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News, 5-11/8/01 (2)

News, 5-11/8/01 (2)
See News (1) for short accounts of articles after titles.


*  Activists Protest Iraq Sanctions
*  Fasters protest Iraq sanctions
*  Sanctions on Iraq
*  Sanctions on Iraq


*  Guardian Diary


*  U.S. should intensify pressure on Hussein
*  35 illegal Iraqi Kurdish immigrants
*  Iraqi Kurds cross Lebanese border
*  Asylum-seekers chance Channel crossing to the promised land

*  Iraqi Kurds face uncertain future
BBC, 11th August


*  Last vessel carrying wheat leaves for Iraq

*  Iraq's Oil Money Undermines Sanctions
The Associated Press, Sun 5 Aug 2001


*  Going for an Iraqi dig? Don't forget the AK


The Associated Press, Mon 6 Aug 2001

NEW YORK: Opponents of U.N. sanctions against Iraq marked the 11th
anniversary of the measures Monday by holding vigils outside U.N. offices in
New York and in Bagdhad, where demonstrators fasted in 122-degree heat.

Fifteen people protested in New York, including eight who were beginning a
40-day fast, said Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness, a group
campaigning against the measures. In the Iraqi capital, 10 Americans and
Britons sat outside U.N. offices on plastic chairs in a tent, observing a
one-day fast.

``We are here to tell the world we are against sanctions. Sanctions kill
children and elderly and this is rejected by all international laws,'' Jeff
Guntzel, head of Voices in the Wilderness, said in Iraq.

The group said similar events were held in 15 cities around the world,
including in Canada and Britain. The demonstrations were aimed at pressuring
the United Nations to reconsider the sanctions, which were imposed on Iraq
on Aug. 6, 1990, four days after its forces invaded Kuwait.

Among those fasting at the New York vigil was Denis Halliday, a former
assistant U.N. secretary-general who resigned in 1998 as the U.N.
humanitarian coordinator in Iraq to protest the sanctions.

He said thousands of Iraqi children had died from dysentery and other
diseases because the U.N. restrictions had complicated the repair of water
treatment plants and stunted food production.

``It is of great urgency for those (U.N.) member states not yet irreparably
corrupted by the United States to end the killing,'' Halliday said. ``How
will we explain to our children and grandchildren when the truth of U.N.
genocide in Iraq comes out, as it surely will?''

The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions after Iraq invaded Kuwait in
1990, but they have been criticized for hurting Iraqi civilians while
failing to shake Saddam Hussein's autocratic regime.

Last month, the United States and Britain proposed changes that would have
given Iraqis unrestricted access to civilian goods to further ease the
impact of sanctions while targeting military supplies and toughening

The plan was supported by 14 of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council,
but it was withdrawn in the face of a threatened Russian veto.

On Monday, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations directed questions about
the protests to the State Department in Washington, which declined comment.

Halliday, who is Irish, has become a symbol for activists campaigning to
lift sanctions.

He was sent to Iraq in 1997 as a 34-year U.N. veteran to oversee the
oil-for-food program, which the Security Council adopted in 1995 to help
ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions.

The program now allows Baghdad to sell unlimited amounts of oil ‹ provided
the money goes into a U.N.-controlled account for humanitarian relief, oil
industry repairs and war reparations.

Halliday resigned in 1998, saying the sanctions were devastating the Iraqi

His successor, Hans Von Sponeck of Germany, quit in 2000 for the same
reason. Along with former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter of the United
States, they have become vocal opponents of the sanctions.

On Monday, Halliday called on other U.N. staff members to rebel against the

``There is a time to question authority and to refuse orders,'' he said.

The protesters said they oppose Saddam Hussein's autocratic regime but worry
that international efforts against him are more harmful to regular citizens.

``A lot of times people have the idea that it's like a vending machine ‹ you
just deposit some change and regime change occurs,'' said Kathy Kelly, one
of the founders of Voices in the Wilderness. ``But it doesn't work that way
in a country.''

Sanctions cannot be lifted until U.N. weapons inspectors determine that Iraq
is free of weapons of mass destruction. That certification is unlikely
because Baghdad has barred inspectors from the country for more than 2 1/2

Iraq contends that it has met all U.N. demands and wants sanctions lifted.

by Eli Sanders
Seattle Times, 8th August

When Brian Mack went to Iraq last year he saw a civilization destroyed.

"Transportation ‹ gone. Bridges still bombed out. Windshields still cracked
after 10 years."

The country's water and sewage systems, wracked by Allied bombing during the
1991 Gulf War, were still in shambles. Medical care was bare-bones.

"It was a complete snuffing out of a society," said Mack, a teacher at
Seattle Preparatory High School. "Eleven years of the most comprehensive
sanctions the world has ever seen do a nasty bite."

Now Mack and other area residents are in the midst of a 10-day fast to
protest the crippling economic sanctions they say help keep Iraq in such
disarray ‹ sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations after Iraq
invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Though it has been more than 10 years since a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi
forces out of Kuwait, the sanctions have remained in place because Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein has refused to allow U.N. inspectors to verify that he
has no weapons of mass destruction.

The aim of the sanctions is to contain Hussein and, the United States hopes,
spur his people to press for new leadership. But Mack and others consider
the sanctions a failure. They say the sanctions seem only to have helped
consolidate Hussein's power while reducing his people's lives to misery.
Iraq says its infant mortality has more than doubled. Medical supplies are
scarce. Estimates of the total deaths from the sanctions range from 300,000
to more than 1 million.

On a visit to Iraq in January, Kristine Swenson, a graduate student at
Seattle University who is fasting with Mack, was horrified by what she saw.

"Everything is broken," she said. "People have no buying power. Every other
car is a taxi driven by a former professional who now no longer has a car."

Larry Kerschner, a nurse practitioner from Olympia who visited Iraq with
Mack, also is part of the fast, which began Friday and lasts until Sunday.
Similar fasts are taking place around the world. On Monday in New York,
eight people, including a former U.N. assistant secretary general who
resigned in 1998 to protest the sanctions, began a 40-day fast.

Swenson said she certainly doesn't support Hussein, who is accused by many
of promoting and exploiting his people's misery in order to wriggle out of
the compliance with U.N. demands.

But, she added, "it's absolutely unethical to expect a population of people
in a such a weakened state to overthrow their government when we haven't
given them the tools to rebuild after bombing them back to the stone age."

Mack said he believes Hussein can easily be contained militarily without the
use of economic sanctions.

"If we're for innocent civilians and against evil dictators, let's end the
sanctions," he said.

Letter in Irish Times, 8th August

Sir, - Sir Ivor Roberts, British Ambassador to Ireland, writes (August 2nd)
that Hans Van Sponeck offers no alternative to UN sanctions on Iraq. Nothing
could be further from the truth.

He further attempts to muddy the waters by smearing Dr Van Sponeck and
others who support the end of sanctions by suggesting they are apologists
for the Iraqi government.

Firstly, sanctions are not of the making of the Iraqi people. More than
5,000 children die each month as a result of sanctions, with only the US and
Britain continuing to support them.

The alternative is to lift all sanctions while maintaining an arms embargo
on Iraq and all other countries in the region. Perhaps Sir Ivor could point
out one country in the region whose human rights record is beyond reproach.

Finally, Dr Van Sponeck is one of the finest individuals I have ever had the
honour to meet. He is liberal and moral and, like myself, supports liberal
Western democracies. - Yours, etc.,

NIALL ANDREWS, MEP, European Parliament Office, Dublin 2

Letter in Irish Times, 10th August

Sir, - Recent letters from the UK Ambassador, Sir Ivor Roberts, on the UN
sanctions on Iraq has provoked several responses from readers. I would
suggest that those trying to justify these sanctions might reflect on the
words of Patriarch Raphael the First of Babylon, head of the main Christian
church in Iraq. "Killing a man in a forest is an unpardonable crime in law.
Killing a nation, it would seem, is a matter of debate and perspective".

This week marks the 11th anniversary of the imposition of the sanctions on
Iraq. The length of time the sanctions have been in place and their
undoubted appalling impact have promoted a new debate on the morality of
applying sanctions at all as an instrument of the United Nations in pursuit
of its mandate to promote peace.

It must be recalled that economic sanctions are just one step short of the
ultimate sanction, military action. As such there is a strong argument that
similar criteria to those used to justify warfare should be employed for the
application of sanctions.

The UN Commission on Human Rights has had a working paper prepared on this
issue by Mr Marc Bossuyt, a Belgian jurist. He proposes six criteria for
evaluating sanctions:

1. Are the sanctions imposed for valid reasons - i.e., when there is a
threat to, or actual breach of, international peace and security?

2. Do the sanctions target the proper parties? Sanctions may not target
civilians who are not involved with the threat to peace or international

3. Do the sanctions target the proper goods or objects? Sanctions may not
interfere with the free flow of humanitarian goods under the Geneva
Convention and other basic provisions of humanitarian law.

4. Are the sanctions reasonably time-limited? Legal sanctions may become
illegal when they have been applied too long without meaningful results.

5. Are the sanctions effective? Sanctions must be reasonably capable of
achieving a desired result in terms of threat or actual breach of
international peace or security.

6. Are the sanctions free from protest arising from violations of the
principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience?

No matter where one points the finger of blame for the current humanitarian
crisis in Iraq, it is clear that it is the imposition of sanctions that has
created the context wherein the Iraqi nation is being slowly destroyed. The
sanctions have been in place now for 11 years, and there is no end in sight.
They have led to the death of 1.5 million people and the economic collapse
of the country. And as their impact has become known to the wider world it
has provoked an outcry of disapproval from a concerned public. Applying
Bossuyt's criteria it is clear that continuing this regime of sanctions is
immoral and indefensible.

That is the point that Sir Ivor Roberts, and British Government policy, miss
entirely. - Yours, etc.,

JUSTIN KILCULLEN, Director, Trócaire, Booterstown Avenue, Blackrock, Co


NO URL [communicated by Felicity Arbuthnot, who may not be unconnected with
the item in question]

*  Guardian Diary
Guardian, August 7th.

By way of celebrating yesterday's 11th anniversary of the uniquely draconian
UN (really US and British) sanctions against Iraq - the policy defended and
propogated with such infectious vigour by my old friend Peter Hain - an
intriguing fact comes to our attention. UN sniffer dogs used for de-mining
in Iraqi Kurdistan have been getting over six times more for food under
security council resolution 986, the so called 'oil for food' agreement,
than the Iraqi people. A dispute with the Iraqi government has goaded the
usually secretive UN sanctions committee into revealing that "the average
cost of feeding one dog (between July 1999 and June 2000) was $408. Each dog
was fed 0.8 kilos of imported dog food ... enhanced by local food such as
chicken ..." The taste of chicken is as familiar to Iraqi children as that
of bananas here during the war of course, and according to a minute analysis
by Dr Eric Herring of Bristol University, the annual amount spent on feeding
each Iraqi under "oil for food" is $65, or less than 31 [pence? -PB] a week.


by Michael Rubin
Baltimore Sun, 9th August

WASHINGTON -- Sanctions on Iraq are now 11 years old, and U.S. policy is
going nowhere fast.

The State Department has proposed to revise sanctions to try to undermine
Saddam Hussein's propaganda, but the approach is little more than
appeasement. At least that's how Iraqis described it during my recent
nine-month visit there. They pointed out that Mr. Hussein interprets
negotiation and compromise as weakness, not a tool to resolve differences.

Regardless, nothing in the proposed revised sanctions forces Mr. Hussein to
feed his people, and so the Iraqi ruler will simply continue to cynically
starve them and blame the United States.

Anti-sanctions activists will continue their pressure to lift sanctions and
rehabilitate Mr. Hussein, claiming the sanctions to be responsible for the
deaths of a million.

They often cite the 1 million number as a solid United Nations statistic,
though they often fail to mention that Mr. Hussein's Health Ministry was the
report's co-author and that the Iraqi government provided most of the
statistics. Even United Nations officials admit the report is extremely

Rather than loosen controls on Mr. Hussein, the Bush administration should
ratchet up the pressure.

When left alone, Mr. Hussein started two bloody wars and, in an orgy of
violence against his own population in 1988, he killed 182,000 Iraqi
civilians, many with chemical weapons.

While Secretary of State Colin Powell may want to tread softly, leaving Mr.
Hussein to his devices would be to make the same mistake three times.

Iraqis, free to speak openly in the northern safe-haven, are terrified that
the United States has lost its resolve.

Only since the implementation in 1996 of the oil-for-food program have the
northern Iraqis received income proportional to their population.

The northerners associate Mr. Hussein with interrogation cells, rape,
chemical weapons attacks, destroyed villages and war.

According to doctors in Halabja, site of one of Mr. Hussein's more gruesome
chemical attacks, cancers and birth defects have increased by more than 300
percent. If sanctions are lifted and Mr. Hussein reasserts authoritarian
control over the democratic north, locals say the result will be clear: 3
million refugees.

Since Mr. Hussein is the primary threat to the Iraqi people, the Bush
administration should do everything in its power to avert a humanitarian
crisis and prevent Mr. Hussein from again threatening Iraqis or their

Augmenting the no-fly zones with "no-drive zones" would be a start, giving
maximum protection to the region's civilians with minimum risk to American

Simply put, the United States should declare that Mr. Hussein's armor and
artillery -- so cavalierly paraded for 13 hours in Baghdad Dec. 31 -- will
not be allowed to terrorize the safe-haven or any other area of Iraq where
the people rise up and demand their democratic and human rights.

A no-drive zone requires air power -- effectively used to counter Slobodan
Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia -- but not ground troops. Mr.
Hussein can hide his tanks, but hidden tanks cannot be used to level
schools, hospitals, mosques or homes, as his armor did.

In December, Mr. Hussein briefly moved his troops into the northern
safe-haven and surrounded a town called Baadre. American jets flew low over
the Iraqi soldiers; 138 troops threw down their weapons and surrendered.

Iraqis living both in the safe-haven and under Mr. Hussein's control
consistently reported Iraq's military morale to be low. Iraqis simply do not
want to die for Mr. Hussein.

Some might argue that the security of a no-drive zone might become a base
for an uprising, but why should the United States and Europe applaud the
Serbian people for rising up against their dictator but discourage Iraqis
who have suffered both longer and more brutally? The choice should be made
by Iraqis only.

If the Bush administration is serious about helping stabilize Iraq and
protect innocent people, the time is now for a no-drive zone. Muddling
through Iraq policy, or loosening controls on Mr. Hussein, will only
encourage the Iraqi leader to again use his military against civilians and
minorities and destabilize his neighbors.

Michael Rubin, a visiting scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy and a Carnegie Council fellow, recently returned from nine months as
a visiting professor in northern Iraq.


Sanandaj, Kurdestan Prov, Aug 9, IRNA -- Iranian security forces have
arrested and sent home 35 Iraqi Kurds illegally staying in the western city
of Marivan, along the border with Iraq, a local source said Thursday.

 "The illegal immigrants, all coming from northern Iraqi Kurdistan, were
identified and arrested in a region known as the Hizbullah crossroads," the
security source, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, told IRNA.

"The detainees said they had tried to jump over into the Iranian border as
they were sick of the political and economic situation in their country," he
said, adding that they were repatriated after undergoing the legal process.

Iran's Democratic Kurdistan Party was officially banned following the 1979
Islamic Revolution which toppled the Shah and installed an Islamic
government. The party's leader was assassinated in Vienna in 1989.

Different Kurdish factions rebelled against the Islamic Republic after the

The Associated Press, Thu 9 Aug 2001

JERUSALEM: A group of 42 Iraqi Kurds crossed into Israel along its tense
northern border with Lebanon and requested asylum Thursday, Israeli military
officials said.

Israel refused the request and began preparations to deport the group, which
included a 3 month-old baby, to Lebanon.

Lt. Col. Raz Sagui, the Israeli commander in the area, said he fired a shot
in the air as the group approached the border and began climbing the fence.
But when he saw that the infiltrators, mostly women and children, were
unarmed, he allowed them to cross.

Troops held the asylum seekers under guard while Israeli authorities made
arrangements with U.N. officials in Lebanon for the group's return. After
receiving food and water, they were driven by bus to the U.N. border
checkpoint in Nakoura, just inside Lebanon.

The asylum seekers told soldiers they reached Lebanon from Iraq through
Syria, looking for work. They said they could not return to Lebanon for fear
that Hezbollah guerrillas would kill them for seeking Israeli help.

Israel ended an 18-year occupation of a strip of south Lebanon last year
after a bloody guerrilla war against Hezbollah. However, tension continues
high because Hezbollah charges that Israel still holds a piece of Lebanese
territory and vows to fight on until it is returned. Israel counters that it
withdrew behind a border drawn by the United Nations.

In March, 15 Kurdish refugees who infiltrated from Lebanon into Israel were
returned to Lebanon a day later.

Financial Times, 10th August

Soaked to the skin in the morning rain, the Kurds are straggling back along
the road to the Sangatte refugee centre, near Calais on the north French
coast, run by the Red Cross. They failed to break into the heavily guarded
Channel tunnel terminal, or got caught and turned away. The lucky ones,
hidden in trucks or trains bound for the UK, are already on the other side.

"All the Kurds want to go to England," says a cheerful Kurdish man who gives
his name as Ali. "The French won't give us a passport." He walked from Iraqi
Kurdistan into Iran a month ago and paid $4,000 to a people-trafficking
"mafia" to get himself smuggled via Turkey into the European Union. "I have
some friends in England."

Nader, a 41-year-old from Baghdad who speaks Arabic and English, tells a
similar tale. He paid $10,000 and brought his wife and two children to
Sangatte. "We sold the house, the car and my wife's gold," he says. "What we
had, we sold."

The Sangatte centre - set up two years ago in a hangar once used to make
concrete parts for the tunnel's construction - was supposed to be a
temporary shelter for 300 or 400 people who were sleeping rough in Calais.

Today, it houses a shifting population of 1,000 and has become a base for
nightly assaults on the Coquelles tunnel terminal by waves of illegal
immigrants and asylum-seekers from the Baltic states, the Middle East and
the Indian subcontinent.

The centre is just 3km from Coquelles, and the French government has so far
refused to move it further away. Refugees are taken back by bus after each
failed attempt to reach England, and the more energetic have been known to
break in to the terminal two or three times a night.

For Eurotunnel, the Anglo-French company that operates the tunnel, and for
the truck drivers and transport companies using the freight trains, the
persistent efforts of the refugees to reach Britain have become an
administrative and financial headache.

Between January and the end of July, Eurotunnel intercepted 25,000 would-be
stowaways at the terminal on the French side compared with 4,920 during the
whole of last year. Some 5,000 are known to have made it through the tunnel
to England so far this year. Four were killed in the attempt, either
electrocuted or crushed.

Spurred on by the UK threat of a £2,000 ($2,840) fine for each illegal
immigrant found on its trains - truck companies are already liable to the
fines - Eurotunnel says it has spent £3m this year turning Coquelles into a
fortified camp bristling with razor-wire and high technology security

Last month, the company more than doubled the number of night-time security
guards to 98.

Among the machines used to check the trucks are giant X-ray devices, a
carbon dioxide detector that reveals the presence of hidden humans, and an
experimental millimetric sensor that "sees" inside soft-sided trucks.

Eurotunnel says it is now keeping its services almost free of the
disruptions caused by invading stowaways. It says that in June it
intercepted 3,600 and 850 got through. In July, interceptions rose to 6,900,
but the number of stowaways reaching Britain stayed the same.

The refugees, meanwhile, show signs of becoming more desperate. Last month,
two Lithuanians were rescued in mid-Channel as they tried to paddle to
England on inflatable mattresses.


by Parvaiz Ishfaq Rana
Dawn, 8th August

KARACHI, Aug 7: The third and the last vessel, carrying 31,565 tons of wheat
for Iraq, left early on Tuesday to complete the shipment of contracted
quantity of 100,000 tons within 90 days of opening of letter of credit, TCP
sources said.

"With the completion of the haulage of 100,000 tons of wheat contracted
early this year by the Iraqi Grain Board, Pakistan has emerged successful on
the world wheat export map for the first time in its history," a senior
official of the TCP said.

The first phase of commitment has been achieved by the TCP, thereby paving
the way for having more trade with Baghdad, which is at present meeting its
food requirements under the UN oil-for-food programme, TCP chairman Syed
Masood Alam Rizvi said. In the light of this encouraging development the
minister of state and the chairman of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) is
heading a delegation for Baghdad on Thursday for further negotiation of
wheat export as well as other commodities.

Earlier, two ships carrying a total load of 68,000 tons of wheat are
currently awaiting berth at the Iraqi port and it is expected that the third
vessel, Sesou, is likely to reach its destiny on August 11. According to
conditions laid down by Iraqi Grain Board the shipment of wheat was to be
completed within 90 days of opening of LC. The contract also gave quantity
margin of five per cent in plus or minus to facilitate each ship load.

This target has been successfully achieved as the third and the last vessel
carrying 31,565 tons 'hard winter' quality wheat has ensured of achieving
the shipping schedule as laid down by Baghdad. The first vessel loaded with
an average load of 35,000 tons had left Port Qasim on June 24, 2001 and
reached Iraqi waters on June 28. The second ship also carrying an average
load of 35,000 tons sailed out on July 20 and reached Iraq on July 24.

In the entire task of wheat shipment, besides the TCP, the role of Pakistan
Agriculture, Storage and Supply Corporation (Passco) has been commendable as
their joint efforts not only ensured timely shipment but also meet the
required wheat quality and specification of the Iraqi Grain Board.


Financial Times, Aug 4, 2001

It is a dry and bumpy road to the 4,000-year-old house. We are in the desert
region of UmAl Aqareb, or Mother of Scorpions, named after its poisonous
inhabitants, on the way to the ancient Sumerian site of Shmet, two hours
south of Baghdad.

There is a sandstorm brewing in the air, and parasites from Iraq's wrecked
water system brewing in my belly.

We have crossed the 32nd parallel, into the no-fly zones where UK and US
jets have in the past shown sometimes scant ability to distinguish between
military and civilian traffic. I'm glad of the protection in the front seat,
in the shape of our guide for the day, cradling a Kalashnikov. To visit an
archaeological site in Iraq, it's with an AK-47 or not at all.

Armed archaeology is far from melodramatic in modern Mesopotamia. Plenty has
been written about the appalling disintegration of society and economy in
modern Iraq, or its malnourished children. Less exposed is the evisceration
by sanctions of its 9,000 years of history.

The land of Babylon, Ur and Nineveh, with more than 10,000 official sites,
is gold dust for archaeologists and looters alike. But since 1991, the
foreign archaeologists' camps have lain empty, with academic and cultural
exchanges forbidden under sanctions, and the looters have had the upper

"Instability is a green light for anyone interested in antiquities," says
Donny George, an urbane Assyrian Christian who runs the research department
at Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad.

The instability began soon after the five-week bombing of Iraq by the Gulf
war allies in 1991; during the uprisings in southern and northern Iraq,
museums were emptied, and museum guards threatened with machine- guns. At
least 4,000 artefacts went missing.

In 1994-95, things got bad again, as Iraq wasn't yet selling oil under the
United Nations oil for-food programme. Looters organised themselves into
gangs, turning up with bulldozers to dig new holes, or scavenge old ones,
protected by guards armed with machine-guns.

The security forces only rarely had the money or manpower to fight back. In
one incident, a battle between soldiers and 40 looters lasted 24 hours.
"When I spent two years at a dig in the south, I was armed every day," says

Archaeology is held in high esteem in Iraq. Saddam Hussein sends Donny
George his reports back with careful notes in the margin. Iraq's president
has rebuilt Babylon, to the fury of Unesco and other international cultural
organisations, and has had his name inscribed on a plaque next to

"Whenever the seat of government was strong, the first thing they did was
rebuild the ancient cities," says George in mitigation.

But the Iraqi government, sitting on the world's second-largest oil reserves
but unable to feed its children, is hardly in a position of strength.

"In about 1995 things shifted," says George. "We began planning how to live
with sanctions. People started to believe they would have to live with them.
They adapt."

But only in 1999 did the government decide to fight back. Funds - probably
from illicit oil sales - were provided for 24-hour armed guards at four
sites. The National Museum was reopened after an eight-year closure, and its
research departments expanded. Selling antiquities outside the country
became a treasonable offence, punishable by death.

Last year, 10 wealthy businessmen from Mosul - who chopped an Assyrian
bull's head in pieces and took it to Jordan - were executed on TV. It's
draconian, but necessary, says George. "There was an exhibition in Israel
recently of 'recent objects from Iraq', but they didn't say how they got

Mohammad, the young archaeologist in charge at Shmet, used to earn 3,500
dinars (about Dollars 1.50) a month. Doctors earn a paltry 20,000 dinars a
month (pre-sanctions, they earned 3.5m dinars a month). "But we weren't
losing doctors," says George. "We were losing archaeologists." So the salary
was raised to 30,000 dinars a month and there are now 70 young
archaeologists in training.

Paying for loyalty also applied to the guards, and local sheikhs were
charmed into co operating. At least in the Mother of Scorpions, the
offensive has kept looters at bay, even if not everyone's motives are the

"I've fired my gun at thieves," explains our guard Ahmed. "But I fire it in
the air. If I shoot someone, I'd have to pay blood money. If I kill someone
inside the site, it's cheaper than outside, because it's government
property. I'd have to pay at least 2m dinars. Government laws don't apply in
the villages."

No matter how fierce Ahmed and his fellows are, it may be too late. Even if
sanctions were lifted tomorrow - and the recently proposed "smarter"
sanctions actually appeared more restrictive than existing ones - Iraq's
economy would take decades to recover. Its children will take longer, and
its cultural riches may never recover at all.

At Shmet, where two dozen labourers are digging out a Sumerian manor house
with their bare hands, the land is dotted with square holes, a shockingly
pockmarked moonscape carved out with bulldozers.

There is an occasional gleam in the gloom, however. Visit the office of
Mudhafar Amin, head of the Iraqi interests section at the Jordanian embassy
in London, and you will notice a 4,000-year-old stone head of the goddess
Medusa, perched on his filing cabinet.

Carved from the walls of the ancient site of Hatra, smuggled to Jordan by a
mysterious Italian, ending up in London in an antique dealer's window, it
was recognised by an Italian archaeologist who promptly called the police.

Scotland Yard descended on the dealer. Detective Constable Miki Volpe of the
Yard's Art and Antiques Squad then restored the head to the Iraqis. "We are
so grateful," says Mudhafar Amin in his office. And not a little surprised.

"This is the first time, to my knowledge," says Volpe, "that an Iraqi
artefact has been seized in this country and returned to the Iraqi

But it's impossible to speculate why it happened this time: British
officials claimed to know nothing about it.

In any case, many more heads would have to be recovered before Donny George
felt new optimism.

"There is a saying," he says, back in Baghdad. "A man shoots a bow. The
further back you pull the bow, the further the arrow will fly. The more
antiquities, the stronger the nation."

By this measure, the strongman of Iraq is - at least in one respect - weaker
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