saddam has entrusted to Uday. He knows first-hand how the
regime flouts United Nations sanctions to fund Saddam's illegal weapons
programmes and amass fortunes for the country's ruling elite.

"He knows all the secrets about the smuggling operations, the illegal oil
sales, the front companies, all the black money business," said Abbas
al-Janabi, a former senior Baghdad official now based in London.

According to the reports from exile groups, Mr Shaaban had been waiting with
colleagues in a Beirut hotel car park for a vehicle to drive them back to
Baghdad on Monday. He reportedly told them he had left his mobile phone
charger in his room, went back into the building and vanished through
another exit.

The account of his disappearance was given by Mr Jebouri, who said that the
details were secretly provided to him by another member of Mr Shaaban's
group. Other Iraqi exile factions gave similar versions of events.

Mr Shaaban is understood to have feared punishment after mishandling a
recent business deal for Uday, who is notoriously cruel. Afeel Tavra,
another senior official on the Olympics committee, recently had his hands
and legs broken after falling foul of him.

Nothing was heard of Mr Shaaban for several days before he emerged in
Damascus last night, blaming the Iraqi opposition for "making up information
about my disappearance and defection to a Western embassy in Beirut" and
describing himself as "one of Saddam's soldiers".

There was no explanation, however, of his whereabouts in the meantime. Iraqi
intelligence agents attached to the embassies in Beirut and Damascus had
been ordered to search for him.

by Saad Hirri
The Scotsman, 16th February

I WAS born in a forgettable village, to a very poor family. All but one of
the streets was unnamed. The one named street was called Brick Street.

My father died when I was two years old, leaving my mother with four young
children. It was under these difficult circumstances that I grew up.

I finished my primary schooling in the one mud school in the village. For my
secondary education I travelled to the city and it was during this period
that my interest in art and politics developed. I began to paint in a simple
way and became more aware of what was going on around me in my country.

It was my wish to study art at college. This was impossible for me, as I did
not agree with the politics of the Ba'ath Party. To be accepted, I needed a
reference from the Students' Union, who worked under the direction of the
government - an example of the corruption the Ba'ath Party imposed on daily
life. I began to make relationships and take an interest in people who were
in opposition to Iraq's government.

On finishing secondary school I was accepted for agricultural college. This
was an open college and references were not needed. I passed my first year
of the course with good marks but by the second year I lost my interest and
enthusiasm, for I knew in the future I would not be able to study further
than the degree simply because I would not join the Ba'ath Party.

Throughout this period in my life, my interest in art had not been lost. It
had increased. I had many artist friends; I visited many exhibitions and
studied from art books myself. I believe, though, that life has been the
best teacher of art for me.

In my third year I left the college of agriculture. The government's
pressure on students to join the party had reached its peak and there were
heavy demands on us to sign official papers stating we would never join
another political party.

I could take no more of this, so decided to return to my own village far
from all these problems. It was an unsuccessful move. Security police were
sent - they found me - and I was arrested. My hands were tied and I was
blindfolded and placed in a terrible prison where they tortured me day and
night with electric shocks all over my body. They wanted information from me
about friends - where they were hiding, their addresses etc. I did not give
them any information, as these people were also innocent of any crime. I
eventually left the prison after signing a paper stating I would never join
any other political party in opposition to the Ba'ath Party.

I then tried to go back to college to finish my education, but they told me
I had failed that year because of bad attendance. It was impossible to get
any proof stating that I had been in prison.

After all this, I spent some time in my village with my family and worked in
the building trade. I decided to burn all my religious and political books,
as having these things was very dangerous for me. Most of my friends had
been forced from their homes and towns because of their beliefs and because
they were in political parties opposed to the Ba'ath Party. All this
happened in the year 1979, a very cruel time in which all forms of art were

In 1980 I returned to college to continue my course. I had decided to stay
away from people and situations that could cause more trouble for me. In
1981 I started my final year, and at this time I met some old friends who
were anti-government. They believed in independent thought and were trying
to bring the students together to establish their own union, letting them
voice their opinions and apply their own religious teachings freely.

In Iraq all power was concentrated on the president. This was called Act No
42 Part A. It gave him the freedom to do anything, and killed the freedom of
the people.

An even darker period was to follow - the outbreak of war between Iraq and
Iran. For the humane person it was too difficult to stay silent and not
speak out against it.

When the war started thousands of people in the country were killed in many
different ways, or imprisoned for speaking out against the president, for
criticising the war, or for being a member of a political party opposed to
the government. Even the families of people imprisoned or executed would
suffer. Their ages did not matter when it came to terms of punishment.

All these executions and injustices made me very bitter and pushed me to
join the opposition. I started to paint, expressing my feelings about my
people, and put posters on the walls of government buildings in the city.

I then decided to hide for a while. When I was in hiding I heard that a lot
of friends had been caught and imprisoned. This frightened me and I escaped
to Baghdad to stay with one of my relatives who would keep me safe until
conditions improved.

I then realised that the only way to safety was to escape once and for all
from Iraq. I attempted this with one of my friends who was a soldier in the
army. On October 31, 1981, we managed to reach a place called Al-kaim near
the Syrian and Iraqi border. We were unlucky: at the checkpoint it was
discovered my friend had false permission of leave from the army.

Two armed security guards took us to the headquarters at Kaim where we were
held for a while. They then contacted the security police in my town - who
told them we were wanted. A very dark and painful period of my life was to

I spent 12 days in my own lonely cell, on a naked floor. There was torture
daily and my feet swelled to twice their size from beatings on the soles of
my feet.

We were then moved to another prison at the headquarters in Ramadi. We
arrived at about 12am - the torture started again. I was blindfolded, hung
by my hands from the roof of a toilet and continuously hit. At about 7pm
they let me down and gave me a roll with egg. I was using my right hand, and
the guard watched me. He said "Your hand looks fine after the torture." So
next, he proceeded to beat my right hand with a thick stick until it swelled
up, and then told me to go on with my food.

My blindfold was taken off. I opened my eyes and saw my friend sitting in
pain in the other corner of the toilet. The floor was very cold and we
stayed there in that toilet for over three days, our hands tied and eyes
blindfolded all that time. Every five minutes we would hear a guard coming
to urinate. The more humane of them would not beat us but clean their shoes
on our bodies.

We were then moved to the ground floor where we saw different sights of
horror - some people hanging from the walls, others tied to pipes and more
lying on the floor moaning in pain. Everyone was handcuffed. They were told
not to talk to us at all but they soon began to ask us questions about why
we were here, about the outside world and the situation in the war. We asked
them questions too, about how long they had been there and when they would
be getting out. Some of them had been in this hole for 90 days, some 60 days
and others had managed to get out in less than 40 days. I thought of 40 days
in this place like 40 years. It was so small and dirty; you could go to the
toilet only at certain times, faced continuous torture and were fed very

After about two hours somebody came in and called our names, and we were
taken outside. The breeze on our faces felt like something from heaven.

Next, we were pushed into a car. Some two hours later, we arrived in
Baghdad. We could not see anything during the journey, only hear noises. As
my nose is big, I was lucky in that if I looked down, I could see my shoes
and some slight light. I was thankful to my nose!

Here we were asked general questions - names, addresses etc. Then we were
handed to different guards and moved to a different part of the headquarters
by an electric lift. Somebody told the guard to put us in room number two.
The door was slammed and we remained there for a while.

Our hands were still tied but we could now see. I opened my eyes and saw the
most miserable and sad looking people around me. The only smell in the room
was from their bodies.

I was soon called for interrogation and the Baghdad secret police asked many
questions: why had I gone to Al-kaim; had I had planned to go to Syria; what
was my relationship with the religious group Alda'awa and the Communist
Party in Iraq; did I have friends or family in Syria; was I still painting
and reading books against the government; why did I always speak badly of
the president; was I in love with the Iranian government because I was a
Shia Muslim? (What were all these charges against me? I could be executed a
hundred times over. These thoughts tortured me.)

The next day I was called again for another interrogation. (My hands were
still in handcuffs and I thought of them now as my hated lover). Somebody
came in to question me more and see if I would admit to anything yet, and
once more torture followed. I will call these periods of torture my
"parties". They could not get me to admit to anything and a guard was
finally ordered to take me to another place.

I was taken to a store underground - looking down my blindfold I was able to
observe some things. I could see the bottom of shelves containing files,
which I presumed contained details and information about prisoners and
people in Iraq. I could also see the bottom of a large trolley and the legs
of men around it. I thought to myself: this is my end, I will be killed. In
spite of the horrifying feeling of fear, I felt proud compared to these
cowardly guards. I was only one very weak and tired man and it took six or
more of these guards, who I could tell from the size of their legs were
twice the size of me, to do this to me.

Next, someone with a strong voice told me if I did not admit to anything I
would not like what happened to me. He said he would make me copy "all the
voices of the animals", and then struck me with his huge hand. My left ear
rang with the force, and I remembered my mother used to tell me that when
your left ear rang like this it meant good luck would come. At this moment I
found that difficult to believe.

>From the way this man spoke to the other guards I knew he was the boss. He
ordered them to lift me onto the trolley, and at first I thought that they
were going to butcher me on it. Then two guards lifted me up, one undid my
handcuffs then pulled my hands behind my back. He then put the handcuffs
back on tightly to make sure my hands would not come free. I was then
carried to hell - yes, it was hell. I was hung from the roof by my hands,
which were now at my back. My head and legs fell towards the floor and two
men came towards me, saying, "You still won't admit to anything?" The
trolley was pulled from beneath me and an agonising pain shot through my

I could feel the pain inside me and could hear the sound of my muscles
stretching. My arms felt like they were being slowly pulled from their
sockets. (I thought hanging was more merciful than this. At least it was
quick, without screams and this horrendous pain.) My reaction to all this
pain was loud screams and I then realised what the boss had meant when he
said I would copy "all the voices of the animals".

I lost consciousness. At least in this state there were no screams but the
pain was still in my body. I was not aware of time.

The trolley was pushed back under my body and I was splashed with water.
They then continued with the same questioning. I still gave them the same
answer and the trolley was pulled away again. The party started once more
with the same questions, answers and screams.

Suddenly someone came running towards us and told the guards that a visitor
had arrived at the headquarters. They stopped then, as they did not want
this person to hear my screams. The table was put back beneath me. (At that
moment, I remembered again what my mother told me about my ear ringing. I
had been brought luck after all.) I could rest a little bit now. I began to
think of my mother, who was nearest to my heart. I remembered her sad tired
face and all its lines caused by her hard life bringing me up all those
years into manhood and now these dogs were trying to destroy all her great
work of love. I also remembered the beautiful smell of the country from her
coat. I thought, what crime have I committed? Is it my desire for a humane
and peaceful life? How did my mother remember me now? It would be beautiful
if she could not think of me in these terrible circumstances, which no man
would be envious of, even a man going to be hanged.

Later I heard the sound of shoes approaching. My heart began to beat more
rapidly, I think, than a bird's heart in high flight. The guard said to me,
"So you still won't confess?" They pulled the trolley away and the party was
repeated yet again. They then placed it back under me and left. I was later
released from this torture, but where were my hands? (I had lost all feeling
from them and thought they were still hanging up there).

The man I thought of as the boss asked the others how my hands were and he
was told they were fine! I could only feel something on my back. The
handcuffs were then unlocked, and my hands put in front of my body and once
again the handcuffs locked. I could feel the weight of them on my body, they
were heavy and my arms just lay limp. I had no control over them. The dogs
then led me away.

I was then taken back upstairs, but not to room number two - they placed me
in the corridor. I fell down on the ground and supported my back on the
wall. There was somebody beside me and the guard told him to take my
blindfold off. I opened my eyes and the first things I looked at were my
hands. They looked the same but felt apart from my body. The happiness I
felt was great because I could actually see my hands. I would still be able
to use them for drawing and that was enough for me.

The man beside me reassured me that I would be fine and a few minutes later
the dinner was given out. I realised then how long I had been tortured and
then unconscious, as I had been called at breakfast. The food they gave us
was two eggs and a roll. The guard put it in front of me and the others
finished their food. I could not move to eat my food even though I was
hungry. In this moment sleep was a beautiful thing to me, and I also wished
I had a pen and paper to record the terrifying and horrific moments I had
suffered while they were still raw in my mind.

Next, the guard returned and asked why I had not eaten my food, then
answered for himself, saying "Are you on hunger strike?" He then proceeded
to kick me with his boots. This was nothing to me now, after the great party
they had given me that day - this was like a snowball fight. Glaring at him,
I told him I could not use my hands. I thought this man to be the smallest
and cheapest thing - I had just come from this great party designed for a
king and here this small man was trying to touch me!

The man beside me told the guard I had just come from interrogation. He was
told to feed me, which he did. He was a small and very appealing looking
man. He was from Twereej and he had been imprisoned for speaking out against
the government.

On finishing my food, toilet time started. My friend told me to get up; I
could not manage this myself so he helped me, telling me I must go, as there
would not be another chance until morning. (What will I do?, I thought, I
can't use my hands for anything. I can't even move my fingers slightly so
how will I manage the toilet)? I was too shy to ask him to help me to do the
toilet but he helped me anyway.

I was in this same corridor for three days. I spent most of this time
observing my surroundings and the people around me. Thinking, thinking,
thinking. One afternoon they called me again for another interrogation. When
I arrived at the stairs, blindfolded again, I was not taken down to that
hellhole where I had been before. This time I was taken up the stairs where
I faced the same questions and where I gave them yet again the same answers.
(I was very fortunate that none of my friends in this place had given any
information about me.)

There followed a lot of questions about my life from childhood up to that
moment. After this, the boss asked the guard to raise my blindfold a little.
He then stood up so that I would not see his face and gave me a pen to sign
a paper which had a lot of writing on it - I did not know what it said or
what I was charged with, I was just told to sign.

I was struck on the face because I could not use the pen and he imagined I
was trying to read what was written, but in fact, my hands felt crippled and
it was impossible for me to sign anything. He then took my hand and my
fingerprint was used for my signature on many papers. He told the guard to
take me away. I felt so happy - maybe all these interrogations had come to
an end.

In total I spent 15 days in the headquarters of the secret police in

In November 1981, on a rainy day, we were blindfolded and moved to the
department of the secret police within the army.

After lunch (a little rice mixed with water from tomatoes) a soldier came in
with a list of eight names on which my friend and I were included. We were
all taken out of the room and stood behind a van that was used to move
prisoners. It had a very small slatted window on it and was disguised as an
ice-cream van from the outside!

We were told to blindfold our eyes with something and I told my friend to
take some of a filthy black cloth from the floor of the van and use this. I
could still not use my hands properly, only being able to move my right hand
slightly, so my friend tied mine for me. We were then ordered into the van
and after perhaps 20 minutes we came to a stop. The door was opened and we
were ordered to get out.

I was told my jail cell would be number 27. I was led along a corridor and
told to stand facing the wall. I heard the sound of keys in a guard's hand.
I was then told to take my blindfold off but keep my eyes shut. The door was
opened and I was ordered to jump. (Where am I jumping to? Is this a
bottomless pit and the end for me?)

I landed on a group of people. I looked at these people and their faces were
so miserable and sad I find it difficult to find the words to describe it.
There were 18 of them in total in a tiny cell.

We were allowed to go to the toilet once a day. There were three blankets to
cover us, all covered with fleas, nits and insects. Soon, if I ran my hands
through my hair or moustache, I could feel them. We turned our clothes
inside out because there would be more in the seams where they would lay
their eggs. Altogether I got three big "parties" in that place and spent 40
days in that cell.

On January 9, 1982, in the afternoon, I was called by a guard and told to
collect my things. That meant I would leave this hell. He called my friend
also and told us both to take a pair of shoes and then close our eyes.

We were taken to another place - from the small slatted window we could see
we were being taken to a prison called Number One. It had two blankets and,
comparing it to the last, was very clean.

At dinner time I saw somebody who had been with me in Room 27 and he knew
what we needed at that point. He kindly gave us bread, beans and some meat.
After the dinner my friend and I talked about the old days and our future.
We saw on the walls the names of lots of people, most of whom had been going
for execution, according to the writing.

We spent the next months being moved from prison to prison, until on
November 3, 1982, we finally were called to court.

Our court case was like a comical play. It did not take more than five
minutes and we were then taken back through the door we had entered - if you
were taken out the other door this meant you were going for execution. We
were called after about half an hour and the judge sentenced us - five years
imprisonment for both my friend and I. Our reaction to this whole farce and
sentencing was great laughter! Many things happened in those years and I was
given several big "parties".

On finally leaving the prison I had to sign papers stating I would never do
anything against the government. I was still watched by them when I got out
and pressure was still put on me to join their party. I was also still not
able to finish my studies. There was no choice left for me - either join
them or they would eventually kill me.

On September 13, 1986, my long journey to leave Iraq started and with the
help of a friend I went to Kurdistan. I spent 14 days travelling in the
mountains and crossing checkpoints and managed to succeed in this dangerous
journey - I was extremely careful, as I knew I would lose my life if any
mistakes were made.

I reached the opposition who were based in these mountains but had to leave
- there was blood in this area too - and I just wanted peace so could not
stay. Then, on September 25, 1986, I arrived at the border between Iraq and

At this point Saad Hirri entered Iran. Following a long and arduous journey
which took him through Syria, Cyprus and Turkey, he made it to Britain. He
was eventually granted political asylum and is now a British citizen.

Daily Star, Lebanon, 18th February

Although it has been more than 24 centuries since Alexander the Great
invaded Persepolis, Iranians still remember two of their heroes of that era:
Aryo-Barzan, the brave Persian commander who fought to the death at the head
of his Khaledoon Brigade but failed to check Alexander's advance after 48
days of fighting; and a local village headman who betrayed his homeland by
guiding the invading Macedonians through the mountains to the rear of
Aryo-Barzan's lines. That was how Alexander managed to defeat the Iranians
and subjugate the Pars Empire.

Iranian history deals extremely harshly with those deemed to have joined the
enemy at crucial points in time. Even their names are not mentioned; they
are only referred to as traitors.

In other words, while the invaders themselves - men like Alexander, Genghis,
Hulagu and Teimour - have gradually gained acceptance by Iranians, those who
aided and abetted them have not. They are still referred to as traitors who
helped the foreign invaders gain access to the Iranian heartland.

It has to be said that there were not many traitors in Iranian history. Yet
in the years following World War I, and with the advent of the Communist
Party and other left-wing and Islamist political movements, the concept of
treachery lost its significance under the weight of different ideologies. It
was Tudeh, the Iranian communist group, that first introduced the idea that
"the party's interests precede those of the homeland" into the Iranian
political lexicon. What this idea meant in practice was that Tudeh leaders
and cadres had become a fifth column for Soviet intelligence.

When, under the shah, Iranian military intelligence caught active communist
cells in the Iranian armed forces, arrested communist officers testified
that they believed giving secret documents to the KGB was a patriotic act,
since they were helping the Soviet Union in its struggle against world
imperialism. A Soviet victory, the Iranian communist officers believed,
would liberate countries like Iran from the shackles of colonialism that
were holding them back.

This concept was not abandoned with the fall of the shah; at the height of
the 1980-88 Iran Iraq war under Iran's Islamic regime, Captain Bahram
Afzali, the Iranian Navy's commander in chief, and eight other senior
officers were arrested for providing the director of the local KGB station
with a large number of secret documents over many years.

Before he was shot for treason, Afzali said he had agreed to hand over the
secret documents to the KGB after having been convinced by Tudeh first
secretary Noureddine Kianuri that the United States was plotting to prolong
the war, and that the Soviet Union could bring it to an end if only it had
more information about Iranian military plans.

When, after fleeing Iran in 1981, Mujahideen-e-Khalq leader Masoud Rajavi
signed a peace agreement with then Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarek Aziz, he
justified his action by saying the resistance (i.e. his organization) was
the legitimate representative of the Iranian people and was thus authorized
to sue for peace with Iraq.

Yet former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr (who was Rajavi's
erstwhile ally, besides being his father-in-law), who had fled along with
him to Paris in 1981, considered Rajavi's action to be treasonous. Not only
did he break with the Mujahideen leader, but his daughter Firouzeh divorced
Rajavi as well.

When Rajavi decided to relocate to Iraq together with his followers, it
transpired that Bani Sadr's fears that the Mujahideen would become
subservient to Iraq were well founded.

Rajavi committed political suicide by choosing Iraq as a base for his
organization - at a time when Iraqi missiles were raining on Iranian cities,
and Iraqi chemical weapons were killing thousands of Iranian soldiers and
civilians. Despite the fact that he formed an armed force (called the Army
of National Liberation) with hundreds of tanks, guns and modern helicopter
gunships (courtesy of the Iraqi Army), and despite having a strong
propaganda machine, Rajavi failed to cultivate support for his organization
inside Iran. In fact, his insistence on being the sole alternative to the
Iranian regime was one of the main reasons why the regime survived.

Domestically, fear of the possibility that Rajavi would seize power should
the regime fall was an important reason why widespread disaffection and
anger among the Iranian population did not spill over into a mass revolt
like it did back in 1979.

It now seems that the association between the Mujahideen-e-Khalq and the
Iraqi regime is not a marriage of convenience. Rajavi's men have been
incorporated into the Iraqi Army and intelligence forces. In the Iraqi
uprising of 1991, Rajavi's men played a prominent role in subjugating
Shiites and Kurds. They donned Iranian uniforms and infiltrated Shiite towns
as liberators but soon initiated a war of genocide against the Shiites. In
the north, they fought side by side with the Iraqi Army against the Kurds.

Even though they lacked popular support inside Iran, the Mujahideen
nevertheless managed - despite Mohammad Khatami's resounding victory in the
presidential election of 1997, in which voters largely ignored Rajavi's call
from Baghdad to boycott the poll - to maintain their position as the only
credible alternative to the Islamic regime.

President's Khatami's victory, however, was bad news for Rajavi's group.
Within two years, the United States (followed by Britain and the European
Union) named the Mujahideen-e Khalq as a pro-Iraq terrorist organization.
Its offices in London, Washington and other cities were closed down.
Rajavi's hopes of addressing the United Nations one day (like Nelson Mandela
and other Third World leaders of the 1960s did) thus went up in smoke.

The Mujahideen's fate will not be any better than that of its Iraqi
sponsors. In fact, there are already indications that Iraq is prepared to
ditch the organization in exchange for better relations with Iran in these
critical times.

According to sources in the Iranian presidency, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
wrote a letter to Khatami (which Foreign Minister Naji Sabri delivered on
Feb. 9) offering several concessions, including delineating the border
between the two countries, going back to the 1975 Treaty of Algiers and
giving the Iraq-based Mujahideen a choice between returning to Iran and
relocating to a third country.

It is not unlikely that the autonomous Kurdish area in northern Iraq will
witness an influx of fleeing Mujahideen cadres in the next few days.
Meanwhile, a Mujahideen delegation is already touring European capitals in a
quest for a safe haven for Rajavi, his wife Maryam and other senior cadres.

Rajavi's place in Iranian history looks secure - together with that village
headman who betrayed his country to Alexander the Great 2,400 years ago.

Ali Nourizadeh, one-time political editor of the Tehran daily Ettelaat, is
an Iranian researcher at the London-based Center for Arab-Iranian Studies
and the editor of its Arabic language newsletter Al-Mujes an-Iran. He wrote
this commentary for The Daily Star,3604,897755,00.html

by Luke Harding
The Guardian, 18th February

Saddam Hussein was last night reported to have placed his defence minister
and close relative under house arrest in an extraordinary move apparently
designed to prevent a coup.

Iraqi opposition newspapers, citing sources in Baghdad, yesterday claimed
that the head of the Iraqi military, Lieutenant-General Sultan Hashim Ahmad
al-Jabburi Tai, was now effectively a prisoner in his home in the capital.

The minister's apparent detention, also reported by Cairo-based al-Ahram
newspaper, is surprising. He is not only a member of President Saddam's
inner circle, but also a close relative by marriage. His daughter is married
to Qusay Hussein, the dictator's 36-year-old younger son - considered by
many as his heir apparent.

Reports of the general's arrest came amid signs of growing apprehension in
Baghdad that the Iraqi army, including the elite Republican Guard, might
desert in the event of an attack on Iraq.

Last night one independent source in Baghdad contacted by the Guardian
confirmed that Gen Sultan was in custody. "He continues to attend cabinet
meetings and appear on Iraqi TV, so that everything seems normal," said the
source, a high-ranking official with connections to Iraq's ruling Ba'ath
party. "But in reality his house and family are surrounded by Saddam's
personal guards. They are there so he can't flee."

The source also claimed that several other high-ranking military and
government officials had been arrested in the past few days. Any signs of
dissent within Baghdad will be watched very closely by US and other
intelligence services.

The Saudi regime has been taking the lead in attempting to foment unrest
within Baghdad. Under a proposal put forward by the Saudi foreign minister,
Saud al-Faisal, all but President Saddam's innermost circle would be granted
immunity from war crimes prosecution - the hope being that such a guarantee
would encourage senior members of the Iraqi government to stage a coup.

This is not the first time President Saddam has apparently fallen out with
his family. In 1996 he had his two sons-in-law executed after he persuaded
them to return to Baghdad following their defection to Jordan. His estranged
first wife Sajida is no longer on speaking terms with him after the
mysterious death of her brother.

Gen Sultan has been one of President Saddam's most trusted colleagues. In
the humiliating aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war, it was he who signed a
ceasefire deal between the Iraqi army and US-led coalition forces. More
recently he negotiated with Moscow over the resumption of military ties.

The fear that Iraq's 700,000-strong regular army might refuse to fight
invading American troops has prompted President Saddam to take drastic
measures. Last week he reportedly deployed a ruthless militia of Iranian
fighters to several key cities to crush any popular uprisings. The
Mojahedin-e-Khalq - a violent Iranian opposition group based in Iraq - was
sent to defend urban areas, including Baghdad, Kurdish newspapers reported.
MEK fighters have also arrived at the border with Kuwait and Syria.

The MEK remains fanatically loyal to the president and is likely to lead any
street fighting against US troops, Iraqi opposition sources believe.

Gen Sultan earned a reputation as one of Iraq's most courageous officers
during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and was decorated by President Saddam
Hussein for bravery. A well respected soldier, he survived several purges of
Iraq's military establishment in the aftermath of the war and rose to become
the Iraqi army's most senior general. President Saddam eventually made him
defence minister.


Associated Press, 12th February

WASHINGTON (AP) ‹ For a second day, U.S. warplanes Wednesday bombed a
surface to-surface missile system in southern Iraq, while other planes
dumped nearly half-million leaflets in anticipation of a possible war to
overthrow Saddam Hussein.

A statement from Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., said U.S.
planes bombed the surface-to-surface missile system near the city of Basra
after it was moved into range of U.S. and allied forces in Kuwait.

A similar strike was carried out Tuesday near Basra.

Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, is about 245 miles southeast of Baghdad
in the southern no-fly zone set up by the United States and Britain.

Iraq considers the zones over northern and southern Iraq to be violations of
its sovereignty and has repeatedly tried to shoot down the U.S. and British
warplanes patrolling them. Iraq has not succeeded in downing a piloted plane
over either zone.

The targeting of Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles is a new twist in the
periodic U.S. airstrikes in southern Iraq, which usually are aimed at
elements of the Iraqi air defense system. The surface-to-surface missiles
could be used in a pre-emptive Iraqi attack on the tens of thousands of U.S.
and allied forces that are assembling in Kuwait in preparation for a
possible invasion.

About 480,000 leaflets with five messages were dropped Wednesday over a
number of locations outside Baghdad and near the southern city of Al Basrah,
according to a statement from Central Command.

One version of the leaflet told of radio frequencies where Iraqis can tune
in to anti-Saddam U.S. broadcasts; another showed allied warplanes bombing
military tanks outside a mosque, warning civilians to "avoid areas occupied
by military personnel." Others warned the Iraqi military against shooting at
U.S. and British warplanes that have been enforcing the no-fly zones.

The United States has dropped more than 2 million leaflets this month,
following the 4 million dropped in January.

The Pentagon also is broadcasting nightly radio programs about efforts to
disarm Saddam. It has sent e-mails to Iraqi generals to encourage dissent
and defections and warn them against using chemical or germ weapons against
U.S. or allied forces.

Wednesday's leaflets were delivered in two missions, at about 3:30 a.m. and
6 a.m. EST near Al Hillah, Al Qasim, Madhatiyah and Al Hashimiyah ‹ all
approximately 65 miles south of Baghdad. Leaflet were also dropped over
Safwan, Al Basrah and Az Zubayr ‹ all approximately 245 miles southeast of

The U.S.-British coalition has been patrolling the zone in the south to
protect Shiites and the zone in the north to protect Kurds, two groups that
unsuccessfully rebelled against Saddam at the time of the last Persian Gulf
War in 1991.


by Linda Morris
Sydney Morning Herald, 19th February

The looming war in Iraq has galvanised Iraqi Australians in a way that years
of opposition to Saddam Hussein has not.

Leaders of the disparate Iraqi community have decided to form a council to
help each other in "difficult times".

The council will represent various ethnic and religious groupings, including
Muslim, Arabic, Christian, Kurdish, Assyrian and Chaldean communities of
Iraqi origin.

The chairman of the Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian,
said the council would be a unique forum for Australian Iraqis.

"They are of the view, given the potential for war in Iraq, that there will
be times when they need to present themselves as people with a common
interest," Mr Kerkyasharian said.

"This means everything from advocating the safety of friends and relatives
suffering for many years, to possibly providing assistance to those
displaced as a result of the war."

The council is preparing to draft a constitution and is to be registered
under company law.

The council's spokesman, Kassim Abood, said: "We're proposing to establish a
single contact point for dealing with issues - anything from welfare to
education and training - and as an umbrella for all Iraqis to hopefully
speak with one voice."

by Deborah Horan
The State, from Chicago Tribune, 18th February

CHICAGO - Basel al-Harbi spends most evenings playing soccer in Chicago. But
every chance the former Iraqi athlete gets, he flips between the Arabic news
channel Al Jazeera and CNN to glean information about the U.S. troop buildup
in the Persian Gulf region.

The prospect of war in Iraq fills him with a mixture of hope and anxiety, he
said. He would like to see Saddam Hussein toppled; his dread is that
thousands of Iraqis will die in the process. But mostly, he feels powerless
to shape his country's future, like a teammate on the bench observing a game
others play.

"I watch television all the time. Satellite. CNN. I can't be away from it,"
said the one-time professional soccer player. "I would love to wake up one
day and see that there is no Saddam Hussein."

Across America, thousands of Iraqis echo variations of al-Harbi's sentiments
after President Bush talked tough and Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke
to the United Nations and shared intelligence data about Iraq's weapons

Some accept war as a last resort, some oppose it under any condition, and
some want the Iraqi people to oust Hussein without U.S. interference. But
many seem worried about who might replace him.

Many also are aware that their adopted nation is one step away from war.
Al-Harbi, for one, said he found the evidence Powell presented to the U.N.
Security Council on illegal weapons activities convincing.

"One hundred percent, yes," al-Harbi said. "Saddam might connect with
al-Qaida, yeah, I believe it could be. He might have trailers and move these
weapons around. He would do that. He is evil.

"We are waiting for the American people to do this mission," he said.

Not all Iraqis agree.

"It wasn't compelling evidence," said Saad Marouf, chairman of the Chaldean
Federation of America. "I don't think war is justified. I think we should
give the inspection team another chance."

This varied community-in-exile is made up of Christians, Shiites, Sunnis,
Kurds, monarchists and Muslim fundamentalists, just to name a few. It
represents nearly every ethnicity and political hue available in Iraq and
under the right conditions could form the basis of a thriving democracy.

But so far, the divisions have produced mostly chaos among nearly 60
opposition groups, some of which consist of no more than half a dozen
members. Most have scant resources and little following, analysts say.

For years, these groups have failed to get along, and the main beneficiary
of their discord has been Hussein.

"Every two people who get together form an (opposition) group," said Osama
Siblani, publisher and editor in chief of the Arab American News in Detroit.
"They are weak. They lack leadership. They lack followers. They haven't
proven that they deserve to rule."

With war looming, many of the opposition groups have tried to unify. In
December, several of them met in London and created a 65-member advisory
council to coordinate their efforts. The council may meet again in Kurdistan
this month.

In addition, several Iraqis in exile have been meeting with State Department
officials to develop a blueprint for a post-Hussein government.

But not every opposition group agreed to attend the London meeting, and some
that did attend were not appointed to the advisory council or asked to join
the State Department's nation-building efforts.

Middle East experts dismissed the panel as inconsequential.

"It was Shiites representing Shiites and Kurds representing Kurds," said
Janice Terry, a professor of Middle East history at Eastern Michigan
University in Ypsilanti. "No one was talking about representing Iraq."

Aiham Sammarae, one of the 65 representatives to the council from the
secular Centrist Democratic Tendency, said the opposition was united in its
goal of creating democracy in Iraq and downplayed the divisions.

"Always they tell us to be united, but why should we be united?" he asked.
"We have different agendas. This is normal in a democracy."

For Iraqis like al-Harbi, who are on the outside looking in, such divisions
only magnify their sense of alienation.

"It's not clear what's happening, so it's not clear what my role should be,"
he said.

Such feelings are exacerbated by the splits in the Iraqi community in
America, which is concentrated in a few large metropolitan areas. But
different backgrounds, religions and routes to the U.S. have isolated one
group from another and created different political points of view.

Chaldeans -- Christians who speak Aramaic and claim descent from the time of
Christ -- are concentrated in Detroit and San Diego, with a smattering in
Arizona, according to Martin Manna, a community leader.

Chaldeans settled in America in the 1950s and 1960s to escape religious
persecution lingering from the Ottoman Empire. They were treated better by
Hussein's secular Baathist regime, and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq
Aziz is Chaldean.

Though most in exile oppose the Iraqi leader, centuries of living as a
minority have taught them not to make enemies.

"We don't want to (anger) Saddam Hussein or anyone else," said Manna,
president of Chaldean Americans Reaching and Encouraging, an organization
aiding 120,000 Chaldeans in the Detroit area.

"We want to continue to live in our ancestral homeland," he added.

The Chaldean community opposes deposing Hussein by force, Manna said. A
U.S.-led ouster would only lead to chaos and strengthen extremists in the
region, he said.

However, the Christian Assyrians, 80,000 of whom are concentrated in
Chicago, say they support a U.S.-led war, even though some civilians might

"They are already dying under this government," said Hermiz Dawood, a member
of the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation. "They are dying slowly."

The Hezb a-Da'awa takes the opposite view. The secretive Islamist
organization has every reason to want to overthrow Hussein. For years, it
has been persecuted by his regime, which views the grass-roots Shiite group
as a threat.

When the group's leader, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sader, was gunned down after
Friday prayers in 1999 in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, Shiites accused
government agents of pulling the trigger. Members say the regime has killed
as many as 150,000 of their followers.

Yet they staunchly oppose U.S. intervention.

"This will mean U.S. hegemony in the region," said a Da'awa member in Ann
Arbor, Mich., who gave his name only as Mohammed for fear of reprisals
against his family in Iraq. "We do not want this."

Asaad Ali, an Iraqi nuclear scientist who fled Baghdad in 1995 and now lives
in Naperville, Ill., said he thinks Hussein will resign.

"Saddam is a coward," Ali said. He once measured Hussein's body
radioactivity during a scientific experiment in Iraq, Ali said. "He will
flee the country and take his wives and children. This is my theory."

But then what? The question of who might replace Hussein after more than two
decades in power hangs like a cloud over every Iraqi. Two years ago, the
biggest contenders included Ahmed Chalabi, Adnan Pachachi and Nizar

Today, al-Khafraji, Hussein's former chief of staff, sits in a jail in
Denmark awaiting trial on war crimes charges for his role in using chemical
weapons against the Kurds.

Pachachi, leader of the Centrist Democratic Tendency and once touted as an
Iraqi equivalent to the ousted Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, is almost 80
and may be too old to rule, some Iraqis say.

And after nearly four decades in exile, Chalabi is considered out of touch
with the people in Iraq, analysts say, and sullied by support from people in
the Bush administration who are considered by many Arabs to be pro-Israel.

"That actually could do more harm," said Terry, the professor from Eastern
Michigan University. "And he comes from a very, very wealthy family in a
country where people say you should always be wary of opposition figures who
wear Armani suits."

For now, a significant number of Iraqi exiles are working with the State
Department's Future of Iraq Project in 16 technical committees to lay the
groundwork for a transitional government; a 17th committee recently was

Siblani, the newspaper editor, said such plans were nice, but he doubted
that they would be implemented by a post-Hussein democracy. Instead, he
said, the U.S. might be forced to install a figure similar to Hamid Karzai
in Afghanistan.

Iraq remains volatile, Siblani said, and in danger of splitting into three
parts if Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south demand self-rule. He
predicted the range of ideologies among Iraq's opposition would lead to an

"It's like fire and kerosene," he said.

For al-Harbi, the important thing is to see the U.S. follow through with
whatever action it decides to take.

In 1991, he was one of thousands of Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq who
rebelled against Hussein in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. For days,
he rejoiced as the rebels liberated one village after another.

Then he watched in dismay as government forces retook each village following
the decision by then-President George Bush not to topple Hussein. During the
fighting, he helped carry wounded rebels to a nearby mosque for medical
care. One friend died in the street.

Al-Harbi narrowly escaped by fleeing to Kuwait in a car driven by a cousin
who was retired from the military but still had a badge that could get him
past government checkpoints.

Al-Harbi landed with thousands of other routed rebels in the Safwan refugee

>From there, he went to camps in Saudi Arabia and began a three-year odyssey
that ended with a green card and a new lease on life in the U.S.

Al-Harbi came to Chicago because that is where a friend he had met in the
camps had gone. Soon after he arrived, he met other Shiite rebels who had
shared his experience.

In 1998, they formed the Iraqi Uprising Coalition, which hopes to be the
voice of the Shiite community shaping any future Iraqi government.

Lately, members have begun planning strategy and several recently left for
Hungary, where up to 3,000 Iraqis will gather in coming weeks to train as
translators and logistical support personnel for U.S. forces.

Young and battle-hardened, these men could play a significant role in any
attempt to liberate Iraq's southern provinces, analysts say. They despise
Hussein, know the people and the terrain, and have risked their lives once
to liberate their land.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]