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Robert Fisk (Independent on Sunday) and other news



*       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

********************


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