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[casi] News, 13-20/12/02 (4)

News, 13-20/12/02 (4)


*  Hussein's Obsession: An Empire of Mosques
*  Iraq renovates its shelters, but few want to use them
*  The Lion, On His Den: an Interview with Iraqi Dissident Ghazwan Al-Mukhti
*  Iraq to have multiparty and opposition system
*  Iraq's Shortage of Medicine May Grow More Severe
*  Inside the ice cream factory paralysed by import bans


*  Iraqi exiles in Jordan fearful of regime change
*  Iraqis may not welcome invading U.S. troops as liberators
*  Iraqis board buses for long journey home


*  Interview in Baghdad with Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, a leading member of
the patriotic Iraqi opposition


by John F. Burns
Yahoo, from The New York Times,15th December

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 14 For a glimpse into Saddam Hussein's cast of mind as
he weighs the threat of another war with the United States, there are few
more revealing places to look than the Mother of All Battles Mosque, a vast,
newly constructed edifice of gleaming white limestone and blue mosaic that
the Iraqi leader oversaw from blueprint to completion on Baghdad's western

First, the minarets.

The outer four, each 140 feet high, were built to resemble the barrels of
Kalashnikov rifles, pointing skyward. The inner four, each 120 feet high,
look like the Scud missiles that Iraq fired at Israel in 1991 during the
Mother of All Battles, known to Americans as the Persian Gulf war. At their
peak, these inner minarets are decorated with red, white and black Iraqi

There is more.

Inside a special sanctum, treated by the mosque's custodian with the
reverence due a holy of holies, there are 650 pages of the Koran written, it
is said, in Mr. Hussein's blood. As the official legend has it, "Mr.
President" donated 28 liters of his blood about 50 pints over two years, and
a famous calligrapher, Abas al-Baghdadi, mixed it with ink and preservatives
to produce the handsome writing now laid out page by page in glass-walled
display cases.

A reflecting pool that encircles the mosque is shaped like the map of the
Arab world. At the far end, a blue mosaic plinth sits like an island in the
clear water. The plinth is a reproduction of Mr. Hussein's thumbprint, and
atop is a stylized reproduction, in gold, of his Arabic initials. In this,
as in all else, no expense has been spared. Officials put the cost of the
mosque, in a country where many families live in abject poverty on $10 or
$15 a month, at $7.5 million.

Mosque-building on a scale, Iraqi officials say, that no Arab leader has
undertaken since the days of the great Abbasid caliphs who ruled the Arab
world from Baghdad until the middle of the 13th century has become Mr.
Hussein's grand obsession. He has set out to make Baghdad the undisputed
center of Islamic architecture, as it was under the Abbasids, and the only
thing that has stopped him from building even bigger, the officials say, is
a concern not to outstrip the Islamic holy places in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

A few miles from the Mother of All Battles Mosque, two others are rising
that will dwarf it. One five times the size, with many similar features in
celebration of Mr. Hussein, is to be known as the Mosque of Saddam the
Great. It is visible in skeleton form on the bulldozed plain that used to be
Baghdad's airport, and is due to be completed in 2015. A mile or two beyond,
in a gigantic cluster of domes that seem borrowed from the design book for
Las Vegas, is the Al-Rahman Mosque, meaning "the most merciful," heading for
completion in 2004.

Part of the message the Iraqi leader is sending with his mosque-building is
that he, Saddam Hussein, is the natural leader of an Arab world yearning for
past glories under the banner of Islam that fluttered atop the Arab armies
that conquered much of the ancient world after the death of the prophet
Muhammad in 632. But the lesson encoded in the Mother of All Battles Mosque,
or Umm al-Mahare, as it is called in Arabic, seems to be much narrower, and
aimed like its Kalashnikov-and-Scud minarets at a more selected audience:
the United States.

With United Nations weapons inspectors now heading out every morning with
powers to search the secret laboratories and weapons-making plants that were
at the heart of Mr. Hussein's ambitions to turn Iraq into the Arab
superpower, the Iraqi leader has had to do something that he says outright,
in almost every speech, he abhors having had to do: bow down before the
power of the outside world, led by the United States. On several occasions
recently, the Iraqi leader has spoken of his concern that Iraqis meaning
himself, as the country's absolute ruler not be seen to be "weaklings" and

But along with this, there has been another message, and it is the one
written in stone and marble at the Mother of All Battles Mosque: That Iraqis
are natural warriors, that they search ceaselessly for what Mr. Hussein
called last week "the great meanings inside themselves," and that they are
like coiled springs waiting for the moment of "anger and revolt" when they
can avenge the wrongs done them by their enemies. In short, that they are
ready for war, as Mr. Hussein said at a cabinet meeting this week, when he
told his generals "that your heads will remain high with honor, God willing,
and your enemy will be defeated."

To Americans, and to many Arabs, it might seem chimerical that Mr. Hussein
could present himself as a man who has brought Iraq glory in war.

Iraq's eight-year war with Iran in the 1980's ended in a battlefield
stalemate, no ground gained, with at least 500,000 Iraqis, and as many
Iranians, dead. The Persian Gulf war, which was triggered by Mr. Hussein's
1990 invasion of Kuwait, ended after six weeks of American bombing and less
than 72 hours of land warfare, and the abiding image, for Americans, of
Iraqi soldiers scrambling out of desert bunkers with their hands raised in
surrender to American troops.

But at the Mother of All Battles Mosque, the inescapable message is that Mr.
Hussein wants Iraqis to think of the battle for Kuwait as a glorious chapter
in their history, one they should be ready to re-live if America once again
chooses to launch its missiles and bombs and tanks at Iraq. Seen through
this perspective, the gulf war was a victory, not a defeat, for Iraq, and
its people should welcome a new chance to follow Mr. Hussein if the time
comes to land a new punch on America's nose.

Many who know Iraq, and the United States, and can make even a layman's
estimate of their relative military strengths, would regard this as
illusionism of a piece with Iraq's persistence in holding onto Kuwait in
1990 under American threats, and boasting of certain victory, until the
denouement. What is harder to say, given the closed nature of Iraq under Mr.
Hussein, is whether it is an illusionism like Winston Churchill's in 1940,
baying at the Nazi armies in France while knowing that Britain's land forces
were in no shape to repel an invasion, or whether it is something much
grimmer for Iraq, the failure of a leader who lives in a tightly protected
seclusion to grasp the realities that press in keenly on others.

Although Mr. Hussein is said to have visited the mosque frequently during
its construction, lending himself to the project as a kind of
architect-in-chief, in the way that Mao in China and Kim Il Sung in North
Korea used to do with every hospital and bridge and dam, officials at the
mosque say that they have not seen him there since before the mosque opened
last year on April 28, Mr. Hussein's birthday. The absence of "Mr.
President" on the day of the opening was a striking lacuna they attribute to
the heavy demands on the Iraqi leader's time. "Perhaps he was too busy,"
they say.

But the imam at the mosque, the chief cleric, is pleased to tell reporters
what he believes Mr. Hussein had in mind with the mosque. What he says comes
as no surprise.

Was the mosque a symbol of Iraq's defeat of America in the gulf war, he was

"Exactly, you have divined it well," said Sheik Thahir Ibrahim al-Shammari,
his face shining with a look of something like beatitude.

But was this not stretching a point a little, he was asked, given the fact
that Iraqi troops fled the battlefield in Kuwait so fast.

The imam smiled. He had heard the questions before, and fielding them was to
him about as easy as batting away a child's softball pitches.

"Well," he said, coming back at his questioner with the cleric's equivalent
of a sucker punch, "I am not, of course, a military man. I am not a man to
speak of battles, won or lost. But the building of this mosque, and other
mosques, what is that if not a victory? The resistance Iraqis have shown to
12 years of American aggression, what is that if not a victory? No, what you
see here is decidedly a monument to victory, define that as you will."

One thing the mosque's keepers appear to have learned from meeting reporters
is that the architectural flourishes the Kalashnikov minarets and the
Scud-like towers beside them may be a little over the top for the Western
taste. Accordingly, the presentation has changed.

Where once visitors were told what seems obvious how the elegant cylinders
of the inner minarets slim to an aerodynamic peak, like a ballistic missile
tapering at the nose cone they are now assured that no such references were
ever in the architects' minds.

But there is no such reticence about the features that memorialize Mr.
Hussein. Sheik Shammari was happy to run through the details:

The outer minarets 43 meters in height, for the 43 days of American bombing
at the start of the gulf war. Then inner minarets, 37 meters in height, for
the year 1937; numbering 4, for the fourth month, April; and 28 water jets
in the pool beneath the minarets, for the 28th day all in all, the 37-4-28,
for April 28, 1937, Mr. Hussein's birthday.

The mosque is one of the few buildings in Iraq where there is no portrait of
Mr. Hussein. But more striking than that, there is no memorial, within the
mosque, for the 100,000 Iraqis the government says died from American
bombing during the gulf war. Few independent experts who have studied the
1991 bombing campaign consider the figure remotely credible, but, in any
case, the war's Iraqi victims go unheralded.

Outside, in the mosque's spacious grounds, there is a memorial to the dead
of the Iran-Iraq war, but that, too, seems more a paean to victory than an
acknowledgment of suffering. Alongside heroic, Soviet-style figures of
ordinary men, women and children carved into the white limestone, there is a
quotation from Mr. Hussein's message on the occasion of the cease-fire with
Iran in August 1988, describing the moment as "a great day, a day of days."

The seeming lack of a human dimension was underscored on Friday, the Muslim
day of prayer, by the fact that the mosque was all but deserted at the
height of the day, apparently because ordinary Iraqis prefer to gather in
large numbers at the lovely old mosques in the center of Baghdad.

Sheik Shammari said that 2,500 people had attended the noonday prayers, at
which he had called for "God's mercy" on Palestinian suicide bombers a
favorite topic of Mr. Hussein, who has promised cash payments of $25,000 to
the family of every Palestinian blowing up himself, and Israelis. But
mainly, he said, he had spoken of the certainty of Iraq's victory over the
United States.

"I told them, `Our enemy has very advanced weapons, and in this they are
stronger than we are,' " he said. "But I also said, `But we also have
weapons that they do not have. We have our faith, Islam, and we have our
great leader-president, Saddam Hussein. These are weapons far stronger than
anything our enemy has.' "

Incongruously, for a cleric of a mosque that seems political to the peak of
its dome, the sheik said he preferred not to speak of politics.

But then he thought it over, and could not resist.

There was a president, he said, without mentioning any country, who was
"steeped in the blood" of Iraqis, and who had a "crazy, paranoid" vision of
the world that was driving him on to war, regardless of the sufferings it
would bring.

"If we want to be merciful, we would call him a Satan," he said. "He has
absolutely no sense of reality, none at all."

He was speaking of President Bush.,,3-515304,00.html

by Janine di Giovanni in Baghdad
The Times, 16th December

IRAQ is preparing to renovate more than 30 bomb shelters around the capital
as a war led by the United States appears increasingly likely.

Most residents will be reluctant to use them, however, after the
incineration of more than 400 Iraqis in the al-Amariyah shelter during the
Gulf War.

On February 13, 1991, Iraqi civilians, mostly women and children, sought
refuge in the shelter. That night, two American "smart" bombs landed in the
ventilation shaft of the two storey building. With the exit doors sealed,
the temperature rose to 482C (900F).

There were only 14 survivors. Most of the bodies were too badly burnt to be
identified. Many were buried in a mass grave in Abu Ghareb, outside Baghdad.

Rahim Batawi Hazaa, 53, a builder, is one of the survivors. His wife, two
daughters and two sons were so badly burnt they could not have a proper

Mr Hazaa is still tormented by his decision to take his family to a shelter.
"If we had stayed in my house, things would be different," he said.

The family had spent three days in the countryside, trying to forget the
bombs as they celebrated the three-day feast of Eid al-Fitr. When they
returned to Baghdad, neighbours said that the bombing had been particularly
bad. "I thought it best if we slept at the shelter," he said.

It was a bitterly cold night. His family packed some sandwiches, their gold
and money and walked from their home in a prosperous neighbourhood to the
nearby shelter. Men and women were separated and given individual bunks with

The al-Amariyah was considered to be the safest and most comfortable of the
Baghdad shelters. It took three years to build and was meant to protect
against nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. It was equipped with
showers, beds, stores of food and a small hospital.

Mr Hazaa had played with his two sons to get them settled before bed. He had
fallen asleep, but just before midnight he woke up and remembers feeling
anxious. "I suddenly thought I should take my family and go," he said.

But he drifted off again. His next memory was of an explosion that threw him
out of bed and down a corridor. He blacked out, and when he woke up, his leg
was burnt and his head was covered in blood. Someone dragged him through a
door. He woke up later in a hospital. "I kept asking for my family. They
told me they were in the next room. Eventually when they told me the truth,
I realised my life was gone."

The youngest casualty was a 22-day-old baby, Heba Abid al-Satar; the eldest
was Shehba Ahmed, an 81-year-old grandmother. The photographs of the dead
have been collated by Intesar Ahmed, 41, who has the job of looking after
the shelter, now a shrine to the dead.

Ms Ahmed said that emergency workers had described the scene as like
something out of Hell ‹ corpses were so badly burnt that the faces had
melted. "Families kept looking for their loved ones, but there were no
faces," she said.

by Joe Quandt
Counterpunch, 17th December

"President Sukarno of Indonesia once said, 'We silence the enemies of
freedom.'" Ghazwan Al-Mukhti slumps back in his chair, silently gauging the
effect of that absurdly ironic statement on his listeners.

And Ghazwan is an Iraqi who lives his ironies: a denouncer of Saddam regime
inequities who continues to live in Iraq; a man who worked hard to provide
for his family and his retirement, only to have his assets frozen in foreign
banks as a result of U.N. Resolution 687; a heart attack-age guy who's
trying to quit smoking, but liberally helps himself to my cigarettes all
thru 2 separate conversations; a well spoken professional who peppers his
gravel-voiced diatribes with pungent American profanities.

He's been asked to join the Voices in the Wilderness Writers Project, a
unique attempt to give Iraqis an Internet forum. VitW is the Chicago-based
group that has been working since '96 to end the economic sanctions against
Iraq. I give him a call, and he agrees to meet me in the dining room of the
Al-Fanar Hotel, Voices' headquarters in Baghdad.

Ghazwan studied geophysics at Cal Berkley, and graduated with an engineering
degree from Marquette in '67. For most of his career, he sold medical
supplies to hospitals. He says he has too scientific a mind to be a writer,
yet he has written dozens of articles over the years, critical not only of
the U.N. sanctions against his country, but also the current regime in

"I never wrote until I had to vent my frustration over Iraq being singled
out for punishment," he says.

Iraq, once boasted the highest standard of medical care in the Middle East
outside of Israel. He bemoans the 12-year information gap that the sanctions
created when they cut Iraq off from world developments in the medical field.
Compounding the problem, thousands of health care professionals have been
lost to death or emigration. Altogether, 2 million people have left Iraq
since the sanctions were imposed.

"Are they political refugees? Are they economic refugees? If they leave
Iraq, they must claim political asylum because no country will recognize
economic refugees. And these are highly qualified people we're talking
about, scientists, professors. My own brother-in-law is in a camp in Sweden.

"The U.S. accepted refugees from the north (Kurdish Iraq) in '92. They took
anyone, doctors, peasants. They (the U.S.) said that Mr. Sadddam was
threatening the Kurds. Then the Kurdish leaders Barzani and Talibani invite
Mr. Saddam to mediate some problems between them. They ask him to do this!"
This request made the American position look ridiculous. The U.S. retaliated
for this affront to their credibility by bombing Baghdad itself that
January. The prestigious Al Rasheed Hotel took a hit, injuring many foreign
guests and killing 2 employees.

We discuss Halabja, the Kurdish town where Saddam supposedly "gassed his own
people". It is a card that the Bush administration plays often because it
plays well with the American press and public. In fact, the gassing of the
town occurred during a battle between Iraqis and Iranians at the end of
their 8-year war. A U.S. Military College report at the time found that most
of the Kurds there had died of cyanide, a gas used exclusively by the
Iranian army. A Roger Trilling article in New York City's Village Voice,
5/1/02, confirmed this.

"Why was the (true) Halabja story buried? Why, when Al Gore speaks against
war with Iraq, does CNN cut his speech in half? He leans forward in his
chair again.."Who gave the order to cut Gore?"..and let's the question
dangle. "When Jimmy Carter comes out against the war, it's buried. In the
U.S., who do you point at? Here, when we want to point the finger at our
censor, we point at the Ministry of Information."

(I stop the interview, concerned about printing what he's saying. He assures
me that he's been criticizing his government for years. "If they wanted to
shoot me, they would have done it by now.")

"In 1988, your Congress passed a resolution calling for (limited) sanctions
against Iraq (oil imports, weaponry) because of Halabja. President Reagan
vetoed it." That House resolution was virtually copied in 1990 to become
U.N. Resolution 687 (the sanctions measure that has been in place ever

Yet despite the bitter fruit of those sanctions, 500,000 Iraqi children dead
of malnutrition and treatable diseases since 1991, Americans seem blithely
unaware of it all.

"The average American, when it comes to international politics, is
illiterate. The smallest school child anywhere knows more about the world
than an American. Illiteracy and democracy-that's a contradiction."

Taking up the oxymoron of America "imposing democracy" on other nations: "I
have a headache ('headache' is his metaphor for the Saddam regime). I don't
complain to you about it. But you say you want to fix my headache. You will
cut off my head to fix my headache!"

On the Bush administration's current favorite to replace Saddam: "Impose an
Al-Chalabi dynasty? A crook and embezzler who had to run out of the country
in the trunk of a car?

"That's our middle class now, criminals. The sanctions squeezed out the
middle class, and crooks and embezzlers took their place." His wife's career
is an object illustration in what happened-she was a gynecologist who in
1979 was being paid $300 a month by the government. In 1991 her salary
shrank to $60. In 2000 she retired because she was only getting $15 a month.

Ghazwan sold and serviced medical equipment from '74 to '90, the year of the
Gulf War. He had done very well for himself up to that point, but "I gave
myself an early retirement," meaning that suddenly he could find no work.
"I'm a double victim of sanctions. I put my money in foreign banks, and then
the sanctions froze the Iraqi assets. Now I have to borrow money to live."
He squints and smiles. "I fight the sanctions now so my kids don't have to
leave me some day, just when I'm too fucking old to do anything anymore!

"I think Mr. Saddam is laughing now. He's laughing because the Americans are
proving him right with their double standards. Mr. Rumsfeld was in Baghdad
to re-establish relations with Iraq in '85. He was fully aware of the
Amnesty International report on this (the Saddam) regime. But today suddenly
he says that he can't deal with this regime?

"Between 1948 and 1998, there are 50 U.N. resolutions Israel has not abided
by. This double standard of the Americans (ignoring the Israeli government's
treatment of the Palestinians while demanding Iraqi compliance with tough
U.N. resolutions) is making the U.N. irrelevant."

Dennis Halliday, former U.N. Director of Iraqi Relief Programs, has said
much the same thing. Blaming U.S. coercion and deal making in the Security
Council, Halliday says frankly, "The U.N. is dying." And he labels the
sanctions "a genocide".

The U.S., in its dependence on military solutions to solve its problems, is
sowing the seeds of further violence against Americans. "And it's not only
the poor and disenfranchised who will be responsible" for acts such as the
recent attacks on Americans in Kuwait and Jordan. America foreign policy is
radicalizing what Ghazwan calls the "Pepsi Generation", the young and
affluent Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Egyptians.

He tells the story of the Baghdad professional man who came home on 9/11/01,
stupefied by what had happened in New York and Washington. There, clustered
around the TV were his son and a bunch of his friends-celebrating. What
unnerved the man was not only that they should welcome such a tragedy, but
that these kids, up to then, had never before evinced any interest in
political matters.

When the brother of the man who perpetrated the Kuwait attacks was
questioned, he said that his brother had seen something about the
Palestinians on TV, and had acted out of a sense of helplessness and rage.
No matter how corrupt their governments are, "average Arabs are in
solidarity with their fellow Arabs. An Egyptian feels the same voicelessness
as a Palestinian."

We discuss the depleted uranium (DU) problem in Iraq. During the Gulf War,
the U.S. and Britain fired 300 tons of DU shells and bullets, exposing
Iraqis and American servicemen alike to its radiological and chemical
toxicity. 110,000 Gulf War veterans have applied for disability benefits;
the military refuses to recognize most of these claims, which include
cancers, genetic mutations among their children, immune disorders, and
memory loss. Meanwhile, cancer in parts of southern Iraq has risen by 1800%.

"Suppose a cruise missile hits a building, a hospital. Reconstruction of the
building spreads the radioactive dust all over. The isotope-it's like you've
inhaled a nuclear generator, and now it's trapped in you. Oxidation takes
place, and the rainwater washes DU oxide into the soil, the plants. Animals
eat the plants."

On what he would do if America invades Iraq: "I can't leave here, I'm too
old. I built things, I worked on public projects here. I'm a part of this
country. Last night my wife wakes up in the middle of the night, she can't
sleep. She says, 'Ghazwan, what will we do, where will we go?" I told her,
'we'll stay in our house and wait for the bombs. What else can we do?' I ask
you, is that any way to live?"

He's successfully ducked a writing assignment by instead giving me a
full-length interview. I congratulate him on the ruse, and that's his cue.
"Now I must go. We are ruled by women. If I don't go now, I won't be allowed
to go out tomorrow night."

By the time the interview ends, various Voices members who've stopped into
the dining room for a quick meal sit clustered around us. And as he strides
out of the room, someone mutters admiringly, "What an old lion." Afterwards,
Farah Mokhtareizedeh remembers that the first time she met him he'd said,
"Voices in the Wilderness? Are you sure you don't mean 'Voices Lost in the
Wilderness of America?'"

Joe Quandt is a member of Voices in the Wilderness. This interview was
conducted in Baghdad in October. He can be reached at:

Arabic News, 18th December

The chairman of the Iraqi national opposition coalition, Abdul Jabbar
al-Kubeisi, said that the Iraqi authorities permitted him to found a party
in Iraq.

Al-Kubeisi, who does not support toppling the Iraqi regime said "The Iraqi
deputy Premier Tareq Aziz informed us that we can, as from now, start
working to found a party in Iraq."

He added "we can practice the political work awaiting (the end of legal ban)
by new constitution and other decisions on party- pluralism." al-Kubeisi did
not fix a date for the issuance of the new constitution, but only noted that
this constitution will be drawn and submitted for the Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein and then on the Iraqi parliament.

by Peter Baker
Washington Post, 19th December

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The infant lay sleeping on a bed, an intravenous tube
disappearing beneath the worn gray blanket as her mother dabbed at tiny
bubbles around the baby's mouth.

The mother, Saadiya Saif, had rushed to the hospital with her 40-day-old
daughter, Zahraa, because of the baby's cough and fever. Doctors diagnosed a
chest infection. As they do nearly every day for some patient, they
prescribed the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. Within a few days, the doctors said
soon after she was admitted Tuesday morning, Zahraa should be well enough to
go home, where she will continue to take ciprofloxacin in syrup form.

But antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, commonly known by its brand name
Cipro, may soon become harder to obtain here under a new U.S. proposal to
tighten international sanctions on Iraq. Because ciprofloxacin can be used
to counter anthrax exposure, the U.S. government wants to keep President
Saddam Hussein's government from stockpiling it, fearing such a supply would
make it easier for him to launch a biological attack while protecting his
own troops.

Similarly, doctors at the Saddam Teaching Hospital for Pediatrics here use
gentamicin to treat urinary tract infections, doxycycline to help those with
cholera or diarrhea, and streptomycin in cases of tuberculosis. All three
would be added to the list of restricted items if the U.N. Security Council
agrees to the U.S. proposal.

"We're a developing country and infections are common diseases here, not
like in Europe or the United States, so antibiotics are vital," said
Mohammed Hassan, the 28-year-old chief resident presiding over wards of
children at the pediatrics hospital. "There's no thinking of humanity,
there's no thinking about the patients in our hospital."

Around Baghdad, word of the possible new restrictions has drawn a mixture of
outrage and resignation. Few really question adding high-tech navigation
systems, missile testing equipment, radio intercept devices, night-vision
technology and communications jammers to the U.N. list. And many shrugged at
the idea of more shortages of everyday items. After more than a decade of
privation, many Iraqis have adopted a weary acceptance of reality.

Others, though, saw the effort to impose new restrictions as more evidence
of American hostility. At the Mishin complex in south Baghdad, a rollicking
bazaar where automotive parts are sold, Hisham Ali bristled at the idea that
the large tires he sells might be restricted.

"This is oppression," he exclaimed. "They're trying to affect my living.
They're trying to destroy the whole economy."

"Why do they focus on tires?" asked Jasim Sadiq, 35, a farmer who was buying
some tires. "Do they think they're weapons?"

U.S. officials put certain large tires on the list because of concern they
could be used for military equipment. Yet Mohammed Fadhil needs them for his
truck, so he can bring potatoes to the city. After each harvest, he loads 16
tons of potatoes and makes the journey to Baghdad, turning around to do it
again a half-dozen times. In preparation for the January harvest, Fadhil,
40, spent his afternoon roaming through the market looking for new tires
imported from such places as Turkey, China and India.

The sanctions have long embittered Iraqis, who consider them a chokehold on
their lives. But now, at a moment of confrontation with the United States,
the proposed changes strike many as even more punitive.

Beyond the antibiotics and tires are a host of other products that would be
restricted, including atropine, organophosphate pesticides, activated
charcoal, large hydraulic lifts, meteorological equipment, satellite dishes,
full-motion flight simulators and even speedboats. U.S. officials came up
with the 36 categories of items in their proposal this month after
concluding that Hussein's government has been exploiting the U.N.
oil-for-food humanitarian program to buy products with the ability to
enhance his military power.

Over the last five years, for instance, Iraq has imported more than 3.5
million vials of the drug atropine, which can be used to treat cardiac
arrest, but also is an antidote for nerve agents. With his own army
inoculated, Hussein might be less inhibited in unleashing chemical weapons
on enemy troops, U.S. officials fear.

If the 36 items are added to the restricted list, they would not necessarily
be banned for import. But the United States would be able to block them on a
case-by-case basis, or at least impose a monitoring system before they are
approved. Negotiations on the U.S. proposal are supposed to be wrapped up by
the end of the month, but Russian and French diplomats have raised

As a practical matter, the most modern and effective medicines already are
hard to come by here, even some of those used to treat routine illness. At
the Hanoudi Pharmacy on Yasser Arafat Street, most shelves long ago were
emptied of drugs and stocked instead with shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream
and deodorant. On back shelves that still contain medicines, some bottles
date to 1980 or earlier, according to the owner, J. Hanoudi.

"If you go to a drug store in America, you see everything available. Here we
have nothing," said Hanoudi, 60, the image of an old-time pharmacist with
dwindling gray hair and a red sweater who has been behind the counter here
since 1969. "Every day, every time, we can't help people. What can we do?"

Even without the new restrictions, Hanoudi said he cannot get atropine or
inhalers for asthmatics or insulin for diabetics. What he can get, he said,
he cannot get enough of. "If I need 1,000, there is 10," he said.

Just then, a man walked in and asked for capsules with fusidic acid to treat
a bacterial infection.

"I haven't got it," Hanoudi said.

"Could you get it for me?" the man asked.

"I can't. It hasn't been available for a long time."

The Ministry of Health disburses medicines to hospitals and pharmacies each
month depending on what it receives through the U.N. program.

In November, Shatha Edward Harak, another pharmacist, received a two-month
allotment of 300 packages of acetaminophen, 200 vials of ampicillin, 30 iron
injections for those with anemia, 14 vials of procaine penicillin, 12 doses
of thiamine and two packages of the laxative Sennalax. She got 24 packages
of ciprofloxacin from Syria and eight from India, and sells them for as
little as 10 cents, depending on the dose.

Harak said supplies are somewhat more available than they were in the years
immediately after the Persian Gulf War, before the U.N. Security Council
revised the sanctions program to allow more humanitarian goods into Iraq.

The U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF, reported recently, for instance, that
the child malnutrition rate fell from 32 percent in 1996 to 23 percent this
year. But Carel de Rooy, the UNICEF director for Iraq who announced the
improvement, also noted that the numbers mean nearly 1 million Iraqi
children still suffer from chronic malnutrition.

The Iraqi government has said 1.7 million children have died from disease,
lack of food or other causes linked to the U.N. sanctions, which were
imposed after Hussein's troops invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990.
Western health specialists have contested that figure, putting the number
closer to 500,000.

Whatever the count, the notion of further restrictions on ciprofloxacin and
other inexpensive, commonly used antibiotics has left Harak and her
customers baffled. "Is this for rockets or bombs?" said Mohammed Ibrahim, a
39-year-old driver who came by for some ciprofloxacin to recover from
bronchitis. "I just want to take my medicine to get well. I just want to

Harak picked up the theme. "This is not for war. This is for people to live.
Let the people live.",3604,863259,00.html

by Rory McCarthy in Baghdad
The Guardian, 20th December

When the UN imposed import controls on Iraq to close down Saddam Hussein's
weapons programmes the staff of the Baghdad Dairy thought they had little
reason to worry.

Since 1958 the privately owned company, boasting one of the best-known
trademarks in Iraq, had been a prosperous business producing high-quality
milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream. After the Gulf war in 1991 it found
that most of its equipment and many of the chemicals it relied on from
abroad were labelled as potential "dual-use" goods, which could also be used
to build nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Hundreds of items were put on a list of banned imports.

"Our production was paralysed and several of our lines shut for good," said
Adnan Khadir, the dairy's production manager. "We just couldn't import what
we needed."

Overnight so many production lines ground to a halt that the dairy was
forced to close. Hundreds of other apparently innocuous businesses across
Iraq suffered the same fate.

Now the issue of dual-use equipment stands at the heart of the standoff
between Iraq and the US.

Baghdad claims that it has no more nuclear, chemical, biological or
long-range missile programmes.

Washington insists that many Iraqi sites described officially as civilian
projects are still dual-use facilities.

Iraq claimed for years that its largest chemical agent laboratory,
al-Muthanna, which made mustard gas and the deadly sarin and tabun, was no
more than a pesticide factory. When it was first inspected in 1991 one UN
official described the laboratory as "perhaps the most dangerous place on

The UN attempted to shut down these secret factories by putting hundreds of
chemicals and pieces of technical equipment on a banned import list, known
as the goods review list.

Private industry was badly hit. The Baghdad Dairy was banned from importing
a centrifuge machine, which was to be used to make cream and ice cream. The
company still has an old centrifuge machine in its dilapidated three-storey
factory in a suburb of eastern Baghdad. UN teams may decide to inspect the

Also banned from the dairy were the chemicals vital to sterilise their
equipment. Even yeast was on the list. They were forbidden from importing
the machines and paper needed to make the cartons which kept the milk they
produced fresh.

"The list is ridiculous. Nearly everything we need is dual-use," said Mr
Khadir. "We believe nothing is impossible and we try to survive. The fate of
many families depends on us staying in business."

When the factory finally reopened in 1996 it was able to produce only cream
and pasteurised cheese.

Managers had to scour local markets for often low-quality chemicals to
replace those banned. Production has fallen from 80 tonnes a day in 1990 to
five tonnes a day now. Quality has slumped and the staff of 600 has been cut
back to 35.

Hundreds of similar potential dual-use sites were listed in detail in the
weapons programme declaration that Iraq handed to the UN this month.

On the eastern outskirts of Baghdad production at the Babylon Paint factory
has almost completely halted. The company can no longer import any of the
iron oxides, carbon, cobalt or thinner that it once used to make paint.

"We don't make weapons here. We can't even make paint," said the managing
director, Khalil Mustafa. "Our speciality was making good things, paint that
made things look refreshed and new again. Now it's over."


San Francisco Chronicle, 16th December

Amman, Jordan -- Nazem Odeh has a dream about the future of his homeland,

"It will be a country where everyone will have a place to live and work, and
a place for his thoughts," said the 36-year-old poet and literary critic,
who lives with his wife and two children in a tiny apartment here,
navigating carefully among columns of books in Arabic on literature and
philosophy piled up on the stone floor. "Its government will be credible and

Odeh left Baghdad four years ago, he said, because the regime censored
everything he published and the secret police followed him wherever he went.

Yet his dream does not involve the ousting of Saddam Hussein, especially one
brought about by a U.S. military strike.

"Everyone is afraid of a regime change because no one knows how it is to be
carried out, how many lives it would cost," Odeh said.

Odeh's view seems to fly in the face of a basic assumption of the Bush
administration -- that ordinary Iraqis, both inside and outside the country,
would rise up as one in support of such a move. It is an assumption shared
by an assortment of Iraqi exile groups currently meeting in London to plot
the outlines of a post-Hussein Iraq.

But Odeh is afraid of them also. "We don't know what kind of a government we
would have if it happens," he said. "If it is made up of the opposition that
is corrupt and once was close to Hussein, it is bad. If it is handpicked by
the United States, and has no respect for the feelings of the Iraqi people,
that is also bad."

There are an estimated 300,000 Iraqis currently living in Jordan. Some, like
Odeh, seek refuge from a repressive regime that has killed and tortured
hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Others came for medical treatment,
mostly for cancer and heart diseases, which they are unable to obtain from
Iraq's dilapidated medical system. Most, according to the Jordanian office
of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), are here out of basic
need, fleeing a society squeezed mercilessly by ruinous wars and by the
economic impact of their country's isolation.

But none of those interviewed here over the past several days showed any
desire to return under the auspices of American action. Neither did they
appear to support what most of the rest of the world has said is desirable:
the eventual departure of Saddam Hussein.

"Strong people like us need a strong leader like Saddam Hussein," said
Mohammida, 38, who has lived in Jordan for four years. "We don't want any
new regime, especially one that is imposed on us from outside," she said.
"What we want is for the (U.N.) sanctions to be lifted so that we can live
in prosperity again."

Like many Iraqis here, Mohammida asked that her last name not be used,
afraid that Jordanian immigration authorities would track her down -- her
one- month visa long having expired -- and deport her home.

It is also possible that some of the Iraqis interviewed were afraid of
speaking publicly against the Baghdad regime, aware perhaps of the presence
of Iraqi secret police, whom Jordanians acknowledge operate here. But it is
also clear that many exiles hold U.N. economic sanctions, imposed on Iraq
since 1990, chiefly responsible for their plight.

"Because of the sanctions, people don't have access to medicine and very
little food," said Fatima, 45, who lives in a squalid two-room apartment in
the mostly Palestinian Baqaa refugee camp, about 8 miles north of Amman,
with her son, his wife and their two children. "A war would only make it

The majority of Iraqis here, especially the economic refugees, share that
view, say aid officials.

"People feel that an attack on Iraq would destabilize the country even more,
" said Jamal Hattar, the director of the Jordan branch of the Vatican-based
Caritas International aid group. "They don't see regime change as a solution
to their problems, a light in the end of the tunnel."

While there is debate about whether the suffering has been caused by the
sanctions themselves or by the way they have been manipulated by Baghdad's
ruling elite, all Mohammida knows is that she now lives in a stripped-down
room, also in the Baqaa camp, with her three children, ages 5, 6 and 11. The
door to their room doesn't close completely; there is no furniture, the
walls are cracked and the wires in the single electric socket are
dangerously exposed.

Still, she insists, no government suits Iraq better than the present one.
"Saddam is a ruler who understands us, knows our needs," she said.

After Hussein's decision Oct. 20 to issue a large general amnesty to the
nation's prisoners and Iraqis living abroad -- a gesture largely viewed as a
public relations gesture aimed at the West -- a surprisingly large number of
exiles have asked Iraqi embassies for one-way travel documents to return to
their homeland.

An Iraqi embassy official in Amman said that in November, nearly 3,000
Iraqis asked to return home, and almost all of the applications were
approved. He said several hundred Iraqis have applied and received similar
documents from Iraq's diplomatic missions in Syria and Lebanon.

Mohammida is not one of them. Her husband, who lives outside of Baghdad,
lost his job as an official with the Iraqi Ministry of Education and barely
survives on welfare. Mohammida, who earns money as a baby sitter here, is
afraid that she would not be able to feed her children if she returned home.

Neither is Odeh, who is awaiting UNHCR's response to his request for
political asylum in the United States, Canada or Britain. The agency has
been granting refugee status to some 700 Iraqis annually, about 25 percent
of those who apply, the U.S. Committee for Refugees reported last year.

Meanwhile, Odeh and the other exiles dream their dreams.

Asal, a 42-year-old engineer who lives in Amman, is one of the few Iraqis
who openly acknowledge criticisms of his homeland's leader. "Saddam is
responsible for the U.N. sanctions, because he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He is
responsible for not sharing the money in equal ways. He is responsible for
the poverty," Asal said.

But all Hussein needs, Asal continues, is a little push, though not from the

"Saddam should stay. I'm sure he can improve and become democratic under
pressure." said Asal.

When queried about how a man who has used chemical weapons against his own
people can be expected to reform, Asad answered evenly, "Democracy and
equality is possible under this government . . . without any military

by Mark McDonald
Miami Herald, Knight Ridder News Service, 17th December

AMMAN, Jordan - Khaled Jamal was a front-line soldier when Iraq invaded
Kuwait a decade ago, and now he's been called back to active duty to prepare
for what his superiors believe is a certain American invasion.

Tall, swarthy, the father of six, Jamal is a corporal in the Iraqi reserves.
In recent days he has been visiting Iraqi friends and relatives who live in
neighboring Jordan. But he has been given two weeks to get back to Baghdad
and back into uniform.

"I have to go back to fight, to defend my family and my country," he said
Wednesday, sitting barefoot on a carpet in a friend's home and sipping a
glass of strong, sweet Jordanian tea. "Iraqi people are used to war. Kids
who were 5 years old in the Gulf War are now soldiers. They're ready to

Jamal's willingness to go home to fight what most experts consider a
hopeless battle against a superior American force casts doubt on the
contention of some in the Bush administration that the Iraqi people will
greet invading U.S. troops as liberators. While many Iraqis might be happy
to see Saddam Hussein pushed from power, many others remain staunchly
nationalistic and hostile to American attempts to install a pro-Western

Jamal, 34, an infantryman who as a teenager fought in the Iran-Iraq war,
said he knows the Iraqi military is no match for American firepower. If
there's a war, he said, he's sure that he and his countrymen would lose.

"But we'll do our best, and we'll use all our weapons," he said, emphasizing
the word "all" but adding that he doesn't think the Iraqi arsenal includes
weapons of mass destruction.

Baghdad does not seem tense or fearful, Jamal said. The government recently
doubled rations of foodstuffs and household staples. Some say the increases
are meant to help citizens stock up before hostilities break out; others say
they're meant to curry favor with a restless public.

"I like Saddam, and people naturally follow the leaders of their countries,"
he said. "Look at Bush. He won the election with fewer than 50 percent of
the votes, but Americans are still following him because he's their leader.
Saddam is our leader."

Since the Gulf War, Jamal has been activated three times, mostly for
specialized training, including drills for chemical and gas attacks.
"American gas," he said. "Of course."

While in Amman, Jamal has been staying with a childhood friend, Fadal
Mohammad, an accountant who fled from Iraq to Jordan two years ago.
Mohammad, originally from Baghdad, is one of an estimated 300,000 Iraqi
refugees who have poured into Jordan in the 11 years since the Gulf War.

The Jordanian government is worried that hostilities in Iraq could lead to a
huge and immediate exodus of new refugees.

Mohammad Adwan, Jordan's Minister of State for Political Affairs and
Information, said Thursday that his government "won't allow huge floods of

"We simply can't absorb them," he said.

Fadal Mohammad, who is single, left Iraq to make more money, and perhaps to
make his way to Europe. His government-regulated salary in Baghdad, he said,
was $5 a month. In Jordan, as an exporter of rugs, he makes $1,000 a month.

"It's Saddam who has destroyed the Iraqi economy, not the [U.N.] sanctions,"
said Mohammad. "Saddam spends everything on weapons."

If Jamal and Mohammad have very definite and very different opinions about
the Iraqi leader, the two old friends seem to have agreed to disagree. For
example, when Mohammad calls Hussein "a man of terror," Jamal manages a
pained smile but says nothing.

Perhaps Jamal and Mohammad don't argue because they know they might not see
each other again: Jamal is being activated, war seems certain, and this
time, after surviving two previous wars, perhaps his battlefield luck will
have run out.

by Hussain Abdul-Hussain
Daily Star, Lebanon, 19th December

Some 75 Iraqis illegally residing in Lebanon were deported on Wednesday,
with the Iraqi government picking up the transportation tab, officials at
the country's embassy here said.

Embassy official Khaled Shweish told The Daily Star that the 75 had left
Iraq illegally.

"But after the presidential amnesty issued recently by (Iraqi) President
Saddam Hussein, these people could go back home without any fears of facing
any charges," he said.

Shweish added that they were not refugees.

"They are people who had entered the country illegally and consequently do
not hold any legal Iraqi or Lebanese residency documents," he said.

Ali Ahmed, 35, along with his wife and two daughters, expressed his joy
while boarding one of two buses parked next to the embassy in Hazmieh and
headed for Baghdad.

"The tough socioeconomic situation in our country forced us to leave in
February. We crossed the Iraqi-Syrian border and paid $200 to be smuggled
into Lebanon," Ahmed said,

Sitting on his luggage with his daughter in his lap holding a picture of the
Iraqi president, Ahmed said he had hoped to travel from Lebanon to Europe as
a UN refugee.

He said he was told: "If you make it to Beirut, the United Nations will take
care of you and your family and will give you asylum in a European country."

However, his search for asylum stalled in Lebanon.

"There are numbers of Iraqis who are still waiting for the UN asylum
arrangement. I knew a few of them who have already been given UN documents
and sent to Canada or Sweden, but after they had stayed for sometime here,"
Ahmed said.

Ahmed said his time in Lebanon was difficult and saw him quickly spend the
small amount of money that he had borrowed while in Baghdad.

"I tried to look for a job to feed my family, but few businesses employ
illegal Iraqi residents," he said.

Ahmed's wife, Tayseer, said that a family can survive if relatives are
nearby, "but it is not easy to live in a country, illegally, unemployed and
as total strangers."

"We considered going back home as far back as March, a month after our
entry, but we feared facing charges for our illegal status in our own
country," she said. "After we heard of the presidential amnesty - God bless
our leader Saddam Hussein the great - we could not wait to make our trip

Asked whether it was safe to go back to Baghdad with a US-led war looming,
Samir, 42, replied: "It is better to die at home than to live in a cold
country that has treated us as complete strangers."

Most of those waiting for the buses said they could not afford the cost of
their trip back.

"The Iraqi government is funding their return and has pledged to pay all the
expenses of any Iraqi who wants to return," Shweish said.

He added that the embassy was unaware of the number of Iraqis illegally
residing here.


Interview conducted by Ibrahim Alloush in Baghdad, 13 December 2002
Free Arab Voice (online news agency), sent through list

FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, could you please introduce yourself and
tell us how you became an oppositionist?

Al-Kubaysi: My name is Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi. I graduated in civil
engineering from the American University in Beirut in 1967. I remember that
the last test I took that year took place on the 5th of June - the day of
the great set back.

I had joined the Arab Socialist Baath Party in 1958 at the age of 15. I was
arrested in 1959 in the days of Abd al-Karim Qasim, and again in 1960
because of my student activism. In 1961 I went to Beirut and came back to
Iraq after obtaining my university degree.

When I came back, I was required to perform my military service. I entered
the reserve officers' school and graduated at the head of my class. That
gave me the right to choose the place where I would serve my period of
military conscription. I chose the al-Walid base near the Jordanian border.
The Palestinian resistance movement was in its infancy then. I used to spend
my leaves in Jordan - ten days every three weeks. I used to transport
whatever weapons I could bring over, since the nature of my work as an
engineer of airstrips and bomb shelters involved frequent trips to Jordan as
part of my job, and I drove a military vehicle that was not subject to
customs inspection.

After 17 July 1968, when Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr came to power in Iraq I was
arrested for a period of nine and a half months. I was then released but
re-arrested a month later for a period of a year and seven months. I was
then released in June 1971.

FAV: Why were you arrested by your Baathi comrades who had just then taken
power? Was it for some specific charge, or because you belonged to the other
wing of the Baath Party?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes, there was no specific charge. Maybe the first arrest was
just a precautionary measure because they had recently come to power. But
the second period of incarceration came after someone confessed that I was
in the military branch of our wing of the Baath Party. That was arrest
without trial by the way.

But after I was released I returned to work at the oil company where I had
been working before, and it was a government-owned oil company,
incidentally. Then I remained in Iraq working in the secret organization of
the other wing of the Baath Party until August 1976.

FAV: What happened in August 1976?

Al-Kubaysi: The top man in charge of secret work of the party in Iraq, Ahmad
al-Azzawi, was assassinated in Damascus. He had been a member of the
pan-Arab leadership of the Party headquartered in Syria. I was called on to
go to Damascus to take his place.

FAV: So you showed your cards?

Al-Kubaysi: I went to Damascus with no intention of coming back. I had been
working underground. I left the country for Cairo and from there went to
Damascus to become the official of the secret organization in Iraq . . .

FAV: And you didn't go back to Iraq until . . .?

Al-Kubaysi: Until 11 November 2002, when I returned to Baghdad.

FAV: What were you doing in Syria?

Al-Kubaysi: I was a member of the Pan-Arab leadership of the Baath Party, in
charge of the office concerned with relations with all the Iraqi opposition
groups, both Arabs and Kurds. In 1980 the Democratic National Patriotic
Front was formed in Damascus, uniting all the groups that were Iraqi
opposition parties. They had no chief, but there was a general secretariat,
and I was one of its members along with [Kurdish leader] Jalal al-Talibani
and Aziz Muhammad from the Iraqi Communist Party, and Awni al-Qalamji, and
others. Membership in the Secretariat of the parties did not go to
individuals but to the parties and every party could chose its
representative to the Secretariat.

FAV: But the relations with the Syrian regime began to sour after that?

Al-Kubaysi: On 13 July 1982 we issued a declaration in the name of the Baath
Party and the Front condemning attempts by Iran to attack Iraqi territory.
Specifically, we had taken a stand against the war from the beginning, and
against the entry of Iraqi forces into Iran. So it wasn't reasonable after
that for us to agree to the entry of Iranian forces into Iraq. This worsened
our problems with the Syrian regime. Things came to a head some years later
when Iran occupied Faw Island, and we issued a declaration condemning the
attempts at occupying Iraqi territory. As a result of that I was put under
house arrest in Damascus. A number of my Iraqi Baathi comrades who were
loyal to the Baath wing that was ruling in Damascus were arrested and were
not released until 1989.

After that came the story of Kuwait, I mean, when Kuwait returned to Iraq.
At that point there were meetings with the Syrian leaders. They asked me to
return to work with them, but I refused. So I was again placed under house
arrest, after I had briefly been let out. That continued until exactly a
week after the end of the Second Gulf War. After that, the security guards
from around where I lived were taken away. But I had no way to travel
outside the country because I had no passport. During the First Gulf War
[the Iran-Iraq War] Iraqi opposition forces began to leave Syria, among them
the parties that have an Arab nationalist character, and some Communists who
had severed their connection with the Communist Party because of the
Communist Party's fighting with the Iranian army and because the Communist
Party had fallen under the rule of the Kurds and the political influence of
the Syrian leadership. After the end of the Second Gulf War [the US
Aggression against Iraq, 1990-1991] Iraqi oppositionists left in greater
numbers from Syria, going to Europe. As for me, I stayed in Syria until
1997. In 1996 they returned to me my Syrian diplomatic passport. When I used
it, I never returned to Syria.

FAV: How were your relations with the Iraqi opposition groups in Syria at
that time?

Al-Kubaysi: We shared a common stand against the Iraqi regime and for
democracy and freedoms in Iraq. But political developments led to a split in
the opposition into two blocs. These blocs crystalized during the second
period of the First Gulf War and during the 30 Nation Aggression Against
Iraq. One bloc of the opposition was made up of the official Communists and
the two wings of the Kurdish national movement. The other opposition bloc
represented the Arab nationalist forces and those Communists who refused to
cooperate with Iran.

FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar, you have come to Iraq as a representative of the
Iraqi National Alliance together with a delegation that includes five others
who represent other wings of the leadership of the Alliance. What exactly is
the Iraqi National Alliance and who belongs to it?

Al-Kubaysi: The same groups that took a stand in Syria against the American
aggression against Iraq and later left for Europe. Before that they were the
same people who had a position on Iran's invasion of Iraq. All these groups
held a congress in Sweden in June 1992 where they formed the Iraqi National
Alliance based on a view of the events that had taken place and on the basis
of a condemnation of the embargo on Iraq and a demand for the spread of
freedoms there. The groups that participate in the Iraqi National Alliance

The other wing of the Arab Baath Socialist Party,
The Socialist Unity Party (of Nasserite orientation),
The Arab Labour Party (Arab Nationalist - Marxist),
The Arab Socialist Movement (the remainder of the Arab Nationalists'
Movement, mostly inclined to Marxism),
The Kurdish Islamic Army,
The Kurdistan Peace Party (an elite of Kurdish intellectuals and
The patriotic current in the Iraqi Communist Party,
A group of independent political and intellectual figures.
FAV: What real political weight do all these organizations have with Iraqis
in emigration?

Al-Kubaysi: We really have no way of posing the question in that form. Iraqi
citizens abroad left home in search of a living and none of the opposition
parties have any real weight with them. This is true not just of us but of
the Iraqi opposition forces that obtain funds from the Arabian Gulf regimes
and which enjoy the political facilities that America imposes on the states
of the world. They have means, but they don't have any mass following. The
number of Iraqi opposition organizations abroad is 173, most of them being
mercenary and having no authentic roots either in Iraq or abroad.

FAV: OK. So, do you have a mass following inside Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes, we have a mass following inside Iraq. This is because we
haven't come out of nowhere. But we don't have organized forces.
Historically, the Arab nationalist current in Iraq had two wings: the Baath
and the Arab Nationalists' Movement. We paralleled or more than paralleled
the currently ruling Baath current. Our masses are in agreement with the
regime in broad patriotic and Arab nationalist terms, but not on the issue
of freedoms, which are still a matter on which we differ. The ruling party
rules by itself. The masses whom we met when we came here support the regime
in its patriotic and Arab nationalist orientations, and are ready to fight
in defense of Iraq against the embargo and any aggression. But they believe
that the spread of political openness will strengthen the resiliance of the
homeland to aggression and embargo. These masses welcomed our arrival. They
considered it a step on the right path. Even if the regime wants to kill us
we must fight together with it against aggression. If we don't, we will lose
the justification for our existence.

FAV: You have anticipated my question regarding the reasons for your return
to Iraq . . .

Al-Kubaysi: Since 1992, our political line has been against the American
projects, and a condemnation of those forces that cooperate with the
foreigners. We endorsed the steadfastness of our people, the rebuilding of
our country and their standing up to the embargo. Since that time we have
been convinced that Iraq has entered into an historic confrontation which
will have many pages; the last was not turned in the year 1991. It is a
confrontation that will continue in many different ways. We are not
convinced that the embargo will be lifted in a year or two. This
confrontation demands that an opportunity be given to releasing political
freedoms. On this basis we have appealed for a patriotic reconciliation to
strengthen the resilience of our people to the embargo and aggression.

In September 2000 we convened the Second Congress of the Iraqi National
Alliance in London. It was attended by 104 delegates from other countries.
And I'd like to point out that the congress was entirely self-funded by the

FAV: Haven't the Americans tried to build bridges to the Iraqi National
Alliance or to make contact with you?

Al-Kubaysi: Never. This is because our position on them is well known. We
call for fighting them. We held demonstrations against them in front of the
American embassies in western Europe to demand an end to the embargo and in
protest against the continued American genocide of Iraqi children.

FAV: What about the other opposition forces, the ones that cooperate with
America, such as the Iraqi National Congress? Have they not tried to
coordinate with you?

Al-Kubaysi: They are creatures of the Central Intelligence Agency. These are
groupings that were hidden in deep freeze that they brought out and thawed
out a little. Many of their figures were part of the regime, by the way.
When things got bad in the country, they simply "packed their bags" and left
to join the other side.

FAV: What about the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq? Have they
tried to contact you?

Al-Kubaysi: the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is an Iranian card
(arm). Its base is with some of the Iraqi prisoners captured in the
Iran-Iraq war and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Among their leaders there
is not one native Iraqi. Even Baqir al-Hakim is originally from Isfahan,
Iran, not Iraq. And they haven't tried to make contact with us either.

FAV: And in the Kurdish north of Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Up there there are the official Communists and the two Kurdish
wings that existed before 1991. These are movements that are native to Iraq.
As to the Kurdish movements, we are in contact with certain individuals. As
to the political movements, we cut off contact with them in 1991. As regards
the Communists, two patriotic blocs have split off from them. One of them is
with us in the National Alliance (the bloc of Khalid Salam and Ahmad Karim)
and the other bloc is the Advanced Cadre (the bloc of the member of the
Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party, Baqir Ibrahim al-Mousawi). We
are in weekly contact with them. They don't want to enter into any
coalitions before their own organization has crystallized. The official
Iraqi Communist Party is under the influence of the Kurdish National
Movement, but more than half of its rank and file members at least are
patriotic individuals about whom there can be no doubt.

If there were in Iraq a call for reconciliation, and if we are able to
create an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect, I believe that those
brothers in the Iraqi Communist Party would not accept the course of their
current leaders and would return to their country to form their own
patriotic Communist bloc. The real bloc in the Communist Party is patriotic,
without doubt. But the American efforts directed at Iraqis abroad and the
lack of détente inside Iraq puts this patriotic bloc in its present
situation. As to the leaders of the Communist Party, they have drowned in
Kuwaiti money. The US State Department issued a list of 17 Iraqi
organizations that have been receiving funds from it when it was asked by
the US Congress which parties outside the Iraqi National Congress are
receiving American money. This list included the name of a club or platform
of Iraqi Communist intellectuals in London.

FAV: Are we to understand from all that that there is no Iraqi opposition
abroad with any weight or credibility which could form an alternative to the

Al-Kubaysi: No! [There isn't.]

FAV: Even those who are with the Iranians?

Al-Kubaysi: You said "Iraqi", not extensions of the Iranians. Be aware of
the fact that the opposition abroad is split up along ethnic and
confessional lines. If America brings them in, there will be massacres in
Iraq, because they are oppositions that are narrowly restricted in terms of
what religious and ethnic groups belong to them. Not only that, but there
are six or seven Turkmen parties, for example. In addition there are three
Assyrian organizations. These have never established Iraqi organizations;
rather they have established a climate and a basis for the growth of real
domestic civil warfare. There will be blood-letting if they are fated one
day to take power. From this we see the importance of the movements in our
Iraqi National Alliance and of the rank-and-file of the Communist Party
(whose leaders are now pursuing a destructive and unpatriotic course).

The real patriotic Iraqi oppositionists today are the ones who own nothing
and are supported by no foreign state. If they came to Iraq, they would come
together on the basis of their patriotic line in it. Even the Kurds. I am
not saying that the Kurdish movement as a whole is a creature of the Mossad
and CIA, but there is no doubt that the Mossad and the CIA take advantage of
the Kurdish movement.

FAV: Since these are your positions, why has it taken you so long to return
to Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Let me first make clear that I am not a criminal who has come
back under some sort of amnesty. There was an environment of very costly
infighting. For example, my two brothers were executed in 1981, for no
reason other than being my brothers. Such an environment of infighting
requires a long time to create an atmosphere of trust. The leadership in
Iraq was meeting us in the past while totally focused on the work of lifting
the embargo. Our viewpoint was that the precondition for confronting the
embargo was the spread of an atmosphere of reconciliation with Iraqi
patriots, not the postponement of such a reconciliation. Let me make clear
that we have no aspirations to taking power, nor will we accept a share in
power. But we want a chance to fight in defense of the homeland. After
occasional meetings over a period of years we received an official
invitation to come, based on a resolution of the Iraqi leadership to engage
in preparing legislation, as we have been told, to provide for political
pluralism and freedom of the press for political parties, and also providing
for undertaking a series of measures to create an atmosphere of tolerance.
We were supposed to arrive two months ago, but we did not receive the
necessary entrance visas until the beginning of November.

FAV: How were you received? How did your meetings with officials go?

Al-Kubaysi: We were received well and the meetings were warm. The officials
praised our making the effort to come. We presented the need for mutual
respect and the spread of an atmosphere of reconciliation, and we presented
the need for permission to be granted for political parties to be formed and
for the emergence of a free press ON THE BASIS OF RESISTANCE TO AGGRESSION
AND AMERICA'S PROJECTS IN THE REGION. We emphasized the importance of
working to rally the forces and make national unity firm again, noting that
these are the basic tools for resistance. We might not be able to win
militarily, but we can resist and resistance is what can raise the cost of
aggression to the extent that it forces the enemy to withdraw. We said that
we hope that the leadership will be flexible in dealing with the matter of
weapons and inspections because the fact that war does not happen is itself
a victory for Iraq.

FAV: Did you find the leadership receptive to what you proposed about
pluralism on a patriotic basis, and are there actual steps being taken in
this regard, and a specific schedule?

Al-Kubaysi: A Supreme Committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Dr.
Izzat Ibrahim to prepare a constitution and a law of political party
pluralism and a law on the press that gives parties the right to issue
newspapers. We were told that the preparation of drafts will take at least a
month. After that these laws must be brought to the Legislative Council, and
this will take some time too. But as for us in the Iraqi National Alliance,
we have been told that we can implement these rights immediately under the
provision that they are "under construction".

FAV: Will you make use of this offer?

Al-Kubaysi: We must go back to Europe to discuss these matters with our
brothers. It is possible that some of us will come to work on the basis of
this offer within three months, and that after that a larger number of us
would come at the start of next summer. But until that time, the Iraqi state
can, and indeed must, resolve to augment these laws to facilitate life for
the citizens, and to cancel all the measures of a coercive nature. For
example, with respect to the infighting amongst patriotic forces that has
gone on since 1959, we hope that a decree will be issued whereby all those
who fell or were killed in this internal struggle from all parties will be
considered martyrs for Iraq and not martyrs of this or that political party.
This will help many families regain status and reduce the administrative
hindrances to their exercising their civil and natural rights and it won't
cost the regime anything. Similarly, there must be compensation for the
families of those executed and whose property was expropriated. Also the
language used with all the opposition groups must be the language of
reconciliation. They have said that every Iraqi oppositionist, however far
he's gone in attacking the regime may return without being questioned or
interrogated or pursued. They have said that the only ones they will pursue
will be those who take part in American or Zionist intelligence efforts. We
hope that this position will be reflected in announcements and in official
statements. However an Iraqi abroad may have erred, this goes back to
American efforts and the absence of any reconciliatory dialogue domestically
in Iraq. We must break up this American effort by means of internal
reconciliation. The biggest bloc of them is not treacherous, but patriotic.
We differ from some of them, yes, but to fight among ourselves, or make one
another our enemy? No. Some of them have attacked us in our demonstrations
yet inspite of that we have not lost our vision with respect to them. We
must save them from the circle of error, and the Iraqi state bears
responsibility for this.

Iraq is a country that has become great abroad by mounting a confrontation
on behalf of the Arabs and all of humanity against American aggression. It
is appropriate for this country to have a domestic project that is also

FAV: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes. I want to say that limiting the confrontation with
aggression to the geography of Iraq is not in the interest of the Arab
Nation. I am not talking about fighting the aggressors outside of Iraq here.
Rather I am saying that we must build a model for political life in Iraq
that binds the whole Arab Nation to it. It must be a positive model for the
entire Arab Homeland. We must build a political life that we can be proud
of, a model for the Third World beyond the Arab Homeland. All of humanity
will one day discover that they are indebted to the Iraqis for confronting
American savagery. So we must cause the "dictatorship card" to fall from
America's hand, the way we have made them drop the excuse of "mass
destruction weapons". We know that they do not want democracy. Democracy
does not come from missiles and gunboats. We have an Arab National project
for renaissance and we want to fight the Zionist project in our countries.
We must, therefore, build a fighting political force. The issue is not only
an issue of stability of the regime. It is an issue of how to spread the
project of Arab renaissance throughout the Arab homeland. I do not want a
government post as long as I live. I only want my right to an independent
opinion, not subjected to the authorities. We know that the leadership in
Iraq was told more than two weeks before UN Security Council Resolution 1441
was passed that Iraq's problems could be solved if it agreed to establish
relations with "Israel" in the framework of a so-called "just and lasting
peace", and that they rejected this unequivocally. They remain insistent
upon this rejection, and we cannot differ from them.

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