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RFE/RL Iraq Report
A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iraq

22 April 2004, Volume  7, Number  15

NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Iraq Report" will appear on 5 May.
INSIDE IRAQ
MULTIPLE CAR BOMBINGS TARGET POLICE STATIONS IN AL-BASRAH. In near-simultaneous explosions, car bombs detonated outside three Al-Basrah police stations on 21 April, while a fourth detonated in the nearby town of Al-Zubayr, international media reported. "All four attacks seem to have been carried out by suicide bombers," Reuters quoted a British Defense Ministry spokeswoman in Al-Basrah as saying. However, British Squadron Leader John Arnold called the explosions "vehicle-based improvised explosive devices," possibly implying that the bombs were remotely detonated.

Al-Basrah Mayor Wa'il Abd al-Hafiz blamed Al-Qaeda for the bombings. He said that 68 people, not including the bombers, were killed and about 100 wounded in the attacks. International media reported some 200 casualties, however. "I saw a minibus full of children on fire -- 15 of the 18 passengers were killed and three badly wounded," Al-Basrah resident Amin Dinar told Reuters.

Iraqi Interior Minister Samir al-Sumaydi'i condemned the bombings in a 21 April press briefing in Baghdad broadcast live on Al-Jazeera. "The Iraqi government strongly condemns this criminal act. It underlines its full determination to prevail over this cancer, which they call resistance. Terrorism in Iraq will not succeed in stopping the Iraqi people's march toward stability, construction, and the supremacy of law," al-Sumaydi'i said. Asked whom he thought the perpetrators of the attacks might be, he said: "Information indicates that the operation was carried out using booby-trapped cars. As for the perpetrators, I believe that the fingerprints of terrorism are clear, pointing to the same perpetrators of other massacres in Iraq, including the massacres in Irbil, Karbala, and others areas." He added that an investigation into the bombings is already under way. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


FIGHTING BREAKS OUT IN AL-FALLUJAH. Clashes erupted in the city of Al-Fallujah on 21 April, just one day after coalition officials announced the signing of a joint communique to bring hostilities to an end in the city after some two weeks of fighting, international media reported.

Khalil Ramadan, a member of the Al-Fallujah local council, told Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television that two U.S. helicopters were shot down in the fighting. Ramadan claimed that U.S. forces advanced towards the Al-Julan and Al-Shuhada neighborhoods in the early morning hours of 21 April and opened fire on the neighborhoods. He further claimed that Iraqis had not instigated the clashes. "It was the occupying forces who started the firing, and then the residents of Al-Fallujah responded." Asked whether the fighters in the city remained heavily armed, Ramadan said: "Those who are alleged to be fighters are the people of Al-Fallujah. Are they not allowed to defend their city before this big force?"

Meanwhile, an Al-Jazeera correspondent in the city reported that U.S. helicopters bombed four houses in the Al-Mu'tasim and Al-Julan neighborhoods. Residents told Reuters that six unarmed civilians were killed and 10 wounded by U.S. fire. Coalition officials have declined to comment on that claim, Reuters reported.

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq posted on its website on 19 April (http://www.cpa-iraq.org) the text of the joint communique reached between Iraqi leaders in Al-Fallujah and an Iraqi Governing Council/coalition delegation to bring hostilities that started on 5 April to an end. The communique recognized the improved situation in Al-Fallujah and the commitment of all parties to implement a full and unbroken cease-fire. Under the terms of the agreement, the coalition committed to allowing unfettered access to the Al-Fallujah General Hospital, and to delay the start of curfew by two hours to allow Iraqis to fulfill their religious duties by attending evening prayers. Civilians -- 50 families per day -- were allowed to reenter the city beginning on 20 April.

Both parties called on citizens and groups to turn in all illegal weapons to the coalition, and agreed to work to reform the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and police. Both parties also committed to expelling foreign fighters, criminals, and drug users from the city. The Iraqis will investigate and prosecute those responsible for the killing and mutilation of four U.S. contractors in the city this month (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 April 2004).

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters on 20 April that he did not expect the agreement to hold, since the insurgents had not taken part in the talks that led to the agreement, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


MILITANTS ATTACK PRISON, KILLING 21 PRISONERS. Militants launched a mortar barrage on the U.S.-run Abu Ghurayb prison in western Baghdad on 20 April, killing 21 detainees and wounding 100, Reuters reported, citing U.S. military officials. Officials also reportedly said that those killed in the 18-shell barrage were either former members of Saddam Hussein's government or militants who participated in attacks on coalition forces, washingtonpost.com reported. Meanwhile, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps forces killed four militants and seized three cars packed with explosives during a raid on a guerrilla hideout in Kirkuk overnight on 20-21 April, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DEFENSE MINISTRY ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF TOP GENERALS. Iraqi Defense Minister Ali Allawi announced the appointment of three top generals to the Iraqi armed forces on 18 April, according to a CPA press release posted on its website (http://www.cpa-iraq.org) on the same day.

General Babkir al-Zibari, a Sunni Kurd, will serve as senior military adviser. Al-Zibari served in the Iraqi Army until 1973 when he joined the Kurdish peshmerga and reorganized the Kurdish resistance movement into a regular military force. General Amr al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab from Baghdad, will serve as the chief of staff of the Iraqi armed forces. Al-Hashimi served as a major general in the former Iraqi Army. He retired in 1997 and subsequently served as a member of the Baghdad city council. As chief of staff, he will act as commander of the Iraqi armed forces, the press release said. Lieutenant General Daham al-A'sal, a Shi'a Arab, will serve as deputy chief of staff. He formerly served as a major general under the Hussein regime. The CPA also announced the reestablishment of the Iraqi Air Force in a 17 April press release. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


IRAQI TRIBUNAL APPOINTS JUDGES, PROSECUTORS TO TRY FORMER REGIME MEMBERS. The Iraqi tribunal established to try former members of the deposed Hussein regime has appointed seven investigative judges and five prosecutors whose names will not be released, international media reported on 21 April. "They cannot be named due to security concerns," said Salem Chalabi, the nephew of Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi, who has been named director-general of the tribunal.

INC spokesman Entifadh Qanbar said on 20 April that the location for the trials has also been selected but declined to give details, the BBC reported. The tribunal has been allotted a budget of $75 million for 2004-05, but has not set a date for the commencement of prosecutions, he added. The judges and prosecutors still need to undergo training on international law, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, Qanbar said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


FOREIGN MINISTRY ANNOUNCES UNDERSECRETARY APPOINTMENTS. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry announced the appointment of four new undersecretaries, Al-Dustur reported on 20 April. Sa'id Jasim al-Hayani will serve as undersecretary for administrative duties and consulates. He previously served in the Foreign and Agriculture ministries under the Hussein regime until his retirement in 1988. Labib Abbawi will serve as political planner. A former member of the Iraqi opposition, Abbawi served on the foreign relations committee of the Iraqi Communist Party and headed the committee from 1993 to 2000. Hamid al-Bayati will oversee bilateral affairs. He is a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and served as SCIRI representative in the United Kingdom from 1992 until returning to Iraq following the fall of the Hussein regime. Bassam Kubba will develop multilateral relations. A career diplomat, Kubba also served on the steering committee that ran the ministry after the fall of the Hussein regime, and is the ministry's most senior career diplomat, according to the CPA website (http://www.cpa-iraq.org). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI NEGOTIATORS SEARCH FOR END TO STANDOFF BETWEEN AL-SADR, U.S. Iraqi negotiators representing various Islamic groups and Iraqi Governing Council members have reportedly continued their efforts this week to bring an end to the standoff between radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and U.S. forces stationed outside the holy city of Al-Najaf, where al-Sadr remains holed up. CPA head L. Paul Bremer said on 18 April that al-Sadr "must be dealt with," nytimes.com reported on 19 April. But U.S. military officials said on 19 April that they would allow more time for talks in Al-Najaf, Reuters reported. Colonel Dana Pittard, commander of the 3rd Brigade Task Force stationed outside the holy city, said, "Because of where negotiations are right now, we can wait," adding that he still wants Iraqis to solve the problem.

An Iranian delegation reportedly sent to Iraq to help find a way out of the crisis never met with al-Sadr, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) told Al-Jazeera on 17 April. Iran "said right from the start, that they are not authorized to negotiate with specific groups," Amman al-Hakim said. The Iranians "said that they were requested to assist in resolving the general crisis and the security chaos in Iraq...the Iranian delegation's visit was intended to hold discussions with political and popular forces and with various components of the Iraqi people to reach a comprehensive view," he noted, adding, "The visit did not aim at negotiating with a specific group."

Ahmad al-Shahwani, a spokesman for al-Sadr, told Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television on 19 April that al-Sadr's outlawed Imam Al-Mahdi Army had blocked all entrances to Al-Najaf in an effort to keep out U.S. troops stationed on the city's outskirts. The United States said last week that its mission was to kill or capture al-Sadr after an Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant for the cleric, accused of killing Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Abd al-Majid al-Khoi in April 2003.

Al-Shahwani claimed that the Badr Corps, a militia belonging to the Shi'ite SCIRI political group, is working with the Al-Mahdi Army to "coordinate work and establish security checkpoints," apparently in the city. "The enemies [United States] are threatening the Shi'ites that explosions will take place and that many [Iraqis] will be killed. This approach is similar to the one Saddam [Hussein] the destroyer employed in the past," al-Shahwani claimed. "All criminals, unjust people, and tyrants are afraid to enter Al-Najaf because they know that [they] will be killed by the Al-Mahdi Army fighters," he added.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Shi'ite Al-Da'wah Party told London's "The Guardian" that it would be impossible for the United States -- or Iraqi police -- to arrest the cleric, the newspaper reported on 21 April. "I don't think there is a power on earth that can detain Mr. Sadr. The problem isn't him. It's his followers," Jawad al-Maliki said. Iraqi Governing Council member Salamah al-Khafaji reportedly said that any U.S. attempt to capture al-Sadr would spark sectarian sedition, "Al-Zaman" reported on 20 April. She added that a better approach is through negotiations, since al-Sadr has so many supporters on the streets of Iraq.

Al-Da'wah mediator Adnan Hadi al-Asadi told Tehran's Sahar television in a 20 April interview that a "group of political forces supported by the Governing Council" submitted a document containing seven articles, which both the United States and al-Sadr agreed to consider as part of a negotiated settlement. Among other things, the articles call for the restoration of security and the return of property unlawfully seized by al-Sadr's forces to the state, the dissolution of the Al-Mahdi Army, and the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from around Al-Najaf, al-Asadi said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


MILITIAS OPERATING CONTRABAND RINGS IN AL-BASRAH. Iraqi militias are reportedly operating illegal ports along the Shatt Al-Arab waterway to ferry contraband from Iran into Iraq, iraqpress.org reported on 19 April. Unnamed officials told the website that the well-armed militias have defied Iraqi police who ordered them to cease their activities. British troops are apparently reluctant to intervene, as any confrontation would likely lead to bloodshed, the website contends.

The officials said that the ports have become a major source of income for factions in Al-Basrah. The officials said they fear that "criminal and terrorist gangs" are involved in the counterfeit trade, the profits of which are likely financing terrorism in the area. The contraband includes foodstuffs, weapons, and oil by-products, and the website reported that Al-Basrah's shops are filled with contraband Iranian goods. Police say that there has also been a marked rise in the amount of drugs smuggled from Iran, evidenced by the visible increase in drug use in the city. Major political factions have denied any connection to the militias operating these ports, iraqpress.com reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


REGIONAL NEWS
KUWAITI NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SPEAKER CALLS FOR GREATER UN ROLE IN IRAQ. Kuwait's National Assembly Speaker Jassam al-Khurafi called for an enhanced role for the United Nations in Iraq on 20 April, KUNA reported. Speaking to the 110th Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Mexico City, al-Khurafi said that the UN role in Iraq should be part of an international responsibility to secure international peace and stability. "It is important to strengthen the role of the United Nations throughout the...transitional period in Iraq to help the Iraqi people regain its rights, territorial integrity and natural resources," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRANIAN DELEGATION CONCLUDES FIVE-DAY VISIT TO IRAQ. An Iranian Foreign Ministry delegation concluded a five-day visit to Iraq on 17 April, IRNA reported. The delegation's head, Hussein Sadeqi, reportedly held talks with a number of Iraqi Governing Council members including Jalal Talabani, Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, Muhsin Abd al-Hamid, and Ahmad Chalabi. He also met with Governing Council President for the month of April Mas'ud Barzani and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari, as well as the secretary-general of the Sunni Board of Theologians, Shaykh Haris Sulayman al-Zari. The Iranian delegation was reportedly in Iraq at the invitation of the United States to try and help bring an end to the crisis between radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and coalition forces. However, both Iraqi and Iranian officials have remained tight-lipped about the substance of the talks, and a SCIRI spokesman said on 17 April that the Iranian delegation never met with al-Sadr (see above). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
ANNAN NAMES PANEL TO INVESTIGATE OIL-FOR-FOOD ALLEGATIONS... United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced on 21 April that he has appointed an independent panel to investigation allegations of corruption within the now-defunct oil-for-food program in Iraq, the UN News Center reported (http://www.un.org/news).

Paul A. Volcker, a former chairman of the board of governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, will chair the panel. The panels other two members are Justice Richard Goldstone, a South African and a former prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and Mark Pieth, a Swiss national who is a professor of criminal law and criminology at the University of Basel. Pieth is an expert in money laundering.

The panel will reportedly investigate whether UN procedures for the administration and management of the program were violated, and determine whether any UN officials, personnel, agents, or contractors engaged in any illicit or corrupt activities in the course of their roles within the program. The panel will also determine whether the accounts of the program were maintained according to UN rules and regulations. The panel will be afforded access to all documents and information, written and unwritten, and be able to interview all relevant UN officials and personnel. It is also authorized to seek cooperation from UN member states in the course of its inquiry, the website reported. The panel is expected to provide Annan with a status report within three months of commencing its investigation. The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1538 calling on all member states to fully cooperate with the investigation.

Speaking to reporters in New York on 21 April, Annan said, "As to the impact on [UN] activities in Iraq, I hope the Iraqis realize that even if there have been wrongdoings by certain members on the UN staff, the UN, as a whole, did make genuine effort to fill in their humanitarian needs." "There were hundreds of UN staff who worked very hard and diligently to establish the food distribution system and ensure that supplies did go in and, I think, that positive aspect of it should not be overlooked either," he added. Meanwhile, Volcker vowed to carry out a thorough probe "so that the UN in fact can fulfill the responsibilities and take advantage of the opportunities that arise to contribute to not only the situation in Iraq but situations that are bound to come along in the rest of the world." (Kathleen Ridolfo)


...AS UN TRANSFERS $500 MILLION IN OIL REVENUES TO DEVELOPMENT FUND FOR IRAQ. The United Nations announced on 19 April that it has transferred some $500 million in surplus money from the defunct oil-for-food program to the U.S.-run Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), the UN News Center (http://www.un.org/news) reported the same day. The transfer is required under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1483 of 2003. To date, some $8.1 billion has been transferred from the program to the DFI since the program ceased operations in November (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 November 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
SPAIN WITHDRAWS TROOPS, OTHER COALITION MEMBERS FOLLOW SUIT. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on 18 April, one day after being sworn in as Spain's new prime minister, that he has ordered the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq, international media reported. "This morning...I gave the order to do what was necessary for the Spanish troops stationed in Iraq to come home in the shortest possible time and in the greatest possible safety," Reuters quoted Zapatero as telling Spanish television on 18 April.

Zapatero said that he came to the decision because he did not expect a planned UN resolution to be adopted "that conforms with the conditions we have set for our presence in Iraq." The prime minister said earlier that he would withdraw troops unless the UN took over responsibility for administering Iraq from the United States.

U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on 18 April that the U.S. administration expected Zapatero to pull Spanish troops from Iraq, international media reported. Rice maintained, however, that the coalition in Iraq remains strong. "We know that there are [countries] who are going to have to assess how they see the risk [of staying in Iraq]. But we have a vibrant and robust coalition on the ground," Rice said.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard called Spain's planned withdrawal "a bad decision" that would "give heart to those people who are trying to delay the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq." A U.K. Defense Ministry spokesman said the ministry regrets but respects Spain's decision, while the U.K. Foreign Office declined to comment, Bloomberg reported on 18 April.

Meanwhile, Polish defense officials said they were considering "various" options to make up for the shortfall in Spanish troops, which are under Polish command in south-central Iraq, dpa reported on 19 April. "For the moment, new countries are not stepping forward, but perhaps a new [UN] resolution will encourage other countries to take part in the Iraq mission," Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said, according to dpa.

But in another blow to the Polish contingent, Honduras announced on 19 April that it would withdraw some 370 soldiers from Iraq, international news agencies reported. In an address broadcast on radio and television, Honduran President Ricardo Maduro said, "I have told the coalition countries and other friendly countries that I have decided that the Honduran troops are going to return from Iraq." The announcement was likely no surprise to the United States, since the Honduran government said on 16 March that it would not seek authorization from lawmakers to keep its troops in Iraq past 30 June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 March 2004). The Dominican Republic's secretary of the armed forces, Lieutenant General Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez, followed suit, announcing on 20 April that President Hipolito Mejia has decided to withdraw Dominican troops from Iraq "as soon as possible," Reuters reported. "The president has decided on the withdrawal of our troops in Iraq as he believes there is no need to run unnecessary risks," Soto Jimenez said.

Some 115 Nicaraguan troops, which also served under Spain in the Polish contingent, departed Iraq as part of a normal troop rotation and have not returned due to a lack of money, Reuters reported. El Salvador has not said whether it will withdraw its forces as well. Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on 20 April that he would withdraw some 450 medical and engineering personnel from Iraq if they are attacked, but the Thai Senate voted the same day to keep the troops in Iraq, international media reported. Albania, Australia, Italy, and Japan said this week that they would not withdraw troops from Iraq, while the chief of the Bulgarian General Staff, General Nikola Kolev, said that the defense budget could not fund the dispatch of additional troops to Iraq.

South Korea sent 330 military engineers and medics to Al-Nasiriyah on 21 April, Yonhap news agency reported. The noncombatants are the first half of a third batch of soldiers to be sent to the city, the news agency said. Some 660 troops in total will replace a 463-member unit scheduled to return to South Korea this month after spending six months in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


BLAIR ADVOCATES 'CENTRAL ROLE' FOR UN IN IRAQ. In an address to the British Parliament on 19 April, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair called for a central role for the United Nations in Iraq to be secured through a new UN Security Council resolution, the BBC reported.

"We will hold absolutely to the 30 June timetable for handover of sovereignty. We will work with the UN secretary-general's representative, Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi, and all members of the UN Security Council to secure a new Security Council resolution to set out the new arrangements," Blair said. "That is the vision. We will stay the course until it becomes the reality. I hope that the whole international community will come together to support it," he added.

At a European Union foreign ministerial meeting on 17 April, EU officials supported a strong UN role in Iraq according to the website of the Irish EU presidency (http://www.eu2004.ie). "The EU looks forward to the United Nations playing a growing role, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council in the run-up to the transfer of sovereignty," European Council President Brian Cowen was quoted as saying. "The EU is committed to supporting the role of the UN and is ready to provide assistance. We have asked the High Representative [Javier Solana] and the [European] Commission to continue their work on a medium-term strategy that will set out how the EU can play a role in support of the political process and in the reconstruction of Iraq," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT EXTENDS TOURS OF 20,000 SOLDIERS. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced on 15 April that the U.S. military has extended the tour of duty for some 20,000 soldiers in Iraq by three months, iht.com reported on 16 April. The decision was made to give U.S. commanders in Iraq extra firepower to deal with the insurgency, according to the website.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Baghdad on 15 April. He told reporters at a press briefing that U.S. Central Command commander General John Abizaid and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez had asked for more capability, adding, "that capability will, as in the past, be provided to our commanders in the field." Both Myers and Sanchez, who also attended the briefing, said there is a "common thread" to the resistance -- whether it be fighters in Al-Fallujah or supporters of anticoalition cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- in Iraq that is trying to impede progress in the country. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


BUSH NOMINATES UN AMBASSADOR TO HEAD BAGHDAD EMBASSY. U.S. President George W. Bush nominated UN Ambassador John Negroponte to be the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, international media reported on 19 April.

Negroponte will head the largest U.S. mission in history, with a staff of over 3,000 Americans and Iraqis, washingtonpost.com reported on 20 April. "He is somebody that's coming out of several years of service to the UN, so he knows the UN world. He knows the international community," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said of the new ambassador. Negroponte will work closely with the UN to coordinate the political transition after the 30 June transfer of power, including national direct elections and the drafting of a permanent constitution. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


LEAKED CPA MEMO CLAIMS INSTABILITY, MISTAKES IN IRAQ. A memo written by a U.S. government official working for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in March detailing the precarious situation on the ground in Iraq has been leaked by a Western intelligence official, seattleweekly.com reported in its 21-27 April edition. The memo's author contends that many of the current problems in Iraq stem from decisions made by CPA and Pentagon officials about how to administer the country over the past year. Excerpts from the leaked memo were also published on the theherald.co.uk website on 21 April.

The author, whom seattleweekly.com describes as someone who advocated the U.S. policy of transforming the Middle East (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 December 2002) as well as the overthrow of the Hussein regime, lists a number of observations he made in the field while working for the CPA. The memo was written to a superior in Baghdad, and reportedly circulated among other CPA officials.

The author criticizes the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, saying that it is rife with cronyism and corruption. "In retrospect," he writes, "both for political and organizational reasons, the decision to allow the Governing Council to pick 25 ministers did the greatest damage. Not only did we endorse nepotism, with men choosing their sons and brothers-in-law; but we also failed to use our prerogative to shape a system that would work.... Our failure to promote accountability has hurt us."

The memo later contends that the corruption of a number of Iraqi ministers should not be tolerated, and suggests taking action against at least four ministers, whose names have been edited from the document. One minister, whose name was edited, is said in the memo to have allegedly taken kickbacks. This case "should be especially serious for us," the memo notes, "since [the minister] was one of the two ministers who met the President [George W. Bush] and had his picture taken with him." Seattleweekly.com reports that only two ministers have been photographed with U.S. President Bush: Municipalities and Public Works Minister Nasreen Mustafa Sideek Barwari, and Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samarra'i.

The memo then discusses the potential damage caused to the reputation of the United States as an occupying power in Iraq by these choices. The United States "share[s] culpability in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis" for engendering a cronyistic state; since "we appointed the Governing Council members...their corruption is our corruption." The memo then identifies two individuals, whose names were edited but are apparently Governing Council members, who were able to exclude what the website calls "certain strains" of Shi'a from obtaining ministerial-level positions. Iraqis blame CPA administrator Bremer for this, because the CPA had assured Iraqis that even if they were excluded from positions in the Governing Council, they would not be excluded from the overall political process. The United States also failed by not acknowledging that the constituencies of some high-profile Governing Council members "are not based on ideology, but rather on the muscle of their respective personal militias and the patronage which we allow them to bestow."

Perhaps ironically, the author praises Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi and claims that Chalabi has not received enough support from the United States, while criticizing the Kurdish leadership. Chalabi is a controversial figure who reportedly has fallen out of favor with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. State Department. He and his party are supported by the Pentagon, however, which gives the INC a monthly stipend of around $340,000 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 11 March 2004). Meanwhile, his newspaper, "Al-Mu'tamar," has been outspoken in its criticism of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. The INC's Free Iraqi Forces, a U.S.-funded militia, was dismantled by the coalition in May after reports of improper conduct by its members (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 May 2003). Kurdish peshmerga forces, meanwhile, remain the only militia authorized by the coalition to operate in Iraq.

Moreover, the memo's author criticizes the CPA for not distributing more power away from Baghdad to the 18 Iraqi governorates, and contends that such a decision has contributed to the potential for civil war in Iraq. The effect, he claims, has been a "desperation to dominate Baghdad, and an absolutism born of regional isolation." "Baghdadis have an uneasy sense that they are heading towards civil war," the memo adds. "Sunnis, Shias, and Kurd professionals say that they themselves, friends, and associates are buying weapons fearing for the future." The author further argues that the "trigger for a civil war" will come as the result of "deeper conflicts that revolve around patronage and absolutism" reaching a flash point, seattleweekly.com writes.

Meanwhile, Iraqi police, the author claims, are selling CPA-provided weapons on the streets for cash. The "CPA is ironically driving the weapons market," the memo states. "Iraqi police sell their U.S.-supplied weapons on the black market; they are promptly re-supplied. Interior Ministry weapons buy-backs keep the price of arms high." In addition, he writes that the CPA "doesn't know what to do" with regards to the outlawed militias operating in Iraq, which he calls "frightening." The "CPA's authority essentially ends on 30 June, and any Iraqi incentive to get rid of the militias is likely to go away after that date, as sending U.S. troops around Iraq against Iraqis isn't likely to endear the new Iraqi government to its citizens." The author further argues that it is a "mistake" for the coalition to adhere to a policy of "not rock[ing] the boat" with the Iranians as "the Iranian actors with which the State Department likes to do business...lack the power to deliver on promises" to not interfere in Iraqi affairs. Iranian interference in Iraq has become almost pervasive in recent months, the memo adds. (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 April 2004). (Kathleen Ridolfo)


Compiled by Kathleen Ridolfo.

Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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