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News, 2/2/02-8/2/02

News, 2/2/02-8/2/02

In ŒUS warns NATO alliesı below, George (³Lord²) Robertson is quoted as
complaining about Europeıs Œmilitary pygmyı status. So the pressure is on to
trail after the insane military budget that Bush is proposing for the US. A
degree of military spending that is alarming even some generally pro-US
commentators (Robert Scheer: An orgy of defense spending; Anatole Kaletsky:
Arrogance and Fear, both in the ŒNew World Order supplement). Anyone
remember the chatter there was after the fall of the Berlin wall about the
Œpeace dividendı? Most notable tendency in what follows is the Israeli
anxiety to deflect attention away from Iraq (which is already crushed) and
on to Iran (which isnıt). Oh. And a somewhat cavalier use of the word


*  Iraq's next, NATO told [Evil Paul Wolfowitz and John McCain enjoy
treating their evil European allies with the contempt they deserve]
*  Rogue state delusions [Editorial from the evil Washington Times attacking
articles by one Michael Dobbs - articles we appear to have missed - in the
evil Washington Post, arguing that the Œthreatı posed to the evil US by evil
Iraq, N.Korea and Iran is very exaggerated, as it obviously is. The
Washington Times argues that the US must eliminate all threats, however
small, since a small threat now could be a big threat in the future. Evil
Germany had better watch out!]
*  Allies Give Little Support on Iraq [Evil George (³Lord²) Robertson thinks
that the evil US canıt take on all the evil in the world without some help
from its evil allies. Well, if evil NATO proved to be redundant, what would
h do for a living?]
*  Saddam a smokescreen for the bin Laden fiasco [This article from the
Sydney Morning Herald has one short paragraph that is spot on. Here it is:
ŒSaddam, for all his faults, has acted as an effective balance for Iranian
power. Having ousted him, the US would have to remain engaged in Iraq for as
long as it took to rebuild a fully functioning state able to resume that
role. Iraq's neighbours have always been reluctant for America to push Iraq
too hard because they fear America would not stick around long enough to put
Iraq back together again.ı The rest of it isnıt much worth bothering over.]
*  US: Iraq is a strategic threat to implementing US policy in the Middle
East [A slightly more reasoned, less hysterical statement of the case for
bombing Iraq than weıre used to. Also incidentally a tribute to the courage,
determination and political skill of the present Iraqi leadership.]
*  US warns Nato allies they may be sidelined [ŒThe best defence is a good
offenseı, says Paul Wolfowitz. Which is a justification for S.Husseinıs
invasion of Iran, if not of Kuwait; the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour;
Hitlerıs invasion of Poland. Do these people ever think what theyıre
*  U.S. unlikely to launch war on Iraq, Iran [Some surprisingly sensible
remarks from former CIA director, Robert Gates: for example, this: "My own
view is that so far the U.S. has not really advanced in combating the roots
of terrorism ...Hopelessness and despair are two major sources of terrorism"
(I bet they hated him).]
*  CIA has its own view of Iraq [which is that Iraq isnıt, and hasnıt been
for some time, engaged in the business of terrorism. Terrorism against evil
Iran, of course, doesnıt count]
*  Iran poses greater threat than Iraq, Israelis warn [Israeli leadership
perhaps wondering if its friends in the US havenıt been pointing the guns in
the wrong direction]
*  Sharon and Bush to meet on moves against Iraq [Short extract revealing
existence of joint Israeli/US exercises against the eventuality of a war
with Iraq]
*  'Evil Axis' Tests Relationship [Mainly about the probability of a US
attack against on Iraq. Felgenhauer, who writes as one who knows, thinks it
likely, but not before the Autumn; and he thinks Russia should get in on the
*  Ben-Eliezer: We'll strike back if Saddam attacks us [Another good reason
for the US to hesitate about attacking Iraq. The article is quite
interesting on general US/Israel military relations.]
*  Iraq Kurds unconvinced U.S. has Saddam alternative [Tough talking from
Barzani and Talebani who arenıt jumping at the chance to play Northern
Alliance to Iraqıs Taliban. And in wanting to know what the alternative
might be to Saddam Hussein they make one thing plain. They donıt think it is
Ahmad Chalabani.]

*  Rousing the troops to another strike for freedom
Sydney Morning Herald, 5th February
This dull article, proposing that evil Australia should join the evil US in
a war that Œwill almost certainly extend beyond Christmas - this year's,
next year's and more besidesı is notable for the surprise appearance of evil
Newt Gingrich, who, however, doesnıt say anything you wouldnıt expect him to
*  Remove Saddam? The Chore Would Have to Be Well Done
by David M. Malone
International Herald Tribune, 7th February
ŒThe writer, on leave from the Canadian Foreign Service, is president of the
International Peace Academy in New York. He contributed this comment to the
International Herald Tribune.ı but the article could have been written by
any hack journalist on an off day.
*  Officials: Afghan-style war might not work on Iraq
by Jassim Mohammed
USA Today, 8th February
Not very interesting musings as to what Iraq might or might not be capable
of in the event of a Œwarı.

AND, IN NEWS, 2/2/02-8/2/02  (2)


*  Syria denies British smuggling accusations [This article suggests,
curiously, that evil Syriaıs membership of the Sanctions Committee (as a
member, or rather observer, of the UN Security Council) renders it
diplomatically immune from the charge evil Britain is levelling against it
of smuggling Iraqi oil. When asked why he was challenging Syria and not evil
Turkey, ŒMiddle East expert, Carne Rosseı replied feebly that Œthe oil
travelling to Turkey by road has dropped in recent yearsı. Has it? It
declined very recently because the Iraqis stopped sending it to put pressure
on Turkey. Is that what evil Carne is thinking about?]
*  Turkey to warn Iraq it faces threat of war, paper reports
*  Iraqi Labor Union Sec-Gen calls on Majlis [Iranian Parliament] deputies
*  Prince says Saudi would help oust Saddam [This isnıt as bad as it
appears. The old torturer, Prince Turki al-Faisal, opposes a Gulf War style
invasion and argues for a covert operation to instal a new Iraqi leader, of
the type that has failed consistently over the past ten years. On Saudi
money going to terrorism he has the temerity to remind an American audience
of US money going to the IRA. What British politician would ever dare to say
such a thing?]
*  Iraq, Tunis discuss relations
*  Iraq accuses Turkey of air intrusion over northern Iraq [the article
calls this Œthe first-ever report on alleged air intrusions from the
neighbouring countryı. Really?]
*  Cheney to Visit Mideast, Iraq Neighbours in March
*  Iraqi president warns Turkey


*  Italian parliamentarian confers with Iraqi minister
*  Russian companies to restore bombed Iraqi power station
*  Coddling Iraq a $40Bln Gamble {On the interest evil Russia has in ending
sanctions on evil Iraq]
*  Iraqi oil exports to US surged in 2001
*  New Zealanders Allowed to Send Humanitarian Goods Parcels to Iraq [We had
another version of this last week, but since its the only piece of good news
weıve had, or are likely to have, for many years we might as well have it
*  EU wants sanctions on Iraq modified
*  Government Says It Owes Iraq Only US $5.8m [Continuing story of Ugandan
governmentıs debt to Iraq]


*  Iraq says sanctions kill 15,000 in December [The figures are of total
numbers who died from particular illnesses without any attempt to calculate
what could be attributed to sanctions]


*  Will Pressure Force Iraq to Admit U.N. Inspectors?
*  Iraq ready for dialogue with UN, says Arab League
*  Powell 'rejects' Iraq talks
*  Solution near for disputed Iraqi oil cargo


*  Four Iraqis Killed in U.S., British Air Strikes
*  SAS 'left soldiers to die in Iraq' [But if British soldiers arenıt
willing to die on the ground, what can they do that the US canıt do for


*  Iraqi native pleads guilty to obtaining fraudulent license
*  Suicidal and angry: Iraqis suffer in PNG detention camp [More Australian
unpleasantness towards refugees who are fleeing the consequences of the
sanctions imposed by Australia, among others, on Iraq]
*  Man Admits Selling Papers to Iraqis


*  An Orgy of Defense Spending: Bush's 'axis of evil' rhetoric fabricates a
need [A splendid article from the Los Angeles Times, summed up in the title
and in this sentence: ŒHis astonishing budget makes sense only if we are
planning to use our mighty military in a pseudo-religious quest to create a
super-dominant Pax Americana..ı]
*  'Once It's Quiet, We Can Reach a State of Nonbelligerency' [An interview
between evil William Safire and evil Ariel Sharon. The article is mostly
about the need to topple evil Yasser Arafat and install a puppet Palestinian
regime, but this extract looks at Sharonıs anxieties over evil Iran]
*  Was the Clinton Administration Soft on Terror? [Short extract from
interview with evil Madeleine Albright. Less punchy than she was last week.]
*  Grateful Powell hails Australia's war role [Powell pats Australia on the
head. And if its VERY good, he might even give it a bone.]
*  Power, counter-power, Part 2: The fractal war [Pepe Escobar again,
writing in the Asia Times. Who is he? The article doesnıt have a lot to say
about Iraq but its good stuff. This is the sort of writing we need. It is
prophetic. It says that the future can be seen in in Sao Paolo. And
incidentally makes the interesting point that we havenıt seen any photos of
the wonderful hi-tech, surely very photogenic caves there are supposed to be
in Tora Bora.]
*  Arrogance and fear: an American paradox [An intelligent analysis from a
pro-American viewpoint. Kaletsky thinks the US should be basking in
complacent self congratulation not working itself up into a state of
paranoid, mouth-frothing terror: ŒBy identifying America primarily as a
military power, by asserting that it will pursue its perceived national
interests regardless of international laws, coalitions or treaties, by
emphasising its unchallengeable superiority over every other nation and
global institution, by claiming an unconditional moral hegemony over any
adversary he cares to identify, and by acting so blatantly in the interests
of the US business establishment, Mr Bush is weakening America and playing
into the hands of its opponents.ı]
*  Missile Conference Opens in Paris [France proposing an international
treaty to limit the proliferation of ballistic missiles.]
*  Moscow revitalizes its old priorities in Asia [The other side of Moscowıs
apparent support for the ŒInternational Coalition against Terrorismı]
*  Peremptory tendencies: France fires a warning shot at the US
*  Chavez says he's democrat not communist [This is supposed to be Chavez`
backing down under pressure from Powell. But he hasnıt backed down all the
way: ŒNoting that his visit to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in
2000 had "irritated some people in the world," Chavez said: "What do we
care? Let them get irritated. ... We are defending the sacred interests of
the Venezuelan people."ı]
*  The quest for balance in Eurasia [Asia Times again, this time in
pro-American mode. But a cool, rational - ie non American - geopolitical
approach all the same. Only extracts given here.]
*  Eurasia: An axis of uncertainty [from part two of the same]

*  Questions About the Colossus
by Jim Hoagland
Washington, 7th February
Evil Jim Hoagland in awe of evil Bushıs proposed military budget.


by Daniel Rubin
News Observer, 2nd February

MUNICH, GERMANY - U.S. officials called on NATO members Saturday to
transform their military union into a terrorism-fighting alliance and
consider Iraq their first target.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged
allies to join in an effort against Iraq, but they said the United States
would go it alone if necessary.

"The next front is apparent, and we should not shrink from acknowledging
it," McCain told 400 invitation-only attendees at the 38th Munich Conference
on Security Policy.

"A terrorist resides in Baghdad," McCain continued, "with the resources of
an entire state at his disposal, flush with cash from illicit oil revenues
and proud of a decade-long record of falsifying the international
community's demands that he come clean on his programs to develop weapons of
mass destruction. A day of reckoning is approaching."

Many in the audience were taken aback by the pugnacious Americans.

"Action versus Iraq, it seems to me, would require incontrovertible evidence
in order to justify, and I speak as a member of parliament of a country
willing to put boots on the ground," said Menzies Campbell, a member of the
British House of Commons.

But Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., agreed whole-heartedly with his Senate

"There is more than enough evidence to lead us to reach a conclusion that
Iraq under Saddam constitutes a clear and present danger. As the president
said the other night, in this regard, time is not on our side."

But if Iraq were attacked, Campbell asked, what would happen to the Middle
East, and how would Israel respond? Would Washington move against Iraq
without support from Europe, Egypt and Russia, "and would it matter?" he
wanted to know.

Some European speakers bristled at the senators' hawkishness, and warned
that the U.S. was courting trouble if it did not consult its allies in the
war on terror.

"There has to be a more multilateral approach in U.S. policy," Gert
Weisskirchen, a member of the German parliament, said. "It cannot be that
you decide on your own, and we trot along after you."

Wolfowitz, filling in for his boss, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld, was soft spoken but blunt when he cautioned that the war against
terrorism was not over. "What happened on Sept. 11, as terrible as it was,
is but a pale shadow of what will happen if terrorists use weapons of mass
destruction. Our approach has to aim at prevention and not merely
punishment. We are at war."

But in comments to reporters, Wolfowitz said that there is no plan to attack
Iraq and that the tough talk is the beginning of a dialogue between the
United States and its allies, not a call to battle.


But Wolfowitz said NATO does not need to be involved everywhere the United
States is involved, and he cited the latest U.S. military efforts to root
terrorists from the Philippines.

"At the end of the day, we don't need NATO in the Philippines," Wolfowitz
said. "... We didn't need everyone in Afghanistan."

McCain issued a sharp reply to a German lawmaker who asked why NATO did not
carry more weight:

"Perhaps you ought to look at how much money you are spending on defense,"
he said.

Bush has recommended increasing U.S military spending by $48 billion next
year. The increase alone is one-third more than the total defense budget of
Great Britain, the second largest military spender in NATO after the United

The New York Times contributed to this report.

Washington Times (Editorial), 3rd February

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Bush singled out Iran,
Iraq and North Korea as being part of an "axis of evil." By pointedly using
the word "axis," the formal term used to describe the World War II alliance
among Japan, Italy and Nazi Germany, Mr. Bush was suggesting that the
present regimes in Tehran, Baghdad and Pyongyang were brutal dictatorships
intent on using violence against anyone who opposed their expansionist
policies. Together with "their terrorist allies," Mr. Bush added, these
regimes are arming in order to "threaten the peace of the world." During the
1990s, the Clinton administration, under pressure from a bipartisan
coalition in Congress, adopted the term "rogue states" to describe these
governments. Shortly before Mr. Bush's address, however, Michael Dobbs of
The Washington Post wrote a number of articles apparently aimed at
delegitimizing the notion that Iran, Iraq et al. ever constituted a serious
national security threat to the United States and its allies. In fact, Mr.
Dobbs seems to believe that this terminology emanated from a "vast
right-wing conspiracy," as Hillary Rodham Clinton would phrase it.

Predictably, Mr. Dobbs' vast right-wing conspiracy involved the CIA, whose
analysts, he argues, ignored all evidence to the contrary when they changed
their assessments of America's vulnerability to weapons of mass destruction
delivered by ballistic missiles launched from "rogue states." (When
referring to Iran and North Korea, two of the most despicable regimes on
earth, Mr. Dobbs places quotation marks around the words ‹ "rogue states" ‹
wink, wink.) Donald Rumsfeld, who chaired a bipartisan commission that
unanimously concluded in 1998 that America would be vulnerable to
ballistic-missile attack by a rogue state much sooner than the Clinton
administration had projected in 1995, was obviously a major force in the
conspiracy. And, of course, the "Republican-dominated Congress" of the late
1990s played an indispensable role. Making the conspiracy especially
right-wing, Mr. Dobbs includes the Likud-dominated government of Israel, led
by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had expressed concern that
the Iranian mullahs were attempting to develop a ballistic missile that
could hit Tel Aviv.

According to Mr. Dobbs, the American conspirators, aided by Israel's
conservative government, engaged in "a concerted campaign" that greatly
exaggerated "the leakage" of nuclear technology from Russia to Iran because
"[c]ongressional Republicans wanted to build public support for a national
missile defense system." To demonstrate the obvious paranoia of the
conspirators, Mr. Dobbs quotes at considerable length Vadim Vorobei, one of
the very Russian scientists who were accused by the U.S. government of
egregiously violating Russia's commitment not to share nuclear technology
with Iran. Not surprisingly, Mr. Vorobei insisted that American fears were
exaggerated and that Iran's ballistic-missile program was in fact "a huge
mess." (Even if true, the "mess" was certainly not for lack of effort on
Iran's part.) In any event, Mr. Vorobei's self-serving dismissals seemed to
settle the matter for Mr. Dobbs.

Mr. Dobbs also cites Joseph Cirincione, a former longtime Democratic
congressional staffer who accused Republicans of mounting "a conscious
political strategy" to attack the Clinton administration's 1995 intelligence
assessment. Mr. Cirincione laments that it was the Republicans who have
politicized the intelligence process. It is a conclusion that is at the
heart of Mr. Dobbs' thesis. Yet, even Mr. Dobbs reports that it was the
Clinton administration that "leaked details of the still-secret [1995
national intelligence estimate] to congressional Democrats, who used it to
argue the case against missile defense." So, which party politicized the
intelligence process? Clearly, Mr. Cirincione's lamentation is self serving.

Over two days, Mr. Dobbs used 8,000 words to describe what he obviously
believes to be an ill-advised and misguided Republican-Likud conspiracy to
reverse U.S. policy in favor of deploying both theater and national missile
defense systems at the earliest moment. Implicit in his argument is the
belief that the 1995 intelligence estimate was far more accurate than more
recent ones. Specifically, the 1995 estimate asserted that "no country,
other than the major declared nuclear powers, will develop or otherwise
acquire a ballistic missile in the next 15 years that could threaten the
contiguous 48 states and Canada."

As Mr. Dobbs knows as well as anyone, his past tenure as a foreign
correspondent in the Soviet Union confirmed that the ash bin of history is
filled with national intelligence estimates that proved to be totally in
error. For years, the CIA severely underestimated the military's share of
the Soviet Union's GNP and grossly overestimated the Soviets' level of
consumption. It's also worth recalling that the group of independent,
nongovernment experts commissioned by then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush in
1976 ‹ and known as Team B ‹ delivered a report on the projected growth of
Soviet nuclear forces that proved to be far more worrisome ‹ and accurate ‹
than the CIA's estimate. Anyone who traversed Checkpoint Charlie to spend
time in East Berlin a few years before the Berlin Wall collapsed knows how
utterly absurd was the CIA's estimate in the mid-1980s that the East German
standard of living exceeded West Germany's.

In the Middle East, intelligence estimates have also been colossally wrong.
The CIA did not know of the Shah of Iran's seven-year battle with cancer,
much less his imminent political mortality. Immediately preceding the
Persian Gulf War, U.S. intelligence drastically underestimated how close
Iraq was to developing an atomic bomb.

When dealing with threats that can destroy the American homeland, U.S.
policy-makers must always be proactive, preparing for the credible
worst-case scenario. Even Mr. Dobbs concedes that the prospect of a "rogue
state" acquiring long-range missiles is "the nightmare scenario underpinning
President Bush's decision to push ahead with the deployment of a national
missile defense system." How credible is such a scenario? Well, in the final
analysis, what difference does it make whether it will be 15 years or five
years before rogue states will have the capacity to launch ballistic
missiles to deliver weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological and
nuclear) throughout America? Given the known intelligence failures of the
past, prudence requires the United States to err on the side of caution.

In his superb essay in the Weekly Standard last year ‹ "The Bush Doctrine:
ABM, Kyoto and the New American Unilateralism" ‹ Charles Krauthammer offered
an analogy that leaves no question regarding what the U.S. response today
must be to "the inevitable proliferation of missiles into the hands of
heretofore insignificant enemies." It deserves to be quoted at length:
"Missile technology is to the 21st century what air power was to the 20th.
In 1901, there was not an airplane in the world. Most people did not think a
heavier-than-air machine could in theory ever fly. Yet 38 years later, the
world experienced the greatest war in history, whose outcome was crucially
affected by air power and air defenses in a bewildering proliferation of new
technologies: bombers, fighters, transports, gliders, carriers, radar. It is
inconceivable that 38 years from now we will not be living in a world where
missile technology is equally routine, and thus routinely in the hands of
bad guys. It is therefore inexplicable why the United States should not use
its unique technology to build the necessary defense against the next
inevitable threat."

If Mr. Dobbs' self-serving Russian scientist ‹ and, no doubt, Mr. Dobbs
himself ‹ thinks Iran's missile program is "a huge mess," how messy does Mr.
Dobbs believe the consequences for the United States will be when
ballistic-missile technology becomes as commonplace in the future as
airplanes were half a century ago?

Las Vegas Sun, 4th February


Even NATO would not automatically support U.S. efforts to expand the war on
terror to Iraq, Iran or North Korea, Secretary-General Lord Robertson said
last week.

And Germany's deputy foreign minister, Ludger Volmer, said flatly Monday:
"There is no indication, no evidence that Iraq is involved in the terrorism
we have been talking about for the last few months."

The United States insists it can go it alone, if necessary. Rice and
Secretary of State Colin Powell both say Bush would consider using any
aspect of U.S. power - political, diplomatic, economic or military - against
countries that support terrorism and pursue weapons of mass destruction.

But Robertson said the U.S.-led fight in Afghanistan, strongly supported
worldwide, has shown that no modern military operation can be undertaken by
a single country. "Even superpowers need allies and coalitions to provide
bases, fuel, airspace and forces," he said.

by Hugh White
Sydney Morning Herald, 4th February

There are two very good reasons why George Bush will not go after Saddam
Hussein of Iraq. The first is the likelihood that he wouldn't succeed. The
second is the consequences if he did. His State of the Union address
certainly left the impression that Bush intends to undertake a major and
sustained military campaign against Iraq, to finish the job left unfinished
by his father a decade ago. And there is no doubt that if he had a viable
military option to remove Saddam, he would have the overwhelming support of
the American people in exercising it.

But I do not think the United States has an effective military option
against Iraq.

And even more importantly, I do not think the US would be willing to pay the
political and strategic costs of success because a US victory would leave
the Gulf to be dominated by Iran.

Let's look at the military options first. Any major campaign against Iraq
could have only one objective - the removal of Saddam. For Bush to launch an
all-out US assault against Iraq and not succeed in removing his father's old
adversary would be a huge humiliation for the US and a political disaster
for him.

Could Bush depose Saddam through air strikes? The lessons of Kosovo in 1999
and Afghanistan in 2001 suggest that he could.

In both cases, relatively short and casualty-free bombing campaigns led
directly to America's adversaries being deposed.

Is Iraq a second Serbia or another Afghanistan? I think neither.

Slobodan Milosevic gave in over Kosovo because he feared that if he didn't
the people of Serbia would throw him out, as they did anyway. There is no
reason to think it would work like that in Iraq. Saddam does not govern with
the consent of the Iraqi people but with the most effective internal
security system in the world. American bombs would have little impact on

In Afghanistan, US air strikes brought down the Taliban by encouraging
powerful Taliban allies to desert - at least temporarily - to the other
side. But unlike the Taliban, Saddam relies on no allies who might desert
him under the pressure of US strikes.

So removing Saddam would require what Kosovo and Afghanistan did not: a
protracted and sustained land campaign - or rather, a co-ordinated land and
air campaign.

It would work like this: the US would assemble major land forces (on a
Desert Storm scale) on Iraq's borders to force Saddam to concentrate his
still formidable army to meet the threat. Brought together like that, Iraq's
forces would be highly vulnerable to the kind of air campaign that destroyed
them in Kuwait in 1991. And because, like all generals, the Pentagon has
spent the past 10 years planning to fight the last war again, the US is even
better prepared to wage such a campaign now than it was then.

Having destroyed Iraq's army from the air, the way would be open for US
tanks to drive to Baghdad. So what is the problem? First, this kind of land
campaign needs major help from Iraq's neighbours and there is doubt they
would offer it. Saudi Arabia would probably not allow its territory to host
another troop build-up like Desert Storm in 1991. Kuwait is hardly big
enough to hold the huge forces needed, let alone allow them room to

But let's suppose Turkey agrees to host a huge build-up of US forces -
perhaps with a few allies such as Australia and Britain in coalition. Saddam
assembles his land forces to respond and sees them routed from the air. US
forces roll into Baghdad and capture or kill Saddam.

Then what? Then Bush is back facing the same question that faced George Bush
snr, and his colleagues Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, in 1991. Do you stay
in Iraq indefinitely or do you leave and allow the Gulf to be dominated by
Iran? That would hardly do much for America's interests, or for its allies.

Saddam, for all his faults, has acted as an effective balance for Iranian
power. Having ousted him, the US would have to remain engaged in Iraq for as
long as it took to rebuild a fully functioning state able to resume that
role. Iraq's neighbours have always been reluctant for America to push Iraq
too hard because they fear America would not stick around long enough to put
Iraq back together again.

I do not blame them. The costs to the US - economically, politically and
militarily - of a sustained occupation of Iraq could be very great. It would
be isolated internationally, with little support in the UN; it would inflame
Islamic and Arab anti-American sentiment even further; it would bring
US-Iranian relations to the brink, with their armed forces in direct
contact; and it would embroil the US in insoluble problems such as the
Kurdish issue. And it may drag on for decades.

For all these reasons I think Cheney and Powell, who are strategic
policymakers of great experience and therefore of great caution, will be
advising Bush, as they advised his father, to stay out of Iraq.

So why did Bush make so much of Iraq in his State of the Union address?
Well, in politics, what you do not say is as important as what you do say.
The big question about Bush's address, and the big question in the whole war
on terrorism, is simply this: where is Osama bin Laden?

Hugh White is the director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and
a former deputy secretary for strategy in the Department of Defence. These
are his personal views.

Arabic News, 4th February

Following are excerpts from a speech deliverede on last February by US Vice
Admiral Thomas R. Wilson, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency on how the
USA views Iraq. Admiral Wilson said that Iraq threatens the very foundation
of US policy in the Middle East. This clearly makes Iraq a very strategic
target of US foreign policy.

Wilson said there "An increased chance that Iraq will be successful in
gaining widespread support for lifting UN sanctions ... a development that
would likely strain our relations with regional and European allies, allow
Iraq to rearm more rapidly, and ultimately, threaten the foundation of our
Middle Eastern policy."

Wilson added "The potential development/acquisition of intercontinental
missiles by several states of concern -- especially North Korea, Iran, and
Iraq -- could fundamentally alter the strategic threat."

Wilson added "So long as Saddam or someone of his ilk remains in power, Iraq
will remain challenging and contentious. Saddam's goals remain to reassert
sovereignty over all of Iraq, end Baghdad's international isolation, and,
eventually, have Iraq reemerge as the dominant regional power. For the time
being, however, his options are constrained. Years of UN sanctions,
embargoes, and inspections, combined with US and Coalition military actions,
have significantly degraded Iraq's military capabilities. Manpower and
materiel resource shortages, a problematic logistics system, and a relative
inability to execute combined arms operations, remain major shortcomings.
These are aggravated by intensive regime security requirements."

Wilson added Nevertheless, Iraq's ground forces continue to be one of the
most formidable within the region. They are able to protect the regime
effectively, deploy rapidly, and threaten Iraq's neighbors absent any
external constraints."

Wilson added "Iraq's air and air defense forces retain only a marginal
capability to protect Iraqi air space and project air power outside Iraq's
borders. Although the threat to Coalition Forces is limited, continued Iraqi
confrontational actions underscore the regime's determination to stay the
course. Iraq has probably been able to retain a residual level of WMD and
missile capabilities. The lack of intrusive inspection and disarmament
mechanisms permits Baghdad to enhance these capabilities."

Wilson added "Iraq probably retains limited numbers of SCUD-variant
missiles, launchers, and warheads capable of delivering biological and
chemical agents."

Wilson added "Baghdad continues work on short-range (150 km) liquid and
solid propellant missiles allowed by UNSCR 687 and can use this expertise
for future long range missile development. Iraq may also have begun to
reconstitute chemical and biological weapons programs."

Wilson added "Absent decisive regime change, Iraq will continue to pose
complex political and military challenges to Coalition interests well into
the future. Saddam has been increasingly effective during the past year at
circumventing sanctions and exploiting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to
garner sympathy for Iraq's plight by linking the Iraqi and Palestinian
causes. Should sanctions be formally removed, or become de facto
ineffective, Iraq will move quickly to expand its WMD and missile
capabilities, develop a more capable strategic air defense system, and
improve other conventional force capabilities. Under this scenario, Baghdad
could, by 2015, acquire a large inventory of WMD -- including hundreds of
theater ballistic and cruise missiles -- expand its inventory of modern
aircraft, and double its fleet of armored vehicles. While this force would
be large and potent by regional standards, its prospects for success against
a western opponent would depend ultimately on how successful Baghdad was in
overcoming chronic weaknesses in military leadership, reconnaissance and
intelligence, morale, readiness, logistics, and training."

Wilson added "Iraq, could field ICBMs with WMD, presenting a new strategic
threat that we've not faced before."

In past years, US officials have stated that Iraq will "never" see the
sanctions imposed on it lifted.

Dawn (from Reuter's), 4th February

MUNICH, Feb 3: Washington stoked speculation about the next stage of the war
against terrorism on Saturday amid warnings that Europe could be sidelined
unless it closed a military capability gap with the United States.

US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a security conference in the
German city of Munich that the 19-nation Nato alliance needed a revamp to
face the new challenges thrown up by the suicide hijack attacks of September
11. But he stressed that future missions in the war on terrorism would need
"flexible coalitions" and not one single alliance.

Former US Secretary of Defense William Cohen went further, saying Washington
would feel less compelled to consult its Nato allies the more they slipped
behind in military capability.

"We have to narrow the gap and we have to do it as quickly as possible," he
told the meeting of defence chiefs and experts from 43 nations in a message
echoed by many delegates.

Alarm over what Nato Secretary-General George Robertson recently dubbed
Europe's "military pygmy" status was underlined on Saturday as senior US
officials said US President George W. Bush would press Congress on Monday to
raise defence spending by 120 billion over the next five years.

The annual strategic brainstorming in the Bavarian capital was held under
strict security, with police and water cannon trucks barring streets several
blocks away from the elegant Bayerischer Hof hotel which is hosting the
two-day meeting.

More than 4,000 anti-war protesters tried to gather in a central square
despite a ban by the city on demonstrations. They were driven back by a
slowly advancing line of police, and when some 800 tried to return later,
police detained 160 people. Police said they had arrested 45 demonstrators
who tried to enter Munich to join the ad-hoc protests.

Back at the conference, Wolfowitz argued that Sept 11 was a pale shadow of
what would happen if terrorists used weapons of mass destruction. He said it
was much better to preempt attacks than just react to them.

"The best defence is a good offence," he said. "Those countries that choose
to tolerate terrorism and refuse to take action - or worse, those that
continue to support it - will face consequences," he said, without

Wolfowitz did not single out any nation, but referred to this week's State
of the Union address in which President George W. Bush described Iraq, Iran
and North Korea as an "axis of evil" that had sought weapons of mass

Analysts say hawkish US policymakers, notably Wolfowitz, want to exploit the
political momentum generated at home by outrage over September 11 to strike
a blow against Baghdad.

Asked later if he was concerned Washington's European partners would not
back a new war, Wolfowitz responded: "We've made no decisions about where
we're going in the specific but the President has made clear where the
problems are."

by Dahi Hassan
Gulf News, 6th February

Dubai : Dr Robert Gates, former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA), said yesterday he doubted the Bush Administration would launch
a war against Iraq, Iran or North Korea, the three countries described by
U.S. President George W. Bush as "axis of evil."

"I do not think that the U.S. is prepared to launch a war against any of
these three countries. I think that President Bush was just trying to get
the attention of these countries when he described them as an 'axis of
evil'," Gates told Gulf News here yesterday.

Dr Gates said that the Bush Administration is divided even against targeting
Iraqi President Saddam Hussain in the next stage of the war against

"The next phase of war against terrorism is already under way, as terrorists
are being targeted now in the Philippines and other parts of the world,"
said Gates.

He expressed his scepticism that Saddam had any direct links with the
September 11 attacks against New York and Washington. "If anyone had any
evidence or information that Saddam Hussain was involved in the attacks, he
would have leaked it to the media," said Gates.

Gates said that terrorism has become the major problem jeopardising world
security and stability. He stressed the importance of collaboration among
countries worldwide to fight terrorism.

"No single country can alone deal with terrorists. The only way to arrest
terrorists is to collaborate locally, regionally and globally. We need an
entire collaboration, not only between intelligence agencies, but with
police," said Gates, adding that criminal groups are spreading all over the
world, including the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.

He said that criminal groups have succeeded in obtaining weapons of mass
destruction and the most sophisticated means to implement their strategies
and achieve their targets.

"The Internet has become an essential part of their everyday life," he said,
adding that the most significant outcome of the September 11 attacks was the
realisation of the importance of cooperation between countries,
establishments and individuals in fighting terrorism all over the world.

Asked whether the U.S. had succeeded in combating the roots of terrorism,
Gates said: "My own view is that so far the U.S. has not really advanced in
combating the roots of terrorism."

He believed that a strategy to deal with the factors causing terrorism
should be worked out by the world community. "Hopelessness and despair are
two major sources of terrorism," said Gates.

Gates believed that the U.S. should immediately set up a funding bank in the
occupied territories to provide jobs for the Palestinians and spare them
attempts to seek jobs in Israel. "We could do that tomorrow," he said.

Asked about the U.S. bias towards Israel which was obvious in that the U.S.
avoided criticising Israel over developing nuclear and other weapons of mass
destruction, Gates blamed some governments in the Middle East for "failing"
to give a true picture of the cooperation between the U.S. and their

"It seems that some countries in the Middle East have found it more
appropriate to tell their people that the U.S. was supporting Israel rather
than the Arab countries," he said.

He cited the examples of U.S. support for Muslims in the Balkans, working to
settle the Arab-Israeli conflict, and mediating between India and Pakistan
to avoid war between the two countries.

Gates believed that the September 11 attacks against the U.S. would leave
their impact on the relations between the U.S., on the one hand, and Arab
and Muslim countries, on the other.

"However, we in the intelligence field have two types of information:
secrets and mysteries. I see that the relations between the U.S. and the
Arab and Muslim nations following the September 11 attacks will be a
mystery," said Gates.

Gates was taking part in a seminar on New Challenges in IT Intelligence and
Law Enforcement, organised by Datamatix in Dubai yesterday.

by James Risen
San Francisco Chronicle (from New York Times). 6th February

Washington -- The CIA has no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist
operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the agency is
also convinced that Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological
weapons to al Qaeda or related terrorist groups, according to several U.S.
intelligence officials.

The officials said they believe that the last terrorist operation tried by
Iraq against the United States was the assassination attempt against former
President George Bush during his visit to Kuwait in 1993. That plot was
disrupted before it could be carried out. U.S. intelligence officials
believe that Hussein has been reluctant to use terrorism again for fear of
being detected.

George Tenet, the CIA director, is to testify today before the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence to review the global threats facing the United
States. During his appearance, his first before Congress since Sept. 11,

Tenet is likely to be asked about a wide range of terrorism-related issues,
including Iraq.

Since Sept. 11, there has been widespread speculation about possible Iraqi
links to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, based
largely on reports of a meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, between Mohamed
Atta, a leader of the hijacking teams, and an Iraqi intelligence officer.
The reports about that meeting have been the subject of intense analysis and
debate within the U.S. intelligence community, and some officials even
questioned whether the meeting took place at all.

Now senior U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the meeting
between Atta and the Iraqi officer, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, did
take place. But they say they do not believe that provides enough evidence
to tie Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks.

U.S. intelligence officials say they do not know what was discussed at the
meeting. But some experts on Iraq say that even if Iraq were somehow
involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, Hussein would never have entrusted such a
sensitive matter to a midlevel officer like Ani.

U.S. officials say Iraqi intelligence now focuses most of its resources on
finding ways to evade trade and economic sanctions that have been imposed on
Iraq since the Gulf War in 1991.

The officials say that their greatest concern now is Iraq's continuing
development of chemical and biological weapons, covert programs that have
resumed since U.N. weapons inspectors left in 1998. Hussein apparently
believes that such weapons will help his regime deter any military attack by
the United States and its allies.

A CIA report released last week noted that Iraq is probably continuing low-
level nuclear weapons research as well and that its inability to obtain
enough fissile material is the biggest obstacle to becoming a nuclear power.

The major threat to the United States from Iraqi efforts to develop weapons
of mass destruction would come instead from Baghdad's parallel efforts to
develop long-range missiles, which could be tipped with chemical or
biological warheads, the CIA believes.

In his State of the Union address last week, Bush described Iraq as part of
an "axis of evil," which includes Iran and North Korea, that the United
States must confront in order to maintain global stability.

Some signs have emerged in recent years that Hussein might consider
terrorism as a tool against the United States in the long-running duel over
the inspection of suspected chemical and biological weapons sites. In 1998,
U. S. and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies discovered that Abu Nidal,
the Palestinian who had been one of the most feared terrorists of the 1970s
and early '80s, had moved to Baghdad.

*  Iran poses greater threat than Iraq, Israelis warn
Houston Chronicle, 6th February

WASHINGTON -- As Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrives today for a White House
visit, Israeli officials are redoubling efforts to warn the Bush
administration that Iran poses a greater threat than the Iraqi regime of
Saddam Hussein.

A series of Israeli leaders have carried that message to Washington in
recent months in hope of influencing an American debate that has centered
not on Iran but on whether to pursue the overthrow of the Iraqi government.
Sharon's visit, however, comes a week after President Bush focused attention
on Iran by including it in his State of the Union address as member of the
"axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea.

Israel charges that Iran is arming the Palestinians and Hezbollah, the
Shiite Muslim militia in Lebanon, to further destabilize a region rocked by
more than 16 months of bloodshed. In New York on Monday, Israeli Foreign
Minister Shimon Peres echoed Bush's State of the Union assertion that Iran
is developing weapons of mass destruction.

Iran denied the charges and countered with an unusually strong warning that
any military attack by Israel would be met with "a response that will be
unimaginable to any Israeli politician."

During meetings here Wednesday, including with Vice President Dick Cheney,
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer warned of the hazards posed by
Iranian support for terrorist groups and development of advanced weapons.

"Today, everybody is busy with Iraq," Ben-Eliezer said in an interview.
"Iraq is a problem. ... But you should understand, if you ask me, today Iran
is more dangerous than Iraq."

He pointed to Iran's role in the scheme to smuggle 50 tons of weapons into
Palestinian hands. U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials have concluded
that Iran provided the weapons and worked with Hezbollah to transport them
by sea to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's administration. The ship was
intercepted by Israeli commandos in the Red Sea a month ago.

Ben-Eliezer stressed his concerns about Iran's pursuit of missiles capable
of striking Israel with chemical and biological weapons. He added that Iran
is on schedule to develop a nuclear bomb by 2005.

When Sharon meets Bush and other U.S. officials, he plans to sound the alarm
about Tehran's ambitions in Lebanon, according to Israeli officials. Israel
has accused Iran of dispatching Iranian Revolutionary Guards to foment
anti-Israel activity in Lebanon and providing thousands of missiles to
Hezbollah. Iranian and Lebanese leaders have denied these charges.

Though Israeli officials have few kind words for Saddam, they see him posing
less of a direct threat than Iran after more than a decade of U.N. sanctions
and international isolation. At the same time, these officials are
apprehensive about the price they might pay if the United States seeks to
overthrow Saddam and he retaliates by striking Israel with chemical or
biological weapons. "I think we are going to be one of the first targets,"
Ben-Eliezar said.

He said Israeli officials were raising these concerns with Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld and others in the administration, discussing what steps
could be taken to ensure Israeli security in case of a U.S. military thrust
against Iraq. Some Middle East analysts have said the United States might
have to dispatch troops to western Iraq to hunt down scud missiles, like
those Baghdad fired at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.

Since the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation began in September
2000, Israel has feared a second front: on its northern border with Lebanon.
The neighboring nation is supported by Iran, which doesn't recognize the
Jewish state.

The Israeli government was unsettled by a rapprochement between Washington
and Tehran after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, when the Bush administration
sought Iran's help in the war against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and
its hosts, the Taliban regime of Afghanistan.

The United States and Iran broke off relations in 1979 after Islamic
militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 American hostages
for 444 days.

by Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem
The Scotsman, 6th February


Last month, hundreds of US soldiers trained in Israel with Israeli
counterparts on how to combat Iraqi surface to surface missiles which would
likely be fired towards Israel in the event of US military action, Haıaretz
reported yesterday. It said the exercises focused on interface between
Israelıs Arrow missile defence system and the US-made Patriot missiles in
simulations of Iraqi SCUD missile attacks like those carried out against
Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.


by Pavel Felgenhauer
Moscow Times, 7th February

It seems U.S.-Russian relations are primed for another confrontation: The
United States appears ready to begin an offensive to topple Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein, while Moscow is insisting such actions are inappropriate.

In his recent State of the Union address, U.S. President George W. Bush
declared that North Korea, Iran and Iraq "constitute an axis of evil, arming
to threaten the peace of the world." This rhetoric has set alarm bells
ringing all over Moscow.

After Sept. 11, hundreds of tactical U.S. attack jets and fighters were sent
to the Persian Gulf and bases in Turkey close to the Iraqi border. Almost
none of these jets were engaged in Afghanistan, where combat missions were
carried out by long-range strategic bombers and by carrier attack planes.

The air war in Afghanistan is virtually over; still the aircraft sent to
Kuwait and Turkey have not been withdrawn to their peacetime bases. Russia's
military, impressed by the effective combined operations of the U.S. air
force and special units in Afghanistan, now believes the highly
concentration of U.S. air power in the Gulf may be sent into action any day.

It's always very hot in the Gulf in the summer, with temperatures over 40
degrees. Warfare from May to September in this region is considered too
risky. The heat can cause equipment failures in combat and European or North
American soldiers can lose battle readiness due to fatigue. The attack on
Iraq to topple Saddam should begin sometime very soon in order to finish him
off by May; otherwise it should be postponed until the fall.

Informed sources in Washington say that the attack on Saddam will in fact be
postponed until the fall. The U.S. air force may be fully ready to begin an
effective air offensive in Iraq, but ground troops have not yet been
gathered in sufficient numbers. It is reported that in Washington there are
discussions on how many servicemen (and women) should be assembled to go
into Iraq -- 50,000 to 100,000, or up to 500,000 as in 1991 for the
liberation of Kuwait.

U.S. generals were trained during the Cold War to fight regular battles,
deploying large tank and infantry formations. However, the deserts of Iraq
are ideally suited to "Israeli-style" deep-penetration operations, performed
by relatively small, mobile task forces supported by overwhelming air power.

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported by U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell, a retired general, would resist any attempts to commence major
action against Saddam before a large land force had been assembled. But the
Pentagon is today run by a team that believes more in "Israeli-style"
operations than in heavy troop deployments. If there is another serious
terrorist attack in the United States in the coming month, political
pressure to do something may become irresistible.

In any event, an attack on Iraq to topple Saddam in the fall seems
inevitable, which leaves Russia and most other U.S. allies in the
"anti-terrorist coalition" stuck in a peculiar situation. Major French and
Russian oil companies have been making billions in recent years reselling
Iraqi oil -- a reward from Saddam for political support.

Russian technicians are building a large nuclear power reactor in Iran, at
Bushehr. Russian arms traders are preparing major contracts to sell Iran new
weapons and military technology. The toppling of Saddam and possible
punitive attacks against Iran by U.S. forces could harm Russian specialists
and kill multibillion-dollar contracts.

It is not surprising that Russian ministers have recently openly criticized
U.S. plans to punish Iraq, Iran or North Korea. Defense Minister Sergei
Ivanov has challenged the West to support Russian actions in Chechnya, as
Russia helped the West in Afghanistan. Ivanov warned that failure to support
the brutal Chechnya campaign could end "all talk about our unity and

There are powerful forces inside the military and political elite that would
gladly use a U.S. led attack on Iraq or Iran to shift the Kremlin's foreign
policy into a more traditional, anti U.S. mode. However, today's policies
(especially foreign policy) are decided by one person, President Vladimir
Putin, who just like France's Louis XIV can do virtually anything he
pleases: begin a war or end it, send a magnate to prison at will, confiscate
his wealth and so on. Does Putin understand that Russia needs the United
States' friendship more than it needs Iran's or Iraq's? This is still an
open question, but we will have an answer soon.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.

By Janine Zacharia
Jerusalem Post, 8th February

WASHINGTON: With the specter of a possible US offensive against Iraq
looming, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told US Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld yesterday that Israel would strike back this time if Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein again launched missiles at Israel.

In 1991, under American pressure, Israel agreed not to retaliate against
Iraq when it bombarded Tel Aviv with Scud missiles.

"The situation that could unfold would certainly put us in a position in
which we'll have to respond," Ben-Eliezer said he told Rumsfeld.

The US is still weighing a host of options regarding Iraq. But speculation
here is widespread that Iraq could be the next target in the war on

That speculation heightened on Wednesday with the announcement that Vice
President Dick Cheney would tour the Middle East in mid-March.

Cheney is to visit 11 countries including Israel.

The trip is being perceived here primarily as an attempt to persuade
reluctant Arab allies to support a US-led drive to unseat Saddam Hussein.

Cheney will also stop in the UK and Turkey. He is not going to visit the
Palestinian Authority.

Ben-Eliezer told Rumsfeld that if the US strikes Iraq, Israel expects to be
"among the first" hit in retaliation by Baghdad.

And Ben-Eliezer said that unlike during the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein
unleashed conventional Scud missiles on Tel Aviv, this time he believes the
missiles could be equipped with chemical or biological weapons.

"Therefore early warning is important, preparation is important,
coordination [between the US and Israel] ahead of time is important ­ to
ensure that the damage to Israel will not be too severe," Ben-Eliezer said
he told Rumsfeld.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer cautioned reporters, however, not to
assume that Cheney would be focused on Iraq.

"He's going to represent the president on a wide variety of issues, but the
president has not made any determination to, quote-unquote, 'go into Iraq.'"

Ben-Eliezer spoke to Israeli reporters after his meeting at the Pentagon.

He then briefed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who met with President George W.
Bush last evening at the White House.

Besides Iraq, Ben-Eliezer and Rumsfeld discussed a host of other
top-priority military issues. Ben-Eliezer asked for Rumsfeld's "support in
principle" for the joint Israeli-US production of 200 additional Arrow
missiles that would be manufactured in the US.

Ben-Eliezer spoke of a multi-year production plan lasting five or six years.
It is up to Congress to decide whether to fund the initiative for the
anti-missile missile system.

The two defense chiefs also discussed the possible export of the Arrow
system to Turkey and to a second country, which an Israeli military official
identified as India.

The US is reluctant to allow the sale of the Arrow system to India with
tensions high in the Indian subcontinent.

Ben-Eliezer also expressed Israel's desire to sell the Phalcon AWACS system
to other countries.

In 2000, Israel was forced to cancel a sale of the airborne radar system to
China in the face of US opposition.

Left off the agenda was the American troop presence in the Sinai peninsula.
Rumsfeld has decided to radically scale back the number of US troops there
who form the bulk of the Multinational Force and Observers, an independent
international peacekeeping organization established by Egypt and Israel to
monitor the security arrangements after their 1979 peace treaty.

Israel and Egypt oppose the withdrawal. Ben-Eliezer said Rumsfeld did not
raise the issue and therefore he did not either.

CNN, 8th February

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Reuters) -- Kurds of northern Iraq need to see a better
alternative to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before they give their support
to any U.S.-led attempt to overthrow him, two leaders of the region said on

"For us the important thing is who is the alternative that will come in
place of Saddam. First of all we have to know who the alternative is, if
there is one," Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP), told NTV in an interview.

"And of course there is no guarantee that the alternative will be better
than Saddam," he added.

Northern Iraq has been outside Baghdad's direct control and protected by
U.S. and British air patrols since after the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

Washington has sponsored peace talks in the region to end fighting between
Barzani's group and the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal

Washington's hope is to forge the mountainous Kurdish north into a united
bulwark against the Iraqi government.

The two Kurdish leaders, whose "peshmerga" fighters once battled for control
of the region, have been at peace for years now and speak from the same page
on the possibility of a U.S. attempt to remove Saddam from power.

"We do not know what will happen...we will not enter adventures whose end is
unclear. In the same way we cannot support any project for change in which
we do not see the alternative," Talabani told NTV.

"We prefer the current situation to a change we could not accept. At least
now Saddam is under international pressure and contained, alone and
powerless and we are under international protection."

Both acknowledged that much was out of their control as speculation
increases that Washington may try to extend its "war on terrorism" from
Afghanistan to Iraq.

"If the US strikes Iraq there is nothing we can do," said Barzani. "But we
will not be ordered by America or any others. We will not be a bargaining
chip or tool of pressure to be used against Iraq."

Both leaders stress that they see the future of their region within a united

That goes some way to allay fears of U.S. ally Turkey that turmoil in Iraq
could spark an independent Kurdish state that would then spread violent
nationalist sentiment among Turkey's own Kurdish citizens.

Talabani said an independent Iraqi uprising against Saddam depended on an
unlikely alliance among the country's different ethnic, political and
religious groups.

"I have to confess that achieving that balance is very difficult. That's why
I see the government in Baghdad as lasting and change as not close without
outside intervention. In other words change should not be expected without
American intervention or invasion from outside," he said.

He suggested that any U.S. action might be further away than many now
expect. Turkish financial markets slid on Friday partly on worries that an
attack was likely.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visits Turkey and other regional countries
next month to garner support for U.S. policies.

Turkey hosts U.S. and British jets that patrol northern Iraq and keeps its
own military presence in the region, to Baghdad's fury, to attack northern
Iraqi bases of its own Kurdish rebels.

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