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News, 19-26/1/02 (2)

News, 19-26/1/02 (2)


*  Kuwaiti min describes ties with Tehran as rapidly expanding
*  Iraq: Iran to free 697 Iraqi prisoners of war
*  Iraqi call for exchange of visits with Kuwait
*  Saudis and Americans may adjust US presence
*  A chill wind from Teheran [Long Jerusalem Post discussion of
Iran-Palestine-Israel relations, expressing apprehension about an
Iranian/Arafat rapprochement. Only extracts given here, mainly on Iranıs
nuclear potential. A worry for Israel. If they succeed in persuading their
protector to go after Iraq, the beneficiary may prove to be Iran. Who may
turn out to be worse than Iraq.]
*  Iraq calls on Annan to unblock oil contracts, seeks Tunisia deal
*  Iraq to sign free trade agreements with three Arab states in the first
quarter of 2002
*  First Iraqi prisoners go home [As is always the case these stories
concern prisoners being returned to Iraq from Iran, never the other way
round (Iraq denies that it has prisoners). One wonders what, apart from the
dead, the Iranians are getting in exchange]
*  Geostrategic gambit nets Turkey little [Some small satisfaction to be had
in the fact that all Turkeyıs twisting and bowing and scraping in the courts
of the mighty isnıt doing her any good. For years Turkey has been on the
verge of EU membership, expected to follow all the fashions of EU
governmentsı policy. Now, ending state control over banking, transport and
communications have become the necessary conditions of entry. They will do
all that and the chances are they still wonıt be let in. If they had any
sense of dignity, theyıd tell us to take a running jump and form an alliance
with their fellow Muslims ...]
*  Mousa says he will visit the US on January 30th
*  Arab League Chief Visits Kuwait
*  Iran Frees Hundreds of Iraqi Prisoners of War
*  Direct Iran-Syria air link via Iraq to start soon: Mazaheri
*  Air flights to be resumed shortly between Iraq, Iran [extract]
*  Arab League chief: A strike against Iraq unacceptable
*  Arab League Comments on Iraq Draw Criticism [from an Egyptian commentator
who says Moussa is merely reflecting what the Arab people think, not what
the people that count - the rulers - think]
*  Oil accord signed [with Tunisia]
*  The Arab view: The way Syria sees it [Extract on Iraqi/Syrian relations.
The article, published in the Jerusalem Post, seems to come from a journal
published in the United Arab Emirates but is written by someone with an
Anglo Saxon name.]
*  US anxiety drives Saddam to seek new Arab allies [Financial Times account
of recent Iraqi diplomatic initiatives, placing them in the context of the
forthcoming Arab League summit.]
*  Iraqi foreign minister arrives in Tehran

*  Syria turns to Iraq in moment of need
by George Baghdadi
Asia Times (from Inter Press Service), 26th January
Makes much the same points about Syria/Iraqi relations as ŒThe way Syria
sees itı above.


*  India to build railway network for Iraq
*  Iraq to seek Russian support over UN sanctions [Aziz visiting Moscow and
*  Russia Warns U.S. Against Military Strike on Iraq
*  Iraq defies US 'smart sanctions'


*  Troublesome priest? [The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Rowan Williams, who was
near the twin towers on Sept 11. He compares what he felt then to what
people in Baghdad and elsewhere must have felt when the bombs were falling
on them.]
*  46 Busted in Iraq Protest


*  Clinton: U.S. policies not to blame for terror by Muslim radicals [Debate
on ŒAmerica and Islamı organised by W.Clintonıs own presidential foundation]
*  Pipelineistan, Part 2: The games nations play [I donıt know what this is
(Part 1 of Part 2 of what appears to be a speech) but its a splendid birdıs
eye view of the geopolitics of oil, centring on Central Asia, but taking in
China and Kosovo. Its here because I like it, not because it has much to do
with Iraq, but it does state confidently that ŒSaddam will not be attacked,
because Saddam is the ultimate reason for American military bases in the
Gulf - a splendid affair because on top of it all it is a free ride, the
expenses being paid by the ultra flush sheikdoms.ı And this is a man who
seems to know what heıs talking about.]



Kuwait, Jan 19, IRNA -- Kuwait's Consultant Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sheik Muhammad Sabah al-Slim al-Sabah described his countries relations with
Iran as excellent and yet rapidly expanding, before leaving Kuwait for
Tehran Friday.

Sheik Salim al-Sabah who was heading for an official two-day visit of Tehran
furthermore emphasized on both countries' high ranking officials' will to
broaden and strengthen ties and cooperation in all possible fields.

Referring to the recent fortieth anniversary of the formal establishment of
political ties between the two countries and arranging for a joint
exhibition on the occasion in Kuwait based on Iran's initiative, he said,
"the move was evaluated as Iran's strong will to expand friendly ties with
Kuwait, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab world by Kuwaiti
and other Arab officials."


In reply to a question regarding the level of Iran and Kuwait's cooperation
aimed at freeing the Iranian and Kuwaiti POWs in Iraq, Sheik Salim al-Sabah
said, "the Iranian and Kuwaiti nations feel a shared pain in that regard."

The Kuwaiti official added, "The Baghdad government treated both Iran and
Kuwait hypocritically in that regard and keeps telling lies in denying the
presence of our two countries' beloved citizens in its country."


CNN, 20th January

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) -- Iran is to release nearly 700 Iraqi prisoners
captured during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, an Iraq Foreign Ministry
spokesman said on Sunday.

"The Iranian side agreed to release 697 Iraqi prisoners over three days
staring on Monday, January 21, under the supervision of the International
Committee of the Red Cross," the spokesman said in a fax sent to Reuters.

He added that two sides would also exchange the bodies of 1,183 Iraqis and
574 Iranians who had died in prison.

"A positive atmosphere of mutual confidence and understanding and serious
cooperation by the two sides to solve all pending issues prevailed in the
meeting of the joint Iraqi- Iranian committee," the spokesman said. The
meeting ended on Friday.

An estimated one million Iranians and Iraqis were killed during the war.

The fate of thousands of prisoners of war and combatants listed as missing
in action is one of the main issues blocking the normalization of ties
between the two countries.

Times of India (AFP), 20th January

BAGHDAD: The head of an Iraqi non-governmental committee has proposed an
exchange of visits with Kuwait to discuss the question of people missing
since the 1991 Gulf War, Baghdad Radio said Sunday.

Ahmad Munther al-Mutlak, whose committee follows up the issue of missing
Iraqis, handed a memorandum to this effect to Arab League Secretary General
Amr Mussa, who ended a two-day visit to Baghdad on Saturday, the state radio

"Our committee is prepared to go to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ... and to host
popular delegations from these two countries" in order to settle the issue,
Mutlak said.

Iraq, which has been pressing for the restoration of Arab solidarity, has
repeatedly said in recent months that it was willing to cooperate with
Kuwait to resolve the problem of missing people.

Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said in a January 9 interview that Baghdad was
prepared to receive a delegation from Kuwait to examine the issue of
Kuwaitis missing since the Gulf War.

Kuwait for its part said last month it was ready to let the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) search its territory for Iraqis Baghdad
says have been missing since the conflict.


by Roula Khalaf in Jeddah
Financial Times, 20th January

The US and Saudi Arabia are set to study possible re-adjustments in the US
military presence in the kingdom that could see some air assets redeployed
to other Gulf states but would not amount to a US pull-out from the kingdom,
according to western diplomats in the area.

The move would ease tensions between the US and Saudi military
establishments. The kingdom has put constraints on US action, banning
bombers from using Saudi territory to attack Iraq several times since the
1991 Gulf war.

The US, mindful of Saudi sensitivity, did not ask the kingdom to use bases
there for military strikes against Afghanistan, although it is believed to
have been using a command and control centre near Riyadh.

"The US has been engaging the leadership to see what they think needs to be
done. Adjustments could mean that air assets which cannot be used here might
be best moved around and put to better use," said a western diplomat. "But
nothing is likely to happen."

Saudi officials at the week-end echoed US official denials of reports that
they may ask the US to leave Saudi Arabia. But they said that the military
presence was under constant review by both sides.

"You do reassess the presence. We've been doing it since 1991, so if you
only fly a reduced number of missions in the no-fly zones in Iraq, you may
not need all the aircraft," said a Saudi official. "But there's no demand on
the US to leave. It's not how you bring [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein
into compliance with the UN, and it plays right into the hands of Osama bin

A key aim of the Saudi-born Mr bin Laden, who is accused of the September 11
attacks on the US, is to oust the estimated 5,000 US troops from the

US jets use Saudi territory as a base from which to patrol no-fly zones over
Iraq. In recent years, however, the Saudis have grown increasingly
uncomfortable with the reliance on the US, and with US military strikes
against Iraq.

An end to the US military presence in the kingdom would be a popular move
domestically but would send the wrong signal to Iraq.

Bill Clinton, former US president, speaking in Jeddah on Sunday, said the US
presence was still needed to respond rapidly to regional threats.

Last year, a sophisticated new US air command and control centre near Riyadh
opened as bilateral tensions rose over US support for Israel. Strains were
aggravated by the September 11 attacks and the involvement of Saudis
apparently recruited by Mr bin Laden.

US President George W. Bush has praised Saudi co-operation in the
anti-terror campaign, but US lawmakers have expressed dismay at the level of
Saudi assistance. Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services
Committee, said last week that the US should consider finding a more
"hospitable" place for its troops.

In an apparent response to Mr Levin's comments, Saudi officials told the
Washington Post that the kingdom may no longer want the US military to

Colin Powell, US secretary of state, yesterday said he had "heard no such
suggestion of the kind".

"We have not been handed an eviction notice or any warning of an eviction
notice," he said. "Some discussion has taken place . . . but nothing of the
nature suggested by the story.

"In my conversations with Saudi leaders as recently as just about four or
five days ago with Prince Saud [al-Faisal, Saudi foreign minister], I've had
no suggestion from them that they were about to ask us to leave. I'm not
aware that the Saudi family is under such great pressure from the population
for us to leave." Additional reporting by Peronet Despeignes, Washington

by Miriam Shaviv
Jerusalem Post, 20th January


Following the Iranian revolution in 1979, Arafat was one of the first
foreign leaders to fly to Teheran. Famously, he was handed the Israeli
embassy, and promptly raised the PLO flag over the compound.

Relations deteriorated, however, when Arafat supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq
war in the 1980s. When Arafat attended the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference,
Iran turned its back on him, claiming he had sold out the Palestinian cause.

The Islamic state kept its hand in the Palestinian pot, however, by
developing ties with Palestinian radical groups such as Islamic Jihad and
Hamas. With these groups, there is more of an ideological and religious
kinship, because of their anti-Oslo stances and acceptance of Islamic

According to Dr. Shaul Shay, a research fellow at the Interdisciplinary
Center in Herzliya, Iran has supplied the groups with equipment and funding,
although it is impossible to say how much since it was all smuggled into the

Iran has also trained some of the organizations' activists, and Shay
confirms published reports that Iran located potential recruits for the
organizations by flying Palestinians hurt in the intifada to Iran under the
guise of humanitarian aid. Once the wounded were healed, Iran demanded
repayment in the form of activism.

The relationships were so successful that Iran today is "closer to the
Islamic Jihad than any other foreign organization other than Hizbullah,"
Shay says.


Experts emphasize that the dangers created by the alliance are still minor
compared to the existential threat posed by the possibility of Iran gaining
nuclear arms, which the architects of Oslo, including former prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, had deemed worse than the
threats posed by the Palestinian problem. However, it is unclear when Iran's
nuclear program will come to fruition.

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at
Bar-Ilan University estimates it should be completed by the end of the
decade, but "we have been saying five years now for the last 10 years," says

Iran has tested its Shihab 3 missile three times since 1998, with only one
success. A recent article in The Washington Post describes a nuclear program
beset with problems, including only sporadic cooperation from Russia,
cancelled contracts with Russian companies due to American pressure, and a
lack of basic materials.

According to Shoval, Israel must counteract Iran in two ways. First, by
continuing to carry out preventative operations to stop Iran from delivering
weapons to the PA, as it did with the Karine A, and by targeting terror
centers in the territories which might attract pro-Iranian activity. Second,
and most importantly, by pushing the US and Europe to isolate Iran until it
puts an end to its involvement in terror.

"The US must lead this effort," says Shoval. "Israel's role will be more in
the realm of intelligence."

Asked if the diplomatic route had produced results in the past, Shoval said
that during the Clinton-Gore administration, efforts to isolate Iran took
second place to applying pressure on Russia to stop cooperating with Iran's
nuclear program. However, he estimated that the current American
administration will take a harsher line towards Iran, partly because Russian
President Vladimir Putin is expected to be more cooperative.

Indeed, most experts estimate that Israel's chances of succeeding down the
diplomatic route have dramatically increased in the last few days alone.


Now that the Taliban rule has been defeated in Afghanistan, American and
Iranian interests are emerging as radically different. The Americans, says
the source, want to see a Western oriented government in place in Kabul,
while Iran will do everything in its power to ensure an Islamic government
more to its liking. The problem is likely to reassert itself if and when the
US tackles Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Although Iran and the US-led coalition
may cooperate to bring down the Baghdad dictator, once there is a power
vacuum, "the Americans will try to implement their vision of a kinder,
gentler government, which is more amenable to living as part of the world
community. Iran will try to create a vassal state," the source says.

Europe, too, is likely to take a harsher line towards Iran, both because its
sensibilities to terror have also been sharpened since September 11, and
because it is still careful not to strain its relations with the US too far.

DESPITE growing concern over Iran's nuclear capability, security experts
absolutely rule out military action except in a desperate emergency.

"We must make sure that every other option has been fully explored," says
Inbar. "There is no need to put ourselves at the head of Iran's list of

Not that the option would be easy. Shay points out that while Iran can
attack Israel directly within minutes, through Hizbullah in southern
Lebanon, Israel is limited by the need to travel 1,200 km to attack Iran.

Steinberg and Shay both maintain that Iran and Iraq have learned the lessons
of the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor bombing by Israel in June 1981, and have
hidden many of their facilities underground.

Inbar, however, says that an attack would become much more likely in the
event that Iran completed its nuclear program. Israel must do "everything"
to counter that danger, he says.

He envisions an Israeli team, possibly with the cooperation of the
Americans, entering Iran from a neighboring country. Because the facilities
are underground, a ground team is more likely than an air attack, he says,
and because of the difficulty finding Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel
would have to concentrate on the main components, and perhaps target
scientists and engineers who are instrumental to the program.


World Oil (from AFP), 21st January

Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rashid called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to
intercede with the sanctions committee of the world body to unblock
contracts worth some one billion dollars.

"The secretary general of the UN must undertake intense efforts to unmask
the acts of the British and American representatives on the sanctions
committee and achieve an unblocking of the contracts," Rashid told Iraqi

"This committee is still blocking some 800 oil contracts worth more than a
billion dollars. The contracts concern equipment aimed at increasing Iraq's
production capacity, and consequently, the volume of its oil exports,"
Rashid added.

He accused Washington and London of "using any pretext to stop the Iraqi
people from pursuing the 'oil for food programme' which is financed by Iraqi
sales of crude oil."

The oil-for-food programme was set up in December 1996 to soften the impact
of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq after its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The country can sell crude oil under strict international monitoring to buy
essential goods and medicines.

Meanwhile, Iraq on Sunday raised the possibility of Tunisia conducting oil
exploration of Iraqi oil fields during Tunisian Industry Minister Monsef bin
Abdallah's visit to Baghdad, Iraqi radio reported.

Iraqi oil minister Amer Mohamed Al-Rashid, who met with Abdallah, raised the
possibility of Tunisia exploring Iraqi oil fields, the radio said, without
giving further details.

Last February, the two countries signed a free trade agreement and Tunisia
has backed Iraq's call for an end to sanctions, slapped on Iraq since its
1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Rashid arrived Saturday, heading a delegation of 40 businessmen. The trip
included tours of industrial sites and oil fields, the radio said. Tunisia
is a minor oil producer, generating a mere six million barrels of oil in
2001, against an average of some four million tonnes over recent years.

Arabic News, 21st January

Iraq's vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan has announced that his country
will sign agreements to found free trade areas with three Arab states in the
first half of this year.

Ramadan said that Iraq proposed with the six Arab states with which it had
agreements of this sort: Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, the UAE the
signing of long-trade economic agreements in order to strengthen inter- Arab
integration and serving common interests.

Iraq had also signed in conclusion of the 73rd session of the Arab economic
council on June 7th in Baghdad an agreement to establish a free trade Arab
zone with these states.,5478,3635206%255E401,00

Herald Sun (Australia, from AAP), 22nd January

ALMOST 200 Iraqi prisoners held in Iran for the past decade have returned
home, the first of 697 Iraqi detainees Tehran has promised to release this

The 197 men entered the country by bus in the border region of Al-Monzarya,
170 kilometres north-east of Baghdad.

The former detainees, who said they had been held in Iran since 1991, were
greeted by family members, many of whom could not hold back tears.

"We were victims of repression in Iran, which terrorised us," charged a
soldier among the former prisoners as he hugged his children.

"They say Israel practices terrorism, but Iran does even worse," added
Kharir Abbas, a 58 year-old native of the northern city of Mosul.

Released under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross,
the group later boarded Iraqi buses for the journey to their homes.

How they were taken prisoner three years after the end of the 1980-1988 war
between the two countries were not made clear.

Iran "has pledged to free 697 Iraqi military personnel as part of an accord
reached in Baghdad in January," Fahmi al-Qaissi, an Iraqi foreign ministry
official in charge of PoWs, told reporters in Al-Monzarya.

"There are no Iranian PoWs in Iraq," Qaissi said, dismissing Tehran's
charges that Iraq still holds around 3,200 Iranian soldiers.

An Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday that Iran had agreed to
release the 697 prisoners of war over three days starting today.

Iraq and Iran will also "soon" exchange the remains of 1,220 Iraqis and 574
Iranians who died in detention in the two countries, according to the

The two neighbours have yet to normalise ties more than 13 years after the
end of their devastating war, which left nearly one million dead.

Baghdad and Tehran, which maintain ties at the level of charge d'affaires,
remain at odds over prisoners of war and support for each other's opposition

Tehran has denied Baghdad's charges that it still holds 29,000 Iraqi
prisoners, while Iraq says another 60,000 are missing.

by Emad Mekay
Asia Times, 22nd January

WASHINGTON (Inter Press Service): Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit began
a new workweek back home on Monday, after a five-day visit here for which he
had little to show in the way of firm financial support for his country's
flagging economy from the United States or the International Monetary Fund
(IMF). This was despite considerable effort to capitalize on Turkey's
historically close relations with the United States and its vanguard
cooperation in President George W Bush's war against terrorism.

Mehmet Ali Bayar, of the Turkish embassy here, told IPS that the IMF seemed
set to hold off on a hard-sought US$10 billion loan until early next month,
rather than in the coming week as was originally hoped. Nevertheless, the
diplomat said he was confident the fund would sign off on the loan with
backing from the United States. Bayar, echoing statements by Economy
Minister Kemal Dervis and by IMF officials in recent days, said the
agreement had stumbled over the pace at which Turkey is implementing
IMF-backed economic reforms aimed at providing greater incentive for foreign
investors to enter Turkey. Specific measures include state spending curbs
and bank restructuring.

IMF spokesman William Murray said the fund's executive board was expected to
meet to review the Turkey loan in two or three weeks. Turkish officials said
that in addition to the $10 billion from the IMF, a further $6 billion from
the World Bank remains at stake.

Ecevit told reporters here on Thursday that, likewise, he had not secured a
trade agreement with the United States as originally hoped but added that
the two sides agreed to set up a commission next month to advance the
agenda. Nor did the Turkish leader succeed in persuading US officials to
raise new bilateral assistance, lower tariffs, write off some $5 billion in
military debt, scrub quotas on Turkish textiles and steel, or help promote

Faruk Tabak, professor of modern Turkish studies at Georgetown University,
said Ecevit went home empty-handed because "he had unrealistically high

"The prime minister thought he could capitalize on US plans to strike Iraq,
but since that has not actually materialized, he couldn't make it," said

Since military action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq remains high on the wish
list of a number of key US officials, however, observers would not rule out
the possibility that Turkey could yet secure economic deals on the
coat-tails of US geostrategy.

"I don't think that Ecevit is going home empty-handed," said Bulent Aliriza,
director of the Turkish program at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, a Washington think tank. "Both sides will come with a
formula that would allow the US to meet some of the Turkish demands. The US
still needs Turkey." He attributed Washington's meager response to Ecevit in
part to the slowed US economy.

Turkey supported the 1991 US-led war against Iraq and has complained of
losing more than $50 billion in trade with its neighbors as a result of the
Gulf War and subsequent economic blockade of Baghdad. Ecevit's government
has been implementing IMF-endorsed reforms since June 1999 but remains in
the throes of an acute economic crisis. It has tapped some $15.3 billion in
credit from the IMF over the past two years.

US backing is seen as a major factor in continued IMF backing for Turkey,
which was the first country with a majority Muslim population to offer
troops for a multinational peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. Such gestures
aside, said Aliriza, "Turkey needs to get its own house in order. They have
not come up with a good performance on primarily attracting foreign
investment. They can do a lot better."

In line with IMF conditions, the government has pushed several laws through
parliament, including a bill approved this month that would put $5 billion
into the ailing private banking sector. But the bill awaits approval by
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

The European Union (EU) also has made the establishment of a Western-style
free-market economy a condition for Turkey's admission to the EU. Like the
IMF and World Bank, the EU has been anxious that Turkey end state control
over the banking, transport, and communications industries. It also has
demanded improved political and human rights.

Arabic News, 22nd January

The Secretary General of the Arab League Amre Mousa has stated he will visit
New York on January 30th and he will be meeting with the secretary general
of the UN Kofi Annan to inform him with the Iraqi ideas he had discussed
with the Iraqi officials during his recent visit to Baghdad concerning the
relation between Iraq and the UN.

Mousa said he had made a telephone call with the chairman of the Jordanian
Royal court Fayez al-Trawenah in which he briefed the latter on the results
of his visit to Baghdad.

The Associated Press, 23rd January

KUWAIT: The Arab League chief said Wednesday his talks in Kuwait about Iraqi
ideas for reconciliation were ``positive.''

But Amr Moussa told reporters it was too early to judge his efforts or
discuss them in detail.

``There are a lot of contacts nowadays but I cannot say that there is a
concrete initiative ... but what I can say is that there is a certain
dynamism,'' Moussa said.


Moussa later flew to Jordan and briefed King Abdullah II on his talks with
Iraqi and Kuwaiti leaders, a Royal Palace official told The Associated

Earlier Wednesday, Abdullah met with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff
Gen. Richard B. Myers to discuss military cooperation and Jordanian
peacekeeping,the official Petra news agency reported. The king also met U.S.
ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte who is on a Mideast tour.

Yahoo, 23rd January  

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has released since Monday 682 Iraqi prisoners
captured during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, completing the latest phase of
prisoner exchanges, the official IRNA news agency said Wednesday.

It said the prisoners were handed over to Iraqi officials on the Iran-Iraq
border at Khosravi, in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah.

Iraq's official news agency INA said 259 prisoners of war were handed over
by Iran Wednesday, in the third wave of a program of prisoner releases.

Baghdad newspapers said Iran released 245 Iraqi prisoners on Tuesday and
late Monday freed 188 Iraqi prisoners captured by Iranian forces during
Shi'ite Muslim riots in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War (news - web

Those prisoners arrived at al-Munthiriya, 106 miles east of Baghdad, late
Tuesday night. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy
between the two sides' figures.

An Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday Tehran and Baghdad would
also exchange the bodies of 1,183 Iraqis and 574 Iranians who were killed
during the Iraq-Iran war.



Tehran, Jan 23, IRNA -- Iran and Syria is to set up a direct air link
through Iraqi airspace soon, the Islamic Republic's Deputy Transport
Minister Behzad Mazaheri told participants of a conference in southern Kish

The Iranian State Aviation Organization (SAO) on Wednesday further cited the
official as saying that Tehran will also formally resume flights into
neigboring Iraq for the first time since the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq

"Once a suitable ground is prepared, Iranian flights into Iraq will resume,"
Mazaheri told a conference of managing directors of Iranian airports, SAO

The decision to open air links between Tehran-Damascus via Iraq was made in
the wake of successful talks conducted by Iran's Transport Minister Ahmad
Khorram with his Iraqi counterpart, Ahmad Murtada Ahmad Khalil who visited
the Islamic Republic last week, Mazaheri, the head of the SAO, said.

The two ministers last week stressed transport cooperation between Tehran
and Baghdad with ties obviously improving after they were strained by the
imposed war.

Ahmad Khalil, who arrived in Tehran last Sunday on a five-day visit to grace
the inauguration of a joint transport committee of the two countries, termed
his visit a positive step toward opening a new chapter in ties between the
Islamic Republic and Iraq.

Iran and Syria last March launched a rail link crossing Turkey as part of
their efforts to expand their transport relations. Most Iranians now use the
facility to visit holy Shia sites in Syria.

The 2,500 km railway was predicted, at the time of opening, to double the
number of Iranians visiting Syria then placed at 250,000 a year.

Arabic News, 25th January


Currently, flights between Tehran and Damascus go through the Turkish
airspace since the war between Iran and Iraq ( 1980- 1988). Most of these
flights are run by the Iranian airline and in particular transports
pilgrims. Mazahari indicated that direct flights between Iran and Iraq will
be resumed " shortly" after agreements were reached between the two
countries to this effect.


CNN, 23rd January

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Arabs will try to stave off an American military strike
on Iraq, the head of the Arab League said Tuesday, insisting no single Arab
country would support such action.

"Iraq is an Arab country and Arabs will not allow Iraq to be struck," Amr
Moussa said at an evening lecture at the Cairo International Book Fair.
"Iraq is not Afghanistan and the Arab public opinion will not accept that."

"We are working now by all means to go beyond and avert such a strike," said
Moussa, who is heading to Kuwait on Wednesday following discussions last
week with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

Moussa refused to give details on his mission or what ideas he and Saddam
had discussed. "This matter needs a lot of quiet diplomacy. After that I
might talk," he said.

Moussa, who is expected in New York next week to meet with U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, left Baghdad on Saturday saying that Saddam
had presented a new initiative for him to pass on to the United Nations and
Arab leaders. He has not provided any details.

U.S. President George W. Bush has warned Saddam of unspecified consequences
if he does not resume co-operation with U.N. inspectors charged with
verifying that Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has
barred the inspectors since 1998.

Iraq's relations with its Arab neighbors were broken or seriously harmed
after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. The U.N. sanctions imposed after the
invasion cannot be lifted until the inspectors report that Iraq is free of
weapons of mass destruction.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Monday at the same venue that
Moussa's efforts provide "a real opportunity to resolve the Iraqi-Kuwaiti

Turning to other issues, the chief of the 22-nation Arab League, which is
based in Cairo, said Arabs are going through the most difficult period in
decades. He warned that Israel is trying to destroy the Palestinian
Authority and to impose its will on the entire region.

"It is not only the government of (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon or the
Israeli military, but the entire Israeli establishment which feels that it
is on top of the world and trying to impose Israeli hegemony on the Middle
East, and not on Palestine alone," he said.

"That will never happen. Nobody will accept that," Moussa said.

Unlike other lectures at the Cairo International Book Fair, which generally
draw small crowds, hundreds of people attended Moussa's lecture. The popular
former Egyptian foreign minister was interrupted several times by applause
and poetic words of praise.

by Greg LaMotte
Voice of America, 23rd January

Cairo: A top Arab affairs expert in Egypt has criticized comments made by
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who said that no Arab country
would allow the United States to take military action against Iraq.

Secretary-General Moussa said late Tuesday at the Cairo International Book
Fair that, "Iraq is an Arab country and Arabs will not allow Iraq to be

However, Egyptian analyst Abdullah el-Ashaal said Mr. Moussa's comments
could only have been made to reflect Arab public opinion. Mr. el-Ashaal says
there is no consensus among Arab governments regarding any potential U.S.
military operations in Iraq.

"He is not speaking for the governments but he may be speaking for the
public opinion. Amr Moussa wants to be the hero of the whole scene now. He
knows, very well, how to address public opinion through the media," he said.


In March, the Arab League is scheduled to hold its annual summit in Beirut.
The only announced agenda item is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so
far nothing about Iraq.


Next week, Mr. Moussa travels to New York for meetings with U.N. Secretary
General Kofi Annan.


World Oil (from AFP), 23rd January

Tunisia has agreed to develop an oilfield in southern Iraq with a capacity
of 40,000 barrels per day (bpd).

A protocol agreement was signed in Baghdad by Iraqi Oil Minister Amer
Mohammed Rashid and Tunisia's Industry Minister Monsef bin Abdullah.

"We have agreed on Tunisian firms going ahead with the development of
Al-Kafl field located in the west of Nejaf province," Rashid told reporters
after the signing.

Tunisia has been linked with Iraq since February 2001 by a free trade accord
and supports Iraqi calls for a lifting of the embargo in force since
Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

*  Iraqi- Libyan talks
Arabic News, 24th January

The secretary of resources, the environment and building planning secretary
at the Libyan people's congress Hatyoush Faraj Hatyoush met on Wednesday
with the deputy chairman of the Iraqi national council ( Parliament) Hamid
al-Rawi and members of the accompanying delegation currently visiting Libya.

The two sides discussed cooperation relations between the two sisterly
states and means of strengthening them in all fields as well as means of
developing relations between the Libyan general people's congress and the
Iraqi national council.

by Gareth Smith
Jerusalem Post (from Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates), 23rd January


Another threat to the Syrian-US thaw is the talk in Washington - especially
from Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defense secretary and chief "hawk" - of military
action against Iraq as part of the "war on terrorism."

Syria has no love for Saddam Hussein (the split in the two wings of the
Ba'ath party was a very bitter one) but Damascus has certainly improved
relations with Iraq in recent years, especially since Bashar Assad succeeded
his father as president in 2000.

Part of the reason for this is the realization that UN sanctions have not
removed Saddam, or, arguably, even weakened him. "We believe it's time to
remove sanctions," says Planning Minister Issam Zaim. "Those who were
targeted have not been affected. Those who were not targeted have been badly
affected: The Iraqi people have suffered enough."

Aside from political considerations, Syria is developing an economic
interest in a stable or even expanding Iraqi economy, an interest that could
be badly disrupted by US attacks on Iraq. The Syrian economy has struggled
in recent years - its GDP barely keeping pace with 2.5% population growth -
and Iraq during the past four years has quietly become a valuable export
market, despite the constraints of sanctions.

"We expect trade with Iraq to increase," Zaim told me. "Turkey is trading
with Iraq - why shouldn't we?"

Since trade between Iraq and Syria resumed in 1997, Syrian exports have
grown to $1 billion in 2001. This figure could double in 2002, according to
Muhammad Mehdi Saleh, the Iraqi economy and trade minister.

Oil analysts argue that Iraq, in return, has been exporting oil to Syria
through the overland pipeline that fell into disuse in the early 1980s - a
charge denied by Syria. One analyst estimates that Syria pumps 125,000
barrels per day, which it consumes at home, enabling it to export 340,000
barrels per day of its own production that account for more than 60% of
Syrian export earnings.

The economic links between Syria and Iraq worry the "hawks" in the US. Apart
from easing the pressure on Baghdad, they help spread the consequences of
any US strike against Iraq, and emphasize the point that Syria's support for
the "war on terrorism" has clear limits.

"Aside from disrupting trade and possibly producing a refugee crisis, US
action against Iraq could produce widespread Arab resentment and create real
opportunities for the religious opposition in both Syria and Egypt," one
Western diplomat said.

This is, to say the least, an unlikely recipe for continued US-Syrian

by Roula Khalaf in Riyadh
Financial Times, 25th January

With the anti-terrorism campaign renewing suspicion of Iraq's weapons
programme and raising the spectre of a US military campaign against Baghdad,
Saddam Hussein is looking for new friends in the Arab world.

This week Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, toured
several Arab capitals, including Riyadh, carrying new "thoughts" by Mr
Saddam aimed at reaching an Arab compromise over Iraq.

Arab rulers, including those in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, are backing the
efforts. Privately, however, Gulf officials say they suspect Mr Saddam's
enlisting of the Arab League is aimed at buying time and thwarting any plans
the US might devise to overthrow him.

"What is motivating Saddam is fear of destruction; it's the wrong motivation
if you want to win friends in the region," said an official in Riyadh. "He's
trying to create momentum before the Arab summit and the perception of
progress to delay what someone else might be contemplating."

The Iraq-Kuwait dispute is likely to top the agenda at the summit in Beirut
at the end of March. The issue dominated last year's gathering of Arab
rulers in Amman. But despite frantic efforts by Jordan to persuade Iraq to
agree to a resolution that would have called for a lifting of United Nations
sanctions and provided Kuwait with Iraqi security guarantees, Mr Saddam
rejected the compromise.

The US has not reached a decision to attack Iraq in the second phase of the
anti-terrorism campaign. Administration officials who had been advocating a
military campaign to oust Mr Saddam are holding back amid opposition in
Europe and the Arab world and concerns about the military capability of the
exiled Iraqi opposition.

The Iraqi leader may be willing to show more flexibility at this year's
meeting in order to influence the debate in Washington. But his neighbours,
who remain suspicious of his intentions, might also ask for greater
concessions this time.

Saudi Arabia is opposed to a US military attack on Iraq in the context of
the war against terrorism. Its ban on US aircraft taking off from its
territory to bomb Iraq has been the source of tension with the Pentagon.
Periodic bombing of Iraq, argues Riyadh, has strengthened Mr Saddam's grip
on power and angered Arab public opinion.

But Arab and western diplomats say the Saudi government might be willing to
back a US military campaign in the future if the US builds a consensus first
at the UN Security Council and creates a more favourable environment in the
Middle East.


Tehran, Jan 25, IRNA -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Najib Sabri arrived here
Friday on a four-day visit.

He was welcomed at Tehran Mehrabad Airport by Deputy Foreign Minister for
International and Legal Affairs Javad Zarif.

Upon arrival, he said," I have come from Baghdad at the invitation of my
counterpart Kamal Kharrazi, so that we can solve with the Iranian
authorities the last outstanding issues from the war. We hope that the
result of these discussions will be to achieve peace."

Zarif told reporters that the visit by the Iraqi delegation aims to resolve
some humanitarian issues concerning the prisoners of war and those missing
in action.

During his stay in Tehran, Sabri will have meetings with President Mohammad
Khatami, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and some other ranking officials of
the country.


The Indian Express, 22nd January

Dubai, January 22: India and Iraq are close to signing a Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) to build a state-of-the-art sky bus network in Baghdad
and a 250-km railway line from Baghdad to Mushaba, Minister of State for
Railways Digvijay Singh said.

The two Turnkey projects, worth about $2.7 billion, are to be executed by
the Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd (KRCL) and Rites, the construction wing
of the Indian Railways, the second-largest in the world, Singh said.

The two projects will help Iraq put back on track the transport
infrastructure in its capital, which had been in shambles following the Gulf
war in 1991 and the subsequent imposition of international sanctions.

The KRCL, which built and commissioned in 1998 the 760-km Konkan Railway
along the western coast of India, is renowned for its expertise in building
railway lines through inhospitable terrain.

Rites Ltd, set up as a consultancy arm of the Indian Railways in 1974, has
implemented a variety of projects over the last 26 years in 56 countries
including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and Iraq.

Times of India (from AFP), 23rd January

MOSCOW: Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz was due to arrive in Moscow
on Wednesday hoping to press Baghdad's case to Russian officials currently
discussing with the United States a review of UN sanctions against his

Aziz is scheduled to hold talks here on Thursday with Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov as well as the other senior political figures including
the speaker of the State Duma (lower house), Gennady Seleznyov, the Russian
foreign ministry said.

Aziz would "urge Russia to play a more active role in the face of US and
British attempts to impose new conditions on Iraq," a diplomatic source in
Baghdad said on Tuesday.

The Iraqi deputy premier would also discuss a Russian plan bracketing the
return of UN arms inspectors to Iraq and a suspension of the sanctions
imposed on Baghdad since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the sources said.

Russia and the United States are holding talks on a new Iraqi sanctions
regime that would establish a list of goods with a military potential that
would require authorisation from the Security Council before being sold to

After initially refusing to support a UN sanctions review against Iraq,
Russia in November said it would back the initiative while stressing the
importance of persuading Baghdad to allow the United Nations to resume arms

UN inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in December 1998, on the eve of a
bombing campaign by US and British warplanes, and were not allowed to

Aziz, who was due to arrive in Moscow around 1315 GMT on Wednesday, will fly
on to China, another key permanent member of the UN Security Council, after
the Russian talks.

by Oleg Shchedrov
Reuters, 24th January

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Thursday that Moscow was
opposed to any U.S. military operation against Iraq, offering crucial
support to Baghdad in its confrontation with Washington.

In a further gesture of support after talks with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
Tareq Aziz, Ivanov said Moscow wanted sanctions against Iraq to be lifted.

Aziz arrived in Moscow Wednesday amid threats by Washington to use force
against Iraq if it refused to allow in U.N. arms inspectors, who left Iraq
in 1998 complaining they were being prevented from performing their duties.

"We will not submit to U.S. threats," Aziz told a news conference during a
break in the talks. "If we face aggression, we will defend our country."

After the Sept. 11 suicide attacks in the United States, Russia joined the
U.S.-led anti terrorism coalition and backed Washington's military operation
in Afghanistan.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the West of the threat posed by Afghanistan's
former Taliban rulers, accused by Washington of harboring Saudi-born
militant Osama bin-Laden, held responsible for the attacks.

Russia has maintained close ties with Iraq and is trying to recover
Soviet-era debts of about $9 billion. It is deeply suspicious of U.S. plans
to extend military action to other countries suspected of backing
international terrorism. Washington lists Baghdad among its prime suspects.

"The struggle against terrorism should be based on a firm legal basis and
the U.N. should play a coordinating role in the joint international effort,"
Ivanov said. "That is why Russia sees as unacceptable a mechanical spread of
the anti-terrorist operation to any other country, including Iraq."

"If such a thing occurred, this would not only weaken the anti-terrorist
coalition but also help extremist forces which want to ruin this coalition
and aim at using contradictions among its members to achieve their goals."

The dispatch of inspectors, intended to determine whether Baghdad held
chemical and biological weapons, was part of the U.N. action against Iraq
undertaken after the 1991 Gulf War to eject Iraq from Kuwait.

The action, authorized by U.N. Security Council resolution 681, also
included economic sanctions against Iraq.

Asked if Baghdad was ready to bow to U.S. pressure and allow the inspectors
back, Aziz said: "If you want a solution, you have to want a package -- we
support that."

"We will carry out our obligations, but let others carry out their
obligations in accordance with the U.N. Security Council's resolutions," he

Ivanov reiterated Russia's support for lifting sanctions against Iraq, which
he described as "counterproductive." He welcomed dialogue between Baghdad
and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, started last year.

"Any solution should state clearly the prospects and conditions for lifting
sanctions as envisaged in the U.N. Security Council's resolution," he said.,3523,1009076-6078-0,00.html

Business Day (from AFP), 25th January

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz began talks with Russian officials on
Thursday to try and persuade Moscow to block American moves to introduce a
new "smart" UN sanctions regime for Iraq.

Aziz met parliamentary leaders in the State Duma lower chamber, including
the head of the pro-Kremlin Unity faction, Vladimir Pekhtin, and Communist
Party chief Gennady Zyuganov.

The Iraqi deputy premier, who arrived in Moscow Wednesday, was to hold talks
with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov late Thursday.

"We have common views on the international situation. I hope Russia will
help us. Russia is a traditional friend of Iraq," Aziz told reporters.

Russia and the United States are holding talks on a new Iraqi sanctions
regime that would establish a list of goods with a military potential that
would require authorisation from the Security Council before being sold to

After initially refusing to support a UN sanctions review against Iraq,
Russia in November said it would back the initiative while stressing the
importance of persuading Baghdad to allow the United Nations to resume arms


Pekhtin, of the pro-Kremlin Unity group, told Aziz that Russia had suffered
huge economic losses from the sanctions, amounting to $17-billion over the
past decade.

"We will do everything to defend our economic interests and we will not
allow a tightening of the UN sanctions against Iraq," he said according to a
statement released by his Unity party.

Pekhtin also denounced US threats of military action against Iraq, saying:
"Russia and the Arab world are categorically against military pressure on

REMNANTS OF DECENCY,6903,636262,00.html

by Stephen Pritchard
The Observer, 20th January

A favourite charge laid against the Church today is that it is out of touch
with real issues and fails to understand the way the modern world works - in
short, that it is irrelevant. But the Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams,
currently front-runner - and the bookies' 6-4 favourite - in the Trollopian
process of finding a new Archbishop of Canterbury, has a unique claim to
being a cleric of our time: he was 200 yards away in Wall Street when two
hijacked passenger jets flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

His reaction to that catastrophe offers an insight into the mind of the
compassionate preacher, teacher, biographer and theologian who is currently
Archbishop of Wales. Two days later he wrote: 'For a couple of hours I,
along with a lot of other people in southern Manhattan, had to face the real
possibility of sudden and violent death as buildings collapsed and the
streets filled with choking dust, fumes and falling debris.'

As it happened in front of his eyes he thought to himself: 'Now I know just
a little of what it is like for so many human beings, Israelis and
Palestinians now, and Iraqis a few years ago... we would have a language in
common, even though our experience was less and our danger short-lived... we
have been "spoken to" in the language of terror and hate; if we reply in the
same terms, we say, "All right, that's how we are going to go on, that's
what we treat as normal". We have a choice which language we speak, how the
conversation goes on.

'It seemed that morning that the closer you were to facing and accepting
death, the harder it was to wish the fear on anyone else... The prospect of
death elbows aside thoughts of power and revenge. The unspeakable tragedy of
thousands of innocent dead - the tragedy unfolding around us that morning -
cannot be made "better" by more deaths. It may be humanly as unforgivable as
it gets; but that is not the same as saying that revenge (as opposed to just
punishment) is what is needed.'

Tony Blair, who has invested so much of his political credibility in
prosecuting the 'War against Terrorism', will stir uneasily in his chair if
Rowan Williams's name is put before him on a shortlist of two when he comes
to choose the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury since Augustine arrived on
these shores in 597.


Rowan Williams ended his thoughts on the events of 11 September with these
words: 'When we speak to God in the language of hatred and rejection, nails
and spears, nail-bombs and air strikes, terror attacks and the bleeding
bodies of children, in Ireland, Baghdad, Jerusalem or New York, God refuses
to answer in that language. He can only speak his own Word which, in the
incarnation, is a Word shared with us. But how hard for us really to believe
we are free to speak God's language. Perhaps only the terrible moments of
vulnerability remind us of it. How do we make it normal and natural. But
does the Church exist, ultimately, for any end but this?'


by John Marzulli
New York Daily News, 23rd January

Police arrested 46 demonstrators who were protesting U.S. economic sanctions
against Iraq yesterday in midtown.

The demonstrators, from groups including Voices in the Wilderness, New York
Catholic Worker and the Atlantic Life Community, held an unscheduled rally
outside the United States Mission to the United Nations on First Ave. around
9:30 a.m.

About an hour later, the demonstrators were ordered to disperse and were
arrested when they refused, said NYPD spokesman Detective Kevin Czartoryski.

Most of those arrested were from outside the city, some from as far as
Wisconsin and Maryland. They were charged with obstructing government
administration and trespassing.


by Bill Nichols
USA Today, 25th January

NEW YORK -- Former president Bill Clinton passionately rejected charges
Thursday that his policies -- and those of his successor -- helped foster
the Islamic extremism behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Clinton's spirited defense came at a daylong conference on ''America and
Islam'' sponsored by his presidential foundation at the New York University
School of Law.

Several of the Islamic scholars, activists and academics who took part
conceded that a lack of free speech and other freedoms in many Muslim
countries has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremism around the world.

Many also said U.S. support for Israel and Washington's unwillingness to
push for democratic reforms within the Arab world have helped foster

Clinton said his and President Bush's policies are not at fault. If Muslims
want more evenhanded treatment from the United States, ''there's only one
thing you have to do: get everybody over there to affirm Israel's right to

Clinton admitted, however, that he deserves criticism for not pushing hard
enough to persuade repressive Muslim regimes to move toward democracy. ''I
didn't do as good a job of that as I should have,'' he said. ''But I
couldn't figure out how to do it.''

''Tell us how to do it,'' the former president urged the participants.

The conference is the first of a series of seminars to be sponsored by the
Clinton foundation, which is one of several vehicles the 42nd president
plans to use to speak out on public policy.

Looking tired but tan from a recent visit to the Middle East, Clinton
continued his post Sept. 11 stance of expressing unqualified support for
Bush's conduct of the war against terrorism.

Clinton also rejected criticism of U.S. sanctions against Iraq by some
Muslim leaders. He said Iraq's Saddam Hussein represents a global threat and
no Muslim governments offered alternatives for containing Saddam's weapons
program. ''There's no question he's rebuilding his weapons of mass
destruction,'' Clinton said.

Despite the difference of views, Clinton praised participants for expressing
the anger felt in parts of the Muslim world.

Clinton joked that on a recent trip to Israel, a man shouted out at him,
''Arab-lover!'' Clinton said he turned to the person next to him and said,
''Yes, I am.''

by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 26th January

Part 1: The rules of the game

Two months ago, the White House was deliriously happy with the official
opening of the first new pipeline of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium - a
joint venture including Russia, Kazakhstan, Oman, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil
and a bunch of other minor players.

This $2.65 billion pipeline links the enormous Tengiz oilfield in
northwestern Kazakhstan to the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black
Sea: from there, the sky - ie the world market - is the limit. Bush II,
according to the White House, is developing "a network of multiple Caspian
pipelines that also include the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Supsa, and Baku
Novorossiyisk oil pipelines, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline". So
one of the key nodes in the American petrostrategy is composed by
Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

The pipeline consortium for Baku-Ceyhan, led by British Petroleum, is
represented by the law firm Baker & Botts. The principal attorney is none
other than Texan superstar James Baker - secretary of state under Bush I and
chief spokesman for the Bush II 2000 campaign when all gloves were off to
shut down the Florida vote recount.

Texas-based, scandal-prone Enron, together with Amoco, Chevron, Mobil,
UNOCAL and British Petroleum, were all spending billions of dollars to pump
the reserves of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Baker, Scowcroft,
Sununu and Cheney have all closed major deals directly and indirectly on
behalf of the oil companies. But now the Enron scandal has just exploded
right in the face of the oil industry - and Bush II's administration. It
will be very enlightening to see what the American tradition of
investigative journalism will make of all this.

Enron once had a market value of $70 billion. It filed for bankruptcy in
December 2001 after admitting it ovestated its profits by almost $600
million. Paul Krugman wrote that "Enron helped Dick Cheney devise an energy
plan that certainly looks as if it was written by and for the companies that
advised his task force". The Enron big-time crooks - close pals of Cheney
and Bush II - dwarf any Asian "crony capitalists" Americans were carping
about before and after the Asian financial crisis.

There's no shortage of crooks in the oil industry. Turkmenistan and
Azerbaijan have intimate relations with Israeli military intelligence. A
so-called "former" Israeli intelligence agent, Yousef Maiman, president of
the Mehrav Group of Israel, is nothing less than "Special Ambassador",
official negotiatior and even policymaker responsible for developing the
enormous energy resources of Turkmenistan.

Maiman is a citizen of the gas republic by presidential decree - signed by
the Turkmenbashi himself, the fabulously megalomaniac Saparmurad Niazov,
former member of the Soviet Politburo. Maiman, according to the Wall Street
Journal, is actively involved in advancing the "geopolitical goals of both
the US and Israel" in Central Asia. He certainly does not beat around the
bush: "Controlling the transport route is controlling the product." Nobody
knows where Mehrav's money comes from.

Mehrav's planned pipelines bypass both Iran and Russia. But after the
conquest of Afghanistan, oil sources in Singapore say Mehrav may consider
dealing with Iran. It's all to do with the importance of the Turkish market.
Russia and Turkmenistan are fiercely competing to conquer the Turkish gas
market. Considering the strategic relationship between Turkey and Israel,
the Israeli game remains preventing Turkish strategic dependence on Iran.
Turkey is a NATO member and a key US ally. The US and Britain routinely
strike against Iraq from Turkish bases - from which they patrol the
unillateraly-declared Iraqi "no-fly zones". These "no-fly zones" are
obviously not sanctioned by the UN.

Mehrav is also involved in a murderous project to reduce the flow of water
to Iraq by diverting water from the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers to
southeastern Turkey. And Magal Security Systems, an Israeli company, is also
involved with Turkey: it will provide security for the 2,000 km-long oil
pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Crook-infested Enron - the biggest donor to the Bush campaign of 2000 - was
ubiquitious: it conducted the feasibility study for the $2.5 billion
trans-Caspian pipeline being built under a joint venture signed almost three
years ago between Turkmenistan and Bechtel and General Electric. The
go-between in the deal was none other than the Mehrav Group. Chairman Maiman
spent a fortune hiring the Washington lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates
to seduce official Washington with the trans-Caspian pipeline project.

The intrincate relationship between Israel, Turkey and the US means that as
much as the trans-Caspian pipeline, the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is also
absolutely crucial. It could be extended to bring oil directly to thirsty
Israel. During the Clinton years, oil giants were under tremendous pressure
to build East-West pipelines. But all of them preferred to build North South
pipelines - much cheaper, but with the inconvenience of crossing Iran, an
absolute anathema for Washington.

Russia already has a contract with Turkmenistan to purchase 30 billion cubic
meters of gas a year. This represents a big blow to the US field of dreams,
the trans-Caspian gas pipeline. This also means that Russia will never let
go of its sphere of influence without a tremendous fight. The Central Asian
republics are on its borders, Russia has dominated them for centuries and
they are home to millions of Russians. Russian is still the language they
all use to do business with each other.

Thanks to master political chess player Vladimir Putin, Russia is now on the
cosiest terms possible with Washington - and US-Iran antipathy is apparently
receding. Russia may eventually become a partner in at least some of
Washington's petrostrategy games in Central Asia - like the Caspian Pipeline
Consortium. The regional map also reveals that Iran, besides holding
important gas reserves, offers the best direct access from the Caspian Sea
to the Persian Gulf, where oil and gas can be quickly exported to Asian

Iran assumes, not entirely without reason, that it is the rightful guardian
of Central Asia because of centuries of ethnic, historical, linguistic and
religious ties. And Iran is very conscious that American military links and
now physical presence in Central Asia are part of a strategy to encircle it.
But even amid so many geopolitical and ideological pitfalls, the fact
remains that as long as the US is militarily involved in Afghanistan, there
will be some sort of US-Iranian diplomatic engagement.

Under the control of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC),
pipelines from Central Asia will also reach China's Xinjiang. Oil sources in
Singapore stress that this will certainly spell a slump for the sea routes
across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Washington is more than aware
through its think tanks of the consequences: an extremely likely strategic
realignment between China, Japan and Korea.

The Chinese have their sights on only one terrifying prospect: the
encirclement of China by the US. UNOCAL is dreaming about profits.
Washington is thinking about the robust Chinese economy. Whatever "war
against terror" distractions, China remains the key strategic competitor to
the US in the 21st century. With Afghanistan in the bag, UNOCAL dreams of
monster profits in the Asian market - much higher than in Europe - while
Washington closely monitors the Chinese economy: growth of 8 percent in
2000, 7 percent in 2001, and needing all the oil and gas it can get. Chinese
strategists are working around the clock to develop local forms of energy

What happens next will be closely linked to the deliberations of the
Shanghai Five, now Shanghai Six, or more burocratically, the Shangahi
Cooperation Organization (SCO): China and Russia, plus four Central Asian
republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Takijistan and Uzbekistan). Manouvering
with extreme care, China is using the SCO to align Russia economically and
politically towards China and northeast Asia. At the same time, Russia is
using the SCO to maintain its traditional hegemony in Central Asia. The name
of the game for solidifying the alliance is Russian export of its enormous
reserves of oil and gas.

Since the NATO war against Yugoslavia and the de facto occupation of Kosovo
- where America built its largest military base since the Vietnam War -
China and Russia have their minds set on Chechnya and Muslim Xinjiang. For
the moment, at least, America has absolutely no way of interfering in these
domestic problems, since China and especially Russia are endorsing the war
against terrorism.

The Taliban were never a target in the "war against terrorism". They were
just a scapegoat - rather, a horde of medieval warrior scapegoats who simply
did not fulfill their contract: to insert Aghanistan into Pipelineistan. All
the regional players now know America is in Central Asia to stay, as
Washington itself has been stridently repeating these last few weeks, and it
will be influencing or disturbing the economy and geopolitics of the region.
The wider world is absolutely oblivious to these real stakes in the New
Great Game.

The US at the time of the Gulf War did not show any interest in replacing
"Satan" Hussein. That would seriously compromise the American design to
establish bases on the Arabian peninsula on the convenient pretext of
helping poor Arab sheikhs against the Iraqi Evil Monster.

More than a decade later, Satan Hussein is still there, Bush I is now Bush
II, and assorted Pentagon hawks are still fuming, trying to fabricate any
excuse to blow Saddam back to Mesopotamian ashes. But Saddam will not be
attacked, because Saddam is the ultimate reason for American military bases
in the Gulf - a splendid affair because on top of it all it is a free ride,
the expenses being paid by the ultra-flush sheikdoms. Now, after the (also
unfinished) New Afghan War, American forces are already establishing
themselves in Central and South Asia to once again "protect the interests of
the free world".

It is never enough to remember that after the end of the communist regime in
Afghanistan, the American strategy was to deliberately let Islamic extremism
go wild - a perfect way to scare the unstable regimes in the Central Asian
neo-republics. Islamic fundamentalism has always been a key card in the
American strategic design since the Cold War days when the CIA subcontracted
to the Pakistani ISI the arm-them-to-their-teeth policy regarding the
mujahideen. It is always easy to forget that the good-guys-turned-bad-guys
were once were hailed by Ronnie Reagan himself at the Oval Office as "the
moral equivalent of the founding fathers".

America has been trying hard to "get" Afghanistan - the heart of Asia in
Antiquity, the Pipelineistan crossroads of Asia nowadays - for more than 20
years. In the process, the mujahideen transformed Afghanistan, with CIA
blessing, into the world's leading producer of heroin, opening the crucial
and ultra-profitable drug pipeline Afghanistan-Turkey Balkans-Western
Europe. More than a martini, oil-arms-drugs is the classic CIA cocktail.
This "Drugistan" road has just been spetacularly reopened after the fall of
the Taliban.

Pipelineistan is not an end in itself. Oil and gas by themselves are not the
US's ultimate aim. It's all about control. In Monopoly, Belgian writer
Michel Collon wrote: "If you want to rule the world, you need to control
oil. All the oil. Anywhere." If the US controls the sources of energy of its
rivals - Europe, Japan, China and other nations aspiring to be more
independent - they win. This explains why pipelines from the Caucasus to the
West have to be America-friendly - ie Turkish or Macedonian - and not
"unreliable", meaning Russian controled. Washington, always, has to control
everything: that's what Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger always said. The same
goes for the military bases in Saudi Arabia, and now in Pakistan and

There's no business like war business. Thanks to war against Iraq, the US
has its military bases in the Persian Gulf. Thanks to war against
Yugoslavia, the US has its military bases in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.
Thanks to war against the Taliban, the US is now in Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not to mention the base in Incirlik,
Turkey. The US is also in the Caucasus - in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Iran,
China and Russia are practically encircled. There's no business like show
business. Raise the curtains. Enter Pipelineistan. (Applause).

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