Radio Free Iraq … maybe not.

In a further sign that the United States is not serious about promoting a democractic Iraq, Clandestine Radio Watch reports that Radio Hurriah, the Iraqi National Congress’ station for broadcasting into Iraq has been de-funded by the U.S. Department of State. This follows the shuttering of Hurriah TV earlier this year.

In a further sign that the United States is not serious about promoting a democractic Iraq, Clandestine Radio Watch reports that Radio Hurriah, the Iraqi National Congress’ station for broadcasting into Iraq has been de-funded by the U.S. Department of State. This follows the shuttering of Hurriah TV earlier this year.
The State Department apparently felt there were already enough stations broadcasting into Iraq, and it has a point — 27 stations beam opposition broadcasts into the country. But most of them operate out of Iraqi Kurdistan and reflect the political and ethnic divisions of that region, Clandestine Radio Watch reports. Also, al-Mustaqbal, Voice of the Brave Armed Forces, and Radio of the Two Rivers (Radio Mesopotamia) operate out of Kuwait using covert American-run transmitters.
This abandonment by the Bush administration is a continuation of the Clinton cold-shouldering of the INC, which has had an on-and-off relationship with Washington over the years. The London-based opposition movement was particularly hung out to dry in 1996 when the CIA worked with the group to topple Saddam in a coup attempt that went disasterously wrong thanks to a lack of funding. When Iraqi troops overran positions in northern Iraq, CIA operatives fled for their lives and many of the INC personnel in Iraq were captured and executed, including the entire local staff of the Iraqi Broadcasting Corp., which had been broadcasting pro-democracy messages from Iraqi Kurdistan.
The other radio stations broadcasting into Iraq tend to focus on the failings of Saddam and promote the one bullet/no war solution to Iraqi’s problems espoused by White House flak Ari Fleischer a few months back. (“The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less [than the cost of war]… There are many options that the President hopes the… people of Iraq will exercise themselves that gets rid of the threat.” — And Secretary of State Colin Powell says regime change isn’t the goal!) Considering the wink and nod to Iraqi democracy the United States has been giving over the last few months, this cut in Hurriah’s funding (which happened in May!) isn’t surprising. And it’s giving rise to suspicions among average Kuwaitis as to what America’s real motives are in the Middle East.
This cuts to the heart of my own ambivalence on the matter of Iraq. I don’t trust the Bush administration to act in any but the most venal, self-serving manner. I don’t believe in going to war and killing innocent people if there’s no greater goal than access to oil and some slippery geopolitical goal of “benign” hegemony that no one will admit to on the record. But if there were a real commitment to democracy and a free Iraq that was truly liberated not just from Saddam’s thuggery but from the United States’ ambitions as well, then I might just consider that something worth fighting for.

Of course, you know, this means war

bombs
Photo courtesy of the BBC

First off, my apologies for the delay in updating the site. This past week, I got snowed under by a combination of outside assignments and a maternal visit. I’m not a slacker. Really. Also, to whoever just donated $5, thanks very much! You pushed me over the $100 mark for donations.
Oddly enough, it’s been a bit of a quiet week on the Iraqi front, with any news mostly pushed to the side by Trent Lott winking at the segregationists and then saying, in effect, “I wasn’t winking, I had something in my eye.” As they say in the movies, “It’s quiet … too quiet.”
But the war machine moves on, although perhaps with more hesitation than many people think. Chief of the Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, and the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James L. Jones, worry that the current war plans are too risky. The plans, as reported by the Washington Post call for “a fast-moving ground attack without an overwhelming number of reinforcements on hand.” Instead, the war would get off to a “rolling start” with more troops being flown in. Also, the armored units, instead of traveling a predetermined distance and pausing to allow slower units to catch up, would charge across the desert until they run into opposition. They would then blow things up real good.
That’s the current plan, anyway, and it’s giving Shinseki and Jones, who sit on the Joint Chiefs, the heebie-jeebies. They argue that Paul Wolfowitz’s rosy “house of cards” theory of the life span of Saddam’s reign is overly optimistic. The generals argue that worst-case planning is necessary, especially in the case of a “Fortress Baghdad” scenario that involves heavy street fighting with the Iraqis using chemical and biological agents. (Hm. Have Shinseki and Jones been reading this entry in which the Ba’ath party has a contingency plan to ring Baghdad with the Republican Guard? The details of the Iraqi defense plan, first reported in the London-based Arabic daily paper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi are thus:

“First, deployment of the Republican Guard forces at the periphery of the cities, primarily Baghdad, to resist any American ground offensive that seeks to take them. The mission of the Republican [Guard] forces will also be to resist any attempt at internal Iraqi rebellion, such as the one that followed the American offensive in January 1991 in the South and the North.”
“Second, deployment of special forces that will include the ‘elite of the elite’ – in his words – inside the capital Baghdad, so that they can participate in street combat if the American forces or their allies enter. Then, will begin fierce resistance operations, such as those carried out in occupied Palestine.”
“Third, deployment of groups of ‘Saddam’s Fedayeen’ within the capital and in other cities, to control the internal situation and participate in the resistance operations.” (Translation provided courtesy of MEMRI)

The “good” news, I guess, is that if it does come down to horrible fighting, block by city block, and Saddam strikes back with chemical or biological weapons, a majority of Americas are fully prepared to nuke him.
Six in 10 Americans would support a nuclear response, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll. Yipes! More encouragingly, however, 58 percent of respondents said President George W. Bush had not presented enough evidence to warrant attacking Iraq, up from 50 percent in September. There seems to be some concern over Bush’s motives for attacking Iraq and the public worries he’s moving too quickly for their taste. Fifty-eight percent also want to see the United Nations as a supporting cast member. Perhaps in the Gulf War II movie, it will be credited as “second international organization on the left.”
(As an aside, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that the United States had no plans to remove Saddam from power. “If he cooperates, then the basis of changed-regime policy has shifted because his regime has, in fact, changed its policy to one of cooperation,” Powell said. Note it’s no longer “regime change” but “changed regime” as the goal. Orwell must be proud.)
Oh, and in case anyone thought a war might be averted, the United States will give Iraq’s dossier it turned in last weekend an “F.” With the news that the United States would not be accepting Iraq’s excuse that the dog ate its chemical weapons, the price of gold rose and the dollar fell, indicating that markets feel war is now inevitable. I’ve been saying it since July: It’s not a matter of will the United States go to war, but when. And it’s still looking like February or March. Stratfor agrees, saying that Australia has been advised to be ready to gear up in March. The British military has also begun leaking to the press saying the summer heat would not be a “crucial factor” in an attack on Iraq.
In other news, the Associated Press is now reporting that Turkey is preparing to deploy 65,000 to 75,000 troops in northern Iraq in the event of a U.S. invasion. I reported on this back in October. Radio Australia is reporting that Turkey has already put 10,000 to 15,000 troops on the Turkish-Iraqi border in order to counter Kurdish rebels operating cross border. The goal of the Turks is to prevent the Kurds from forming a state in the fog of war resulting from a dust-up to the south. The Turks would also be in a position to seize the oil fields of Kirkuk and Mosul, something they’ve wanted to do since 1923 when they were denied to Ataturk. Ankara is not going to miss out on the spoils of this war, especially since the first one and the decade of sanctions demolished Turkey’s economy. It’s payback time.

Kurdish rebels armed on Turkish-Iraq border

ane’s Defense Weekly reported (sorry, no link) last month that the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), the successor to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), has armed itself with man-portable surface-to-air (SAM) missiles along the Turkish-Iraqi border. The news, leaked by the Turkish military to the national press, underscores the Kurdish rebels’ concerns that Turkey may be planning an invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan in conjunction with a U.S.-Iraq war.

Jane’s Defense Weekly reported (sorry, no link) last month that the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), the successor to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), has armed itself with man-portable surface-to-air (SAM) missiles along the Turkish-Iraqi border. The news, leaked by the Turkish military to the national press, underscores the Kurdish rebels’ concerns that Turkey may be planning an invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan in conjunction with a U.S.-Iraq war.
According to the report, KADEK has acquired 70 to 80 Strela-2 missiles, and is looking to procure more. (These are labeled by NATO as the SA-7 “Grail”.) The arms are positioned in the Harkuk and Kandil mountains in northern Iraq, and the group is looking to further deploy the missiles in the Haftanin and Garadag mountains. KADEK is also reportedly seeking mines and other ordinance to be deployed along the border with Turkey’s Sirnak province. Fighters have been repositioned to the evacuated villages of Haftanin, Metine, Zap, Avasin-Basyan and Harkuk in Northern Iraq. These weapons would pose a serious threat to Turkish armed forces operating in the region.
The weapons, worth about $200,000, have been acquired from Armenia, Iran and Iraq in the last couple of months. Most of the arms are Russian made.

Victims of Arabization

BINISLAWA DISPLACED PERSONS CAMP, Iraqi Kurdistan — The day is hot, damn hot. It’s the middle of July, and the air is dry and thirsty with the thermometer bumping against the 45 degree Celsius mark. Little dust devils curl up around my heels as I walk. Yet inside a tent that 11 people call home, the water is cold and refreshing and the hospitality is genuine.

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Wahab Mashoor Muhammad and his sons © 2002 Christopher Allbritton

BINISLAWA DISPLACED PERSONS CAMP, Iraqi Kurdistan — The day is hot, damn hot. It’s the middle of July, and the air is dry and thirsty with the thermometer bumping against the 45 degree Celsius mark. Little dust devils curl up around my heels as I walk. Yet inside a tent that 11 people call home, the water is cold and refreshing and the hospitality is genuine.
Abdullah Salam, my guide from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and I have come here to Binislawa where thousands of tent homes are set up and tens of thousands of people wait for relief from … someone. As we approach one tent, Wahab Mashoor Muhammad, 49, greets us and welcomes us into his home.
It’s not much, to be honest. The floor is poured concrete and the walls are cinderblocks packed with mud to hold them in place. Poles support the canvas “roof” which is all that protects them from the winds and the cold of winter. There is no heat or running water. But it’s clean, and Wahab’s wife and daughters arrange pillows for us to sit on. Another daughter brings me a glass of water from a plastic cooler.
He’s been here since July 18, 2001, almost a year to the day that I visit. He’s from Kaznafar, a village outside Kirkuk, the largest Kurdish city in Iraq, where he was a taxi driver. He was forced to leave his home with a few blankets, some kitchen items and his family when he refused to change his nationality from Kurdish to Arab under a program called “Arabization” that Saddam Hussein’s regime has been engaging in since the 1970s. In other parts of the world, it would be called ethnic cleansing.
“I’m a Kurd,” he says. “How can I be an Arab or change my nationality? It’s wrong for a man to deny his nationality.”
Arabization has been going on since the 1920s, ever since the Kingdom of Iraq was created out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire by the United Kingdom. But it was intensified after 1975 after the Algerian Agreement between Iran and Iraq, under which the Shah cut his support for Kurdish rebels in Iraq. Kurds are forcibly evicted from their homes in Kirkuk, Mosul and other oil-rich regions of northern Iraq unless they agree to have their registered nationality changed to Arab. If they refuse, which many do, they are expelled from their homes, usually with only a few hours to gather their possessions and turned north, to the Kurdish enclave in the north. Arab families are lured from the south to the vacant Kurdish homes in the north with money, land and pickup trucks, all confiscated from the displaced Kurds. It is estimated that more than 8,000 families live in Binislawa. That’s more than 50,000 people.
NATO went to war in 1998-99 in Kosovo and Yugoslavia to prevent this kind of stuff.
But changing his ethnicity isn’t all Wahab was expected to do. The Iraqis demanded he join the elite Jerusalem Brigade, which now holds positions about 20 km outside of Arbil. So named because Saddam has said this fighting force will be the one to liberate Jerusalem from the Jews, the Kurds say that the road to Jerusalem runs through Kurdistan. Wahab was being told he must be prepared to make war on his own people.
Since he refused all this, he was expelled, along with his wife, his mother and his eight children. Now they all live in a tent, and they might be considered the lucky ones.

  • In 1983, 8,000 Kurds were “disappeared” by the Iraqi regime.
  • In 1987-88, 180,000 people disappeared or were executed under the Anfal Campaign. “Anfal” is a principle from the Koran and it allows the looting of a non-Muslim population when Muslims conquer them.
  • In 1988, Halabja became a nightmare when Saddam used chemical weapons against women and children, killing 5,000 people in about 15 minutes. More than 10,000 people were injured and the region suffers from lingering health problems. In all, more than 200 villages were gassed and no one is sure how many people died. There have been no studies on the after-effects of the chemicals on the population or the environment.

So, Wahab is understandably anxious to see Saddam go. “If Saddam is overthrown, I would run back to Kirkuk!” says Wahab. “My family has been living there for 300 years.”
He may get his wish come February.

Al Qa’ida branch established in Palestine

MEMRI details a posting on a bulletin board on the Web site Mojahedoon.net, in which reader Abu Banan posted an announcement of the establishment of “the Islamic Al-Qa’ida Organization in Palestine.”

This is also from MEMRI, and details a posting on a bulletin board on the Web site Mojahedoon.net, in which Abu Banan posted an announcement of the establishment of “the Islamic Al-Qa’ida Organization in Palestine.” The link to the announcement is allegedly here, but I wasn’t able to connect to it or the main Mojahedoon.net site. [Update Dec. 9: It seems Mojahedoon.net is suffering from denial-of-service attacks, which is why it’s currently unreachable.]
The translation, courtesy of MEMRI, of the announcement is as follows:

"...Brothers in Islam: From the land of the Night Journey and the Ascension to Heaven, we announce to the Islamic nation the establishment of the Islamic Al-Qa'ida Organization in Palestine, which will serve as a powerful basis for restoring the rights of our Arab and Islamic people in Palestine, [and] will defeat the Zionist Jewish invaders [and] return them to the place from whence they came. We declare that the squadrons of our martyrs will strike with all their strength at the Zionist and American arrogance in the region, and that the blood of our men in Palestine, in Afghanistan, and in Kashmir will [not] be shed unavenged..."

"Islamic Al-Qa'ida in Palestine joins its voice with the voices of the mujahideen in Palestine in its resistance to the partial and submissive solutions, and will accept nothing but the full liberation of the Palestinian land. Similarly, we call to the mujahideen in the Al-Nusseirat camp in the Gaza Strip to immediately stop the fighting between Hamas and the people of the Palestinian Authority, because these deeds serve only the murderous Jews, the Great Satans. From the land of the Night Journey we again declare a vow of allegiance to the Emir of the mujahideen, the leader Osama bin Laden, by means of whom Allah strengthened the Nation of Islam."

"Brothers in Islam: The Jihad against the [camp of] heresy and its regimes and symbols has arrived. The mujahideen of the Nation must rid themselves of the regimes of heresy and deception in our Arab countries. We call on our brothers in Islam in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to attack the American interests and the heretical institutions of apostasy [i.e. the regimes of these countries]. Allah willing, we will be the victors!"

"Death to the Jews and Zionism; strength to Allah, Allah is great, and victory to Islam!"

"The Islamic Al-Qa'ida Organization
The Stars of the Martyrs [in Arabic, Kawakib Al-Shuhada]
Ramadan 29, 1423 [December 4, 2002]"