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from http://www.newsroom.co.nz/stories/HL9811/S00146.htm Provocation In The Gulf - A Special Report Friday, 20 November 1998, 6:46 pm Staff Reporter: Alastair Thompson NEWSROOM FEATURE In the week since the world went to the brink of Armageddon in the Persian Gulf for the second time this year, the game plan of the Allied US and UK forces in the Gulf, and of their respective governments, is now clear. The US and the UK, using UNSCOM as their pawn, are seeking to force Saddam into again taking protest action against UNSCOM's inspectors. They will then use this as a pretext to mount the attacks they appear to so dearly wish to undertake. In their respective public statements both UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton have made it clear that their fingers remain on the trigger. "Their will be no more warnings", says Blair. Saddam Hussein had better not blink. The level of provocation against Iraq is far more subtle and destructive than is immediately apparent and is occurring on numerous fronts. In this special report on the gulf crisis, NewsRoom Political Editor Alastair Thompson, explains the background to the latest war scare. In the process he joins the dots on the complex interrelationships involved with the crisis, backgrounds how the world nearly went to war, and warns that the game is not yet over. (Thompson recently met the man at the centre of the crisis UNSCOM executive chairman Richard Butler at a peace conference in San Francisco as part of a Saatchi and Saatchi sponsored web broadcast team.) A DECISION NO MAN SHOULD HAVE TO MAKE Last Saturday morning (November 14) at 7am Washington D.C Time the US President was in discussions with four advisors - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defence William Cohen, Chief of Defence Admiral Shelton and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. They were discussing plans to launch an attack - which was due to begin at 9am. The aircraft were fueled up and ready to go. Some were possibly already in the air. The plan was to bomb Iraq for several days without stop. Estimated casualties from the Pentagon were 10,000 dead - a mid range estimate. It had been decided not to pursue a "bomb-pause to negotiate-bomb" policy as that might allow Iraqi military equipment to be hidden and the defenders to prepare to fight back. According to the Washington Post, as the President and his advisors met the first sketchy reports of Iraq's offer of a back-down were filtering through. In spite of this, the paper says, Albright, Shelton and Cohen advised The President to continue with the attack. This was the best time. The weather was right. The Iraqi's could be caught by surprise. The dove was Sandy Berger. We all know now what happened. At around 8am as CNN picked up the story of the Iraqi backdown - the President called the bombers back to their bases. Nevertheless another strike order was issued for the following day and that too was rescinded only at the last minute. In the aftermath of the crisis both the US and UK were very keen to not be seen as having been outwitted by the Iraqi's and launched into a series of tirades about how the Iraqi's had backed down. (See "No bombs today, thankyou very much"- Says Iraq for a different viewpoint. ) Then came the provocation. And it has been poured on thick and fast. The Iraqi's have always complained that UNSCOM was being run by the US and the UK in a punitive vendetta against it. In the wake of the latest crisis the truth of the matter is now in the open for all to see. A CLEAR CONTRADICTION AT THE CENTER OF POWER Before the crisis UNSCOM executive chairman Richard Butler was insistent that his mandate to operate in Iraq is solely in relation to removing weapons of mass destruction - and not Saddam Hussein. Interviewed by State of the World webcast team member Jeremy Rose on whether there was a mandate to seek the removal of Saddam Hussein, Richard Butler was very clear in his response. "No one has ever said that, there's nothing in the resolution that says he should be removed from power. Nothing." Rose: "I believe [US Secretary Of State] Madeleine Albright has said that?" Butler:"That's her problem. There is nothing in the resolution of the Security Council that says that Saddam Hussein doesn't have the right to be the president of Iraq. All they say is that he has no right to have weapons of mass destruction and the minute they are got rid of US sanctions will go. So he has had that key in his hand for eight years. I tell you he has chosen to have a biological weapons program rather than the welfare of his people." However in the aftermath of the world going to the brink of war the political leaders of the UK and US have made it clear they could not disagree more. We now have very obvious and clear statements from the US and UK that they will seek to assist the internal Iraqi opposition, and seek to maintain the sanctions regardless of the weapons inspections outcomes. (Sadly it does not appear to have occurred to US or UK boffins that being associated with the US in any way at all within Iraq will surely be a kiss of death to any internal opposition.) The real problem however from an ethical, and international law, standpoint for the allies is how much UNSCOM and the US and UK are now intertwined. Theoretically UNSCOM works for the Security Council and so a conflict of view-point between the two would not pose a problem. But the facts do not support this argument - however much Richard Butler insists that this is the legally correct interpretation of the situation. Among the reasons to believe UNSCOM is not a truly independent agency. 1. Former UNSCOM intelligence officer and weapons inspector Scott Ritter says UNSCOM does not provide its data to the Security Council but only to "some members" of it - the US and the UK. This, he said, was because other members are "too sympathetic" to Iraq. (See.. INSIDE UNSCOM: The Scott Ritter Tape (1) and INSIDE UNSCOM: The Scott Ritter Tape (2) ) [to follow] 2. The only excuse at international law for the present US and UK threats against Iraq - which would otherwise simply be completely illegal - is that they have been mandated to ensure the work of UNSCOM can continue. In this way the belligerence and bullying stance of UNSCOM inspector Richard Butler is complimentary to their stated objectives. 3. It is now understood that the decisions taken by UNSCOM executive chairman Richard Butler to withdraw his inspectors from Baghdad following the October 31 suspension of cooperation by Iraq, were taken without reference to the UN Security Council, rather they were taken simply on the advice of the US. 3. There is no imminent threat from Iraq. In a Press Conference yesterday - Richard Butler again confirmed that so far as UNSCOM is concerned chemical and missile weapons inspections matters are substantially complete. (See Empty Clash Threatens Future Of UN l for an earlier report of similar comments from Butler). Butler went on in the press conference to describe the subject of biological weapons as a "black-hole" and used this to justify his continued insistence on international pressure being brought to bare on Iraq. The odd thing about this is that only three days prior to the latest crisis Butler was pointing his fingers at the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Nizar Hamdoon, saying his answers to questions on the weaponisation of VX (nerve gas) were, "too pathetic for words". Recently he also drew widespread criticism for claiming Iraq still had the chemical weapons potential to wipe out Tel Aviv. At the time of the latest crisis the gas masks were again on sale in Tel Aviv. Whichever way it is looked at UNSCOM can not now be seen as an independent agency. It's poodle like characteristics are becoming all too obvious. In these circumstances any military action taken by the US and UK against Iraq can only be seen as illegitimate, morally and legally. THE SLY ART OF PROVOCATION Having missed out on their chance to pummel Saddam with a final solution on November 14 the Allies have now changed their tack. Or have they? Late this week the US UN Ambassador Peter Burleigh, said that a comprehensive review of sanctions would not necessarily be followed by a review of the sanctions policy against Iraq. Burleigh said the U.S.government has always viewed the comprehensive review as just that -- a review of Iraqi obligations and the many questions it hasn't answered. ``We don't see the sanctions lifting as the end result of the comprehensive review,'' he said. The extent to which these remarks are provocation to the Iraqi's needs to be put in context to be fully understood. Since the beginning of the year Iraq has been demanding what it calls a, "comprehensive review", of the weapons inspection process and the economic sanctions imposed in support of UNSCOM's activities. It was this that led the world to the brink in February and again last week. The Iraqi's - for increasingly obvious reasons - want the Security Council to formally investigate the operation of UNSCOM - and particularly the activities of its chairman Richard Butler. For equally obvious reasons the Iraqi's also want the Security Council to investigate the impact of the sanctions on the Iraqi civilian population. With other UN agencies estimating the number of children's deaths caused by the sanctions at 750,000+ this too can hardly be seen as an unreasonable demand. However it is not simply a matter of the Iraqi demand having some merit. Provocation, to be effective, must be more personal, more needling. In Burleigh's latest comments a pattern is emerging. On October 30, the day before Iraq issued the statement suspending all cooperation with UNSCOM (which in turn led to the latest crisis), a letter saying essentially the same thing as Peter Burleigh's latest comments was sent to the Iraqi's, allegedly expressing the Security Council's view on the Iraqi demand for a comprehensive review. The memorandum - which according to reports was drafted in the UK - similarly made it clear that Comprehensive Review which found the Iraqi's to have substantially complied, would not necessarily lead to a lifting of the sanctions. SO HERE WE GO AGAIN? Saddam is being sorely tested. While his UN ambassador Nizar Hamdoon says he is confident the Security Council will not see things in the same way that the US and the UK have, he is not the irrational ruler of the Iraqi republic. In trying circumstances the Iraqi government has placed itself at the mercy of the Security Council as the US and UK openly state their intentions to overthrow his government. Thus far Saddam's advisors Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz and Ambassador Hamdoon are playing it by the book. However very powerful forces are working against their attempts to maintain the peace. Butler - who appears only too willing to participate in an Iraqi goading campaign, now has his inspectors back on the ground in Iraq. The potential for mischief making that he has in this position is virtually limitless. Perhaps equally important, in also admitting that the chemical weapon threat is not really an issue any more, Butler is in effect implying that the US and UK (and by implication the Security Council's view) is now, "look we know we have no reason to bomb you, but we don't care. We don't need one." Meanwhile the Security Council itself remains split and silent while its two most powerful members are jamming the airwaves with threats against Saddam's government. Over time frustration at making no progress will almost certainly wear away the Iraqi resolve to count on the honour of the Security Council. The principal question that now remains is, does the Security Council have any honour left? If it does nothing now an attack on Iraq is possibly inevitable. Once again President Clinton will be forced to make a moral decision that no living human should be forced to take. © NewsRoom -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html