Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Baathist spy games
By Darya IbrahimSLEMANI

Media reports of alleged Baathist spies in KRG ministerial posts and Kurdish party ranks takes the region by storm. Are former Baathist spies part of the Kurdistan government?

The Kurdish community was scandalized last month when local newspapers Hawlati and Awena ran sensational reports about Baathist spies working at various levels in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The reports alleged that these individuals used to supply information about the Kurdish political parties and activities to the intelligence apparatus of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The newspapers went so far as to reveal the names of these alleged spies, the individuals on whom they were spying and the remuneration they received for their work. The list of purported spies included figures currently holding high-level posts in the KRG and the two leading Kurdish political parties. According to a report in the 27 September edition of Hawlati, a former Kurdish minister was a spy tasked with assassinating Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

The report included the copy of a letter from the former regime’s intelligence apparatus
instructing the former Iraqi Vice President to reward “Abdul Ghani Taha Bazaz”, also known as “Mula Ghani”, former KRG Justice Minister. In another letter, “Mula Ghani” allegedly responded, demanding the full amount of money before he went ahead with the assassination plot. The sensational aspect of the spy reports is not simply that they name names, but that they also provide details about the operations they carried out, and the payment they received. The payment sometimes came in the form of oil coupons.

In an interview published in Cawder weekly newspaper on 16 October, Mohammad Haji Mahmoud, secretary general of the Kurdistan Socialist Party and member of parliament in the current KRG cabinet, said: “We can’t say they are spies yet, because some of them were simply working with the Baathists, but they were not spies. We are now calling all of them spies, and this is wrong. This Baathist spies story is not new. These files first appeared in 1991, but the problem was that the newspapers were not allowed to talk about such things as they are now. Back in September 2003, the subject came up again, but nothing was done about it.”

Haji Mahmoud added: “In Algeria, anyone found to be a spy at any time will be thrown out of the country. In some other countries, they may be forgiven. In our country, it is the reverse. There were some people, whom I helped not to be arrested, and a few months later, they became ministers in the KRG. Just a few months ago, the ‘Jash’ [Kurdish word for Kurdish mercenaries who worked for the Baathists] were demanding blood money from those peshmargas who killed members of their family. What’s next? They will demand blood money for the murders at Amna Suraka [former Baathist Security Office in Slemani]?”

According to Haji Mahmoud, the Kurdistan Parliament should strip the suspected spies who are currently in high level positions, of their power and immunity, no matter if they are the head of a party, a member of parliament or a minister.

"They should send them home, and take them to court because so long as they have immunity, the court cannot give them notification or question them. This must start with Parliament.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Friends in need
By Basit GharibSLEMANI

Why the Americans have a hard time keeping friends, but have no trouble making enemies.
The United States builds its relations according to its own political and economic interests, easily abandoning friends if its interests are endangered. This statement will come as no surprise to observers of American foreign policy. In the 1950s and 1960s, the US backed southern Vietnam by launching a war against northern Vietnam. The history of that war is well known. When American interests were endangered and anti-war pressures increased inside America, Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor, secretly and without consulting with the government of southern Vietnam, met with Doc To, North Vietnam’s envoy, to sign a cease-fire agreement. When the north Vietnamese forces defeated the forces of south Vietnam, and occupied the south’s capital “Saygon” on 30 April 1975, the American forces immediately withdrew, abandoning tens of thousands of employees and supporters to be slaughtered by north Vietnamese forces. Many similar cases can be found throughout American history. That’s why it’s hard for Americans to keep friends, and all too easy for them to make enemies. When Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in the US-led invasion of Iraq, many people in the country welcomed the Americans as liberators and allies. But the welcome party was short-lived. Today, this course has been reversed, and except for the Kurdistan Region, in many places across Iraq, the American forces have more enemies than friends. In April 2003, backed by the Americans themselves, we entered the city of Kirkuk in order to reopen the city’s TV channel. We took with us all the requirements of the channel. We didn’t even take a penny from the Americans. We did that all on our own, despite the fact that the Americans were generously pouring money out at the time. Relaunching the channel at that sensitive period was in the best interest of the Americans. They needed it to communicate directly with the people. During a two-month period, we broadcasted thousands of the American forces’ statements, press conferences and television interviews by the American commanders from Colonel William Mayville, who was heading the reconstruction efforts in the city, to civil authorities, and those who were in charge of the city’s security and others. Yet, we were always the target of the American forces’ tantrums. They constantly attacked us, sometimes arresting our pershmarga guards and confiscating their weapons, which were given to them with the full knowledge of the Americans. In one case, they even used tanks and helicopters. Although we took our complaints to Colonel Mayville, they went on with their violations until they forced us to pack up and leave for Slemani. The Americans’ whimsical behavior came as a surprise to us. We learned eventually that despite all the cooperation they received from us, there were Baathist elements within the staff at the channel, and they had been stirring trouble, sabotaging our relations with the Americans. Their efforts had prevailed; the Americans believed them, instead of listening to us. That’s why it’s easy for the Americans to make enemies and hard for them to make friends. Remarkably, our committed, stateless and oppressed people continue to view the Americans as liberators and allies. We hope that the Americans take this into consideration and put an end to their erratic, interest-oriented behavior, in order to keep our friendship and “not throw us to the wolves,” as the old Kurdish saying goes.

The writer is editor of KHAK magazine.