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] Last News, 21-28/05/03 (3)

News, 21-28/05/03 (3)


*  Kirkuk Elections End in Shouting Matches
*  Victims of the peace decide Americans are worse than Saddam
*  U.S. to let Kurds keep weapons
*  Arabs object to council's composition
*  Kirkuk council complete after US commander confirms contested members
*  Ethnic Turk chosen to chase Baathists from government of northern Iraq
oil city
*  Few Kurds want to be part of Iraq
*  Kurdish region to lose billions


*  Leftwinger wins plum job as rights envoy
*  Clwyd will report on Saddam's war crimes as Blair's Iraqi envoy
*  Soldiers to sue as Gulf War illness strikes again


by Louis Meixler
Las Vegas Sun, 24th May

KIRKUK, Iraq (AP): U.S.-backed voting in northern Iraq's main oil city ended
Saturday with shouting, threats of an Arab walkout and interference by an
American general - signs of ethnic divisions and a sense of powerlessness
that the voting was meant to overcome.

U.S. officials had pointed to the balloting for an interim city council as a
step toward resolving tensions that could disrupt the stability of Kirkuk,
with its explosive ethnic mix and enormous oil wealth. Earlier this month,
delegates in the northern city of Mosul elected a similar council to handle
municipal affairs in what was called the first free voting in Iraq in

But even before the voting started, five Arab delegates were detained by
U.S. soldiers and taken from the municipality building in plastic handcuffs.
U.S. military intelligence officials were questioning them for suspected
ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

After the voting, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of the 4th Infantry
Division and the U.S. military leader in the area, ejected two independent
delegates from the auditorium where the vote was announced for shouting
their objections.

"If this is democracy, it isn't worth five fils (a nickel)," said Abdel
Karim Habib, a former political prisoner who served as an independent
elector Saturday.

But Nasser Ali, an Islamic preacher and independent delegate, saw it
differently. "We want to move toward democracy," he said, "but some people
want to create problems."

At issue is the extremely sensitive issue of the council's ethnic makeup.

Kirkuk is sharply divided between ethnic Kurds and Arabs. Saddam expelled
about 100,000 Kurds from the area as part of a policy to change the city's
ethnic balance in favor of Arabs, who were given cash rewards for moving in.

Since Saddam's fall, though, Kurds have flocked back to Kirkuk, and Arabs
who moved to the city say Kurds have been shooting in their neighborhood and
trying to intimidate them into leaving. Last weekend, those tensions
exploded and 11 people were killed in Kurdish Arab clashes.

On Friday, John Timoney, the police chief of Miami, Fla., said he would
travel to Kirkuk at the U.S. Defense Department's request to help set up a
police academy and assist in controlling the violence. Timoney said he would
advise Iraqi officials on training, managing and organizing local police.

The balloting Saturday in Kirkuk took into account the ethnic divide.
Thirty-nine U.S. approved electors from each of the city's main ethnic
groups - Kurds, Arabs, ethnic Turks and Christians - voted for six council
members from their ethnic group.

Six independents were also chosen by 144 delegates from a U.S.-approved list
of 12 prominent residents.

The Kirkuk council is expected to choose a mayor by Tuesday.

When the names of the independent delegates were announced Saturday and it
was clear that there were no Arabs among them, members of the Arab
delegation reacted with outrage.

"There is no justice - no fairness," shouted one Arab member, rising to his

"That is how democracy works," Odierno replied to wild rhythmic applause
from independents.

But as tempers rose and the Arab delegation began to head toward the door,
Odierno appeared to back down. He must name the independent delegates, and
said he would not decide until Sunday whether he would accept the results of
the balloting or choose other members.

"When I make my decision tomorrow," he said, "everyone must abide by it."

That was met by wild applause from the Arab delegates but silence from the
Kurds and independents. The independents also began rising from their seats
and heading for the door.

They agreed to stay after Odierno said he would "give serious consideration"
to their choices.

"This is the first time in 30 years that I've been able to vote," Habib
shouted from the floor to Odierno, who warned the protesters to stop
shouting and disrupting the convention.

"It's a fair election, and it's not your right to appoint the six people,"
another delegate shouted before U.S. soldiers escorted him and another
protester from the hall.

Many independents left outraged, and ethnic Turks sent a letter of protest
to Odierno objecting to the list of independents, which included no one from
their ranks.

Independent delegate Emad Abdullah Saatci said he was encouraged by the

"During Saddam's time they would have been killed," he said, standing at a
buffet of chicken, lamb and rice that the U.S. army offered after the
voting. "This is top democracy.",,5944-689414,00.html

by Anthony Browne
The Times, 24th May

THE small dank cells with cold stone floors, tiny windows and iron bars for
a door used to house criminals and the victims of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Now Khan Bani Saad prison, overlooked by watchtowers and surrounded by
razorwire, is filled with families who are victims, not of the war, but of
the peace.

Sabrir Hassan Ismael, a mother of six, held her three-year-old daughter
Zahraa in the cell that is now their living room and bedroom, and cried:
"Look at me; look at my family. We live in prison. We can't buy food because
we don't have money. We have no gas to cook.

"We can't sleep because it's very hot. There are huge insects that bite us.
All night my daughters cry and they can't sleep. I live without any hope.
Just look at us."

Outside children play in the foetid puddles, swirling dust and searing heat
of the prison courtyard, where prisoners once walked in dread.

Before the end of the war Mrs Sabrir lived with her husband, a local mayor,
on a farm in the town of Khanaqin, close to the Iranian border. They are
members of the Arab Saraefien tribe that had survived unscathed through the
Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq. As opponents
of Saddam they even welcomed the American invasion.

But it is the peace, and the disintegration of Saddam's grip, that has
destroyed their lives. On April 11, two days after the fall of Saddam,
Kurdish fighters entered Khanaqin, ordering all 15,000 Arabs to leave within
48 hours.

"There were so many Kurdish fighters we couldn't count them. They came into
our house, and fired into the air, and grabbed me by the shoulder and said
we had to leave in 48 hours or they would kill us," said Mrs Sabrir's son,
Amar Hassan Tahar, 26.

The tribal elders insist that Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK Kurdish
political party, was behind the purge. They went to the local governor, also
a Kurd, to plead for more time. "But he said if Talabani gives us 48 hours,
he will give us just 24, or else he would send in the bulldozers to flatten
our houses," said Fadhel Jasas, one of the elders.

The following day Mrs Sabrir and her family had not left, and the Kurds
returned, installing eight armed men and women to live in their house. "They
ordered us to cook for them, and slept there, and said they would kill us if
we didn't leave the next day. The next morning they threw all our belongings
out in the street, and we left," Mr Amar said.

After seven days of travelling by foot and by donkey from Khanaqin, 1,500 of
the tribe ended up in the abandoned prison, 30 miles north of Baghdad. They
had nowhere else to go.

They are part of the rising tide of internal refugees in Iraq, forced out of
their homes by the ethnic conflict that yesterday resulted in more gunfights
between Kurds and Arabs in the town of Kirkuk.

Every day on Iraq's highways, Arabs who have been forced out of their homes
are drifting south hoping to find somewhere to live. Many, but not all, of
the Arabs in Khanaqin had been forced to move there in 1975 from southern
Iraq because they opposed Saddam's regime.

Saddam wanted to Arabise the predominantly Kurdish towns close to the
Iranian border. The dictator gave the tribe houses and land, which he
reportedly bought off the Kurds, but now the Kurds have taken them back as
part of a drive to reverse the process.

The occupants of Khan Bani Saad prison, forced to leave their land for a
second time, just want somewhere they call their own.

"I want a home to live in and land to farm" said Mrs Sabrir's husband,
Hassan Tahar Yassim. They have identified land nearby that used to belong to
Saddam, but others have already occupied it.

The tribe has appealed for help to the coalition forces, but no one has even
visited them. They have eaten or sold almost all their animals, and have
only a week left of food. Now they hate the Americans.

"None of the American promises has happened. It is unbelievable what has
happened," Mr Yassim said.

His son concludes: "We have discovered that Saddam is better than the

Hadeb Hamed Hamed, the tribe's sheikh, sat on mats on the prison officer's
porch, and said: "The Americans promised us food and medicine and freedom.
But we have lost our homes, our land, our crops. Now we live in prison with
nothing, and they ignore us.

"It is the allied forces that have done this to us. When we run out of food,
I don't know what we will do."

In fact, he does know, because with starvation looming, he has been talking
about it with the other elders.

"If we don't have a solution, we will fight the Americans even if they kill
us. It is better than sitting here with nothing and just dying," he said.

by Patrick E. Tyler
International Herald Tribune, from New York Times, 24th May

BAGHDAD: The U.S. military commander in Iraq will allow 100,000 Kurdish
fighters to keep their heavy weapons, while requiring Shiite Muslim and
other militias to surrender them, according to a draft directive. Under the
draft order, obtained by The New York Times, ''militias that assisted
coalition forces who remain under the supervision of coalition forces'' will
be authorized ''to possess automatic or heavy weapons.''

The document has engendered intense criticism of the draft policy by Shiite
leaders involved in negotiations with American and British occupation
authorities, who have been meeting privately with leaders of the heavily
armed political groups that have moved into the power vacuum here.

Kurdish and Shiite Muslim leaders confirmed in interviews this week that
senior military commanders, including Lieutenant General John Abizaid, the
deputy commander of American forces in the region, and Lieutenant General
David McKiernan, commander of land forces in Iraq, have briefed them on the
directive and issued some pointed warnings.

Some Iraqi opposition figures that are seeking to establish a provisional
government in Iraq cautioned that American and British leaders are pursuing
a lopsided policy that will alienate the dominant Shiite Muslim population.

American officials insist they are trying to bring order out of chaos to
establish security, disarmament and pave the way for building a professional
Iraqi military force.

The chaos of arms policy in Iraq was evident this week when coalition forces
clashed with militia forces that have been growing in strength and weaponry
since the end of the war. In Baquba on Sunday, American forces ejected a
Shiite militia from a municipal building the group had seized about 50 miles
northeast of Baghdad.

American tank gunners killed one fighter and arrested dozens of others, a
military official in the city said on Friday.

Thursday night, armed fighters from the Iraqi National Congress under Ahmad
Chalabi engaged in a running gun battle with unknown combatants during what
was described as search by Chalabi's forces for senior Ba'ath Party members
in a Baghdad suburb.

After the firefight, American troops raided Chalabi's headquarters at
Baghdad's Hunting Club, arresting 35 of his militiamen and seizing their

They were released, Chalabi's group said in a statement Friday, after a U.S.
military officer assigned as a liaison to the group intervened, saying the
troops were arresting ''U.S. allies,'' according to the statement.

Kurdish forces also have had their arms confiscated in numerous incidents,
but Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish chieftain whose pesh merga forces have
cooperated closely with coalition forces in northern Iraq, said in an
interview Friday that he had been assured that Kurdish forces would retain
their heavy weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers,
anti-aircraft weapons, artillery and heavy machine guns.

At the same time, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a senior official in the Shiite Muslim
group under the Ayatollah Mohamed Badr Hakim, said Abizaid and McKiernan had
informed the group that its militia, the Badr Brigade, would have to disarm
or face the threat of disarmament by force.

In a press conference Friday, McKiernan referred to the differentiation. He
said under the directive there ''will be no militias inside of Iraq,'' but
then added that the Kurdish pesh merga forces ''are a different story.''

''The pesh mergas fought with coalition forces and we look to leave them
with some of their forces north of the green line,'' which is the line that
once divided the Kurds from Saddam Hussein's army in the north.

''We want conditions where all militias are dissolved and we will not accept
that other militias will be allowed to stay there with their weapons while
we will not be there with ours,'' Abdul-Mahdi of the Shiite group said. He
said the Badr Brigade has more than 10,000 soldiers under arms in Iraq.
American officials are deeply suspicious of the this force because it was
financed and trained in Iran, where Ayatollah Hakim maintained his base of
operations during Saddam's rule.

The new directive will be signed by L. Paul Bremer, the new civilian
administrator in Iraq, and McKiernan, according to the draft, which is dated
May 18 and has been the basis for this week's private negotiations with
Iraqi opposition figures.

Bremer's imprint on the document indicates a greater degree of civilian
influence over military policy in Iraq. Though Bremer has said publicly that
he is not in the military chain of command, coalition forces have been
directed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to support his mission.


Dawn, 25th May

KIRKUK, May 24, AFP: Only 24 of the 30 members of a local council elected in
the oil-rich Iraqi province of Kirkuk on Saturday were sworn in after Arab
delegates contested the selection of "independent" representatives on
grounds they were mostly Kurds.

The row prompted Major General Raymond Odierno, commander of coalition
forces in northeastern Iraq and of the US Fourth Infantry Division, to put
off a decision on the six contested representatives until Sunday.

The 24 others - six Kurds, six Arabs, six Turkmens and six Assyrians -
elected by 300 delegates gathered in the town hall of the multi-ethnic
northern city were sworn in by Odierno.

The six whose election was disputed are four Kurds, including the only
female would-be council member, one Turkman and one Assyrian.

"It is unfair that most of the independents should be Kurds," Arab delegate
Abderrahman al-Assi protested.

The six were chosen by Odierno from a list of around double that number who
had been elected by 144 independent delegates to the gathering.

The rest of the 300 delegates were divided into 39-strong groups of Kurds,
Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrians.

"We had expected him (Odierno) to choose two Kurds, two Arabs and two
Turkmens," said Assi, who was backed by other Arab delegates at the
conference while Kurdish delegates insisted the selection process had gone
as it should have.

Yahoo, 25th May

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) - The election of a local council in the oil-rich
northern province of Kirkuk was completed when the US regional commander
swore in six members whose selection had been contested by Arabs on grounds
that they were mostly Kurds.

"After consultations, I did not find any procedural error. I therefore call
on the six delegates to be sworn in," US 4th Infantry Division commander
Major General Raymond Odierno, who also commands coalition forces in
northeast Iraq, told some 40 of the 300 delegates who had elected the
council on Saturday.

Only 24 of the council's 30 members were sworn in on Saturday after Arab
delegates objected to the selection of five (eds: correct) Kurds out of the
remaining six members representing "independents."

Abderrahman al-Assi, an Arab delegate who had led the protest on Saturday,
accepted Odierno's decision, which he had deferred for a day.

"We objected but our objection was not taken into consideration. We can't do
more than that," Assi told AFP.

Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian Christian groups, made up of 39 members
each, on Saturday elected six of their own to the council, which Odierno
said would give residents a say in running their multi-ethnic region.

Another 144 "independents" among the 300 delegates drew up a list of 12
independent nominees, from which Odierno selected six to complete the
membership of the council.

Five of them are Kurds, including Hawry Talabani, the only woman named to
the council, and the last an Assyrian.

Odierno's decision to confirm the six also left the Turkmens unhappy, but
one delegate from the Turkmen community similarly conceded there was little
his community could do to change it.

"What can we do? It is a military government," Ammar Hidayat said of the US
commanders of the region.

Unlike the other council members, the six independents are supposed to
represent various segments of society rather than religious or ethnic

The same principle applied to the selection of delegates who elected the

Delegates representing the region's religious and ethnic groups were chosen
by their respective communities. The list of 144 "independent" delegates was
selected by the various communities but finalized by US officials. Arabs and
Turkmens complained it was dominated by Kurds.

Apart from the five "independent" Kurds confirmed Sunday, the six Kurds
elected as representatives of their community belong to the two main Iraqi
Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK), with each getting three representatives.

The six elected Arabs are mostly tribal figures from the Jubur, Ubeid, Bani
Hamdan and other leading tribes.

Major Josslyn Aberle, from the public affairs office of the 4th Infantry
Division, said on Saturday the local council would be in charge of schools
and health care in the province of 800,000 to 850,000 inhabitants.

The council, serving both Kirkuk city and province, will also be able to set
up a database for people with claims to property, she said.

Kurds have long complained that the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein
deliberately settled Arabs from central and southern Iraq in and around
Kirkuk in order to change its demographic character.

Two days of looting and score-settling gripped Kirkuk after US-backed
Kurdish forces seized the city on April 10 following Saddam's ouster.

Some Kurds tried to forcibly recover their properties and expel Arab
inhabitants, sparking fights.

Kurdish fighters later pulled out of the city to be replaced by US troops,
but fresh shoot outs between Arabs and Kurds erupted again earlier this

The Kirkuk council is due to elect a mayor and three assistant mayors on

This was the second election of a local council in northern Iraq. One was
also installed in Mosul on May 5 after similar US-organized elections.

Boston Herald, from Associated Press, 26th May

The newly installed city council in the ethnically divided oil city of
Kirkuk elected a new assistant mayor today, assigning him the task of
clearing pro-Saddam Hussein activists from the city's public offices.

Irfan Kerkuklu was elected as one of three assistant mayors in balloting by
the 30 member council. He is a former anti-government dissident who was shot
earlier this month in Arab Kurdish clashes.

Although Kerkuklu is an ethnic Turk, some Turks protested his election
because he has been regarded as close to the Kurds. Kerkuklu, who came to
the meeting with his arm in a bandage, said he was honored to be elected but
fears his job will put him at risk.

"The Baath have a bloody history. Maybe they'll try to kill me," Kerkuklu
said. "But we're living in the days of hope, and I'm willing to serve this


by Sabrina Tavernise
International Herald Tribune, from New York Times, 26th May

KIRKUK: Khasro Goran, a Kurd who is the new deputy governor of the northern
city of Mosul, thumbed through a book of maps in his office recently,
tracing with his finger what he calls the true border of Kurdistan.

The old border used to cramp Kurds in the northeast of Iraq. But since the
war, Kurds have begun streaming back to the valleys and villages farther
south from which they had been driven in a series of ethnic cleansing
campaigns that began in the 1960s.

Now Kurdish territory includes a plump new swath of land. In one southern
province alone, Arbil, about 400 villages have been reclaimed, according to
Nechirvan Barzani, the regional governor. For Goran, as for most Kurds, it
is sweet victory.

"Now we are back in Mosul," he said, pointing to the dot on the map. "We
control Senjar and Mosul provinces. We want to add the other parts of
Kurdistan. We have the same economy, language and future. For the rest of
Iraq, it's up to them, but for our part, we will govern ourselves."

After decades of deportations, mass killings and other miseries, Kurds are
starting to feel for the first time in recent history that it is safe to
return their homes. Even in Halabja, a town devastated by chemical attacks
in 1988, residents are beginning to come back.

Kurdish leaders have governed their own independent enclave in northern
Iraq, under U.S. protection, since 1991. In public, they say they want to be
part of Iraq, but most ordinary Kurds do not want that. Even as the U.S.
authorities propose remaking Iraqi institutions, Kurds say those same
institutions - the Iraqi Army in particular - have brought them only misery
in the past.

"More than 80 percent of the people are for independence," said Farhad
Pirbal, a professor of Kurdish history and literature at Arbil University.
"It's etiquette, like a game. The politicians say what the Americans want to

"In his heart," Pirbal said, the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, aspires to
be president of "the country of Kurdistan."

Kurds are emerging as the most influential force in the political soup of
Baghdad today. They are the only group with its own army, and Kurdish
fighters - unlike Shiite Muslim and other Iraqi militias - will be allowed
to keep their assault rifles and heavy weapons under a U.S. proposal.

They are organized and politically conscious. They have a functioning
economy in their independent zone. The two main Kurdish leaders, Barzani and
Jalal Talabani, have had dealings with the United States for decades.

Kurds won another victory Saturday when U.S. forces in Kirkuk detained five
members of an Arab delegation on its way to a city council election. The
delegates were suspected of having been members of Saddam's Ba'ath Party.

"The Kurds are the wild card in the Iraqi equation," said Peter Galbraith, a
professor of security studies at the National War College in Washington. "If
they were given a choice, almost unanimously they would prefer not to be in
Iraq. Over the long term, that's a big problem."

by Robert Collier
San Francisco Chronicle, 26th May

Nawanda, Iraq -- On the slopes of Mount Halgurd, Iraq's highest peak, Salim
Hussein digs fat, swollen mushrooms out of the stony ground with a knife.

"Aha!" he yells, as he spies another meadow speckled with the white
delicacies. For the Kurdish shepherd, it is like uncovering a vein of gold.
The mushrooms have a light, nutty flavor, and the bushel he picks today will
bring about $15 at the local market -- the same amount he would make by
selling three of his prized sheep.

Here in Iraq's northeast corner, far from the chaos of Baghdad, flowers
bloom in mountain meadows, and trickling snowmelt glistens amid jagged
peaks. But the tranquility belies a bitter debate over billions of dollars
and the future of the Kurdish region.

Since the 1991 Gulf War, the three Iraqi provinces that compose the Kurdish
region were free of Saddam Hussein's troops and protected by the
U.S.-enforced no-fly zone. The local economy surged, boosted by a provision
in the U.N. Oil- for-Food Program that gave the region 13 percent of all
Iraqi oil revenues.

But the resolution approved Thursday by the U.N. Security Council to lift
sanctions on Iraq called for the phasing out of the Oil-for-Food Program
over the next six months, while Iraq resumes normal production and export of
its vast oil reserves. In the process, it also ended the Kurdish region's
special treatment under the program and transferred as much as $4 billion in
unspent Kurdish funds to an account managed by the American and British
administrators now in charge of Iraq.

"Before 1991, we were the most backward area in Iraq, and now we are the
richest place in the country," said Hoshyar Zebari, spokesman for the
Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls Nawanda and the northern half of
the Kurdish region. "This is something we want to hold on to."

Under Thursday's resolution, all oil revenues -- minus 5 percent earmarked
for compensation for Kuwait -- will go to the Development Fund for Iraq.

"They seem to want to put it all in a national pot. This will be a great
disadvantage for us," Zebari said. "I think this (U.N.) resolution will
complicate the political process in the country. It could even aggravate the
situation on a security level."

For average Kurds like Hussein, the bad times have already started. The
postwar economic meltdown in Baghdad and other major cities has had a ripple
effect in the Kurdish region, interrupting commerce and transportation.
Trade with nearby Iran has dropped by 40 percent, Kurdish customs officials
say, in part because of Iranian government suspicions that American
intelligence agents are operating in Iraq and could slip across the border.

Last year, Hussein says, he could sell a sheep for 15,000 dinars, or about
$7. Now, one will fetch 5,000 dinars, which is about $5 at the current
exchange rate but buys much less because most prices in dinars have
skyrocketed after the war. "No one asks about my sheep," he says ruefully.

Prices also have plummeted for the cucumbers and tomatoes he grows on
irrigated mountainside plots, as well as mast, a thick, sour yogurt he makes
from sheep milk.

"My biggest hope is political and economic stability," he said, echoing the
concerns of Iraqis elsewhere. "It would create a market for my vegetables,
and that would be enough for my life."

That night, the 47-year-old Hussein and a group of male relatives and
friends relaxed in his four-room, mud-roof house in the valley below the
mountain, playing konkan, a Kurdish card game, by the light of a kerosene

Amid conversation full of laughter and gossip, they lamented that by
deposing the dictator who had cruelly suppressed Kurds in northern Iraq, the
Americans had damaged their prosperity.

"The end of the war has had a great effect on people," said Hussein's
brother-in-law, Izzat Amad Mer, as the group sat cross-legged on the floor
and slapped each card down with a flourish. "People want the government to
provide a solution for problems and to pay salaries. Some people don't have
5 dinars (70 cents) in their pocket," he said, referring to the "Swiss
dinar" traded in the Kurdish region (the "Saddam dinar" used elsewhere in

Mer, who is district boss for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, has a major
crisis on his hands. The suspension of the Oil-for-Food Program has cut off
funds to the Kurdish regional government, which is now forced to halt almost
all its activities.

Local government offices have not paid their workers since before the war.
Funds have also been cut for U.N. agencies, which carry out many projects in
the region, ranging from irrigation work to the clearing of the thousands of
land mines left over from previous conflicts.

For Hussein, the upheaval is nonetheless an improvement from the 1980s. Then
he was a peshmerga, or Kurdish guerrilla, fighting Saddam Hussein's regime
for five years, an experience he recalls with a shudder. "We were very cold,
very hungry and suffered a lot," he said.

The region was also convulsed by the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, during which
troops from both countries fought pitched battles on Mount Halgurd. As a
result, the mountain meadows are dotted not only with mushrooms but also
with mines. Red "Danger!" signs mark sections roped off by U.N. workers.

Despite its bloody past, politics and economics are foreign concepts for
many Kurds in these parts, and daily life is imbued with ancient traditions.
This weekend, Hussein is planning on taking his wife, seven children, 40
sheep and 40 goats from their valley home to Mount Halgurd's high slopes,
where they will make a rashmal, or summer camp.

Back on the mountain slopes, Hussein contemplates these things and picks
more mushrooms. He sings the tale of a shepherd girl, his baritone voice
lilting and melancholy as it echoes against the snowy mountain flank:

"The path of Beri is very long
When she goes to her sheep
She takes a bucket in her hand
The way she walks is heaven's way
I love this woman whose eyes are large
I hope to snatch her and make her mine."

A PRESIDENT'S BEST FRIEND,3605,963806,00.html

by Sarah Hall
The Guardian, 27th May

When Tony Blair became the leader of the Labour party the first person he
sacked from his frontbench, for remaining in Iraq when she should have been
voting in the Commons, was the Welsh leftwinger Ann Clwyd.

Eight years on he has come full circle. Yesterday it was announced that Ms
Clwyd, the woman who helped him minimise the Commons rebellion over Iraq -
the greatest threat to his premiership - has been made his special envoy on
human rights in that country.

Today she flies to Kuwait to discuss the 600 missing Kuwaiti prisoners of
war. Later in the week she will go to Iraq to liaise with Iraqi women whom
the government hopes will attend the next Baghdad conference on rebuilding

During the debate over Iraq the former Guardian journalist told her
colleagues graphic stories of dead Iraqi babies and dissidents being dropped
into shredders.

The job will give Ms Clwyd extra authority and opportunities to pursue her
work as chair of Indict, an organisation funded by the US Congress to bring
Iraqi war criminals to trial.

It is also clearly a reward for a woman who was rumoured in the Westminster
corridors to have her eye on Clare Short's old job. But giving Ms Clwyd the
post of international secretary would have meant catapulting a backbencher
into the cabinet.

And had she been given that job, it could also have backfired on her and led
to the belief that her support for the prime minister had been motivated not
by conviction but ambition.

Ms Clwyd's transformation into a Blair favourite has shocked fellow
leftwingers. They recall her being one of the 47 MPs in the first rebellion
against the government - over cuts to lone parent benefits. She also
rebelled in 1988 over increased spending on nuclear weapons and, as a
result, was sacked by the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock. Mr Blair sacked
her in 1995.

Yesterday one Labour colleague said: "It's been a remarkable turnaround. I'm
not convinced she always advocated war and fellow backbenchers were deeply
unhappy that she was just repeating the government line. The feeling was
that she was going along with it hook, line and sinker."

But no one doubts the strength of the former MEP's conviction in campaigning
against human rights abuses in Iraq for 25 years.

However, leftwingers are concerned that the new job will give her little
real power but will instead ensure she serves as the prime minister's

One MP who rebelled over Iraq said: "I just wonder whether she isn't going
to be used by Tony Blair and the Americans. How effective she is all depends
on how critical she is going to be of the US.

"I imagine she might find this frustrating, and spend a lot of time arguing
with American generals."

Yesterday Ms Clwyd said she might well argue with the Americans, to whom she
has endeared herself with her Commons speech and with a forceful pro-war
opinion piece which appeared in the Times. It was emailed widely by the
White House.

"Anyone who's been listening to me in the House of Commons will know I
frequently criticise what's going on," she said. "If anyone thinks I can be
muzzled, they've another think coming."

"She can be very awkward," one backbencher said. "Tony Blair could be in for
a shock."

As vice-chairwoman of the parliamentary party Ms Clwyd already sees the
prime minister once a week. She is confident he will listen attentively to
his new envoy.

"When I read all these stories about him being inaccessible, I don't
recognise them," she said. "He's been particularly receptive to things we've
put forth." But he appears to have forgotten that he sacked her eight years

"Before I went into the house in the Iraq debate, we had a parliamentary
meeting and I said, 'I can't be accused of being a government patsy because
you sacked me in 1995 for going to Iraq'."

Such behaviour now appears to have been forgotten. "He looked bemused," she

Career path

March 21 1937: Born Ann Roberts in Denbigh, Wales

1964-79: Welsh correspondent of the Guardian and the Observer

June 1979: Elected MEP for mid and west Wales, insisting Labour had
conducted a "feeble and mean-spirited campaign" for EU elections

May 1984: Elected MP for Cynon Valley

Nov 1986: First woman to be elected to chair Tribune group

July 1987: Deputy spokeswoman on women and primary school education

1988: Sacked by Neil Kinnock for rebelling on defence figures

November 1989: Opposition spokeswoman for overseas development

1993-94: Employment spokeswoman

1994-95: Foreign affairs spokeswoman until sacked for failing to leave Kurds
at the Iraqi border and return to UK

December 1997: One of 47 Labour rebels who opposed lone-parent benefit cuts

March 2003: Helped minimise Iraq rebellion, telling MPs: "I believe in
regime change. I say without any reservation I will support the government
[as] I think it is doing a brave thing."

by Ben Russell, Political Correspondent
The Independent, 27th May

When Ann Clwyd missed key Commons votes in 1995 because she was on the Iraqi
border witnessing the plight of the Kurds, Tony Blair sacked her as a
foreign affairs frontbencher.

Today the backbencher who played a central role in making the moral case for
war against Saddam Hussein will fly to Iraq as Mr Blair's personal
representative on a mission to report on the former dictator's war crimes.
Ms Clwyd, who travels for talks in Kuwait before heading to Iraq for a
two-week fact-finding trip, was the most prominent advocate of war on
Labour's left, passionately arguing the case for toppling Saddam.

Yesterday she said that restoring security to Iraq was of "paramount"
importance and backed calls for a force of up to 100,000 troops to maintain
order and begin the country's reconstruction. She said: "I think things are
getting better every day. But there are challenges, for instance more
progress has got to be made in restoring water, power and health services in
many areas, [and] maintaining law and order.Security is of paramount

Mr Blair approached Ms Clwyd, 66, last Wednesday in a private meeting before
his weekly talks with Labour's backbench committee. He asked her to give him
reports on the human rights situation in Iraq as fresh evidence emerges of
mass gravesoutside Baghdad and other Iraqi towns.

Ms Clwyd has campaigned against human rights abuses in Iraq for 25 years,
and since 1996 has chaired the pressure group Indict, which documents
evidence of torture and crimes by Saddam's regime to build the case for
bringing the former dictator to the international war crimes tribunal.

Her consistent campaigning against the Iraqi regime won her respect from
colleagues, even those on the left of the Labour Party who strongly opposed
military action.

She said yesterday she planned to ensure evidence was preserved so that
leaders of Saddam's regime could be brought to trial. But she said she would
also bring Mr Blair news of the plight of ordinary Iraqis as they struggled
to rebuild their country.

She said: "I supported the war for humanitarian reasons all along. I would
still support it for those reasons, because they were so obvious.",,5944-694636,00.html

by Michael Evans
The Times, 28th May

THE Government is facing a fresh round of allegations concerning Gulf War
syndrome, this time from service personnel committed to the latest military
campaign against Iraq.

At least four soldiers have approached lawyers to seek advice about suing
the Ministry of Defence after falling ill when they were given multiple
vaccinations. Other servicemen contacted the same legal firm yesterday and
described the same symptoms, which included breathing difficulties, skin
rashes and depression.

Veterans who have been fighting for compensation since the 1991 Gulf War
predicted that about 6,000 of the 45,000 British personnel committed to this
year's campaign could fall sick from the multiple doses of vaccines.

Tony Flint, of the National Gulf Veterans' and Families' Association, said
he expected that up to 30 per cent of the 22,000 British troops given the
anthrax jab and other inoculations would suffer ill-effects. He based this
prediction on what he said was the American experience.

A spokesman for the Pentagon said, however, that although some of the
returning soldiers were listed as sick, there was no evidence of a link with
the vaccines.

The Liberal Democrats accused Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, of breaking
a pledge not to give soldiers multiple vaccines over a short period. Paul
Keetch, their defence spokesman, said that Mr Hoon told the Commons that
this had been one of the lessons learnt from the 1991 Gulf War.

The first four soldiers to come forward with complaints included Sapper
Stephen Cartwright, 24, a Royal Engineers reservist, who was given the
vaccines but was not sent to the Gulf because he fell ill, and Lance
Corporal Tony Barker, 45, a Royal Logistic Corps reservist driver who served
with 16 Air Assault Brigade in Iraq.

The third serviceman served with the Royal Military Police in Iraq and the
fourth is with the Royal Engineers. He was never sent to the region because
he, too, became sick after receiving the multiple dose of vaccines.

Sapper Cartwright was taken to hospital suffering from fever and blistered
skin after his vaccines and Lance Corporal Barker fell sick in Kuwait.

Mark McGhee, a lawyer with the Manchester-based firm Linder Myers, said
three more soldiers had contacted him. They all had a strong case if it
could be proved that they had been given multiple vaccines over a short
period "in breach of stated MoD policy".

An MoD spokeswoman said that although in "normal circumstances" the policy
was to spread vaccines over a long period, multiple jabs occasionally had to
be given over a short time. "This is when soldiers are required to deploy at
short notice," she said.

The 1991 Gulf War veterans claim that more than 7,000 of those who fought in
the conflict were suffering from a range of illnesses, and that 600 had
died. Despite many MoD and independent investigations, no syndrome of
illnesses has been proved.

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]