Iraq Report: January 23, 2004

Former high-ranking Ba’ath Party members in two towns renounced affiliation with the Ba’ath Party formerly headed by Saddam Hussein in meetings on 20 January, U.S. CENTCOM announced on its website. The renunciation is part of an ongoing program by coalition forces (see “RFE/RL Newsline,” 13 January 2004). According to CENTCOM, 120 Ba’athists took an oath renouncing the party in front of an unspecified local mayor and Lieutenant Colonel Buddy Carman in Rabiah, located on the Syrian border. “The pledge is voluntary, there will be no payment, no promise of jobs,” Carmen told the men, according to CENTCOM. An unspecified number of Ba’athists also were reported to have renounced allegiance to that party in the town of Tal Abtah, located south of Mosul. According to CENTCOM, four northern Iraqi cities have now held mass denunciations of the Ba’ath Party in cooperation with coalition forces.

Meanwhile, coalition forces have captured two former Ba’ath Party members in recent days, AP reported on 20 January, citing a U.S. military statement. General Matlub Muslat Sayyir, a member of the Saddam Fedayeen militia, reportedly surrendered on 19 January to coalition forces in the west-central Iraqi Al-Anbar Governorate. Former Iraqi intelligence-service officer Colonel Abd al-Hadi was reportedly captured on 16 January in the town of Ramadi, also located in the Al-Anbar Governorate. The military did not release further details on the arrests. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has said that he might forgo his political aspirations, according to a 16 January report on Beirut’s Al-Manar television. “Let everybody know that I will not succumb to any party dissociated from the Iraqi people,” al-Sadr said. “If I quit [politics] for religious reasons, my heart remains with you, and my soul and body are ready to be sacrificed for you,” he said to the people of Iraq.

Al-Sadr, a vocal opponent to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, did not give clear reasons for his possible withdrawal from the political scene, except to say: “Afterward, I will devote myself to other important matters. Although this might subject me to death or detention, this is what I actually aspire for.” He added that he would continue to lead a Friday prayer service. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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