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[casi] News, 8-14/10/03 (2)

News, 8-14/10/03 (2)


*  Uproar Over Turk Troop Deployment 
*  U.S. faces Iraqi opposition over Turkish troop deployment
*  Turkey Says Troops to Respond to Attack


*  Parallel 'government' finds support
*  Mahdi's Birthday Celebrated by 1 Million Shiites in Iraq; Muqtada
promises shadow government
*  Inside the resistance
*  Iraq Council Member: Iraq to Back Syria


*  Don't bother them with facts
*  No Weapons Doesn't Mean No Threat
*  What Kay Found
*  The Iraq weapons report: a review


*  Baghdad Burning


Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 9th October


In Istanbul, meanwhile, protesters chained themselves to the wire fencing of
an American school and shouted "We will not allow our soldiers to be
killed," as others gathered separately on Taksim central square and in front
of the offices of the governing Justice and Development Party.

In the Turkish capital Ankara, dozens of members of trade unions, political
parties and civic groups gathered in front of the Parliament, where
legislators on Tuesday voted for a government motion to dispatch troops to
neighboring Iraq. "Turkey should take its hands off Iraq," the group

"Turkey has been dragged by the $8.5 billion carrot," opposition MP Haluk
Koc, who joined the demonstrators, said in reference to the $8.5 billion
that Washington agreed to loan Ankara last month in return for its
"cooperation" in Iraq. "Don't send our sons to the Iraqi hell. Don't make
them shields for American soldiers," protestors chanted in the northern city
of Trabzon, the news agency reported.

Turkey's press offered a mixed reaction, with the Vatan daily calling it a
"gamble" that might cost Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan his
political future.

Turkey's main Kurdish party, the Democratic People's Party, also denounced
the decision describing it has having "brought Turkey to the edge of war."


by Kathleen Ridolfo
RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 42, 9 October 2003

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq may have to contend with
more than the Iraqi Governing Council's opposition to the presence of
Turkish troops on Iraqi soil. Both Kurdish leaders and citizens have
vehemently opposed the idea of foreign troops, even if those troops were
stationed outside of Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. Iraqis from across the
religious and ethnic spectrum have largely opposed the presence of any
foreign troops on their soil, particularly the Turks, because of Iraq's
longstanding historical and political relationship with its northern

Although the U.S. request for Turkish troops was made in July, the Turkish
cabinet only sent a motion to its National Assembly on 6 October. The motion
called for the dispatch of 10,000 Turkish troops to contribute to
stabilization efforts in Iraq. The four-page motion sought parliamentary
approval to send troops to Iraq at some point during the next year and
stipulated that Turkish troops would operate under a Turkish national
command structure. "Turkish armed forces will also perform the tasks of
restoring public order and regulating and improving humanitarian aid and the
economic [infra]structure," the motion stated. The parliament approved the
motion a day later -- after just three hours of debate -- by a vote of 358
to 183.

Press reports indicated that the Iraqi Governing Council, upon hearing of
the approval, unanimously rejected the possible deployment. But Governing
Council member Sungul Chabuk, a Turkoman, appeared to support the Turkish
deployment. "Turkey wants to help the Iraqi people preserve security and
stability and rebuild Iraq...God willing, the Turkish troops, who are Muslim
troops, will be welcomed by the Iraqi people," she told Reuters on 6

However, Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i said that the council
is opposed to Turkish troops in Iraq because members fear the troops might
undermine stability in Iraq. "The overriding opinion among the [Governing
Council] members is that there are fears and apprehension with regard to
bringing any foreign troops to Iraq," he told Al-Jazeera on 7 October. "This
is because to end the occupation and not to increase the number of
foreign troops, particularly from regional countries which will not be
neutral in Iraq." Al Rubay'i noted that the Governing Council wants the
United States to guarantee that the Turkish troops would operate under
coalition or UN control, and that they would depart Iraq ahead of U.S.

Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman echoed al-Rubay'i, telling Radio Free
Iraq (RFI) on 8 October, "In general, we don't want any neighboring
countries to bring troops to Iraq, because, contrary to what the Americans
believe, that cannot help solve security problems." KDP head and Governing
Council member Mas'ud Barzani's representative, Rosh Noori Shawais, told RFI
that the council would prefer that Iraq's neighbors contribute to
reconstruction efforts in Iraq, rather than send forces. "The other point is
that the duty and goal of the Iraqi [Governing] Council is trying to fulfill
is the gradual establishment of control over the country. Increasing the
number of troops or bringing in new troops will complicate the achievement
of this goal," he added.

Meanwhile, rumors circulated of a possible compromise between the U.S. and
the Governing Council on 8 October. CPA head L. Paul Bremer met with
Governing Council members to discuss the issue, as officials in Washington
dismissed the council's opposition as a stumbling block. The Iraqi Governing
Council president for October, Iyad Allawi, told Al Jazeera ahead of the 8
October meeting that the council's opposition to the deployment should not
be seen as its final decision on the matter. Sources told Al-Jazeera that a
compromise would be reached and issued through a Governing Council statement
saying that the council "does not prefer" troops from neighboring countries
to participate in Iraqi peacekeeping efforts. Governing Council member
Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Reuters that council members "know very well that
Iraq is occupied and the [CPA] is our partner, and we do not want to enter
[into] a confrontation.... So we will definitely reach a compromise that
will protect our interests and the interests of our partner."

Meanwhile, Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman told RFI: "Eventually, if
we don't succeed in convincing the American side and they continue to insist
on bringing in these [Turkish] troops because they consider security issues
[in Iraq] their responsibility, then we have to sit down with the American
side and with the Turkish side, if possible, and discuss and agree on the
number of troops, where they will be deployed, and for how long they will
stay. All this is needed to reduce the harm that can be done as a result of
the deployment of these troops."

And that is just what appears to be happening. Iyad Allawi met with Turkish
Ambassador Osman Paksut on 8 October. Although much of the meeting was not
disclosed to the press, Paksut acknowledged, "We are having regular contact
with the Iraqi Governing Council," adding, "I don't know how many [Governing
Council] members are against or how many members are for" the deployment of
Turkish troops, Reuters reported.

In Ankara, Turkey announced that its Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur
Ziyal would hold initial talks with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman
on 9 October to discuss the terms of the deployment. "What will be talked
about, when the discussions will start, where, who will head the talks will
be clear when we officially inform the American side [of parliament's
decision] tomorrow," Reuters quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying on
8 October.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the notion
that Iraqis would reject the Turkish deployment en masse, saying: "You have
Iraqis all across the spectrum -- some who will be very happy, some who will
be worried, some who will be neutral. Some won't have an opinion." U.S.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also played down the Governing
Council's opposition, telling reporters: "We believe these things can be
worked out [and] should be worked out...we will be working on all the
details to make sure that the Iraqis agree with us on that."

While it is expected that an agreement satisfactory to all parties will be
reached, selling the deployment to the Iraqi people may meet with some
difficulty. Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq were vociferously airing their
opinions to international media on 8 October, with many citing Turkey's
oppression of its ethnic Kurdish population, it's 400-year "occupation" of
Iraq during the Ottoman Empire, and suspicions that Turkey would seek to
benefit from Iraq's vast oil reserves once inside the country.

Such suspicions are not implausible, given statements earlier this year by
then Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis. He told "Hurriyet" on 6 January
that his country was examining whether or not it had any legitimate
historical claims to the northern Iraqi oil-rich cities of Mosul and Kirkuk
(see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 and 20 January 2003).

Turkey's long insistence that it wanted to enter northern Iraq to protect
the Turkomans -- who are ethnically related to Turks -- and to maintain
order, i.e., prevent any attempts by the Kurds to separate from the central
government -- have also contributed to Iraqis' suspicions of their northern
neighbor. The U.S. tried earlier this year to smooth Turkish Kurdish
relations over when it was seeking permission to launch Operation Iraqi
Freedom from Turkish soil (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 March 2003), but it
appears it will need to restart its diplomacy campaign in order to prevent
an escalation of tensions ahead of any Turkish deployment to Iraq.

Las Vegas Sun, 13th October

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's military said Monday that if Turkish
peacekeepers are sent to Iraq, they would be deployed in the center of the
country, in areas dominated by Sunni Muslims.

The military also warned that its soldiers would respond if their supply
convoys came under attack from Iraqi Kurdish groups.

Those groups have not threatened any attacks against Turks, but there are
deep tensions between Iraqi Kurds and Turkey. Turkey battled Turkish Kurdish
separatist guerrillas in its southeast for some 15 years and has said it
won't tolerate Kurdish independence in northern Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds have strongly opposed a possible Turkish peacekeeper deployment
and control the sector of northern Iraq that Turkish convoys would have to
cross before reaching central Iraq.

Last week, Turkey's parliament gave permission for the government to send
troops to Iraq, but Iraqi Kurdish groups and members of the U.S.-appointed
Iraqi Governing Council have spoken out against troops from Turkey, saying
that peacekeepers from neighboring countries may interfere in Iraq's postwar

"If there is a situation in which Kurdish groups in the region attack our
convoys while crossing through northern Iraq, then the necessary response
will be given," Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug told reporters.
"It's something that they need to think about."

"We have the capacity to protect ourselves," he added.

Basbug also said that Turkey "would expect the interim government in Iraq to
adopt a more positive stance."

The Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled what is now Iraq for about 400 years until
World War I.

Basbug said Turkish and U.S. officials were discussing the possibility of
deploying Turkish peacekeepers in one of three regions.

The first region would be Saddam Hussein's home province of Salahaddin. The
second area would be to the west of Salahaddin and would include the hotspot
of Fallujah, the site of frequent clashes with U.S. troops and the desert
area up to the Syrian border. The third district, which the military hinted
is less likely to be approved, would be a more limited area to the west of
Salahaddin not including the desert area.

The areas are all dominated by Sunni Muslims. Turks are overwhelmingly

Talks on the location with the United States were ongoing, Basbug said.

"We have not reached a result," he added.

Basbug gave no timeframe as to when troops could be sent and added that the
government would make the final decision as to whether to send troops.

"It is the duty of the government to determine the location of duty," said
Gen. Metin Yavuz Yalcin, the head of planning.

Yalcin warned of the risks to the soldiers.

"No matter where the region is, there are risks," Yalcin said. "Even in an
atmosphere that seems calm, no matter how our intelligence is, there's
always the possibility of an instant terror attack like Sept. 11."

Parliament's vote to send troops came after a U.S. official gave assurances
to Turkey that Washington would remove the threat posed to Turkey by some
5,000 Turkish Kurdish rebels that have bases in northern Iraq. Turkey and
the United States consider the rebel group to be a terrorist organization.


Aljazeera, 12th October

Hundreds of Iraqis have taken to the streets in support of the parallel
government that Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has announced for the country.

A day after al-Sadr announced the formation of his "Iraqi government" in
defiance of the US-led occupation, a large crowd gathered in the city of
Najaf, pledging their whole-hearted support.

"We are ready to sacrifice our souls for you, Sadr," chanted the
demonstrators as they roamed the streets of the city.

A firebrand cleric, al-Sadr had announced the formation of the government
during his weekly sermon in the town of Kufa.

"I have decided and I have formed a government made up of several
ministries, including ministries of justice, finance, information, interior,
foreign affairs, endowments and the promotion of virtue and prevention of
vice," the young cleric had said.

"If you agree, I ask you to demonstrate peacefully in order to express you
support," al-Sadr had exhorted.

Responding to his call, the crowd in Najaf registered their noisy support.

"We are against the American occupation forces and we back everything that
Moqtada al Sadr says," one of the demonstrators said.

The day's show of solidarity for al-Sadr coincided with more resistance
attacks in the troubled country.

An Iraqi police officer was killed and six policemen wounded in a hand
grenade attack near the town of Karbala, south of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqi Shias have begun to converge on the city of
Karbala to celebrate the birthday of the 12th Imam.

They travelled from across the country to participate in the celebration of
the birth of the ninth-century Imam al-Mahdi.

The authorities expected as many as five million Shias to make their way
into the city for the occasion.

Juan Cole - Informed Comment

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million and a half Shiite worshippers
crowded into the shrine city of Karbala on Saturday, to begin commemorating
the birth of the Twelfth Imam (in the Western calendar it was 2 August 869
AD). The Polish commander of the region expects as many as three million on
Sunday. Iraqi police and Muqtada al-Sadr's Army of the Mahdi were providing
security, according to al-Hayat newspaper.

Shiite Muslims believe that the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi (a lineal
descendant of the Prophet Muhammad) went into a supernatural and invisible
realm as a small child, from which he secretly rules the world, and that he
will one day return to restore the world to justice. (The belief is similar
to Christian ideas about the ascent and ultimate return of Christ). Pious
Shiites interpret the recent Iraq war not as a victory of American arms but
as the expression of the divine wrath with Saddam Hussein's wicked

That young Shiite sectarian leader Muqtada al-Sadr has chosen this
anniversary to announce that he will form an Iraqi government points to the
millenarian beliefs of the Sadrists. (Milleniarian movements typically
believe that the world as we know it is about to end through divine
intervention.) Many Iraqis assume that the bewildering events of the past 6
months indicate that the return of the Mahdi is near. Some may think that
Muqtada is the Mahdi. Mahdist movements in Islam have often turned violent,
and several have fought against Western imperialism. Most Americans have
heard of the Sudanese Mahdi, if only via the film Khartoum, who opposed
British expansion into Egypt and the Sudan. But there were millenarian
overtones to some Algerian revolts against the French, and among Muslims who
revolted against the British in India in 1857. Also the Shiites produced the
Babi movement, which threw Iran into turmoil in the 1840s and 1850s and had
an anti-Western cast. Some of Khomeini's following was from millenarian

The Sadrists don't need millenarian ideas to be militantly anti-Western, but
such beliefs can bolster reckless violence. After all, if the world as we
know it is about to be turned upside down by God, then what have we got to
lose? Muqtada has instructed his followers to organize marches and
processions in Baghdad and other cities in support of the new "government"
once it is announced, according to al-Hayat.

As it is, hundreds of believers came out on Saturday in Najaf for Muqtada's
announcement (-AFP).

The Western press keeps saying that the extent of Muqtada's influence is
unknown. I'd guess he has about 2 million followers in Iraq. It is a guess,
but an educated one. The reporters are confused that they are told by
mainstream Shiites that Muqtada is too young and inexperienced to have such
influence. But he leads a sectarian movement, not a mainstream one. In
American terms, Muqtada is more like David Koreish, and Grand Ayatollah Ali
Sistani is more like an Episcopalian bishop. Except that Muqtada has a huge
following compared to any American sect I know of.

Muqtada's forces clashed with US troops Thursday night, producing casualties
on both sides. A spokesman for Muqtada in Baghdad announced Saturday that
the US military command had apologized to the Sadrists for the incident and
expressed regret for the loss of life (two Iraqis had died, as well as two
US troops). (-AFP)

Muqtada al-Sadr's proposed cabinet, according to Abdul Hadi Daraji, will
include a ministry for the "prevention of vice and promotion of virtue." (-
Washington Post). This is the same sort of ministry that was in charge of so
much repression by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"You know very well that there is a connection between the military and the
political," said Daraji, who called the United States "a terrorist
organization" during Friday prayers outside Sadr's headquarters in Baghdad.
"The imam's army is the military side," Daraji said, "and the cabinet is the
political side." (WP)

Muqtada also plans to name ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, etc. He
calls on his followers to support this 'government' with "peaceful"
demonstrations. Al-Hayat newspaper says that Muqtada has claimed that his
government would represent the Iraqi people, whereas the Interim Governing
Council was merely appointed by a foreign power, the US, and was not elected
in accordance with Muslim law. (Muqtada doesn't seem to realize the irony
that his own proposed government is also appointed, only by him, rather than
elected; though perhaps there has been informal consultation (shura) with
his lieutenants).

A cyber-friend wrote me of Iraq,

"I talked to a friend at a 15th of Sha'ban celebration today and he said he
was going to pick up his in-laws at the airport tomorrow who are returning
from ziarat to Karbala and Najaf. He claimed that seven million people had
attended 15th of Sha'ban in Karbala! Surely an exaggeration but indicative
that a lot of people were there, and that people from all over the world
were pouring into Iraq for religious observance. One wonders who is
controlling the border, issuing visas and what not. Also, there was very
little notice of this in any media that I perused. But people translates to
money, and increased power for the Hawza [Shiite religious establishment in

The Hawza doesn't need to back a guerilla war, as they've got people power.
Khomeini certainly didn't need a guerilla war. Unless the U.S. military
institutes a Saddam like slaughter and oppression, the Shia' are going to be
very difficult to control. Looks to me like they've got a tiger by the tail,
as they are expending blood and money putting down the Sunni/Baathist
rebellion, while the Hawza is quietly strengthening and consolidating it's

by Zaki Chehab
The Guardian, 13th October

The suicide bomber who yesterday attacked the US-frequented Baghdad Hotel
was the fourth member of the Iraqi resistance to kill themselves for the
cause. The bombing came only three days after last week's suicide attack on
a Baghdad police station that left at least eight people dead. From the
meetings I have had with resistance fighters in different parts of Iraq,
there is no doubt that there will be many more such attacks to come.

The use of suicide bombing in Iraq - the first announced target was the UN
in August - signals a clear change of tactics by the growing resistance
movement. The US-led coalition forces, frustrated by their inability to
control the situation, blame foreign infiltrators for these attacks,
emphasising the similarity between these new tactics and those of al-Qaida
and other militant groups in the Middle East. Few seem to grasp the fact
that Iraqis, who are well-trained militarily, have simply learned from
others' experiences, and carried out the attacks themselves.

I first met Iraqi resistance fighters at a farm in the suburbs of Ramadi,
north of Baghdad. It was several months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's
regime, and on that day the people of Ramadi were gathering at a mosque to
grieve the death of a young Iraqi killed by US forces. The man - unarmed,
and driving a civilian car - had failed to stop at a checkpoint. There had
been no signs warning him or other drivers of the danger they were
approaching. I was taken aback by the strength of the anger felt by the
local people - such deaths (this young man was not the first to die at the
checkpoint, nor the last) were clearly galvanising local people to fight
back against the occupation forces.

After the funeral, with the dreaded 10pm curfew fast approaching, my new
Iraqi companions invited me to go with them to a nearby place of safety. As
we made the dangerous journey along the road from Ramadi to Baghdad - the
site of daily attacks by the resistance and street gangs - the conversation
turned to the nature of the Iraqi resistance movement. I was very keen to
find out why it was spreading throughout Iraq so quickly, and what motivated
its members. My companions - ordinary Iraqis - immediately offered to
introduce me to the fighters they knew.

The fighters wore civilian clothes but their faces were covered, and they
held a range of small arms and light weapons - AK-47s, RPG-7s to
shoulder-mounted rocket propellers and hand grenades.

What struck me most, though, was their intense commitment to their cause:
the liberation of Iraq from its current occupiers. These were no "Ba'athist
remnants". On the contrary, they blamed Saddam Hussein for bringing the
Americans into Iraq. They went so far as to say the capture of Saddam by
allied forces would sever the links between Saddam and the resistance
movement once and for all. They defined themselves as nationalists. One
said: "We do not want to see our country occupied by forces clearly pursuing
their own interests, rather than being poised to return Iraq to the Iraqis."

Later, I met members of a different strand of the resistance: Saddam Hussein
loyalists in Tikrit. We were filming in the main street there when two
young, well-built Iraqis approached us. While they were asking us who we
were working for, a US convoy passed by and the two men shouted abuse at the
American soldiers, threatening to turn Iraq into their graveyard.

Then they turned to us, boasting that they had attacked the Americans the
night before at Saddam's palace in the town, and would carry out daily
attacks until the Americans were driven out of the country. One of the two
men introduced himself as Nabil, and declared that there was no support
locally for the Americans, who would never be safe, even in their thousands.

These were not empty threats. I spent that night with an Iraqi family in the
town. While sitting in the back garden, we witnessed eight explosions within
minutes of each other. My host, a university professor, explained that they
were mortar attacks targeting the US headquarters in Tikrit.

In Mosul and Falluja, the resistance groups are different again. Here, most
identify themselves with Islamist organisations such as the Muslim
Brotherhood. Recently, there have been reports of meetings in the Jordanian
capital between high-ranking members of Hamas and this section of the
resistance, which has sought to learn from the experience of Hamas and its
military wing, well-known for its suicide bomb attacks against Israeli

This development was entirely predictable. When Mosul fell to American
forces on April 11, terror and chaos spread over the city. The Pentagon
promised that thousands of its soldiers would secure Mosul and prevent mass
looting. I entered the city that day. By the time praying started, dozens of
worshippers had gathered to hear one of Mosul's leading Sunni clerics
calling for patience, but warning that if peace and security were not
restored, then "the inhabitants of Mosul still have the means to resist, as
this is not the promised liberation but an occupation. We will never accept
Iraq becoming a second Palestine."

Iraq is a country which has faced more than 20 years of war, and more than a
decade of sanctions. The motivations of each strand of Iraqi resistance
vary: the loyalists are driven by the loss of power; the nationalists by the
desire to establish independence and security; the Islamists by their dream
of returning political Islam to the Iraqi nation. These aspirations may be
incompatible, but the focus of each group now is to fight together against
the common enemy of Iraq - the occupying forces.

In some areas at least, this common interest has a structural expression. In
the back streets of Mosul, soon after the fall of the city, I came face to
face with a group of armed men, shouting and firing shots in different
directions. I asked who they were: some introduced themselves as former
Ba'athists, others said they belonged to Islamist organisations. Though
ideologically worlds apart, they explained that they all took their orders
from the same committee in the city, which was headed by a group of
religious leaders. I later found there were similar relationships in Falluja
and Samarra.

The resolve and ferocity of the Iraqi resistance has been amplified by the
blunders of the American soldiers in Iraq. Coalition commanders have dealt
ineptly with ground operations, and neither the British nor the Americans
have come up with a clear road map for the political reconstruction of Iraq
that would enable Iraqis to rule themselves.

Random road checks and house-to-house searches, often based on inaccurate
information, make a bad situation worse. Culturally inappropriate behaviour
- male soldiers body searching women, for example - and collective
punishments have further alienated the population and helped entrench
popular support for resistance.

Given the growing number of Iraqis joining the resistance, there is a strong
need for Washington and London to revise their military and political plans
for post-conflict Iraq. The occupation forces are in a fragile position. If
they strengthen their military presence in the face of increasing
resistance, they will only alienate Iraqis yet further from their attempts
to redraw the political future of Iraq - and the resistance will continue to
spread. Unless there is an early withdrawal, the currently sporadic attacks
in the Shia-dominated south can be expected to mushroom.

Britain and the US are currently setting the stage for a new phase of Iraqi
resistance. Its members are learning fast from the experience of the region,
and are already adopting new tactics. The latest of these is suicide bombing
- a weapon which even the strongest counter terrorism forces struggle to
cope with.

‹ Zaki Chehab is the political editor of the Arabic TV station al-Hayat-LBC,
and was the first journalist to broadcast an interview with members of the
Iraqi resistance

by BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer
Yahoo, 13th October

DAMASCUS, Syria - A member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council said
Monday that any attack against Syria was considered an attack against Iraq.

Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite Muslim group, also said sending Turkish
peacekeepers to Iraq will not solve the country's security crisis.

American troops should "leave as soon as possible because there are no
people who believe in occupation and accepts occupiers," said Al-Hakim,
whose elder brother and Shiite leader, Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, was killed
in an August bombing in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.

Al-Hakim's three-day visit to Syria, which for a long time was a close ally
of his group, comes a week after Israeli warplanes attacked a camp near
Damascus that Israel claimed was a training center for the Palestinian
militant group Islamic Jihad.

Syria denied the allegations and said Palestinian militants abandoned the
camp years ago.

"Iraq and Syria, people and states, are brotherly, and their fate is the
same. Therefore, we stand by their side," al-Hakim told reporters. "When
there is an aggression against Syria, it is an aggression against Iraq."

Syria, which is ruled by a rival faction of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party,
had close relations with Iraqi groups that opposed the ousted leader, and
most Iraqi opposition groups had offices in Damascus.

Asked if he considers attacks against U.S. troops to be terrorist acts,
al-Hakim said, "We believe that many of these operations are terrorist acts
because they target civilians, scholars, oil and water installations and
public establishments.

"We consider these operations terrorist acts and increase instability in
Iraq. They are harmful and are rejected by Iraqi people," he said.

Although anti-American attacks have left 96 U.S. soldiers dead since May 1,
when President Bush declared major combat over, bombings have also killed
scores of civilians and saboteurs have targeted the country's

Al-Hakim, who is scheduled to meet Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday,
said he does not think sending Turkish peacekeepers to Iraq will help in
easing the bad security situation.

"We are not for the entrance of any forces," he said. "We believe that the
severe security problem in Iraq is because of the wrong policies of American
forces and occupation forces. The only treatment for this problem is to
depend on the Iraqi people."

Turkey's parliament gave permission last week for the government to send
troops to Iraq, but Iraqi Kurdish groups and Governing Council members have
opposed the move, saying peacekeepers from neighboring countries could
interfere with Iraq's postwar development.


by Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
Washington Times, 6th October

To hear a number of leading Democrats tell it, the report issued last week
by David Kay, chairman of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), was proof positive
President Bush had effectively committed a war crime: He launched a war of
aggression on the pretext Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) and now, thanks to Mr. Kay, we know that wasn't true.

There is only one problem with this highly partisan attack, and the parallel
media reporting that has taken a similarly pollyannish line about the Kay
report: No responsible reader could take any comfort from its findings, let
alone construe them as an indictment of the Bush administration and its
decision to liberate Iraq.

While the president's critics may not wish to be bothered by the facts, they
are, as the saying goes, "stubborn things." And those laid out by Mr. Kay
and his colleagues paint a picture of Saddam Hussein as despot relentlessly
engaged in the pursuit of the most devastating weapons known to man.

The Iraq Survey Group's inability to date to locate the weapons the United
Nations previously determined were in Saddam's hands should be a matter of
grave concern - and redoubled effort. Its report certainly is not cause for,
as some have suggested, shutting down the ISG and reallocating its resources

Consider, for example, the following facts that belie the conclusion Saddam
had no weapons of mass destruction:

‹ The Kay team has thus far been able to examine only 10 of the 130 known
ammo depots in Iraq, some of which are as large as 50 square miles. It would
be folly to say on the basis of a less-than-10-percent sample whether WMD
are to be found in the remainder.

‹ These depots are filled with immense quantities of ordnance. Since the
regime made no appreciable effort to distinguish which contained high
explosives and which were loaded with chemical or biological agents,
establishing exactly what is in such facilities is time consuming and

‹ In addition to the known depots, there are untold numbers of covert
weapons caches around the country. These caches have been the source of much
of the ordnance used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to attack
American and coalition forces. Whether any of these contain WMD remains
unknown at this juncture. But if they do, IEDs could, in the future, be
vastly more devastating - especially to unprotected Iraqis in proximity to
the attack.

‹ The task is further complicated by the relatively small size of the
objects of the search. Mr. Kay has noted that all of Saddam Hussein's as yet
unaccounted for WMD could be stored in a space the size of a two-car garage.
According to former Clinton CIA Director R. James Woolsey, his entire
suspected inventory of the biological agent anthrax would fill roughly half
a standard semi's tractor trailer.

Taken together with the assiduous efforts of Saddam to conceal and otherwise
to obscure his weapons of mass destruction program (also documented by Mr.
Kay and his team), these factors give rise to an ineluctable reality: If the
ISG is having a hard time ferreting out the truth about Iraq's WMD, U.N.
inspectors would likely never have found dispositive evidence of Iraqi WMD
given the additional constraints they labored under that no longer apply
(notably, those imposed on freedom of travel and inquiry by Saddam's
totalitarian system and the attendant lack of cooperation from Iraqi

The really bad news in the Kay report are its revelations about the role
being played in WMD-related activities by Saddam's dreaded Iraqi
Intelligence Service (known as the IIS, or Mukhabarat). According to Mr.
Kay, the Mukhabarat had more than two-dozen secret laboratories - and more
are still being found - that "at a minimum kept alive Iraq's capability to
produce both biological and chemical weapons."

In addition to discovering work aimed at weaponizing various deadly
diseases, the Iraq Survey Group received from an Iraqi scientist "reference
strains" for one of the most lethal substances known to man: Botulinum
toxin. In short order, with the right equipment and growth material - items
Saddam was able to acquire and retain since they were inherently "dual use"
and could also be used for commercial purposes - such strains could
translate into large quantities of biological agents.

Lest we forget, it was this sort of capability that President Bush cited as
grounds for war. He warned of the possibility that weapons of mass
destruction could be made available to terrorists. It would not take large
quantities to inflict immense damage. And it would likely be the Iraqi
Intelligence Services, rather than the regular army or even the Republican
Guard, who would be responsible for providing such support to the regime's
terrorist proxies.

In a little-noted aspect of his recent "Meet the Press" interview, Vice
President Richard Cheney for the first time offered official confirmation
that Iraqi agents appeared to have played such a catalytic role in the first
attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

It is one thing to ignore the facts available, and their ominous
implications. It is, however, another thing altogether to pretend David Kay
has shown there is no danger from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass
destruction, when the facts are otherwise, and bothersome indeed.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a
columnist for The Washington Times.

by Charles Duelfer
Washington Post, 6th October

The Iraq Survey Group headed by David Kay has now made an interim report.
Ironically, this group has inherited the obligation previously levied by the
United Nations upon Saddam Hussein -- namely, to credibly and verifiably
detail Iraq's program of weapons of mass destruction to a skeptical
international audience.

The group has had far more access and resources than the U.N. inspectors
under Hans Blix and it has been in Iraq longer. How is it faring and what
does the interim report tell us? Particularly, does the absence of a major
weapons discovery mean that U.N. inspections were working and the war was

Kay states that while no ready-to-use weapons have been found, Iraq is a big
country and many depots and other locations are yet to be inspected.
However, the Kay report does list evidence of continuing research and
development (though not production) in each weapon category. It also
describes activities and equipment that Iraq failed to declare to the United
Nations and that were not discovered by the inspectors.

Future reports will have to show in verifiable detail the extent of these
prohibited programs, but these findings will not greatly surprise
experienced U.N. inspectors. Hussein had long differentiated between
retaining weapons and sustaining the capability to produce weapons.
Experience has also shown that Iraq tended to pursue whatever relevant
research was allowed or was deemed undetectable.

The apparent absence of existing weapons stocks, therefore, does not mean
Hussein did not pose a WMD threat. In fact, fragments of evidence in Kay's
report about ongoing biological weapons research suggest that Hussein may
have had a quick "break-out" capacity to threaten his neighbors and, indeed,
the United States with biological agents (possibly including infectious

But clearly this is not the immediate threat many assumed before the war.
Large stocks of chemical and biological munitions have not been found. The
WMD threat appears to have been longer term. Assuming this finding does not
change, it will be very important for the Iraq Survey Group to establish
when all agents and weapons were eliminated. It will also be important to
analyze why the picture Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the
Security Council in February was so far off the mark.

Future reports will also have to demonstrate what facts about the Iraq WMD
program the U.N. teams missed and how Hussein's regime acted to thwart the
efforts of the United Nations. This latter issue is vital. Kay makes mention
of the Iraqi concealment and deception as one reason why he has found so
little. The first U.N. inspection team (UNSCOM) pursued a controversial
program to investigate what we termed the Iraqi concealment mechanism. The
goal was to show how the enormous resources of Iraq's security and
intelligence apparatus undermined the inspection teams. We accumulated
evidence that presidential secretary Abed Hamid Mahmoud, now in U.S.
custody, directed a government-wide effort to contain inspection activity.
This included penetrating the U.N. inspection teams and even obtaining
assistance from other prominent countries to fend off the inspectors.
Conducting surprise inspections had become almost impossible.

The Iraq Survey Group should now have access to the records and participants
of the former regime. Future reports must provide a clear description of the
Iraqi system for containing inspector activity. This is necessary to inform
judgments about the effectiveness of the U.N. inspections. The argument is
made that if no weapons were found in Iraq, then maybe the U.N. inspection
process was successfully containing Hussein and, therefore, the war was

This will be proven wrong if the Iraq Survey Group can show that Hussein
could outlast and outwit the efforts of the Security Council to keep him
from ever obtaining WMD. While the inspection system may have appeared to be
successful at a given point, it was not sustainable and eventually the U.N.
Security Council would lose focus. Kay's group needs to document the
strategy that Hussein's regime was pursuing to counter and erode the U.N.
disarmament measures.

The Bush administration appears committed to developing a full picture of
the Iraqi weapons program, even if it turns out to be less than was
forecast. This task in Iraq, like so many others, is made much more
difficult because of early mistakes. Key sites were left unsecured and
looters destroyed much evidence. Tons of documents were collected
haphazardly, and now they have to be sorted out by experts and linguists --
an extremely time-consuming process.

Finally, the Iraqis who are most knowledgeable have been living in fear of
arrest by the Americans or death from various internal Iraqi threats. Most
of the WMD program leaders have spent the summer in jail. The second-tier
scientists and engineers fear the night when U.S. military surround their
homes and take them away to face an unknown future. They do not find much
incentive to cooperate.

Kay appears to be making necessary course corrections, and a full verifiable
description of Hussein's programs and policies should be forthcoming. It
will have to be meticulous. There are many very knowledgeable people in the
audience, including U.N. inspectors and former Iraqi officials, who will
ultimately pass judgment on its veracity.

The writer, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, was deputy chairman of
UNSCOM, the first U.N. Iraq inspection organization, from 1993 to 2000.

by Colin L. Powell
Washington Post, 7th October

The interim findings of David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group make two things
abundantly clear: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was in material breach of its United
Nations obligations before the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 last
November, and Iraq went further into breach after the resolution was passed.

Kay's interim findings offer detailed evidence of Hussein's efforts to defy
the international community to the last. The report describes a host of
activities related to weapons of mass destruction that "should have been
declared to the U.N." It reaffirms that Iraq's forbidden programs spanned
more than two decades, involving thousands of people and billions of

What the world knew last November about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
programs was enough to justify the threat of serious consequences under
Resolution 1441. What we now know as a result of David Kay's efforts
confirms that Hussein had every intention of continuing his work on banned
weapons despite the U.N. inspectors, and that we and our coalition partners
were right to eliminate the danger that his regime posed to the world.

Although Kay and his team have not yet discovered stocks of the weapons
themselves, they will press on in the months ahead with their important and
painstaking work. All indications are that they will uncover still more
evidence of Hussein's dangerous designs.

Before the war, our intelligence had detected a calculated campaign to
prevent any meaningful inspections. We knew that Iraqi officials, members of
the ruling Baath Party and scientists had hidden prohibited items in their

Lo and behold, Kay and his team found strains of organisms concealed in a
scientist's home, and they report that one of the strains could be used to
produce biological agents. Kay and his team also discovered documents and
equipment in scientists' homes that would have been useful for resuming
uranium enrichment efforts.

Kay and his team have "discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities
and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United
Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery . . .
has come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials
concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical
evidence of equipment and activities that the Iraq Survey Group has
discovered that should have been declared to the U.N."

The Kay Report also addresses the issue of suspected mobile biological agent
laboratories: "Investigation into the origin of and intended use for the two
trailers found in northern Iraq in April has yielded a number of
explanations, including hydrogen, missile propellant and BW [biological
warfare] production, but technical limitations would prevent any of these
processes from being ideally suited to these trailers. That said, nothing .
. . rules out their potential use in BW production." Here Kay's findings are
inconclusive. He is continuing to work this issue.

Kay and his team have, however, found this: "A clandestine network of
laboratories and safe houses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that
contained equipment subject to U.N. monitoring and suitable for continuing
CBW [chemical-biological weapons] research." They also discovered: "a prison
laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi
officials working to prepare for U.N. inspections were explicitly ordered
not to declare to the U.N."

The Kay Report confirms that our intelligence was correct to suspect the
al-Kindi Co. of being involved in prohibited activity. Missile designers at
al-Kindi told Kay and his team that Iraq had resumed work on converting SA-2
surface-to-air missiles into ballistic missiles with a range of about 250
kilometers, and that this work continued even while UNMOVIC inspectors were
in Iraq. The U.N.-mandated limit for Iraq was a range of 150 kilometers.

The Kay Report also confirmed our prewar intelligence that indicated Iraq
was developing missiles with ranges up to 1,000 kilometers. Similarly, Kay
substantiated our reports that Iraq had tested an unmanned aerial vehicle to
500 kilometers, also in violation of U.N. resolutions.

What's more, he and his team found that elaborate efforts to shield illicit
programs from inspection persisted even after the collapse of Hussein's
regime. Key evidence was deliberately eliminated or dispersed during the
postwar period. In a wide range of offices, laboratories and companies
suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction, computer hard drives
were destroyed, files were burned and equipment was carefully cleansed of
all traces of use -- and done so in a pattern that was clearly deliberate
and selective, rather than random.

One year ago, when President Bush brought his concerns about Iraq to the
United Nations, he made it plain that his principal concern in a post-Sept.
11 world was not just that a rogue regime such as Saddam Hussein's had WMD
programs, but that such horrific weapons could find their way out of Iraq
into the arms of terrorists who would have even fewer compunctions about
using them against innocent people across the globe.

In the interim report, Kay and his team record the chilling fact that they
"found people, technical information and illicit procurement networks that
if allowed to flow to other countries and regions could accelerate global

Having put an end to that harrowing possibility alone justifies our
coalition's action against Hussein's regime. But that is not the only
achievement of our brave men and women in uniform and their coalition

Three weeks ago I paid my respects at a mass grave in the northern city of
Halabja, where on a Friday morning in March 1988, Hussein's forces murdered
5,000 men, women and children with chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein can
cause no more Halabjas. His "Republic of Fear" no longer holds sway over the
people of Iraq. For the first time in three decades, the Iraqi people have
reason to hope for the future.

President Bush was right: This was an evil regime, lethal to its own people,
in deepening material breach of its Security Council obligations, and a
threat to international peace and security. Hussein would have stopped at
nothing until something stopped him. It's a good thing that we did.

The writer is secretary of state.

by Ron Manley
Open Democracy, 9th October

The Iraq Survey Group has just published its interim report on the Saddam
regime's weapons programmes and capabilities. Ron Manley, a chemical weapons
expert who oversaw the United Nations inspection operations in Iraq in the
early 1990s, assesses it.

Six months after the end of the war in Iraq, and in the eye of the political
storm about whether Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat was
exaggerated by the United States-led coalition, the interim report by the
group currently heading weapons inspections in Iraq, the Iraq Survey Group
(ISG), has been published.

Both sides of the political battle have been scanning it for arguments that
shore up their political case. Those who supported the war highlight
Saddam's commitment to continuing chemical weapons production, and the
traces of biological agent found by ISG; opponents cleave to the fact that
no trace of actual chemical or biological weapons have been found.

At this moment I would like ­ as a professional weapons inspector and
someone deeply concerned with the complete eradication of chemical and
biological weapons from the world stage, someone in short with no stake in
the political battles that are raging around this issue ­ to examine the ISG
report from a dispassionate, objective position. What new information does
it actually provide us about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and
their associated research and development programmes?

Needle in the haystack or elephant in the fridge?

In 1991, following the first Gulf war, I was in charge of the technical
United Nations Special Commission (Unscom) team sent to Iraq to destroy
Saddam's chemical weapons arsenal. Between 1991 and 1994 we in Unscom
undertook the tough task of scouring the country for chemical weapons, and
also faced daunting piles of official documents, and the difficulties with
interviewing reluctant personnel. Although we were ultimately very
successful at eliminating Saddam's chemical stockpile ­ as the ISG report
shows ­ it was, nevertheless, a difficult and time-consuming task.

Iraq is a large country and the ISG has been operating there for only about
three months. The ISG, with approximately 1,400 personnel, is much larger
than either Unscom or the later United Nations Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission (Unmovic) operations were, but like its predecessors
it has to carry out its task under very difficult conditions. Even after his
regime has fallen, establishing the extent and details of Saddam's chemical
and biological weapon programmes continues to be a complex and painstakingly
slow project.

Some have made political capital out of the fact that ISG team leader David
Kay stresses the interim nature of this report. Such a claim, it is said,
favours the pro-war lobby's political agenda by suggesting that there is
more to find than has been found. Nevertheless, in my professional
judgement, Kay is right to emphasise this point, and we should bear the
provisional nature of these findings in mind in what follows.

Saddam had intention but no actual chemical weapons

The most important and definitive finding in the report is that if there
were any significant stocks of chemical weapons in Iraq prior to the 2003
campaign they would have been manufactured before 1991 and, therefore,
almost certainly, ineffective because of decomposition.

The report says:

"Information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to
develop, produce, and fill new CW [chemical weapons] munitions was reduced ­
if not entirely destroyed ­ during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox,
13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections."
Iraq's approach to the production of chemical weapons has historically been
to produce and fill the chemical agent into munitions shortly before they
were required for use. While Iraq is known to have carried out research into
the development of stabilisers for its chemical agents, no evidence has been
uncovered that they produced stabilised agent on a large scale and none of
the many chemical weapons sampled by Unscom between 1991 and 1998 were found
to contain stabilised agent.

It therefore follows that with the exception of those containing mustard gas
(which has a much longer shelf-life), the chemical agent in any Iraqi
chemical weapons, filled before 1991, will have decomposed and ceased to be
effective long before 2003.

Iraqi mustard gas was of very high quality and, therefore, even
unstabilised, it could still have a relatively long shelf-life. Analysis
undertaken by Unscom, however, showed that Iraqi mustard gas was prone to
undergo polymerisation over time, thus reducing its effectiveness. Even
pre-1991 Iraqi chemical munitions that were filled with mustard gas, if used
against an armoured and protected force, therefore, were likely to have
proved relatively ineffective.

While the possibility remains that some chemical munitions may eventually be
found in Iraq, the ISG interim report leads to the inevitable conclusion
that there were no military significant stocks of chemical weapons in Iraq
by 2003.

What happened to the weapons?

We know that Saddam did have very significant stocks of chemical weapons,
and (after the attack on Halabja in 1988) that he was prepared to use them.
One of the questions which overhangs this report ­ as it did the reports of
Unscom and Unmovic to the UN Security Council which mention (for example)
unaccounted-for VX nerve agent and filled chemical munitions ­ is: if these
stocks are no longer there, what happened to them?

Neither the Unscom nor Unmovic reports claimed that these unaccounted-for
items continued to exist: they merely made the point that their respective
organisations were unable to confirm what had happened to them.

Thus Hans Blix's report to the UN Security Council of 14 February 2003:

"These reports do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remain in
Iraq, but nor do they exclude that possibility. They point to lack of
evidence and inconsistencies, which raise question marks, which must be
straightened out, if weapons dossiers are to be closed and confidence is to
The preliminary ISG report, then, is not inconsistent with either those of
Unscom or Unmovic. It too is unable to say, at this stage, what might have
happened to the missing weapons. In recent weeks, Hans Blix himself has
stated that he is becoming increasingly convinced that these missing or
unaccounted-for weapons, were in fact destroyed and that no significant
stocks of chemical weapons remained in Iraq.

The development of biological weapons

While Iraq did eventually admit to Unscom that it had produced and
weaponised some biological agents prior to the 1991 Gulf war, it
consistently claimed that these weapons were subsequently destroyed.
Although it was not possible to confirm that this destruction had in fact
taken place, no munitions filled with biological agents were ever found,
either during Unscom's or Unmovic's operations in Iraq. It would appear from
the ISG report that, once again, no biological weapons have been found or
any evidence that Iraq produced and weaponised biological agents on any
significant scale after 1991.

That said, this report does contain strong circumstantial evidence that the
Saddam regime may have been continuing to undertake research into the
development of biological weapons. This includes the discovery of a number
of undeclared research laboratories, under the control of the Iraqi security
services. While their precise purpose has yet to be established, early
indications are that they had the potential to undertake research in support
of a biological weapons programme.

The report also makes reference to the discovery of a batch of vials
containing 'reference strains' (very small quantities of an organism
normally used for reference purposes) of a number of biological organisms at
the private home of a scientist. One of these vials contained the bacteria
Clostridium Botulinum.

Is this evidence of a biological weapons programme? It is hard to say. While
it is true that, assuming the bacteria remained viable, this reference
sample could, theoretically, have been used as a seed culture for the
manufacture of large quantities of botulinum toxin, a potent biological
agent, it does not automatically follow that this was its purpose.

Clostridium Botulinum is a naturally occurring bacterium, which can
sometimes be found in improperly canned or uncooked meat. Eating such
contaminated products can result in a serious case of food poisoning.
Reference samples of this bacteria are, therefore, likely to be maintained,
for identification purposes, within the public health laboratories of most
developed countries. It would be entirely legitimate, for hospital pathology
laboratories and other specialist labs to have such samples.

The report, unfortunately, does not provide any information on what was in
the other vials recovered, which might have helped to clarify matters, but
it does say that only the Clostridium Botulinum sample was capable of being
used to produce a biological weapon.

The ISG has also uncovered some evidence of research into fermentation and
spray drying techniques that could be used equally for either peaceful or
military production purposes.

The sum total of these findings adds up to the conclusion that during the
period from 1991 to the start of the 2003 war, work on Iraq's biological
weapons programme was, at most, proceeding at a limited and very low level.
Of course these findings are a work in progress, and the Saddam regime was
notoriously compartmentalised and secretive, so this may not be the final
word on Iraq's biological weapon capabilities.

The future of weapons inspections

While turning up little in the way of actual weapons, the ISG report does
provide comfort of a kind to the pro-war lobby, by restating what Unscom,
Unmovic and many of us who have worked on this issue in Iraq have been
saying for the past decade: Saddam's regime was serious about developing and
using chemical and biological weapons; the programme had a twenty-year
history and the regime was committed and likely to remain committed to the
continuation of its chemical and biological weapon programmes .

This report clears some things up, but leaves many big questions unanswered.
For the political combatants the main issue, I would imagine, is to find out
to what extent the situation on the ground in Iraq matches or contradicts
the intelligence the coalition powers had at their disposal. For those of us
operating in the arms control field the key question, however, is: why did
the regime not produce stocks of chemical and biological weapons during the
period between the 1991 Gulf war and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003?

We need to answer this because we need to know how effective the containment
policy of sanctions, export controls and the presence of international
inspectors was in thwarting Saddam's clear desire to maintain a chemical and
biological capability.

Irrespective of whether or not war, as a method of addressing the threat
Saddam ultimately posed, was right in this case, we must move toward a
situation where international systems and organisations ­ with the necessary
experience, skill and ability to address the threat of WMD ­ are
strengthened. Thus avoiding the need to resort to armed conflict in order to
eliminate weapons of mass destruction.


*  Baghdad Burning

Monday, October 13, 2003

‹ Palms and Punishment...

Everyone has been wondering about the trees being cut down in Dhuluaya area.
Dhuluaya is an area near Sammara, north of Baghdad. It's an area popular for
its wonderful date palms, citrus trees and grape vines. The majority of the
people who live in the area are simple landowners who have been making a
living off of the orchards they've been cultivating for decades.

Orchards in many areas in Iraq- especially central Iraq- are almost like
oases in the desert. From kilometers away, you can see the vivid green of
proud date palms shimmering through the waves of heat and smoke, reaching
for a sky rarely overcast. Just seeing the orchards brings a sort of peace.

There are over 500 different kinds of palm trees in Iraq. They vary in type
from short, stocky trees with a shock of haphazard, green frondsŠ to long,
slim trees with a collection of leaves that seem almost symmetrical in their
perfection. A palm tree is known as a 'nakhla' and never fails to bring a
sense of satisfaction and admiration. They are the pride and joy of Iraqi
farmers and landowners. A garden isn't complete if there isn't a palm tree
gracing it. We locate houses by giving the area, the street and then, "Well,
it's the fourth- no, waitŠ the fifth house on the leftŠ or was it the right?
Oh never mind- it's the house on the street with the tallest palm tree."

The palm trees, besides being lovely, are highly useful. In the winter
months, they act as 'resorts' for the exotic birds that flock to Iraq. We
often see various species of birds roosting between the leaves, picking on
the sweet dates and taunting the small boys below who can't reach the nests.
In the summer months, the 'female palms' provide hundreds of dates for
immediate consumption, storage, or processing.

In Iraq, there are over 300 different types of dates- each with its own
name, texture and flavor. Some are dark brown, and soft, while others are
bright yellow, crunchy and have a certain 'tang' that is particular to
dates. It's very difficult to hate dates- if you don't like one type, you
are bound to like another. Dates are also used to produce 'dibiss', a dark,
smooth, date syrup. This dibiss is eaten in some areas with rice, and in
others it is used as a syrup with bread and butter. Often it is used as a
main source of sugar in Iraqi sweets.

Iraqi 'khal' or vinegar is also produced from datesŠ it is dark and tangy
and mixed with olive oil, makes the perfect seasoning to a fresh cucumber
and tomato salad. Iraqi 'areg', a drink with very high alcoholic content, is
often made with dates. In the summer, families trade baskets and trays of
dates- allowing neighbors and friends to sample the fruit growing on their
palms with the enthusiasm of proud parents showing off a child's latest

Every bit of a palm is an investment. The fronds and leaves are dried and
used to make beautiful, pale-yellow baskets, brooms, mats, bags, hats, wall
hangings and even used for roofing. The fronds are often composed of thick,
heavy wood at their ends and are used to make lovely, seemingly-delicate
furniture- similar to the bamboo chairs and tables of the Far East. The
low-quality dates and the date pits are used as animal feed for cows and
sheep. Some of the date pits are the source of a sort of 'date oil' that can
be used for cooking. The palm itself, should it be cut down, is used as
firewood, or for building.

My favorite use for date pits isŠ beads. Each pit is smoothed and polished
by hand, pierced in its center and made into necklaces, belts and rosaries.
The finished product is rough, yet graceful, and wholly unique.

Palm trees are often planted alongside citrus trees in orchards for more
than just decoration or economy. Palm trees tower above all other trees and
provide shade for citrus trees, which whither under the Iraqi sun. Depending
on the type, it takes some palm trees an average of 5 ­ 10 years to reach
their final height (some never actually stop growing), and it takes an
average of 5 -7 years for most palms to bear fruit.

The death of a palm tree is taken very seriously. Farmers consider it
devastating and take the loss very personally. Each tree is so unique, it
feels like a member of the family... I remember watching scenes from the war
a couple of days after the bombing began- one image that stuck in my mind
was that of a palm tree broken in half, the majestic fronds wilting and
dragging on the ground. The sight affected me almost as much as the corpses.

Historically, palm trees have represented the rugged, stoic beauty of Iraq
and its people. They are a reminder that no matter how difficult the
circumstances, there is hope for life and productivity. The palm trees in
the orchards have always stood lofty and resolute- oblivious of heat,
political strife or warŠ until today.

One of the most famous streets in Baghdad is 'shari3 il mattar' or 'The
Airport Street'. It is actually two streets- one leading to Baghdad Airport
and the other leading from it, into Baghdad. The streets are very simple and
plain. Their magnificence lay in the palm trees growing on either side, and
in the isle separating them. Entering Baghdad from the airport, and seeing
the palm trees enclosing you from both sides, is a reminder that you have
entered the country of 30 million palms.

Soon after the occupation, many of the palms on these streets were hacked
down by troops for 'security reasons'. We watched, horrified, as they were
chopped down and dragged away to be laid side by side in mass graves
overflowing with brown and wilting green. Although these trees were
beautiful, no one considered them their livelihood. Unlike the trees Patrick
Cockburn describes in Dhuluaya.

Several orchards in Dhuluaya are being cut downŠ except it's not only
DhuluayaŠ it's also Ba'aquba, the outskirts of Baghdad and several other
areas. The trees are bulldozed and trampled beneath heavy machinery. We see
the residents and keepers of these orchards begging the troops to spare the
trees, holding up crushed branches, leaves and fruit- not yet ripe- from the
ground littered with a green massacre. The faces of the farmers are crushed
and amazed at the atrocity. I remember one wrinkled face holding up 4
oranges from the ground, still green (our citrus fruit ripens in the winter)
and screaming at the camera- "Is this freedom? Is this democracy?!" And his
son, who was about 10, stood there with tears of rage streaming down his
cheeks and quietly said, "We want 5 troops dead for each tree they cut downŠ
five troops." A "terrorist", perhaps? Or a terrorized child who had to watch
his family's future hacked down in the name of democracy and freedom?

Patrick Cockburn says that Dhuluaya is a Sunni area- which is true. Sunnis
dominate Dhuluaya. What he doesn't mention is that the Khazraji tribe, whose
orchards were assaulted, are a prominent Shi'a tribe in Iraq.

For those not interested in reading the article, the first line summarizes
it perfectly, "US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from
loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange
and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective
punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking
US troops."

Šwhich reminds me of another line from an article brought to my attention

"A dozen years after Saddam Hussein ordered the vast marshes of southeastern
Iraq drained, transforming idyllic wetlands into a barren moonscape to
eliminate a hiding place for Shiite Muslim political opponentsŠ"

Déjà vu, perhaps? Or maybe the orchards differ from the marshlands in that
Saddam wasn't playing jazz when he dried up the marshlandsŠ

Thursday, October 09, 2003

‹ Jewelry and Raids...

Yesterday afternoon we went to visit a relative who had recently come home
from London. He wasn't a political refugee there, nor was he a double-agentŠ
or anything glamorousŠ just a man who had decided to live his life in
England. He came to visit every year, usually during December. He was in a
state ofŠ shock at what he saw around him. Every few minutes he would get up
in disbelief, trailing off in mid-sentence, to stand in the window- looking
out at the garden like he could perhaps see beyond the garden wall and into
the streets of Baghdad.

"We watch it on television over thereŠ but it's nothing like THISŠ" And I
knew what he meant. Seeing it on the various networks covering the war is
nothing like living in its midst. Watching the 7 o'clock news and hearing
about 'a car bomb in Baghdad' is nothing like standing in the street, wary
of the moving vehicles, wondering if one of them is going to burst into a
flying ball of flames and shrapnel. Seeing the checkpoints on Al-Jazeera,
CNN or BBC is nothing like driving solemnly up to them, easing the car to a
stop and praying that the soldier on the other side doesn't think you look
decidedly suspiciousŠ or that his gun doesn't accidentally go off.

The relative had some interesting gossip on a few of our new 'elite', "Oh
HIM?! He had shares in a club in LondonŠ didn't know he was into politics."
And, "Oh hiiiiiiiiiiiiiimŠ his house WAS a club - smashing parties!" When we
asked him why in the world he had moved up his trip to October when it would
have been better to wait a couple of months for security reasons, he
dismissed us with a wave of the hand, "I saw the nine-member presidential
councilŠ maybe I'll run for president."

We took my aunt and her daughter home with us, after the brief family
gathering. E. was in a big hurry to get us home before it darkened. Luckily,
our relative's house wasn't all that far from our own and we made it to our
area just as the sun was setting over some distant palms. The tension during
the brief journey eased up somewhat as we turned into the main road that led
to our street, and then we all tensed up again.

There, pulled up to the side of the road, with one armored car in front and
one behind, was a huge, beige-green tank. My aunt moaned and clutched at her
handbag possessively, "Is this a checkpoint? What are they searching for?
Are they going to check us?" She was carrying all of her gold jewelry in the
black, leather bag which, every time she reached inside to rummage for
something, I imagined would swallow her up into its depths.

Iraqi people don't own gold because they are either spectacularly wealthy,
or they have recently been on a looting spree... Gold is a part of our
culture and the roll it plays in 'family savings' has increased since 1990
when the Iraqi Dinar (which was $3) began fluctuating crazily. People began
converting their money to gold- earrings, bracelets, necklaces- because the
value of gold didn't change. People pulled their money out of banks before
the war, and bought gold instead. Women here call gold "zeeneh ou 7'azeeneh
(khazeeneh)" which means, "ornaments and savings". Gold can be shown off and
worn, but in times of economical trouble, a few pieces can be sold to tide
the family over.

Many troops claimed that they took gold from houses because they couldn't
believe people like THAT could own gold... what they don't know is that when
two Iraqis get married- regardless of religion- the man often gives the
woman a 'mahar' or dowry, composed of gold jewelry. When a couple has a
child, the gifts are often little gold trinkets that the parents can sell or
keep... this was especially popular before the blockade.

"They might be checking housesŠ" E. said. We traveled the last kilometer
home in a thoughtful silence, each lost in their own worries. I was worried
about the computer. In areas where they claimed to have gotten a 'tip', the
computers were often confiscated for checking, never to be seen again. I
practiced various phrases in my head, "Take the money, gold and gun, leave
the computerŠ"

At home, my mother was anxiously clearing up the kitchen. We told her about
the tank 'parked' on the main road, "I know," she said, rubbing at a
stubborn stain on the counter, "It's been there for the last hourŠ they
might check the area tonight." My aunt went into a tirade against raids,
troops, and looting, then calmed down and decided that she wouldn't hide her
gold tonight: her daughter and I would wear it. I stood there with my mouth
hanging open- who is to stop anyone from taking it off of us? Was she crazy?
No, she wasn't crazy. We would wear the necklaces, tucking them in under our
shirts and the rest would go into our pockets. There would be 'abayas' or
robes on standby- if they decided to check the house, we would throw on the
abayas and leave the house calmly, waiting for the raid to end.

My mother had hidden our not-particularly-impressive valuables in a few
ingenious places. It was a game for days, during May, when the raids began
and we started hearing tales of the 'confiscation' of valuables like gold
and dollars during the raids. Everyone started thinking up creative hiding
places to hide the money and jewelry. Neighbors and relatives would trade
tips on the best hiding places and the ones that were checked right awayŠ
the guns were a little bit more difficult. They were necessary for
protection against gangs and armed militias. People were allowed to have one
pistol and one rifle. If the troops walk into your home, armed to the
eyeballs, guns pointed and tense with fear, and find an extra rifle or gun,
it is considered 'terrorism' and the family may find itself on the evening
news as a potential terrorist cell.

We went on with our usual evening activities- well, almost. My aunt wanted
to bathe, but was worried they'd suddenly decide to raid us while she was in
the bathroom. In the end, she decided that she would bathe, but that E.
would have to stand on the roof, diligently watching the road, and the
moment an armored car or tank found itself on our street, he'd have to give
the warning so my aunt would have time to dress. My cousin and I joined him
on the roof and debated the degree of 'fun' it would be to run downstairs
screaming "Raid! Raid!", and pound on the bathroom door. After a few
minutes, we regretfully decided we were all too mature for that.

The electricity went out during dinner, which was composed of not-too-sweet
watermelon, salty cheese, khubz, cucumber and yoghurt salad and tomatoes. In
the pitch dark, while waiting for a candle, I accidentally poked a finger in
the cucumber and yoghurt salad (well, ok, a few fingers). I held up my hand,
waiting for the light so I could find some tissues. E. walked in with a
kerosene lamp and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw the box of tissues
next my cousin. I pointed to them and as she reached out to hand me a few,
the picture of us suddenly made me want to laugh and cry all at once.

Here we were, 10 p.m., no electricity and all fully clothed because no one
wanted to be caught in a raid in their pajamas. I haven't worn pajamas for
the lastŠ 6 months. Tonight though, my cousin and I looked particularly
funny. She was reaching out to hand me tissues and her fingers flashedŠ the
gold ring on her thumb was glittering under the rays of kerosene light. Her
hair was piled up in a falling mass on top of her head and the necklaces
glinted as she moved on the faded blue t-shirt with the words, "Smile at
ME!", in purple.

I didn't look much better - I sat in cargo pants and an old shirt, feet bare
on the cool tiles, with three necklaces, two rings and a bracelet that kept
getting caught on my shirt and in my hair. I told everyone that we looked
like maids who were playing dress-up with the mistress's jewelryŠ E. said we
actually looked like gypsies ready to make off with the mistress's jewelry.
The 'mistress' called out that we could laugh all we wanted but since the
jewelry was everything she had saved since 1965, we had better be careful.

We went to sleep earlyŠ except no one slept. E. kept checking for cars or
tanks and I sat listening to the night and trying to sleep around the
jewelry, thinking of all the pictures I had seen of Elizabeth Taylor and
Marilyn Monroe sleeping in diamonds and emeralds. At 3 am, I decided I
wasn't Elizabeth Taylor, took off the rings and bracelet and stuffed them in
my pillowcase.

The morning eventually came, with no tanks - only some distant shots in the
background and something that sounded vaguely like an explosion. E. said
that they weren't even on the main road anymoreŠ apparently they had left
during the night. I returned the jewelry, relieved, but my cousin kept it
on, deciding she had grown accustomed to seeing a 'wealthy looking
reflection' in the mirror.

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