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News, 9-16/3/02 (4) IRAQI OPPOSITION * US pursues ex-generals to topple Iraq leader [Dispute between the apparently virtually non-existent INC and a bunch of Saddam Hussein lookalikes.] * Ex-General Works to Topple Saddam [Account of Nizar al-Khazraji who, whether or not he was actually responsible for the use of chemical weapons against Halabja, was clearly involved in the war against the Kurds and is now tipped as Washington¹s man to replace Saddam.] * Can we trust Iraqi military to help oust Saddam? [Views of General Najib al-Salhi, who argues that some spectacular US gesture, such as blowing up statues of Saddam Hussein (have I got this right???) would be enough to spark an army revolt.] * Iraqi Opposition Looks to General [General account of Iraqi opposition groups which at least has the decency to mention in a 3 line paragraph towards the end the Iraqi Communist Party.] * Saddam renews Kurdish threats [The editorial line can¹t make up its mind whether to condemn Mr Hussein for - very cleverly concealed - threats or hypocrisy in suggesting a reasonable solution to the problem.] * Kurdish group denies reported US military mission in northern Iraq * Iraqi oppositionist ponders possibility of toppling Saddam [Apparently intelligent assessment by an Iraqi opposition leader but the piece doesn¹t say who it is who advocates (if I¹ve understood it right) a quick strike to eliminate the central government then accepting whatever results are thrown up by the ensuing civil war. Makes the interesting observation that: Direct combat on the ground between American and Iraqi troops will make the United States responsible for arranging the situations and filling the vacuum, and that is something the Americans do not want to do. Even in Afghanistan, they refused to join the international forces. Had it not been for the British forces, there would not have been a government in Kabul.¹] * Iraqis search for a successor to Saddam [This has more details about the Ben Bradshaw meeting the opposition story. It is the more interesting end of the Iraqi opposition the Kurdish parties, the SCIRI and the Iraqi National Accord. It appears that there is now virtually no pretence even that the INC represent the Kurds, leaving us wondering who they have left. Note how the word tribe¹ is being heard more often these days (its part of the discourse of the INA). But what does it mean, if a single tribe¹ can encompass Sunni, Shia and (most odd) Turkmen?] * Sourchi: US Military Action Won¹t Benefit Kurds [What appears to me a brutally realistic, intelligent Kurdish assessment of the position of the Kurds in Iraq.] * US has not sought Kurdish aid to topple Saddam CULTURE * Marvellous artwork [In the Iraqi pavilion at Carpet Oasis. Its not clear where Carpet Oasis is but it seems to be outside Iraq and they also appear to be selling paintings. And ceramics. Is this legal? Shouldn¹t someone be doing something about it? What is the Australian navy doing? Why has HMS Kent been recalled?] * Tensions kept lid on Iraqi tomb's treasure [I have a certain admiration for the Egyptian fundamentalists who opposed the practise of opening up tombs and presenting the dead and their funerary arrangements to be gaped at by the idle curious.] * Artists make best of it in oppressive Iraq [The last of a courageous series if articles by Hadani Ditmars on life in Iraq, published in the San Francisco Chronicle] IRAQI OPPOSITION http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/070/nation/US_pursues_ex_generals_to_toppl e_Iraq_leader+.shtml * US PURSUES EX-GENERALS TO TOPPLE IRAQ LEADER by Anthony Shadid Boston Globe, 11th March WASHINGTON - The CIA and State Department have begun aggressively courting exiled Iraqi generals in Europe and the United States whom they see as key to overthrowing President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, US officials and Iraqi dissidents said. The overtures - which have irked some in the Pentagon - have intensified since January, when President Bush declared that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were part of ''an axis of evil'' and US officials stepped up their anti-Iraq rhetoric. In recent weeks in Washington, US officials have met with two former generals - Fawzi Shamari, a Shiite officer, and Najib Salhi, a former Republican Guard commander. In London, they met with a third, Wafiq Sammarai, a one-time chief of military intelligence who fled Iraq in 1994. The meetings were meant to explore what the officers might do to help topple the Hussein government and how the military would respond to his overthrow. The CIA has stepped up contacts with another key figure, Nizar Khazraji, a former Iraqi chief of staff who lives in exile in Denmark and is thought to maintain ties with officers inside Iraq, opposition officials say. Al-Hayat, a leading Arabic newspaper based in London, reported that Khazraji was the leading candidate on a US-generated list of more than 55 dissident officers to serve as ''an Iraqi Karzai,'' a reference to the US-backed interim Afghan government of Hamid Karzai. The officers on the list are all Sunni Muslims, like Hussein. The State Department denies that report, saying it is premature. But it has described the meetings as crucial to its efforts to broaden support for overthrowing a regime actively opposed by three administrations. ''Certainly any regime change is going to have to draw on military elements already inside,'' a State Department official said on condition of anonymity. Not everyone in Washington, however, sees wisdom in the State Department and CIA overtures. Dissent is not surprising given the history of disagreement between the State Department and the Pentagon over how to proceed on Iraq. The Pentagon critics complain that the latest overtures are undermining support for the Iraqi National Congress, an opposition group that has received $12 million in US funds. In early January, the State Department cut off funding for the Iraqi National Congress, declaring that the organization was unable to account for millions of dollars it had already received. After several weeks, the payments resumed as the organization promised to improve its accounting. The Iraqi National Congress enjoys substantial support in Congress and the Pentagon but is often treated with disdain by the State Department and CIA. ''What I have seen in recent weeks is a desperate effort by opponents of the INC to find an alternative,'' said Richard Perle, a former Reagan administration official who serves as chairman of the Pentagon's influential Defense Policy Board. ''I think it's foolish and short sighted.'' Perle fears that the State Department and CIA efforts send a mixed message to the region. ''It seems to me very damaging, and it creates confusion,'' he said. The debate goes to the heart of a long-standing dispute over how to shape anti-Iraq policy, which has demonstrated few if any successes since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. For years, the Iraqi National Congress - a nominal umbrella for the Iraqi opposition - has served as a centerpiece of US efforts to oust Hussein. Its leader, Ahmed Chalabi, is seen in Washington as a charismatic and effective lobbyist. But within the fractious Iraqi opposition, he remains a divisive figure, derided by some detractors as autocratic and arrogant. The Iraqi National Congress and its US backers tout Chalabi as a potential leader of post Hussein Iraq. But as a Shiite Muslim, like many of Hussein's opponents in southern Iraq, he is handicapped in recruiting officers from the army, which is dominated by Sunnis. His ties to the military are also limited by his long absence from Iraq: He left the country in 1958. A former defense official who monitored Iraq said: ''The INC has a fairly effective lobby around town and in certain circles in the Pentagon and certain members of Congress on the Republican side. But it has no standing whatsoever in the intelligence community or at State.'' That view was echoed by Edward S. Walker, who oversaw the Middle East at the State Department during the Clinton administration. ''The INC is incapable of doing anything. The INC is not representative of the broad opposition. The INC has been infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence by all reports that I have seen. And there's just a significant group of Iraqis in opposition who won't follow that lead,'' he said. It retains its supporters, however, particularly among hawks at the Pentagon like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Perle is another. He has outlined a plan - reminiscent of Afghanistan - that combines bombing with US forces assisting the opposition. A government would be set up in territory wrested from Hussein, and his army would be encouraged to revolt. ''I don't think we'd have to defeat Saddam's armies; I think Saddam's armies would defeat Saddam,'' he told the Hoover Institution last month. Few outside the Pentagon, though, say the Iraqi National Congress could fulfill that role, and in recent weeks, State Department and other US officials have stepped up their efforts to recruit the support of the former Iraqi generals. Salhi, formerly a senior commander in the army and Republican Guard who fled Iraq by way of the Kurdish-controlled north in 1995, has received much of the attention. The State Department calls the contact ''pretty fairly regular'' - the most recent an hourlong meeting Tuesday. ''Before there were ongoing meetings,'' an Iraqi opposition official said on condition of anonymity. ''But in the past two or three weeks, they've been more serious than before. They're trying to build another INC.'' While Iraq has a Shiite Muslim majority, Sunni Muslims dominate the military and security services, and Salhi is seen as a link to high-ranking officers who would prove key to any overture to the Iraqi army. Salhi himself has said he detects a new tone in dealings with the administration. ''I heard very encouraging words from them,'' he told the Globe. He said he promised to attend a meeting that the State Department is seeking to organize in Europe this spring that will draw former military officers. Another key figure is Sammarai, who moved to London five years ago. He said he met a US official and a diplomat from the Embassy in January in talks that focused on how the Iraqi military would respond to change. ''They wanted to know how we see the Iraqi Army after Saddam,'' he said. The figure believed to be supported by the CIA is Khazraji, who defected to Jordan in 1996. Iraqi dissidents say there was a move to bring him to the United States after Sept. 11. But plans were scuttled by an inquiry in Denmark over allegations of war crimes under his watch, particularly the military's use of poison gas against Kurds in Halabja in 1988, they say. Khazraji has denied responsibility, saying Hussein and a cousin ordered the attack. US officials say they remain interested in what he can offer. ''Certainly there's every reason to belive he still has connections inside Iraq,'' a State Department official said. ''That's his strength. Does that mean he's the next Karzai? No, that's not what I'm saying.'' Whitley Bruner, a former CIA station chief in Baghdad, met Khazraji earlier this year at the former general's home outside Copenhagen. But Bruner told the Globe that ''there was absolutely no involvement with the US government at all,'' and the CIA declined to comment on its attitude toward Khazraji. The United States is not alone in courting Iraqi generals. On Tuesday, for example, Ben Bradshaw, the junior British foreign office minister, met in London with Iraqi opposition forces. It was reportedly the first opposition meeting with a British minister in two years. ''He asked about the possibility of a military coup, defection of army officers, movements within the military. All the questions are about the military,'' said Hamid Bayati, a spokesman for a Shiite opposition group. The strategy has its backers, and many see the former generals as key to any inroads into an institution that Hussein jealously watches. ''They're sort of a liaison to the actual power,'' said the former defense official, ''the guys who have the tanks or the guns.'' http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2002/mar/11/031109113.html * EX-GENERAL WORKS TO TOPPLE SADDAM Las Vegas Sun, 11th March SOROE, Denmark- The highest officer to defect from Iraq maintains contact with the fragmented opposition abroad while defending himself against allegations of war crimes from his home in exile in this Scandinavian country. Gen. Nizar al-Khazraji, Iraqi chief of staff from 1986 to 1990, said Saddam Hussein's days as a dictator are numbered but wouldn't discuss exactly how the regime could be toppled. "I can't talk about details. Next year this time of the year, we will be home," al-Khazraji said in an interview with The Associated Press in Soroe, 60 miles outside Copenhagen. Al-Khazraji, who insists he want no career in politics, said he was fired as head of the Iraqi army in 1990 but kept as a military adviser to Saddam. He said he criticized the invasion of Kuwait that led to the 1991 Gulf War and was eventually placed under house arrest. He fled from Baghdad in 1995. After settling in Jordan, the general met with various groups in the fragmented Iraqi opposition in Europe and the Middle East, but said he has not joined a specific group. In July 1999, al-Khazraji, his wife and son sought political asylum in Denmark. The government rejected his request because of suspicions that he may have been responsible for the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s. He was allowed to stay in Denmark while the government investigates to determine whether he should face war crimes charges. Immigration Minister Bertel Haarder said al-Khazraji would not be allowed to return to Denmark if he leaves, except in "special circumstances." Al-Khazraji maintained the allegations were planted by the Iraqi regime to discredit him with the opposition. He said he had no authority over units involved in the attack. "It was directly organized by Saddam Hussein and (his confidant) Ali Hassan al-Majid," al Khazraji said. The general said opposition representatives visited him in January and he has kept in touch with them by telephone and fax. He welcomed U.S. support for the opposition but was hesitant to endorse direct American military action. "We don't want any collateral damage," he said. "We want Saddam Hussein toppled, but it doesn't mean that we want the Iraqis to suffer." http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/2002/03/11/news/opinion/2833869.htm * CAN WE TRUST IRAQI MILITARY TO HELP OUST SADDAM? Miami Herald (from The Philadelphia Inquirer), 11th March It feels strange to be sitting across from an Iraqi general in the bar of a Virginia hotel, eating pistachio nuts and listening to him talk about how Saddam Hussein could be ousted. ''Compared with Afghanistan, it would be much easier,'' says Gen. Najib al-Salhi, ``because of the [desert] terrain and because Iraq is ripe.'' Salhi, who fled Iraq in 1995, is founder of the Movement of Free Officers, which maintains secret contacts with dissident officers inside Iraq. He thinks it's time for the United States to help Iraqis dump the Butcher of Baghdad. ''Even the armed forces close to Saddam Hussein are ready for something,'' he insists. ``They are waiting for the last chapter. They will move when they see something very solid.'' Is Salhi on target? Are substantial parts of the Iraqi military ready to rebel? Could they become the equivalent of the Afghan Northern Alliance? This is the key question as the Bush administration debates how to bring about ''regime change'' in Baghdad. The only visible armed opposition to Saddam is the Kurds of Northern Iraq, a region protected by a U.S.-imposed ''no fly zone.'' Kurdish leaders are divided about taking on Saddam's army at our urging They've tried before and been betrayed by the United States. So U.S. officials are also looking to Iraqi officers-in-exile who claim they still have military contacts back home. Salhi is one of a handful of former Iraqi generals who have met with U.S. officials. The subject of Iraqi military defectors is so hot that there is talk in Washington about organizing competing conferences of Iraqi officers: one sponsored by the Iraqi National Congress, an opposition group favored by civilian officials at the Pentagon; and a second, sponsored by the State Department, which would include both military and political opposition figures. Salhi interested me because he commanded a mechanized brigade that faced a 1995 INC rebel offensive in northern Iraq. He says his soldiers were ready to defect to the INC. They never got the chance, because the offensive collapsed when the Clinton administration failed to support it. Had the 1995 uprising continued and been coordinated with a southern uprising, Saddam's military would have collapsed, Salhi argues. ''I have seen people inside the army who are more in opposition than people outside Iraq,'' he says. What would instigate another army uprising now? ''If the United States is really serious and credible, Saddam will find few to stand by him,'' even in elite military units, Salhi claims. What would signal serious U.S. intent? Support ``all opposition groups that say they will work against Saddam, even Shiites based in Iran.'' Attack the symbols of Saddam's despotism, ''so the people know that the attack is focused on the regime.'' Bomb his palaces and the huge statues he has had built around Baghdad. Base a significant number of troops in Kuwait or Turkey ``to show the United States will come in in case something goes wrong.'' Prepare the political strategy now, in tandem with military plans, for what kind of civilian regime will govern Iraq after Saddam is gone. ''There will be chaos,'' says Salhi, ``if Saddam is succeeded by an unpopular military government.'' It all makes sense. But Salhi's case depends on the big unknown: Will Iraqi military units really rise if the administration follows his formula? The general says yes, but there is no way to be sure. http://www.wn.com/?action=display&article=12435839&template=baghdad/indexsea rch.txt&index=recent * IRAQI OPPOSITION LOOKS TO GENERAL The Associated Press,12th March CAIRO, Egypt: Across Europe, the Middle East and the United States, the exiled officers who once ran Saddam Hussein's army are being recruited by a U.S.-backed Iraqi opposition group that sees signals the United States may soon embark on a concerted effort to topple Saddam. The Iraqi National Congress is trying to bring the exiled, dissident soldiers together this month to discuss a future command structure for the army. Though no date or venue has been set, the opposition's planning has reached a feverish stage as Vice President Dick Cheney begins a Middle East tour, reportedly seeking support for American action against Iraq. The opposition group is only looking for a military leader, but it's natural to think one of the generals might be destined for a bigger role given that Iraq's security forces traditionally have played a major role in politics and that the civilian opposition is weakened by infighting. A three-man ruling council for a government-in-waiting that the Iraqi National Congress formed in 1992 has collapsed amid clashing personal ambitions, political differences and the agendas of the exiles' host countries. The congress has operatives within Iraq but only a weak following among the people. One potential military leader being touted in Iraqi opposition circles is Gen. Nizar al Khazraji, a former chief of staff and a hero of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war, who is now seeking asylum in Denmark. In a country divided between the Shiite and Sunni strains of Islam, Al-Khazraji is from the Sunni sect that has dominated Iraq since its independence in 1922. He is the highest-ranking officer to defect from Saddam's ranks and is believed to still enjoy support inside the army. Those attributes and his staying out of squabbles within the opposition community have led some to suggest he is Iraq's equivalent of Hamid Karzai, leader of the interim government of Afghanistan. Among others floated as possible successors or members of an interim government are another general, Fawzi al-Shamari, who defected in the mid-1980s and now lives in the United States, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who might be presented as a consensus choice of the minority Kurds and the Shiites. Al-Khazraji ``is an example of a professional and a credible officer that can unify the army behind him,'' Iraqi journalist Haroun Mohammed, who covered al-Khazraji's army career, told The Associated Press from London. Saddam appears to see al-Khazraji as a serious rival. Babil, the newspaper owned by Saddam's eldest son, has tried to tarnish his image with articles questioning his wife's reputation. Iraq also has started extradition proceedings, claiming al-Khazraji is wanted for questioning in Iraq about whether he was responsible for a car accident in which someone was killed or injured. In interviews with the Saudi-owned MBC television network, al-Khazraji, who defected in 1995, has outlined plans for the regime change under which the army would take over temporarily until a new government can be elected. In an interview with the AP at his home in Denmark, al-Khazraji denied he had thoughts of succeeding Saddam himself. ``The military's role is to topple (Saddam) and let the politicians and the people do the rest,'' he said. ``I'm a soldier and I stay a soldier.'' Al-Khazraji's biggest liability is charges that during his tenure the Iraqi army used chemical weapons against Kurds. He maintains he is innocent, saying Saddam, not he, controlled the chemical stockpiles. He said Saddam ordered the attacks and that a confidant of the Iraqi leader was in charge of military activities in Kurdish areas. Some Kurdish opposition groups have defended the general. The Danish government is investigating to determine whether al-Khazraji should face war crimes charges because of the chemical weapons accusations. Under Danish law the general cannot travel abroad until the question is resolved. Al-Khazraji told the AP he wasn't planning to attend the generals' meeting anyway, saying he believes important decisions are better made outside a glare of publicity like the one focused on the meeting. Some other former high-ranking Iraqi officers are planning to attend, but many among the some 1,000 exiled Iraqi officers have expressed reservations or said no, especially since the Iraqi National Congress has put forward no concrete plan for finally changing the regime at home. Some independent analysts say the Iraqi opposition is too weak to fight Saddam. Still, Najib al-Salehi, a retired brigadier-general who now heads the Iraqi Free Officers Movement, is upbeat about the prospects. The Americans ``look serious this time about toppling Saddam, even by force. We cannot stay idle,'' al-Salehi said in telephone interview from his Washington home. The Iraqi National Congress apparently envisions an insurgency that would coincide with or quickly follow an American strike against Saddam's military and security apparatus. Mohammed Kardri Saeed, an Egyptian military analysts with the Cairo-based Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, said that whether the United States invades outright or supports an insurgency, it will need the opposition groups to succeed. ``The Americans are talking about a regime change which means on the day after, there should be somebody or some group to take over,'' Saeed said in an interview. Some opposition groups are resisting joining a U.S.-backed insurgency, fearing that will look like American puppets or that the move will just lead to a military dictatorship. Sobhi al-Jumaili, London-based leader of the Iraqi Communist Party, said his party and several other leftist, Islamic and pan-Arab movements want to form broad coalition as an alternative to the Iraqi National Congress. The two key Kurdish groups controlling northern Iraq and the main Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq have said they will not join a U.S.-sponsored military attack. Talabani, the Kurdish leader, was in Turkey recently to discuss U.S. plans and said his group would like to see ``democratic change'' in Iraq. ``We are not supporting replacing an old dictator with a new one,'' he told reporters. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1869000/1869103.st m * SADDAM RENEWS KURDISH THREATS by the BBC's Hiwa Osman BBC, 12th March Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has tried to reach out to the country's Kurdish population amid speculation that their areas could be used by the United States as it contemplates extending its war on terror against Iraq. In a speech on the 32nd anniversary of an historic agreement setting out the rights of the Iraqi Kurds, he said Kurds should not be deceived by "the foreigner", and should postpone their aspiration in the face of threats facing Baghdad. But he added that he was not calling for dialogue with them - he did not want anyone "to have the illusion that this leadership is calling for dialogue because it is under futile threats". A Kurdish politician described the speech as "unbelievable". Kurdish regions in Iraq have been outside Baghdad's control since 1991. Trying to woo over the Kurds, Saddam referred back to the agreement of 11 March 1970, which had demonstrated the Iraqi people's "high level of maturity, ability and patriotism to solve their problems themselves". He asked the Kurds to compare between the treatment they had received in Iraq and the fate of their brethren in neighbouring Turkey, Iran and Syria, adding that he did not have any problem using words like "our Kurdish people and Iraqi Kurdistan." But, while urging the Kurds to gain their rights through dialogue, the Iraqi leader said: "When we see that Iraq is going through difficult times, we should postpone many things". Dr Mahmoud Osman, a politician who led the Kurdish delegation at the 11 March agreement, told BBC News Online that Saddam's statement reminded him of the negotiations in 1991. "They told us that the Kurds have to ask for less than 1970 because they entered two wars and that there was a conspiracy against them," Mr Osman said. "We were asked to pay the price of what the Iraqi regime did." The Iraqi president's speech was not without warnings and threats. "I say to the Iraqi people, and to the Kurds in particular, that Iraqis are clever, prudent and brave. The foreigner should not deceive them." "We can disagree," he added. "But this should not put our powers at the service of the foreigners." If the US were to extend its campaign against terror to Baghdad, a possible scenario would be to launch the attacks from Kurdish areas. Saddam Hussein said that he was staying out of the Kurdish-controlled areas "not because of the foreigners". In the jousting between Washington and Baghdad to win over the Kurds, the Iraqi president said his government was "the only regime that will realise everything every Kurd aspires to". Iraqi Kurds have been pushing for a relationship with Baghdad that would be based on federalism. This was declared in 1992 by the joint Kurdish parliament elected after the withdrawal of Baghdad's administration from the Kurdish region. Concluding his remarks, the Iraqi president said there was nothing wrong with "discussing the improvement of the autonomy law". Dr Osman saw this as "a mere tactic." "He [Saddam] is only saying this because he is under threat. Once the threat is removed he will use force again". http://www.kurdistanobserver.com/ * KURDISH GROUP DENIES REPORTED US MILITARY MISSION IN NORTHERN IRAQ Kurdistan Observer, 12th March DAMASCUS, March 12 AFP. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) denied Tuesday a press report that US military personnel recently carried out a reconnaissance mission in northern Iraq ahead of a possible strike. "It's a pure lie," a PUK official told AFP here, commenting on the report published the same day by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat. The PUK, an Iraqi Kurdish opposition group led by Jalal Talabani, "does not favor foreign plots to topple the regime" of President Saddam Hussein, he said when asked of US threats of military action against Baghdad. "We seek a democratic change in Iraq; we do not want that a dictator (Saddam Hussein) be replaced by another one," he added. The official said Talabani was expected to arrive in Damascus Tuesday evening for talks with the Syrian leadership, saying there were "no problems" between the PUK and Syria, which also opposes any US strike against Iraq. Quoting Iraqi opposition sources in Damascus, Al-Hayat said more than 40 US military officers and experts recently spent around 10 days inspecting military positions in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, including two airports, "in the framework of the preparations for military operations". The Kurdish areas of northern Iraq have been under the control of the PUK and another Iraqi Kurdish opposition movement, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK) of Masud Barzani, since 1991. The DPK could not be reached for comment on the Al-Hayat's story. http://hoovnews.hoovers.com/fp.asp?layout=displaynews&doc_id=NR20020314670.2 _4234006bb381c87e * IRAQI OPPOSITIONIST PONDERS POSSIBILITY OF TOPPLING SADDAM Hoover's, 13th March Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, in Arabic 6 Mar 02 There has been much talk about the scenarios of the US action towards Iraq... Are the Americans relying on the Iraqi opposition abroad, which they are saying does not have influence inside the army and the special organs? I do not think so... To begin with, it ought to be recalled that every massive military action needs preparations. Some of these are preparatory ones that do not entail losses, expenditure or great efforts. Several signs of such activities have appeared. But the other part of the preparations includes essential sophisticated efforts. Signs of such preparations can be monitored and they are called signs of imminent action. Have these signs appeared? The answer is no, apart from reports that a US team from the Defence Department and intelligence services visited the Kurdish area and inspected abandoned airports in Ayn Kawah, Bamarni, and Harir areas. This was considered a sign that US forces might establish forward bases for combat helicopters and for a dropping operation. The question of determining the expected periods of action remains no more than a conjecture. The opposition is not only divided but also fragmented in a way that entails real dangers. Dozens of them from all corners and hues feel, nonsensically, that they have more right to pick the presidency apple. Apart from the Kurdish movements that have their own territory, people, and resources and enjoy strong international protection, the opposition does not have a single armed man on the ground at present. No armed organization is present. Since the Americans know this truth very well, they therefore are not relying on the opposition abroad in any military action they take like they did with the Northern Alliance, unless they become desperate and cannot see any other alternative. If they choose to resort to such a choice, then this will require the formation of forces of Iraqi Arabs on Iraqi territory from among those inside the country who can be attracted. Then the countdown can begin for playing the "the hour of revolutionary action has come" anthem. The legitimate question remains about the number of Iraqi Arabs living abroad who can be recruited to fight. How many of them are willing to leave their jobs and financial privileges and go to fight the regime? Their number will most probably lead us to a very embarrassing talk. A great change has taken place in US war strategies in particular and the Western ones in general since the recent Balkan war. The reliance now is on the extensive and effective use of the air and missile forces. This concept is embodied by the interception operations that do no require the compulsory use of land forces as long as the fighting is far from the Western countries' borders and in order to avoid the human losses expected in ground combat operations. How can the possibility of the United States sending very large numbers of US land troops to bring down Saddam Husayn be believed, especially when we take into account several relevant considerations? These include: - For Saddam, several leaders, and probably some sectors, the battle will be a matter of life or death. Hence fighting will ensue in which both sides, not only one, will suffer human losses if the orders are not precise and based on real information and not on estimates by individuals who have never done any planning, even if they wear military uniforms. - The West has not yet tried a single option for bringing down the regime. The word containment clearly shows the nature of the US policy followed during the past 11 years despite all the clamour. So what will make them adopt the most dangerous option when they can resolve the issue with the other ones? Is it not wiser to try options that start with the first rung on the toppling ladder instead of risking failure by springing to the top rung? - The absence of any urgent issue linked to a certain timing that cannot be prolonged. - Direct combat on the ground between American and Iraqi troops will make the United States responsible for arranging the situations and filling the vacuum, and that is something the Americans do not want to do. Even in Afghanistan, they refused to join the international forces. Had it not been for the British forces, there would not have been a government in Kabul. - The present administration's strategy is derived from the management of the Desert Storm legacy, which refused to risk the lives of US soldiers when Saddam was at his weakest moments. So what has changed? Colin Powell advocated at first economic sanctions instead of a resort to war. He then picked up the smart sanctions notion last year. The sanctions would have definitely brought down the regime after the Desert Storm War had they been applied ruthlessly. But they turned a blind eye in order to give vent for internal frustrations. Many nations went through very difficult times but did not slip into the abyss of open ended demands, did not overstep the national constants, and did not transcend their moral entities. The armed forces and institutions in all nations remained the symbols of the state's strength and a guarantee of its security in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere. Those demanding the destruction of these organs, not their rehabilitation and reorganization, are merely dreaming of uncontrollability and the spread of chaos in the hope that this might help them achieve illegitimate ambitions. If, according to recent reports in the press, the Afghan prime minister's vehicle was stolen in the centre of Kabul, the village capital compared to Baghdad, and the ministers do not hide the fact that they are fearing for their lives, then let us imagine the state of those dreaming of being imposed on the state's institutions in Baghdad, the country of militarism and massive youth density. What will be their state if security gets out of control and the situations become helter-skelter? A meeting was held at the British Foreign Office about three years ago and I was one of the opposition symbols who attended it. Discussions began on the sidelines between the oppositionists during the rest intervals. I told them it was naive to believe that hundreds of generals would hand over power to some ambitious person or group that lives abroad and knows nothing about Iraq. It is superficial for anyone to believe that the Americans are unaware of the dangers of imposing someone. Each individual's share will be proportionate to his coordinated covert and overt operations in the right direction. If there is a need to talk about the map of the centres of power in Iraq, it appears as follows: - The special organs first, (some) units of the Armed Forces, and a very limited number of military commanders because the role of the overwhelming majority of officers does not go beyond their profession. They have remained almost strangers to the establishment itself, especially those who did not serve in important branches. Many of them feel inferior. - The armed Kurdish movements by virtue of the fact that they have territory, a people, their own resources, armed forces, establishments, and long experience of armed operations. - Some religious parties and symbols whose role was affected after the 11 September events that created a new reality, namely, the suspicious look at any form of religious political enlightenment. From the West's viewpoint, the religious parties are in a very critical position and the possibilities of Western backing for the religious tendencies or any action that might enhance their influence later on have just disappeared. With the exception of the above and several certain other persons, there are no serious power centres. So how can persons other than them control the situation when security gets out of control? Or do they want to reach power under the bombardment of aircraft and the exhaust of the West's armoured vehicles? Do you they want to exercise their roles under the protection of Britain's Special Forces and the US Marines? Is it not better for Britain and the United States to activate the real power centres inside Iraq? Will the upcoming team secure for them all their legitimate interests? This should not however cancel in any way whatsoever the various parties' roles. According to this brief presentation, and apart from the reports about the inspection of airports, there are no signs that can be relied on when determining scenarios that go beyond strong air and missile strikes on selected targets, albeit if the regime remains as it is. These strikes will hopefully create the right conditions for a military rebellion of which the Kurds might be part at one stage. Regardless of this or that course, we reach the following central question that is exercising everyone's mind: Is the change (toppling the regime) possible? Yes, through some power centres inside Iraq if there is a determination and an international action against the regime takes place. The best and shortest route lies in a quick and lightning intelligence operation, which is totally possible and has Arab-Turkish support. They could have done this in 1991 and they can do it today. The United States should not intervene in drawing up the Iraqi particulars after Saddam or help one party over another to reach power. It should leave the matter to the balances of the forces on the ground and anyone who then reaches power will have the blessings and it becomes incumbent on him to be seriously open to all the people. This is in the best interest of everyone, including the United States. There is nothing to justify the fears of Iraqi sectors that another Saddam Husayn will come. Iraq has not been through such times for hundreds of years. Anyone who succeeds him [Saddam] will be compelled to be open to his people and the world and initiate the gradual moves towards democracy. Are they going to do this? http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,666298,00.html * IRAQIS SEARCH FOR A SUCCESSOR TO SADDAM by Brian Whitaker The Guardian, 13th March 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. http://www.kurdistanobserver.com/ * SOURCHI: US MILITARY ACTION WON¹T BENEFIT KURDS by Hisham Aldiwan Kurdistan Observer (fromThe Daily Star [Lebanon?]), 13th March LONDON: Iraq¹s Kurds are unlikely to gain from a US military operation aimed at overthrowing President Saddam Hussein, says a Kurdish leader critical of the two big Kurdish parties that share control of northern Iraq. Neither are they likely to play a ³real role² in such an endeavor, in the view of Hussein Khader al-Sourchi, London representative of the Association of Kurdish Tribes. Discussing the prospect of the US initiating a war aimed at changing the regime in Baghdad, Sourchi said that while the Kurds have no interest in such an offensive, they would also have no say in whether Washington opts to launch one. ³The Kurds¹ priority at present is not war or confronting the Baghdad regime, but to enjoy full rights under a law that treats all as equals in the context of a democratic regime² in Iraq, he told The Daily Star. US military action ³will not bring any good to the Kurds,² Sourchi remarked. ³We are only part of America¹s game in the region, nothing more.² He indicated that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) shared that view, suggesting that the KDP¹s opposition to war on Iraq might explain what he claimed was a recent attempt to assassinate its leader, Masoud Barzani. But Sourchi was fiercely critical of both the KDP and its rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which between them control the three northern provinces of Iraq that have been off limits to the central government in Baghdad since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. He charged that the two parties¹ misrule and rivalries had shattered the high expectations that Iraqi Kurds had when the ³safe haven² was set up in the north by the US and Britain, and were profiting at the expense of the population. Sourchi pointed as evidence to the high rate of emigration from the Kurdish-controlled enclave. He said there was an ³on going exodus² of educated and professional people, in particular to Europe, despite the considerable external aid that flows into the area via NGOs. The large numbers of people desperate to leave Iraqi Kurdistan reflect both the ³lack of confidence in the safe haven² felt by ordinary Kurds, and the mismanagement of the local economy by ³the two regional governments.² Sourchi charged that the KDP and PUK use the bulk of the ³huge income which they generate from smuggling and taxing crossborder trade² for their own purposes as parties, adding that rivalry over such spoils is the main cause of the fighting that has periodically broken out between them over the years. Only some 10 percent of the estimated $3 million which the KDP earns per day is spent on funding public services and the activities of the regional government based in Arbil, he claimed, adding that ³most of it² is deposited in offshore bank accounts held by party leaders or invested on their behalf abroad. ³The main objective of most Kurdish party leaders is to accumulate as much wealth as possible, because they know this safe haven is not going to last. They stash these enormous sums to retain as assets which they may one day use to revert to guerrilla warfare against the central government,² he said. Sourchi said most Iraqi Kurds were aware that secession is ³not an option² for Kurds in any of the four countries between which their homeland has been partitioned, and are convinced that it would be ³sufficient² for them to enjoy ³adequate national and cultural rights² within Iraq. ³Our real problem is the Kurdish political parties that are on the ground and the political leaders who were imposed on the Kurdish people.² Although new non-partisan potential leaders have emerged who are critical of the status quo, ³the possibility of change remains non-existent.² Sourchi dismissed reports that Baghdad is building up its forces on the fringes of the Kurdish enclave as an apparent prelude to retaking it, saying such claims were ³propaganda.² ³The Iraqi leadership can regain control of all the towns and villages in 24 hours. Despite the Kurdish parties¹ claims to be prepared for such an eventuality, they cannot on their own stop or resist an offensive by the Iraqi army.² But according to Sourchi, Baghdad won¹t retake Kurdistan while the US is policing the enclave¹s airspace out of Incirlik base in Turkey and preparing to mount an attack on Iraq. ³I do not think the Baghdad government has an interest in opening a second front at present,² he said. Sourchi said Baghdad had another reason for not reimposing its control over the Kurdish north. ³Just as the safe haven serves the interests of the US, it serves the interests of the Iraqi government. It has become a lung for Iraq to breathe through - by smuggling goods that are difficult to get via the UN oil-for-food program, mainly through Turkey and Iran.³ But ³if such a move were to be considered necessary, the Iraqi government will have no problem retaking the north.² http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=3911465 * US HAS NOT SOUGHT KURDISH AID TO TOPPLE SADDAM Times of India (from AFP), 16th march DAMASCUS: Washington has not demanded Kurdish assistance in a military campaign to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurdish chief Jalal Talabani told reporters in Damascus Friday. "The United States has not discussed with us a strike if they have not asked our participation, said Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), whose party is firmly opposed to a US campaign to oust Saddam by force. "We are in the dark. We do not know what the American plans are," said Talabani, whose party shares control of northern Iraq along with the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Talabani also categorically denied press reports that the United States had sent a military reconnaissance team into the Kurdish-controlled Iraqi north. The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper said Tuesday more than 40 US military officers and experts recently spent around 10 days inspecting military positions in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, including two airports, "in the framework of the preparations for military operations". Talabani arrived in the Syrian capital on Tuesday and has been meeting with Syrian officials to discuss the threat of a US attack on Iraq. The Iraqi Kurds have controlled northern Iraq in defiance of Baghdad since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait. CULTURE http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=43745 * MARVELLOUS ARTWORK by Abeya Al Bakry Gulf News, 11th March Carpets and paintings displayed at the Iraqi pavilion in the Carpet Oasis retains its essence despite all the calamities that engulf the world . Or, would it be more profound to say that calamities and tragedies reaffirm the belief in creativity? These thoughts are evoked as one walks into the first Iraqi pavilion at the Carpet Oasis, where five Iraqi merchants are exhibiting traditional carpets and art work made by over 100 Iraqi families, while oil paintings of more than 10 Iraqi artists are on display at the handicraft gallery in the Carpet Oasis. Taking into consideration the current economic situation in Iraq one can't but wonder, looking at the marvellous handwoven carpets, oil paintings and ceramic work as to whether these works reflect necessity or a sense of pride. Each piece displayed vibrates life and speaks volumes on the rich historical heritage on which the country thrives. Since United Nations sanctions were imposed on Iraq, Arab countries have extended their sympathies to it, but Iraq and the Iraqis rely on themselves to rebuild their country after the Gulf War. Out of necessity and a sense of pride, the Iraqis, both men and women, use their traditional skills to earn a living. "Iraqi people are resourceful. They have been builders since the ancient times of Babylon, and they still produce woodwork, copperware, silver and pottery," says Ali Abou Zeid, a merchant at the Oasis. "The products being sold here are home-made." Iraqi families make rugs, curtains and blankets - the bosat, al-ezar and al-madda respectively - mainly from wool and goat's hair and, occasionally, from cotton. Sheep and goats are plentiful in the Iraqi countryside. There are two main rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, land for the cattle to graze, and dyes are herb extracts which are very stable. Thus, Iraqi families are able to produce their own handicrafts and art work using these materials to market them abroad. Traditionally, these products were seen in every home, and were precious components of a woman's dowry. "This is my second participation in the Carpet Oasis Exhibition. I just came back from Russia last month," Ali explains. About 100 families are waiting for Ali back in Iraq to receive payment for the merchandise it took them more than a year to produce. "Since the UN sanctions, there has been a lack of medical supplies. However, food availability is not so bad," he said. Iraqi products are sold at reasonable prices during the exhibition. One trader admits: "I came to the exhibition hoping to sell these oil paintings but so far I have sold only two paintings." The prices range from Dh 5 to Dh 2,000. There are oil paintings of Iraqi alleys, scenes from ancient Basra and Baghdad, and Bedouin women doing their chores. "Some of these paintings are by famous artists like Fadel Dabbagh, Amro Qaisi, Jumaili, Bashar, Kareem Juma, Khadr Gargees, and others," he said. Iraqi ceramics are also on display. Iraqi motifs, fish for good fortune, horse-shoes for luck and other motifs are painstakingly drawn on pots, wall hangings, pottery and ceramics. Baqer Mohammed Ali, an artist who is exhibiting at the Carpet Oasis, says: "There are large ceramic wall hangings. These used to be sold for decoration in large houses in Iraq, but now there is no more construction, so we have come to display our art work abroad." For lovers of ethnic handicrafts, the Iraqi exhibition is a must with its display of the Bedouin lifestyle that is unique to its countryside. The wall paintings are vibrant with colour and bring to life the country and its natural landscape. A triumph of the human spirit and determination indeed. http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1293016 * TENSIONS KEPT LID ON IRAQI TOMB'S TREASURE Houston Chronicle, 12th March LONDON -- Iraqi archaeologists came to the British Museum on Tuesday to share details of a hoard of 2,800-year-old Assyrian tomb artifacts discovered shortly before the Persian Gulf War and still little known in the West. The artifacts, including large quantities of gold and jewelry, are from what archaeologists believe are two 9th and 8th century B.C. tombs of princesses or consorts -- possibly of the court of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II, who reigned from 883 to 859 B.C. They were found at Nimrud on the river Tigris in northern Iraq in 1988 and 1989, the British Museum said, and were stored in Baghdad, the capital. Because of the 1991 war and the breakdown in relations between Iraq and much of the West, details of the discovery have been obscure. "In my opinion, showing the artifacts in the West would cause as big a sensation as the museum's 1972 exhibition of Tutankhamen," said John Curtis, head of British Museum's Ancient Near East department. "But I am afraid that with the current political situation, it would be out of the question showing them outside Iraq in the foreseeable future." Six Iraqis, led by Muayad Damerji, the government's adviser on archaeology and heritage, brought research papers, photographs and a video of the discovery to a three-day Nimrud Conference at the British Museum, which began Monday. The conference is an opportunity to discuss the Iraqi research, the British Museum said. The artifacts include hundreds of gold objects including earrings, finer and toe rings, necklaces, diadems, plates, bowls and flasks, many elaborately engraved and set with semiprecious stones. The two tombs are among four discovered in sealed chambers beneath the floors of vaults below the remains of a temple at Nimrud. European archaeologists had conducted excavations there, but the tombs remained hidden until excavated by the Iraqis. An article published by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq last year said one tomb held three bronze coffins containing the remains of at least 13 people. In one coffin, a woman in her 20s was buried with a fetus and four children, according to the article. The tomb contained 449 objects, and inscriptions indicated they came from different decades and reigns, making it difficult to identify those buried, the article noted. The gold and silver alone weighed 50 pounds. Another tomb contained a stone sarcophagus with the remains of two women who died about the same age -- 30 to 35 -- but 20 to 50 years apart. Inscriptions on items include the names of at least three queens. Assyria was the center of one of the great empires of the ancient Middle East. From the 9th to 7th centuries, Assyrian kings united much of the region, from Egypt to the Persian Gulf. Nimrud, whose ancient name was Calah, was founded in the 13th century B.C., but did not become important until Ashurnasirpal II made it his royal seat and military capital of the Assyrian Empire. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2002/03/13/MN152757.DTL * ARTISTS MAKE BEST OF IT IN OPPRESSIVE IRAQ by Hadani Ditmars San Francisco Chronicle, 13th March It's not hard to understand the desire to escape -- if only for an hour or so -- the grim reality of life in a battered, isolated nation that was once the cradle of civilization. For many residents of Baghdad, that wish fulfillment comes in the form of culture -- theater, fine art and music. Despite the ravages of the 10-year-old international sanctions campaign, or perhaps because of them, Baghdad's theater scene is flourishing. Since the importation of films and film processing chemicals is forbidden by the U.N. sanctions, most cinemas have closed and reopened as forums for an art that requires only human voices and a playwright's ideas. For just 2,000 dinars (about $1), theatergoers can catch "My Love is the Moon," a production of star actor-director Haidar Monather. The play, which has been running for several months, features grand, surrealist tableaux that to an outsider might appear fantastic, yet somehow manage to capture the essence and ambiguity of what it is to be Iraqi today. The play, throwing together historical eras, film and theater into a mixed- media blender, tells the story of a young man named Faraj, who goes with his friends to one of Baghdad's museums. There, he's caught in a time warp and winds up in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, shortly before Britain's post- World War I occupation of this country. He falls in love with Kamar, a beautiful young woman preyed upon by the palace madame, Regina, who wants to sell her to the sultan. Deploying prerecorded video with live theater and modern pop culture references -- including Santana songs -- along with Ottoman rituals, Haidar merges past and present, as the young lovers fast-forward their way to modern Baghdad. In one scene, Faraj, dressed in a monkey suit, performs in a circus in Ottoman-era Istanbul. When he complains to the ringmaster that he is a man, not a monkey, he is told, "The people have paid just to see you dance. So dance!" The theme of caged animals caught in a circus of the absurd is one Iraqis easily identify with. At that point, a proscenium emerges from which the sultan, Regina and entourage watch young Kamar dance. When she finally faints from exhaustion, they begin to laugh, shouting, "Long live the empire!" The anti-imperialist message later becomes more apparent as one character exclaims: "First the Turks, then the British, now the Americans!" and with Faraj's final line: "I am Iraqi. I will survive!" The audience -- a mix of students, Haidar fans, old men in carefully pressed dinner jackets and whole families out for a night on the town -- is enthralled. "Haidar is my hero," said Samir, a 21-year-old theater student who likes the way Haidar mixes elements of modern and classical theater, as well as traditional Iraqi and Western pop music. "There's no one like him in today's scene. He's unique." Alia, a young mother who brought her husband and two daughters, said she liked Haidar's plays because "they reflect Iraqi reality." But if she were to write a play, she added, it would be about the plight of women here -- their daily struggle to survive and keep their families together. "My little girl has leukemia," she said almost casually, referring to the blood disease that has become common here since the Gulf War rained down toxic materials on the country. "She loves going to plays. We go to the theater much more often now than before the embargo." Theatrical humor here is barbed, often black and usually about the embargo. In some productions, references to government corruption and the culture of black market smuggling occasionally creep in. A smash hit from last year, Mushen al-Ali's "World of Smoke," was a kind of Iraqi "Carmen," in which a young woman in a cigarette factory, representing the "true, pure spirit" of Iraq, is symbolically strangled by her boss' son, a sanctions profiteer. Art appreciation has also enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in Baghdad, with 100 new, private art galleries opening in the last few years. While life remains a struggle for many Iraqi artists -- canvas, oils and acrylics are too costly to obtain -- an influx of well-paid U.N. employees and foreign diplomats has revived the careers of some abstract painters who had been languishing in obscurity. The revival has not pleased many older artists, who were the leading lights of the '70s Iraqi art scene when generous government subsidies made Baghdad the cultural epicenter of the Arab world. They are appalled at what they regard as the crassness of much of the new art -- kitschy orientalist tableaux primarily aimed at the nouveau riche smuggler class, who hang them in their fabulously ostentatious villas. Perhaps the most poignant of the surviving cultural institutions is the Baghdad Philharmonic, founded in the 1920s and one of the oldest classical orchestras in the Arab world. These days, it still gives regular concerts, but its players are forced to make music on frayed violin strings and cracked oboe reeds. Although cast in a Western symphonic form, the music is filled with passion and sense of urgency -- especially when members play their own compositions. One score, entitled "To the U.N.," is dramatic and angry, full of clashing cymbals and pounding drums. Another, the moving symphonic poem, "Heartbeat of Baghdad," celebrates the joys and sorrows of this ancient city. The piece's composer is 26-year-old Lance Conway, whose improbable Iraqi name came from his Anglo-Irish grandfather, who came here during the British occupation. The embargo has prevented him from studying abroad, as many Iraqi music students did prior to the 1991 Gulf War, and has severely limited the audience for his work -- which he describes as a "mixture of East and West." "One day," he said, "I hope that there will be no borders or barriers, and my music can be heard internationally." But the bassoonist-composer says that staying in Iraq has also been inspirational. "Sometimes I wonder if I would be as creative if I were abroad," he said. "Here I can feel more my own 'Iraqi-ness.' Sometimes I feel it's like a spring bubbling up from within." The orchestra's conductor, Amin Ezzat, suffered a sanctions-related tragedy two years ago; his wife was killed when their gas stove -- in ill repair because of the shortage of spare parts -- exploded. Still, he continues to conduct and compose with enthusiasm. The embargo has dropped salaries for orchestra members from about $300 per month to $3, but for Ezzat the "artistic isolation" from international musical culture has in some ways been even more of a hardship. "Before the embargo, there were many more exchanges with foreign players and conductors," he said. But American anti-sanctions activists brought in Gershwin scores last year, including "Rhapsody in Blue," which the orchestra loves and plans to perform next season. There is also talk of a concert tour to Jordan and Syria in the fall -- the first since the Gulf War. The possibility of renewed U.S. military action is met with a relaxed fatalism. "What can we do?" shrugged Ezzat. "We will just keep on playing." He complains of the difficulty of retaining musicians; many drop out to work as taxi drivers or in the markets, just to make ends meet. But he says life would be unbearable if he quit: "When I'm conducting, I feel as if the whole world is in my hands, and I can shape it in any way I like. I can express all my feelings through conducting, as well as the tragedy and the joy of my people. "If I stopped doing this, I wouldn't survive." This is the last of a series of Chronicle stories by ` åêeÄist Hadani D\¸@rs, who recently spent a month reporting in Iraq _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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