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A. Straw struggles to convince MPs of need for attack, Guardian, 13 March B. Iraqis search for a successor to Saddam, Guardian, 13 March C. Battered Straw hit by waves of friendly fire, Guardian, 13 March D. Wedded to another war, Guardian, 13 March [opinion piece by Johnathon Freedland] E. Saddam could have a nuclear bomb in five years, says Straw, Independent, 13 March F. If Saddam would fall, Bush should push him, The Times, 13 March [opinion piece by Simon Jenkins] G. Iraq 'is on the brink of nuclear capability', The Times, 13 March H. Straw faces down critics of 'gung ho' Washington, Daily Telegraph, 13 March I. Straw gets the point, Daily Telegraph, 13 March [leading article] Independent: firstname.lastname@example.org Guardian: email@example.com Telegraph: firstname.lastname@example.org Times: email@example.com [Remember to include your address and telephone number!] Iraq's been pushed off the front pages today but there's still plenty of coverage, mostly focussed on Straw's meeting with Labour backbenchers yesterday (reported in A, E, G and H). Interestingly the 10 page briefing document prepared for this meeting acknowledges - in contrast to what Mr Blair has been saying - 'that there is no firm evidence that President Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction at present' (G). Ever the joker, Straw argued that we must act against Iraq to 'uphold the authority of the United Nations' (A). In a similar vein the briefing document stated that 'no one who is serious should contemplate the prospect of military action unless there is the clearest possible evidence of the necessity of that military action.' Since the US and Britain have clearly done much more than mere 'contemplation' one is forced to conclude - by logic - that they are not 'serious'! The Telegraph noted that Straw had emphasised that any action against Iraq should be 'consistent with international law' and were 'heartened ... to hear the Foreign Secretary express appreciation of the dangers faced by Israel and condemn Iraq as a producer of weapons of mass destruction.' (I). [For some reason Straw failed to 'express appreciation of the dangers faced by Iraq' - threatened with illegal military assault by the world's only superpower - and did not 'condemn Israel as a producer of weapons of mass destruction.'] Simon Jenkins (F) finds it 'reassuring' that 'the only global policeman ... has cornered a dangerous criminal', though he is strangely silent about how the proposed assault fits into 'the framework of international law and order' - Tony Blair's sixth condition 'for military intervention in the affairs of "undemocratic and barbarous" states.' Jenkin's central concern is that the 'test of military feasibility is as yet unmet', though he acknowledges in passing that 'sanctions have killed tens of thousands' and that 'the West is not about to establish democracy in Baghdad, any more than it was in Kabul.' It's been pointed out to me that David Polden from ARROW (Active Resistance to the Roots of War) had a letter in Monday's Guardian, regarding the Pledge of Resistance (www.justicenotvengeance.org). I'd missed that. Keep on writing! Best wishes, Gabriel ******************************************************* A. Straw struggles to convince MPs of need for attack Michael White, political editor Wednesday March 13, 2002 The Guardian Jack Straw told MPs last night that action to curb Saddam Hussein's "accelerating" weapons programmes must be taken to uphold the authority of the United Nations - not to undermine it. Under cross-party pressure not to follow America's lead, he revealed that new British and US intelligence evidence shows that President Saddam is working to increase his ballistic missile and nuclear potential as well as resuming biological and chemical experiments. Both sides accept that US-UK sabre-rattling is partly designed to frighten Saddam into accepting back UN weapons inspectors - though ministers are adamant that action will have to follow if the tactic fails. Critics fear it will further destabilise the Middle East and voiced their fears in the Commons and later at a "good-natured" private meeting with 50 backbench Labour MPs. What was clear from both sessions is that British and US ministers refuse to accept the link critics make between a new squeeze of Baghdad and progress to stop the carnage in Israel and the occupied territories. Mr Straw also used President Saddam's domestic abuses of human rights and his defiance of UN security council resolutions on arms inspections to argue that any steps eventually agreed if diplomatic and political pressure fails will reinforce UN authority, not corrode it. But the foreign secretary's warning that the evidence against Baghdad is "overwhelming and compelling" failed to persuade sceptical MPs on all sides of the Commons. Though the shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, offered Conservative support for whatever action is deemed necessary to resolve the threat, other senior Tories joined Labour and Liberal Democrats in urging caution. The former Tory cabinet minister Douglas Hogg challenged the wisdom of military strikes during Foreign Office question time. "Many of us do not believe there is established sufficient requirement for that." David Winnick, the veteran leftwinger, said MPs would need to be persuaded that the military option - rather than the smart sanctions policy now under active consideration - is "absolutely essential". Loyalists believe that formula will isolate the 30 or so hardcore opponents of most recent military interventions. Critics argue that constituency activists also regard an unprovoked attack on Iraq as a line Labour must not cross. Mr Straw repeated concerns that 31,000 chemical weapons munitions, and 4,000 tonnes of "precursor" chemicals were left unaccounted for by the UN inspectors forced out of Iraq in 1998. He cautiously deployed post-1998 intelligence data to claim that since Operation Desert Fox the Iraqi ballistic missile programme has been repaired, nuclear procurement resumed and biological/chemical programmes maintained. Mr Straw insisted that UN inspectors be allowed renewed access "to all relevant sites, to be allowed to inspect freely wherever they want to". Ewen MacAskill adds : As Vice-President Dick Cheney arrived in Jordan yesterday to begin rallying Arab leaders to the US cause, a defiant Saddam Hussein described his mission as "futile". But Arab diplomats say most of the region's leaders would be glad, their public positions notwithstanding, to see President Saddam go. ******************************************** B. Iraqis search for a successor to Saddam · Big Four draw in every opposition group · Washington engineers Bonn summit · Cheney woos Arab leaders Brian Whitaker Wednesday March 13, 2002 The Guardian The United States is orchestrating secret contacts between Iraqi opposition factions with the aim of finding agreement on a new leader to replace Saddam Hussein. A grand opposition conference has been provisionally scheduled for May, and it is hoped to hold it in Bonn, symbolically echoing the Bonn meeting that set up the Afghan interim government. Meeting in May will increase pressure on Baghdad as the UN security council begins its six-monthly review of sanctions, which is expected to be the trigger for a confrontation between the US and Iraq. London has become a hub of opposition contacts, especially those involving the so-called Group of Four: the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Supreme Islamic Council for Revolution in Iraq and the Iraqi National Accord. They have been meeting regularly and discreetly for several months, but in the past few weeks have intensified the pace to "almost daily hectic activity", according to an insider. They are making strenuous efforts to draw smaller opposition elements - some with as few as 20-50 members-into the fold. Hamid al-Bayati of the Supreme Islamic Council said 15 groups, including representatives of Iraq's Turkmen and Syrian-Christian minorities, had helped to prepare a joint presentation to the Foreign Office minister Ben Bradshaw last week. The aim was not to form a new umbrella group to compete with the US-backed Iraqi National Congress but to develop contacts with opponents of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. "We are contacting military officers, leaders of tribes and others. We are also in constant contact with the [US] state department," he added. Ostensibly the conference is intended to discuss the future of Iraq after President Saddam, but many expect an alternative leader to emerge. Jockeying for position among the Iraqis is likely to be overshadowed by Washington rivalries. Some suspect the state department will try to marginalise Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress. A Shi'ite Muslim who was convicted of fraud in Jordan but maintains his innocence, he is loathed in the state department and the CIA but has strong support in Congress and parts of the Pentagon. "If the state department is going for broke against Chalabi, the fight will be protracted," an independent Iraqi analyst said. "He has powerful friends." One scenario is that Dr Chalabi's influence could be reduced by cajoling him into an alliance with Brigadier-General Najib Salihi, a rapidly rising star in the opposition who is due to have talks at the Foreign Office today, 24 hours after a visit there by an INC delegation. He is regarded as widely acceptable to Iraqis, since he comes from a large tribe - the Beni Salih - which embraces Sunni and Shia Muslims and some Turkmen. Moreover, he has studiously avoided giving the impression that he is seeking power. Speaking to the Guardian yesterday he called for a multi-party system in Iraq "representing all groups and respecting all religions". Four of Iraq's neighbours Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are also trying to establish influence before the Bonn summit. ***************************************************** C. Battered Straw hit by waves of friendly fire Kevin Maguire Wednesday March 13, 2002 The Guardian New Labour regimental tie straight, suit jacket buttoned up, shoes shined, Jack Straw stood at the despatch box yesterday and took his punishment with all the dignity he could muster. Wave after wave of incoming fire, much of it friendly, hit the foreign secretary as he stood, alone, against Saddam Hussein and his evil Iraqi regime. If the opposition was seated across the chamber on the Tory benches, the real enemy was behind the minister on his own side. At times he raised his voice to be heard over the barrage of hostile questions, listing a deadly arsenal the Iraqi dictator has developed to threaten the rest of the world Missile parts had been buried in the desert ready to be assembled when the balloon goes up, with other weapons of mass destruction concealed in railway tunnels. Then there were the sarin and mustard gases, nerve agents, anthrax, botulinum toxin, gas gangrene and "precursor" chemicals trotted out by Mr Straw to frighten doubters. But he failed to blunt the Labour attacks. David Winnick warned that MPs who backed action in Afghanistan were unlikely to support strikes in Iraq, Derek Foster that an international coalition was impossible, and Tam Dalyell claimed even the king of Jordan was worried. Gerald Kaufman and Richard Burden called for an arms embargo against a violent regime in the Middle East - Israel rather than Iraq - as the Liberal Democrats raised the tricky, and unanswered, question of why Britain is threatening to send armed forces to impose UN resolutions on Baghdad, yet not on Jerusalem. The rout was complete when in answer to Labour MP Malcolm Savidge's criticism of a trigger-happy Republican White House, the foreign secretary went too far. "I have not yet met members of the Bush administration who are gung-ho," he said with a straight face. Either Mr Straw needs to get out and about more (usually not a problem for a foreign secretary) or George Bush and Dick Cheney should be able to clean up in the libel courts. The good news for Mr Straw is that he did have an ally. The bad news is that it was Michael Ancram. The bumbling Tory foreign affairs spokesman, a Woosterish character who plays a guitar and sings folk songs, offered his support. "Nothing must be ruled out," whimpered Mr Ancram. Oh how Mr Straw must have wished for criticism to persuade his Labour enemies to confront the Conservative opposition. Alas George Galloway, fresh from his bout with junior minister Ben Bradshaw, declined to join in the baiting or enjoy the sight of his tormentor once again opening his mouth and putting his foot in it. Taunted by George Osborne, one of the brighter of the new Tory intake, about excitable stories about cabinet splits over Iraq, Mr Bradshaw tried to occupy moral ground he was unable to reach. "I don't think that question was worthy of the honourable member," he replied, until howls of protest forced a two-second u-turn. "OK it was," he added, having the good grace to blush. The other main lecture was reserved for Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe. Tory Richard Ottaway condemned "murder, violence, intimidation, gerrymandering, corruption and arson" in that country's elections. Mr Straw promised a full statement once the facts were clear. "This will not be possible immediately if it is at a weekend," he admitted. If Mugabe is planning a coup, he should stage it on a Saturday, Sunday, every second Friday or wait until the fortnight Easter recess. At 3.30pm a shellshocked Mr Straw left for another beating, this time in private, at the hands of the parliamentary Labour party. How he must pine for those carefree days as home secretary. ******************************************************** D. Wedded to another war The looming prospect of a US attack on Iraq is provoking challenges to Blair at home and to Bush abroad Jonathan Freedland Wednesday March 13, 2002 The Guardian Will Young could marry Vanessa Feltz. It is, at least theoretically, possible. Yet not many of us stay up nights worrying about that. Even fewer would start a campaign to stop it. Why? Because we've not seen any evidence that it's going to happen. Dick Cheney thinks there is a "potential marriage" between terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida and states bent on developing weapons of mass destruction, such as Iraq. He offers no evidence of this "marriage," just the possibility. It may be as likely as a white wedding for Ms Feltz and the Pop Idol crooner, but the mere chance of it is enough for the United States to threaten war - and to corral the rest of the world into a coalition to fight it. The vice-president's motive is clear enough. Washington wants US and world opinion to see the rematch against Baghdad as Phase Two of the war against terrorism, and that means forging a link in the public mind between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The trouble is, the facts are proving stubbornly uncooperative; the Iraqi connection just refuses to exist. There was some talk last year of a meeting between terrorist ringleader Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi contact in Prague, but there's been nothing conclusive. Rumours of a Baghdad school for hijackers - complete with its own luggage-screening x-ray machine - have also yielded nothing you could take to court. So we are left with the "potential marriage" of Saddam and Bin Laden as justification for going to war on Iraq. And that thin basis for action is just one of the multiple problems thrown up by the current US effort to prepare the ground for Gulf war II: the sequel to George Bush Snr's 1991 battle against Saddam. Politically and militarily, at home and abroad, the confrontation with Iraq is spelling trouble for Bush Jnr - and any leader who stands at his side. Start close to home. Tony Blair's implicit backing for a new US onslaught on Baghdad - his diligent effort to soften up public opinion, warning once again of "the threat from Saddam" on Monday - is prompting a rare challenge from within his own ranks. Part of it is principled opposition to military action against an Iraq already ground down by a decade of punishing sanctions: that probably explains Clare Short's position, along with 70-plus MPs on the backbenches. But the Iraq question has also provided an outlet for a clutch of other grievances pent-up over recent months. Robin Cook's opposition may come down, as his critics suggest, to enduring soreness at losing the Foreign Office. More generously, it may also be rooted in a wider feeling that Blair is too dismissive of parliament: he wants greater Commons consultation on Iraq and a whole lot more. Similarly, Gordon Brown - often accused of maintaining a politic silence on foreign adventures that could be unpopular with the Labour tribe - is not, apparently, unhappy with the substance of the Blair position: he too is said to support a hard line on Saddam. But it would not be a surprise if he had misgivings about the presidential style of Blairite foreign policymaking - "too personal, too 'I' oriented," says one Labour source - and Iraq is providing a handy opportunity to demand a more collective approach. Blair's "one man show" style of diplomacy certainly prompts grumbles, only partly placated by last week's cabinet session on Iraq (which some fear was more for show than for real). The PM is criticised for being too slavishly loyal to Washington, insufficiently European, and for forgetting the "roots of terrorism" agenda which he highlighted in his Brighton speech last year. Mindful of that, Blair apparently conceded that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was "still a factor" during that cabinet discussion. The wider worry for the prime minister is that the Baghdad business has become a lightning rod for assorted Labour discontents. Party insiders admit that under the high-minded cover of this weighty international dilemma are seething some basic, domestic complaints - about the Mittal affair, the "wreckers" speech on public services and a general sense that "we don't know where we're going". In other words, Iraq has become a valve for a variety of internal party pressures. George W has no such problems. As this week's ceremonies marking six months since the attacks proved, Americans remain grief-stricken and angry: they will, says one seasoned observer, back any attack on anybody in the name of the war against terrorism - at least at first. So winning public approval for a new assault on Iraq is not Bush's headache. It is international backing that is more tricky. Hence the backdrop of 179 national flags at Monday's White House address, hence the mention of the 16 partners who helped take on the Taliban, hence the speech's final line, "May God bless our coalition." Hence, too, the vice-president's current 11-nation tour. This sudden shift to multilateralism has come late; six weeks ago the administration was in full "axis of evil" mode, ready to take on the world alone. The optimistic reading of the change is that Washington has realised that they have been handling the Iraq issue all wrong. Surprisingly for a team packed with veterans of the first Bush team, they have broken every rule in the playbook from Gulf war I. That campaign had a clear, unarguable provocation and justification: the invasion of Kuwait. There is no such cause here, only the fear of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons - a fear that's been lurking for years and not gained any special urgency now - or that highly dubious marital prospect between Saddam and Osama. Second, Bush the First gained strength by appearing to stretch every sinew in his search for a diplomatic solution that might avoid war. Baghdad was offered successive deadlines to withdraw; finally Secretary of State James Baker held 11th hour talks with Tariq Aziz in Geneva. To no avail, but at least Washington seemed to be choosing war as a last resort. This time, with no full-throttle UN effort demanding access for a new batch of arms inspectors, force has seemed the weapon of first and only choice. Third, there is none of the Arab support that made the 1990-1 Gulf war viable. Cheney's mission is obviously meant to win them over, but it's a tall order. The Saudis, nominal joint commanders last time, are begging America to stay away now. Kuwait will not allow itself to be used as a base for US troops. Turkey fears any attempt to stir the Kurds against Baghdad will only energise Turkish Kurds against Ankara. Nor are Shias in southern Iraq likely to join the American effort: they feel betrayed by Bush's father, who called on them to revolt, only to abandon them to their fate. Their backers in Iran are not exactly on side with the Bushies either, not since they were lumped into the axis of evil. George W may have inherited the motive for hitting Saddam from his dad - this is nothing if not a dynastic settling of scores - but not the strategic acumen. So far the US pursuit of Iraq is making enemies where it needs to make friends. That's bad news for Bush, but it's not great for his British best buddy either. ******************************************************************** E. Saddam could have a nuclear bomb in five years, says Straw By Ben Russell Political Correspondent Independent 13 March 2002 Iraq could develop a crude nuclear bomb within five years if its weapons programme is allowed to continue, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, warned last night. In a briefing paper handed to Labour backbenchers, he warned that Iraq could also resume production of its chemical and biological weapons. Mr Straw presented the briefing to Labour backbenchers at a meeting last night designed to allay fears about possible US-led military strikes aimed at overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The paper warns: "If Iraq's weapons programmes remain unchecked, Iraq could redevelop offensive chemical and biological capabilities within a very short period of time and develop a crude nuclear device in about five years. Without the controls they would have developed a nuclear weapon by now." The International Atomic Energy Agency thwarted Iraq's attempts to develop a nuclear weapon but the UN weapons inspectors have not carried out intrusive checks since 1998. Mr Straw spent more than an hour fielding questions about the situation in Iraq from more than 40 Labour backbenchers. Earlier he told MPs: "There is huge published, compelling evidence about Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime's complicity in the production of weapons of mass destruction." There are deep anxieties in Labour ranks about the prospect of strikes on Iraq, with the number of MPs signing a Commons motion urging caution rising to 92 yesterday. ***************************************************************** F. If Saddam would fall, Bush should push him by Simon Jenkins The Times March 13 2002 Many people in Europe, many of them in high places, think Washington has gone mad. Drunk on bomber power, its leaders are seen as roaming the globe looking for rogue states to “blow away”. September 11 plus any abstract noun will do as an excuse. The paranoia of McCarthyism is reborn. He who is not with me against terror, says George Bush, is soft on terrorism. In response, Britons should first remember history. Twenty years ago, Britain and the United States also fell out over an enemy. Britain claimed that a brutal tyrant, General Galtieri, had assaulted its territory in the South Atlantic. He had to be defeated and aggression taught a lesson. America advised against overreaction. Let us negotiate and keep calm, said Washington, since Galtieri was “our friend”. An outraged Britain invoked the old alliance. America compromised. It would not fight shoulder to shoulder against aggression, but it would send gasoline and missiles. Thus was the Falklands war won. Now America is the fundamentalist and Britain the restrainer. Despite Afghanistan, America still feels threatened by al-Qaeda and sees Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein as its next sponsor. It wants to prevent him from mobilising huge and illegal arsenals, reportedly replenished from Russian stocks. Like the Taleban, he must be toppled. America does not need support and cares not who agrees with it or what international law might say. Those days are over. Solitary might is right. But it would like Britain at the party. It feels more comfortable that way. Iraq is not Afghanistan. The Taleban were flaky fanatics. I believe that with determined diplomacy, covert action and proper arm-twisting the Saudis would have sprung Osama bin Laden by now, and probably felled the Taleban as well. Iraq, on the other hand, is a big country under a single mad dictator. He exterminates his enemies and wipes whole tribes off the map. His treatment of the Kurds and Marsh Arabs transcends any claim to sovereign invulnerability. His illegal chemical and biological weapons are described by innumerable defectors as capable of widespread dissemination. Whether or not Saddam can deliver a nuclear device, his recruitment of Russian scientists indicates that he wants to try. He has reportedly spent $10 billion building a nuclear weapons capability. He has Scuds and missile launchers. The Taleban offered house room to a bunch of demented criminals, whom the West’s inept security allowed to pull off a coup. Saddam runs a terror state of a wholly different order. It would be eccentric not to see him as a serious menace. The West’s policy towards Iraq before and after the Gulf War has been cynical. He was armed and financed by the West before 1990. After the war he was not toppled, rightly because it would have been illegal and would have broken the coalition formed to evict him from Kuwait. Since then, all attempts to dislodge him have been cosmetic and counterproductive, especially the “Monica” bombing of 1998. Saddam has been bombed, off and on, for a decade. Sanctions have killed tens of thousands of his people. These measures were known to be propping up his regime and enriching Saddam and his clique, making him allegedly the sixth wealthiest man in the world. His family finances were left open at European banks. British law officers still obstruct any attempt to indict him for war crimes. Yet cynicism is the default mode of foreign policy. It in no way affects the present threat. Afghanistan was crude and punitive lynch-law that has failed to hang a single person guilty of September 11. Removing Saddam might be considered an act of preventive policing. Communist oligarchies during the Cold War could be relied on to negotiate rationally and assess risk. Saddam could go crazy with his weapons anywhere, any time. Is it likely? Possibly not. Possibly it is the more likely the more President Bush taunts him and pumps up his status in the Arab world. But I am not the policeman here. America is. Whatever the circumstance that has made him as dangerous as he is, he is dangerous, and dangerous beyond his borders. In this respect Saddam is quite different from others in the “axis of evil”. Britain’s response to America’s implied request for help is hard to calibrate. The only guide to British foreign policy at present is a speech that Mr Blair gave in April 1999 in Chicago. (His own Parliament was presumably thought too parochial for his oratory.) The Prime Minister laid down five conditions for military intervention in the affairs of “undemocratic and barbarous” states. These conditions, he said, were certainty of a just cause, British interests being at stake, diplomacy being exhausted, military feasibility and a readiness for “the long term”, to finish the job. Mr Blair thoughtfully added a sixth, that there should be a framework of international law and order, with “the UN as the central pillar”. Only one of these tests, military feasibility, applied in Afghanistan. Almost all apply in Iraq. Saddam flouts every convention on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and massacres his subservient peoples. There are clear Western interests at stake in oil and trade. Diplomacy has been exhausted, including the charade of weapons inspection. There is no security in the region as long as Saddam controls this pivotal state. What of military feasibility? Both Mr Blair and Mr Bush talk of “eliminating the threat of Saddam Hussein”. But does that involve eliminating him, or only his “threat” as evidenced in his weapons arsenals. If America knows what and where they are, as it claims to do, then why not destroy them again? America claimed to have done so with bombs in the 1990s. Given the precision weaponry of which the Pentagon constantly boasts, why not destroy them at once, eliminating the threat without all the sabre-rattling and talk of war? America, or at least some Americans, protest that this is no longer enough. If bombed again, Saddam may retaliate “dirtily” against Israel and persuade other Arabs states to join him in a jihad against America-Israel. He remains the only Arab leader who sent no condolences after September 11. He is sponsor of last resort for every world terrorist, the new Libya. He, and not just his weapons, must go. I have no problem with this, provided Saddam can indeed be removed and not propped up in office for another decade, as he was by John Major, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Yet removing him is now taxing the minds of strategic Washington with a naivety reminiscent of the early Vietnam War. Thus there is the “Northern Alliance” strategy, using Kurdish irregulars to advance from the north. This is widely rubbished as unfeasible. There is the Marsh Arab strategy to seize the southern oilfields. This too is rubbished. A plan leaves Saddam in Baghdad but deprives him of his oil. So what? Another seeks a land invasion from Jordan, albeit over King Abdullah’s body. Everyone proposes bombs raining down on command-and-control and “infrastructure”. Saddam’s Republican Guard are alternately as “flaky” as the Taleban or as “feared” as al-Qaeda. In other words, Mr Blair’s test of military feasibility is as yet unmet. But America might argue that Iraq is to be George Bush’s just war, as Kosovo was Mr Blair’s. A strategy will be forged and loyalty requires an ally, eventually, to give support. As for Mr Blair’s worry about the long term, Washington is likely to be just as brusque. The West is not out to establish democracy in Baghdad, any more than it was in Kabul. That was just Blair-talk. The task is to topple a rogue, as Voltaire said, “to encourage the rest”. The last thing Americans want to do is stay to get shot. Saddam was in part a monster of the West’s creation. Unlike other “terrorist” leaders, in Syria, Libya and Iran, he refuses to mellow or respect the compromises by which he might re-enter the community of nations. He has rearmed himself with dangerous and illegal weapons. Removing him is a task which the United Nations should support and law recognise. I do not think America is mad. As the only global policeman, it has cornered a dangerous criminal. That Washington should be arguing, furiously and in public, over how to deal with him is reasonable. It is also reassuring. ********************************************************** G. Iraq 'is on the brink of nuclear capability' By David Charter and Tom Baldwin The Times March 13, 2002 IRAQ could develop a crude nuclear device within five years unless its weapons programme is checked immediately, Labour MPs were told in a private briefing by Jack Straw last night. The Foreign Secretary was addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party over the prospect of British involvement in US military action against Iraq. He emphasised that no decision had yet been taken on opening a second front in the War on Terror, as well as his wish to explore diplomatic solutions. At the meeting, attended by about 50 Labour MPs, he faced more than a dozen questions expressing concern over the belligerent stance of President Bush and Tony Blair. Mr Straw said later only that it had been a “cordial” meeting. The briefing document prepared for the meeting underlined the threat Iraq poses to its own people, as well as its immediate neighbours. It pointed out that Iraq did not fully comply with any of the nine UN Security Council resolutions passed to constrain its weaponry since 1990. “The Iraqi regime is a demonstrable threat to the stability of the region as a result of its continued development of weapons of mass destruction. It also has an appalling human rights record with the widespread use of torture and mass execution of political detainees,” the ten-page document says. It adds that there is no firm evidence that President Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction at present, but says that they are understood to be hidden because UN weapons inspectors could not account for thousands of tonnes of chemicals used in weapons production. The briefing paper says: “If Iraq’s weapons programme remains unchecked, Iraq could redevelop offensive chemical and biological capabilities within a very short period of time and develop a crude nuclear device in about five years. Without the controls they would have developed a nuclear weapon by now.” In a final question and answer section, under the question “Are you preparing for military action against Iraq?” Mr Straw answers: “Experience has shown that no options can be ruled out with Saddam’s tyrannical regime . . . Military action is not ruled out. “We took action in 1998. Our aircraft in northern and southern Iraq regularly take action in self-defence. If Iraq threatened Kuwait or rebuilt its weapons of mass destruction, this would probably lead to military action,” it adds. Derek Foster, the former Labour minister who has been prominent among those MPs criticising military action, said after the meeting: “There was a lot of unease about us appearing to go along with a right-wing American adminstration. “But I got the impression that Jack is pretty reluctant about all this. He was pretty straight with the party and I think he is on the side of the angels.” There was also concern over the failure to put more pressure on the US over its pro- Israel policy, with Labour MPs suggesting that ending the bombing of Palestinian areas should be a higher priority. Mr Straw’s aide said: “We are engaged in the Middle East and in the last few days there has been further steps taken by both the EU and the US.” Mr Straw had been heckled earlier by several Labour MPs at Question Time when he called for understanding of the threat to Israel from suicide bombings. The Foreign Secretary insisted, however, that Israel allowed Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, to travel to Beruit later this month for an Arab summit and return safely. ************************************************** H. Straw faces down critics of 'gung ho' Washington By Benedict Brogan, Political Correspondent Daily Telegraph (Filed: 13/03/2002) JACK STRAW took on Labour backbenchers yesterday by issuing a sternly-worded defence of the United States and Israel, in which he praised President Bush for his "cautious and proportionate" approach to Iraq. As Labour MPs stepped up pressure on the Government to resist any American-led move towards war against Saddam Hussein, the Foreign Secretary said any decisions involving British forces would require the support of the Commons. His tough line bolstered Tony Blair's position against some in the Cabinet such as Robin Cook and Clare Short, who have expressed reservations about opening a new front in the "war on terrorism". On Israel, Mr Straw expressed sympathy for the death of "innocent Palestinians" but said Israelis faced "palpable terror". He urged MPs to consider what life in Britain would have been like if the IRA had used suicide bombers. Speaking in the Commons ahead of a meeting with Labour backbenchers, Mr Straw said there was "overwhelming and compelling" evidence that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and has tried to produce nuclear weapons. He reiterated the call issued by Mr Blair and Dick Cheney, the American vice-president, on Monday for United Nations weapons inspectors to be allowed back into Iraq. Foreign Office sources suggested the planned May meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Iraq could be a deadline. "The Iraqi regime represents a severe threat to international and regional security as a result of its continued development of weapons of mass destruction," Mr Straw told MPs. "Military action . . . cannot be ruled out in this situation but no one who is serious should contemplate the prospect of military action unless there is the clearest possible evidence of the necessity of that military action." Praising President Bush for his actions since September 11, Mr Straw batted aside claims from his own side that the White House was "gung-ho" and contemplating nuclear strikes against enemy regimes. "I have not met members of the Bush administration who are gung-ho," he told MPs. They had been "careful and cautious", he said. "The fact is that President Bush has taken decisions that are careful, cautious, proportionate, within international law and enjoy the support of the international community. "I have no reason to believe that any decision he takes in future will be any different from that." Faced with criticism from MPs on both sides of the House who voiced concern about the prospect of military action, Mr Straw said Iraq was in breach of 23 UN resolutions and proof existed of Saddam's campaign to obtain nuclear weapons. Some Tory MPs joined Labour backbenchers in challenging Mr Straw on Iraq. Douglas Hogg, a former agriculture minister, questioned whether the case for military strikes on Iraq had been made, and called for a Commons vote. Mr Straw said he would welcome a debate. Warned by several Labour MPs that the Government would have to prove that military action was necessary, he said it was right for people to be concerned. He was backed by Michael Ancram, the shadow foreign secretary, who said the international community had a duty to "stop Saddam and decommission his weapons". *********************************************** I. Straw gets the point Daily Telegraph (Filed: 13/03/2002) JACK STRAW'S debut on the Middle Eastern stage was not auspicious. After September 11, he put undue emphasis on righting Palestinian grievances as the way to counter the threat of global terror posed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'eda. And last month he misinterpreted George Bush's "axis of evil" address as a mid-term electioneering gambit. It was, therefore, heartening in the House of Commons yesterday to hear the Foreign Secretary express appreciation of the dangers faced by Israel and condemn Iraq as a producer of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Mr Straw criticised Ariel Sharon's policy of inflicting "maximum pain" on the Palestinians. But he called for understanding of the "intense political pressures" faced by the Israeli government in responding to Islamic suicide bombers. He then made a telling comparison with the terrorist threat faced by the British authorities in Northern Ireland: "I ask the House to understand and appreciate what it would have been like in this country had the terror from the IRA . . . been the terror of suicide bombs." On Iraq, the Foreign Secretary demonstrated that he is right behind Tony Blair on the need to deal with Saddam Hussein, though he emphasised that the response should be proportionate and consistent with international law. The Iraqi dictator's pursuance of WMD programmes represented "a severe threat to international and regional security". United Nations weapons inspectors, who left the country in 1998, should be allowed back in and given unfettered access to relevant sites. In the Commons yesterday, Mr Straw presented a strong case against those Labour MPs who see Mr Sharon as a Zionist bully and Mr Bush as an overweening cowboy. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq at least, he is now striking the right chords. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk