DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 13, 2005
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's United Iraqi (Shiite) Alliance of 16 parties pulled ahead of the pack in Iraq's first democratic election, earning 48% and a block of 132 seats in the new national assembly - but not an absolute majority. In an earlier report published on February 4, debkafile predicted that the UIA would not win a majority of the new house despite its claim of 60 of the electorate. Iraq's 8.55 million voters (58% turnout) awarded 25.4% to the United Kurdish List, placing it in second place, followed by interim PM Allawi's list with a disappointing 14%. The message the Iraqi voter broadcast loud and clear, therefore, was that any future regime in Baghdad must be based on a Shiite-Kurdish coalition. No single faction can rule alone. Ambassador John Negroponte and Ford are making every effort to keep Iyad Allawi in the job of prime minister. Intense wheeling and dealing has been afoot in recent days to enhance his chances leading to an offer of the presidency to Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 4, 2005
By Thursday night, February 3, 15% of the 8 million ballots (representing a 57% turnout according to official figures) cast in Iraq's January 30 general election for 275 national assembly seats had been counted.
Although it is early days for extrapolation, debkafile's Iraq specialists list interesting preliminary results: App. 20% is a better-than-predicted gain for the group headed by pro-American Allawi and outgoing president Ghazi Yawar and has raised Allawi's hopes of staying in office. The prime minister and president need a two-thirds majority in the national assembly to be confirmed. The Allawi-Yawar group came out in top place in the northern city of Mosul; in second spot behind the UIA in large Shiite constituencies like Baghdad, Najef and Karbala. Comment: This windfall owes much to Allawi's successful performance as prime minister and his widespread popularity.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 31, 2005
Iraq's epic general election for a 275-member national assembly Sunday, January 30, was a success by the very fact of its taking place. Despite the violence leading up to the event and promised bloodbath, a surprising number of Iraqis were not intimidated and turned out in larger or smaller numbers almost everywhere. Iraq's Baath loyalists and al Qaeda's three organizations - the Iraqi group led by Abu Mussab al Zarqawi, Ansar al Sunna and Ansar al Islam - managed by a concerted effort to pull off some 16 suicide attacks killing more than 30 Iraqis. Yet they failed to derail the election and therefore reduced their leverage in post-election Iraq. debkafile's Iraq experts reveal that, while the turnout is officially estimated at 60%, the real figure will probably turn out to be quite a bit lower, no more than 40-45% - in itself an exceptional feat. The other surprising manifestation was the high proportion of Iraqi women voters - appraised at more than 55% of the total.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 27, 2005
Despite the Iraqi Sunni boycott, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi's imprecations against the general election, and the unprecedented level of bloodletting, an certain number of the 40,000 polling stations across the country will almost certainly open on time Sunday, January 30. That was one of the starting points on which Gregory Hooker, chief analyst of CENTCOM, the American command running the war in Iraq, presupposed his detailed forecast of election results. This forecast, commissioned by CENTOM commander General John Abizaid, was first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 190 on January 21. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE. The second premise was that orderly vote-counting would likewise take place notwithstanding threats of sabotage. The Shiite Unified Iraqi Alliance list can expect 43.8% = 120 national assembly seats. The next big winner: The Kurdish list - a surprising 36.4% (more than twice their 16-18% proportion of the general population) = 100 seats. Prime Minister Allawi`sThe Iraqi National Accord - 8.1% = 22 seats. (A formula is being actively sought to retain him as premier even if his showing is low.)
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 7, 2004
Many thousands of copies of a professionally produced CD-rom are being circulated in Iraq and Kuwait on behalf of al Qaeda's man in Iraq, the Jordanian terror master Abu Musab Zarqawi. Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi is singled out as prime target. The 45-minute disk appears to be aimed at recruiting fighters. It shows footage of al Qaeda's most striking terrorist attacks in Iraq, runs interviews with suicide bombers and airs war and religious hymns. Zarqawi is the narrator. He personally interviews his "star turn", Abdel al Dusari, whose nom de guerre is "Abu Haras," for a step-by-step demonstration of how a suicide terrorist goes about his mission, first stepping into a bomb truck, then connecting the detonator strapped to his body to the explosive charge, before driving off. When and how he pushes the button at the target location is explained.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 2, 2004
The coordinated car bombing attacks in Baghdad and the northern town of Mosul, quickly condemned by the Vatican, precisely targeted five of the mainstream Christian minorities' places of worship - Armenian, Catholic and Chaldean. At least 15 were killed and many more injured in explosions that rocked the two Iraqi cities. The threat to Italy is addressed to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and gives him 15 days to withdraw his troops from Iraq or endure attack. Operational squads were already roaming through Rome and other cities primed for action, according to the published warning. Other reckonings behind the Iraqi church offensive were less discernible: Al Qaeda is furious over what it sees as the treachery of its Iraqi Baath, Sunni Muslim allies, who are engaged in secret negotiations first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly on July 23 as follows:
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 26, 2004
The last days of June bring closer than ever before the danger of Iraqi Baathist guerrillas and al Qaeda letting loose with chemical and biological weapons which most authoritative sources believe they secretly possess. The menace is not limited to Iraq's borders. A spate of terrorist strikes in Ankara, Antalya, Istanbul and its international airport augurs ill for the 44 world leaders planning to hold their annual NATO summit in Istanbul Monday and Tuesday, June 28-29. The attacks were small in scale and strenuously played down by the Turkish authorities. Nonetheless they marked out the extended reach of the two dangerous organizations and were anxiously watched across the entire Middle East. The Istanbul summit's agenda is dominated by three items of business: 1) Washington's request for troops and military instructors to train and equip the close to quarter of a million recruits the US administration has enlisted to the new Iraqi army, police and the security forces. 2) A decision on the flag under which the instructors' corps will operate - UN or NATO. 3) The Bush Middle East Initiative for democratic and economic reform.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 9, 2004
The UN Security Council resolution that stamped Iraq's provisional government with international approval threatens to confront that government with its first crisis. The Kurds are threatening to walk out, dismayed by the omission from the text of any reference to the interim constitution which enshrined Kurdish autonomous rule in three northern Iraqi provinces. The crucial provision was excluded - notwithstanding the Herculean efforts of the two Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani - thus satisfying Iraq's majority Shiites and most of the Arab world. Iraqi's new public works minister, Nasreen Barwari, a Kurd and one of six women in the 33-member government, expressed shock at the UN decision. "All the struggles we made last year are lost...I question how the document stands up legally. If the leadership calls us to withdraw from the government, we will do so."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 31, 2004
Nine Americans died in and around Fallujah 30 miles west of Baghdad in a particularly horrendous spasm of blood-letting Wednesday, March 31. Exactly one week after assuming responsibility for the most intractable town in Iraq in a troop rotation, the California-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force suffered the loss of five men in a single attack: a bomb exploded under their vehicle in a village near Fallujah. Inside the city, gunmen attacked two civilian cars carrying four US civilian contractors. The cars were torched by a dancing lynch mob which screaming Islamic slogans dragged the bodies through the city, dismembered and decapitated them and hanged them by their feet. This was a calculatedly vicious action executed by al Qaeda to remind the Americans of their Mogadishu debacle October 1993. Fallujah is the most extreme Sunni Muslim city in Iraq. Some of the medressas closed down in Afghanistan and Pakistan ended up in Fallujah and Damascus. It is the obvious launching pad for the threatened al Qaeda spring offensive against the US presence in Iraq. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 16, 2004
The Washington-Jerusalem track has generated a sudden spurt of activity after several sluggish months. Three administration officials are heading for Jerusalem to examine the details of the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral evacuation plans, indicating that cold US disapproval has made way for a spark of interest. Stephen Hadley, deputy head of the National Security Council, Elliot Abrams, NSC member and William Burns, State Department Middle East emissary, will therefore present themselves to Sharon on Thursday, February 19, for some rapid-fire questions and answers. They will also lay down certain conditions. Sharon's plan to evacuate Israelis from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank has come to be seen in Washington as relevant to its larger schemes. Some US officials suggest it may provide a convenient reply to potential critics, especially in Arab quarters, of any wholesale displacement of Sunni Arabs out of Kirkuk. The Bush administration, they say, will be able to answer back that it also approved the evacuation of Jewish dwellers from Arab land - especially if the two steps take place at roughly the same time. This hypothesis, which may have smoothed the path for Sharon's return to the good graces of the Bush White House, presupposes that the two population dislocations are feasible. That is still a very far cry.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 2, 2004
Updated February 4:
Kurdish parties in northern Iraq later denied news reports claiming that Turkey was responsible for the double suicide attacks. In a joint statement, the KDP and the PUK, whose offices were attacked, conveyed sincere appreciation for the offer to treat the injured in Turkey. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "Turkey has never been involved in such incidents - not since the beginning of the Republic, not during the Ottoman era and not now."
Two huge bombs were detonated Sunday, February 1, at the very moment that Iraq's Kurds joined their leaders for mass celebrations at the headquarters of their two parties in the north Iraqi town of Arbil. The crowds had gathered to mark the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice and the passing of their archenemy Saddam Hussein. According to debkafile's sources in Kurdistan and Washington, PUK leader Talal Jalabani talking later to senior US officials - believed to include visiting US Pentagon second-in-command Paul Wolfowitz - bluntly accused Turkish intelligence of orchestrating the massacre with the aim of wiping out the entire Iraqi Kurdish leadership at a single stroke.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 23, 2004
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There were no giveaways, balloons or barbecues, but business was booming this month at a bizarre Syrian bazaar - a used tank lot at al-Qamishli, located at the point where the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey meet. On sale: Russian T-72 tanks. No, not in mint condition, hardly top-of-the-line merchandise, the tank on sale was a Soviet product purchased by the Syrian army in the 1980s, well enough maintained and offered at a rock bottom price of $3,000 apiece. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE. This arms market has sprung up, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly`s exclusive intelligence and counter-terrorism sources have discovered, in back of the large train station at al-Qamishli, a forward point whence freight trains laden with oil and other products picked up at Syria`s Mediterranean ports once set off for Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 27, 2003
In the space of 48 hours, the Ramadan bombing offensive on Baghdad claimed upward of 40 dead - mostly Iraqis - and over 220 injured. It struck terror at the heart of the Iraqi capital, first targeting US administration and military headquarters at the heavily secured landmark al Rashid hotel, where US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying as a guest. The next day, Monday, October 27, five suicide bomb-cars struck almost simultaneously in the morning rush hour. Four targeted police stations. The most lethal was carried out by an ambulance packed with explosives detonated at the gates of International Red Cross headquarters. Ten Iraqis were killed. However, one police station attack was foiled by Iraqi police who shot and wounded the only assailant to be caught. He had a Syrian passport and drove a car packed with TNT and three mortar rounds. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE.
Talabani's Kurdish Tribesmen Spotted Qusay, His Son Mustafa and Uday Hussein en Route to or from Syria
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 23, 2003
Late Sunday night, July 20 - or early Monday morning - Qusay Hussein, his 14-year old son Mustafa and his brother Uday arrived at the spacious villa estate of their father's cousin three times removed in the northeastern al Falah district of Mosul. Qusay habitually took his teenage son everywhere to keep him safe for the succession, in case something happened to Saddam or himself. They were on their way to or from Syria. That cousin, Marwan Zeidan of the Abu Nasser tribe, is one of Mosul's richest and most colorful figures. He owns the biggest clay brick factory in town and the largest used car agency in the region. Unlike other Iraqi towns, where the different communities live in separate neighborhoods, Mosul is mixed; Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds and Turkemen live cheek by jowl on the same streets as neighbors. This population admixture was the cause of the downfall of Udai and Qusai Hussein.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 12, 2003
The US troop withdrawal from the Iraqi town of Falluja only 50 km west of Baghdad on Friday, July 1, is the first major American military retreat since going to war against Iraq on March 18, 2003. It comes amid spiraling attacks on US troops by "unidentified" snipers and ambushers and follows what sounds like the voice of Saddam Hussein announcing his return to Iraq on two audio-tapes and calling Iraqis out to fight the Americans.
While American sources present the pullback as limited to Falluja police station, debkafile's military sources report it is more extensive. In effect, US Falluja unit is in the process of redeploying outside the town. This is one surface symptom, but not the only one, that American forces and elements loyal to Saddam Hussein are building up to a significant military clash. Territorial positions are taking shape - as will be seen on the debkafile Special map attached to this article.
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DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 21, 2003
Although Iraq's first postwar exports are set to restart Sunday, June 22 - auctioning some 10 million barrels held in storage to coincide with resumed pumping - the outlook according to debkafile's energy experts is uncertain. Oil installations are far more dilapidated than thought, constant prey to organized sabotage and criminal looting. Oil wells and pumping stations have been repeatedly damaged at both the northern and southern oil fields - and not only by diehard pro-Saddam guerrillas. Local tribal interests seeking a stake in the oil industry are behind some of the gangs of saboteurs, and looters make off with replacement parts as soon as they are installed. Plagued most often by the lawlessness are the giant southern field of Rumeila and the Baiji refinery in the north. KBR, a subsidiary of the Texan Haliburton, which is under contract to help US army engineers repair and restore Iraqi oil production, has doubled its costs in one month to $184 million. The months estimated for the project stretch out as the damage continues.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 8, 2002
Saddam's announcement had the immediate effect of sending oil prices up by roughly 5 percent to above $27 a barrel. Because Iraq's fellow-producers will make haste to make up the difference, the price is not expected by debkafile 's oil experts to go beyond $30. The Iraqi ruler, who knew his embargo gesture was just that, must have had a second ulterior motive besides pressure for Israel's unconditional withdrawal from Palestinian territory - or even punishment for the joint Blair-Bush ultimatum that demanded he accept UN inspectors, or else In fact, according to debkafile's Middle East sources, the Iraqi ruler is on a fishing expedition in Palestinian waters to see what comes up in his Arab net.