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News, 14-20/10/01 (1) The news is still dominated by the question of whether or not we¹ should bomb Iraq, a question which, this week, takes the form of speculation about Iraq¹s possible involvement in the anthrax scare. Hence pages and pages of repetitive, nerve jangling tosh. No-one of course makes the point that if Iraq is behind it then, on the basis of the same argument the US is using to bomb Afgjhanistan, it could reasonably be considered to be acting in legitimate self defense. The piece de resistance of the case against Iraq is the supposed meeting between Mohammad Atta and an Iraqi diplomat in Prague. Readers of last week¹s news will remember the statement from the Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, that he has no evidence of any such meeting. This has been studiously ignored in all the following articles until Atta visited Prague twice¹, at the very end. This article seems set to refute Mr Zeman¹s statement but ends up effectively confirming it. Otherwise it may be worth nothing that there don¹t appear to have been any bombing raids on Iraq this week (surely the effort in Afghanistan hasn¹t taken up all their absurdly inflated resources). Most recommended article in what follows is the Pat Buchanan piece Why do they hate us?¹ (in the General Policy section). But actually I think the most important developments are those that are indicated, though I don¹t pretend to understand them, in the Kurdish supplement. FINGER POINTING AT IRAQ * The suicide bomber and the Baghdad conspiracy [Supposed meeting between Atta and Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani (see last week¹s news and Atta visited Prague twice¹, below) described in loving railway station novel style detail, which I¹ve cut. Dispute between Pentagon and State Dept. Efforts of James Woolsey (see last week¹s news). Spat between US and Iraq ambassadors to the UN (see last week¹s news). Possible sighting of OBL in Baghdad by Arkan¹s lawyer (see last week¹s news).] * Ex-U.N. weapons inspector: Possible Iraq-anthrax link [Richard Butler, wouldn¹t you know, thinks anthrax might have been delivered at the famous Atta/al-Ani meeting in Prague] * Anthrax Market Easily Accessed on Internet [³It used to be easy enough to get, and presumably was available in other countries as well. Lots of people had it before ATCC American Type Culture Collection tightened up,''] * Iraq stockpiled anthrax in run-up to Gulf war [Brief history of Iraq¹s programme. Ends with this rather surprising sentence: ³Ex-CIA head James Woolsey has maintained that it was Iraq which provided fake passports for all the 19 US hijackers.²] * Senator says administration can't forget about Iraq [Joseph Liberman on the need to give miitary support to the INC] * Invading Iraq would turn a small threat into a big one [Defence of current policy] * Iraq may be behind anthrax attacks, says ex-CIA chief [Woolsey of course. But doesn¹t include claim in Iraq stockpiled anthrax¹, abovethat it was Iraq which provided fake passports for all the 19 US hijackers.¹ * Iraq Denies Role in Spread of Anthrax as U.S. Seeks Source [US experts arguing against the Iraqi link to the anthrax scare. Except Butler. But Butler not sure ...] * Look for Iraq's Hands to Be Dirty [Free speculation as to everyone¹s possible motives. No evidence.] * To Do Iraq or Not Do Iraq That's the Question for Dubya [Call to war against Iraq as a pre-emptive strike regardless of evidence. Pearl Harbour style, though that analogy is not given, strangely enough.] * Iraq's chemists bought anthrax from America [More details on pre-Gulf War policy] * Top-level source of spores feared [This article concentrates more on the possibility of a Russian source] * IRAQ: Fingers pointing toward Baghdad [Iraqi National Congress trying to persuade the US to bomb their country by claiming OBL/Hussein links. Otherwise just Prague ... Mylroie ... Butler ... high grade anthrax] * Iraqi Opposition Wants to Go Hunt Anthrax in Iraq [Give us more money. We can¹t do anything without your money ...] * Hawks chasing the bugs all the way to Baghdad [Details on the cabal¹ formed to press for an attack on Iraq and on their plans, which may be of interest to Turkey, for a new Kurdish government of Iraq¹!] * Don't blame Saddam for this one [by Scott Ritter. This is a better, more detailed argument than the previous one from Ritter in last week¹s news. Particularly telling is the political argument - that Iraq was winning¹ the political and diplomatic war and had no interest in a sudden escalation of the military confrontation. Though I disagree that Baghdad¹s aim has been to lift sanctions. I think they had, rightly in my view, given that up as hopeless. The aim was to get countries anxious to do business with them to break sanctions, so that the sanctions regime would become increasingly irrelevant] * Atta visited Prague twice, Czechs confirm [This is probably the most important article in this section. It appears to contradict the Czech Prime Minister¹s statement that Atta visited Prague only once and that there is no evidence that he met al-Ani. On reading it, however, we find that on Atta¹s first visit to Prague, he was turned back at the airport for lack of the relevant papers. And the sole source for the meeting with al-Ani turns out to be ... the Iraqi National Congress! So much for the colourful fantasies about Czech officials¹. James Woolsey¹s claim that all nineteen hijackers got their passports from Iraq also seems to have been quietly buried. But now we know: for scholars¹, experts¹, officials¹ (even Czech officials¹), read the Iraqi National Congress.] URL ONLYs: http://members.home.net/kurdistanobserver/14-10-01-observer-irq-behind-anthr ax.html * IRAQ 'BEHIND US ANTHRAX OUTBREAKS' by David Rose and Ed Vulliamy Kurdistan Observer (from The Observer, London), 14th October [Several of the above pieces bill this as an important article but it contains nothing we don¹t have from other sources. Essential argument is that only Iraq has the capacity to produce airborne anthrax (not the US, Britain, Russia, China, Israel, Syria ...)] http://www.washtimes.com/national/20011017-78587929.htm * ANTHRAX TRAIL MAY LEAD TO HIJACKERS, IRAQ by Jerry Seper The Washington Times, 17th October Atta and Iraqi official in Prague. Woolsey ... Butler ... http://www.miami.com/herald/content/opinion/opcol/digdocs/067602.htm * DON'T STOP WITH BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA by Richard Cohen Miami Herald, 18th October More of the same ... http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=topnews&StoryID=306654 * AVOID IRAQ WAR, REBUILD AFGHANISTAN, LAWMAKER SAYS Reuter's, 20th October Not very interesting views of Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, the Republican chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee. AND, IN NEWS, 14-20/10/01 (2): IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * Iraqi Citizen Planned to Kill Russian President [Happily doesn¹t seem to have any real significance with regard to Russian-Iraqi relations] * Iraq 'determined' to thwart any US-British strike [The interest of this article lies in the recent visit of a Russian envoy to Iraq, keeping up relations] * TCP [Trading Corporation of Pakistan] considers Iraq's plea for replacing wheat * Saddam Sends Condolences to American IRAQIMIDDLE EAST/ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * Saddam criticizes Arab nations in U.S. airstrikes * U.S. Assures Turkey, No Separate State in Iraq [The American ambassador to Turkey informs the Turks that once peace had been brought to the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans then Turkey would be the leading country in these regions.¹ Is this a declaration of US policy?] * Turkey offers help, is wary of involving Iraq INSIDE IRAQ * 487 brides in mass wedding * Seven Iraqis killed in mine explosions * Sanctions bring unintended result, observers say [They hit necessities and don¹t touch luxuries] * IRAQ: Years of sanctions hurt Iraqis more than regime [This seems to be essentially the preceding article with the paragraphs in a different order] MILITARY MATTERS * Iraq Says U.S. Navy Set Ship Ablaze in Gulf * Saddam moves chemical weapons factories into no-go zone [Considering that the existence of chemical and biological weapons stocks in Iraq is supposed to be a matter of controversy the authors of this article seem to know a lot about them] OIL * Iraqi exports drop slightly under UN's 'Oil-for-Food' program GENERAL POLICY * Don't repeat the misery inflicted on the Iraqis [by George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury. Not quite the prophetic anger that the subject merits but nonetheless to his credit] * "Why do they hate us?" [One of the dumbest sentiments that has been touted about lately is that at least Sept 11 has had the good¹ effect of pulling the US out of its isolationist¹ mode. The end of US isolationism means the murder of hundreds of thousands of people. Buchanan is the arch-isolationist. It is also the best account I have seen by an American of how the US appears in the eyes of the Muslim world. The paragraoh giving the indictment¹ of the US by the Imams¹ is particularly fine. * Global Eye -- Idiot Wind [On Bush Sr¹s involvement in SH¹s pre-Gulf War crimes. Talking about idiocy¹ the constant repetition of the phrase he gassed his own people¹ rather glosses over the fact that the incident occurred in the middle of a civil war. Is the other side your own people¹ in the middle of a civil war? Was General Sherman attacking his own people¹ when he attacked Atlanta?] FINGER POINTING AT IRAQ http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia_china/story.jsp?story=99399 * THE SUICIDE BOMBER AND THE BAGHDAD CONSPIRACY by Chris Blackhurst The Independent, 14th October [.....] Unfortunately for them, and alarmingly for all of us, there is mounting evidence of an Iraqi role in the suicide attacks. Senator Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican on both the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees, and a recipient of high-level briefings since 11 September, said he is "very confident" that Iraq played a role in 11 September. He refused to elaborate but added: "Iraq has been harbouring these terrorists for a long time ... I believe that Iraq is ultimately going to be proven to have been a part of this." Investigators are convinced Mr bin Laden did not have the financial and logistical capacity to organise 11 September. There is some truth, they acknowledge, in the Taliban assertion that he was holed up in the Afghan mountains, unable to draw upon the resources necessary to mount such an onslaught. Everything they are coming across points to the participation of intelligence machinery from a state, probably Iraq. The amount of false documentation the hijackers carried suggests they must have been sponsored by a state: one individual on his own, no matter how powerful, could not have arranged all those bogus IDs and passports. [.....] Vince Cannistraro, the CIA's former counter-terrorism chief, said Baghdad made an overture to Mr bin Laden in December 1998. Saddam was apparently so impressed by the bombings that year of the two US embassies in East Africa that he sent Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, Farouk Hijazi, to Afghanistan to meet Mr bin Laden. The CIA believed Mr Hijazi offered Mr bin Laden and al-Qa'ida, then being pursued by the Americans, a permanent refuge in Iraq but the offer was refused. Iraq has consistently denied any involvement in 11 September, accusing the US and Britain of using the atrocities to settle old scores. "The US and Britain know very well that Iraq has no relation whatsoever to what happened in the United States and no relation whatsoever to the parties accused of doing it," said Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri. Nevertheless there are other links between Iraq and previous terror attacks. One of the men on President's Bush 22 "most wanted" list of suspected terrorists was questioned in the wake of the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993. Abdul Rahman Yasin, a second generation Iraqi immigrant from Indiana, was questioned at length after the bombing, which caused extensive damage to one of the towers and killed six people. The FBI asked him about his flatmates in Jersey City, many of whom were later indicted for involvement in the bombing, about his contact with explosive chemicals and about his relationship with Ramzi Yousef, later identified and convicted as the operation's mastermind. Nevertheless he was released and allowed to leave the country because the FBI thought it had no case against him. He is now in Iraq. In the face of this evidence the real dilemma for the Bush-Blair axis will come once the Taliban are defeated and Mr bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida members in Afghanistan are captured, dead or alive. If the allies' promise to pursue international terrorism is maintained, argue hard-liners in Washington and London, then Saddam Hussein, who has already displayed a desire to construct weapons of mass destruction, must be next. The matter is yet more complicated because five of the 22 "most wanted" are thought to live in Iran. They are headed by Imad Mughniyah, head of special operations for the Lebanese group Hizbollah, who already had a $2m reward on his head in the US. He is wanted in connection with a series of incidents, including the kidnap, torture and murder alleged to have been at his own hands of the Beirut CIA chief William Buckley and the abduction and seven-year confinement of the American Terry Anderson. http://europe.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/conditions/10/15/anthrax.butler/index.html * EX-U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: POSSIBLE IRAQ-ANTHRAX LINK CNN, 15th October NEW YORK: Richard Butler, the former U.N. weapons inspector, pointed Monday to a possible Iraq connection to the recent anthrax mailings, saying he did not believe terrorist groups could have made the deadly bacteria. In an interview with CNN, Butler cautioned that there's been no verification that Iraq had any role in the recent incidents, but he said the country is known to have produced anthrax. "What we've got to be certain about above all is whether it came from a country supporting these terrorists as a matter of policy, such as Iraq, which we know has made this stuff," Butler said. "And there's a credible report, not fully verified, that they may indeed have given anthrax to exactly the group that did the World Trade Center." Mohamed Atta -- one of the suspected suicide hijackers -- had two meetings with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague, Czech Republic, U.S. and Czech officials told CNN. U.S. officials called the two meetings "interesting" but said they did not prove Iraq's involvement in any terrorist acts. Czech officials said they believed fake identification documents may have changed hands, but they don't have any indication that anything more was involved. Butler, however, said Egyptian authorities believe that Iraq could have handed some anthrax over to one of the suspected terrorists in the September 11 attacks. "It's possible that many months ago anthrax, a small quantity of it, was handed over in Prague to Mohamed Atta ... and the person who handed it over in Prague was an Iraqi," Butler said. "If that proves to be true, there's a connection." [.....] http://126.96.36.199/contWriter/endnews2/2001/10/15/medic/6444-0074 pat_nytimes.html * ANTHRAX MARKET EASILY ACCESSED ON INTERNET by Sabin Russell Cox News Service, 15th October [.....] In 1984, followers of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh obtained salmonella from American Type and used it to sicken 700 patrons of 10 restaurants in The Dalles, Ore. In 1986, a time the United States was friendlier to Iraq than it is today, the University of Baghdad purchased anthrax, along with strains of bacteria that cause botulism and brucellosis. And in 1995, an American white supremacist used phony letterhead to order three vials of bubonic plague bacteria for $240. He was caught. ``It used to be easy enough to get, and presumably was available in other countries as well. Lots of people had it before ATCC tightened up,'' said Dr. Mac Griffiss, professor of lab medicine at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco. Griffiss said people should not jump to the conclusion that the anthrax cases are linked to the Sept. 11 attacks. ``There was a time not long ago when those of us in the academic world were very careful about opening mail,'' he said, referring to a letter-bomb campaign that spanned several years. ``It turned out the person doing it (Unabomber Ted Kaczynski) was neither Muslim or Middle Eastern. There are crazies among us.'' In her book ``Germs, Biological Weapons and America's Secret War,'' New York Times reporter Judith Miller and colleagues Stephen Engelberg and William Broad detail the trade in biological specimens and the subsequent passage by Congress of tight restriction on pathogen sales. [.....] http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,574193,00.html * IRAQ STOCKPILED ANTHRAX IN RUN-UP TO GULF WAR by David Leigh The Guardian, 15th October Iraq has possessed large supplies of anthrax, processed into a form usable as a weapon of biological warfare, studies of Saddam Hussein's military build-up have found. On the brink of the US launching the Gulf war against him in January 1991, Saddam is estimated to have had 50 an thrax-filled bombs ready for use. He also had prepared 10 missiles loaded with anthrax warheads dispersed to separate locations. This was the fruit of a crash six-year biological warfare programme, and it was because the Americans were afraid he might use anthrax at the time, that they may have held back from trying to topple Saddam's rule altogether. "The assessment was that the Iraqis were likely to use weapons of mass destruction if the survival of the regime was threatened" said Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University. His recent book, Losing Control, draws on a US document to that effect - the "national intelligence estimate" of November 1990, prepared after Iraq invaded Kuwait but before the US launched its Gulf War counter-attack. A classified report relating to it was later released in error by the US department of defence in 1996.The report was quickly removed from the website, but not before it had been read by a number of analysts. The main source of technical information on Iraq's anthrax weapon programme is the series of subsequent Unscom UN inspection reports produced between October 1995 and October 1997. Iraq started researching anthrax warfare in 1985, at its Muthana chemical weapons centre, as part of its prolonged war effort against Iran, covertly backed by the US. Large-scale fermenters were used to produce anthrax spores in bulk at a pilot plant, Al Salman, after field trials on monkeys and sheep. In May 1989, large-scale anthrax production began at a factory constructed at Al Hakam. Unscom estimated that Al Hakam manufactured 8,425 litres of anthrax bacteria during the course of 1990. A parallel programme began to design weapons that could deliver the spores. Rockets, bombs and spray tanks were all tested netween 1988 and 1990 when Saddam took the decision to invade Kuwait in August 1990. During the six months of crisis before the US-led coalition attacked, Saddam greatly speeded up the biological weapons programme. Iraqi commanders were told the weapons were intended for use as a last resort if Baghdad was destroyed by nuclear attack. As well as anthrax, other missiles contained chemical agents, and two more biological killers - the food poisoning agent botulinum, and aflatoxin, a rare cancer-inducing toxin derived from a fungus. After Unscom made these discoveries, Iraq prevented further inspections. However, according to Prof Rogers: "There were credible reports Iraq was continuing work, probably in underground re search and devlopment centres". None of this proves that the latest anthrax scares can be traced directly to Iraq. But US hawks pressing for an attack on Baghdad have been been strengthened by publication of reports linking Saddam to Osama bin Laden. The Czech foreign minister, Jan Kavan, is reported to have flown this month to Washington to deliver intelligence files on meetings between Iraqis and Islamist terrorists to the US secretary of state, Colin Powell. Ex-CIA head James Woolsey has maintained that it was Iraq which provided fake passports for all the 19 US hijackers. http://www.bostonherald.com/news/national/lieb10162001.htm * SENATOR SAYS ADMINISTRATION CAN'T FORGET ABOUT IRAQ Boston Herald, 16th October WASHINGTON (Associated Press): Sen. Joseph Lieberman urged the Bush administration to expand its war on terrorism by supporting democratic opponents to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, stopped short of calling for an immediate military strike on Iraq. But the Connecticut senator said there should be a ``phase two'' of the United States' response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Since Oct. 7, the United States has been bombing Afghanistan to destroy training camps of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. The administration should eventually turn its attention to Iraq as a state that is suspected of supporting and harboring terrorists, Lieberman said. ``As long as Saddam is there, Iraq is not just going to be a thorn in our side, but a threat to our lives,'' Lieberman, D-Conn., told reporters Monday outside a conference of the New Democratic Network, an organization that raises money for centrist Democratic candidates. Lieberman, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is considering reviving legislation he co-sponsored in 1998 that would authorize the president to provide military training, money for radio and television broadcasting, and humanitarian aid to Iraqi democratic opposition organizations. The bill's prime sponsor was Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. Lieberman was an original co-sponsor. Saddam's ouster has ``got to start with more support of the Iraqi opposition, that's the beginning of it,'' Lieberman said. ``At some point, there would be a military component.'' While Lieberman is among those who hope to go after Saddam in the wider war President Bush has pledged against terrorists, others - even some usually outspoken advocates of intervention in Iraq - have counseled a wait-and-see approach. ``I don't think we should do too much at once here,'' said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., senior Republican on a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the region. ``At the appropriate time, we should move forward in pressing for a regime change in Iraq.'' The Bush administration is leaving Iraq for another day because it has been unable to link Saddam to the Sept. 11 attacks and is hesitant to alienate Muslim allies in the region. Nevertheless, the administration is watching Saddam ``very carefully,'' Bush said. Overall, Lieberman has had strong praise for Bush's handling of the crisis. In his speech Monday, he cautioned against giving too much power to allies, saying the United States must be willing to take unilateral action in the ongoing campaign when necessary. http://www.sunspot.net/news/opinion/oped/bal op.chapman16oct16.story?coll=bal%2Doped%2Dheadlines * INVADING IRAQ WOULD TURN A SMALL THREAT INTO A BIG ONE by Steve Chapman Baltimore Sun, 16th October CHICAGO - This war is different from the wars Americans are used to. Not because the enemy is mysterious and elusive. Not because we are unable to define our exact mission. Not because we may never achieve a clear victory. What distinguishes this war from our other recent military undertakings, from Kosovo back to Vietnam, is simple: It wasn't optional. We didn't choose to go to war against the al-Qaida terrorists and their sponsors in Kabul. They chose to go to war against us. Osama bin Laden and his allies have taken our past retreats (from Lebanon and Somalia, for example) as proof that the United States can't endure casualties. But that's a gross error. This time, we're fighting to protect Americans on our soil from foreign attack, and that makes all the difference. Retreat offers no escape. Much has been made in recent weeks about the alleged demise of the Powell doctrine. Authored by the current secretary of state, it says that the United States should use military force only when it has precise goals, an exit strategy and firm public support - and then only if it's willing to employ decisive force. Yet today, we are told, an administration in which Colin Powell plays a central part has embarked on a war that fails to meet those conditions. In fact, there's no contradiction. The essence of Mr. Powell's view is that you shouldn't resort to military force unless your stake is big enough to justify the cost. We lost more than 5,300 lives on Sept. 11, and if the terrorists aren't stopped, more Americans will die. Stakes don't get much higher than that. The real reason many people want to discredit the Powell doctrine is not because they want to attack the terrorists and their accomplices in Afghanistan. It's because they want to take the war to someone else. The Weekly Standard magazine recently published an open letter to President Bush, signed by a long list of conservatives, urging "a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." Anything less, they claim, "will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism." While the signers recommend assisting Iraqi opposition groups, they also say, "American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means." If Hussein had a hand in the attacks, taking him out would make perfect sense. But there has been a conspicuous lack of evidence against him. Last month, reports the Wall Street Journal, an al-Qaida spokesman denounced the Iraqi dictator, whose regime is secular rather than Islamic, as a "false God." And no one has made a good case why we should use this opportunity to settle an old score. The disadvantages are obvious. Going after Iraq would destroy the coalition against the terrorists. It would spark violent unrest in the Muslim world. It would likely precipitate the overthrow of governments that have sided with us. It would probably embroil us in a bloody ground war in Iraq. The advocates, however, say we have no choice. Hussein's possession of biological and chemical weapons, they argue, makes him an intolerable threat to carry out atrocities far worse than what happened last month. But we know better. If he were inclined to use these weapons against Americans, he could have done so during the Persian Gulf war. Even as he was losing, he chose not to. Why? Because he knew that the consequence would be annihilation. Terrorists are harder to deter, because they operate secretively, hoping to carry out their attacks without being identified and punished. And bin Laden has already shown his determination to kill Americans on U.S. soil, which is why his network has to be eradicated. Saddam Hussein is different. The aftermath of Sept. 11, if anything, makes him less of a threat than before. He now knows quite well that anyone launching an attack on the American homeland can expect an overwhelming military response. What is happening to the Taliban could happen to him. And he's never shown an interest in martyrdom. The only thing that could cause the catastrophe feared by conservatives is the very action they propose. Faced with an all-out U.S. invasion aimed at demolishing his regime, he would no longer have any reason for restraint. If he's going to be destroyed, he might as well use every weapon he has. Better for us to continue the tedious and unsatisfying - but so far successful - effort to contain the danger posed by Iraq. Some causes require committing America to war. Some causes don't. Wise leadership, of the sort shown so far by Colin Powell and his boss, consists of knowing the difference. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/1,,2001361178,00.html * IRAQ MAY BE BEHIND ANTHRAX ATTACKS, SAYS EX-CIA CHIEF The Times, 16th October Iraq may be behind the current spate of anthrax attacks in the United States, a former head of the CIA warned today as it was confirmed that anthrax was sent to Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader. Jim Woolsey, who was director of the American spy agency for two years in the 1990s, said he believed at least some of the attacks could not have been carried out without some form of state backing. "I find the sophistication of at least some of the anthrax attacks in the United States suggestive that a state may be involved, not just a bunch of terrorists in Afghanistan," he told the BBC. "The inhaled anthrax has to be in spores of a rather precise size, right down to the nearest micron or two, in order to be able to be ingested and to stay ingested. Some of these spores, the ones that killed the man in Florida, clearly had been produced to be the right size. That is not the kind of thing that one would ordinarily associate with work out in the middle of the Afghan desert." His comments came as authorities closed an entire wing of an eight-story U.S. Senate office building and prepared to test hundreds of people for possible exposure to anthrax. Mr Woolsey said he believed that the regime of President Saddam Hussein was behind a number of terrorist attacks on America since 1993, including an attempt that year to assassinate former President George Bush in Kuwait. There now needed to be a concerted effort by the US, British and other Governments to establish whether Iraq, or possibly Iran, was involved in any recent attacks. If evidence was found, then the current war against Afghanistan would have to be widened to deal with the state involved, he said. "If we find indications that Saddam¹s regime has been involved, then I very much think we should not stop with Afghanistan," he said. "And if the consequences are that we need a change of regime, say, in Baghdad as well as Kabul, we should not flinch from that. We are at war." His comments reflect the mood among the more hawkish elements within the Bush administration and the Republican Party in Congress who have been pressing President Bush to extend the war to Iraq. But British ministers have been anxious to keep the focus of the campaign firmly on Afghanistan in order to prevent any fracturing of the international coalition assembled by Tony Blair and Mr Bush. http://www.bloomberg.com/fgcgi.cgi?ptitle=Top%20World%20News&s1=blk&tp=ad_to pright_topworld&T=markets_bfgcgi_content99.ht&s2=ad_right1_windex&bt=ad_posi tion1_windex&middle=ad_frame2_windex&s=AO84nWhPcSXJhcSBE * IRAQ DENIES ROLE IN SPREAD OF ANTHRAX AS U.S. SEEKS SOURCE by Paul Basken Bloomberg.com. 17th October [.....] While cases discovered so far in Florida, New York and Washington involve a high-grade variety of anthrax, experts cautioned against drawing conclusions about its origin. If there were a strong indication of Iraq's involvement, then the faction of the Bush administration that favors military action against Iraq ``would be winning in the administration battle,'' said David Siegrist, a bioterrorism expert from the PotomacInstitute for Policy Studies. ``So far it doesn't appear to be, but we're all waiting for more data.'' Some experts suggested the possibility the anthrax came from stocks produced by the Soviet Union, and others emphasized the need to consider domestic terrorists. ``There are dozens and dozens and dozens of countries that could produce very clean anthrax,'' said Jon Wolfsthal, deputy director of the non-proliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ``Just the quality of the anthrax doesn't give me that link'' to Iraq, he said. It is ``much more likely'' that domestic terrorists are involved, since foreign organizations have more effective means of creating mass hysteria, Wolfsthal said. The Observer newspaper of London said Sunday that U.S. intelligence officials with both the CIA and the Defense Department, which it did not identify by name, feel the apparent use in Florida of an airborne form of anthrax suggests a technical sophistication that leaves Iraq among only a small number of possible suspects. ``There are probably a number of nations that could do that,'' said Dr. Rodney Tweten, who directs anthrax research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. ``To me, anyway, there's not enough information to make any kind of assessment like that.'' Administration officials are declining to comment on the possibility of an Iraqi role in the spread of anthrax. They have only repeated warnings that Afghanistan may not be the only country to face a U.S. military assault in the terrorism fight. ``We will do whatever it takes to defeat terror abroad, wherever it grows or wherever it hides,'' President George W. Bush today told a group of business leaders during a stop in California en route to an economic summit in China. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined in an interview with the Qatar-based satellite television station al-Jazeera to say whether Iraq faces any U.S. action. ``The only way you can defend against terrorism is not by self-defense, because a terrorist can attack any place at any time,'' Rumsfeld said in response to a question about Iraq. ``You simply must take the battle to them.'' Chief among those publicly placing suspicion on Iraq is Richard Butler, a former head of the United Nations inspection team in Iraq. Butler said his suspicion is based on a report from Egyptian officials indicating that anthrax supplied by Iraq was delivered several months ago in Prague to Mohammed Atta, one of suicide hijackers in the Sept. 11 attack, Butler said. ``I think this is something that deserves investigation,'' said Butler, now a diplomat in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations. A spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the matter. The U.S. has been bombing military targets in Afghanistan for 11 days, blaming the country's Taliban leadership for harboring the militant leader Osama bin Laden, who the U.S. accuses of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks against New York City and Washington. Butler acknowledged he doesn't have ``hard evidence'' linking Iraq to the anthrax cases, and he also noted a report in the Wall Street Journal suggesting terrorists could have obtained anthrax produced in large quantities by the Soviet Union. Another former member of the UN inspection team, Charles Duelfer, said the apparent use of an airborne anthrax was notable. ``But to draw the conclusion that it's therefore Iraq is a bit more speculative,'' Duelfer said. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la 000082729oct17.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dcomment%2Dopinions * LOOK FOR IRAQ'S HANDS TO BE DIRTY by AVIGDOR HASELKORN Los Angeles Times, 17th October Avigdor Haselkorn is the author of "The Continuing Storm: Iraq, Poisonous Weapons and Deterrence" (Yale University Press, 1999) There is little doubt that several U.S. institutions have been intentionally attacked with anthrax. While most of the exposures reported have been of the cutaneous variety--where anthrax spores penetrate the body through cuts in the skin--the two cases of inhalation anthrax discovered in Florida should be of special interest. Inhalation anthrax is contracted when enough aerosolized spores of one to five microns in diameter find their way into the lungs, where they have a direct route to the bloodstream. Once infection has set in, death is almost always assured. However, producing and disseminating inhalation anthrax is no easy feat. The spores must be cut to size and dried to ensure their extended suspension in the air. This is a complicated and expensive process. The Washington Times on Saturday cited a senior defense official as saying the U.S. believes that Al Qaeda terrorists "have a crude chemical and possibly biological [weapons] capability." That would seem to exclude the ability to indigenously produce inhalation anthrax. Two other sources may thus seem more likely: the largely defunct Soviet biological weapons program or Iraq. Kenneth Alibek--who was, before his defection to the U.S. in 1992, the first deputy director of Biopreparat, the civilian arm of the Soviet Union's biological weapons program--told the House subcommittee on national security on Friday that "Russian biological weapons are no longer contained within its borders." The fear that some ex-employee of the Soviet program would seek to sell his skills or a stolen vial of germs to a rogue regime or a well-funded terrorist organization has haunted the U.S. for some time. Given Al Qaeda's vast financial resources, its efforts to acquire mass-destruction weapons and its emphasis on fostering links within the former Soviet republics, it would seem reasonable to assume that the source of the inhalation anthrax discovered in Florida is Russia or its environs. Under this scenario, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are responding to the current U.S. offensive by launching crude biological attacks against targets on U.S soil. The aims are to exact a price for the U.S. "aggression"; to demonstrate America's inability to defend itself against the warriors of Islam; and to undermine the U.S. will to fight by sowing fear at home. Attacking U.S. media outlets with anthrax is thus not coincidental. More intriguing is the Iraqi connection. Scientists investigating the attacks say the bacteria used are similar to the "Ames" strain of anthrax cultivated at Iowa State University in the 1950s and later given to labs throughout the world, including ones in Iraq. Last week, the Associated Press cited a senior Czech government official as indicating that Mohamed Atta, believed to have piloted one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, had met with an Iraqi diplomat "more than once" in June 2000 in Prague. Last April, the Iraqi diplomat was expelled after what Czech authorities described as "activities incompatible with his status as a diplomat." On Sunday, the London Observer reported that U.S. investigators were talking to Egyptian authorities who say members of Al Qaeda detained and interrogated in Cairo had obtained vials of anthrax in the Czech Republic. Why would Saddam Hussein involve himself in Osama bin Laden's plot, given the risks of exposure and severe retaliation by the U.S.? There are two possibilities. First, Hussein was not necessarily aware of the scope of Bin Laden's plan. The Iraqi leader's idea was to secretly foment trouble inside the U.S. as punishment for the continuing embargo on Iraq. He might even have hoped to divert U.S. attention from Iraq to free his hand to strike against the Kurds or to reinvade Kuwait. Hussein might have thought that once the U.S. realized he possessed inhalation anthrax, it would hesitate rather than react to his planned military moves. Alternatively, Hussein and Bin Laden are cohorts. These biological attacks are an integral part of the plot to undermine the U.S. Moreover, they are meant to signal to the U.S. that it should think twice before punishing Baghdad for the Sept. 11 attacks. Thus, if Hussein is behind the inhalation anthrax in Florida, he is also trying to send a deterrent message to the U.S. If he is responsible for this anthrax demonstration, he is seeking to convince Washington of his ability to hold the U.S. population hostage to full scale biological warfare. The U.S. ought to call his bluff promptly. http://www.nydailynews.com/2001-10-17/News_and_Views/Beyond_the_City/a 128842.asp * TO DO IRAQ OR NOT DO IRAQ THAT'S THE QUESTION FOR DUBYA New York Daily News, 17th October Like a narcotic, we get our fix each day as we watch our military do what it does best: pummel an inferior force from the air with precision weapons that only rarely miss their targets. The result is predictable: Sooner or later, the combined toll will become unbearable, the Taliban will fold, a new, presumably moderate regime will take power in Afghanistan and, unless Osama Bin Laden has been caught or killed by then, the hunt for him will continue. And sooner or later, that mission, too, will succeed. But then what? Despite President Bush's promise to press the war against terrorism everywhere, there's a growing sense that with Bin Laden's demise, the U.S. will declare victory and retreat. We'll still try to choke off the terrorists' money, but that strategy is proving lame even now, when we're fully at war: Spigot nations like Saudi Arabia are reliably reported to be stonewalling the effort for fear of upsetting their citizens. Similarly, the impressive sharing of intelligence among nations accustomed to jealously guarding their secrets will likely revert to meager, low-level cooperation. There's a common denominator here: As the world got used to the mere threat of terrorism before Sept. 11, so it will again live with that possibility unless and until those threats are translated into atrocities. At which point it will be shown that we've learned nothing: We'll find ourselves responding to acts of terror after they happen, when the clear lesson of Sept. 11 is that we must act beforehand. The obvious test case for this proposition is Iraq and the signs are not encouraging. Although Richard Butler's incorruptible United Nations weapons inspection team proved long ago that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction, senior Bush administration officials question the evidence. This is a stunner, for official "United States Government White Papers" regularly assert that Iraq has such weapons and the means to deliver them. The only reason for a Bush official to doubt those conclusions is because the plain English interpretation of the President's many statements since Sept. 11 would demand that we do something about it. Two words sum up the impediment to acting on Bush's rhetoric: coalition politics. Among the Arab members of America's latest alliance against evil, there is simply no appetite for extending the campaign beyond Bin Laden and the Taliban without convincing proof that some other individual or group or some other state can be unambiguously tied to Sept. 11. But it's not just the Arabs. Even Washington's strongest ally has stepped away from taking the war to Iraq if the only rationale for doing so is that Saddam presumably will use what he has against someone at some time. On his third trip to the Middle East last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said there would have to be "absolute evidence" of Iraq's complicity with Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network before striking Saddam evidence the PM said does not yet exist. Taking Blair at his word and assuming such proof never materializes fighting Saddam might ultimately require America to act alone a move many experts say would shatter the coalition against Bin Laden and the Taliban. To which there should be only one response: So what? It is beyond dispute that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and that he harbors, finances and encourages terrorists. The time to deal with the worst of Iraq's capabilities is now, even if that would cause angry Arabs to topple their governments in a fit of collective rage. The time to worry about our actions causing the destabilization of regimes that are themselves illegitimate is long past or rather, 36 days past. If doing what's necessary to ensure our homeland security means losing the support of other nations, the President should at least know that he can count on American public opinion for a time. Unless other terrorist acts are perpetrated against Americans on U.S. soil, the urge to get serious, and the support for doing so, will wither but if we fail to get serious about Saddam now, we will rue the day. http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news//2001/10/18/wanth218 .xml&sSheet=/news/2001/10/18/ixhome.html * IRAQ'S CHEMISTS BOUGHT ANTHRAX FROM AMERICA Daily Telegraph, 18th October Saddam's bio-warfare scientists were trained in Britain and sent off for bacteria by mail order, reports Roger Highfield THE intelligence community has focused on Iraq as a possible source of the anthrax used in the bio-terrorist attacks in America. If Iraq is the culprit, it is likely that Saddam Hussein would have used one of 21 strains of the anthrax bacterium which his scientists bought by mail order from America in the 1980s. In a further irony, most of the leading scientists in the Iraqi bio-warfare programme, including its project chief, Rihab Rashida Taha, were trained in Britain. [.....] Iraq still has the best biological expertise in the region and experts agree that, since the UN inspectors left, Saddam has been back in the bio-warfare business. Britain has played an unwitting role in arming Iraq, although a spokesman for the successor to Unscom - the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission - said: "There is not an awful lot of difference between making vaccines and making bio-weapons - it is a bit unfair to mark those who supplied Iraq as guilty." British companies exported to Iraq large quantities of the growth media in which biological weapons are cultivated and its leading scientists were trained here. The covert biological weapons research programme was directed by Gen Amer Saadi, who obtained a masters degree in chemistry at Oxford, and Rihab Taha, who studied microbiology at the University of East Anglia, said Richard Spertzel, the UN's former chief biological inspector. Overall supervision was conducted by Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, the director of Iraq's Military-Industrial Corp, and Ahmed Murthada, a British-trained engineer. The country's biological weapons programme is believed to have started in 1974 at Salman Pak in the al-Hazan Ibn al-Hathem Institute, where Dr Taha arrived in 1980. Five years later, Salman Pak was taken over by the Technical Research Centre and, in 1987, Dr Taha moved her team into the new al-Hakem facility at Salman Pak, where construction of facilities for production of anthrax began, among other agents. At the time of the Gulf war, Iraq later acknowledged the large-scale production of anthrax spores and to have filled 50 bombs and five missile warheads with anthrax. However, even in its "full, final and complete declaration" regarding its BW programme, submitted in September 1997, Baghdad continued to present the UN weapons inspectors with a false picture. Iraq approached Porton Down in Britain for the Ames strain of the anthrax bacterium, said Dr Spertzel. "That [request] was fortunately denied," he said. Iraq obtained much of its anthrax supply from the American Type Culture Collection. Between 1985 and 1989, it obtained at least 21 strains of anthrax from ATCC and about 15 other class III pathogens, the bacteria that pose an extreme risk to human health. One strain had a British military pedigree and three of the other strains were listed as coming from the American military's biological warfare programme. This came as a shock, said Dr Spertzel, although he added that at that time the ATCC had a policy to supply laboratories with credible reputations. The anthrax strains were ordered by the University of Baghdad and then diverted to the bio-warfare effort. Mohamed Atta, the September 11 hijacker, reportedly had encounters with an Iraqi operative in Prague as recently as April and there have been reports of meetings between Iraqi agents and associates of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. However, Dr Spertzel added that what took place in these encounters, and whether bio warfare was discussed, was a matter of speculation. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=223322&thesection=news&th esubsection=world * TOP-LEVEL SOURCE OF SPORES FEARED New Zealand Herald, 18th October LONDON (Reuters): The confirmation that lethal anthrax powder has been sent through the mail to victims in the United States has set alarm bells ringing among bioterrorism experts. They say that only a state would have the know-how to manufacture the powdered form. Although Iraq is the only country in the world known to have an active anthrax biowarfare programme, the experts say that Libya, Iran and North Korea are rumoured to have a similar weapons programme. Russia is also believed to have continued production clandestinely. Dick Spertzl, a biowarfare consultant based in Maryland who formerly carried out weapons inspections in Iraq, said that "any dedicated individual can learn how to make weapons grade anthrax. If they had an adviser, it would be easier". But converting the laboratory-produced liquid into powder spores, thus turning the bacteria into a weapon, is much more tricky and would require state backing. "The knowledge of drying is not that common," Spertzl said. The US, Britain and Russia, the states known to have "weaponised" anthrax, were supposed to destroy their stocks under the terms of the 1972 biological weapons convention. But Russia continued to produce anthrax into the 1990s, a fact which only became known thanks to a key defector. The defector, Ken Alibek, a former deputy-director of the Russian germ warfare agency known as Biopreparat, told a congressional committee last week that "there are pieces of Biopreparat that are still running, some with a very high level of secrecy". He also said that "no one knows" where up to 50 Russian scientists possessing anthrax weaponisation secrets might be today. US investigators say that while bioterrorism is suspected in the US cases, there is no definite link to the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden. None of the 19 hijackers of the September 11 attacks have been linked to Russia, although the purported ringleader, Mohammed Atta, is reported to have met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague. United Nations weapons inspectors charged with disarming Iraq after the Gulf War have not been able to account for nine tonnes of concentrated anthrax in liquid form, which Baghdad claims to have destroyed in 1991. As the US grapples with a worsening anthrax scare, the Bush Administration is nearing a final decision on an initiative to strengthen preventions against the spread of biological weapons. The initiative was launched after the Administration rejected a global accord in July. But it has gathered urgency since the anthrax incidents and fears that those wishing to strike the US might turn to chemical or biological weapons. http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/epaper/editions/thursday/news_b3ec5854f4638 01700b4.html * IRAQ: FINGERS POINTING TOWARD BAGHDAD by Rebecca Carr - Cox Washington Bureau Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 18th October Washington: In February 1999, the Iraqi National Congress issued an urgent warning: A top Iraqi intelligence officer had traveled to Afghanistan to meet secretly with wealthy Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. The December 1998 meeting between bin Laden and Farouk Hijazi suggested a strong connection between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and bin Laden. An alliance between Hussein and bin Laden's al-Qaida network of terrorists would "bring a whole new level of terrorism," said Nabeel Musawi, a member of the Iraqi opposition group. While terrorism experts knew about the meeting, most of the international community brushed aside the Iraqi National Congress' concerns as "paranoid," Musawi said. Now terrorism experts are not so sure. The connection between Saddam and bin Laden is under close scrutiny as federal investigators attempt to piece together who masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The suspected coordinator of the 19 hijacking suspects has a history with Iraqi intelligence agents, including Hijazi, who later became Iraq's ambassador to Turkey. Suspected hijacker Mohammed Atta reportedly met with Hijazi in Prague, Czech Republic. [.....] Ties between bin Laden and Hussein go back to the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when Iraq opened an intelligence unit in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Bin Laden was living in Khartoum, running a cluster of businesses. The Iraqi National Congress said bin Laden met with Iraqi intelligence officials frequently. In 1995, Hussein opened a terrorist training camp known as Salman Pak, terrorism experts say. After Sudan forced bin Laden out in 1996, he took refuge in Afghanistan. >From there, bin Laden sent top members of al-Qaida to Iraq for training, Iraqi National Congress officials said. [.....] http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=302570 * IRAQI OPPOSITION WANTS TO GO HUNT ANTHRAX IN IRAQ by Jonathan Wright Reuters, 18th October WASHINGTON: The Iraqi opposition in exile asked the United States on Thursday to finance urgent missions into Iraq to gather information on anthrax and other weapons of mass destruction, a leading member said. But the State Department is not yet ready to release U.S. aid funds for the purpose, despite the possibility of an Iraqi role in the latest anthrax incidents, Sherif Ali bin Hussein of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) told Reuters. "We want to be able to use U.S. support to build up our networks inside Iraq, especially in the current environment, where we are worried that the Iraqi population will be at risk from mass destruction," he said in an interview. "We want to find out if Saddam (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) is behind the anthrax attacks, what are his capabilities, whether he has weaponized and what kind of stockpiles he has. We want to get the human intelligence out of there on a real-time basis," he added. Sherif Ali, a member of the former Iraqi royal family and of the INC leadership, had talks at the State Department on Thursday with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ryan Crocker and staff on the Iraqi desk. Joined by some leading Kurdish members of the INC, he will have talks at the Pentagon on Friday with Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security. The INC, which is based in London, says it has credible evidence of links between Iraq and the al Qaeda organization of Saudi-born militant Osama bin laden, despite the vast ideological gulf between them. Saddam is a secular Arab nationalist while bin Laden is a militant Islamist whose rhetoric is mainly religious. But they do share two goals -- an end to U.N. sanctions against Iraq and the overthrow of the Saudi royal family. Sherif Ali declined to reveal the evidence of a link, other than to see that meetings between al Qaeda members and Iraqi officials have taken place in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said that so far the United States has not decided on the INC request. "It's still on hold and we are here to urge the United States that this cannot wait," he added. "Time is not on our side. There's talk of smallpox (in the Iraqi biological arsenal) so we really don't have the luxury of waiting any more. We need to know now what's the real nature of this threat," he said. State Department officials were not immediately available to explain the U.S. reluctance to finance INC missions. Sherif Ali said the U.S. officials he met said the United States had not yet decided whether to broaden the campaign against "terrorism" from Afghanistan to include Iraq. The Bush administration, anxious not to anger Arab and Muslim countries, says it is concentrating for the moment on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. "We understand that point of view, that there are priorities involved in this," said Sherif Ali. "But our feeling is that Saddam will be uncovered as the real villain." http://www.smh.com.au/news/0110/19/opinion/opinion2.html * HAWKS CHASING THE BUGS ALL THE WAY TO BAGHDAD by Paul McGeough. Sydney Morning Herald, 19th October [.....] The plan to hit Baghdad is not chatter from the coffee urn. The Defence Policy Board, a think-tank made up of former serving members of the executive - including the likes of Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger and Dan Quayle - locked themselves away for two days in the week after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Significantly, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz were there. Significantly, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, was not there, nor was he invited to the retreat which agreed that Saddam should be challenged as soon as "the initial stage" of the war in Afghanistan was over. The group's scenario is this: under US and allied air cover, ground troops would move into the north and south of Iraq. In the north they would use the Kurdish opposition to form a new government, installing exiled Iraqis from London at its head; the troops also would throw a cordon around Iraq's southern oilfields and sell the oil on the world market to raise funds for the new Kurdish Government of Iraq. They even commandeered a US government plane to fly a former CIA chief, R. James Woolsey, and officers of the Defence and Justice departments to London on what was described as a "mission to gather evidence to link Saddam to September 11". Woolsey was quoted in The New York Times: "The first thing we have to do is develop some confidence that Iraq is involved in terrorist incidents against us, not meaning September 11." He talked about a 1993 assassination plot against then President George Bush and of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs making the country "a prime candidate for regime replacement". And then came the anthrax scares. There are hordes of US reporters climbing all over this story, but it was Britain's Observer that was given the leak last Saturday to publish on Sunday: the anthrax "outbreaks" - that's the word used - had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack and investigators had named Iraq as a prime suspect as the source of the deadly spores. It might well be - but there was no proof then and there is no proof now. The Observer report then went on to flesh out the cabal's case against Saddam, making the point that this new evidence would strengthen it. It all makes you wonder where are the leaks coming from - the cabal, because they are so pleased with themselves? Or the office of the Secretary of State, who just might be very concerned about what he's hearing from the Defence Department coffee urn? http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4280517,00.html * DON'T BLAME SADDAM FOR THIS ONE by Scott Ritter The Guardian, 19th October The current spate of anthrax attacks on media and government buildings in the United States has heightened the undercurrent of concern since September 11 about the possibility of links between the perpetrators and the Iraqi regime. However, fears that the hidden hand of Saddam Hussein lies behind these attacks are based on rumour and speculation that, under closer scrutiny, fail to support the weight of the charge. First, there is the history of UN weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. It is true that Iraq has not fully complied with its disarmament obligation, particularly in the field of biological weapons. However, this failure does not equate to a retained biological weapons capability. Far from it. Under the most stringent on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control, Iraq's biological weapons programmes were dismantled, destroyed or rendered harmless during the course of hundreds of no-notice inspections. The major biological weapons production facility - al Hakum, which was responsible for producing Iraq's anthrax - was blown up by high explosive charges and all its equipment destroyed. Other biological facilities met the same fate if it was found that they had, at any time, been used for research and development of biological weapons. M oreover, Iraq was subjected to intrusive, full-time monitoring of all facilities with a potential biological application. Breweries, animal feed factories, vaccine and drug manufacturing facilities, university research laboratories and all hospitals were subject to constant, repeated inspections. Thousands of swabs and samples were taken from buildings and soil throughout Iraq. No evidence of anthrax or any other biological agent was discovered. While it was impossible to verify that all of Iraq's biological capability had been destroyed, the UN never once found evidence that Iraq had either retained biological weapons or associated production equipment, or was continuing work in the field. Another mitigating factor is purely scientific: Iraq procured the Vollum strain of anthrax from American Type Culture Collection, a company based in Rockville, Maryland, which provides commercially available viruses - such as anthrax - to consumers worldwide. While Iraq had investigated other strains, including those indigenous to the country, it was the Vollum strain that Iraq mass-produced for weapon use. It is a unique, highly virulent form of anthrax, and its use would represent the kind of link needed to suggest Iraq as a likely source. That is not to say that the presence of a Vollum strain would automatically indict Iraq, or that a non- Vollum strain clears Iraq. However, federal investigators currently think that the anthrax used in New York and Florida is the same strain, most probably the Ames strain, a variety native to the US. The strain used in Washington is as yet unidentified, but it has been assessed as non-weapons grade and responsive to antibiotics. Based upon this information, it would be irresponsible to speculate about a Baghdad involvement. There is also the political factor. Despite the ongoing efforts of the US and Great Britain to maintain economic sanctions, Baghdad has been very successful in developing a political and diplomatic momentum to get them lifted since weapons inspectors left three years ago. The events of September 11 brought this anti-sanctions momentum to a halt. It makes absolutely no sense for Iraq to be involved in a bio-terror attack that, in one fell swoop, undermines what has been Iraq's number one priority over the past decade: the lifting of economic sanctions. There is another side to the political equation. America's policy towards Iraq continues to be one of abject failure, and President Bush's administration exhibits the same level of frustration and impotence shown by its predecessor in trying to piece together a viable plan for dealing with Saddam's continued survival. Washington finds itself groping for something upon which to hang its anti-Saddam policies and the current anthrax scare has provided a convenient cause. It would be a grave mistake for some in the Bush administration to undermine the effort to bring to justice those who perpetrated the cowardly attacks against the US by trying to implement their own ideologically-driven agenda on Iraq. Those who have suggested that Iraq is the source of the anthrax used in the current attacks - including Richard Butler, a former chairman of the UN weapons inspection effort - merely fan the flames of fear and panic. There is no verifiable link whatever and it is irresponsible for someone of Mr Butler's stature to be involved in unsubstantiated speculation. His behaviour has, it seems, been guided by animosity towards Baghdad, rather than the facts. Scott Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-8. His book Endgame is published by Simon & Schuster. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi 0110200144oct20.story?coll=chi%2Dprintnews%2Dhed * ATTA VISITED PRAGUE TWICE, CZECHS CONFIRM by John Crewdson and Naftali Bendavid, Tribune staff reporters. John Crewdson reported from Prague and Naftali Bendavid from Washington. Tribune staff reporters Stephen J. Hedges and Jill Zuckman in W Chicago Tribune, 20th October PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- After weeks of downplaying potential links between the Sept. 11 hijackings and a reported visit here by one of the hijackers, Czech authorities acknowledged Friday that Mohamed Atta, suspected of piloting a Boeing 767 into the north tower of the World Trade Center, traveled to Prague at least twice in the days before he entered the U.S. in June 2000. The Czech federal police said they were investigating Atta's contacts in Prague, as well as the possibility that he later returned here on a third or even a fourth occasion using forged documents and an assumed identity. Asked about reports that Atta met with Iraqi intelligence agents on one or more of his visits to Prague, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said in an interview Friday that "it wouldn't be very responsible of me if I denied it." On Monday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman had declared that Atta came to Prague for "a one-day visit, and just one visit only." Since then, the police have turned up what police spokeswoman Ivana Zelenakova termed "a lot of other knowledge about the case." Indications of an Iraqi link with at least one of the hijackers have pushed the U.S.' volatile relationship with Iraq back into the spotlight. Thus far, however, the only place where any of the hijackers is suspected of crossing paths with the Iraqis is in Prague. Investigators say that Atta's first visit occurred at the end of May 2000 when he flew to Prague from Hamburg, Germany, where he lived for eight years while studying engineering and city planning. Atta, who was carrying an Egyptian passport, was refused admission because he did not have a visa. He returned with the proper documentation a few days later and spent the night before catching a Czech Airlines flight to Newark on June 7, 2000. Police say they don't yet know where Atta stayed on the night of June 6, with whom he might have met, or what he might have taken to the U.S. The Iraqi National Congress, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition opposed to the current Iraqi regime, says it believes Atta met in Prague with a suspected Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, whom the group claims to have been "watching." Al-Ani, a former consul and second secretary in the Iraqi Embassy in Prague, is identified by the coalition as the chief of Iraqi intelligence in the city before his expulsion in April for "activities incompatible with his status as a diplomat," a phrase that generally connotes espionage. The government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax, that could be used by terrorists--leading to suspicions that the anthrax being mailed to news organizations and political figures in the U.S. might have originated in Iraq. Gross, who promised to make details of Atta's visits to Prague public soon, emphatically rejected suggestions that Atta had obtained anthrax bacteria while in Prague, from the Iraqis or any other source. "That there could be some purchase of anthrax in the Czech Republic, that we absolutely deny," Gross said. [.....] If Iraq was privy to the planning of the hijacking plot or the anthrax attacks, it would not be the first time bin Laden's Al Qaeda network has shared information with Hussein's government. The two passionately anti-American forces have a history of interaction, experts say. In the early 1990s, after the Persian Gulf war, Iraqi agents traveled to Sudan to participate in training exercises with bin Laden's forces, who were then based near the capital of Khartoum, according to Iraqi opposition leaders. "Iraqi intelligence after the gulf war moved a great number of assets to Khartoum and Sudan," said Francis Brooke, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress. "Bin Laden was there at the same time, from 1991 to 1996. There were extensive contacts between him and the Iraqi intelligence station there." In December 1998, Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, traveled to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to talk with bin Laden. That session, which was widely reported, caused consternation among Western intelligence services, in part because it occurred just four months after bin Laden-backed terrorists set off car bombs at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people. On Thursday, a federal judge in New York handed four men life sentences without the possibility of parole for their roles in those bombings. [.....] -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.