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* Robert Fisk on the continuing US-British war on Iraq (Independent on Sunday) * Sunday Telegraph on Russia-Iraq arms deals * Six children injured by shell left over from Gulf War (Agence France-Presse) * Western aggression destroyed 3,800 schools in Iraq (Arabic News) * UN pays out compensation from oil-for-food funds (Associated Press) * UN report on spare parts for Iraq's oil industry ******************** >From The Independent on Sunday, 21 February 1999 Exposed: Britain and America's merciless secret blitz on Iraq By Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent WITH little publicity - and amid virtual indifference in western capitals - US and British aircraft have staged well over 70 air strikes against Iraq over the past five weeks, inflicting more damage than the pre-Christmas Anglo-American bombardment. And pilots flying out of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have now received new rules of engagement which allow them to open fire on Iraqi installations, even if they are not directly threatened. The air offensive has been carefully calibrated to avoid criticism or public debate - but coincides with Washington's renewed efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime. Iraqi missile sites have been attacked without warning and radar stations targeted solely because their presence - rather than any offensive activity - was said to menace American forces in the Gulf. Just over two weeks ago, for example, US aircraft bombed a Russian-made CSSC-3 "Seersucker" anti-ship missile battery on the Fao peninsula which, according to a spokesman, "could have [sic] threatened shipping in the Gulf." Military sources say there was no evidence that missiles were about to be fired. By attacking Iraq almost every day while issuing only routine information about the targets, American and British officials have also ensured that their "salami" bombardment has provoked little or no interest in the press; newspapers now frequently carry little more than a paragraph about air strikes which would have captured front page headlines a year ago. Only when US missiles have hit civilian areas has the mildest criticism been heard. Even then, it has been muted because of fears that condemnation would support Saddam Hussein's own propaganda. In fact, the most notorious incident - when an American AGM-130 missile exploded in a Basra housing complex - turns out to have been more bloody than the Iraqis themselves admitted at the time. Although initial reports spoke of 11 civilians killed in the 25 January attack, a total of 17 people died that day and almost 100 were wounded. A United Nations report, compiled by Hans von Sponeck, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator in Baghdad, states that two missiles hit civilian areas 16 miles apart, the first in Basra - where a woman and five children were among the dead - and the second in the village of Abu Khasib, where five women and five children were killed. In other words, most of the victims were children. A Pentagon spokesman admitted to the Basra attack, responding to the casualties with the words: "I want to repeat that we are not targeting civilians." Saddam's own tactics - of provoking American forces and threatening their Gulf allies - has provided the US and British governments with reasons for its virtually hidden war against Iraq this year. Having declared the Anglo-American "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq invalid, his air defence batteries have fired at US and British aircraft; his warning to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that they would face retaliation if they continued to allow American planes to use their air bases angered the Gulf states at the very moment when they were voicing growing concern about the attacks. An offer from Saddam of a financial reward for Iraqi crews who shot down raiding aircraft went unclaimed: his batteries are hopelessly inferior to American and British technology. The air offensive began at the New Year with five American attacks in two weeks. On 11 January, US aircraft attacked Iraqi missile sites from bases in Turkey - an incident that coincided with an announcement that the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was to visit the Gulf. She was seeking Arab support for the continuation of UN sanctions, which have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqi children, and for Washington's plans to topple Saddam. Almost daily air raids continued to the end of January, by which time British fighter-bombers were joining US planes. On 31 January, for instance, eight British and American jets were attacking "communications facilities" in southern Iraq. A statement from the Americans on 4 February that US and British planes had by then destroyed 40 missile batteries - adding that this alone constituted greater damage than was caused to Iraq in the whole December air bombardment - passed without comment. Neither Washington nor London explained whether the attacks had UN backing - they did not - and Tony Benn's warning that the raids were creating a "culture of violence" went unheeded. On 11 February, General Sir Michael Rose, a former UN force commander in Bosnia, condemned the offensive in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute."The continual TV images of the West's high-technology systems causing death and destruction to people in the Third World will not be tolerated forever by civilised people," Sir Michael said. But his remarks were largely ignored. Instead, US officials continued their fruitless attempts to form a united Iraqi opposition to President Saddam and to find Arab support for their plans. Despite Iraq's threats against Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the Gulf states were hostile to all such American plotting, fearing the break-up of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shia Muslim states in the event of a government collapse in Baghdad. When President Saddam threatened to strike at the Gulf states which permitted US planes to use their bases, Mrs Albright issued another of her supposedly tough statements. Iraq would face retaliation if he dared strike America's friends in the region, she announced. But what retaliation? With Iraq suffering frequent military punishment, what could Mrs Albright inflict worse than the current air bombardment? The US, it seems, has committed the same errors in the Gulf that Israel once committed in Lebanon. Prior to 1982, Israeli threats of a mass invasion would cow Lebanese and Palestinians alike. But once the invasion took place - and once it was clear that Israeli troops could be killed in large numbers - the threat of an Israeli military offensive lost its power to create fear. Similarly with the Americans. The Anglo-American attacks before Christmas were designed to "teach Saddam Hussein a lesson" for blocking arms inspections. But the inspectors never returned to Iraq, their top man admitted collaborating with Israel and the whole Unscom team is now virtually non-existent. The bombings did not humble the ghastly Saddam; indeed, they inspired him to dare the Americans into further military action. To what purpose? Iraqi troops around Basra have been reinforced, although some missile batteries have been withdrawn from northern Iraq. In Baghdad, six more civilian deaths were announced - one in an air raid near Najaf on 10 February and five more (with 22 wounded) in southern Iraq five days later. On 4 February, a US official said that the "no-fly" zones had been "quiet in recent days" - a statement that came only two days after US jets had bombed the anti-ship missile base at Fao. All of which proves that it is easier to start a war than to end one. Perhaps this thought has occurred to the US strategists poring over their Serbian map co-ordinates in recent days - as they turn their attention from the Beast of Baghdad to the Beast of Belgrade. Target timetable * 11 JANUARY US jets attack "missile sites" in northern Iraq. * 12 JANUARY US planes attack "radar sites" in northern Iraq. * 13 JANUARY Americans announce attacks on "radar bases" in northern Iraq. * 14 January US jets attack "air defence systems" in Iraq. A spokesman says an F-16 pilot fired a HARM missile after his plane was tracked by Iraqi radar and an F-15 dropped a precision-guided bomb on a surface-to-air missile site. * 24 January US attacks "missile installations" in northern Iraq. * 26 January American attacks in both northern and southern Iraq. Air bombardments around Basra kill 17 people, most of them children. The US, acknowledging that one of its missiles went off course, says it is "not targeting civilians". * 28 January Americans attack "anti-aircraft batteries" in northern Iraq. * 30 January US strikes at six "air defence sites"around Mosul. * 31 January British and American aircraft attack "communications facilities" in southern Iraq. President Saddam Hussein offers cash rewards to Iraqis who manage to shoot down American or British planes. * 2 February US planes from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Gulf attack a Russian-made anti-ship missile battery on the Fao peninsula. * 2 February Iraq claims Saudi pilots have joined the air bombardment. * 4 February US Defence Secretary William Cohen says Iraq is withdrawing missile batteries. * 10 February Iraq says one man killed in Najaf province when US planes attack air defences in the region and at Qar. * 14 February Iraq warns Saudi Arabia and Kuwait of attack if they allow US and British warplanes to continue use of their air bases. Washington warns Iraq of "retaliation". * 15 February Iraq says five people were killed and 22 wounded in air raids in southern Iraq. ******************** >From the Sunday Telegraph, 21 February 1999 Russian weapons experts confirm Baghdad connection By Con Coughlin, Foreign Editor FRESH evidence has emerged about Russia's illicit arms trade with Iraq following last week's disclosure in The Telegraph that Moscow has signed deals worth more than £100 million with President Saddam Hussein to reinforce his air defences. Indignant Russian foreign ministry officials condemned our report as "a provocation", which smacked of "cold war disinformation devices", and said Moscow "fully and meticulously" observed United Nations sanctions against Iraq. They were particularly incensed that Yevgeny Primakov, the Russian Prime Minister, had been identified as a key figure in the deals. But a very different picture of Moscow's military ties with Iraq has emerged from Russian military experts, who have confirmed that most Russian arms firms enjoy a close and lucrative relationship with Baghdad. Although Russia officially stopped all arms exports to Iraq on September 1, 1990, in compliance with UN sanctions applied in retaliation for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, Iraq's squadrons of MiG 23, 25 and 29 jet fighters remain in service, while its radar and anti-aircraft missile launchers are still operational. None of this equipment - which forms the bulk of Iraq's air-defence capability - would be serviceable without a regular supply of spare parts from Russian manufacturers, and constant maintenance by Russian technicians. As Pavel Felgengauer, a respected Russian military affairs commentator, wrote last week, without support from his country the Iraqi armed forces would resemble those of countries such as Congo or Somalia - "with no trousers, and armed only with Kalashnikovs". Mr Felgengauer and his colleagues were unable to comment specifically on the deals revealed in The Telegraph, under which the Russians have agreed to upgrade and overhaul Baghdad's MiG fighters and restore Iraqi air defences to combat readiness. But they were able to shed light on the complex "third party" business arrangements which enable the Russians to circumvent UN sanctions and do business with Iraq. According to sources in the Russian defence industry, the transactions are handled by banks and front companies in Turkey, Jordan and the Balkans. One of the more favoured conduits is Bulgaria, where Russian dealers have set up a number of companies. Businessmen from Russia also supply Iraq with arms that originate from other ex-Soviet republics or former Warsaw Pact countries which have close ties with Moscow. As one Russian arms specialist said last week: "Yes, our people have been on business trips from Moscow to Baghdad, to repair and put in working order Iraqi hardware, including the latest equipment from Russia. And what do you expect? The Russian government pays us nothing, so we have to go to Baghdad just to survive." In fact, contacts between high-level military delegations from Russia and Iraq have been taking place at locations in countries such as Bulgaria and Turkey since the mid-Nineties, when the Russians first started to support the idea of relaxing UN sanctions against Baghdad. As a consequence of one deal, the Iraqis received large quantities of helicopter spares as well as several Mi-24 helicopters. The new aircraft were sent in boxes and assembled in Iraq, probably by Russian technicians. Iraq's interest in doing business with Russia is not only confined to conventional weapons, however. Ahmed Murtada Ahmed Khalil, Iraq's transport and communications minister, who negotiated the deals disclosed last week in The Telegraph, served from 1987 to 1990 as director of the Technical Research Centre at the secret Salman Pak facility on the outskirts of Baghdad. In other words, Dr Murtada is a former head of Iraq's biological weapons programme, and knows only too well how Moscow can help Baghdad to rebuild its chemical and biological weapons arsenal. ******************** Six Iraqi children injured by Gulf War shell 15:07 GMT, 20 February 1999 BAGHDAD, Feb 20 (AFP) -Six Iraqi children were injured by a shell left over from the Gulf War eight years ago, the official INA news agency said Saturday. The tragedy took place in the town of Diwaniya to the south of Baghdad, the agency said. INA on Wednesday said Iraqi civil defence workers had defused several cluster bombs dropped by US or British warplanes on the south of the country. ******************** Western aggression destroyed 3,800 schools in Iraq Arabic News, Iraq, Education, 2/19/99 Western aggression against Iraq has destroyed 3,800 schools since 1991, the Iraqi education minister said. Fahd Salim al-Shoukra, who was interviewed by the Moroccan Al-Ittihad Al-Ichtiraqi daily, said the number represents 25 percent of educational buildings in Iraq. He added that although Iraq managed to rebuild several schools, it was impossible to rehabilitate some other institutions. This situation, he said, harmed the education level in Iraq, which was before 1991 in an advanced position compared to other Arab nations. The lack of books and devaluation of the Iraqi currency are among the factors that contributed to the fall in the Iraqi educational level. The economic sanctions imposed on Iraq and the shortage of food and medicines also harmed the pupils' psychological and intelligence growth, al-Shoukra said. The minister, who recalled that Iraq had completely eradicated illiteracy in 1982 (Baghdad won at the time a UNESCO Prize), said increased poverty because of the embargo has pushed several families to stop sending their children to school and the government, which used to sanction families for not sending their children to school, can no longer do that because of the sanctions. Instead of going to school, children are compelled to work as newspaper hawkers, he said. ******************** U.N. Pays Out $814M in Compensation Thursday, February 18, 1999; 10:26 a.m. EST GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N. commission that oversees compensation for damage caused by Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait paid out $814 million Thursday to governments and international organizations. The payout, for individual losses and claims relating to forced departures from Iraq or Kuwait, brings to $2.73 billion the amount distributed by the panel, according to a U.N. statement. It includes $84.4 million for Egypt to distribute among its citizens who lost money. Some 1.2 million Egyptian workers in the Persian Gulf were unable to recover their wages from Iraqi banks. Compensation awards approved by the 15-nation commission are paid using Iraqi oil sales that have been approved by the U.N. Security Council. The commission has received about 2.6 million compensation demands totaling $240 billion from individuals, governments and corporations seeking compensation for losses related to the invasion of Kuwait. Processing the claims is expected to take several more years. ******************** http://www.un.org/Depts/oip/latest/oilspares.html United Nations Office of the Iraq Programme oil for food, 21 January 1999 Welcome increase in the number of spare parts contracts approved for Iraq's oil industry The Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, Benon V. Sevan, today welcomed the release from hold, by the Security Council's 661 Committee, of 43 contracts for the supply of urgently needed spare parts and equipment for Iraq's oil industry. However, Mr Sevan noted that there were still 115 contracts on hold worth $44,989,420. The 661 Committee's actions follow the Secretary-General's request on 29 December for the Committee to expedite the approval of contracts and further review those contracts placed on hold. Later this month, the OIP will arrange for oil industry experts to provide a further briefing to the Committee on the needs of Iraq's oil industry. Since 1 January, 52 contracts worth $29,284,695 have been approved by the Committee. This includes the 43 contracts worth $11,709,796 released from hold. Although the Security Council authorized Iraq to export up to $5.265 billion worth of oil in a six month period, the state of Iraq's oil industry and the depressed world price for oil combined to limit exports in the last phase (30 May to 25 November) to just over $3 billion dollars. Two thirds of the oil revenue funds for the oil-for-food humanitarian programme. In order to increase production for export, the Security Council, in resolutions 1175 (1998) and 1210 (1998), authorized Iraq to import a total of $600 million dollars worth of oil industry spare parts and equipment. The Secretary-General's reports to the Council have underlined the "lamentable" state of the oil industry and the urgent need to provide the minimum levels of spares and equipment. Some of the equipment ordered under the provisions of resolution 1175 (1998) has begun arriving in Iraq. Shipments of demulsifier, valves, pipes and related equipment worth $10.3 million have already arrived with further arrivals expected over the coming weeks. Given the nature of the equipment being ordered many of the contracts entered into by the Government and its suppliers specify delivery dates up to three to twelve months after approval and issuing of letters of credit. Oil Sector Contracts Contracts* Number Value Received 486 $264,596,794 On Hold 115 $44,989,420 Approved 293 $163,422,599 *These relate to resolution 1175 (1998). So far no contracts have been received under resolution 1210 (1998). For further information please contact John Mills on 1.212.9631646 ******************** -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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