The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .
APRIL 20, 1998 I. SAHHAF: IRAQ HAS MET UN RESOLUTIONS, REUTERS, APR 18 II. SADDAM WATCHES PARADE BY VOLUNTEER ARMY, REUTERS, APR 18 III. IRAQI PAPER: TIME LIMIT FOR PALACE INSPECTIONS, REUTERS, APR 18 IV. TARIQ AZIZ CALLS FOR LIFTING SANCTIONS, INA, APR 3 NOTE: Max Van der Stoel's report on human rights in Iraq can be found at http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu4/chrrep/98chr67.htm or at the INC website http://www.inc.org.uk Last week representatives from the Russian and French embassies in Baghdad met with both Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani in Northern Iraq and advised them to come to terms with Saddam. Yesterday, the NYT, "Clean Bill for Iraqis on A-Arms? Experts Upset," reported on the criticism of the IAEA's near clean bill of health on Iraq's nuclear program. "Some American experts are raising alarms and charging the agency with complacency . . . Iraq 'has already learned enough to be able to build a nuclear weapon in less than a year,' David Albright, president of the independent Institute for Science and International Security in Washington and a former inspector for the agency in Iraq, wrote in the May-June issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist. All that is required is enough enriched uranium or plutonium, which are available on the black market." In yesterday's lead editorial, the Wash Post warned that soon Iraq and its allies can be "expected to resume lobbying for a phony certificate of compliance [from UNSCOM]. The last time that happened, the United States found itself with no appealing options. One wonders whether it is using this interval to put itself in a more advantageous position next time around." Indeed, already, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Sahhaf, is in NYC to lobby for precisely that. Sahhaf stopped in Cairo, Sat and Sun, en route to the US, and met the Egyptian President and Foreign Minister, as well as the Secretary General of the Arab League. In Cairo, Sat, Sahhaf said that Iraq had implemented the UNSC resolutions and "It is Iraq's right to ask for an end to the sanctions." Also, on Sat, Iraq's "volunteer army" paraded for six hours in Baghdad's "Grand Festivities Square," a large outdoor arena marked by two sets of enormous forearms, cast from Saddam's own, holding enormous crossed swords [see Samir al Khalil, pseud for Kanan Makiya, The Monument, University of California Press, 1991]. Iraq's "volunteer army" arose earlier this year. A letter Saddam had sent the Bath party leadership Jan 16 was read on Iraqi TV Jan 17, after his speech that day, marking the anniversary of the start of the Gulf war, in which he proclaimed that Iraq "is irrevocably determined to wage the greater jihad for the lifting of the blockade." A campaign to enlist the population in "voluntary" paramilitary training followed. The training program, such that it was, is now completed and the occasion was marked on Sat as the "Day of Gallantry." Also, on Sat, the government newspaper, al Jumhuriya, ran a front page editorial asserting that "visits to presidential sites is not an open process without a time ceiling" as Iraq's oil minister had told Deputy UNSCOM Chairman, Charles Duelfer, and Duelfer explained in his annex to the palace inspections report. Not only does it seem Saddam has something in mind, but it would seem that he intended to wait for the completion of the palace inspections and then make another move. Already on Apr 3, the day after those inspections ended, Tariq Aziz asserted that the result of the inspections "makes it imperative for the U.N. Security Council to seriously work for the lifting of the eight-year-old unjust embargo on Iraq and which has been prolonged by the false allegations on Iraq's position." That statement was followed by a number of newspaper articles to the same effect. Then, on Apr 13, the Iraqi cabinet issued a similar call [see "Iraq News," Apr 16]. On Apr 16, the RCC and Bath party leadership issued a joint statement repeating the cabinet statement [see "Iraq News," Apr 17]. There is every reason to believe Saddam intends to do something in the not too distant future that he thinks will further the lifting of sanctions. This is often how the regime signals its moves. An official, like Tariq Aziz, makes a statement. The same point may appear in the press. Then it is repeated in formal statements by various authorities, making its way up the Iraqi food chain. When the RCC-Party leadership, the highest authority in Iraq, save for Saddam himself, says something, it is a serious statement. "Iraq News" can recall no occasion in which such statements were not followed by action, even if it may be difficult beforehand to anticipate what that action will be.