News

Iraq News APRIL 2, 1998

By Laurie Mylroie

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 2, 1998
I.  IRAQ STRENGTHENS POSITION IN SOUTH, NORTH, AL SHARQ AL AWSAT, MAR 29
II. SADDAM VISITS AL DUR, IRAQ TV, MAR 17

   Since the Feb 23 Annan accord, Saddam has moved to strengthen his 
position internally and demonstrate that he is ever more in charge.  
Although he rarely makes public appearances, in March alone. Saddam made 
seven such appearances in tours outside Baghdad.  Most were to Sunni 
Arab areas, although on Mar 25, he went to the Shi'a shrine cities of 
Najaf and Karbala.
   On Mar 13, Saddam visited Tuz, just outside the Kurdish-controlled 
region.  The Baghdad paper, Al-Iraq, Mar 14, published the text of his 
speech there under the title, "The Kurds in the Conscience and 
Sentiments of the Leader."   
   Saddam spoke of Baathist rule in the Kurdish cities, as if Baghdad's 
return to the region were a foregone conclusion.  Speaking explicitly of 
how party members should deal with the Kurds, Saddam said, "We will slap 
he who deviates from the path after we tell him to avoid this deviation. 
And if he does not return, we will slap him."  Reportedly, that has 
given pause to Massoud Barzani, who made his stunningly short-sighted 
deal with the devil in Aug 1996.  In the 1980's Saddam killed 8,000 of 
the Barzani tribe, some 20% of Massoud's kinsmen.  
    The Saudi-owned, Al Sharq al Awsat, Mar 29, had a particularly 
interesting report on these internal Iraqi developments.  Republican 
Guard units have been deployed near the Kurdish region, where the army 
has held exercises, while new governors, all generals, have been 
appointed in three southern provinces.   
   In Basra province, the new governor is Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim Khammash 
al-Tikriti, who was commander of the now disbanded 7th corps during the 
Gulf war.  In the mid-90's he was an assistant Chief of Staff before 
taking charge of a Republican Guard division.  As his name suggests, he 
is a Tikriti.  
   In Maysan province, the new governor is Gen. Mahmud Fayzi al Hazza, 
b. 1946, another Tikriti.  He commanded the 1st corps in 1990 and then 
the 5th corps. 
   In Wasit province, the new governor is Gen. Mahmud Shukr Shahin, who 
was director of military intelligence in the early 1980's and later 
became an assistant chief of staff. 
   In addition to the more general demonstration of Baghdad's control, 
these measures may also be a pre-emptive move against any possible US 
decision to impose a no-armor zone, an idea mooted in the context of 
Congressional efforts to change US policy from "containing" Saddam to 
ousting him.
   Iraqi television's report on Saddam's March 17 visit to the Sunni 
Arab town of al-Dur gives some idea of the megalomaniacal quality of  
those tours.  As Khalid Bin Sultan, the Saudi general who was formally 
Schwarzkopf's co-commander during the Gulf war, wrote in his memoirs, 
Desert Warrior [Harper Collins, 1995] p. 444, "In Saddam Hussein we were 
not dealing with a normal man." 
   Saddam, in his visit to al-Dur, took telephone calls and then 
"permitted some [Iraqis] to meet him and shake hands with him."  Later, 
he climbed a dias "to answer the greetings of the masses, who received 
him with shouts of praise and dancing."  And "in reply to remarks made 
by a citizen to the effect that the allegiance of the al-Dur population 
to his excellency the president is absolute, may God watch over him, his 
excellency the president said, The allegiance of all Iraqis is absolute, 
God willing."