Hay Alwozarah - Arbil, Mosul Vilayet

J.A.Keller,  Permanent Representative to the United Nations
box 2580 - CH 1211 Geneva 2 - tel+fax: (41)22-7400362

December 24, 1996 (corr.1)
May 29, 1997 (second mail copy)

Let my People go!
God willing and thus when the time is ripe, light appears in the minds of those to see
and even with such a hopelessly entangled problem as Alexander faced with the Gordian knot,
things start to fall into place at the hands of principled, imaginative and courageous men.

Dear Senator,

Congratulations! Your shot across the bows of the UN ship (Foreign Affairs, 5, 1996) was not only heard around the world, but proved effective and appears to have already made a mark on its new Secretary-General. This bodes well, for North Carolina, the U.S. and the world - if the right questions continue to be posed with vision and determination, e.g. at the upcoming confirmation hearings on the new Secretary of State and your meetings with H.E. Kofi Annan. For their predecessors have been today's Pontius Pilatus in the case of Northern Iraq's Assyrians, Jews, Kurds and Turkomans; they conspired to loot these peoples and keep them in bondage to the Pharao of Baghdad. Phantasy? Decide for yourself!

Let me begin by an outline of my own background, followed by a brief description of the Mosul Vilayet Council (MVC, also Council) which I helped to set up in 1992 and which I have the honor to represent abroad. I was born and educated as a citizen of Switzerland, i.e. a country where the people have even voted against joining the UN, notably because already our Founding Fathers, in 1291, wrote into their Fundamental Charter (1) :

"... we ... will, under no circumstances, receive or accept a judge who is not one of us."

As an adviser to Swiss, European, Near-Eastern & U.S. lawmakers for the past 30 years, I have come to share many of your views. Beyond what you said about the nation-state and what its relation with the UN should be (but is not now [for which reason the U.S. Government should take the lead for either reforming it accordingly or replacing it with a league of genuine democracies]), I have developed similarly strong complementary views on the UN vs. ethnic, religious & linguistic minorities.

Today's key conflicts in Europe and the Near East can in fact be seen to be still festering wounds of Word War One which uprooted millions of citizens and subjected them to alien legal, economic, political and cultural conditions. These new minorities had to be secured and re-enrooted if they were to become and remain contributing rather than destabilizing parts of the newly created or re-configured states. To this effect, the instrument of international minority protection guarantees was created (examples: Yugoslavia and Iraq) and placed into the hands of the - eventually failed - predecessor of the United Nations.

Research effectuated over the past six years shows that these guarantees appear to be still valid in international law (for details see enclosed MVC letter of December 7, 1996 to the UN Secretary-General and the letter of December 10, 1996 which I sent to the UN Security Council members as Secretary of the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers). Moreover, they offer considerable potential for resolving the related conflicts promptly, peacefully and lastingly. In capable hands, they could be turned into formidable tools to secure and promote the national interest of the country concerned - ahead of others.

The Mosul Vilayet Council - a tool for regional peace and security

In May 1992, these same findings led to the founding of the Mosul Vilayet Council by 66 representatives of all Arab, Assyrian, Kurdish & Turkoman communities of the Mosul Vilayet after UN experts, in their internal UN study of April 1992, had come to the same conclusion. And after the UN had reneged on its authorization of November 19, 1991, "to demonstrate the technical feasibility of making [the wells located in Allied-protected non-government-controlled Northern Iraq] produce, and of applying the proceeds to Iraq's humanitarian needs." Indeed, it was President Bush's U.S. Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Morris B. Abram, who prodded the UN to this unprecedented step of authorizing, in effect, the Assyrian, Jewish, Kurdish and Turkoman landowners to pump for the first time in their history their own oil. This made the more sense, as it would have allowed them early on to effectively get off the back of foreign taxpayers for meeting the energy and other humanitarian needs of the peoples concerned (Sunnites, Jews and Christians; for statistical data see enclosed Mosel Vilayet map). Vigorously opposed by open and hidden friends of Saddam Hussein in the U.S. Administration, this self-help project was quickly torpedoed. While Iraq has been given ever more accommodating terms in successive memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and UN resolutions, the latest being SCR 986 which I shall attend to in more details below.

At the MVC's first General Assembly, held in Arbil on October 19-20, 1992, 75 duly elected representatives of all Mosul Vilayet communities, with the encouragement of U.S. officials, put their signature under the "Declaration of Separation from Iraq" (thus risking a death penalty under Iraqi law) and under the "Mosul Vilayet Declaration" concerning notably mutual recognition and the resolution of landownership disputes. With these documents, I was formally elected as the "Mosul Vilayet's Plenipotentiary and Special Representative to the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies, with the right to appoint his own Deputies". Yet, though the U.N. Guards in Arbil had received the corresponding letter of 9 November, 1992, and transmitted it to the UN in New York, I have yet to be given an opportunity to present my credentials. True, the UN Charter provides for non-governmental organizations but not for minorities left in a power vacuum, the PLO case notwithstanding. Yet, I represent minorities whose rights were declared to be of "international concern". They should be treated as such, lest the world community unwisely renders meaningless a tool which could be helpful in other cases for promoting regional peace and security.

Two years passed with discouraging off-again, on-again signs by the U.S. Government. The unmistakable wish of the double-embargoed population of the Mosul Vilayet remained; it has been to set up an unprejudicial, self-financing interim administration under some UN surveillance but which would be free of a dominant influence by any of the thoroughly discredited warlords, whether their name be Saddam Hussein, Massoud Barzani or Jalal Talabani. Brought about by an ill-advised, incoherent and confusing U.S. policy on Iraq - characterized by a lack of leadership and effective support, and made even worse by Baghdad's own relentless destabilization efforts - the economic, humanitarian, and political conditions among our population there had rotten to the point of imminent clashes between the inherently feuding warlords and their dependents. In February 1994, I thus called for a meeting with some senior MVC members in Istanbul. We decided on some emercency measures designed to diffuse the situation by helping to resolve some of the underlying conflicts.

Our measures worked indeed for several months and, again, they could have had lasting positive effects - if only our efforts would not have been underminded by both Baghdad and the U.S. State Department. Apparently, the latter was particularly concerned that I managed anyway to get the "Unity Declaration" of May 31, 1994, to be signed by a representative cross section of the Mosul Vilayet's political, economic and cultural leaders, including over 300 MVC members and candidates, notables, judges, mayors, university rectors, presidents of professional associations and presidents of 17 political parties as well as, revealingly, key members of the feuding parties, i.e. Barzani's KDP and Talabani's PUK.

Sabotaging human rights efforts by and through the UN

My network at the UN and with its NGO community permitted me to overcome some crude obstacles (e.g. the UN's failure to respond to all related letters and the sudden unexplained cutoff of long-standing research facilities at the UN liberary and League of Nations archives at the Palais des Nations in Geneva). Thus, I was able in Summer 1994 to arrange for some MVC members to present papers on the human rights situation in Northern Iraq to the UN Sub- Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. But when the adoption of the MVC statute (interim constitution for the Mosul Vilayet) was scheduled for October 1994, the torpedo fire became intense. The meeting had to be postponed sine die - even though by then Barzani and Talabani were prepared to publicly join the bandwagon and seek a lasting reconciliation between themselves under the MVC roof.

That encouraged me to seek - and obtain, at least for several months - closer cooperation with the UN Center for Human Rights in Geneva (CHR). Two UN Special Rapporteurs had been denied access in particular to Iraq for taking testimony on human rights abuses there. We had offered to turn the table on Baghdad by bringing Iraqi victims personally to Geneva for testimony to the Special Raporteurs, for our own information and for possible direct testimony to the UN Commission on Human Rights. The CHR formally agreed, on condition that we take care for the victims' selection, visum, transportation and presence in Geneva on our own. Accordingly, between November 1994 and July 1995, the Swiss Government approved some 270 visa requests on humanitarian grounds, and just over 200 Iraqis actually made it to Geneva (the ~ US$ 300000 expenses were shouldered by colleagues and myself).

The International Committee for European Security and Cooperation ICESC (a non-governmental organization in consultative status with ECOSOC and UNESCO) had entrusted me with their main representation in Geneva. We were thus able to contribute directly to the work of the Commission on Human Rights and its Sub-Commission and Working Groups with a number of noted statements which were based on first-hand testimony on the human rights situation in Iraq. This, manifestly, was not to the liking of everybody. Particularly our legal objections to and challenges of the oil-for-food resolution SCR 986 provoked the ire of some UN officials and interested parties.

For its part, the Swiss Government has seen fit to gradually lower its cooperation and to introduce various administrative obstacles and intimidating measures which, starting in April 1995, extended to manhandling, handcuffing and arresting one of my deputies and myself in plain daylight in the streets of Geneva by armed plaincloth policemen we first thought to be Iraqi agents. It included surreptitious visits to our Iraqi guests' residences and unaccompanied detention of these victims for "questioning", all of which seemed to be designed to discourage them from testifying as it destabilized all of them and caused our program to be disrupted significantly. The last visum was delayed for nearly four months, and when Mohammed Sidik Mahmoud, a MVC founding member and former adviser to President Saddam, finally arrived last February 23 for testimony to the Commission on Human Rights, he was arrested by Swiss officials at the Geneva airport "for deportation to Baghdad" (sic!), was permitted to leave for France only after massive interventions and 5 hours later and has yet to be allowed to return to Switzerland and exercise his NGO functions at the UN.

On the UN side, corresponding harrassments had set in around September 1995, when Mr. Sidik's appointment as Permanent ICESC Representative, without due process or even the shadow of a legal basis, was torpedoed by the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG). They reached a first high when, during the 52nd session of the Commision on Human Rights, I found myself subjected to a totally sursprising, discriminatory and abnormally thorough - yet claimed-to-be "routine" - search inside the UN premises by a zealous UN security officer who visibly was looking for a way to expulse me from the Palais des Nations. He failed then - only to be followed by a formal UNOG ruling (ukase), dated April 19, with the same aim.

In contradiction with the sole applicable legal basis, i.e. ECOSOC resolution 1296, without bothering to even invoke any UN rule, and without any semblance of care for due process, the UNOG, in my case, interfered in the functions of a duly accredited NGO representative, infinitely and without appeal prohibited him to represent his equally duly accredited NGO and brought to an end his - 25 year old - access to the UN library. Sole written justification: "for behavior which is not compatible with that of a representative"; sole oral justification: "he is too persistent", according to information received from a member of the U.S. mission in Geneva who, beyond that and since, has only suggested that I "should seek legal advice" and: "don't call us, we call you!" That is how the UN applies human rights inside its walls if a powerful state so wishes or an imperative calls for it, like saving the UN from bankrupty.

Thou shalt not steal!

While earlier ill-considered UN instruments never got off the ground, the so-called "oil-for- food" SCR 986 is already in the process of being implemented. Even though it was foreseen to have adverse effects on U.S. allies, the oil market, domestic U.S. oil companies & U.S. taxpayers. Even though SRC 986 constitutes a disguised treaty for which ratification by the U.S. Senate might have been required. Even though it has given the UN sovereign immunity - even for jure gestione deals. Even though it deprives U.S. residents of their constitutional rights to redress by U.S. judges, in that U.S. courts were thus meant to be unavailable for seizing the proceeds from stolen "Iraqi" oil put on the market with the help of the United Nations (which, incidently, stands to benefit largely and directly from related operations). Even though it is unlikely to provide effective humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people. And even though it amounts to little more than a generous United Nations gift to Saddam Hussein - in return for the bankrupt UN to be bailed out stealthily with so-called "Iraqi" oil.

Indeed, SCR 986 expropriates - in fact if not in law - the Mosul Vilayet landowners with regard to their titles to the oil resources in their ancestral lands. Even though, on paper, they have been "internationally protected" with the Iraqi Declaration of May 30, 1932 (published in UN document E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/NGO/27). In favor of Saddam Hussein, the State Department has persistently belittled these still binding obligations - thus ignoring its own guidelines on international law (see: clausula rebus sic stantibus, "White Collection"; viz: UN document E/CN.4/367, Add.1). Thereby it also turns to waste a key victory of past American foreign policy. For it successfully torpedoed the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement (a British-French-Russian conspiracy for the Near East), thus securing American access to the world's largest proven petroleum reserves without ever letting the Iraqi Government gain unimpeded control of these resources. Through SCR 986, the Baghdad regime now got what it never had before: unreserved UN-approved title to Iraqi oil, thus consoling Saddam for his "loss" of Kuwait, courtesy of the U.S. Government.

To be sure, so far, our contacts with Iraq desk officers at the State Department and the U.S. Mission in New York have indeed been less than reassuring with regard to their knowledge of, readiness to invoke and determination to enforce said Iraqi obligations. In fact, all public and privately-voiced U.S. - and UN - references to Iraqi obligations have persistently been limited to post-WW2 commitments. The humanitarian and property rights obligations contained in the constitutive Iraqi Declaration of 30 May 1932 are thus being ignored. Yet, these obligations continue to be important not only to the vocal Assyrians (some 320.000 of which live in the Chicago area) but also to the Iraqi Arabs, Jews, Kurds and Turkomans. This widely observed attitude may be due to America's legacy with its ill-admitted fatherhood of the League of Nations. Yet, like fear, such feelings are unhelpful and indeed failure-prone policy pillars for any states(wo)man worth his(her) salt. And the often-heard argument: "how can we expect Iraq to honor a commitment dating from before WW2 when we cannot get it to respect more recent obligations?" is a formula for disaster and not a thought worthy of responsible persons wishing to be taken seriously.

Dangerous slope: State Department ignores "pacta sunt servanda"

Indeed, by failing to mention, if not enforce Iraq's constitutive, fundamental obligations - whose validity, incidently, has not been officially questioned, not even by Saddam Hussein - Iraq's leaders are encouraged to disregard its later obligations and stick out the waning penalties. Since 1992, I have personally seen to it that the U.S. Government cannot plead ignorance on this matter, that it disposes of all the related documents and knows full well what policy options have existed. Nevertheless, when on December 10, the UN Secretary-General finally gave the green light for SCR 986 to become operational, we have had no part in that decision. Also, many of us started wondering whether the U.S. Government really intended to forfeit this property rights tool which could have served - and still could serve - as an effective leverage for bringing about much desired changes in Iraq.

Regardless of whether or not that is the case, the Mosul Vilayet landowners now find themselves in a position similar to the families of Jewish Nazi victims whose fortunes were looted not only by their Nazi tormentors. And while encouraging inspiration can be drawn from how that historic wrong now not only accidentally falls back on the involved governments and unscrupullous bankers, it remains to be seen whether the present generation of U.S. lawmakers will find it opportune to apply the same strict principles in this case, and whether they will see to it that they will be effectively enforced by the new State Department team.

Accordingly, I am advising the MVC leadership to look for alternative or complementary means to protect their already all-too-long spoliated rights which are further jeopardized by SCR 986, and to actively seek prompt and effective recognition of these rights by the international community, starting with the United States and the new UN leadership, with due regard to humanitarian concerns. The MVC leaders committed themselves to respect all legitimate claims to the so-called "black" titles (photo negatives) in the Mosul Vilayet without ethnic or other discriminations. And though their proposed alternative to SCR 986 may not coincide with received wisdom and run against the grain, it seems to make sense on closer analysis. Not only from the point of view of the peoples concerned, but also for its neighbors as wells as for its past and future allies - in the United States and elsewhere.

A principled, regionally stabilizing alternative to SCR 986

The Council has consistently proposed a politically non-prejudicial interim solution for the Mosul Vilayet (including Mosul, the Kirkuk oil field and the pipeline towards Turkey). In response to Iraq's persistent failure to honor its obligations under its 1932 Declaration, this territory should be put under an Allied-protected interim administration not dependent on Baghdad. However, as some Assyrians have suggested, Iraq might also seek to regain the initiative, e.g. by working out an agreement for a 10-25 years lease of the Mosul Vilayet to the Kingdom of Jordan. In application of its 1946 resolution 24 (transfer to the UN of the League of Nations' political powers and functions), the UN General Assembly may support such a request or, under U.S. leadership, give a corresponding 10-25 years mandate to Jordan for the Mosul Vilayet.

Either way, during this period, the Mosul Vilayet inhabitants - on a reciprocal basis meeting related humanitarian and rebuilding needs - would be free to commerce with the outside world and take up residence in Iraq's other parts. In the event, Iraq's Baghdad and Basra vilayets may be politically dissolved and integrated into a United Kingdom of Jordan and Mesopotamia (E/CN.4/1994/NGO/48). At the end of the interim administration, in line with the UN Charter, a referendum would be held among the Mosul Vilayet inhabitants in order to freely decide whether they want their territory to rejoin Turkey or Iraq (or its eventual successor), to join Iran or Syria, or to become fully independent. However, it would be helpful - and constitute a regionally stabilizing factor - if a revised U.S. policy on Iraq would, from the beginning, clearly support these democratic options - also in order to forestall any foul play.

Far from becoming a source of regional instability and a danger to the integrity of the neighboring societies, this secular interim solution offers the chance of organic social and economic evolutions in underdeveloped areas of the Near East, including the opportunity to redirect dangerous "religious" developments which, if left unchecked, may upset still further seemingly stable situations. Already De Gaulle's visionary Minister of Culture, André Malraux, predicted "the next century will be religious or it will not be." Fundamentalism - not only Islamic - is visibly rising worldwide. In neighboring Turkey, the Kemalists see Attatürk's key achievement of a secular society threatened by the rising Welfare Party. In Saudi Arabia, Bahrein and elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, tribal - some would call it "medieval" - forms of government are challenged with religious fervor. In Israel, those fearing peace as threatening Israel and its institutions have gained considerable leverage. Driven by religious factors, early changes in this region's equation may thus be expected.

Perhaps it is too early to detail the "religious" dimension of the Council's proposals. Basically, it seeks to help overcome the fundamentalist excesses by encouraging the leaders of all One God religions to conduct a thorough investigation of their own religious roots. And to help to identify and develop common traits with other peoples, in order to explore pathways to suitable future alliances in the region, thus offering food for thought also to political leaders in search of new vistas. Of course, with over 90% of its peoples formally attributed to the Islamic faith, these considerations are not meant to favor the scenario whereby the geopolitically upsetting disappearance of the capitalism/communism bipolarity is to be replaced with an artificially enhanced opposition between Christianity and Islam as the new political magnetic field which political leaders can again comfortably navigate in.

Conclusion: Let my People go!
(i.e. have the State Department and the UN remove their obstacles)

Forgotten or purposely ignored documents concerning Iraq's international obligations are seen to stand in contradiction with current U.S. policy on Iraq. These still valid obligations cover minority and property rights. In order to relieve the inhabitants of the humanitarian disaster zones of Northern Iraq in particular, the United Nations, under U.S. leadership, has adopted and is presently implementing the oil-for-food resolution SCR 986. However, the Iraqi Government has not so far acquired good title to the petroleum resources which are thus slated for export under SCR 986. In fact, these resources, on paper, constitute the internationally protected property of Assyrian, Jewish, Kurdish and Turkoman landowners. And unless the United Nations will reach agreements with these spoliated landowners, the UN is seen to undermine its own fundament, dignity and future - by neglecting Iraq's international minority protection obligations and by actively looting protected properties. The U.S. Government may want to help redress this sorry situation promptly and effectively, lest it be criticized for measuring with different yardsticks when it comes to looted Nazi gold and Swiss bank deposits made by Jewish Nazi victims on the one side, and on the other Assyrian, Jewish, Kurdish, Turkoman and other landowners of the Mosul Vilayet.

I trust this to be helpful in your Committee work, in its confirmation hearings on the designated Secretary of State and in your efforts to help the new UN Secretary-General to fulfil his mandate strictly within the UN Charter, in line with its orignal intent and purpose, as you pointed out so aptly in your Foreign Affairs article. Taking this opportunity to assure you, dear Senator, of our highest consideration, I remain, sincerely yours,

enclosures: mentioned

1    in: "On the Ideal Nation - Observations on Nation-Building and Citizen-State Relations",
J.A.Keller (ed.), contribution to the European Confederation Conference, held in Prague in June 1991. (full text in word formal at:, and in hyperlink language at:

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