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News, 9-16/3/02 (3) EUROPE * Belgium calls on EU to send mission to Iraq * German FM unaware over US plans for post-Saddam summit [See Iraqis search for a successor to Saddamı under Iraqi Opposition. Someone had the bright idea that if the conference was held in Bonn it would like the conference to choose a government for Afghanistan. They neglected to inform the German government.] * Germany Says Would Need UN Mandate for Iraq Action [Though since Germany was behind the rogue attack on Serbia launched without a UN mandate this is a matter of choice, not of respect for the law.] IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * Iraqi Baath Party Criticizes U.S. Campaign Against Iraq [Account of a delegation to Indonesia.] * New Zealand Unlikely to Join Any Action Against Iraq * Vietnam VP leaves for tour of Iraq, India [Letıs hope sheıs able to pass on a few tips ...] * Russia rethinks its support for Iraq [This is just speculation but given the nature of V.Putin and the fact that he has now secured the support of the International Coalition against Terrorı aka the US for his war against the Chechens, it is credible.] * Russia denies it might accept anti-Iraq strikes IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * Some 3000 Iranian refugees to return home shortly: UNHCR[Iranian refugees in Iraq. Difficult to understand this unless they are supporters of the more secular Iranian tendencies.] * Jordan warns of catastrophe if US attacks Iraq * Jordan: tap line reopening reviewed by Saudi team [We are often told that Jordan has been sympatheticı to Iraq because it is dependent on Iraqi oil, which Iraq supplies free (which is really a very remarkable arrangement that doesnıt get enough attention, but it probably explains why Jordan has still managed to retain some shreds of sovereignty despite the malice of the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait at the end of the Gulf Massacre). This article reminds us that prior to the Massacre, they got their oil from Saudi Arabia as well as from Iraq, and had to pay for both. The Saudis turned the tap off and forced Jordan into Iraqıs embrace because of Jordanıs attempts to find a peaceful solution in the midst of the 1990/91 atmosphere of hysteria, which is now developing again.] * Cheney finds skepticism toward U.S. Iraq strategy on first Mideast stop * Syrian President Meets Senior Iraqi Officials * Egypt says Iraq may OK weapons inspectors * Iraqi Delegation to Visit Lebanon * Saudis to take hard line with Cheney against war on Iraq * Turkey Says Iraq No Threat, Should Not Be Attacked IRAQI/UN RELATIONS * Iraq wants equal treatment in U.N. talks [ie Iraq makes the obvious point that if its possession of trucks that could be converted into rocket launchers is a problem, the sanctions that have killed hundreds of thousands of people is also a problem.] * Iraq: no weapons inspectors * U.N. approves in payments of $1.8 billion for Iraq invasion of Kuwait DOUBTS AND QUERIES * Make war, not politics [Pepe Escobar continues to be disappointing on the subject of Iraq. A fairly average account of the countryıs tribulations picks up at the end with mention of the big profits there are to be made, notably by Alliant Techsystems, Raytheon and L-3 Communications, out of the war on Iraq.] * An Iraqi Campaign Faces Many Hurdles [Mostly views of ex-CIA men Kenneth Pollack and Whitley Bruner. Short extract giving reasons for hesitation. Including the weather. Too hot in the Summer, too rainy in November. Planning a war is almost as difficult as planning a holiday.] * Extending the war on terror: Prudent or paranoid? [Short extract from Bangladeshi article, expressing splendid contempt for the US victory in Afghanistan.] * It's Washington vs the united state of Iraq [Pepe Escobar again. Makes interesting point - if true - that Iraq after the Baath coup of 1968 was the first Middle East country to secure full competence in operating an independent oil industry. And the man responsible was one Saddam Hussein. Which helps to explain why they donıt like him.] * Dubious Iraqi Link [David Ignatius would probably prefer to find himself in the Idiotic Paranoia section, but he seems to have an odd, and wholly inappropriate, penchant for telling the truth and for treating lesser peoples (Europeans, Arabs) with respect. So here he is blowing the gaffe on the Czech connection. Or is he just trying to divert some of the paranoia away to Iran? Extracts.] * The inevitable war [Pepe Escobar on the irrelevance of the new UNSC resolution on a Palestinian state and the immorality of the proposed action against Iraq.] EUROPE http://www1.timesofindia.com:80/articleshow.asp?art_id=3502980 * BELGIUM CALLS ON EU TO SEND MISSION TO IRAQ Times of India (from AFP), 12th March BRUSSELS: Belgium suggested on Monday that the European Union quickly dispatch a high-level mission to Baghdad to convince Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to let UN arms inspectors back into his country. Such a mission proposed in a letter from Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel to his Spanish counterpart Josep Pique would give Saddam a last chance to avoid an attack by the United States. Spain, which holds the agenda-setting EU presidency, is to host a summit of EU leaders in Barcelona this Friday and Saturday where developments in the Middle East are to be discussed. Pique told reporters at the end of an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday that the Belgian idea "deserves our attention," but he stopped short of saying it would be on the agenda in Barcelona. "We have to continue to insist that UN resolutions be respected, particularly with regards to the return of inspectors," he said, reiterating the European Union's long-standing policy on Iraq. Baghdad has banned the inspectors since they pulled out of the country on the eve of a December 1998 US-British bombing blitz. Diplomatic sources said the letter was also sent to EU foreign policy high representative Javier Solana, and to Britain and France the two EU member states with permanent seats on the UN Security Council. "It is essential that the union act without delay," Michel wrote in his letter to Pique, a copy of which was seen by AFP. http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/23154056.htm * GERMAN FM UNAWARE OVER US PLANS FOR POST-SADDAM SUMMIT Berlin, March 14, IRNA -- The German foreign ministry said it was unaware over US plans for an Iraqi grand opposition conference, tentatively scheduled for May in Bonn, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said here Thursday. The summit is aimed at finding a consensus among major Iraqi opposition groups on a new leader to replace Iraqi President Saddam Hussein who is facing an imminent US military attack. The May conference coincides also with the UN Security Council's half-a-year review of sanctions against the Iraqi government. The former German capital Bonn became the site of a UN Afghan peace conference last December where Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai was nominated as the new head of the interim government in Kabul. http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=704798 * GERMANY SAYS WOULD NEED UN MANDATE FOR IRAQ ACTION Reuters, 15th March BERLIN: Germany would only engage in further U.S.-led military strikes, such as against Iraq, under the auspices of the United Nations, a government spokeswoman said on Friday. She said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had discussed the aftermath of the September 11 attacks when he met a group of intellectuals and publishers on Wednesday evening. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday that Schroeder, who has often declined to comment on what he describes as a hypothetical scenario, had said Germany would not join a purely U.S. attack on Iraq. Deputy government spokeswoman Charima Reinhardt confirmed Schroeder's view that any expansion of operations against what Washington have called "rogue states" would need United Nations approval for Germany to take part. Reinhardt added that Schroeder's comment did not mean there were any concrete plans to launch an offensive against Iraq. The comments were part of a "philosophical discussion," she said. [.....] IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2002-03/13/content_314968.htm * IRAQI BAATH PARTY CRITICIZES U.S. CAMPAIGN AGAINST IRAQ JAKARTA, March 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Leader of the delegation of the Iraqi Arab Baath Socialist Party, which is paying a visit to Indonesia, Wednesday criticized the United States for being the world's biggest terrorist nation. "The U.S. threatened to take military campaign on Iraq for allegations of producing mass destructive weapons. The fact is we have no weapon. We are no terrorist. However, we have prepared for the worst in dealing with the U.S.. We need our counterparts in Indonesia to understand the situation," leader of the delegation Latief M. Saif Jasim told reporters after meeting with Vice President Hamzah Haz here. Latief was quoted by the Antara News Agency as saying that the delegation's visit was aimed at improving inter-party relationship between the Arab Baath Socialist Party and major political parties in Indonesia. "The Arab Baath Socialist Party has very close relationship with Islamic parties in Indonesia, including Hamzah Haz-led United Development Party (PPP). We also tried to explain that Iraq and Indonesia in some degrees are facing similar threats from international community," he said. The delegation explained to the vice president unfair treatment they had received from the United Nations. The U.N. has imposed economic embargo on Iraq for around 11 years, leaving the country in serious problem of lacking food and cash. The delegation was sent by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to seek support from Indonesia. On Tuesday, the delegation members had a brief conversation with President Megawati Soekarnoputri in the sidelines of internal meeting of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in South Jakarta. PDI-P Secretary General Sutjipto told reporters that the delegation brought a mission to gain support from friendly countries including Indonesia, to help Iraq end the international suppression. "They asked for moral and political supports from Indonesia, that's the point of the meeting," Sutjipto said. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2002-03/14/content_315639.htm * NEW ZEALAND UNLIKELY TO JOIN ANY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ WELLINGTON, March 14 (Xinhuanet) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has said there are no plans for New Zealand to widen its military contribution in the war against terrorism beyond Afghanistan. The Dominion, a Wellington-based newspaper, Thursday quoted the prime minister as saying New Zealand's commitment to the international coalition against terrorism is linked to the terrorist attacks of Septemer 11 and the actions of the al Qaeda network and those who harbored them. "No links have ever been provided between Iraq and that, so it' s a completely different issue," she said. Her statement was a response to reports that the United States may target Iraq. New Zealand offered Special Air Service troops for the war in Afghanistan and they are understood to have been there since late last year. New Zealand has also sent peacekeepers to the region. Helen Clark suggested it is unlikely the United States would expect New Zealand to be involoved in a compaign targeting countries like Iraq. "I think they know New Zealand's commitment has been around the events and people and state of Afghanistan and anyone associated with al Qaeda," she said. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=3745870 * VIETNAM VP LEAVES FOR TOUR OF IRAQ, INDIA Times of India (from AFP), 14th march HANOI: Vietnamese Vice-President Nguyen Thi Binh left Hanoi for Baghdad on Thursday as she launched a 10-day tour of Iraq and India, foreign ministry officials said. She will be in Iraq until Sunday and in India until March 24. India has long been a close ally of Vietnam and was the only non-communist state to recognise the regime Hanoi installed in Cambodia after its 1978 invasion. Along with other radical Arab states, Iraq has maintained good relations with communist Vietnam since the days of the Cold War and awards it some 600 million dollars of business a year in imports under the UN oil-for-food programme. http://www.dawn.com/2002/03/15/int10.htm * RUSSIA RETHINKS ITS SUPPORT FOR IRAQ by Scott Peterson Dawn (from The Christian Science Monitor), 15th March MOSCOW: Whenever Washington set its sights on Baghdad, Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein knew he could count on Moscow for support. Before American bombs began to drop in the 1991 Gulf War , for example, then-Soviet Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov met Hussein at his presidential palace. Then months later, with the heaviest air campaign in American history under way, Primakov made a risky run for Baghdad - his convoy smeared with mud, and headlights off - to help Hussein find a face-saving way out. But now, despite Russia's continuing support for Iraq - Russia routinely backs Iraq in the UN Security Council, and mediated in the 1997 and 1998 US-Iraq crises - the Kremlin's view is changing. As Vice President Dick Cheney embarked on a tough-sell Mideast tour, to build support for Washington's expansion of its "war on terrorism" to include toppling Iraq's Hussein, analysts say the Kremlin is adjusting its priorities and maximizing its opportunities to collect billions in debt and oil deals. That result says as much about evolving US-Russia relations - and Putin's not-always popular, pro-West strategy - as it does about Moscow souring on Baghdad. "Russia's first objective is not to allow this military action in Iraq - whatever it might be - to jeopardize the level of US-Russia relations that has been achieved," says Oksana Antonenko, a Russia specialist at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. "Russia is quite fed up with (Saddam) anyway," Ms Antonenko says. "The judgment in the Kremlin is that if the US commits very strongly to action against Iraq, Russia would work within the broader coalition." Moscow's key demands will be to ensure that up to 20 billion dollars in debt arrears, current oil deals, and other contracts are respected; that Russia's interests are respected by any post- Hussein regime; and that any action is given at least a fig leaf of international legitimacy by the UN. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov - arriving in Washington for a three-day visit on Monday - made clear that "Baghdad must accept weapons inspectors under the UN aegis, to stop the concern of the world community." "September 11 really did mark a Rubicon in Putin's strategy," says Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state and head of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization in New Haven, Conn. Putin has "seized upon" the subsequent tolerance in Russia to build US-Russia ties "because of the common threat." "(Russians) also see Saddam Hussein as dangerous," Talbott says. "But they also have very real economic interests." Even more important, Talbott adds, is that Russia "not be yet again left aside, while Uncle Sam struts his stuff." Before Sept 11, Russia was fingered as a key proliferator of weapons-of-mass-destruction expertise, it opposed NATO expansion, and fumed at Washington's determination to pull out of cornerstone arms-control treaties. After Sept 11, the Kremlin barely whimpered when Bush announced the US was abandoning the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. With 15 billion to 20 billion dollars at stake - some 8 billion dollars in Soviet-era military debt, and billions more in oil deals - Russia is now calculating that a new regime could ensure a payback. That may be the Kremlin plan. "Putin believes that Russia's destiny is with the West," says Talbott. "That is where the money is. And he knows he needs that investment and support for Russia to make it as a modern economy." http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=3904635 * RUSSIA DENIES IT MIGHT ACCEPT ANTI-IRAQ STRIKES Times of India (from AFP), 16th March MOSCOW: Russia Friday described as "absolutely groundless" a report in the British daily The Times that Moscow might not object to possible US attacks on Iraq. The newspaper said in its Friday edition that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov hinted in an interview that Moscow would not back out of the US-led anti-terror coalition if Washington launched unilateral strikes on Iraq as part of its anti-terror campaign. "It would not be expedient to issue any ultimatums to say that we would withdraw from the coalition," The Times quoted him as saying in what the paper saw as a hint that it might not cut off its help in the US-led campaign. But foreign ministry spokesman Sergei Yakovenko said that Ivanov "spoke unambiguously against any unilateral armed action against Iraq," the Interfax news agency reported. He quoted Ivanov as saying that the strikes would "make not only the Iraqi settlement process but also the general situation in the region more difficult," Interfax said. Washington, and to a lesser extent London, has stepped up warnings that the alleged Iraqi development of weapons of mass destruction must be "dealt with," raising fears that the war on terror could soon be broadened to Baghdad. As quoted by The Times, Ivanov insisted that only the United Nations was authorised to take action against a country, and said Russia "cannot but be concerned" by unilateralism in US foreign policy. IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/18220438.htm * SOME 3000 IRANIAN REFUGEES TO RETURN HOME SHORTLY: UNHCR Mashhad, Khorassan prov, March 9, IRNA -- Spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Mohammad Nouri said on Saturday some 3000 Iranian refugees living now in Iraq would return to Iran early next Iranian year. In an interview with IRNA, Nouri quoted Head of the Baghdad-based UNHCR Office Daniel Bellamy as saying that the group of Iranians wishing to return home are part of 23000 Iranians living in the refugees camps in Iraq. The repatriation of the Iranians is part of a program developed jointly by the Iranian and Iraqi officials in collaboration with the UNHCR officials in March 2001. The Iranians are to return home voluntarily, Nouri noted. Iran announced earlier that it has provided, in cooperation with Iraq, necessary facilities for voluntary repatriation of Iraqi refugees. Director General of Foreign Nationals and Expatriates Affairs Department Hojjatoleslam Hassanali Ebrahimi said the formation of an Iran-Iraq joint committee on refugees has facilitated the voluntary return home of Iraqi refugees residing in Iran by offering necessary documents. The committee had reached important agreements on voluntary repatriation of refugees, he noted. He put the total number of registered Iraqi refugees in Iran at 220,000 and said the figure would rise to 300,000 if the unregistered refugees are taken into account. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2002/0310/breaking49.htm * JORDAN WARNS OF CATASTROPHE IF US ATTACKS IRAQ Irish Times, 10th March Jordan's King Abdullah said today that any US attack against Iraq would have catastrophic repercussions on the oil-rich country and the Middle East region. The monarch held talks with a senior envoy of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Amman on the eve of a regional tour by US Vice President Dick Cheney that includes stops in Jordan and three other countries bordering Iraq. Speculation that Iraq is to be the next target of the US-led war on terrorism has mounted since President George W. Bush included Iraq as part of what he called "an axis of evil" in his State of the Union address in January. Mr Cheney is expected in Amman on Tuesday for discussions with King Abdullah the following day, with Iraq high on the agenda. Mr Cheney, who will also visit Britain, Kuwait, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Oman, Israel and Yemen, wants to rally support for eliminating what Washington sees as a threat of weapons of mass destruction posed by Iraq. The king expressed hope that the talks, which resume next month, would resolve all outstanding issues between the two sides and lead to a lifting of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. http://hoovnews.hoovers.com/fp.asp?layout=displaynews&doc_id=NR20020310670.2 _755d0007cd0d1470 * JORDAN: TAP LINE REOPENING REVIEWED BY SAUDI TEAM Hoovers (Financial Times), 10th March According to "Jordan Times", a Saudi technical team will prepare a report by the end of the year on the possible restoration of Tap line, a pipeline linking oil fields in eastern Saudi Arabia with Mafraq, unused since the Gulf War in early 1990s. The team, representing ARAMCO, the Arab-American oil company, will test the pipeline and study the cost of renovation and maintenance, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Mohmmad Batayneh said. The daily maximum capacity of the pipeline is around 350,000 barrels. It was originally constructed in the 1940s to export Saudi oil to the West (via Jordan to the port of Haifa, now a major Israeli port city). Following the establishment of Israel in 1948, Tap line's terminal was diverted from Haifa to Sidon in Lebanon. The Tap line continued supplying oil to Jordan until Saudi Arabia cut off its oil supply to Amman in 1990. The official reason given at the time was Jordan's unpaid bills, but the move was generally seen as linked to Jordan's position during the Gulf War. Since early 1990s, and with UN permission, Jordan has depended totally on Iraq for its oil supplies - around 85,000 barrels per day. Late last year, Jordan and Iraq renewed the oil protocol under which Baghdad meets the Kingdom's needs in crude oil and its derivatives, estimated at over five million tons in 2002. Iraq sells the Kingdom oil at preferential prices, which are below market rates. However, if the Tap line is reopened, Saudi Arabia is expected to charge international market prices, according to a ministry source. (Source: Info-Prod (Middle East) Ltd.) http://www2.bostonherald.com/news/international/ap_cheney03122002.htm * CHENEY FINDS SKEPTICISM TOWARD U.S. IRAQ STRATEGY ON FIRST MIDEAST STOP Boston Herald (from Associated Press), 12th March AMMAN, Jordan - Vice President Dick Cheney received a public warning Tuesday from Jordanian King Abdullah II that expanding the terrorism war to Iraq could destabilize the region and undermine gains in Afghanistan. U.S. officials had hoped for a more muted message from the king, whose comments came as Cheney began a whirlwind tour of the Middle East. Abdullah has been a top ally in the terror war, but like many Arab leaders he has been openly skeptical of U.S. hints of hostile action against Iraq. During a private meeting with Cheney, Abdullah ``expressed hope for a solution to all outstanding problems with Iraq through dialogue and peaceful means,'' said a palace statement. It also said Abdullah voiced Jordan's concern about ``the repercussions of any possible strike on Iraq and the dangers of that on the stability and security of the region.'' The meeting with the king was the vice president's first stop on a tour of nine Arab nations, Israel and Turkey. [.....] The United Nations ``is the only way to resolve all outstanding issues,'' Abdullah said in an interview with the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper. He also spoke of ending ``the sanctions on brotherly Iraq.'' The remarks were carried by Jordan's official Petra news agency shortly before Cheney's arrival. Bush administration officials have suggested that much of the recent rhetoric from Arab states is for domestic consumption. Jordan, for instance, has a large Palestinian population and borders Iraq. U.S. officials hope that they can at least win private assurances from Arab leaders that they will not attempt to stand in the way of possible military strikes. Cheney was welcomed at the airport by Jordan's prime minister, Ali Abul-Ragheb, who suggested that spiraling Israeli-Palestinian violence was one of the most urgent issues affecting the region and hoped the Cheney visit could help in ``getting the process of peace back on track.'' [.....] http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2002-03/12/content_313321.htm * SYRIAN PRESIDENT MEETS SENIOR IRAQI OFFICIALS DAMASCUS, March 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Tuesday discussed with visiting Iraqi Revolution Command Council Vice Chairman Izzat Ibrahim and Foreign Minister Nagi Sabri Ahmed the Mideast situation and the agenda of an Arab summit to be held later this month. The meeting tackled the situation in the region, especially the massacres and aggressions committed by the Israeli occupation forces in the Palestinian territories as well as the issues to be discussed by Arab leaders at the summit in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 27-28, Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Both the Syrian president and Iraqi officials stressed the need to come out with a single Arab stand that upholds Arab solidarity and safeguards Arab national security, the report said. Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Faruk Shareh was present at the meeting. The Iraqi officials arrived here on Monday for a three-day visit to Syria. http://sunspot.net/news/nationworld/bal iraq13.story?coll=bal%2Dnationworld%2Dheadlines * EQYPT SAYS IRAQ MAY OK WEAPONS INSPECTORS by Tom Raum Baltimore Sun (fromThe Associated Press), 13th March SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt Vice President Dick Cheney said today that Israel and the Palestinians share the burden of ending Middle East bloodshed. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with Cheney and promised to apply pressure, too. At a news conference with Cheney at this Red Sea resort, Mubarak also addressed another difficult Mideast issue, saying he believes Iraq's Saddam Hussein is close to agreeing to allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors. One of Cheney's missions on his trip to the region -- to make a case for widening the war on terrorism to include Iraq -- has been overshadowed by the spiraling loss of life in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. [.....] Some 865 Americans are part of the 1,836-member force of observers patrolling the desert between Egypt and Israel. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is trying to sharply cut back the U.S. participation, a fact Cheney did not bring up. Mubarak voiced public opposition to any U.S. plan to topple Saddam in Iraq, just as Jordan's King Abdullah II had during Cheney's visit to Jordan the day before. "It is of vital importance to maintain the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. This is a must for preserving regional stability,'' Mubarak said. He suggested that Saddam be given a final chance to comply with U.N. resolutions, including those demanding the return of U.N. weapons inspectors. "And I think, as far as my knowledge is that he is going to accept the inspectors,'' Mubarak said, without elaboration. "We are going to meet some of his special envoys and tell them that this is a must,'' Mubarak said. "We will try in this direction as far as we can. Then after that, if there is nothing happening, we'll find out what could be done.'' [.....] http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2002-03/13/content_313385.htm * IRAQI DELEGATION TO VISIT LEBANON BEIRUT, March 12 (Xinhuanet) -- A high-level Iraqi delegation headed by Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council Izzat Ibrahim is due to arrive in Beirut on Wednesday for an official visit to Lebanon, the official NNA news agency reported. Ibrahim will deliver a letter from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud on the upcoming Arab Summit due to be held in Beirut on March 27-28. The delegation, which also includes Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Ahmed will hold talks with Lebanese leaders on the Mideast situation, especially the Palestinian-Israeli escalating violence. The talks will also focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the U.S. threat to carry out military action against Iraq. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is currently on a 11-nation Mideast tour to rally Arab support for U.S. strike against Iraq, that is accused by Washington of developing mass destruction weapons. Iraq has refused to allow U.N. arms inspectors to resume work in Iraq. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,667729,00.html * SAUDIS TO TAKE HARD LINE WITH CHENEY AGAINST WAR ON IRAQ by Brian Whitaker, Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian, 15th March Saudi Arabia is to deliver an uncompromising message to the US vice-president Dick Cheney that it opposes attacking Iraq and will not cooperate in military efforts to remove Saddam Hussein. The Saudi move - which represents a huge groundswell of Arab opinion against a looming war with Iraq - will be a blow for Mr Cheney, who is touring the Middle East to drum up support for an extended "war on terrorism". Western diplomats had expected Arab leaders to be more supportive, at least in private. One predicted that four would give tacit backing to Saddam's removal if the US could guarantee to accomplish it smoothly. Saudi support proved vital in the 1991 war to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation and the kingdom has been used as one of several bases for US-British patrols of the southern no-fly zone over Iraq. Saudi Arabia last year refused to let the US use its territory as a base for the war in Afghanistan. The kingdom's position in the Muslim world would be untenable if it provided bases for US aircraft bombing Iraq, Whitehall officials said yesterday. But its opposition to an all-out assault on Baghdad is not based only on these sensitivities. Saudi diplomatic sources say there are fears that ousting Saddam will prove more difficult than the US imagines. One claims that about 1 million Iraqis are so closely tied to the fate of Saddam's regime that they will not switch sides as readily as the Afghans and may fight to the death. Saudi Arabia is better placed to adopt a robust position than Egypt, Jordan and Yemen - Arab countries visited earlier by Mr Cheney which are all heavily reliant on US aid. The Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, in his talks with Mr Cheney on Wednesday, promised new efforts to persuade Iraq to accept weapons inspectors. King Abdullah of Jordan said after meeting Mr Cheney that he hoped for "a solution to all outstanding problems with Iraq through dialogue and peaceful means". In Kuwait, where many are grateful to the west for rescuing their country from Saddam in 1991, there is more public support for military action. But even there, it is not necessarily seen as the best option. http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=705884 * TURKEY SAYS IRAQ NO THREAT, SHOULD NOT BE ATTACKED Reuters, 15th March BARCELONA, Spain: Turkey, a key NATO ally, urged the United States on Friday not to attack Iraq, saying the country did not pose a threat to its neighbors. "We feel that Iraq should not be the subject of military attacks because it would upset the whole Middle East," Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told reporters after meeting European leaders at an EU summit in Barcelona. "Since the Gulf War, Iraq has been under strict control...It is under constant surveillance so it is not in a position any more to inflict any harm on its neighbors or even against its people," Ecevit said. [.....] IRAQI/UN RELATIONS http://www.reuters.co.uk/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=682102 * IRAQ WANTS EQUAL TREATMENT IN U.N. TALKS by Hassan Hafidh Reuters,10th March BAGHDAD: Talks between Iraq and the United Nations should put as much importance on lifting sanctions and ending no-fly zones as on sending back weapons inspectors, according to the Iraqi deputy prime minister. "Singling out the question of inspectors is wrong," Tareq Aziz told reporters on Saturday night. "There are many items (the United Nations should discuss): the sanctions, the no-fly zones and the continuous aggression and violation of international law by the United States and United Kingdom," Aziz said. "All these matters should be addressed, not just one item. The focus is on one subject (the return of inspectors) as if it were the only concern." The U.S. and Britain are enforcing no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq, set up soon after the 1991 Gulf War to protect a Kurdish enclave in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south from possible attacks by Baghdad forces. Sanctions were imposed on Iraq in August 1990 as punishment for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ended a meeting in New York on Thursday which aimed to allow inspectors back into Iraq. Another meeting is set for April. Asked whether Iraq would let the inspectors return, Aziz said: "As far as our position (is concerned) nothing has changed." Iraq has banned U.N. arms experts, hunting for weapons of mass destruction, from returning since they left on the eve of a U.S. and British bombing campaign in December 1998. The United States wants the U.N. inspectors to return to check if Baghdad is developing weapons of mass destruction. Speculation is mounting that an Iraqi refusal could trigger a U.S. assault on Iraq aimed at toppling President Saddam Hussein. Aziz told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday that the United Nations was not interested in weapons inspection but rather in overthrowing Saddam. "The American president has made clear that the case of Iraq is not about the fight against terrorism and not about arms control," he said. "In disregard for our sovereignty, he wants to eliminate the regime of President Saddam Hussein and create an armed opposition to fan a civil war." The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that the U.S. administration has told the Defence Department to prepare, on a contingency basis, plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries including Iraq. http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,3927863%255E401,00 .html * IRAQ: NO WEAPONS INSPECTORS Herald Sun (Australia), 11th March IRAQ, vowing to thwart any US attack, insisted today it would not allow UN arms inspectors back into the country, following talks on the matter with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "Iraq's positions, barring the return of the spy teams, are firm and will not change," Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said, quoted by the official INA news agency. Ramadan, who yesterday had implicitly ruled out the inspectors' return, said Iraq's experience with the UN Security Council proved "the futility of the return of the spy teams, who spied on Iraq for eight years". Iraq, under the leadership of President Saddam Hussein, was "now stronger and more determined than ever to stand up to any US aggression", Ramadan also told an Egyptian delegation taking part in an Arab conference being held in Baghdad in solidarity with Iraq and the Palestinians. "Iraq is capable of repelling and thwarting any American-Zionist plot targeting its national sovereignty," he said. Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri on Thursday held what he described as "constructive" talks with Annan on the possible return of the inspectors, who have been barred from Iraq since pulling out in December 1998 before a US-British bombing blitz. The talks, the first high-level encounter between the two sides in a year, are due to resume in mid-April. The United States has dropped broad hints that it might take military action against Iraq and try to overthrow the Baghdad regime unless it allows arms inspectors back into the country to check that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction. Ramadan told the opening session of the conference of "Arab popular forces" yesterday that international monitoring of Iraq's weapons programs was only acceptable if applied to all countries of the region, including Israel. "As for talk of the return of UN inspectors, the search for and dismantling of Iraq's (prohibited) weapons was completed by the (now defunct UN) Special Commission and the spy teams affiliated to it," he said, referring to the inspectors who operated in Iraq from the end of the 1991 Gulf War until 1998. Their return would be aimed at "spying (on Iraq) and contriving crises" that would lead to "fresh US and British attacks" on the country, Ramadan added. http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/020313/un_iraq_compensation_1.html * U.N. APPROVES IN PAYMENTS OF $1.8 BILLION FOR IRAQ INVASION OF KUWAIT Yahoo (from Associated Press), 13th March GENEVA: A United Nations panel Wednesday approved $1.8 billion in payments to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other claimants for losses resulting from Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Of the total the bulk -- $1.5 billion -- is for Kuwaiti business, government and individual claimants, said spokesman Joe Sills. Of the remainder, most is for Saudi Arabia. The U.N. Compensation Commission also set up a review process for 1,318 late claims from Palestinian-owned business that say they suffered losses in the invasion, said Sills. "These people are claiming they did not have an effective opportunity for a timely filing," he said. "A panel has now been constituted," Sills added. "They will begin work in May on judging these claims and deciding whether they should receive awards or not." He said the Palestinian Authority had been given until July 1 to submit further late claims. Nearly $1 billion was approved for Kuwaiti ministries and other government operations, and the Saudi government is to received $159 million for similar claims, said Mojtaba Kazazi, chief of the commission secretariat. So far the panel has awarded compensation of $37.7 billion to victims of the invasion -- most of which has been for Kuwait. The awards are funded through the U.N. oil-for-food program. The compensation fund currently receives 25 percent of the revenue Iraq earns through the sale of oil. Iraq is allowed to use the rest for humanitarian goods for Iraqis suffering under sanctions. The commission is made up of representatives of the 15 U.N. Security Council members and is currently headed by Norwegian Ambassador Sverre Bergh Johansen. DOUBTS AND QUERIES http://atimes.com/c-asia/DC09Ag04.html * MAKE WAR, NOT POLITICS by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 9th March PARIS - United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri have had their first one-on-one meeting in more than a year in New York. There was no acrimony. They'll meet again in April. In May the Security Council will get together to discuss the tightening of sanctions against Iraq. Hawks in the Pentagon are obviously against any possible dialogue since Iraq has recently been promoted to the status of one-third of the George W Bush's axis of evil. This term was the expression chosen by some Hollywoodish ghost-writer to link the late US president Franklin Roosevelt's "axis" of Germany, Italy and Japan during World War II and Ronald Reagan's "evil empire", his definition of the Soviet Union. But as a geopolitical entity, the axis of evil is as empty as a catch phrase hurled in the middle of a talk show to amuse the galleries. But it's lethal. It involves the nexus of US foreign policy for at least the next 10 years. It involves the Pentagon spending US$1 billion a day on defense from October onward. It involves no mercy for Iraq - the first country on the list to be attacked, sooner rather than later. It involves the Pentagon accusing Iraq of converting donated aid trucks into rocket launchers just as the New York meeting was about to start (no proof was shown). The US wants just one thing: the return to Iraq of the nuclear-weapons inspectors thrown out in 1998. Iraq might even comply, as long as it is not subjected to an embargo that bleeds it dry and accomplishes nothing. The now almost-forgotten Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 - a million Iranians were killed, along with more than 200,000 Iraqis - was the direct result of the clash of two expansionist policies. Subsequently, the Gulf War was provoked by the Baath Party in Iraq, which tried to get hold of the "province" of Kuwait and its enormous oil reserves to increase Baghdad's economic power and reinforce its regional hegemony. The Western reaction and the reaction of many Arab capitals was not as much dictated by the necessity of protecting the sovereignty of an independent state (Kuwait) as by the widespread desire to restrain the unrelenting geopolitical and geostrategic rise of Iraq. The embargo against Iraq follows exactly the same logic. It is meant to prevent Iraq from once again taking Kuwait, and to prevent its rise as a military power. The great dream of the Baath Party in Iraq has always been to reunify southern Mesopotamia and then play a central role in the Persian Gulf after the inevitable "retirement" of British colonialism. The Baath Party's strategy was also effective in offsetting Iraq's eternal enemy Iran, and in propping up Iraq against the oil monarchies of the Arab peninsula. This whole geopolitical configuration couldn't be anything but unacceptable to London, the former colonial power, or to Washington, which had its heart set on replacing London as the hegemonic power in the Gulf. So more than 10 years after the Gulf War, London and Washington are still bombing Iraq - every week, like clockwork. Nobody knows what they are bombing, and nobody knows who the victims are or and where they are: the bombing is now invisible in the world media. UN Resolution 986 - the "oil for food" program - was supposed from its start in 1996 to ease the pain of the Iraqi population, but now its implementation is increasingly problematic. Iraq's oil terminals, heavily bombed, are not capable of assuring the necessary volume of exports. The director of the UN program himself, Benon Sevan, told the Security Council a little more than a week ago that "Iraqi oil exports in the current phase [of six months] reveal a drop of 35 percent in relation to the previous 10 phases". This is due in part to the slow pace of Iraqi exports: most are transported by an immense serpent of trucks slouching toward the Jordanian border. But it is also due to many contracts "waiting" at the doors of the sanctions committee at the UN. Until last week, no fewer than 2,089 contracts, valued at $5.3 billion, were blocked. Most of them, according to European sources, involve Russian companies. What is blocked is essentially Iraqi access to the money placed in an account managed by the UN. European diplomats and the Iraqi diaspora in Europe deplore in private the limitations of Resolution 986 - a basket of extremely mean and intolerant measures that cause distress to the bulk of the Iraqi population, especially in terms of public health and the general rhythm of social life. Even Benon Sevan is urging a revision of the program. Technologically, Iraq stopped in the very early '90s. The strategy of the embargo plus sanctions seems to be clear: to plunge the country into a long-lasting underdevelopment. This policy is all the more absurd when viewed through the prism of history: Mesopotamia has been one of the most fertile regions in the world for millennia. Meanwhile, the boys at Merrill Lynch are cracking open the Chateau Lafitte. The Lynch gang is assuming Iraq is the next country on America's list, so it's time to examine the fortunes of the defense industry. The conclusion is crystal-clear: "A military campaign in 2002 and 2003 against Saddam Hussein's regime should profit the stocks of companies producing weapons and ammunitions." This means war will be extremely profitable to Alliant Techsystems, Raytheon and L-3 Communications. Forty-two percent of Alliant's sales are related to ammunition and missile engines. Raytheon produces the Tomahawk missile - a superstar both in the Gulf War and the New Afghan War. The boys at Merrill Lynch double as military strategists. They suggest an air war at first. Ground war means problems - although this phase would be excellent for Alliant Techsystems and General Dynamics, because these companies provide ammunition for tanks and attack helicopters. The boys are careful to predict "non-conventional reactions" from Iraq, such as chemical and biological attacks. And if Iran and Russia are involved in any way in the war against Iraq, there could be "more losses in terms of American planes and combat vehicles". The boys come close to admitting that Boeing and Lockheed Martin, builders of commercial and military planes, would be the greatest beneficiaries of a probable extension of the war. Lockheed Martin has already bagged the greatest contract in history - $200 billion to build the joint strike fighter: 4,500 of these mean attack machines will be in use by 2025. For the United States there's no business like war business. America may have learned from the Gulf War that a conflict is not resolved without a political solution. The Afghan War is still going on. Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party are still thriving. Al-Qaeda's aura is still intact among millions of dispossessed because Osama bin Laden and the leadership are still alive - and plotting. But why solve conflicts politically when war can go on, profitably, forever? http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la 000017758mar10.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dworld * AN IRAQI CAMPAIGN FACES MANY HURDLES by Robin Wright Los Angeles Times, 10th March [.....] The issue is important because the impact of a regime change in Iraq is far more extensive than in Afghanistan, Pollack said. If Afghanistan's transformation collapsed, the country would become what it was before: a broken state. But if Iraq collapsed, that could destabilize the entire oil-rich Persian Gulf region, with a rippling impact around the world. "It could become the Lebanon of the Gulf, with widespread impact on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, all countries we care about," Pollack said. Complicating this process will be the diverse visions Iraqis and their neighbors have for post-Hussein rule. Economically, preparations are needed to keep oil markets from being disrupted, especially as the world struggles to pull out of a recession, analysts say. That requires an array of moves, from ensuring that other countries will make up for any cutoff of Iraqi oil to deploying troops quickly around the oil fields near the city of Kirkuk in the north and near the Kuwaiti border in the south to prevent Hussein from ordering their destruction, as he did in 1991 to Kuwait's fields. None of which takes into account the wild cards, such as the weather in Iraq and politics back home. The scorching summer heat, particularly in the south, could affect weapons systems and troops. Heavy rains that begin in mid-November could slow armored vehicles. And with the approach of November's U.S. congressional elections, neither major American party may want to see the early stages of a military campaign weighing on voters' minds when control of both the Senate and the House is up for grabs. http://www.dailystarnews.com/200203/13/n2031302.htm#BODY3 * EXTENDING THE WAR ON TERROR: PRUDENT OR PARANOID? M Abdul Hafiz Daily Star (Bangladesh), 13th March [.....] PRESIDENT George W. Bush who cowered at the news of terrorists' attack on 11 September 2001, zig-zagged his way back to Washington and hid himself for hours in an airforce bunker in far-off Nebraska is now described as a 'redeemer', a man of 'gut instinct' and one having 'core belief', thanks to his great military victory in Afghanistan. It is a different matter that it brought in its wake pre-Taliban chaos and warlordism, cost 5000 plus Afghan civilian lives, made possible the resumption of booming heroin trade and provided the Russians chance for fresh inroad in their beaten ground in alliance with old Afghan communists. However, the President believes that the victory can be duplicated against other malefactors like Iraq, Iran and North Korea (it supplies missile components and technology to several Arab countries) who resist American will. [.....] http://atimes.com/front/DC14Aa05.html * IT'S WASHINGTON VS THE UNITED STATE OF IRAQ by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 14th March PARIS - A top Iraqi diplomat in Europe, recently arrived from Baghdad, assures Asia Times Online that the whole Iraqi population will rally behind Saddam Hussein if and when the country is attacked by the United States. This means, obviously, a new attack under the Bush "Axis of Evil" doctrine because Iraq is still being regularly bombed by US and British planes. These bombings - unlike those in Afghanistan - have simply vanished from the world media. Nobody knows who or what is being bombed, or who and where are the victims. Iraq is subjected to a crippling embargo and UN sanctions (to be reviewed and possibly extended next May), and it has fallen victim to a humanitarian crisis that is largely forgotten by the international community. But the diplomat talks about a population that has refused to surrender, has found ways to dilute the terrible effects of the embargo and sanctions, and is not dying of hunger. While Ariel Sharon's tanks occupy Ramallah and reduce to dust any possible success of US special envoy Anthony Zinni's mission in the Middle East, Vice President Dick Cheney has in fact already secured Tony Blair's support in London for an attack against Iraq. Blair - refered to privately as "lapdog Tony" by cynical analysts - is extremely embarrassed to be the only European leader to be put in such a position by the Americans. Intellectuals of the Iraqi diaspora offer a very plausible explanation for the boundless Anglo American hatred. It inevitably has to do with oil. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created in Baghdad in 1960. The first secretary general was an Iraqi. The great Iraqi ambitions in the '60s were independence and economic development. To really achieve these goals, the country had to have full access to its main source of income. When the Baath Party took power in 1968, its main thrust was to provide Iraq with the technical, managerial and human resources to accomplish a full process of the nationalization of the oil industry. This mission was to be carried out by the party's number two, none other than Saddam Hussein. Years later, Saddam said that nobody believed in it. But in 1972, Iraq was an oil power - and 100 percent independent from the Western oil cartel. Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world. The US will never forgive Iraq for providing the example, and then leading OPEC in its 1973 dismantling of Western control of the world's oil at the time. In doing so, OPEC destroyed the absolutely essential axis of American strategic control. And Britain will never forgive the Baath Party for ending more than half a century of British dominance in the region, and on top of that, opening the doors of Iraq and the Gulf to France in the form of contracts with Elf-Iraq, established in 1974. Since December 1998, Iraq has refused to allow UN inspections related to its supposed arsenal of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons. The US assumes - with no proof - that Iraq is dissimulating a vast modernization program of its military arsenal. The UN was insisting in 1998 that Iraq had at least 6,000 chemical weapons in stock. Iraqi sources reiterate that these do not exist, and that under the surveillance of the American intelligence apparatus the country has absolutely no way of rebuilding its nuclear capacity. The Pentagon, on the other hand, is considering all options for an attack on Iraq, from internal rebellion to nuclear bombing. Ahmed Chalabi, the main leader of the Iraqi National Congress - the opposition in exile - is still making waves at the Pentagon, even though he is now banned by the CIA. Chalabi's old Republican pals are none other than ultra-hawks Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, numbers one and two at the Pentagon. Chalabi's latest political concoction is the building of an enclave in Nassiriya, southern Iraq, which would be a starting point for a Shi'ite rebellion against Baghdad. The Pentagon is apparently considering this latest plan as a viable option: it would be, in the minds of the ultra-hawks, an equivalent of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Kabul. But, even after the coining of the "Axis of Evil", close cooperation between the US and Islamist Iraqi Shi'ites seems far-fetched. According to Hamid al-Bayati, a representative of the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Tehran-based organization, "it's unacceptable to put Iran and Iraq in the same bag". The Iraqi opposition - a myriad of groups with clashing agendas - is actually in shambles, the realm of gangsters only interested in personal profit. It desperately needs a unifying leader. There is only one possible candidate: Najib al-Salhi, a former general of the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's elite corps. Al-Salhi has been in exile since 1995, first in Jordan and then in the US. He actually leads a movement of so-called "free" officers, and claims to still have very good connections inside the Iraqi army. He is not in favor of a coup in Iraq, but is in favor of what could be described as a popular and military rebellion staged simultaneously with American intervention. >From his comfortable position in exile, he believes the Iraqi population would rally behind the Americans. But the top Iraqi diplomat, recently arrived from Baghdad, says it's a matter of national unity: if Iraq is attacked, no one would even imagine being a traitor by being in cahoots with the aggressor. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29957-2002Mar14.html * Dubious Iraqi Link by David Ignatius Washington Post, 15th March [.....] In the first months after Sept. 11, some prominent U.S. commentators pushed the idea that al Qaeda terrorist Mohamed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer named Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani. The key meeting supposedly took place in April 2001, as Atta was plotting the deadly operation that was to destroy the World Trade Center five months later. New York Times columnist William Safire, for example, wrote last November that the alleged Atta-al Ani meeting was "the undisputed fact connecting Iraq's Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11 attacks." Similarly, former CIA director James Woolsey wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal last October headlined "The Iraq Connection," which cited the reputed Prague meetings. The problem, according to senior European officials, is that the hard intelligence to support the Baghdad-bin Laden connection is somewhere between "slim" and "none." A senior European official said that Atta did visit Prague once, in 2000, but there is no solid evidence he met with Iraqi intelligence. What's more, according to these European officials, there is strong evidence to the contrary - directly undermining the theory of an "Iraq connection." The officials said intelligence reports indicate that Saddam personally decided against allowing bin Laden and al Qaeda to use Iraq as a base because he feared they might destabilize his regime. According to the European officials, the CIA now shares their skepticism about the Atta-al Ani connection -- although they said some Pentagon officials continued to believe it's true. Even the Czechs, who initially put out the reports about Atta's meeting with al-Ani, have gradually backed away. The Czech interior minister, Stanislav Gross, said in October that the two had met in April 2001. That version was altered slightly by Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman when he told CNN in November: "Atta contacted some Iraqi agent, not to prepare the terrorist attack on [the twin towners] but to prepare [a] terrorist attack on just the building of Radio Free Europe" in Prague. Then, in December, Czech President Vaclav Havel retreated further, saying there was only "a 70 percent" chance Atta met with al-Ani. [.....] The hideous irony is that the most likely state sponsor for what's left of al Qaeda's networks is actually Iraq's historical nemesis, Iran. There, too, lies an intriguing story, recounted by the European officials. They say the mullahs, after initially supporting the U.S. war in Afghanistan, got nervous that they were becoming too cozy with the Great Satan. They then began allowing key al Qaeda operatives to escape across their border from Afghanistan. Among the al Qaeda leaders who may now be in Iran is the group's chief of operations, the Egyptian Ayman Zawahiri. He has visited Iran in the past, and Iranian newspapers recently have carried stories speculating that he's in the country. [.....] When you realize that U.S. officials go to sleep at night worrying about nuclear or biological attacks on Washington, you begin to understand their odd decisions: why they planned what amounted to an office of strategic deception in the Pentagon, why they began rewriting U.S. nuclear weapons doctrine, why they created a secret "shadow" government to carry on if the capital were obliterated. Most of these are bad ideas, but at least they become more comprehensible. [.....] http://atimes.com/front/DC16Aa06.html * THE INEVITABLE WAR by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 16th March PARIS - Bush says "Let's do it." The Pentagon says "Let's do it." National Security Agency types say "Let's do it." Cole Porter says "Let's do it. Let's fall in love." The current American diplomatic turbo-offensive in the Middle East is a marvel: an exercise in how to coordinate two simultaneous missions - make peace (Anthony Zinni) and make war (Dick Cheney) - and at the same time demonstrate that there's no link between Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy. To say the least, this is - in the words of a top negoatiator in Brussels - "an insult to the intelligence". US Vice President Cheney insists to all his interlocutors that Iraq's fabled weapons of mass destruction must be dismantled before Saddam Hussein forms an alliance with al-Qaeda. You don't need to be the King of Jordan or the Emir of Qatar to know that such an alliance is extremely far-fetched. Cheney's tour has only one aim: to muster Arab support for an attack on Iraq. It all has to do with the Bush family's pathological obsession with Saddam Hussein, and involves practically the same players, Cheney included. Zinni's tour had to have outside help - which happened in the form of a carefully timed, US-framed United Nations resolution proclaiming the Palestinians' right to have their own state. Palestinians themselves are not exactly encouraged by lofty declarations about a virtual state: the voice from the street in occupied Ramallah, for instance, is: We want the tanks out, we want the end of the occupation. Saeb Erakat, the top Palestinian negoatiator, says it's "illogical to talk about a ceasefire while Israel has 20,000 soldiers and 150 tanks in the center of Ramallah". The Palestinian people took the UN resolution for what it is: words, words, words. There is absolutely no reference to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The original resolution was from Syria - and it specifically mentioned Israel as an "occupying power", a truth that every stone around al-Aqsa Mosque is aware of. There is no mention of illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. There is no mention of East Jerusalem as Palestine's capital. There is no mention of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Syria abstained from the final vote. Israel called the resolution "balanced": no wonder, because the final text proposed by the US was previously "approved" by Israel. The now 35-year-old UN Resolution 242 defines what needs to be done in terms of a political solution - much more so than the bland brand-new Security Council resolution. The recent proposal by Saudi Prince Abdullah - Israel back to 1967 borders in exchange for normalization of relations with the Arab world - plays around a softer version of nothing else than Resolution 242. Meanwhile - in a development that obviously has nothing to do with the Middle East, as they would say - rabid dogs in Washington have nothing on their minds other than to nuke Baghdad. This is a direct consequence of the fact that the US has no strategy for the Middle East. Sending Zinni as an errand boy once in a while is nothing but a minor diplomatic initiative. Baghdad is accused of possessing or trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction; but the US would never admit that Israel itself is loaded with chemical, biological and atomic weapons, and it's been violating UN resolutions for more than three decades now. And it gets paid for it, too: US$3 billion from Washington, annually, like clockwork. At the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, any researcher can tell that the situation in the Arab world now is completely different from what it was in post-Gulf War 1991. The US pro-Israeli bias is viewed in the Arab world as an unbearable injustice - and compassion toward the Iraqi population is widespread. Europe continues to insist on a more civilized approach toward Iraq. General Michel Roquejeoffre, formerly the commander of the French forces in the Gulf War, says all diplomatic avenues must be tested before one starts contemplating war against Iraq. The general wonders whether "the best way to end the suffering of the Iraqi people would not be to run the risk of a priori suspending the embargo against Iraq". But selling that to Washington is hard - especially when Iraq is already listed for all the world to see in the "axis of evil". Europe, meanwhile, is also trying to show the intellectually handicapped Bush administration that it's possible to rally behind a war against terrorism and at the same time consider very delicate nuances in relations with the Arab-Muslim world. Take the example of Iran - one-third of the axis of evil. This past week, Iranian President Muhamad Khatami was given the red-carpet treatment in Vienna. Austria was the first European country to receive him after Bush's "axis of evil" speech. Khatami - as a man who had proposed, before the end of the millennium, a "dialogue among civilizations" - was not bitter: he left the door open to resume dialogue with America. "The key is in the hand of the Americans," he told an Austrian newspaper. Javier Solana, the European foreign-policy chief, also made a point of going to Vienna specifically to offer a cooperation agreement between the European Union and Iran, as long as Iran confirms its "constructive engagement" in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Needless to say, Europe is totally behind Khatami's reformist movement in Iran. Bush and Washington hawks threw Iran and Iraq into the same bag. But while dialogue with Iran is a possibility - and the US administration might even catch up with Europe's constructive approach - as far as Iraq is concerned, catastrophe is inevitable. A former director of Gulf Affairs in the US National Security Council made the case in Foreign Affairs magazine for an invasion of Iraq and the elimination of the present regime. As far as American unilateralism is concerned, this article is the icing on the cake. It certainly reflects the "intellectual" mood in Washington. The author in question favors the embargo, and criticizes "ludicrous Iraqi propaganda about how the economic sanctions are responsible for the deaths of more than a million people since 1991". Since 1991, the fact - verified by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) - is that one Iraqi child dies every six minutes, a victim of sanctions or bombing. The author considers it normal that Iraq, a sovereign country, has no right to have its own fiber-optic communication network, so the key nodes have been destroyed by US strikes. Iraqi society is being condemned to irreversible technological underdevelopment. The author says an Afghan-style campaign won't work in Iraq (in fact it did not work in Afghanistan either: the war goes on). So he suggests a kind of Gulf War replay. The magic formula? Invasion: "It would not cost much more while making success a near certainty." This way, Saddam Hussein would not threaten the world's supply of oil again, the US would return to its pre-Gulf War presence, and the US would rebuild Iraq. At least one of these propositions is a fallacy. To accomplish all these marvels, the US needs no support from anybody except Kuwait. The author says it would be "much easier" if the Saudis helped - but that's unlikely. The author also assumes that the emirates of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Jordan would follow the US - but Jordan's King Abdullah would not sanction such adventurism. The author says that Egypt and Turkey are in the bag: Egypt might be, if offered some financial carrots, but certainly not Turkey, which is worried about the Kurdish problem. France, Russia and China would "object strongly to the whole concept", but "they could not stop a US invasion". So the US needs only to "smash Iraq's ground forces with a single corps composed of two heavy divisions and an armored cavalry regiment". "Some light infantry" may be needed, as well as "airmobile forces to seize Iraq's oil fields". The force should have "between 200,000 and 300,000 people" - that's what Pentagon generals estimate, anyway: between four and six divisions for the invasion, and 700 to 1,000 aircraft for the air campaign. Building up this force would take "three to five months". So easy. And from now on, semi-official: Iraq will certainly be atacked before October. But wait! Iraqis could be so frightened by the massive American build-up there might be a coup d'etat to topple Saddam Hussein. Bingo! Great savings! No need for an invasion! What do do after that? So simple. The US "gets to decide the composition and form of a future Iraqi government". The Foreign Affairs author cannot but be puzzled by the "bewildering array of local and foreign interests involved". So the best thing is to turn the whole hot potato over to the UN, thus "spreading some responsibility for the outcome". But the US would have to be "prepared to contribute several billion dollars per year for as much as a decade" to rebuild Iraq. Not really: the fact is the European Union would be asked to pay the bill, according to the current motto, "US bombs, UN feeds, EU funds". The message then is clear: invade and conquer before October. The reason, admits the author, has "little or nothing to do with Iraq's connection to terrorism". In fact, the whole operation will follow only two dicta: "I suspect you, therefore you're guilty," coupled with "I bomb, therefore I control." This is what American foreign policy is all about at the beginning of the 21st century. How civilized. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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