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[casi] News, 23/2-2/3/02 (3)

News, 23/2-2/3/02 (3)



*  NATO chief has no knowledge of US plans to attack Iraq [But why would the
Œchief¹ of the major alliance of which the US is a part expect to be kept
informed of US plans for war? Its almost as if he doesn¹t know his place in
the world. Mr Robertson goes on to inform us that only countries which
possess large quantities of weapons of mass destruction deserve to be taken


*  Trade with Iraq under UN sanctions fraught with hurdles [ Others on the
list understand the complexities of the sanctions system much better than me
but as I understand it, the so called Œfast track¹ procedure is being
sabotaged by the UNSC Approval Committee (ie by the Americans and ­ a long
way behind them ­ the British, since we know that they are the only members
who ever raise any objections). The relevant paras of this informative
article are as follows: ŒIn the report of the Secretary General dated
November 19, 2001, 185 applications were found to contain items acceptable
on the review list, these applications were sent to the approval committee.
Only 50 of these applications were approved and the reason to withhold the
remaining applications was changed. This in effect contradicts the approved
reviewed items and wastes exporters' efforts, discouraging them from trade
with Iraq, traders said. Most importantly, it is destroying the Iraqi
people's opportunity to reclaim their health and future.¹ perhaps this was
exceptional since it refers to the period when the US were trying to
pressure Russia into accepting Œsmart sanctions¹. Note also the phrase ŒOil
is Iraq¹s chief export¹. I was under the impression oil is Iraq¹s only legal
export. Leaving oil aside, Iraq is only allowed to buy (on a very large
scale), not to sell, a principle that is clearly harmful to individuals who
might set up a little business, but not to the government, who control the
*  Annan and Iraq set date for talks
*  UN Chief: The US will not act wisely if it attacks Iraq
*  More items included in Iraqi import list [A bonanza for businessmen. But
see also ŒTrade with Iraq under UN sanctions fraught with hurdles¹.]
*  U.N. humanitarian program for Iraq facing financial crisis [This story
suggests interestingly that if the holds were lifted, Iraq wouldn¹t have the
means to pay for them. Sevan appears to have been very categorical in
blaming the retrospective pricing system imposed by the US and Britain,
which has resulted in a large drop in oil sales. Though one imagines the
Iraqi response to this and to Œsmart sanctions¹ - stopping selling oil -
would also have had something to do with it.]
*  UN official reports positive impact of oil-for-food program [The
half-a-cup full version of the preceding article]
*  Iraq Dampens Expectations for March 7 U.N. Talks [Iraqi willingness to
talk has been attributed to jitters over the possibility of imminent attack,
but their position hasn¹t changed. They will only let the inspectors in if
they can be persuaded that this will lead to the lifting of sanctions.
They¹ve been burned once on this question and there¹s no reason why they
should allow themselves to be burned a second time.]

by Betsy Pisik
The Washington Times, 1st March
[This of course is about Œsmart sanctions¹ dressed up to soothe those who
have some marginal anxieties about the sufferings of the civilian
population. In the article, one ŒKenneth Allard, an Iraq scholar at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies¹ makes the following
scholarly comment: ³The Iraqis have to put up or shut up" (Mr Allard is
probably an ŒIraq scholar¹ in the same way Adolf Eichmann was a specialist
in Jewish affairs.)]

OTHER LESSER BREEDS (Russia, Canada, Australia)

*  Primakov warns against attacking Iraq
*  Clark: PM soft on Iraq [Canadian Foreign Affairs minister, Bill Graham
has a philosophical turn of mind, and informs us that against Iraq: Œ"a new
doctrine of preventative defence" could be considered¹. But this is hardly
very new. Hitler used it (with considerably more justification) when he
invaded Norway (forestalling a planned British invasion of Norway); Stalin
used it when he took Finland and then Eastern Poland; the Japanese used it
when they attacked Pearl Harbour; Saddam Hussein used it when he invaded
Iraq; Israel used it in the Never on Saturdays war. It has another name. Its
called aggression.]
*  'Axis' harbours nuclear plan: CSIS [A Canadian Intelligence report. Its
evidence for saying Iraq is determined to acquire a nuclear weapons
capability appears to be that both the IAEA and the CIA think its likely
(both are on record as saying they have no evidence ...). Also there are
other ŒUS military and intelligence sources¹ (Richard Butler? Charles
Duelfer? The only one named is Khidr Hamza.) It would be nice to think Iraq
actually had a nuclear defence capacity. then the US would think twice about
going to war. The fact that the US doesn¹t appear to be thinking twice
suggests that they haven¹t.]
*  Australian blockade working [Australia boasts of its success in enforcing
a policy whose Œeffects are devastating on the civilian population who
suffer fatal food and medical shortages.¹ There is also a reference to Œthe
SAS patrol involved in the fatal wounding of Sergeant Drew Russell Œ(he was
killed by a landmine in Afghanistan)]
*  Iraq and the UN Security Council [A twisted process of reasoning from a
former foreign minister of Australia. Essentially he argues that the US has
a legal right, in self defence, to attack nations which haven¹t threatened
it; but it should do so through the UN Security Council. This will put the
other members of the UN Security Council under a moral obligation to support
the US which will then be perfectly within its rights to go it alone if they
fail to do so. The article is couched in general terms as befits an article
about principles of law, which suggests that all nations enjoy similar
dangerous rights. There are some passages that indicate that the author
knows full well he is talking twaddle.]


*  Iraq intercepts American, British planes
*  Iraq Says Three Wounded in No-Fly Zone Air Strike
*  U.S. Military Confirms Bombing of Iraqi Targets


*  Pentagon Denies Iraq Rumor, Calming Markets
*  The costs of tangling with Iraq [Marvin Zonis of Marvin Zonis Associates
Inc., a political risk consultancy says the prospect of war may have a
devastating effect on the price of oil.]

by Chelsea Emery
Yahoo, 27th February
ŒThe Philadelphia Stock Exchange oil service index surged 3.9 on Feb. 21
after the U.S. Defense Department's fuel buying wing said it was seeking to
buy an additional 1.5 million barrels of A-1 jet fuel for U.S. bases in the
United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Oil prices rose on
speculation U.S. troops were in Iraq.¹ Oh well. Its an ill wind ...


*  Saddam aide gets migration blessing


*  Afghan interim leader praises Iran [Not immediately relevant to Iraq, but
not without interest to see the US protege establishing good relations with
one of the points on the axis of evil.]
*  Disorganized at Defense [Last week there was a crop of articles about the
US Defense department¹s ŒOffice of Strategic Influence¹ whose job, it was
said, was to spread disinformation. Now it seems that the OSI has been
closed down by the Pentagon. The Washington Times (is it still owned by the
Rev. Moon?) has, however, rushed to the rescue, pointing out Œthat there
were no plans to put out false stories, emphasizing that OSI's draft charter
made no mention of such a scheme¹ and other such relevant information.]
*  Proud wife turns 'axis of evil' speech into a resignation letter [I had
thought of keeping this for the Œlevel of idiocy in a category of its own¹
slot until the last paragraph reminded me that it is probably a smart career
move, with the wife self sacrificingly playing the role of a complete air
head for the sake of letting it be known who had coined the famous phrase,
well co-ordinated with the husband¹s resignation and consequent availability
for offers. Note the telling phrase: ŒYou¹re playing with history ...¹ (not
to mention thousands of peoples lives)]
*  Congress Questions Future of War Against Terror [Extracts. Included just
for the sake of noting US infiltration into Georgia.]
 *  The power of lies [This doesn¹t have much to do with Iraq, but Pepe
Escobar is the best writer on international affairs at the current time and
I¹m happy to post anything he writes. Here he tells us that Œthe Taliban and
al-Qaeda structures are practically intact inside Pakistan¹ and that the
ŒIranian¹ arms shipment to Palestine was almost certainly an Israeli put-up
job. He regards Karzai¹s position as pretty hopeless but draws attention to
his speech in Tehran as a sign that, axis of evil or no axis of evil, Iran
and Afghanistan are inseparable.]


Times of India (from AP), 24th February

BERLIN: NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in a magazine interview
released on Saturday that he has no knowledge of any US plans to launch a
military campaign against Iraq, though he urged the alliance to watch Iraq
closely for any signs it is supporting terrorist groups.

President George W. Bush's fueled speculation that Iraq could be the United
States' next target in its war on terrorism last month, when he described
Iraq, Iran and North Korea as forming an "axis of evil."

Bush has also warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that Iraq would face
unspecified consequences if he did not allow U.N. weapons inspectors into

In an interview with German news weekly Der Spiegel, Robertson said he
didn't know if the United States would attack Iraq. "I have no special
knowledge," he was quoted as saying.

Bush's remarks were intended to remind Saddam that if he supports or gives
refuge to members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, "the consequences
would be terrible," Robertson said.

"It's important to remain alert with Saddam Hussein," he said.

Robertson also repeated his call for European NATO members, some of which
have warned against US unilateralism in smashing terrorist groups, to raise
their military spending or risk being marginalized further.

European countries lack special forces, midair refueling and transport
planes as well as reconnaissance and command-and-control capabilities,
Robertson said.


by Abeya Al Bakry
Gulf News, 23rd February

Merchants trading with Iraq have urged world bodies to make the sanctions
regime more efficient and smooth so as to allow faster access to
humanitarian supplies by the people of Iraq.

Traders pointed out that no one is talking about flouting United Nations
sanctions. However, the sanctions regime itself is not working with
efficiency and speed, and this needs to be tackled.

Laws and regulations should be enforced to streamline and improve the flow
of goods to Iraq. These are recognised as "humanitarian", but there are many
obstacles to doing trade with Iraq, including heavy bureaucracy.

Moreover, delays, especially in perishable items, leads to wastage and serve
no purpose, delegates were told at a recent seminar on doing trade with

Trade procedures should simplified to send humanitarian relief to Iraq under
the United Nations (UN) oil-for-food programme, said a UN expert at the
Global Resources Conference organised event.

They said UN Security Council decisions taken are in the right direction to
ease exports to Iraq, but the approval system is arbitrary.

Iraq needs $5.5 billion worth of humanitarian supplies in phase 10 of the
oil-for-food programme, according to the Iraqi distribution plan under the
UN Report by the Secretary General dated October 31, 2001.

Oil is Iraq's chief export. It is one of the world's major oil producers. It
cannot afford to stall on selling oil to receive supplies. When oil prices
are down as they are at the moment, Iraq will not profit from the programme.

Revenues will not be enough to buy sufficient food or medicine and will not
rebuild roads to receive whatever supplies are coming through, delegates

This leads to Iraqi buyers committing to sell more oil than they are
lifting. In phase 10 covering the second half of 2001, for example, only 290
million barrels were expected to be lifted whereas 387.2 million barrels
were approved for trade.

While oil revenues not only pay for the humanitarian supplies, 13 per cent
of the amount gets cut and goes to the UN compensation fund, and some
further percentages towards UN administrative costs. From the remainder is
adjusted the petroleum production costs, and actual Iraqi buying power.

The deducted costs reduce the amount of supplies Iraqis can buy.

The lengthy procedures by the UN Security Council (UNSC) Approval Committee
also discourage merchants from doing trade with Iraq. On average, an
application for trade with Iraq may take up to six weeks for approval beside
payment processing at the bank.

"Traders who attended the conference voiced their criticism of the many
procedures taken to trade with Iraq under the UN oil-for-food programme,"
said Dr. Sebiha Mehdi, executive director of the conference.

The oil-for-food programme started in 1996 so that the Iraqi people receive
food and medicine after five years of famine and disease following the UN
sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War in 1991.

'Fast track' procedures have been taken by the UN Security Council to
approve lists of foodstuffs, as well as of basic or standard health,
agricultural and educational supplies, which would no longer require
submission to the UNSCR Approval Comm-ittee, but the items still have to be
notified to the Secretary General through the Office of the Iraq Programme

Laurent Marion, United Nations Development Project officer in Baghdad, said
at the conference that "it is unfortunate that the procedures take such a
long time and that is why we started the 'fast track' procedures. These
procedures have done away with parts of the approval system, but they do not
guarantee the success of the application."

According to the UN, suppliers should be aware that the time invested in
signing contracts, the preparation and submission of applications for goods
which may qualify for expedited processing, does not necessarily mean
immediate acceptance of contracts.

If the items are not on the approved reviewed lists, the applications will
be sent to the approval committee and are prone to rejection, wasting
exporters' time and lessening their faith in trade with Iraq.

The UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) prohibit the sale of arms and
military equipment to Iraq. Food and medicines were the only items allowed
for trade from 1996 until November 2001.

The UNSC recently reviewed items needed for trade to include materials
needed to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure.

There were also constraints limiting the quantity of oil exchanged for food
and medicine until December 1999. By this time, however, the UNSCR allowed
Iraq to export as much oil as required to meet its humanitarian needs.

Following the Gulf War, the roads, electricity and power supplies, water and
sanitation services deteriorated. The bad condition of the roads prevents
smooth flow of supplies, typhoid and dysentery among other diseases spread
because of lack of sanitation and a total power failure is threatening the

The distribution plan allocates funds from oil supplies to the different
sectors to buy and distribute urgent humanitarian supplies.

The Security Council resolved that a number of supplies can be approved for
the rehabilitation of Iraq. However, rather than releasing supplies, the
reasons for holding back supplies are being changed.

In the report of the Secretary General dated November 19, 2001, 185
applications were found to contain items acceptable on the review list,
these applications were sent to the approval committee. Only 50 of these
applications were approved and the reason to withhold the remaining
applications was changed.

This in effect contradicts the approved reviewed items and wastes exporters'
efforts, discouraging them from trade with Iraq, traders said. Most
importantly, it is destroying the Iraqi people's opportunity to reclaim
their health and future.

Traders have to spend time, effort and money on registration for trade with
Iraq. There are no tender advertisements, so exporters have to register with
UN bodies (which are dispersed in different parts of Europe) if they want to
be notified of upcoming trade opportunities.

It is easy to forget that the oil-for-food programme is primarily a
humanitarian programme funded by Iraq itself.

If more money is received from oil, and if more oil is sold at a good price
and the proceeds kept to pay for humanitarian supplies, the Iraqi people may
become healthier and live in a better environment, the conference concluded.

Reuter's, 25th February

UNITED NATIONS: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans talks with Iraq's
foreign minister, Naji Sabri, in New York on March 7 on the possible return
of weapons inspectors to Iraq, the United Nations has announced.


The meeting would be for one day only because Sabri has to attend an Arab
League meeting, but the minister indicated he would resume talks, if needed,
after April 5, Dujarric said.


Iraq and Annan last held talks in February 2001. But the secretary-general
declined to hold a follow-up round last year because key U.N. Security
Council members had no common policy.

Since then the split between the five permanent council members -- the
United States, Britain, Russia, France and China -- is less noticeable but
they still disagree on what steps Iraq has to take to get a suspension of
sanctions, imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Baghdad has also made some overtures, since Washington increase the threats,
toward Kuwait on Gulf War prisoners. And it allowed a U.N. human rights
investigator to visit for the first time in a decade.

Mousa, when he came to the United Nations earlier this month, said Iraq was
willing to discuss all issues. But Annan, U.N. officials said, emphasised he
was prepared mainly to discuss return of the arms inspectors and invited
Hans Blix, the director of the new U.N. commission in charge of Iraqi
disarmament, to the session with Moussa.


Arabic News, 26th February

The UN has joined the list of countries which oppose the American threats to
direct a military strike to Iraq as the UN secretary general Kofi Annan
stressed that the US will behave unwisely if it will launch a military
attack against Iraq.

Annan told journalists following his talks with the British Prime minister
Tony Blair in London that he does not believe that the US President George
Bush had taken a decision to strike Iraq.

Replying to a question on that reports said that Bush is studying the idea
of expanding the campaign of war against terrorism to include Iraq, Annan
said that he does not think that Washington has taken any decision to this
effect, stressing that any action against Iraq will be unwise.

Dawn, 26th February, 13 Zilhaj 1422
[A bonanza for businessmen. But see also ŒTrade with Iraq under UN sanctions
fraught with hurdles¹.]

KARACHI, Feb 25: The import list of Iraq has now expanded to 300 pages and
covered almost every item of daily use. Business sources said here on Monday
that potential for Pakistani exporters had increased in Iraqi market with
the expansion in number of import items. Similarly, the amount allocated to
support this import has also increased, sources said.

Iraq meets its imports requirement through "UN oil-for-food programme",
which was introduced in December 1996.

The current phase (each phase constitutes six months period) has begun in
January 2002 and will continue till June 2002.

The UN Secretariat releases $6 to 7 billion in each phase.

Sources said that Pakistani exporters could send hot items like rice, wheat,
sugar, vegetables oil, pharmaceutical, health products, stationery,
agriculture equipment, construction material, auto parts, textile items,
electrical and electronic equipment, etc., to Iraq.

Besides, Iraq direly needs rehabilitation and construction of its roads,
houses, oil fields, hospitals, industries and telecommunications facilities,
they added.

The Export Promotion Bureau has established Iraq Cell to provide all
possible help to Pakistani companies in obtaining registration with the
Iraqi government.-APP

Houston Chronicle (from Associated Press), 27th February

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. program that provides food, medicine and other
assistance to Iraqi civilians is facing a "financial crisis" because of a
sharp drop in Iraqi oil exports which fund it, the head of the program said

Benon Sevan blamed an oil pricing policy adopted last fall by the U.N.
committee monitoring sanctions against Iraq, and warned that if the
committee and the Iraqi government don't find a solution the humanitarian
program could be in "deep trouble."

The new policy was pushed by the United States and Britain to keep Baghdad
from subverting the humanitarian program and reaping illegal financing and
kickbacks. Western diplomats say the policy has helped reduce kickbacks to
Saddam Hussein's regime by $35 million. The diplomats say there is no
intention of altering the policy, which they see as a success.

The so-called oil-for-food program began in 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis
cope with sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It
initially provided food and basic humanitarian goods but has expanded to
cover public services such as education and water supply. Funded by oil
sales, the program has become the mainstay of the Iraqi civilian economy.

Sevan, who returned earlier this month from a four-week trip to Iraq to
assess the oil-for food program, said the new pricing scheme demanded by the
United States and Britain may have reduced illegal payments made by oil
traders to Iraq.

"At the same time, I think, the main result has been the reduction in the
oil exports," he said.

Iraqi oil exports have fallen by nearly one-third, to 1.4 to 1.5 million
barrels of oil a day compared with 2.1 to 2.2 million previously. The
immediate result is that the sanctions committee has approved $1.6 billion
worth of Iraqi purchases for humanitarian goods under the program for which
the country does not have oil revenue, he said.

If the committee approved all contracts which have been held up -- primarily
by the United States because of questions over items that could have dual
military use -- there would be an additional shortfall of $5.3 billion,
Sevan said.

"I think we are in deep trouble as far as funding of the program is
concerned ... We have no money now -- additional money -- for new
contracts," Sevan said after briefing the U.N. Security Council. "We have a
financial crisis as far as I'm concerned."

He said he plans to raise with the committee the possibility of temporarily
halting the processing of contracts from Iraq for the purchase of
humanitarian goods until the program's cash flow improves.


Tehran, Feb 27, IRNA -- Executive director of the United Nations
oil-for-food program said on Tuesday that the UN effort in Iraq has made a
significant positive impact on the country's citizens, adding that much more
must be done to help respond to their needs.

"Irrespective of all the complaints and criticisms levelled against it, the
program has indeed made, and continues to make a considerable difference in
the day-to-day life of the Iraqi people all over the country," Sevan told a
closed-door meeting of the Security Council.

Just back from an official visit to iraq, his first since 1997, he said he
had found "an ocean of difference" marked by improvements in a number of
sectors, a press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) in
Tehran said.

Meanwhile, Sevan warned against complacency, stressing that it was
"incumbent on all parties concerned to fully cooperate and to make a
concerted and determined effort in order to maximize the benefits of the
program for the Iraqi people and mitigate, to the extent possible, the
unintended consequences of the sanctions on the daily life of the average
Iraqi citizen."

The Office of the Iraq Program reported on Tuesday that the total volume of
Iraqi crude exports last week dropped to 10.3 million barrels.

Sevan further explained that the diminishing levels of exports was most
likely a consequence of retroactive pricing, a policy which he said made it
much more difficult for contract holders to receive an abnormally high
premium for Iraqi crude oil.

He appealed to all parties, including the Baghdad government, to resolve the
issue in order to avoid a disruption of oil exports from Iraq, which is the
sole source of revenue available to the program.

by Bernie Woodall
Reuters, 1st March

UNITED NATIONS: Iraq's U.N. ambassador cautioned on Friday about expecting
too much from next week's talks between his foreign minister and U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying the session would be short and include
discussion of issues other than weapons inspections.

With the United States refusing to rule out an invasion of Iraq, the talks
Annan is holding with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri next Thursday have
taken on added significance. Annan has said he would press Sabri to allow
weapons inspectors back into Iraq for the first time in three years.

But Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, said in an interview that "we
will look to the secretary-general to say what issues are still outstanding
for the United Nations and we will tell them what is outstanding for Iraq,"
Aldouri said of the March 7 session.

"There will be an exchange of views, but this is only one short session," he
told Reuters. "We expect there will be following meetings in April."

Aldouri said Baghdad wants to discuss a wide range of issues and not be
focused solely on the possible return of weapons inspectors, who left Iraq
on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing in December 1998 and have been barred
since then.

"We want to reach agreement with the secretary-general, but this is a
package deal involving all of the issues," Aldouri said, without

"Our primary concern has not changed. For the good of our people, we need
the lifting of sanctions," Aldouri said.

Western diplomats said they did not expect a definitive reply on the
inspectors at next Thursday's meeting.

They said Annan would have to decide whether there was enough willingness
from Iraq to allow the arms experts to return before he would hold another
meeting in April. A year ago, Annan refused to hold a follow-up meeting with
Iraqi officials, believing it would not lead anywhere.

The United States, however, wants the meeting focused on the inspectors. "It
should be a short one," a U.S. official said. "There isn't much to discuss
except how Iraq is going to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions,
specifically with regard to return of weapons inspectors."



by Paul Michaud
Dawn, 23rd February, 10 Zilhaj 1422

PARIS: In Paris to promote his book of memoirs, Former Russian Prime
Minister Evgueni Primakov has lost no time in sending out a warning to the
United States that, in his estimation - and in the particular context of
Russian and Central Asian history - it would be a "major error" on the part
of America to attack Iraq.

He notes, if ever the United States decides to makes use of its bases in
Afghanistan as a stepping stone to Iraq, and an eventual attack on that
country, that would be, in his estimation, "a major error on America's part,
for the United States would lose immediately all of the support it won with
its operations in Afghanistan."

"My country (Russia) would certainly find it difficult maintaining a neutral
position because our present philosophy would call for a change of

Having conferred with French authorities on the present situation in Central
Asia, Primakov also stressed that it was his understanding that France too
would be forced to make an important change in its position if ever the US
continued to send war signals towards Iraq. Moreover, he notes, "a strike on
Iraq would also result in the taking of a unified stance against the West on
the part of the Arab and Islamic world, and would provoke a clash of
civilisations, between Islam and the West. And right now there is nothing
worse (for the future of the world) that could happen."

As for the conflict in the Middle East, Primakov notes that a large part of
the blame for the present impasse is America's having "established a
monopoly over mediation in the war, a monopoly that inexorably results in a
perpetual blockage."

What is needed, he notes, are more joint efforts, "perhaps even with the
assistance of the United States, and why not Russia, the European Union,
United Nations, and Egypt?" Especially, he notes, "as Sharon's policies are
getting nowhere. Sharon's efforts are aimed at blocking the creation of a
Palestinian state. But, without the existence of a Palestinian state, there
can never be any real security, for the Israelis as well as for the

by Anne Dawson
Canoe (Canada), 25th February

Prime Minister Jean Chretien is just as wishy-washy today about joining
forces with the U.S. against Iraq as he was after the Sept. 11 terror
attacks, charged Tory Leader Joe Clark.

Clark accused the Liberals of using the same excuse with Iraq now as they
did with Afghanistan last fall when Chretien wavered on whether Canada would
join forces with the U.S. in the war against terrorism -- that is, that
there's no "link" to justify Canada's participation.

"This government is all over the loft on foreign policy. The reason they are
all over the loft is that they are ashamed of Mr. Chretien's absence after
Sept. 11," Clark told CTV's Question Period.

"They've been scrambling ever since."

Canadians have been left wondering exactly where Canada stands if the U.S.
carries through on its threats of military action against Iraq's Saddam
Hussein, who is known to be amassing nuclear and chemical weapons.

In the past week, they've heard Chretien and his Liberals shift positions
several times.

In Russia, the prime minister ruled out any possibility that Canada would
back the United States if it moved unilaterally against Iraq.

Chretien said Canada's fight is limited to Afghanistan, where Osama bin
Laden's al-Qaida network operated and plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The next day however, he backed off somewhat, insisting the entire question
was hypothetical -- signalling to the world that Canada didn't know what it
would do if the U.S. were to launch a military campaign against Iraq.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, also a guest on Question Period, said
a case could be built to justify military action in Iraq even if there is no
proof Hussein played a role in Sept. 11.

That's because Iraq has already proven to be a "destabilizing influence" in
the region for many years and nobody trusts Hussein, he said.

For these reasons, "a new doctrine of preventative defence" could be
considered, but only if the U.S. has international support, he added.

"It could well be a reasonable doctrine in the right circumstances but it
has to be clearly articulated and you have to build global support for it
and we're not there yet," said Graham.
February 26, 2002

by Stewart Bell
National Post, Canada, 26th February

Canada's intelligence service said yesterday there is evidence Iraq, Iran
and North Korea were aggressively trying to develop nuclear weapons,
bolstering George W. Bush's controversial claim that those nations form an
"axis of evil."

Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, "appears determined to acquire a nuclear
weapons capability at the earliest opportunity," as does Iran, the Canadian
Security Intelligence Service says in a new report.

Suspicions also abound that communist North Korea is secretly continuing its
nuclear weapons program, said the intelligence report, prepared by analysts
at the Research, Analysis and Production Branch of CSIS.

The report said while Canada is not a likely target of these rogue nations,
peacekeepers serving in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as Canada's
allies, are within their striking range and could be vulnerable to attacks.

During his State of the Union address on Jan. 29, the U.S. President said
Iraq, Iran and North Korea form "an axis of evil" because of their
unrelenting pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

The comment was widely condemned, even by some U.S. politicians and Western
allies, as a sign Mr. Bush was overreaching in his war on terrorism.

John Manley, Deputy Prime Minister, described the comment as "bellicose" but
said he did not disagree with those countries being criticized.

Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has said Canada is open to
including Iraq in the war on terrorism if there is evidence against it. "If
it is shown that they are amassing weapons of mass destruction with the
vision of using them against someone in the immediate future, that's a clear
and present danger that we and all the world have to address and we'd be
willing to address," he has said.

The CSIS report shows the Canadian government has been advised by its own
intelligence agents that Mr. Bush was likely correct when he suggested the
three countries were working to acquire nuclear weapons.

Although Iraq's nuclear arms infrastructure was mostly destroyed around the
time of the Gulf War, the report says the International Atomic Energy Agency
and the CIA believe Baghdad has continued its weapons program -- a claim
supported by Khidir Hamza, an Iraqi nuclear scientist who defected in 1994.

"Iraq, with its demonstrated history of a large-scale program, appears
determined to acquire a nuclear weapons capability at the earliest
opportunity," the report said. "So do Iran and Libya, albeit being
considerably less advanced."

Iran has attempted to acquire the capacity to enrich uranium by purchasing
components piecemeal from suppliers in Western Europe, the report said,
quoting U.S. military and intelligence sources. The enriched uranium could
be used to produce nuclear weapons, it said.

North Korea has been experimenting with nuclear weapons for more than a
decade. While the country has agreed to halt the production of weapons-grade
nuclear material, "suspicions remain about continuing North Korean nuclear
weapons activity," CSIS said.

"Until quite recently, only five states -- the U.S., Russia, the U.K.,
France and China -- had acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons. The events
of May, 1998, added two more countries -- India and Pakistan -- to that
list," said the report.

"In addition, Israel has long been credited with a clandestine arsenal, and
a number of other countries -- including Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and
possibly Algeria -- are currently widely suspected of harbouring nuclear
weapons ambitions and/or to be actively pursuing such programs."

The weapons programs in the three countries identified by Mr. Bush are of
particular concern because of alleged links to Islamic terrorists. Iran
equips and sponsors several anti American, anti-Israeli terrorist groups,
while Iraq was involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and
there are suggestions it may have been complicit in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Impoverished North Korea has exported its weapons technology to such
countries as Iran and Pakistan.

There are mounting fears about the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists.
Although difficult to produce, nuclear weapons are over a million times more
powerful than the same quantity of conventional explosives.

Documents found in al-Qaeda safehouses in Afghanistan after the Taliban's
retreat last November show that Osama bin Laden and his supporters had
obtained designs for nuclear weapons and were willing to use them. Al-Qaeda
was apparently aided by Pakistani nuclear scientists.

The CSIS report said that while the proliferation of nuclear weapons had
been contained at the end of the Cold War, developments were threatening to
reverse that trend. The arms race between India and Pakistan, for example,
risks stirring other nations to accelerate their own weapons programs,
"making the world -- and in particular South Asia -- a more dangerous

by Ian McPhedran
Daily Telegraph, Australia, 27th February
[Australia boasts of its success in enforcing a policy whose Œeffects are
devastating on the civilian population who suffer fatal food and medical
shortages.¹ There is also a reference to Œthe SAS patrol involved in the
fatal wounding of Sergeant Drew Russell Œ, a story I seem to have missed]

AN AUSTRALIAN warship has broken the one-day record for intercepting illegal
cargoes in the Persian Gulf.

HMAS Kanimbla, one of the Royal Australian Navy's two amphibious command
ships, stopped, boarded and turned around 16 vessels carrying illegal
cargoes of oil and dates.

Australian ships have been involved in the UN blockade of Iraq almost
continuously since the end of the Gulf War.

The blockade prevents Iraq from exporting large quantities of oil, but its
effects are devastating on the civilian population who suffer fatal food and
medical shortages.

Defence spokesman Brigadier Gary Bornholt, who gave his last briefing
yesterday before leaving to take command of Australian forces in the gulf,
said that on the morning of February 22 Kanimbla moved to intercept 16 large
trading dhows heading south from Iraq into the gulf.

"All vessels were ordered to return to Iraq," Brigadier Bornholt said.

"That interception and boarding of 16 vessels by a single ship is the
largest single intercept known to have occurred during the course of
maritime interception operations in the gulf to date," he said.

Meanwhile, the frigate HMAS Sydney is on its way home after four months duty
in the_ çÝdÇpr Bornholt aXhsaid the SAS patrol involved in the
fatal wounding of Sergeant Drew Russell was continuing its mission despite
the tragic loss.

Sgt Russell will be buried in a ceremony in Perth this week.

by Gareth Evans
International Herald Tribune, 28th February

SINGAPORE: Until very recently, war between states seemed a much less real
threat than internal conflict. Interstate conflict had become rare and
seemed likely to remain so. The ideology that saw virtue and nobility in war
had all but disappeared in advanced countries.

Globalization was making national borders ever less important. And the
united international response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait gave further
pause to those thinking that territorial aggression might be cost-effective.

Recent events have made it impossible to be so optimistic. Just a few weeks
ago, India and Pakistan were much closer to the brink of all-out war than
has generally been recognized.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to hover on the brink so long
as resumption of serious political negotiations is made hostage to the last
extremist on either side. And a number of other trouble spots, not least in
East Asia, depend on the retention of very cool heads on all sides. But a
different phenomenon is now capturing most attention - war between states
being waged for self-defense purposes, as permitted under Article 51 of the
UN Charter in response to armed attack.

America's short and devastating campaign against Afghanistan for harboring
Al Qaeda was a totally justifiable response of this kind, and not seriously
controversial in the international community. What will be extremely
controversial, however, is any extension of that self defense reasoning to
justify war waged unilaterally against other countries perceived to be a
threat to the United States or its allies.

That specter was raised by President George W. Bush's State of the Union
address calling Iraq, Iran and North Korea "an axis of evil, arming to
threaten the peace of the world."

Thus yoked together as immediate potential targets were three regimes which,
however unlovely, are not alone in weapons proliferation or in sponsoring
terrorism; are not a united axis in any obvious sense; are not equally
culpable in their past actions; are not equally uncooperative in their
present behavior; and do not require anything like the same un nuanced
strategy to get them to behave consistently better in the future.
Immediately after this address came a presidential budget request for a
defense spending increase of $48 billion. The increase alone is larger than
the total military budget of any other country in the world, and would bring
U.S. military spending to 40 percent of the global total, double the U.S.
share of global GDP.

This is a breathtaking, but not illogical, product of the new U.S. doctrine
that assesses defense needs in terms of others' capability, not in terms of
the actual threat they pose.

It is not surprising that international, and even domestic, applause for the
new U.S. policy has been less than tumultuous. Nor that there has been
something of a scramble in Washingnton recently to disentangle the three
"evil axis" countries and make clear that it is only really Iraq that is in
the gunsights in the reasonably foreseeable future.

But in Iraq's case the prospect of major military action is very real
indeed, and the international community will have to grapple with it very
soon, as a test case for a kind of security issue that may recur in the
years ahead.

It is certainly not unreasonable to paint Iraq as a potentially major threat
not only to the United States but to international peace and security, given
its track record in the production and use of weapons of mass destruction,
its known capability and its suspected intentions.

And it is high time to be demanding some better behavior of it. But the way
to deal with the whole issue is through the United Nations Security Council,
which exists, and is fully mandated, to deal with precisely such threats.

A big responsibility in this respect lies on those Security Council members
who say they are committed to multilateral processes and who find deeply
distasteful the U.S. tendency toward unilateralism (an understandable
viewpoint). They need to put their money where their mouths are. They should
support an ultimatum demanding the return of fully empowered weapons
inspectors, and be prepared to follow it through.

If the evidence for strong Security Council action is compelling (and that's
a big if), and if credible enforcement action can be identified that
improves rather than worsens the overall security environment (a very big
if), then that evidence should be acted upon, without the luxury of double

If some major powers are not prepared to make the hard calls, then they will
have to accept that others may make them unilaterally.

That is not good for the United Nations, but it is what we might have to
live with in times ahead which, in terms of that old Chinese curse, look all
too unhappily likely to be "interesting."

The writer, a former foreign minister of Australia, is president of the
Brussels-based International Crisis Group. This comment was adapted by the
International Herald Tribune from a Feb. 25 address to an Asia-Pacific
security conference in Singapore.


Arabic News, 23rd February

An Iraqi military spokesman has announced that the Iraqi anti aircraft means
on Thursday evening intercepted American and British planes while flying
over south Iraq and "forced them to flee away."

News reports said that the spokesman explained that number of the American
and British formations backed by AWACS planes carried out 26 armed sorties
over al-Basseyah, al Salman, Ashbaja, al-Jaleiba and al-Nasereyah to the
south of Iraq. He added that the Iraqi anti aircraft means intercepted them
and forced them to flee away.

The spokesman stressed that total air sorties of the American and British
planes over north and south Iraq reached 37.54 [sic - PB] armed sorties
since December 1998. 

Reuter's, 28th February

BAGHDAD: Iraq said three civilians were wounded on Thursday when Western
warplanes struck targets inside the country's northern no-fly zone.

The U.S. military said its aircraft attacked Iraqi air defense sites in the
zone after radar and anti-aircraft guns targeted patrolling Western planes.
"At 12:00 a.m. (4 a.m. EST) today U.S. and British warplanes carried 13
sorties coming from Turkey...and flew over Zakho, Dibis, Amadiya, Aqrah,
Duhouk and Ain Zala," an Iraqi military spokesman said in a statement
carried by the official Iraqi News Agency INA.

"The enemy attacked civilian and service installations... wounding three
civilians," the spokesman said.

He added Iraq's ground air defenses fired at the planes and forced them to
return to their bases.

The U.S.-European command based in Germany said all warplanes left the area
safely. There was no immediate report of damage on the ground.


Xinhuanet, 1st March

WASHINGTON, February 28 (Xinhuanet) -- U.S. warplanes bombed Iraqi air
defense targets on Thursday to retaliate for Iraqi anti- aircraft fire, the
U.S. military said.   

The Germany-based U.S. European Command said in a statement  that the
targets were located near the Iraqi city of Mosul, about  250 miles (about
400 kilometers) north of Baghdad.   

It said that the U.S. planes patrolling the so-called no-fly  zone dropped
bombs after they were fired on by Iraqi forces on the ground.    All the
U.S. planes have safely returned to the Incirlik base  in Turkey, the
command said.


Reuters, 26th February

WASHINGTON: The U.S. military on Tuesday calmed jittery financial markets
for the second time in a week by denying a rumor that the United States had
sent special forces into Iraq.

"We have no U.S. troops in Iraq," said a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Lt. Col.
Dave Lapan.

The rumor had its biggest impact in the U.S. markets. Thirty minutes into
the trading day, the firming exchanges did an about-face and turned sharply

"There is a rumor that U.S. special forces are on the ground in Iraq. I
heard they are on the ground in the northern Kurdish safe-haven area," said
Ahmet Okumus, president of New York-based hedge fund Okumus Capital LLC,
with $520 million in assets under management.

At 10 a.m., the Dow Jones industrial average reached its session-high 10,187
-- a gain of 41 points. Over the next 20 minutes, the Dow tumbled to a
session-low of 10,034, a drop of 112 points and a downward swing of more
than 150 points. The market recovered partially, but remained in the red,
after the Pentagon denied that there were troops in Iraq.

"It certainly was the rumor that was the cause of it getting knocked down in
a heartbeat and when they denied it, we recovered about 60 points in a
heartbeat," said Ned Collins, head of trading at Daiwa Securities America.

Last Thursday, the Pentagon denied a similar rumor that U.S. special forces
were in Iraq. The rumor had moved prices in the energy and metals markets.


by Mitchell Martin
International Herald Tribune, 1st March

The United States may decide that attacking Iraq is in its best interests
from a geopolitical standpoint, but the economy in America and in other
countries where oil is important stands to suffer, at least in the short

"I think the greatest sort of unrecognized risk to markets and to economies
right now is the likelihood of an upward spike" in oil prices in the event
of a U.S. attack against Iraq, said Marvin Zonis, a business professor at
the University of Chicago and head of Marvin Zonis Associates Inc., a
political risk consultancy.

As if to illustrate his point, oil prices in New York shot up 4 percent
Tuesday after rumors, quickly denied by the Pentagon, that small numbers of
U.S. forces were active in Iraq.

That America is considering military action to dislodge Saddam Hussein, whom
it accuses of supporting terrorism, is not exactly a surprise. Over the
weekend, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated that to avoid an
attack, Iraq would have to accept extensive weapons inspections, a concept
that has been troublesome for Saddam in the past.

Zonis said that if an invasion were planned, it would take at least three
months, possibly longer, and would require 250,000 or more soldiers. Such
preparations could hardly be carried out in secret, so the world would watch
and wait and think about what might happen.

All of that thinking could be dangerous. Investors will worry that military
action - even if it turns out to be a bluff - would curtail oil supplies.

It is not so much that Iraq's roughly 2 million barrels a day of oil output
is all that important to the market. It accounts for less than 10 percent of
the output of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and less
than 3 percent of global demand.

The psychological effects, however, could be greater than the actual ones.
If investors begin to fear for the stability of long-term energy supplies,
prices could be expected to spike.

"That is what happened in 1979," said Zonis, even though there was no
interruption of oil supplies when the shah of Iran was overthrown. The cost
of a barrel of oil soared, however, despite the relative stability of world
supplies until the Iran-Iraq war broke out in 1980.

An oil-price shock is bad enough at any time, but it would be especially
devastating now. With the world economy creeping along at a growth rate on
the order of 2 percent this year, a rise in energy costs would derail
spending by American consumers as gasoline and electricity prices increased.

It would also raise costs for companies, which would face new pressure on
their already battered profits unless they could somehow manage to pass
along the increased energy prices to consumers. If that happened, the
inflationary impact might force interest rates higher, bringing a return to
the stagflation of the early 1980s.

IRAQIS OUTSIDE IRAQ,4057,3838081%255E421,00.html

by Mark Dunn
Courier-Mail, 25th February

A HAND-picked member of Saddam Hussein's feared personal guard has been
permitted to stay in Australia despite Government attempts to deport him.

The man, in his early 30s, is understood to have been released from Woomera
Detention Centre and to be living in the community.

Hussein's personal guard ­ an elite unit with a close position of trust in
connection with the Iraqi dictator ­ has been accused of co-ordinating a
campaign of widespread killings and torture.

Despite decisions by the Immigration Department and the Refugee Review
Tribunal to have the man deported for links to war crimes and atrocities in
Iraq, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has ruled him to be of fit
character to seek refuge here.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has expressed concern at the decision to
release the man, whose name has been suppressed, and had filed an appeal
against the decision.

But legal advice indicated the appeal could not proceed because the tribunal
decision involved no error in law, only a dispute as to the facts.

The man's seniority in the personal guard was described in varying degrees.

Immigration sources said he had been identified as middle-ranking and senior
enough to give orders.

He is also understood to have been born in the same village as Hussein, a
factor seen as a reason likely to support his appointment to a position in
the personal guard.

The man is believed to have destroyed identification documents before
arriving in Australia, and to intend joining other family members.

His application for refugee status was first raised by the Government after
the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US as a warning of the need for
added vigilance in screening asylum applicants for terrorist or criminal

Several Afghans with links to that country's hated secret police unit,
formerly known as KHAD, are known likewise to have slipped through the
refugee process, and to be now settled with their families in Australia.


*  AFGHAN INTERIM LEADER PRAISES IRAN (Karnataka, SW India), 26th February

TEHRAN, Feb 26: Afghanistan interim leader Hamid Karzai on Monday praised
Iran for standing by Afghans in their struggles against Soviet occupation
and terrorists.

In a speech before the Iranian Majlis, or Parliament, Karzai said the two
countries share "a common culture and language and these bonds have made our
friendship eternal." Karzai spoke in Persian, Iran's official language and
the language spoken in neighboring western and central Afghanistan.

"We will never forget your support of the Afghan nation's struggle against
the former Soviet Union and later against terrorists," Karzai said.

Karzai, whose speech was broadcast live on state-run radio, also praised
Iran for taking in some 2 million Afghan refugees over the years.

The United States repeatedly has accused Iran of trying to destabilize its
eastern neighbour, a charge denied by Tehran. President Bush said, Iran was
part of an "axis of evil" - along with Iraq and North Korea - seeking
weapons of mass destruction and forming alliances with terrorists.

Karzai sat next to Bush in Washington, when he made that comment during his
State of the Union address. Before Karzai's speech, parliament speaker Mahdi
Karrubi said, Iran wanted a "free, independent and developed Afghanistan
without foreign interference."

Karzai, who is making a three-day visit, on Sunday called upon the United
States and Iran to put aside their differences and cooperate in the
reconstruction of his country. Karzai arrived in Tehran with 10 Cabinet
ministers and other officials to discuss improving bilateral ties and
returning Afghan refugees.

Iran has pledged more than $500 million over five years to rebuild
Afghanistan. Earlier Monday, Karzai laid flowers at the shrine of Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Washington Times, 27th February

After being relentlessly pilloried over a Feb. 19 front-page story in the
New York Times suggesting that the Defense Department has been putting
together an international "disinformation" campaign to help the war on
terror, the Pentagon announced yesterday that it would shut down the Office
of Strategic Influence (OSI), the featured target of the story. While this
public relations fiasco was taking place and the administration was being
eaten alive by the mainstream media, the Pentagon's assistant secretary of
defense for public affairs, Tori Clarke, and her minions were
uncharacteristically quiet, leaving OSI's defenders to twist in the wind and
wage a desperate ‹ almost invisible ‹ back-door campaign to defend their

But an article by Rowan Scarborough, published in Monday's editions of The
Washington Times, suggested that OSI, which was set up by Douglas J. Feith,
the highly respected U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, and Air
Force Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden, could have actually played a key role in
aiding the war on terror by counteracting false, anti-American propaganda
being spewed out from places like Baghdad, Tehran and Pyongyang.
Administration officials contended that there were no plans to put out false
stories, emphasizing that OSI's draft charter made no mention of such a
scheme. One source told The Washington Times that OSI was designed to "get
the truth" to places like Iran and Iraq.

OSI, which was to work with the State Department, would have attempted to
finance moderate clerics' efforts to persuade students to avoid the
"madrassas," or religious schools. This was to include providing them with
Internet access so that they would be exposed to more tolerant views. The
office would have also provided Iraqi citizens with news reports and factual
information about Saddam Hussein's bloody regime in Iraq. Essentially all of
this relevant material was omitted from the original story in the New York

Why did the Pentagon do such a poor job of communicating this factual
information to the public? Well, one Pentagon source told Slate magazine's
Scott Shuger that Mrs. Clarke "put the Times onto the story because she
viewed the OSI as a threat to her operation." Mrs. Clarke will surely deny
that this is the case. But it is undeniably true that her shop did an awful
job in telling the public the truth about OSI. And it is hardly the first
time in recent weeks that the Pentagon public relations machine has provided
a propaganda windfall for America's enemies ‹ witness the mindless
dissemination of photos of al Qaeda and Taliban operatives being escorted to
the prison at Guantanamo Bay, sans explanation. That incident subjected the
United States to mindless sanctimony and vitriol from Europe.

In short, this would appear to be the second recent page-one debacle visited
on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by his PR folks. It would appear to
be time for some major changes in Mrs. Clarke's shop.,4273,4363952,00.html

by Matthew Engel in Washington
Guardian, 27th February

The public had a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the White House
yesterday when David Frum, the man said to have invented the phrase "axis of
evil", resigned from President George Bush's speechwriting team, causing a
debate as to whether he walked out or was pushed.

Mr Frum became well known after President Bush used the term in his state of
the union address. But his celebrity came about only because his wife,
Danielle, emailed friends with "wifely pride" to claim credit for her
husband. The message was picked up by the media.

This was considered an affront to the discreet and collegiate traditions of
the speechwriters' room, whose occupants are accustomed to having their
precious words appropriated by the president, rewritten or scrapped, but are
expected to remain stoically anonymous.

The Frumgate affair erupted when the commentator Robert Novak claimed on CNN
that the president was so infuriated by the emails that Mr Frum was fired.
This was denied by the White House and Mr Frum, who accused Mr Novak of
"making stuff up" and said he had given a month's notice on January 24,
while the speech was being written.

In her email to friends and family, Mrs Frum wrote: "I realise this is very
'Washington' of me to mention but my husband is responsible for the axis of
evil segment in Tuesday's state of the union address. It's not often a
phrase one writes gains national notice... so I hope you'll indulge my
wifely pride in seeing this one repeated in headlines everywhere!"

Presidents have a core team of four or five writers working on their
speeches. Like most White House staffers, they rarely last through the
length of a presidency, although Mr Bush has only been in office 13 months
and Mr Frum is one of the first senior figures to go.

"What you get is the excitement of being at the centre," said a team member
from a past administration, who asked, in keeping with the tradition, for

"You're playing with history. But the job really takes it out of you. You
break a lot of promises to your kids.

"And there are a lot of frustrations. Once a speech is made, it's supposed
to be the president's, not yours.

"The current team does a lot of collegial writing, and they're very good at
it. That takes a strong bond and very special people."

Mr Frum intends to return to more conventional writing under his own name.
He has already published two critiques of conservative politics and a
history of the 1970s. His new-found fame is unlikely to do him any harm with
publishers contemplating contracts.,2933,46793,00.html

Fox News, 28th February


"If we expect to kill every terrorist in the world, that's going to keep us
going beyond doomsday," said Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the
Senate Appropriations Committee.

Byrd was speaking of Pentagon discussions about sending as many as 200
Americans to help train the military in Georgia, a former republic of the
defunct Soviet Union, amid sketchy reports terrorists have taken refuge in
the Pankisi Gorge near Georgia's border with Russia's breakaway region of

It would follow deployment already this month of 160 special forces to the
Philippines to train local forces fighting terrorists.

The Pentagon's intentions in Georgia are not strictly a counterterror
campaign, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, told a Pentagon news conference.

Rather, he said, the goal is to help the Republic of Georgia gain sufficient
military strength to defend itself, which would make it more secure and less
in danger of attracting terrorist groups in the future.

by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 2nd March

PARIS - Osama bin Laden is here, there and everywhere. For Russian
intelligence, he is in the Pankisi Gorge, in northeastern Georgia, not far
from the Chechen border, alongside a clutch of al-Qaeda operatives.

In European diplomatic circles he is said to be in north Yemen, close to the
Saudi border. For Pakistani intelligence, he is already inside Iraq, after
previously being sheltered by anti Tehran Sunni mujahideen in southeast

And during the recent carnival in Brazil's steamy Rio de Janeiro, bin Laden
was everywhere: on the beach, in the streets, drinking beer or champagne and
dancing till dawn in clubs around town - bin Laden's was the best-selling
carnival mask in the swinging city. This even prompted an Asian-style
counterfeit industry: you could buy the genuine article for about US$4,
complete with white turban, or a plastic fake for little more than a dollar.
There were few takers for the mask of US President George W Bush.

As bin Laden's whereabouts are still the main plot in the ongoing No 1
global soap opera, an increasingly infuriated Pentagon is busy planning its
new war of disinformation - supposedly to win back public support around the
world for America's war on terrorism. It is widely assumed that these plans
were leaked by reticent Pentagon officials - just as Bush was in the middle
of his Asian trip to Japan, South Korea and China last week, justifying his
"axis of evil" theory while at the same time being heavily criticized in
Europe for his unilateralist stance and the Pentagon's treatment of the
"non-prisoners of war" Taliban in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The de facto prisoners come from 32 different countries. French sources have
already identified five Britons, six Kuwaitis, one Australian, 32 Yemenis,
two Frenchmen, four claiming to be French, at least one Spaniard and "more
than a hundred" Saudis - according to Saudi authorities. American Taliban
John Walker has been transferred to the US, he has been formally charged, he
has lawyers and he knows when he will appear in court (August 28).

On the other hand, all of the other Taliban barely survive in a huge cage,
cannot talk to anybody, have no idea about the charges that they face, and
no idea of when, if ever, they will be brought to trial.

The new American war of disinformation was expected to be promoted by the
Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) - set up in full secrecy last November
during the New Afghan War, and directed by an air force general, Simon
Worden. The OSI was to be the body to decide who should be disinformed, and
about what. The main candidates were the foreign media. But there was a
snag: this would include leading news agencies such as British Reuters and
Agence France-Presse, which could pass on the lies to the US press as well.

When they learned about the OSI, diplomats in Europe immediately started
asking themselves how they could trust a government that would let its
military lie about anything, not only to their enemies but also to their

And then, suddenly, at the beginning of this week, the OSI was in effect
axed. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had earlier claimed during a talk
show that he had learned about the OSI's plans by reading a leaked report in
the New York Times. And Bush revealed himself to be outraged. Both the
Pentagon and the White House retreated en masse, and some poor low-level
officials will take the blame for the whole episode.

A number of Orwellian scenarios can be drawn on how could the Pentagon
expect to win a planetary battle for hearts and minds by disseminating
well-crafted lies to selected foreign media and world leaders.

In the Middle East, Washington's credibility would not exactly be enhanced
by this - at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had been taking
extreme care to blend Yasser Arafat with Osama bin Laden. For most of the
Arab world, Washington's unwavering support of Sharon equals almost zero
credibility already.

In Europe, the feeling is that "strategic influence" - through the OSI and
otherwise - won't be able to influence much unless there's a radical change
in US policy. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine echoes the perception
of his colleagues when he says that "George W Bush has the power to impose a
peace settlement in the Middle East". The feeling in Europe is that
Washington does not need any lies disguised as "strategic influence" if it
wants to be a real peace broker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or if
it wants to set up a real international coalition to get rid of Iraq's
Saddam Hussein. Essentially, for Europe, US unilateralism plus strategic
influence is a recipe for disaster.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) would not be very helpful in this new
war of disinformation either. The agency has just "discovered" that
Afghanistan could be on the way to a new civil war, although "not imminent".
It does not take all the fabulous CIA resources to learn on the ground that:
1) Afghan warlords will never accept peace; 2) the Taliban, sheltered in
Pakistan's tribal areas, are just waiting for spring to start their
guerrilla offensive; and 3) you cannot set up a national army in a country
still devastated by an inter ethnic war.

Intellectuals from the Afghan diaspora based in Europe are keen to confirm
that interim leader Hamid Karzai is incapable of maintaining control of the
country. There's an absolute security black void in Afghanistan. When Karzai
went to Washington, he begged Bush for an expanded role of the International
Security Force - especially in strategic cities such as Herat,
Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar and Jalalabad. But the Pentagon is adamant: the
only solution is the - very slow - buildup of a national army.

Both the CIA and the Pentagon, though, could learn a lot in terms of
disinformation from the Israeli intelligence service.

Washington's hawks have always thought that Iran remained a formidable
obstacle to US strategic designs in the Gulf and Central Asia. In the
geopolitics of the region, Iran is the only country that has been capable of
facing Israel. Iran has a strategic alliance with Syria. Iran helps the
Lebanese Hezbollah. Iran has been operating a slowly-but-surely opening
toward Saudi Arabia. And Iran - alongside Syria - has been making overtures
toward Iraq.

No wonder Israel went into panic mode: its ultimate nightmare would be to
face a powerful eastern front of Syria, Iran and Iraq. Israel acted swiftly.
More than preventing the buildup of this hostile eastern front, the
immediate aim was to convince Washington that Tehran sooner rather than
later could have its own ballistic missiles - pointed toward Israel - and
without running the risk of any US punishment.

The subsequent disinformation campaign strategy was two-pronged. First,
according to Israeli sources, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his
Iranian hawks had made a secret deal with the al-Qaeda leadership: they
offered bin Laden, Taliban leader Mullah Omar and senior al-Qaeda members
refuge in Iran. There's absolutely no proof that this happened. Asia Times
Online has learned that bin Laden and al-Qaeda members may have crossed to
southeastern Iran through Helmand province in Afghanistan, but they would
have been protected by Sunni mujahideen extremely hostile to the Shi'ite
leadership in Tehran.

The second part of the disinformation campaign was centered on a ship
intercepted by Israeli commandos in the Red Sea late last year that was said
to be transporting 50 tonnes of Iranian arms to the Palestinian Authority.
Consequently, Tehran and Arafat were duly condemned by Israel as extremely

No one in Europe seriously believes anything about this murky affair: there
is a widespread consensus this was a Mossad operation designed to isolate
both Iran and the Palestinian Authority from Washington.

But it can now be seen that this two-pronged Israeli disinformation campaign
was effective. Iran is now an official member of the "axis of evil" (with
Iraq and North Korea). This demonization suits US plans of being the main
external power influencing Afghanistan - preferably without any role
whatsoever for either Iran or Russia. And of course Tehran is a direct
economic (Pipelineistan) and geopolitical competitor of Washington in the
Caucasus as well as in Central Asia.

But Iran simply cannot be isolated from Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai himself
expressly went to Tehran to thank Iranians, in Farsi, and in front of the
whole parliament, for their help "for more than two decades", while also
praising the "Islamic solidarity" between the two countries and their
Persian "common culture".

There are more than 2 million Afghan refugees in Iran - including a
substantial part of the intellectual elite. Iran pledged US$560 million in
five years for the reconstruction of Afghanistan - much more,
proportionally, than the US.

Meanwhile, bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership remain on the loose. Bin
Laden may be in Georgia, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Rio ... for the Russians,
it's safe to place him in Georgia - an extra reason for Moscow to increase
its military pressure on Chechnya. For the Pakistanis, it is safe to place
him in Iraq, and so relieve the pressure from the fact that in truth the
Taliban and al-Qaeda structures are practically intact inside Pakistan.

But wherever he is, one thing is certain: not even George Orwell would
divine how these clashing disinformation campaigns can provide "strategic
influence" to any of the players involved.

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