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News for 6 April '00 to 16 April '00 (Part 2 of 3: 10 April to 13 April) ________________________________________________________ · Iraq Says Iranian Exiles' Bases Came Under Fire, 10 April '00 http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20000410/wl/iraq_iran_1.html BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq said Monday that two bases belonging to the main Iranian exile group Mujahideen Khalq came under mortar fire which Baghdad hinted had come from Iran. The Iraqi News Agency (INA) quoted an official spokesman as saying that the two incidents did not cause casualties although the mortars hit areas near residential quarters in southern Iraq. He said that ``the criminals managed to flee back to where they came from across the (Iraqi) border.'' The spokesman did not name the country where the attackers came from but he was thought to be referring to Iran. He said Iraq condemned the incidents and knew who was behind them. Iraq ``reaffirms its legal right to defend its internal security and to chase the aggressors wherever they hide,'' he added. Iraq blamed Iran last month for a mortar attack in a residential district of Baghdad in which six people died. Tension between the two neighbors, which were at war from 1980 to 1988, has escalated in recent weeks over cross-border attacks by the Iraq-based Mujahideen Khalq. Baghdad had said that its air defenses had last month shot down two Iranian pilotless planes over its territory. Iran said the Mujahideen had killed two of its soldiers near the border. The Mujahideen said their anti-aircraft systems last week repulsed an air attack by Iran against one of their military bases inside Iraq. The Mujahideen use Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Iran and have several bases equipped with tanks, heavy guns and helicopter gunships close to the Iranian border. ________________________________________________________ · Former UN official for lifting sanctions from Iraq, 11 April '00 http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/000411/2000041115.html Former UN Assistant for Secretary General Denis Halliday, who is also a former head of the humanitarian program in Iraq on Monday in Canberra said that the West is carrying out the complete destruction of Iraqi society by keeping sanctions imposed on this country. In a statement at the beginning of a tour he will carry out in various parts of Australia, which will last for one week in order to convince the UN to lift the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq, Halliday said that some 5,000 Iraqi children die every month as a result of these sanctions. Halliday, who will meet with the Australian foreign minister during his current visit, added that UNICEF has estimated that between 4,000 and 7,000 Iraqi children under five year old die every month, and most of these deaths are because of the sanctions imposed on Iraq. Halliday resigned his post in October 1999 in protest against the impact of the economic sanctions on the Iraqi citizens. ________________________________________________________ · Ten years of sanctions leaves Saddam astride a weakened Iraq, 11 April '00 http://www.arabia.com/article/0,1690,News-17865,00.html "If the embargo is lifted tomorrow, we will see Saddam celebrating his victory from a field of ruins," said a diplomat in Baghdad. BAGHDAD (AFP) - A mutilated state, a ravaged economy, a people reduced to poverty -- the only thing that has remained unchanged in an Iraq that looks nothing like it did 10 years ago is that strongman Saddam Hussein is still in power. "If the embargo is lifted tomorrow, we will see Saddam celebrating his victory from a field of ruins," said a diplomat in Baghdad, highlighting the contrast between the strength of the regime and the weakness of the country. The UN Security Council has recommended a conditional suspension of sanctions if Iraq cooperates with disarmament inspectors, amid increased calls from several UN humanitarian officials to lift the embargo. One in five Iraqi children under the age of five is undernourished, the education system that was once the envy of the Arab world is crumbling and GDP per capita has fallen from 3,100 dollars in 1989 to less than 250 dollars, according to UN figures. "Sanctions have gone wide of their mark," claimed Hans von Sponeck, the former UN aid chief to Iraq who resigned in March in protest at the devastating effect the embargo was having on the Iraqi population. Saddam goes from strength to strength This viewpoint is becoming more widespread worldwide, with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan himself warning last month that "the international community is about to lose the propaganda war with Iraq." An Italian Euro MP, Vittorio Sgarbi, was one of the activists who travelled on a private plane which made a daring flight on April 3 into Baghdad in violation of sanctions to protest the "infanticide" in Iraq. UN officials have also charged that the humanitarian "oil-for-food" programme, which was started at the end of 1996 to alleviate the suffering of the population, has failed to respond to the huge needs of the country. "Malnutrition has stabilised over the past 18 months, but it's not getting any better," a UN humanitarian agency representative told AFP, saying there was a vicious circle in the implementation of the programme. "When we buy a water pump, there is no cement to put it into place. Malnutrition becomes fatal when it is associated with disease, and safe water is essential to prevent those diseases," he said. But while the population wallows in miserable poverty, the regime goes from strength to strength. _________________________________________ UN Sanctions Destroying Iraqi Civilization, 12 April '00 http://www.bernama.com/bernama/features/fe1004_1.htm By Ali Mamat, who visited Iraq recently. (BERNAMA_MALAYSIAN NEWS Agency) BAGHDAD: Names like Sultan Harun Al Rashid, Abu Nawas, Ali Baba, Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor invoke memories of a unique Islamic civillization in the land of Iraq more than 1,000 years ago. The country that is blessed with rich resources was the seat of civilization that flourished with several empires before the birth of modern Iraq, among them the Sumeria, Akkadia, Babylon, Assyria, Ottoman and Ummayad empires. Whether the figures in the tales of "One Thousand and One Night" were real or not is not important. What is important is that despite the rise and fall of these empires, Iraq had managed to remain a progressive Islamic nation for a long time. But not anymore today. The prosperity and wellbeing enjoyed for thousands of years seem to have ended. Iraq today is on the brink of destruction. Its 25 million people are in the grip of misery that is beyond imagination. All these stem from the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations as punishment for invading Kuwait in 1990. In the midst of their suffering, and expressions of sympathy by the global community, several nations, the United States in particular, are pressuring the UN to keep the sanctions because a strong Iraq would apparently pose a threat to the stability of the region. Unfortunately, even after 10 years of restrictions, the real objective of the sanctions - to topple President Saddam Hussein - is still not realised. Instead, it serves to punish the Iraqi people who are denied all necessities and their human rights. "Everything is on the verge of destruction... including agriculture, industries, education, health, housing and other basic amenities," said the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Hans Von Sponeck, in an interview a few days before his resignation from the post took effect recently. He said the sanctions, if allowed to continue, would destroy a civilization that is the pride of the Iraqi people. According to Sponeck, Iraq is in no position to record any economic growth when all other nations of the world, including the poorest, can achieve some positive gains. The per capita of Iraq has nose-dived from US$3,000 in 1996 to only US$252 now. Under the sanctions, Iraq is banned from exporting its main revenue earner, oil, except in quantity allowed by the UN under its "Oil for Food" programme for the embattled country. Iraqi air space is strictly a "No Fly Zone", killing instantly any tourism trade while denying the country any chance of conducting its economic life by air. With an empty treasury, Iraq, reputed to have one of the best educational standard in West Asia at one time, could only provide an allocation of US$229 million for education this year, compared with US$2.1 billion in 1989. The result is that literacy rate has plummeted to below 60 percent compared with 90 percent before the UN sanctions. According to Sponeck, more and more Iraqi children cannot afford to go to school now. In most schools, students have to sit on bare floor while teachers are using the walls as blackboard because the broken chairs, tables and other facilities cannot be replaced. An officer of the Iraqi Information Ministry, Mohamed Shakir Ali, confirmed Sponeck's statements, and admitted that many school children are now turning to begging to augment the family incomes since the currency "Dinar" continues to lose value while inflation soars. In pre-sanctions days, a Dinar fetched US$5 but a greenback now is worth 2,000 Dinar. He said a family with a small income would have to take on additional jobs to supplement the cost of living. For example, a teacher or doctor gets about 6,000 to 10,000 Dinar (US$3 to US$5) a month, compared with 300 Dinar before the UN sanctions. That salary can only buy a kilo of meat or several kilos of flour. "Although begging was not in the vocabulary of our lives before, we now have no choice but to survive," said Mohamed Shakir. Sponeck described the begging by the young children as a manifestation of the fate of the new generations of Iraqis, who have to bear the sufferings and poverty as a result of deeds done before they were born. He said the revenue from oil under the "Oil For Food" programme, enforced since April 1995, was far from adequate to meet basic food and medical needs of the people. Under the programme, Iraq can sell US$2 billion of oil every six months, of which US$1.3 billion can go to buy food and medicine, But this is not enough as the actual need for those items is US$2.1 billion. According to Sponeck, the lack of a balanced diet and an adequate supply of medicine has caused infant mortality rate to skyrocket from 56 per 5,000 births in 1991 to 231 per 5,000 births at present. UNICEF, he said, believed that 500,000 deaths among infants and children in the 1990s could have been avoided, if there were no sanctions. Iraq itself claimed that 1.5 million people died as a result of the sanctions during that period. The deaths were caused by starvation, malnutrition, diarrhoea and other diseases brought about by a deteriorating environment and lack of potable water. Sponeck said one out of every five Iraqi childen now suffers from malnutrition, while diarrhoea and respiratory infection cases balloned 10-fold more from normal. Quoting a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, he said Iraqi children are now getting less than 2,200 calories of food a day, compared with 3,700 calories before 1990. Although Iraq has tried its best not to depend on food imports, its agriculture and animal farming could not meet local demand because a direct impact of the sanctions is to impair its farm production. He said the irrigation system in Iraq is limited because of power rationing or spare parts could not be procured for the broken ones. Many places in Iraq, especially the rural areas, now get only eight hours of electricity per day. Without adequate water supply or suitable vaccines, some 1.5 million farm animals like goats, sheep and cattle have died last year. These animals are important to the people whose main diet consists of meat, milk, cheese and butter. Sponeck said in the pre-sanctions days, the Iraqi government spent US$600 million a year on farm developments. This year, that sector receives only US$20 million. 70 PERCENT UNEMPLOYED The sanctions also left some 70 percent of the people jobless because almost all factories are closed. Apart from farmers and the lower income groups, the middle-income groups are also not spared the miseries, to the extent that they have to change their daily life style. Many of them are forced to sell off their cars, furnitures, or anything of value like their homes till a new culture has emerged -- several families sharing a house on an eight-hour rotation basis. This means a family can use the house for eight hours while the others spend their time elsewhere. What is also sad is that more and more Iraqi youths have to remain a bachelor since he is jobless and can't afford the dowry, not to mention the furniture and home for his partner. Sponeck is worried that if the situation persists, the Iraqis would be exposed, and saddled, with social ills like prostitution, crime and mental illnesses because of extreme pressure. Sponeck resigned from the UN post because he said he "feels it was immoral and unethical to be a party to the cruelty inflicted upon the Iraqi people." That cruelty is sure to bring down another civilization in that country. _________________________________________ · Mandela Slams Western Action In Kosovo, Iraq, 12 April '00 (REUTERS) Nelson Mandela warned on Wednesday that powerful Western countries such as the United States and Britain risked sparking global conflict if they tried to police the world alone. ``When two nations take it upon themselves to police the world...without getting the authorisation of the United Nations, we must condemn that because it can lead to another world war,'' the former South African president said in a speech. Mandela did not name the United States and Britain but joked that he was sure that everyone in the audience knew the two countries he had in mind. Mandela said military actions in Iraq and Kosovo undermined the role of the United Nations as a forum for the peaceful resolution of conflict around the globe. ``They send a message that the powerful will police the world,'' Mandela said as he delivered the Irish Independent newspaper annual lecture at Dublin's Trinity College. ``From there it is only a step to chaos in world affairs, as power is substituted for the security of collective and democratic decision,'' added Mandela, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for the part he played in South Africa's transformation into a multiracial democracy after centuries of white rule. U.S. and British planes patrol no-fly zones over Iraq and frequently clash with air defences. The zones were declared by the West after the 1991 Gulf War and are designed to protect groups opposed to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. NATO conducted a 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia last year to protect ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo. Mandela said powerful nations should not bully other members of the United Nations into following their line. ``The principle that all differences can be resolved through talk and negotiation applies also within organisations like the Security Council of the United Nations and there can be no justification for unilateral action that imposes one view over others in that body,'' he added. Mandela said the example of South Africa showed that even the bitterest conflicts could be resolved through negotiation. ``On the brink of a bloody war that would have scorched the earth of our common land, South Africans recognised they were one nation with one destiny.'' _________________________________________ · Poisoned Cigars, Perhaps? Jane's Defence Weekly Analysis Of US' Iraq Policy, 12 April '00 The USA and the UK are continuing their 'little war' against Iraq. Underlying it is the assumption that Saddam Hussein can be overthrown, or at least 'kept in his box'. Bryan Bender and Andrew Koch report Bryan Bender is JDW Bureau Chief and Andrew Koch is Staff Reporter. They are both based in Washington DC. Correspondents Thalif Deen in New York, Lale Sariibrahimoglu in Ankara and Staff Reporter Craig Hoyle in London contributed to this report. Tenth anniversary celebrations of the 1990-1991 Gulf War will be sobered by the apparent lack of alternatives to the current containment strategy in Iraq, which involves maintaining support for UN sanctions while policing the US- and UK-imposed 'no-fly' zones in northern and southern Iraq; formally known as Operation 'Northern Watch' (ONW) and Operation 'Southern Watch' (OSW), respectively. Although Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has maintained, and in some ways even strengthened, his hold on power, Washington and London believe they have achieved their overall objective in Iraq: keeping Saddam contained. But for how long can they continue to sustain the expensive air operations over Iraq and what alternatives do they have? At this stage the USA and UK appear to be in it for the long haul, digging in their heels for a so-called "waiting game" in which the winner may not prove to be the most powerful player, but rather the one with more patience. Most US and UK military, intelligence and diplomatic officials believe that while Saddam remains in power, any outside attempts to record and destroy Iraq's still-unaccounted-for hidden stocks of biological and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles will fail. Continued attempts to do so, while supported by the USA and the UK, are viewed by these officials as a way of buying time. With no workable plan to overthrow Saddam and his Ba'ath Party, both allies continue the 'cat and mouse' game and can only hope for a breakthrough. The 'no-fly' zones In December 1998, during Operation 'Desert Fox,' US and UK aircraft launched four-day airstrikes to punish Iraq for refusing to co-operate with the UN over the eradication of Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities. Since then, US and UK fighter aircraft have flown thousands of sorties in the ONW and OSW 'no-fly' zones amid what appears to be rising Iraqi intransigence. ONW is essentially a continuation of the UN's Operation 'Provide Comfort', which officially ended in December 1996. 'Provide Comfort' was set up in 1992 to protect the Kurdish minority in the North from Iraqi repression after the Gulf War. When its UN mandate expired, the US and UK decided to maintain the 'no-fly' zone indefinitely to contain Iraq's armed forces. The USA, UK and France established OSW in 1992 to prevent Iraqi forces from attacking the Shi'a Muslim population in the south and from again threatening the oil fields of neighbouring Kuwait. Since 'Desert Fox,' however, both operations have become veritable battle zones. Iraqi aircraft have more frequently entered prohibited airspace, firing at allied aircraft. The USA and UK have responded by attacking Iraqi air-defence sites, communications facilities and other military targets. According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), since 'Desert Fox' Iraqi aircraft have violated both 'no-fly' zones more than 225 times. Iraqi surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), associated tracking radars and other weapons have directly threatened coalition aircraft over 640 times in the same period. US and UK aircraft have taken "defensive action" by dropping a range of precision-guided munitions more than 150 times in this period, according to UK MoD figures. The allies have instituted a series of new tactics in ONW and OSW to avoid collateral damage, including the use of dummy munitions filled with concrete. According to a US military official, it has been especially difficult to avoid collateral damage when targeting command, control and communications nodes because they often lie in civilian population centres. A number of allied military officials say Iraq has frequently violated the 'no-fly' zones since 'Desert Fox' in a bid to down a Western pilot, therefore testing the allies' political resolve. Others believe the Iraqi threat is no greater than when the no-fly zones were first established. They contend that Baghdad only appears to have been more active because the USA and UK have responded to the incursions more often than before. Sources told Jane's Defence Weekly that in the pre-'Desert Fox' period numerous Iraqi incursions into the 'no-fly' zones were ignored. The diplomatic dance The allied policies on Iraq in recent years have unsurprisingly had diplomatic consequences. Turkish and Saudi Arabian support for ONW and OSW has been critical since most allied aircraft deploy from airbases in these two countries. While the USA and UK have kept Riyadh and Ankara on-side to date, it has not always been easy. On occasions before 'Desert Fox' when allied forces sought to punish Saddam with airstrikes, Riyadh did not permit the deployment of offensive operations from its territory. This forced the USA to rely more heavily on carrierborne attack aircraft. Turkey has also imposed restrictions. Concerned at times with Turkey's strained relations with Iraq Turkish officials estimate their country has lost $90 billion in trade with Baghdad because of sanctions Ankara has placed conditions on allied aircraft operations from its Inçirlik airbase. For example, US and UK aircraft can conduct flights over Iraq only three days per week for up to three hours at a time, while a maximum of 48 aircraft are allowed to participate in ONW. ONW aircraft are also prohibited from entering Syrian or Iranian airspace, even in self-defence, and Turkey has limited the types of munitions they can carry, prohibiting, for example, the use of cluster bombs. "The Saudis haven't let us use their territory and the Turks don't like what we're doing either," said Dr Judith Yaphe, Middle East Project Manager at the US National Defense University's Institute of National Strategic Studies and head of the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq desk during the Gulf War. Russia and France both oppose the US-UK containment strategy. They argue that the UN sanctions are having negative effects on the Iraqi people and, while supporting the UN embargo, they want sanctions eased on humanitarian grounds. Moscow and Paris also have significant business interests in a more open Iraq. Russia wants to collect an estimated $7 billion debt and hopes at some point to help Iraq re-equip its armed forces. Russia and France have raised strident objections to the non-UN, US/UK-imposed 'no-fly' zones. The French stance has been most damaging. Paris participated in OSW early on, but withdrew its forces after a few years allegedly because it believed its involvement would be harmful in the long term. However, despite the critics of its approach to Iraq, the USA maintains it has the necessary support from regional and international allies. One senior official recently said: "We are fairly confident we have the support we need from our allies." Notwithstanding, the USA and UK have been pressured to ease some of the sanctions. The UN oil-for-food programme, which allows Iraq to sell a limited amount of oil in return for medical and agricultural products, is one example. The aim is to reduce the negative effects of sanctions on the Iraqi people. Late last month, the UN approved doubling the sum Iraq can spend annually on re-equipping its ageing petroleum industry and infrastructure to $1.2 billion. As opposition to the sanctions grows, the USA and the UK appear willing to do more to ease the sanctions. "There has been an easing on the sanctions, particularly in the area of dual-use" technologies, said Yaphe, referring to the extra resources Iraq can spend on its oil industry. "I'd like to see us ease up more on the economic side. A whole generation of Iraqis, discomforted, defeated and very anti-USA, are being lost. In the long term, that is very bad for us. A middle class in Iraq is more of a threat to Saddam than anything else." However, the USA and UK remain adamant that any new softening measures must be formulated in such a way as to prevent Saddam from controlling the proceeds. The revenues must go to clean water, new schools and other civilian improvements. "It is a certainty that the Iraqi people are better off under the oil-for-food programme than lifting the sanctions altogether," said a senior US defence official. More bluster than bullets Responding to pressure from the US Congress and frustration that Saddam remains safely ensconced in Iraq, Washington has stepped up its containment policy to what Yaphe calls "containment plus", or containment plus support for Saddam's potential successors. Overriding the advice of his own military commanders, including US Central Command chief Gen Anthony Zinni, US President Bill Clinton last year signed the Iraq Liberation Act, authorising $97 million to support Iraq's numerous and fractious opposition groups with "non-lethal" assistance. This attempt to assist groups such as the Iraqi National Congress to lay the groundwork for a power grab has been half-hearted because its chances of success seem negligible. Only a fraction of the money has been released. "We don't want to go where the logic takes us," says Yaphe, "because it could lead us into grave trouble. Congress says its wants more [for the opposition] than just faxes and file cabinets, but the administration doesn't want to actively support a military operation." In fact, last year US officials saw a plan by the opposition groups as foolish and even laughable, according to sources. The proposal included the US supply of offensive weapons and the establishment of a "safe haven" in southern Iraq where the opposition could train an army in "180 days" to march on Baghdad. The prospects for a successful US-funded coup that does not involve US forces are extremely low, officials say. "It is tough because the opposition is not a country with all the associated military infrastructure," said a senior Department of Defense (DoD) official. A well-placed US intelligence official commenting on Clinton's initiative said: "If you're going to overthrow a government like Saddam Hussein's you don't do it in the press. [The Iraq Liberation Act] is not a serious attempt. It's going to take [an Iraqi] general who is brave, angry and very careful" to get rid of Saddam. Staying the course US and UK officials insist that although the current situation is far from ideal, the broad aims of the Iraq strategy have been met. "We have to balance the drawbacks against our success in keeping [Saddam] in his box," said a senior defence official. According to US intelligence officials, as a result of the sanctions, Iraq has received no major military aid since 1990. It is the perception of more success than failure in the current policy, combined with the fact that US Vice-President Al Gore is seeking to succeed Clinton next January and does not want to provoke a crisis, that has kept the US-UK coalition in the game. They seem willing to just sit tight and wait for the Iraqi people to knock Saddam off his pedestal or for some other unexpected twist of fate which will remove him from the scene. "There's no clear way out of Iraq," said a senior US defence official, adding that "there is no difference of opinion to provoke a fundamental review. No-one perceives there is a need for a sweeping policy review." The official says that for the most part the only rethinking of Iraq policy is on the specifics, not the broader strategy. "Maintaining the direction and sustainability continues to be an issue." Yaphe adds that: "We have a dilemma because our policy is not to have a [new] policy, but to follow the broad outlines of our old policy." A recent discussion with former US defence secretaries sponsored by Georgia Tech University illustrated the popular view that Washington has little choice but to wait. Highlighting the lack of policy alternatives, William Perry, Clinton's defence secretary between 1994 and 1997, said: "In terms of strategy and tactics, we're stuck in a bad situation. But I'm hard-pressed to come up with a better [strategy]." Harold Brown, US DoD chief during Gerald Ford's Republican administration, agrees. "This is not a good strategy, but I haven't thought of a better one," he says. "We're playing for time," echoes former defence secretary James Schlesinger. Iraq's military: down but not out Saddam Hussein's military machine remains well-trained, well-equipped and is showing signs of a partial comeback despite Iraq's defeat during the 1990-91 Gulf War and having acquired no new weapon systems in a decade, The number of Iraqi ground combat divisions has fallen from 57 before the Gulf War to 23, according to US intelligence sources; the USA's strength for the same period has dropped from 18 to 10. The army remains statically deployed, focusing on what Baghdad sees as its main problem areas: *an estimated 15 regular army divisions are deployed in the north of the country opposite the Kurdish enclaves; *an average six divisions guard its southern border with Iran to contain the low-level insurgency from Shi'a Muslims; and *about three of the élite Republican Guard armoured divisions are stationed around Baghdad at any given time. Largely considered a 'rag-tag' military overall during much of the 1990s, new signs indicate that the situation may be improving. US intelligence officials cite the recent delivery of new shoes and uniforms as evidence of a gradual return to some form of professionalism. Despite the difficulty in acquiring spare parts and reportedly low levels of morale, Iraq has also demonstrated an "impressive" ability for the quick deployment of its ground forces around the country, US officials say. For example, it will redeploy, often by train, a division from the north to the south or vice-versa, according to a senior US defence official. This ability to quickly reposition forces led the USA to proclaim a 'no-drive' zone south of the 32nd parallel in 1994 to prevent Iraq from resupplying its forces in the south opposite Kuwait, less than 700 miles (1,120km) from Baghdad. To threaten US and UK pilots policing the 'no-fly' zones over northern and southern Iraq, Baghdad has relied on its weakened, though still powerful, air defence network, including Russian-built SA-2, SA-3, SA-6 and SA-8 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and anti-aircraft artillery. Repair facilities, particularly for the SA-2s and SA-3s, have been rebuilt since the December 1998 Operation 'Desert Fox', according to the US intelligence community. Iraq has also extended the range of its SA-2s, largely indigenously, according to US officials. Iraq, known for its prowess in setting SAM traps, has increasingly fired its SAMs without radar guidance, or "ballistically", for fear of attracting US and UK radar-homing missiles. It has even resorted to using ground artillery to target allied aircraft. "We're very lucky there has been no loss of aircraft," said a senior defence official. _________________________________________ · Iran repatriates nearly 2,000 Iraqi POWs, 12 April '00 http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/04/12/iraq.iran.prisoners.reut/index.htm l BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) -- Iran has completed the repatriation of 1,999 prisoners captured during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Red Cross and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which supervised the releases over the past few days said it was the biggest repatriation of Iraqi PoWs since 1998 when more than 5,000 were freed. "Between 8 and 11 April, some 1,999 Iraqi prisoners were released," Beat Schweitzer, the ICRC representative in Iraq, told Reuters. "The ICRC believes that this important event by Iran would speed up the process of finding answers for other open questions (on others missing in action)," Schweitzer said. Iran has said the releases are a "humanitarian gesture." It says many other captured Iraqis do not want to go home and Iraq is holding more than 5,000 Iranians. The handover took place at al-Munthiriya border crossing near the Iranian town of Khosravi northeast of Baghdad. The official Iraqi News Agency (INA) said 499 freed Iraqis crossed late on Tuesday. Thousands of Iraqis lined the road to greet them, chanting, ululating and showering the returning prisoners with roses. For most it was a tearful encounter with loved ones they had not seen for years and with sons and daughters that some had never seen. Relatives often had difficulty recognizing the freed prisoners who spent up to 18 years captive in Iran. Some who went to war as young men returned with grey hair. Schweitzer said the process of freeing more prisoners was continuing since Tehran last year allowed in an ICRC team for the first time since 1986 to visit detention camps and prisoners registered by the Red Cross. Baghdad says Iran is still holding 9,000 of its soldiers. "Yes, the 9,000 figure is correct but not all of them are still detained in Iran as some of them have even managed to travel outside Iran," Schweizer said. The ICRC wanted to tell "families (in Iraq) about the real fate of their sons" who are still regarded as missing in action, he said. INA quoted Fahmi al-Qaysi, the head of the Iraqi PoWs committee at the Foreign Ministry as saying the committee would "continue its work and efforts to resolve all the issues relating to Iraqi prisoners in Iran." ________________________________________________________ · Canadian Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade fifth report, 12 April '00 http://iraqaction.org/canparl.html House of Commons Chambre des communes Canada The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has the honour to present its FIFTH REPORT In accordance with its mandate under Standing Order 108(2), your Committee has considered the issue of sanctions against Iraq and has agreed to report the following: Stressing the need to address on an urgent basis the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Iraq; Recalling the actions of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and early 1990s, including the use of weapons of mass destruction against both Kurdish Iraqi citizens and Iran, the pursuit of a clandestine nuclear weapons capability despite being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the invasion of neighbouring Kuwait and missile attacks on Israel; Recalling the decisions of the United Nations Security Council to take all necessary measures to reverse the invasion of Kuwait and ensure the complete disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, involving the imposition of a broad sanctions regime; Noting the establishment of a UN Oil-For-Food program to allow the sale of Iraqi oil, yet aware that the cumulative effects of the broad sanctions regime continues to impose tremendous hardship upon the people of Iraq while not effectively weakening the government of Saddam Hussein; Welcoming the January 1999 Security Council adoption of a Canadian suggestion to establish expert panels to look at the issues of disarmament, the humanitarian situation and Kuwaiti prisoner of war and reparations issues as a means of breaking a growing impasse in the Security Council; Noting the March 1999 report of the UN expert panel on humanitarian issues entitled Report of the second panel established pursuant to the Note by the President of the Security Council on 30 January 1999 (S/1999/100) concerning the current humanitarian situation in Iraq, which noted in paragraphs 43 and 49, inter alia, that the country has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty.infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world.chronic malnutrition affects every fourth child . only 41% of the population have regular access to clean water.the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated; Deeply concerned by evidence presented to the Committee that in the past year the humanitarian situation in Iraq has in fact seriously deteriorated; Noting the March 1999 report of the UN expert panel on disarmament entitled Report of the first panel established pursuant to the Note by the President of the Security Council on 30 January 1999 (S/1999/100) concerning disarmament and current and future ongoing monitoring and verification issues, which noted in paragraphs 25 and 27, inter alia, both that "The bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated," and that ". 100% of verification may be an unattainable goal;" Taking note of Security Council Resolution 1284, adopted in December 1999, and the significant role Canada played in the adoption of this resolution, which has the potential, according to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to "enhance the impact of the program in alleviating the humanitarian situation in Iraq," but which, according to certain witnesses, will not, even if implemented, enable Iraq to create the economic conditions necessary for ending the humanitarian crisis; Welcoming the appointment as the Executive Chairman of the new UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) of Dr. Hans Blix, and underlining the requirement for cooperation by the Iraqi regime in carrying out the work of the Commission; Having met with experts, including former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, Denis Halliday, and Canadian NGOs concerned with and knowledgeable about the current situation in Iraq; Convinced of the urgency of the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and noting testimony that a "de-linking" of economic from military sanctions against Iraq would significantly improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq while satisfying security concerns; Aware that the Government of Canada is pursuing the study of reforming the system of sanctions during its April 2000 presidency of the UN Security Council; The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade recommends that the Government of Canada: Reaffirm publicly the need to address on an urgent basis the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Iraq; Notwithstanding the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1284, urgently pursue the "de-linking" of economic from military sanctions with a view to rapidly lifting economic sanctions in order to significantly improve the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people, while maintaining those aspects of the multilateral embargo necessary to satisfy security requirements and contribute to the overall goal of regional disarmament; Establish a Canadian diplomatic presence in Iraq in order to monitor developments in that country more effectively and to make direct representations to the Government of Iraq; Continue to pursue the broader issue of the reform of the use of sanctions in order to allow a clearer targeting of military forces and regimes instead of civilian populations. A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meetings No 30, 32 and 34) is tabled. Respectfully submitted, Le président, Bill GrahamChair ________________________________________________________ · Cohen's latest weapon-peddling tour, Al-Ahram Weekly Issue No. 477, 13 - 19 April '00 http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2000/477/op4.htm Winds of war By Salama Ahmed Salama The Middle East seems braced to join an arms race. Huge purchases of new defensive weapons coincide with a marked escalation in threats and anxiety not known since the Gulf War ended and Iraq's attempt to invade Kuwait was foiled. It looks like the Middle East is sitting on a powder keg of hostility waiting to explode at any moment. It is a state of affairs in which the United States is both the instigator of the potential explosion and the guarantor that it will not take place, depending on which way the wind blows. If this were not the case, why did US Defence Secretary William Cohen undertake such a busy tour of the region recently, during which he was personally involved in monitoring the conclusion of arms deals for billions of dollars? I do not refer only to the deal to provide Israel with $17 billion worth of fighter planes and sophisticated missiles as soon as a peace agreement is signed with Syria and Lebanon. Cohen also made a stopover in Cairo to approve Egypt's request to set up a mutual defence system, and specifically to acquire state-of-the-art air to air long- and medium-range defence missiles. Cohen had a few other stops on his itinerary, too. He went to the Gulf to peddle an early-warning anti-missile system to deter biological and chemical weapons. He made the same proposal to Jordan, which was invited to join Israel, Turkey and the United States in military manoeuvres in the Mediterranean, off the Syrian coast. Cohen's statements regarding the need for a collective defence system in the Gulf to protect population agglomerations from targets of biological or chemical weapons are astonishing, coming as they do at a time when Washington is -- or claims to be -- involved in efforts to make peace in the region, efforts that have so far resulted in a fragile peace. At the same time, Egypt and other Arab countries are striving to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from the region, including the nuclear arsenal maintained by Israel, and to establish a weapon-free zone. With the possibility of another military conflict looming over the region, the US seems determined to sow seeds of fear and doubt, and to give credence to rumours of military confrontation between parties other than those that have been traditionally involved in the past half-century of regional conflict. The biological and chemical weapons against which the secretary of defence is warning, and against which defence systems must be established, have nothing to do with Israel, whether as the instigator or the target of such attacks. Instead, Iraq or Iran are posited as the two potential sources of threat once peace and good neighbourly relations with Israel are established. Certainly, such a scenario for the future of the region, as envisaged by the US (after Iraq and Iran replace Israel in the power equation), fits well with US plans to maintain Israel's absolute military supremacy and insert it into a mutual defence agreement with the US and NATO. It should be noted that, in all the defence arrangements Cohen proposed, Israel's nuclear power was never mentioned. Instead, attention was turned to fears that Iraq and other Arab countries, including Syria and Egypt, were producing chemical and biological weapons. It is no coincidence that such implicit accusations are made as the air attacks on Iraq by British and US aircraft are resumed, and as Iran-Iraq skirmishes are once again instigated. The US was quick to fan the embers, publishing pictures of military bases where the sworn enemies of the regime in Tehran, the Mujahidin-i Khalq, are training inside Iraqi borders. Only the US's plans justify the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in the past few days. No doubt the prolonged conflict between Iran and Iraq, and Baghdad's failure to improve relations with neighbouring Arab countries, compounded by its failure to cooperate with the UN, are the pretexts the US cites when arousing security fears in the Gulf. The US is determined to sell more weapons while diverting attention from Israel's nuclear arsenal. Given the absence of an Arab security system, we must remember that, whether peace is attained or not, allowing the US to run the show will not necessarily be beneficial to the Arabs. Le président, Bill GrahamChair ________________________________________________________ · Meeting on Iraq sanctions describes horrors inflicted by US and allies, WSWS, 13 April '00 www.wsws.org Meeting on Iraq sanctions describes horrors inflicted by US and allies By Shannon Jones Arab-American organizations, religious-pacifist groups and academics participated in a panel discussion April 9 in Detroit, Michigan on the impact of the US-led sanctions against Iraq that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, mainly children. Despite the presence of a substantial panel, including academic experts and prominent members of the Arab-American community, the meeting was boycotted by the news media. The silence of the press continues the policy of suppressing reports on Iraq to hide from the American people the terrible suffering being inflicted on civilians by the US government and its allies. The meeting featured a showing of part of the documentary by British journalist John Pilger , Killing the children of Iraq-a price worth paying? The documentary recently aired on British television and presents a devastating exposure of the "humanitarian" pretensions of the regimes of US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. During the panel discussion a psychologist from the University of Michigan recounted experiences from a visit to Iraq he made last August and September. Among the stops on his trip was the southern Iraq city of Basra. "I confirmed a picture of deteriorating physical and mental health." He reported that one-third of Iraqi children are malnourished and 13 percent of Iraqi babies die within the first year. "The medical system in Iraq, which was once one of the best in the Middle East, is now in worse condition than in most Third World countries. There are minimal antibiotics, and these are shared equally, insuring that no one gets an adequate dose. There is a lack of parts for air conditioning in hospitals. I was in emergency rooms that were 100 degrees. Blood cannot be stored due to a lack of plastic bags. Surgical gloves are washed with contaminated water and reused again and again until they are worn out. Iraqi doctors, who are very dedicated, have been without access to updated medical journals or texts since 1990." He reported that because of the lack of medicine and basic medical supplies surgical procedures have been reduced by 75 percent. Some are performed without anesthetic. He noted that leukemia and congenital abnormalities have increased dramatically, possibly as a consequence of exposure to depleted uranium from the weapons that rained down on Iraq during the Gulf War. Furthermore, there has been a growth in mental health disorders, including in particular those related to stress. Social breakdown is evident in the form of increased theft and vagrancy. Vicky Rob, a relief worker with the aid organization "Life for Relief and Development," told of the devastating fall in the standard of living for the Iraqi population due to the impact of sanctions. "The Oil for Food program has been a failure from the start. Contracts may take months to approve." She reported that much of the infrastructure in Iraq has not been repaired. "A multi-tiered bureaucracy must approve any exports. The UN does not allow the repair or upgrading of schools or clinics.... Today Iraq is the poorest country in the world. One kilo of meat is 1500 dinars. The average salary of an Iraqi is 4000 dinars per month. The cheapest pair of pants for a child is 4000 dinars. Clothing is a luxury." Dr. Hikmet Jamil, MD, PhD, a health consultant for the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services and a member of the Wayne State University faculty in Detroit, reported that the Iraqi people were exposed to about 630,000 pounds of depleted uranium weapons during the Gulf War. A pilot study he conducted on Iraqi refugees who emigrated to the United States after the Gulf War found that congenital anomalies and mental disorders in this group were much higher than among immigrants from other Arab countries. Sixty percent of the Iraqi immigrants in the study suffered from depression and 24 percent suffered more serious mental disorders; 74 percent suffered from respiratory problems. Following the meeting Dr. Jamil told the WSWS, "Before 1997 I was a professor in the medical school in Baghdad. There has been a dramatic change in the trend of disease and cancer, specifically leukemia in children, since 1994-95." I myself was exposed to depleted uranium. After the war I treated soldiers who brought back empty shell casings and gave them to us as souvenirs. We didn't know that we were exposing ourselves to uranium. Kids were playing with these things. In the south of Iraq, where there were major battles, the exposure was unbelievable." I will give a good example of how the impact of the sanctions on the infrastructure of Iraq could be seen. You go to a teaching hospital. Say you found in a ward 16 to 20 patients; if six needed an injection, they would have to inject all six with one needle, without sterilization, because the sterilization equipment isn't working. That is only one simple example. "Between 1989 and 1997 there has been a 100 percent increase in the cases of malignant cancer in Iraq. There has been a 14 percent increase in renal diseases and a 13 percent increase in cardiac diseases." "In 1998 I returned to Iraq for two weeks to give a talk on the research I was doing in the United States. There has been a long-term impact of the Gulf War on the Iraqi people. I did studies among Iraqi refugees living in the United States. They are still complaining of what is called Gulf War Syndrome. This is only a pilot study. I am still seeking funding for a major study." While those addressing the gathering described the horrors inflicted on the Iraqi population by US imperialism, the general political orientation of those organizing the town hall meeting is to apply pressure on the Democratic Party and the Clinton administration. This is the same regime which continues to bomb Iraq almost daily, and has overseen the extermination by disease and malnutrition of some 500,000 Iraqi men, women and children for the sake of American geopolitical interests. The meeting was chaired by Congressman John Conyers, Democrat from Detroit, who has sought to divert opposition to the sanctions into the dead end of appeals to the conscience of Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In the face of mounting international revulsion over the sanctions, Conyers recently cosponsored, along with a handful of liberal House members, a bill that would modify the current sanction policies of the Clinton administration. The bill, which has no chance of passing, would not end the suffering of the people of Iraq. The proposed legislation would lift the embargo on medical and food supplies. However, it would maintain the existing ban on spare parts needed for restoring Iraq's water purification system, electrical grids and other vital infrastructures. The bill also stipulates that food and medicine exports to Iraq be subject to review for "potential threats to the national security of the United States." The UN committee overseeing the sanctions has routinely banned the shipment of many medical supplies, such as syringes, on the grounds that they have a potential military use. The measure also does not address the question of how Iraq would pay for additional imports of food and medicine. The current restrictions imposed by the so-called Oil for Food program limit the amount of oil Iraq can export and earmarks a large part of its oil revenue for reparation payments to Kuwait and administrative costs. ________________________________________________________ Suffer the young , Yahoo!, 13 April '00 IN any armed conflict, women, children and the elderly will always be theprime victims. In the case of Iraq which experienced two wars - with Iran (1980-88) and the Gulf conflict (1990-91) - and faced comprehensive economic sanctions in the last 10 years, the situation for children especially has become critical. Families have lost the capacity to provide their children with a sense of security and belonging. Homes are devoid of toys and books. Loss of income, lack of food and the strain of poverty have led to increased stress and child abuse, according to a Unicef report. Ever since they were born, these young children have never seen enough food and clean water. "A baby whose hunger remains frequently unsatisfied does not develop trust in the world," says the report. Parents worry constantly about how to cater to the children's needs and are stressed by their inability to deliver. The shortage of food and water has largely been attributed to the bombings, which damaged Iraq's vital infrastructure such as water and sewage system. The irrigation system on which Iraq's arid land depended on was badly affected, thus the shortage of food crops. Although the Iraqi government provides each family a monthly ration or "food basket" containing rice, flour, sugar, milk, cooking oil, tea and soap, it is barely enough to last a whole month. Munirah Saleem, a 13-year-old student, admits that her family is struggling to survive every month." I come from a family of three children. My sister is 20 years old and my brother is 11. My father can only find a job as a labourer." The food basket is enough for only 10 days. Towards the end of the month I go to school without food." To buy basic necessities, the rich are selling their personal belongings such as carpets, crystals and jewellery. Those with nothing to sell trade items such as milk from the food basket, at the expense of young children's health. Hence malnutrition is rampant, affecting every fourth child under five years old. According to Unicef, every one in 10 children will not survive.What is worrying, continues the report, is that malnutrition, particularly in early age, threatens to damage the child's physical and cognitive capabilities, thus reducing their normal development from the beginning. There are also increased cases of congenital and acquired childhood disabilities, caused by factors like perinatal complications and high fevers that go unattended. Malnutrition continues to affect their learning ability when they get older. They find it hard to concentrate and memorise their school work and this is reflected in their educational progress. As much as homes are no longer conducive to children's psychological development, schools are no better. Like the other infrastructures, they are falling apart as repair work and maintenance have been forbidden by the sanctions. Children are lucky if they have desks and chairs. Many schools have holes in ceilings and broken windows. The children therefore suffer cold draughts during winter and sandstorms in summer.And yet, only a decade ago, this country had a high standard of education which was provided free up to university level. Students were given free books, stationery, uniforms and in some schools, even food. Those who obtained a master's degree or a Ph.D were rewarded with a Mercedez Benz.Now an alarming number are dropping out of schools. A Unicef report cites a 13.9 per cent drop in primary school enrolment in southern and central Iraq between 1990-98, and a 14.7 per cent drop in vocational preparatory school enrolment. Children as young as four are already involved in income-generating activities to help their families. Many have resorted to living in the streets and committing criminal acts in order to survive. The number of male children referred to rehabilitation centres has increased five-fold since the early 90s. Among female street children, the number of beggars has increased." Such problems, once they crop up, are very difficult to redress," warns Anupama Rao Singh, the Unicef representative in Iraq. ..TX: Tomorrow: The growing number of disenchanted youth. ..TX: * The writer was part of a working group that accompanied Datuk Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali to Iraq from March 25-29 to observe the effects of the sanctions. ________________________________________________________ · Cohen's latest weapon-peddling tour, Al-Ahram Weekly Issue No. 477, 13 - 19 April'00 http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2000/477/op4.htm Winds of war By Salama Ahmed Salama The Middle East seems braced to join an arms race. Huge purchases of new defensive weapons coincide with a marked escalation in threats and anxiety not known since the Gulf War ended and Iraq's attempt to invade Kuwait was foiled. It looks like the Middle East is sitting on a powder keg of hostility waiting to explode at any moment. It is a state of affairs in which the United States is both the instigator of the potential explosion and the guarantor that it will not take place, depending on which way the wind blows. If this were not the case, why did US Defence Secretary William Cohen undertake such a busy tour of the region recently, during which he was personally involved in monitoring the conclusion of arms deals for billions of dollars? I do not refer only to the deal to provide Israel with $17 billion worth of fighter planes and sophisticated missiles as soon as a peace agreement is signed with Syria and Lebanon. Cohen also made a stopover in Cairo to approve Egypt's request to set up a mutual defence system, and specifically to acquire state-of-the-art air to air long- and medium-range defence missiles. Cohen had a few other stops on his itinerary, too. He went to the Gulf to peddle an early-warning anti-missile system to deter biological and chemical weapons. He made the same proposal to Jordan, which was invited to join Israel, Turkey and the United States in military manoeuvres in the Mediterranean, off the Syrian coast. Cohen's statements regarding the need for a collective defence system in the Gulf to protect population agglomerations from targets of biological or chemical weapons are astonishing, coming as they do at a time when Washington is -- or claims to be -- involved in efforts to make peace in the region, efforts that have so far resulted in a fragile peace. At the same time, Egypt and other Arab countries are striving to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from the region, including the nuclear arsenal maintained by Israel, and to establish a weapon-free zone. With the possibility of another military conflict looming over the region, the US seems determined to sow seeds of fear and doubt, and to give credence to rumours of military confrontation between parties other than those that have been traditionally involved in the past half-century of regional conflict. The biological and chemical weapons against which the secretary of defence is warning, and against which defence systems must be established, have nothing to do with Israel, whether as the instigator or the target of such attacks. Instead, Iraq or Iran are posited as the two potential sources of threat once peace and good neighbourly relations with Israel are established. Certainly, such a scenario for the future of the region, as envisaged by the US (after Iraq and Iran replace Israel in the power equation), fits well with US plans to maintain Israel's absolute military supremacy and insert it into a mutual defence agreement with the US and NATO. It should be noted that, in all the defence arrangements Cohen proposed, Israel's nuclear power was never mentioned. Instead, attention was turned to fears that Iraq and other Arab countries, including Syria and Egypt, were producing chemical and biological weapons. It is no coincidence that such implicit accusations are made as the air attacks on Iraq by British and US aircraft are resumed, and as Iran-Iraq skirmishes are once again instigated. The US was quick to fan the embers, publishing pictures of military bases where the sworn enemies of the regime in Tehran, the Mujahidin-i Khalq, are training inside Iraqi borders. Only the US's plans justify the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in the past few days. No doubt the prolonged conflict between Iran and Iraq, and Baghdad's failure to improve relations with neighbouring Arab countries, compounded by its failure to cooperate with the UN, are the pretexts the US cites when arousing security fears in the Gulf. The US is determined to sell more weapons while diverting attention from Israel's nuclear arsenal. Given the absence of an Arab security system, we must remember that, whether peace is attained or not, allowing the US to run the show will not necessarily be beneficial to the Arabs. _____________________________________________________ · Iraqi POWs refuse to go home, 13 April '00 The International Committee of the Red Cross says that thousands of Iraqis captured by Iran during the war in the 1980s are refusing to return home. The Committee oversaw the repatriation of almost 2,000 Iraqi prisoners earlier this week. But it says that more than 4,600 others told them in interviews that they were unwilling to return to Iraq. Correspondents say the fate of the prisoners-of-war is an irritant to normalising ties between Iraq and Iran after their eight-year war which cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. The Red Cross representative in Iraq, Beat Shweizer, did not give any reasons for the prisoners' refusal. It is the first time that the ICRC had reported the unwillingness of Iraqi prisoners to return home. Repatriation Over a two-month period, ICRC delegates had registered and held private interviews with each of the prisoners to ensure that they were going home of their own free will, a statement said. >From 8 to 11 April, 1,999 prisoners were handed over at the al-Munziriya border post, 190km (115 miles) north-east of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. They were reunited with their families in emotional scenes. Iran announced last week that it would release 2,000 POWs within a week, as a "humanitarian gesture". The release was the fifth in a process launched in April 1998 with the aim of repatriating all POWs from the Iran-Iraq war who want to go home. Since the end of the war in 8,511 POWs have returned to Iraq, and three Iranian POWs and 369 civilian detainees have gone back to Iran. The ICRC has supervised the repatriation of more than 97,000 POWs held by both sides since the outbreak of the conflict in 1980. Baghdad says Iran is still holding 9,000 of its soldiers, while Tehran says Iraq has more than 5,000 Iranians. Mr Shweizer confirmed the figure of 9,000 Iranian POWs but said not all of them were being detained in Iran. He told Reuters news agency that some of them had managed to travel out of Iran but had not returned to Iraq. Tension between the two countries has risen in recent weeks over cross-border attacks by the Iraq-based Mujahideen e-Khalq, the main exiled Iranian opposition group. _____________________________________________________ · Iraqi Oil Smuggling and the U.S. Dilemma (Stratfor analysis report), 13 April '00 http://www.stratfor.com Iraqi Oil Smuggling and the U.S. Dilemma SUMMARY Iran detained 10 tankers April 11 that allegedly carried illegal Iraqi oil through the Persian Gulf. It appears that, for the time being, Iran is serious about interdicting Iraqi oil exports, and this will force Baghdad to exploit alternative routes. An oil pipeline running from Kirkuk, Iraq, to Syria's Mediterranean port Banias is the most effective, reasonable alternative. If Syria cooperates, the United States will face a serious dilemma as it tries to improve relations with Iran, contain Iraq and secure a peace deal between Israel and Syria. Washington can respond to Iran's overture or continue to cajole Syria into concluding a formal peace deal. ANALYSIS The naval arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) has detained 10 tankers carrying a total of 45,000 tons of smuggled Iraqi oil, reported Reuters. This report - the third in a week - clearly confirms that Tehran has begun enforcing U.N. sanctions against Baghdad in an attempt to curb Iraqi oil smuggling. Iran's crackdown is an extension of its disagreement with OPEC over the cartel's recent decision to increase oil production. Iran argued against the amount of OPEC's production increase, so to maintain higher prices Iran is now attempting to cut Iraqi output by deterring smuggling. In doing so, Tehran has set up a situation in which the United States cannot help but be an unwitting partner. Iraq is unable to retaliate with force, because the United States would be obligated to stop Iraqi aggression. Washington must decide how to reciprocate the Iranian gesture - if at all. The dilemma will arise when Iraq seeks other oil smuggling routes. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, on Oct. 4, 1999, the U.N. Security Council raised to $8.3 billion the cap on how much revenue Iraq can earn under the U.N. oil-for-food program. With oil prices currently around $22-$23, Iraq is able to export about 2 million barrels per day (bpd). However, Iraq has managed to smuggle an additional 200,000-400,000 bpd of oil out of the country. Until recently, Iran has reportedly facilitated Iraq's oil smuggling. Ships loaded Iraqi oil from a terminal on the Shatt al-Arab, a waterway leading from Iraq to the Persian Gulf. Once at sea, the smugglers met Iranian patrol boats, mostly manned by the IRGC navy. By paying the IRGC $50 per metric ton of oil, smugglers received forged paperwork asserting that the oil originated in Iran and providing safe passage through Iranian territorial waters, extending to the Straits of Hormuz - the mouth of the gulf. The U.S.-led Maritime Interdiction Force, charged with preventing Iraqi oil smuggling, cannot enter Iranian waters to enforce the sanctions against Iraq. Iranian cooperation has come to an abrupt halt with the interdiction of 12 tankers in three days. The administration of Kish, Iran's resort island and free-trade zone, has even lodged a complaint in the courts against "foreign oil tankers," which it blames for a large oil slick threatening the environment off the southeast coast of the island, reported Iran's official news agency April 12. Iran's shift in policy does not appear to be a temporary development. The gulf smuggling scheme was by far the most lucrative of Iraq's smuggling routes. Iraq has an oil pipeline from Kirkuk, Iraq, to Ceyhan, Turkey, that is currently capable of transporting about 900,000 bpd and is running at near full capacity. The oil-for-food program closely regulates output from this pipeline. However, truck tankers smuggle oil from Iraq to Turkey. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iraq also smuggles oil to Iran across the Fao Peninsula with barges. There have even been reports that Iraq smuggles oil by truck to the Mediterranean via Syria and Lebanon. None of Iraq's existing truck or barge smuggling routes is capable of moving the 200,000-400,000 bpd of oil that has been smuggled out of the gulf every day. However, there is an oil pipeline from Kirkuk, Iraq, to Syria's Mediterranean port Banias that has been shut off and in need of repair since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. According to Iraq's deputy oil minister, the pipeline was repaired in March and is capable of transporting about 300,000-350,000 bpd. Syria reportedly agreed in February 1999 to reopen the pipeline, but Iraq will need U.N. approval to start legally exporting oil via Syria. This pipeline could become a viable alternative for oil smuggling. Syria could collect some badly needed cash from Iraq by reactivating the pipeline. This would create a significant dilemma for U.S. policy. Washington wants to contain Baghdad and can use diplomacy or force to ensure oil is not smuggled via the pipeline. Iran's behavior - whether intended or not - can be interpreted by Washington as an overture. Now the United States can take the opportunity to make an overture of its own. The U.S. overture might come in the form of disabling the pipeline to Syria, Iran's erstwhile ally. Washington could respond to Iran's tacit overture while curbing Iraqi oil smuggling. Disabling the pipeline within Iraq would take Syria out of the equation. Such a move would not be unprecedented. During the Desert Fox air strikes, U.S. warplanes bombed an Iraqi pipeline leading to the gulf that was used primarily for oil smuggling. Also, in February 1999, U.S. forces bombed a pumping station along the crucial Iraq-Turkey pipeline. According to Pentagon officials, the actual target was a radio relay station located along the pipeline that had a dual-use as an Iraqi military communications facility. Unfortunately, disabling the pipeline will provoke increased Syrian intransigence on the U.S.-propelled Israeli-Syrian peace process. However, should diplomacy be chosen over military action, the United States would find it costly to provide incentive for cooperating with Israel while attempting to dissuade Syria from cooperating with Iraq. The pipeline would become a political lever for Syria, and Washington would have to ante up something else to counter it. Ultimately, Syria is likely to cooperate with Iraq. Damascus will gain a viable source of income and leverage over the United States. But, Syria's cooperation with Iraq will further disconcert Iran, which is trying to curb oil smuggling to maintain high prices. Syria is already at odds with Iran over Lebanon and the peace process with Israel. But, Syria is also an old ally of Iran, and the two maintain an open dialogue. That relationship paves the way for Tehran to collaborate with Washington on convincing Damascus to keep the pipeline closed. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi