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News, 2-9/3/02 Negotiations begin over the return of the weapons inspectors. US goes along with it to fill in the time while they reorientate and reassemble their war machine. Quite a lot of timid dissent appearing in the UK press. Some even more timid cheeps in the US press. Hints of independent thought in the British cabinet (seems improbable). Best article of the week: The coming war on Iraq: Protest, don't grovel by Praful Bidwai. Best argument for massacre and terrorism: Europe must get serious on Iraq, by Christoph Bertram. Both in the World Opinion section. US OPINION * U.S. senator says Iraq action might start secretly [But this won¹t stop Senator Liebermann from continuing the age old US whining about the Japanese sneak¹ attack on Pearl Harbour.] * 'Bombing Saddam is ignorance' [Review of See No Evil, by ex CIA man, Robert Baer] * Iraq attack 'will end in chaos' [Further thoughts of Robert Baer] * Whack Iraq? Striking Hussein is ill-conceived [Some good points here, e.g. the only nation interested in attacking Hussein--us--is the one farthest from him. Why, asked one Chicagoan, should the United States worry about him when those closest to his threat, especially the other Arabs, don't?¹ and the article stresses that there isn¹t the slightest reason to assume that SH is a threat to the US or even to his neighbours (though it doesn¹t consider the Kurds). Unless, of course, someone attacks him.] * The objective is clear-topple Saddam. But how? [This article by Seymour Hersch in the New Yorker leaves us with the agreeable impression that the US administration and its planning for war on Iraq are in a total mess. And what is the role of the Rendon Group, a PR consultancy paid nearly $100 million dollars between 1991 to 1995 to handle Iraqi matters. Does it cost that much to make out a case against Saddam Hussein? Or, as seems to be implied here, against the INC? Extracts.] * As Europe fades away, USA will have to go it alone [Pat Buchanan, who responded very well to September 11th, (article in Pravda on 17th October, News, 14-20/10/01) and I thought was on record as opposing a war on Iraq, now seems to want the US to act as world policeman on its own. Whatever happened to the noble tradition the hope of the world of US isolationism? Here he argues that Europe is washed out because it is swamped by Muslim immigrants. But the US, he says, is thriving because of the high birth rate of legal and illegal immigrants.¹ Most of them, though he doesn¹t say it, come from South America. They may meet with his approval because they are supposed to be Roman Catholics, though they¹re just as likely nowadays to be Pentecostalists. But South America is where, after Sept 11, there was dancing on the streets.] * Saddam is the next US target [Interesting article in which Christopher Hitchens one of the few thinks out the implications of the contempt with which Ahmed Chalabi is being treated by the US political establishment.] * U.S. believes Russia is shifting on Iraq [An anonymous American official¹ has a chat with a journalist.] * Don't let Baghdad's game drag on [by William Safire. nuff said.] AND, IN NEWS, 2-9/3/02 (2) * A Kristol-clear perspective [Jerusalem Post account of William Kristol, one of the leading US advocates of war against Iraq. Extracts.] * Powell Says Bush Has Seen No Plans to Attack Iraq [Powell trashing the newspaper reports that suggested that Mr Blair was going to the US to discuss such plans with Mr Bush.] * Thoughts about America [Interesting article by Edward Said, torn between affection and despair over America. Pity if it only appeared in the Arab world. Extracts.] URLs ONLY: http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/03/wirq03.xm l&sSheet=/news/2002/03/03/ixworld.html * US PUTS THE FINISHING TOUCHES TO SADDAM WAR PLAN by Sean Rayment and David Wastell in Washington Sunday Telegraph, 3rd March Charles Heyman, the editor of Jane's World Armies¹, an enthusiast for this sort of thing, says: "Once Saddam has gone and America has the government in place to do its bidding, I believe it will need to keep at least 100,000 troops in the country to provide security for the new regime - and they could be in Iraq for years."¹ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2002/03/07/DD130368.DTL * IDEA: LET'S NOT INVADE IRAQ RIGHT NOW by Jon Carroll San Francisco Chronicle, 7th March [Spirited argument against the war written in the US equivalent of the literary style of The Sun. Difficult to know what to make of a remark such as this: Besides, the Iraqi people are really suffering already. We can take solace in that.¹] BRITISH OPINION * MPs 'will oppose' attack on Iraq [Radio 4 interview with Tam Dalyell] * War with Saddam is inevitable [This article manages to find a couple of occasions in which Iraq engaged in terrorism¹ one in 1978, the other in 1982 but it goes on to say that: the real reason for seeking Saddam's removal is his insistence on acquiring vast arsenals of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons which cannot be justified purely in terms of Iraq's own self-defence.¹ What, we wonder, does a country threatened by attack from the US need for its own self defence¹, according to the Telegraph (which, we may be sure, believes that Britain needs¹ a nuclear weapons capability as a deterrent¹. Given the effectiveness of the weapons inspectors in the early days when they really were weapons inspectors, some sort of biological capacity is surely the only option available to Iraq. As a deterrent. The US are sure they have it because they think they¹d be crazy not to have it.] * Blair to publish Iraq dossier [Though in our leak-prone culture it seems strange we¹re not getting any leaks to suggest it contains anything we haven¹t seen before.] * Hold fire on Iraq [Evening Standard editorial comment] * British MP Castigates Blair's 'Double Standards' on Iraq [Alice Mahon] * MP wants Iraq 'threat' published [Who¹s Jim Murphy? Obviously someone deserving of front bench status.] * Mr Bush's 'first friend' should warn him against going to war with Iraq [from The Independent] * Why is Blair banging the drum for an attack on Iraq? [Hugo Young opposes the warmongering. But weakly. He takes Joschka Fischer as an example of an admirable response. But we all know which way Joschka Fischer will fall if finally he gets pushed.] * Saddam must allow weapons inspectors into Iraq or suffer the consequences [by Jack Straw] * Blair would follow Bush to Baghdad, but then what? [Slightly dissenting voice in The Times. But she still wants the weapons inspectors in.] * If it¹s war on Saddam, can Blair sell it to his party? [Summary of present state of opinion. Where there is an opinion. ie not in the Conservative Party. mentions Scott Ritter¹s views on whether or not Iraq has a significant chemical or biological capacity.] AND, IN NEWS, 2-9/3/02 (3) * Blair faces threat of resignations over Iraq * Ministers step back from new war on Iraq * Galloway apologises for calling minister a liar * Time up for Iraq [Times editorial] * Kennedy tells his members they have to 'grow up' to take on Tories [Some quite sensible comments from Charles Kennedy, who, before going to war with Iraq, requires not just proof that Iraq should possess WMDs but also evidence that there is a willingness to use them¹.] URLs ONLY: http://observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,661037,00.html * LET GO OF DUBYA'S COAT-TAILS by Mary Riddell The Observer, 3rd March [A wandering article which eventually winds up with this conclusion: Should an elusive salvation still exist for Iraq, it lies in targeted sanctions, more food aid, plus global co operation on weapons treaties and regional action on oil smuggling. Mr Blair should press for those and unhitch himself fast from the Bush game of swagger and double jeopardy.¹ Incidentally, when Mary Riddell refers to Old Testament notions of good and evil¹, she indicates that she isn¹t very well acquainted with that most morally complex of sacred texts.] http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/07/wirq07.xm l&sSheet=/news/2002/03/07/ixnewstop.html * COUNTDOWN TO WAR ON SADDAM by Toby Harnden and George Jones Daily Telegraph, 7th March [General roundup of developments which includes this rather touching quote: A Bush administration source told The Telegraph that it had never been doubted that Britain would join the Iraqi campaign. Acknowledging opposition elsewhere in the world, he said: "When we say we might have to go it alone, 'we' really means 'you and us'."¹] WORLD OPINION (from India, Pepe Escobar, Australia, Germany, Georgia, China) * The coming war on Iraq: Protest, don't grovel [A fine article with a clear-eyed view of the major driving force of politics at the present time the US bid for world domination. A short but good account of the weapons inspections¹ in Iraq. One complaint. Richard Garfield¹s figure of 350,000 children under 5 dying since 1990 is quoted (as a conservative estimate) but it isn¹t stated that this is twice the 1980s figure so the excess figure is in fact 175,000.] * Bush vs Saddam: The empire strikes back [My admiration for Pepe Escobar fades a little after this fairly routine account of the difficulties facing the US over Iraq. Though it starts well highlighting the central dilemma: how do you affect regime change¹ in Iraq without handing it over to its Shia majority, which is unacceptable to Saudi Arabia?] * The lone ranger [Interesting to see anxiety about US imperialism coming from Australia of all places. And quoting Michael Ignatieff of all people. And even George (Lord¹) Robertson! Though there¹s still a bit of an atmosphere of We¹d like to kick some ass, too. Please.¹ about it.] * Europe must get serious on Iraq [German commentator says what the US wants to hear. Surprise, surprise. He presents his argument as a defence of the authority of the United Nations. These people need to be told that the authority of the United Nations is only worth preserving if it really is the united nations. Alas, the greatest enemy of the united nations is the US and after it the UN Security Council with its five permanent veto wielding powers. Also, when you¹ve systematically and deliberately murdered hundreds of thousand of people over a period of ten years in peacetime¹, you cease to have any moral authority whatsoever.] * Georgia Won't Allow Its Airfields to Be Used for Attack on Iraq * China Hopes to See Positive Result from UN-Iraq Dialogue URL ONLY: http://atimes.com/front/DC08Aa02.html * ASIA: LOW-HANGING FRUIT IN THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS by Scott B MacDonald Asia Times, 7th March [I haven¹t included this for reasons of space but its an interestingly blatant statement from a private consultancy firm of the US intention to establish full hegemony over Asia. This is presented as an exciting opportunity for the Asians.] IRAQI/UN RELATIONS * UN Arms Expert No 'Cosmetic' Inspections in Iraq * Meeting Scheduled on Iraqi Sanctions [Some elements not in the previous article] * If mission is timetabled inspectors could return to Iraq: Paper [The Iraqi position on inspectors hasn¹t changed. Nor could it, given the obvious truth of the following two assertions from Babil: "One of the main reasons for our opposition to the return of inspectors is because the Americans want them to remain indefinitely, which means continuing the unfair embargo,"² and "The US administration is determined to attack us whether we authorise the return of inspectors or not,"¹. * 'So Far So Good' Annan Says of Iraqi Talks * Iraq is converting donated aid trucks into rocket launchers, claim US chiefs [Note that the purpose of this is to justify blocking Iraq from having access to trucks. But, given the nature of the weaponry that is being assembled against Iraq, is there no-one out there prepared to hold this sort of thing up to the contempt and derision it deserves?] * U.S. backs new round of Iraq-U.N. talks [Some interesting items here. Russia wants a mechanism for the lifting of sanctions; Blix assures the Iraqis that UNMOVIC is different from UNSCOM (thus confirming that there was something wrong with UNSCOM).] AND, IN NEWS, 2-9/3/02 (4) IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * Iraq demands action from Arab summit * Turkish Delegation in Iraq to Boost Trade Ties * US likely to press Egypt over Iraq action [Apparently Egypt is, rather conveniently, once again in economic difficulties. All the help¹ they received from the US since the war on Iraq doesn¹t seem to have helped very much.] * Iran takes part in Iraq's Int'l Electrical Industries Exhibition * Baghdad wants Turkey to act openly in relations with Iraq * UAE urges clear Arab stand on threats against Iraq * Saddam blasts Arab peace plans for ME * Mideast Escalation Puts the Squeeze on Sharon [Desire for war on Iraq leads to pressure for peace in Israel/Palestine. But as pointed out last week (Attack on Iraq means peace talks in Mideast), all that is really wanted is a ceasefire that will conveniently coincide with the Iraqi campaign. Then when that¹s finished, Sharon can be let off the leash again ...] * Iraq, Pakistan denied entry to warlord [Gulbuddin Hekmatyar] OIL * Politics undermining Iraq oil industry: Report [from MEES] * Bula cancels Iraqi consultancy contract * Attack on Iraq to bring gas-pump gloom [Brief account of oil geopolitics, including this: The Central Asian bases are explained as necessary as the US plans for an extended global war on terrorism. But Baker (George Baker, oil analyst) says they can also be explained in the context of oil - and the potential for disruption in the Gulf oil-producing region if the US attacks Iraq. "Why are we building bases in the Caspian? Because we're trying to protect the stability of Caspian oil production," he says. "And why are we doing that? We need to have that oil production in place if we're going to risk losing Saddam Hussein's oil."¹ Which implies some rather long term planning.] IRAQI OPPOSITION * Iraqi opposition to Saddam [More experts telling us what we already know. Extracts on likely US support for the Iraqi army and for General Naguib Salihi, who, we are told is the least tainted by association with the Iraqi regime¹ though he only left the upper echelons of the Iraqi army in 1995 and must therefore have been involved in most of the crimes imputed to SH. And does Fiona Symon realise, we wonder, how profoundly shocking her first sentence is?] URL ONLY: http://www.ctnow.com/news/opinion/op_ed/hc will0304.artmar04.story?coll=hc%2Dheadlines%2Doped * How Brittle Is Hussein's Regime? Hartford Courant, 4th March [Interview with Ahmed Chalabi. Nothing new, except perhaps, the Samson option.¹ SH sends a bomb with VX poison gas which kills 100,000 Israelis. Problem is it would also kill thousands of Palestinians so it seems unlikely. The article gives the impression Chalabi is making it up as he goes along.] INSIDE IRAQ * Renowned Iraq Poet Killed * We will fight to the finish: Tariq Aziz [One of the very rare occasions in which any Iraqi leader is allowed to express himself at length. Needless to say its in a French newspaper.] * Iraqi Kurdish Leader Against US Intervention in Iraq * American talks with Kurdish sides to topple Saddam * Explosions at broadcasting center near Baghdad [Since it appears that the INC have claimed responsibility for this act of terrorism we expect the immediate arrest of all their leading representatives and the freezing of their assets.] ENFORCING THE EMBARGO * Trial for a Swiss company over selling pipes to Iraq * Warship returning home after Iraq mission ["Our successes in the Gulf are testament to the professionalism, enthusiasm and tremendous team spirit of my ship's company. I expect them to receive a terrific welcome home from their friends and family - they certainly deserve nothing less." for having boarded 10 ships in two years and having stolen £4 million worth of Iraqi oil.] * Iran Protests U.S. Interception of Tanker REMNANTS OF DECENCY * Merchants hope to help hungry by selling dates from Iraq [in Canada] * Protesters fear war against Iraq [Protest in London, 1st March] * German peace movement to demonstrate against US attack in Iraq IRAQIS OUTSIDE IRAQ * Iraqi refugees strike back at Australia [Story of refugees accused of threatening to drown their babies] US OPINION http://www.reuters.co.uk/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=655525 * U.S. SENATOR SAYS IRAQ ACTION MIGHT START SECRETLY Reuters, 3rd March [But this won¹t stop Senator Liebermann from continuing the age old US whining about the Japanese sneak¹ attack on Pearl Harbour.] WASHINGTON: A leading Democrat has said that U.S. action against Baghdad might begin without notification to Congress to allow President George W. Bush "to employ surprise in attacking or going against the leadership of Iraq." Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat and former vice presidential candidate, criticised the Bush administration for generally failing to consult enough with members of Congress in the ongoing war against terrorism, telling CBS's "Face the Nation" program: "The administration could at this point do a better job of involving members of Congress in some of the discussions about where the war is going." But Lieberman made a blunt distinction with regards to Iraq and efforts to overturn President Saddam Hussein. Bush's recent declaration of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" bent on pursuing weapons of mass destruction fuelled speculation the U.S. administration would act next against Saddam, whose regime survived the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War. Bush has warned Saddam his country will face the consequences if he does not allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return, and also has reportedly approved a covert plan to topple Saddam. Iraq denies it has any weapons of mass destruction. "The president should consult with members of Congress as his administration it seems to me has clearly turned a corner here and made a judgment that it is critically important to American security to change the regime in Baghdad," Lieberman said. "But I think you have also got to give the commander in chief the right to employ surprise in attacking or in going against the leadership of Iraq," the senator added. "And therefore, consultation, but it may be that we will not have an actual congressional resolution until after activities or actions have begun in Iraq." Lieberman was one of 10 leading members of Congress who have urged Bush to make Iraq the next target in the U.S. war on terrorism, saying it had reinvigorated its weapons programs since U.N. inspectors left in December 1998. Another senator who joined the effort, Arizona Republican John McCain, told CNN's "Late Edition" program, "Saddam presents a clear and present danger to the United States" and should be removed from power. "The administration and others are discussing and planning whether to pursue diplomatic, economic and other means," said McCain, a former presidential rival to Bush. "The United States I think has to examine all options. I don't think there is going to be a precipitous invasion of Iraq but I do believe that we have to explore the options necessary for a regime change," he said. Lieberman also hailed the Middle East peace proposal recently outlined by Saudi Prince Abdullah, calling it "a significant development." "The United States should seize this moment of opportunity, send a high-level, permanent ... representative to stay in the Middle East and use the Abdullah plan as a way to begin to create negotiations," Lieberman said. McCain called the plan "an important framework" the United States must embrace in the face of "a terribly, terribly explosive situation." NO URL * 'BOMBING SADDAM IS IGNORANCE' by Henry Porter The Observer, 3rd March Review of See No Evil, by Robert Baer, Crown Publications £12.99 Robert Baer, the ex-CIA man in Iraq during the failed uprising in 1995, says the US is not in a position to strike against Iraq because it does not understand anything about the country Robert Baer's objections to an attack on Iraq could hardly be principled. As the CIA's point man in Iraq during the failed uprising in 1995, he encouraged dissident groups to believe that the United States wanted the overthrow and death of Saddam Hussein. Yet Baer, whose memoir of life in the CIA, See No Evil, is published in Britain tomorrow, is appalled at the idea of a US strike against Iraq today. 'If the US is to bomb Saddam and his army until there is no army, what comes after that? No one is discussing the ethnic composition of Iraq or what Iran is likely to do.' Few in America appreciate the tribal ethnic and religious faultlines that run through the Middle East as Baer does. Iraq is particularly divided. In the south there is a Shia majority which now looks to Iran for support. Occupying the geographical and political centre of the country are the followers of the Sunni sect, which includes Saddam's tribe, and in the north are the Kurds, who are split into two warring parties, the PUK and the KDU. 'The US is in no position to rejigger this because we don't understand anything about the country. If I were the Iranians, for instance, I would try to set up a state in southern Iraq and add three million barrels a day to my account. That could begin to rival Saudi Arabia. Of course, I don't know this is going to happen, but the US government doesn't know either. The heart of the debate is about taking out all Saddam's tanks in a couple of weeks.' Baer worked for the CIA's Directorate of Operations for 25 years, with postings in Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Tajikistan, India and Europe. His devastating portrait of the agency's decline adds much to the understanding of why America was caught off guard on 11 September, but as important is what he has to say about American sluggishness when it comes to institutional reform. Towards the end of his time, he searched CIA computer for files on subjects that interested him, for example, the Pasdaran (the Iranian Intelligence service), the Saudi royal family and Syria. 'You know what? There was nothing there. Nothing. They didn't have anything. That's America now, you know. It can't reform.' After a quarter of century abroad, Baer hardly recognises the States and is appalled at the level of public ignorance. 'There is no debate,' he says. 'People will not address the question of Palestine in the context of the World Trade Centre attacks. It's not in the terms of the discussion. They simply believe that Israel has the right to defend its democracy like the US does. They don't understand that Israel gives no democratic rights to the Palestinians whatsoever. They don't see that it's not a democracy.' An affable but watchful man in his late forties, Baer is aware that the CIA is mightily displeased with his first literary effort. It can't help that the book has been on the New York Times ' bestseller list for four weeks in a row; that Warner Brothers bought an option and hope to develop the project with the team that made Traffic ; and that Baer is never off US television, often doing three national shows in an evening. He seems to have few regrets about leaving the CIA. 'I would rather drive a taxi than serve in the CIA,' he says convincingly over lunch at the Alistair Little restaurant in West London. 'Don't ask me how it happened, but the people who work in it just don't match up to the people who got to Silicon Valley or the people who make cruise missiles or design derivatives.' It's in the innocuous detail that Baer's book is telling. At one point he remembers taking over from a female officer in the Paris station and being handed her list of contacts and agents. When he followed them up, he found that instead of using them to gather intelligence she had been trying to recruit them to a religious sect. The serving US ambassador to France was also involved in the sect. When the two of them were observed handing out leaflets in the street, the French security service thought some kind of operation was in progress. With good reason he is a pessimist about the CIA and US foreign policymaking. Examples of incompetence abound in See No Evil . In 1986, he was contacted in Germany by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood who wanted a meeting. He went to Dortmund and listened to Syrian con tacts propose an intelligence alliance against President Assad. He wrote up a report (on a typewriter, whose ribbon he destroyed afterwards) and sent it to the US embassy in Bonn. A message came back that they weren't interested. But that was not the last he heard of it. In the wake of 11 September, 16 years later, the FBI contacted Baer to say that associates of the Syrian contacts had been involved in al-Qaeda. That channel, closed down so peremptorily, might have led them to Mohamed Atta. Over lunch we circled the problem of Iraq. He mentioned that it is easily within Saddam's power to forestall the long-announced air attacks from US bases in Diego Garcia. He could, says Baer, 'simply move his tanks into Syria and proclaim that he was going to liberate the Palestinians', thus pitching Israel into a war with an Arab state. If there is a fault in Baer's analysis of the Iraqi problem, it is that while he acknowledges Saddam's willingness to use force against civilians he does not believe that the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction is anything but defensive. Baer says we should look at it through Saddam's regional mentality and that his chief concern is, as it always has been, Iran. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1853000/1853894.st m * IRAQ ATTACK 'WILL END IN CHAOS' BBC, 4th March A former CIA agent has said that a US invasion of Iraq could cause untold chaos in the Middle East. Robert Baer, who belonged to the CIA's directorate of operations for more than 20 years, also said the US Government does not have a game plan when it comes to Iraq. "There is no plan," he told Tim Sebastian in an interview for BBC HARDtalk. "What terrifies me is that if the US attacks Iraq, destroys Saddam's army - which is what really holds the country together - it's going to break up ethnic and religious groups." "If you destroy the army, the chances of Iran invading the south are very high." US President George W Bush has demanded that Saddam Hussein allow checks by UN weapons inspectors, who left Baghdad in 1998 ahead of a US-led bombing campaign. Mr Baer who was part of the team that helped to organise an abortive coup attempt against Saddam Hussein in 1995, went on to say that it was likely the Iraqi president would evade a US attack. "I think Saddam could pull a rabbit out of his hat, he could let the UN inspectors back," he said. "If worse came to worse he could turn his army over to Arafat - I mean he's capable of doing anything - and say I'm going to liberate Jerusalem." In the interview, Mr Baer also predicted the demise of the interim government in Afghanistan, saying that "it won't last until June". He went on to call Afghanistan "ungovernable" and said that different warring groups will soon move in and carve up the country. "I think once the snow melts, people are going to start fighting," he said. [.....] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi 0203030506mar03.story?coll=chi%2Dprintperspective%2Dhed * WHACK IRAQ? STRIKING HUSSEIN IS ILL-CONCEIVED by R.C. Longworth. Chicago Tribune, 3rd March Well, that was a tidy little war in Afghanistan. We won, more or less. Not many casualties, and we caught a few of those Al Qaeda guys, if not the big shots. What's next? Why, Iraq, of course. It's time to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Everyone agrees. So why not? Actually, there are lots of reasons why not. But Washington seems so intent on attacking Iraq, as the first point on President Bush's "axis of evil," that bombs will be falling on Baghdad before any questions are asked or objections raised. The United States is racing toward a war with Iraq on the assumption that we can topple Hussein quickly, with relatively few casualties, no impact on oil supplies, no damage to our relations with the rest of the world, no serious domestic opposition, and no hitches in putting a post-Hussein Iraq back together again. All this is debatable, to say the least. But the administration seems determined, and the Democratic opposition has been quieted by the president's 83 percent approval ratings. In short, although questions emerged in the past week about the president's long-term plans, nobody in Washington is saying, "Wait a minute." If there are doubts beyond the Beltway, they aren't being heard in any coordinated way. Memories of Sept. 11 remain fresh. The nation, terribly wounded but still dangerous, seems ready to lash out at its enemies, wherever they are. Administration officials talk approvingly of a national "war fever" that gives Bush a free hand in eradicating the "axis of evil." Public opinion polls back this up. One of the most recent, by the Pew Research Center, showed that 92 percent of Americans endorse military force in the war on terrorism and no less than 73 percent want to see us attack Iraq--and Sudan too. As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "If we have to go into 15 or more countries, we ought to do it." This amounts to a mandate for permanent war in which dissent is treason. No wonder doubts are hushed, even among opposition Democrats such as Al Gore who have abandoned their duty to oppose in favor of a national wartime consensus. If the administration thinks Americans want war, it may be right. Or it may be wrong. Pollsters say in-depth polling and focus groups indicate that this support is softer than the raw figures suggest. Mounting anecdotal evidence supports this. About 20 prominent Chicagoans gathered recently for a private dinner to hear an emissary from the Eastern Establishment lay out the administration's case for a war on Iraq. It was a conservative crowd--lawyers, business people, bankers, a sprinkling of academics, even a retired army general. All probably supported the war in Afghanistan, and there wasn't a card-carrying dove in the lot. Somewhat to their own surprise, these citizens lined up unanimously against a war on Iraq. All agreed the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein. But all felt that a U.S. attack on him would do more harm than good, for a variety of reasons. First, Hussein's terrorist credentials are pretty theoretical. The idea of attacking him arose after Sept. 11, and the administration has made him a target in the war on terrorism. Certainly, he has a fearsome arsenal of weapons. But there is no evidence that he has used them against the United States or plans to do so. Evil he may be, but few people think he is so crazy as to jeopardize his hold on Iraq--his overwhelming political goal--by inviting an all-out U.S. attack. The one link between Iraq and the September attacks is a reported but unsubstantiated meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, between an Iraqi agent and one of the suicide pilots--a flimsy justification for a pre-emptive war. "Iraq is going to be a major distraction from the war on terrorism, not a part of it," one lawyer said. The Chicagoans' dissent was no bleat of Midwestern isolationism. Just the opposite. All valued America's alliances, in Europe and the Middle East especially, and felt that a unilateral attack on Iraq would shred those alliances, turning the U.S. from a global leader, respected by its allies, into a global bully feared by its subjects. (Seventy-three percent of Americans may favor an attack, but opposition in Europe runs between 68 percent and 80 percent, depending on the poll.) The administration says the Europeans and the Arabs will support a U.S. attack "when they see we are serious." This is unproven wishful thinking. So is the claim, by Richard Perle, a leading hawk, that other Arab nations privately tell us that they want Hussein gone and that his ouster by U.S. arms "would be met by dancing in the streets." In fact, the only nation interested in attacking Hussein--us--is the one farthest from him. Why, asked one Chicagoan, should the United States worry about him when those closest to his threat, especially the other Arabs, don't? "I'm stunned by the enthusiasm of the administration for this war and the growing unanimity among military thinkers for it," a local expert on the Middle East said. "There's going to be a huge Arab backlash." The word from Washington is that any attack on Iraq is probably six or seven months away, because it will be more complicated than the relatively easy assault on Afghanistan. An Afghanistan-style attack, with air strikes supporting mostly opposition forces, won't work in Iraq, where the local opposition is weaker and the government forces stronger than the ones in Afghanistan. According to Washington hawks, an American ground force of 100,000 to 200,000 soldiers, possibly more, would be needed. This, we are assured, would guarantee victory within a month, with American casualties limited to about 1,000 dead and wounded. To some of the Chicagoans, these forecasts sounded like government assurances during the Vietnam War. Others wondered where the Pentagon expects to find staging areas for these ground troops. Carrier groups can provide a home base for an air war, but you can't launch tanks from an aircraft carrier. Washington seems certain that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring nations will gladly play launching pad to this American attack. On Kuwait, that view may be right. The rest are much more uncertain. It is an article of faith among the hawks that there is a ready-made anti-Hussein coalition in Iraq that can be quickly mobilized to plant a functioning democracy in what is perhaps the most undemocratic country in the most undemocratic part of the world. As Robert Kagan and William Kristol have written: "The United States will have to make a long-term commitment to rebuilding Iraq . . . and put it on a path toward democratic governance." To the Chicagoans, this sounds like a quagmire. Most strategists consider the best-known Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, to be a joke. Even supporters of an invasion warn that the U.S. will be left "owning" a shattered country of 23 million people. Putting Iraq back together again would cost American taxpayers about $10 billion dollars per year for a decade. Simply running Iraq and keeping it from breaking into fiefdoms, each with its own cache of leftover chemical weapons, would be an international nightmare. If the war goes on longer than predicted, or if the casualties mount, or if the war against terrorism turns into a war against the Arab world, or if post-Hussein Iraq becomes an ungovernable mess, or if the Americans can't catch Hussein (as we can't find Osama bin Laden)--if any of these things happen, domestic support for an Iraq adventure will dry up fast. The best argument for attacking Iraq is the danger that Hussein is close to acquiring nuclear weapons and using both them and chemical weapons against his neighbors or against us. But even Kagan and Kristol admit that "no one knows how close Saddam is to having a nuclear device." Perle agrees: "How close is he? We do not know. Two years, three years, tomorrow even? We simply do not know." Candid ignorance, while endearing, is a feeble battle cry. So is the assurance that Hussein intends to use his weapons of mass destruction against us. If he did, any domestic opposition to an attack on Iraq would vanish, as it did when Afghanistan-based terrorists protected by the Taliban launched their slaughter in September. Hussein knows this. At the moment, though, the opposite is true. Little evidence exists of Hussein's links to terrorism, at least outside the Middle East. If, despite this, we attack him, we give him every incentive to unsheathe his own chemical, biological and (maybe) nuclear weapons. The first targets would be the U.S. troops invading his country. This line of reasoning argues that Hussein can be contained without an attack. This is not so stirring as an assault on the "axis of evil," but it avoids a cure that might be worse than the disease. And there's a precedent. President Ronald Reagan labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire," a model for Bush's "axis of evil" speech. But once Reagan identified the evil empire, what did he do about it? He certainly didn't launch a military attack. Instead, to his everlasting credit, he did what all his predecessors since Harry Truman had done, which was contain the Soviet Union with a policy of military, economic and diplomatic pressure. Late in his presidency, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to end the Cold War, Reagan had the courage and generosity to accept that offer. Russia is still a problem but no longer an enemy. If history repeats itself in Iraq, it will be no bad outcome. NO URL * THE OBJECTIVE IS CLEAR-TOPPLE SADDAM. BUT HOW? by Seymour M. Hersh New Yorker, 11th March [.....] The normal planning procedures have been marginalized, according to many military and intelligence officials. These usually include a series of careful preliminary studies under the control of the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But now there is far less involvement by the Joint Chiefs and their chairman, Air Force General Richard Myers. As one senior Administration consultant put it, the military's planning for Iraq is operating "under V.F.R. direct"-that is, under visual flight rules, an air-traffic controllers' term for proceeding with minimal guidance. The interagency dispute has, at times, become personal. The Pentagon's conservative and highly assertive civilian leadership, assembled by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has extraordinary influence in George W. Bush's Washington. These civilians have been the most vigorous advocates for early action against Saddam Hussein, arguing that his access to weapons of mass destruction, and his proven willingness to use them, make him a threat to world security. The leaders of the State Department, who are more restrained in their planning, accuse the Pentagon civilians of confusing dissent with disloyalty; Pentagon officials, in turn, accuse Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, of a loss of nerve. "It's the return of the right-wing crazies, crawling their way back," one of Armitage's associates said, referring to Wolfowitz's team. "The knives are out." One senior State Department official angrily told me that he would "meet them"-his "pissant" detractors in the Pentagon-"anytime, anywhere." In return, one of those detractors depicted the State Department's behavior as "unbelievably personal and vitriolic. Their attitude is that we're yahoos-especially those of us who come from the far right. The American Enterprise Institute"-a conservative think tank in Washington-"is like Darth Vader's mother ship for them." [.....] In previous Administrations, such interagency fights were often resolved by the national security adviser, now Condoleezza Rice. But the National Security Council has been weakened recently by a series of resignations and reassignments, some of them said to be the result of internal bickering. The N.S.C. currently has no senior Iraq expert on its staff. Bruce Riedel, the longtime ranking expert on the Middle East, moved overseas recently on a sabbatical, and the person who recently filled in as the N.S.C.'s Iraq expert, an intelligence officer on loan from the C.I.A., went back to the agency after only a few months at the White House. A third regional expert left the N.S.C. this winter after a series of policy disputes with civilian officials in the Pentagon. With no replacement in sight, a former official told me, the N.S.C. has been forced to "farm out" papers on important issues to the C.I.A. and the State Department. [.....] The N.S.C.'s lack of high-level expertise on Iraq has created a planning void which is now being filled by retired Army General Wayne Downing, an expert on special operations. President Bush brought Downing in after September 11th as an adviser on combatting terrorism. The General has also served as an ad-hoc adviser to the Iraqi National Congress, the most prominent Iraqi opposition group. Both Perle and Luti argue that any move against Iraq should involve the I.N.C. and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, who, with the C.I.A., planned a coup attempt that failed against Saddam in 1995. Downing recently hired Linda Flohr, a twenty-seven-year veteran of the C.I.A.'s clandestine service who, after retiring in 1994-her last assignment was for the top-secret Iraqi Operations Group-went to work for the Rendon Group, a public-relations firm that was retained by the C.I.A. in 1991 to handle press issues related to the Iraqi opposition, including Chalabi and the I.N.C. The firm, headed by John Rendon, who once served as executive director of the Democratic National Committee, was paid close to a hundred million dollars by the C.I.A. over the next five years, according to an I.N.C. official. Last fall, the Rendon Group was retained by the Defense Department to give advice on how to counter what the government considered to be "disinformation" about the American war effort in Afghanistan. The firm was also retained by the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence, which was eliminated last week after the Times reported that it would provide foreign reporters with "news items, possibly even false ones." (Rendon's contract with the Pentagon was not cancelled, however.) Flohr also worked for a private business-it manufactured bulletproof vests-founded by Oliver North, the former marine and Reagan Administration N.S.C. aide who was fired for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. [.....] The C.I.A. and the State Department are now accelerating their efforts to forge a coalition of former Iraqi military men and opposition groups, with the goal of convincing the steadfast Chalabi supporters that a new approach could work-without I.N.C. involvement. The key participants, known to some C.I.A. officials as the "gang of four," include representatives from the fiercely anti-Saddam Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; its archrival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party; the pro-Iran Supreme Islamic Council for Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite resistance group; and the Iraqi National Accord, headed by Ayad Allawi, a doctor who left Iraq in the seventies. The factions are now meeting regularly in London, and the long-sought concept of a broad opposition-without Chalabi-is "gaining mass," a former C.I.A. operative said, in part because of what other Iraqis see as Chalabi's arrogance and high-handedness. "Chalabi has succeeded in galvanizing the opposition against him," according to one intelligence official. In recent months, Allawi and a number of former Iraqi military officers have attended meetings-more like auditions-with C.I.A. officials in various hotels in suburban Virginia, and a large conference of Iraqi exiles is planned for later this month in Washington. The C.I.A.'s brightest prospect, officials told me, is Nizar Khazraji, a former Iraqi Army chief of staff who defected in the mid-nineties. As a Sunni and a former combat general, Khazraji is viewed by the C.I.A. as being far more acceptable to the Iraqi officer corps than Chalabi, a Shiite who left Iraq in 1958. Chalabi earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago and established a large bank in Jordan. He has no formal military background. A former station chief for the C.I.A. in the Middle East told me, "It would be ridiculous to tie our wagon to Chalabi. He's got no credibility in the region." Chalabi and his allies have, in recent months, endorsed what amounts to a public-relations campaign against Khazraji, alleging that he was involved in a war crime-the 1988 Iraqi gassing of a Kurdish town, a claim Khazraji denies-and suggesting that he may be a double agent. "There's a huge firestorm over Chalabi that's preventing us from reaching out to the Iraqi military," a former C.I.A. operative told me. "It's mind-boggling for an outsider to understand the impasse." [.....] http://www.usatoday.com/news/comment/2002/03/05/ncguest1.htm * AS EUROPE FADES AWAY, USA WILL HAVE TO GO IT ALONE by Patrick Buchanan USA Today, 5th March U.S. foreign policy is "absolutist and simplistic." America has gone into "unilateralist overdrive," thunders Chris Patten of the European Union, a Briton and a friend. Patten echoes the British, French and German foreign ministers, the last of whom, Joschka Fischer, rails that "a world with 6 billion people will not be led into a peaceful future by the mightiest power alone." Shocked by the "axis of evil" speech, enraged over the green light President Bush flashed Ariel Sharon to crush the Palestinian intifada, terrified that a U.S. war on Iraq could detonate the entire Middle East, Europe has begun to challenge the United States openly condemning U.S. treatment of the Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ignoring U.S. sanctions on Iraq and Iran and calling for a Palestinian state. Has Europe just come down with a case of the "vapors," as Secretary of State Colin Powell suggests? No, there is more, much more, to this clash than the usual outbreak of bed-wetting whenever the Yanks go for their gunships. Europe wants out of America's imperial wars, because Europe, cockpit of history for five centuries, is finished. Europe is dying. Kiss the Mother Continent goodbye and along with it the salad days of the American-European alliance. In researching my new book, I could not find a single European nation, save Muslim Albania, with a birth rate to enable it to survive in its present form through mid-century. The United Nations projects Europe will lose 124 million people by 2050, equivalent to the entire population of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. In 1950, peoples of European stock were nearly 30% of the world's population and in the midst of the greatest baby boom in their history. By 2050, they will be down to just over 10%. One in three Europeans will be over 60, and one in 10 over 80. Some European nations already report more burials than births. Not since the Black Plague has Europe seen a population collapse like this. Meanwhile, the Third World will add between 3 billion and 4 billion people by 2050 the equivalent of 30 to 40 new Mexicos. As the nations of Europe age, they have three choices if they wish to maintain their generous pension and health-care systems for the elderly: Raise retirement ages and slash health and pension benefits. Double or triple taxes on their shrinking number of workers. Import hundreds of millions from the Third World. Just to maintain the current 4.8-to-1 ratio of working-age population (ages 15-64) to seniors (65 and above), Europe must import 1.4 billion people by 2050. Where will they come from? North Africa, the Middle East and the ex-colonies of the old empires. And the consequences for a continent that has never experienced mass immigration are at hand. Last summer, race riots erupted in the British Midland towns of Bradford, Burnley, Oldham and Leeds. In Paris, Algerian toughs stormed a soccer field during a game with France, chanting Osama bin Laden's name as terrified Parisians locked themselves in skyboxes. Moroccan youth are returning to the Spanish towns from which their Moorish ancestors were expelled in 1492. Islam has begun to reconquer Europe. If you would see the future, look to Italy. When Rome recently advanced a law to expel 300,000 illegal aliens, an amendment was added to allow nannies and caretakers for the elderly to stay. The United Nations estimates that Italy will need 235,000 immigrants every year just to maintain its population stability. By 2050, Italy's median age will be 54, some 13 years older than the nation with the oldest median age today, Japan. Meanwhile, Italy fends off regular boatloads of Muslim aliens. With 12 million to 15 million Muslims in Europe, Islam has surpassed Judaism as Europe's second religion and is its most vibrant, for as the Christian churches of Europe empty out, the mosques are filling up. There are more than 2,000 mosques in Germany and 5 million Muslims in France. In the first year of the 21st century an Islamic Century? an estimated half-million illegal immigrants entered Europe. Europe's Muslims now act as a powerful disincentive to Europe's involvement in any war against Islamic nations, just as the Irish served as an impediment to any rapprochement between Britain and America from the 1850s to the eve of World War I. In the 1860s, the Fenian Brotherhood tried to incite war between the USA and Great Britain with repeated raids into Canada. In 1888, a letter praising President Grover Cleveland, written by the British ambassador in Washington, cost the envoy his post and helped to cost Cleveland the presidency. In 1896, Republicans advanced William McKinley's election prospects by issuing a pamphlet titled, How McKinley is Hated in England. Europe wholly dependent on Arab and Gulf oil, fearful of terrorism from the al-Qaeda cells being unearthed across the continent, aware that Muslim resistance and possibly riots will erupt if it joins a U.S. war on Arab or Islamic nations, its own population aging and vanishing can never again be relied on to help fight U.S. wars in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf or Central Asia. The birth rate of America's native born is also below replacement levels, but an estimated 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants yearly, and their children, keep the U.S. numbers steadily rising. We are on our own. If America intends war against Bush's "axis of evil," do not expect French, British or German troops marching up to Baghdad beside us, or standing with us as we confront Tehran. The halcyon days of the Great Alliance are over. Any U.S. war in the arc of crisis from the Middle East to Central Asia will be fought without NATO. Europe is done. Her crusades are history, her empires gone, her glory and greatness behind her. Europe wants to enjoy her golden years in peace and quiet consumption, as she slowly passes away. Best we leave her alone with her memories and her scrapbooks. Ave atque vale, Europa. Hail and farewell, Europe. Patrick Buchanan's newest book is The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/dynamic/news/story.html?in_review_id=513536&in _review_text_id=477470 * SADDAM IS THE NEXT US TARGET by Christopher Hitchens. London Evening Standard, 5th March The news of the American military losses on the Pakistan/Afghan border will have come as a blow to more than their immediate relatives. The Pentagon has been too accustomed to a daily "casualty-free" briefing. Public opinion was also becoming used to a war without pain. And then, not often included in the circuit of compassion, one might spare a thought for those who hope to see American troops in their own far-off front-lines. Consider Ahmed Chalaby. He has been for some years the symbolic and actual head of the Iraqi opposition. In Kurdistan, he has stood between contending factions at the risk of his own life. His supporters, in the nightmare city of Baghdad, have produced and distributed newspapers which mimic the official masthead on the front page and contain witty and subversive abuse of the Saddam Hussein regime on the inside pages. His other supporters, risking a frightful death, have been collecting information rather than distributing it, and have amassed some information concerning the whereabouts of the Ba'ath party's weapons of mass destruction or, as we now laconically refer to such things, WMDs. Why should it be, then, that during Chalaby's most recent visit to Washington, the Bush administration should behave as if he does not exist? One or two reporters were willing to meet with him, but the attitude of officialdom was to affect a polite surprise that he should have turned up in the capital of the free world at all. (At least this may have helped Chalaby to escape the earlier insult hurled at him - namely that he was a pliant tool of the CIA and a puppet of American design.) As far as anyone is allowed to know, or tell, he left town with no more than a promise that Washington would help him with a radio station on which to broadcast some anti-Saddam propaganda. But what a contrast between this almost shame-faced policy and the operatic, grandiose themes of official Bush administration bombast. To hear the off-the-record whispers and promises is to give ear to the most splendid themes. An army of 200,000 Americans and Europeans, slowly forming on the old frontier of Mesopotamia. A bold stroke across the border, taking the capital and rousing the masses. Depending upon which briefing you hear, a possible Turkish incursion from the north, bringing Nato troops into possession of the oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul (and thus at last allowing the West to wave two fingers at the gruesome Saudis and their oilblackmail). These and many other fantasies are eagerly debated in the District of Columbia. But one has to inquire how it is that an American government, so apparently decided on a new Iraqi regime, can afford to be so indifferent to the actual Iraqi opposition. One could phrase the question in this way: what does America want? The options are these. Suppose you design an Iraqi dictatorship tailored to the requirements of the West. This would be a Sunni Muslim military government, based on a strong and centralised Baghdad system, and preferably organised through and by a secular and nationalist political party. Everybody in Washington, and I mean everybody, has long thought that this is the ideal solution. Well, the problem - moral and diplomatic - is that this is the Ba'ath Party system as it exists today. Except that the ideal regime is led by a megalomaniac with a potential Saladin complex. "The Bush administration," one Iraqi dissident put it to me," wants Saddamism without Saddam." Let us hope that this is not true. However, it would partly explain the bizarre box on which American policy now finds itself. Do the Bush people want a revolution, in which the Kurds of the north and the Shi'a Muslims of the South finally take the revenge on the central government that has oppressed them and massacred them? Evidently not. Do they want a shift of power between the confessional factions, in which sympathisers with Iran might gain the advantage? Again, evidently not. Do they want an invasion, during which Saddam Hussein might deploy his weapons of mass destruction against Israel? Or do they want a military coup, to instal a system that merely does their bidding? One asks these questions because the Bush family, pere et fils, has now had more than a decade in which to answer them. And because much depends on the answer. Most analysts agree that Saddam Hussein is within a measurable distance of acquiring doomsday materials. Given the margin of calculation that has been operating since 11 September, few prudent governments would bet against the idea of "first use". But then, these same prudent governments have also bet that a Saddam-like system is the most stable solution both for Iraq and the region. Anyone who has ever played a "prisoner's dilemma" game will recognise the conundrum. The Bush administration has now passed the point of no return. It has staked its manhood and credibility on the boast that the Saddam Hussein regime cannot outlast this year. Only this week, the figure of Baroness Thatcher was produced in Washington to amplify the point. But, if Thatcherite fortitude was all that was needed, Baghdad would have been a sea of cheering faces welcoming Western troops 12 years ago. It may be a sea of cheering faces a few months from now, for all one knows. But in that case, why are the faces of Iraqi democrats now so glum? Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. http://sunspot.net/news/nationworld/bal te.diplomacy05mar05.story?coll=bal%2Dnews%2Dnation * U.S. BELIEVES RUSSIA IS SHIFTING ON IRAQ by Mark Matthews Baltimore Sun, 5th March [An anonymous American official¹ has a chat with a journalist.] WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is becoming more confident that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin will not oppose possible military action against Iraq, a senior official said yesterday. If Russia were to agree, it would mark a major shift from the policy that the Kremlin has pursued since the late 1990s, when Moscow became Baghdad's principal defender in the United Nations Security Council and pushed for an early end to sanctions against Iraq. The administration is beginning to prepare the diplomatic ground for military action to remove President Saddam Hussein if he continues to bar U.N. weapons inspectors from Iraq or blocks their access to sensitive sites. Unlike the Clinton administration, which used airstrikes merely to try to force Iraq to cooperate with the inspections, the Bush team has made clear that its goal in any new military action would be to end Hussein's regime. The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has been involved in recent talks with the Kremlin. He said conversations with Russian officials indicate that the kind of Russian cooperation already evident in the U.S.-led war on terrorism might now extend to Iraq. "I think they acknowledge our analysis that if the Iraqis refuse to let the inspectors in, or obstruct the inspectors once they are in, they're in violation of 687," the official said, referring to the U.N. resolution laying out the terms of the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Russia also agrees that if the cease-fire has been violated, "the authorization to use force comes back into effect," the official said. A Russian Embassy spokesman, Yevgeniy Khorishko, declined to comment on the U.S. official's statements other than to say, "We are cooperating with the United States in the U.N. on the Iraq issue." http://www.iht.com/articles/50069.html * DON'T LET BAGHDAD'S GAME DRAG ON by William Safire International Herald Tribune (from New York Times), 5th March WASHINGTON: Saddam Hussein, faced with the certainty of a U.S.-led overthrow of his brutal regime, has restarted the business of postponing the attack until he can finish making weapons of mass destruction. He is taking advantage of a tiny opening that George W. Bush gave him. Bush warned of what diplomats delicately call "regime change" in Baghdad unless Saddam acceded to the United Nations' demand that its inspectors be allowed back into Iraq. That ultimatum leaves Iraq the chance to find a little wiggle room. Accordingly, Saddam has begun the drawn-out process of negotiating who will do the inspecting and who will not. He wants months of wrangling over the makeup of the UN team, to be followed by another negotiation over where the selected inspectors can go and where they must not, and yet another about how long a warning germ doctors get before a "surprise inspection." Iraqi gaming of the Security Council began last Friday. Saddam's man at the United Nations, Mohammed Douri, said Iraq would not permit the return of the inspectors chosen by the United Nations, led by chief inspector Hans Blix, because Iraq was certain that the group was compromised by U.S. spies. However - here comes the delaying gambit - Saddam is inviting Prime Minister Tony Blair to send in British inspectors. Blair has already claimed to have evidence of a dangerous Iraqi weapons buildup. What, asks Saddam, could be fairer or more reasonable than to let Britain see for itself that all such evidence is false? Unless Secretary-General Kofi Annan shows unexpected spine in his Thursday meeting with Saddam's man, that gambit would buy Iraq more time. Three other members of the Security Council, France, Russia and China, all ardent believers in Saddam's continuance in power, would lean on the United States not to be so bellicose as to insist that the United Nations hold fast to its stand. In the Senate, Daschle Democrats, eager for some popular way to criticize Bush's war on terror, will worry aloud about "insulting our closest ally" by not deeming Britain capable of conducting intrusive inspections. Bush should get on the hook to London to make certain that Blair does not allow Saddam and his appeasers to drive a wedge between the two nations leading the war on terror. He should tell Kofi Annan that to allow the makeup of the UN inspection team to be dictated by Saddam would make a mockery of Security Council authority. He should inform the other permanent members of the Security Council that the only inspection team that can prevent U.S. action against Iraq is the team - augmented by U.S. surveillance equipment - that Saddam now refuses to accept. He should send Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld to the Senate's Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees to urge nail-nibbling Democrats not to be fooled by Saddam in his long-expected attempt to jerk America around again. And he should send Saddam a much more specific ultimatum, this time with less wiggle room: Unless the team chosen by the United Nations, with U.S. participation, is on the ground in Iraq, absolutely unencumbered, by a date certain - that's it. Even if forced to accept the experienced UN team, Saddam, needing a few more months to weaponize his germ arsenal, is sure to employ the same rope-a-dope with which he harassed previous UN inspectors. He will penetrate the team's communications, enabling his mobile laboratories to scatter in advance of inspection. He will raise objections to searches of pristine mosques and sovereign palaces and charge American inspectors with espionage. Let's not get taken in again. Nuclear-bound Iraq has had three years unobserved. Time is on Saddam's side. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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