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A. Short: Military action against Iraq is 'unwise', Independent, 18 March B. CIA survey of Iraq airfields heralds attack, Independent, 18 March C. Arab states united in rejecting attack on Saddam, Independent, 18 March D. The rumours are swirling, the war drums beating - rebellion is in the air, Independent, 18 March [opinion piece by Mark Seddon] E. Short opens rift on Iraq, Guardian, 18 March F. Saddam enemy warns against war, Guardian, 18 March G. Arab leaders tell Cheney that Iraq is not the priority, Guardian, 18 March H. An Iraq war could fan flames of recession, Guardian, 18 March I. Iraq and responses to international law, Guardian, 18 March [letters] J. What Tony Blair needs to know, Guardian, 15 March [comment piece referred to in the letters in I.above] K. Short 'may be forced to quit over Iraq', The Times, 18 March L. Action and impasse in Middle East, The Times, 18 March [letters] M. Saddam must be ousted now, says Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph, 18 March N. Saudis 'refuse to let America use bases for attacks on Iraq', Daily Telegraph, 18 March Independent: firstname.lastname@example.org Guardian: email@example.com The Times: firstname.lastname@example.org Daily Telegraph: email@example.com [Remember to include your address and telephone number!] I was wrong about last Friday's press coverage. There was actually quite a bit, including an article (J ) examining the legality of attacking Iraq (as far as I'm aware the only piece, so far, to even raise the question) and a letter in the Independent from voices' Andrea Needham. The former has resulted in several letters in today's Guardian (see I), the first of which certainly deserves a response. As you can see from the above there's quite a bit of coverage in today's papers. In particular all the papers report on Short's 'On the record' interview and her hints that she may resign if Blair goes ahead. Today's Telegraph also ran a piece entitled 'Saddam 'armed bin Laden and funded al-Qa'eda allies', which I was unable to find on-line. This reported a piece in the current New Yorker by someone called Jeff Goldberg. According to the Telegraph piece, 'Interviews with captured members of Ansar al-Islam held in Kurdish prisons, have prompted the magazine to claim that the terrorist group, which operates in Kurdistan is jointly run by Saddam and bin Laden' and '[t]he magazine was also told that Saddam met Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of bin Laden's senior lieutenants, in Baghdad in 1992.' Although its not clearly stated in the piece, it appears that the prisoners in question are probably being held by the PUK which, the piece observes, 'want Saddam to be overthrown ... and fear and Iraqi backlash if half-hearted measures are taken.' If anyone has access to the New Yorker piece on-line, it'd be good to post it to the list. Keep on sending those letters! I've counted at least 11 so far that have come from list members and will be circulating a celebrity letter on Iraq and sanctions tomorrow, for possible publication on Wednesday. Best wishes, Gabriel *********************************************** A. Short: Military action against Iraq is 'unwise' By Ben Russell Political Correspondent Independent 18 March 2002 Claire Short described military action against Iraq as "very unwise" yesterday, hinting that she might resign from the Cabinet if Britain backed strikes against Saddam Hussein. Her comments, which echo concerns from Labour backbenchers, will intensify pressure on Tony Blair to draw back from supporting US President George Bush in any strike against President Saddam. The Prime Minister already faces intense under pressure from within his own party, with Labour backbenchers making up the bulk of more than 100 MPs who have signed a Commons motion declaring their "deep unease" over military action. The pressure intensified yesterday as the former Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam, warned that Britain was drifting towards and "offensive, not defensive" war in Iraq. Writing in the Sunday Mirror, she said: "Blair seems to be making it clear that he has more sympathy with the wishes of Washington and their reckless attitude to Iraq than he does for his own party and even members of his Cabinet." It also emerged that David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, had warned the Government of the danger of civil disorder should strikes be launched on Iraq. Reports said Mr Blunkett had pointed to the possibility of increasing tensions in the Middle East spreading to Europe. Ms Short told the BBC's On the Record programme: "The best thing is to get the UN inspectors back here, but there isn't crude military action that can deal with the problem of Saddam Hussein, and with the state of the Middle East and the terrible suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. [With] the anger there is in the Arab world, to open up a military flank on Iraq would be very unwise." Pressed on whether she might contemplate resignation, she said: "Yes, I am the same old Clare Short, and I'm proud to be a member of the Government, but I've got lots of bottom lines, but I don't expect the Government to breach them, but if they did I would ... That's what you should be like in politics I think." Ms Short insisted the West "must not ignore" President Saddam's determination to develop weapons of mass destruction, but said there were more sophisticated responses than "instant mass bombing". She said: "My view is very strongly that we should face up to how serious this is. I mean, chemical and biological weapons are almost more frightening than nuclear in that you don't need complicated machinery to deliver them. "A little bottle of anthrax in a river in any country could kill lots and lots of people, so we can't ignore this. "We need a much more sophisticated debate about what's the best way to deal with it." **************************************************************************** B. CIA survey of Iraq airfields heralds attack By Patrick Cockburn Independent 18 March 2002 In the first concrete sign that the US is planning military action against Iraq despite objections from its allies, CIA officers have surveyed three key airfields in northern Iraq. The airfields, situated in northern Iraq near the cities of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan – the only part of Iraq not held by Saddam Hussein – could be used to receive arms and troops in the event of a conflict between the US and Iraq, an Iraqi source has told The Independent. The US is pursuing its military strategy and, at the same time, trying to persuade Iraq to accept UN weapons inspectors back into the country, which could theoretically avert the need for a military campaign. But America has made it clear that it is prepared to act alone, if necessary, against Saddam Hussein, even though the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has heard strong objections to its plans for a military campaign aimed at overthrowing President Saddam during the tour of Arab states that he is currently finishing. The CIA visit, at the end of last month, will deeply worry Baghdad and has infuriated Iran and Syria. Both countries are concerned that an American attack on Iraq will endanger their own security. President Saddam has shown in the last few weeks that he takes American threats to attack him very seriously by telling householders in Baghdad to stockpile food. Militia and paramilitary groups as well as the army have been put on high alert. In addition, the regular Iraqi army has been issued with plentiful supplies of ammunition. Regular units, in contrast with the élite Republican Guard, are usually only given small supplies to ensure that they do not take part in a coup d'état against the government. The largest of the airfields examined by the CIA is near Arbil, the biggest Kurdish city, about 20 miles from the Iraqi front line. "It has good modern runway about 1.6 miles [2.5 km] long, built for the Iraqi airforce in the 1980s," said a member of the Iraqi opposition, who did not want his name published. The other airfields are at Bamarnii outside Dohuk in western Kurdistan, which was used by Gulf War allies in Operation Provide Comfort, launched to help the Kurds after they had been routed by President Saddam's army in 1991. A third airfield is in Sulaimaniyah province in eastern Kurdistan, not far from the Iranian border. The Kurds, who have repeatedly risen against Iraqi governments in the past, have enjoyed de facto independence since the 1991 Gulf War. Protected by US and British aircraft, which maintain a no-fly zone over Kurdistan, they have tried in recent years to steer a neutral course between President Saddam and his enemies. One scenario being pushed in Washington is for the US to try to repeat its success in Afghanistan by using its air power to support opposition forces. But the Kurdish forces number about 15,000 fighters and are no match for the 400,000 soldiers in the Iraqi army. Late last year a high-level delegation from the US State Department visited Kurdistan. They were told by the two most important Kurdish leaders – Massoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Jalal al-Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – that the Kurds would not act against Saddam Hussein unless they were certain that the US was determined to overthrow him and had a plan to do so. The CIA visit has seriously embarrassed the two leaders. "The news of the CIA visit has created a furore among the Kurds," said an Iraqi source yesterday. Mr al-Talabani has made a rushed visit to Damascus to reassure the Syrians that his party is not joining an attempt to topple President Saddam. Mr Barzani sent two senior members of the KDP politburo, Azad Barawi and Favel Mirani, to make the same point to Syria. ******************************************************* C. Arab states united in rejecting attack on Saddam By Robert Fisk in Beirut Independent 18 March 2002 Rarely can an American vice-president have met such a rebuff from America's Arab allies. Not a single Arab king, prince or president has been prepared to endorse a US attack on Iraq. Even in Kuwait – where Dick Cheney arrives today before going on to Israel – an opinion poll suggests that more than 40 per cent of its citizens are hostile to Washington's policies. In every Arab capital, Mr Cheney has been politely but firmly told to turn his attention to the Palestinian-Israeli war, and forget the "axis of evil'' until the US brings its Israeli allies into line. All Mr Cheney's efforts to pretend that the conflict in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel is separate from Iraq – or "two tracks" as the American cliché would have it – have failed. Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's First Deputy Prime Minister, met Mr Cheney at the end of a long red carpet at Jeddah airport, but the Saudi press were not so polite. One newspaper carried a front-page article condemning US policy in the region – almost unheard of in the kingdom – while editorials in other Gulf papers uniformly condemned any assault on Iraq. Prince Abdullah has gone out of his way to explain to US television audiences why he opposes military action against the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, while Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister, has told the Americans that they cannot use the Prince Sultan air base for any war against Baghdad. Repeatedly, Arab leaders have turned Mr Cheney's arguments about America's "war on terrorism'' around. For them, the terror is being inflicted upon Palestinians by Israelis. If President Saddam is overthrown, Iraq could break apart, the US Vice-President was told several times, with incalculable effects on Iraq's Muslim neighbours. Even the small United Arab Emirates had no time for the Cheney argument. The Vice-President's spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise, said that Mr Cheney "made the point that al-Qa'ida can't be allowed to reconstitute'' in the Middle East. The government of the UAE President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, retorted briskly that he was opposed to military action in Iraq. The Arabs might be forgiven their confusion over Mr Cheney's objectives. If America wishes to pursue its "war on terror'', what has Iraq got to do with it? Where is the evidence that Saddam was involved in 11 September? None exists, so Mr Cheney has invented a new dogma for Arabs: "The United States will not permit the forces of terror to gain the tools of genocide'' he said. President Saddam has "weapons of mass destruction'' and they could fall into the hands of Osama bin Laden. Since Mr bin Laden hates President Saddam and has gone on record to say as much, just how the Iraqi weapons, if they exist, would reach America's nemesis is unclear. And the Arabs have been asking who is threatening genocide in the Middle East? Who is being attacked? The one Middle East nation that supports a strike at Iraq is Israel, where Mr Cheney is expected to arrive later today. The Vice-President will therefore hear what he wants to hear from the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, whose reoccupation of Palestinian territory has done so much to destroy his mission. ****************************************************************** D. Mark Seddon: The rumours are swirling, the war drums beating - rebellion is in the air 'I have been approached by MPs who want to know what rules would govern a Labour leadership election' Independent 18 March 2002 Just before the director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke, takes his pruning shears to hard-hitting political programmes such as On the Record, convinced as he is that audiences are turning off from politics, he should pay a visit to the House of Commons strangers bar. If he has time, he could wander along to the press gallery, or if he really feels like roughing it, pick up some lunch on a laminated tray in one of the innumerable cafeterias dotted around the Palace of Westminster. For Parliament and politics is becoming interesting again. A whiff of rebellion is in the air – and this time it isn't just coming from the usual suspects. Mr Dyke's viewers – of whatever social class – might just be interested. Over 100 Labour MPs, including former ministers Glenda Jackson and Peter Kilfoyle, have signed an early day motion demanding restraint over Iraq. They have been joined by serial loyalists Oona King and Jon Trickett. During a visit to the Commons tearoom last week, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, was assailed by the uber-Blairista backbencher and MP for Stourbridge, Debra Shipley. She wasn't going to support any American backed venture in Iraq, she told him, and what's more "the army doesn't seem to want to either". Whether Ms Shipley is privy to the mood of the top military brass is a moot point, and it may be said in Mr Straw's favour that he visits the Commons tea rooms, unlike the Prime Minister, who is one of the worst attendees in the House. But Tony Blair could do no worse than take the temperature of his own top brass – the Cabinet – who have precious little appetite for whatever the Pentagon might be cooking up for Iraq. Only yesterday, Clare Short said (to On The Record as it happens): "Blind military action doesn't deal with Iraq. To open up a military flank on Iraq would be very unwise." The three Bs – Blunkett, Brown and Beckett – are also reportedly sceptical, as is the former foreign secretary, Robin Cook. Labour MPs will confirm this, for a number of them have held snatched conversations in office corridors and lifts with ministers. And perhaps most intriguingly of all, we have Mo Mowlam writing in the Sunday Mirror that she finds it harder and harder to defend what the Labour Government is doing and that "We have a prime minister who has thrown away the British constitution and seems to see himself as our president". Even Mr Blair should be able to hear that war drum. That a sense of drift infects the Government post-Byers, post-Enron, post-Mittal, is beyond doubt. But, in normal circumstances, the professional crisis managers at Number 10 would have ensured that these temporary blips were swiftly ironed out. The economy is in good shape, the Opposition is nowhere, New Labour still rides high in the polls and evidence suggests that the Government is making an impact in one of the areas that most concerns voters – education. But that drift, combined with a heady sense of revolt over Iraq and deep concerns about the direction of Mr Blair's public sector reforms have combined to make for a heady cocktail. John Monks – usually viewed as a force for calm and moderation – attacked the Prime Minister last week for his "bloody stupid" alliance with the Italian leader, Silvio Berlusconi, and the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar. This triple alliance of free marketers is now ranged against Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and France's Prime Minister Lionel Jospin – both concerned to maintain something of their European social and welfare model. For some years now, Mr Blair has been anxious to at best water down or at worst block European legislation that extends the rights of workers – but now the Blair-Berlusconi-Aznar alliance is formalised and the pretence peeled away, Labour's real loyalists – the unions – have had enough. I have been approached over recent weeks by a number of MPs – mostly the usual suspects, it must be said – who have wanted to know what rules would govern a Labour leadership election. Ever since the immutable Margaret McDonagh informed one of my NEC colleagues apropos of some hideous internal stitch-up that "It is a rule, but it is not written down," I haven't had the heart to spend an evening curled up in front of the fire with the party's rulebook. True, there will be no Sir Anthony Meyer-style "stalking horse": the rules, I have discovered, do not allow for one. And the talk may be premature. The vast bulk of the party wants a change of course, not a change of leader – especially if any new leader genuflects and then gets on with business, or rather big business, as usual. But all roads lead to Gordon Brown. The unions must know that if anyone is able to square the circle between full employment and maintaining rights at work, it is the Chancellor. Mr Brown is at last seeing some benefits coming out of the enforced austerity of Labour's first years. Quietly redistributing towards the working poor, while presiding over near enough full employment, the Chancellor has also invested a great deal of energy in alleviating Third World debt. A Labour heart still beats heavily in Brown's chest, and many of his supporters will be hoping that a combination of Presbyterian morality and economic prudence would stay his hand from wasting money and lives in the coming Hundred Years War. Ingratitude and studied incomprehension of his motives may have driven the Prime Minister to the London School of Economics last week, where, under a portrait of Sidney and Beatrice Webb busily preparing Clause Four of Labour's constitution, he once again set out his Third Way philosophy. This was a far more cogent exposition of where he stood than has been heard recently but the audience – mainly New Labour loyalists – failed to catch fire. The caravan has moved on, and Blair's broader audience in Labour and the unions has learned to separate rhetoric from reality. Mr Blair is unlikely to change course. More likely he will tire and do something else. But another possibility, remote at the moment, is that one day the men in brown suits will, as a Downing Street insider once so patronisingly observed "waddle up to Number 10". Only this time they may bring whiskey and a revolver. ********************************************************* E. Short opens rift on Iraq Minister hints at resignation over attack Patrick Wintour, Ian Black in Barcelona and John Hooper in Berlin Monday March 18, 2002 The Guardian Clare Short increased tensions within the government yesterday when she became the first cabinet minister to declare her opposition to "a blind military attack on Iraq." She said that such a move would be very unwise and hinted that she might even quit the cabinet if she thought the attack was unwarranted. "We all have bottom lines," she warned. She also joined the German government, and other European voices, in arguing that any military intervention against Iraq must be endorsed by the UN security council in advance, a position the Foreign Office has not so far adopted. Her remarks came as David Blunkett, the home secretary, effectively confirmed that he had warned a cabinet meeting on Iraq a fortnight ago that there may be a serious increase in racial tension if Britain joined the attack on Saddam Hussein. Tony Blair will take British cabinet and European unease into account before his planned talks with President Bush in Texas early next month. Despite an effort by the Belgian government to raise Iraq at the EU heads of government summit in Barcelona at the weekend, the issue was largely suppressed. Ms Short and Mr Blunkett agreed with the prime minister that some UN-led action was needed to constrain Saddam Hussein's search for weapons of mass destruction. But speaking on BBC's On the Record, she argued: "Blind military action against Iraq doesn't deal with the problem. The best thing is to get the UN inspectors back in but there isn't crude military action to deal with Saddam Hussein. "With the state of the Middle East, the terrible suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people, with the anger there is in the Arab world, to open up a military flank on Iraq would be very unwise". Ms Short has been a supporter of military action in Kosovo, and eventually supported US air strikes in Afghanistan, even though she criticised the US failure to consult with refugee agencies. She insisted the US and other world leaders were right to be concerned about Saddam. "Everyone who is serious would say that Saddam Hussein and his determination to have weapons of mass destruction is a real threat to his region and the world and we've got to get tighter about how to deal with it. "We should face up to how serious this is. We can't put our heads in the sand but people fear that there's going to be instant mass bombing or something; that won't do either. "We are nowhere near that. The media tries to hype it but no one has proposed any specific or detailed action". Asked whether she would quit if the UK supported unilateral action by the US, she said: "Of course, there are conditions in which I would not be able to support action but I do not expect them to be proposed. "I think like that about everything and I think everybody should. It's not that I think my government is going to do the wrong thing but we've all got to have our bottom lines, that's about being a member of the government. She agreed that she was the "same old Clare Short" who has twice stepped down over matters of principle. Tony Blair is already under pressure from within his own party, with more than 130 backbenchers opposed to a war against Iraq. At the summit in Barcelona Foreign Office minister Peter Hain insisted that concrete plans for military action would not be drawn up "for a while yet". He said: "We're in the process of seeking to get a new position through the United Nations which could force Saddam to comply with international law and his obligations and stop him terrorising or threatening the region. We'll see how that goes." Diplomats said that Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian prime minister, was ignored by his Spanish colleague, Jose Maria Aznar, when he tried to broach the issue of Iraq on Friday night. Belgium also failed in an attempt to include a reference to Iraq in the summit's final communique. Jacques Chirac, the French president, warned the Iraqis that they would be "well advised" to take seriously the UN's demand that they abide by security council disarmament resolutions and readmit weapons inspectors. Two key German leaders said German participation in a renewed Gulf war was neither desirable nor feasible. The foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, and the defence minister, Rudolf Scharping, both went significantly further than the chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, who on Friday signalled that Germany needed a specific UN mandate before committing troops. *************************************************************** F. Saddam enemy warns against war Leader of Shi'ites exiled in Iran says UN must authorise military action to protect ordinary Iraqis from Saddam's wrath Jonathan Steele in Tehran Monday March 18, 2002 The Guardian "We don't agree with an American attack on Iraq. It will cause great damage and suffering to ordinary people," Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the spiritual and political leader of Iraq's exiled Shi'ite community, told the Guardian at his heavily guarded headquarters in central Tehran. The ayatollah fled Iraq in 1980 and, with Iranian government support, set up the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri). Western governments estimate that Sciri has a force of between 7,000 and 15,000 men. The ayatollah provides political leadership but is not involved in military operations or the group's bases and training camps close to the Iraqi border. Sciri's units make sporadic raids on police stations and army positions inside Iraq. Along with the Kurds in northern Iraq, they are the main armed opposition to Saddam Hussein. During the Gulf war they mounted an uprising and fought fiercely against the Iraqi army but felt betrayed when US-led forces pulled out in 1991, leaving them at the mercy of Saddam, who exacted massive reprisals, sending a new generation of Shi'ites to death and into exile. It was vital for the UN to authorise military action against Iraq "on the pattern of Bosnia" to prevent Saddam using heavy weapons against the Iraqi people, the ayatollah said. He drew attention to UN resolution 688, passed after the Gulf war, which called for UN intervention if Saddam used violence against civilians. "We believe the Iraqi people has the ability to change the regime if the international community forces Saddam not to use heavy weapons against people," Ayatollah Hakim said. "Sciri and the Kurds from the north can make the change." The ayatollah's reluctance to endorse US strikes on Baghdad appears to be a retreat from his position last autumn. It is partly in deference to the many Arab governments which have warned the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, on his Middle Eastern tour, not to inflame Arab opinion by taking unilateral measures. It is also a response to anger in the Iranian government - which hosts the exiled ayatollah - over President Bush's state of the union speech, which linked Iraq, Iran and North Korea in a so-called axis of evil. "We don't agree with that speech," the ayatollah said yesterday. "The Iraqi regime has no counterpart in the world in terms of its terrorist activities. It uses chemical weapons on its people, as well as massive repression. It is a dictatorship which came to power in a military coup whereas the Iranian government came to power via democracy and has regular elections." Earlier this year, the ayatollah and his spokespeople compared their role in Iraq to that of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, which overthrew the Taliban in alliance with US airstrikes. Yesterday, he said that Saddam was weaker than the Taliban. "The Taliban had an ideology and the support of many Afghans who defended them. Saddam does not have any popular support." His remarks were a response to US secretary of state Colin Powell's comment that "Iraqi opposition forces are weaker than the Northern Alliance" and "Saddam Hussein is stronger than the Taliban". ********************************************************* G. Arab leaders tell Cheney that Iraq is not the priority Matthew Engel in Washington Monday March 18, 2002 The Guardian The American vice-president, Dick Cheney, nearing the end of a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, tried yesterday to shrug off reports that Arab leaders everywhere had told him that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein should not be a priority, and that it was unthinkable unless Israel softened its attitude towards the Palestinians. This followed a television interview by Crown Prince Abdullah, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, who told the American network, ABC, that a military campaign against Iraq was not in anyone's interests, adding: "And I don't believe it will achieve the desired result." Mr Cheney implied that he received a different message from Prince Abdullah in private. He described their meeting on Saturday as "very warm and friendly". The prince yesterday accepted an invitation to visit the Bush ranch in Texas, the president's ultimate signal of respect. Saudi-American relations, which had become dangerously cool, have warmed up again following the US's sympathetic response to the Saudis' Middle East peace plan. However, in Bahrain, Crown Prince Salman also gave the Americans a warning at a joint news conference with Mr Cheney. "The people who are dying in the streets today are not the result of Iraqi action, the people who are dying today are the result of Israeli action." Mr Cheney admitted that the Palestinian crisis was "a preoccupation for everyone in the region". He described talk of an imminent US attack on Iraq as "a speculative bubble that needed to be burst". And the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, regarded as the administration's fiercest hawk on Iraq, told CNN that the president had taken no decision on the subject. "Our preference is always to solve things through diplomatic means if at all possible," he said. After visiting Qatar last night, Mr Cheney was due to hold talks today in Kuwait, whose invasion by Iraq precipitated the 1991 Gulf war, and then fly to Israel to meet Ariel Sharon tomorrow. Mr Cheney's style on the trip has caused adverse comment. He swept past a girl in Jordan who was offering him flowers; even on the US aircraft carrier Stennis, he rejected an opportunity to shake hands with workers on the flight deck. · Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, arrived in Tunisia yesterday on the second leg of a north African tour aimed at rallying opposition to a strike on Iraq. Earlier, he met the Libyan leader, Muammar Gadafy, in Tripoli. **************************************************************************** H. An Iraq war could fan flames of recession Larry Elliott Monday March 18, 2002 The Guardian It is always said that truth is the first casualty of war. Not so. As any motorist filling up the tank at the weekend could testify, the first casualty of war is the oil price. The determination of George Bush and Tony Blair to take military action against Saddam Hussein has prompted a sharp rise in the price of crude, now changing hands at almost $25 a barrel, a third higher than its trough last autumn. Despite this, the economic consequences of a war against Iraq have barely rated a mention in the west. There has been plenty of talk about weapons of mass destruction, military options, UN resolutions, even of whether George Bush is motivated by the desire to finish the job his dad started back in 1991. But virtually nothing about what would happen to jobs and growth. This is all the more remarkable at a time when the three biggest global economies have endured their first synchronised downturn in more than a quarter of a century. The US and Britain might argue that the prize of toppling Saddam is well worth the risks, but the risks need to be discussed. As the chart shows, the price of Brent crude has been on a gently rising trend for the past three months but has taken off since the White House started its sabre rattling over Iraq. The talk in Washington is not if, but when. Instability and uncertainty in the Middle East equals higher oil prices. And just as low oil prices foster strong growth in the west, so periods of high oil prices mean an initial surge of inflation followed by recession. It happened in 1973. It happened in 1979. It happened in 1990. And it could well be happening again. For all the talk of a new weightless economy, the world is heavily dependent on oil. Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at Warwick University, says that the economy is built around transport and movement, and in this area - planes, ships, cars, lorries - oil has a monopoly. There is a strong argument for saying that we should be emphasising the local over the global and spending far more on alternative forms of energy, but the reality is that this is a gas-guzzling, oil-gobbling world. What's more, when the oil price moves it moves with amazing speed. There are not many commodities where the price can triple or crash from $30 to below $20 in the space of a few months. As a former governor of Texas, Bush should know all this. Washington is full of smart people who should be able to tell the president that military action against Saddam Hussein, even if conducted from 40,000 feet, is not risk-free. It certainly wasn't for George Bush senior, who lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 because of the damage to the US caused by the Gulf war. In economic terms, there is a cost-benefit analysis to be done. On the one hand, there is the possibility of eliminating a totalitarian fruitcake who has a stockpile of noxious and dangerous weapons at his disposal. That might lead to a more stable region, guaranteeing supplies of oil at moderate prices. On the other, there is the possibility of a short-term jump in the oil price that would strangle global economic recovery at birth and a longer-term danger of inflaming a Middle East already highly volatile. The assumption in Washington seems to be that military action against Saddam will be relatively swift, relatively casualty-free (at least for the US and its allies) and - crucially - be welcomed by other states in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia. These are big, some would say, heroic assumptions. The oil cartel, Opec, is split between hawks and doves, with Saudi Arabia - the world's largest oil producer - acting as a restraining force on the more militant members. Every time there has been a threat of a really serious rise in the oil price to above $40 a barrel, Washington has leant on Riyadh, which has brought Opec into line by stating the Saudis' readiness to pump enough additional oil to bring down the price. So far, the Saudis have carried the day by warning the rest of Opec that choking off oil supplies to the west and thereby pushing up the price would ultimately be self-defeating, because the result would be a serious recession in the developed world. Yet, there is a limit to what Riyadh can do. Ali-al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, said yesterday: "The possibility of war and all this talk of war and warmongering and the axis of evil that the press is playing up could be destabilising. It will have an impact on prices and will fuel speculation." What's more, there is a constituency in the Middle East that would not be averse to causing serious damage to the west (especially the US) even if this meant cutting off their nose to spite their face. Confidence in Washington that the Saudis would be able to hold the line in all circumstances may be misplaced; there is opposition to the US using land bases in the region to attack Iraq, and a non-negligible risk that an attack would lead to the rise of a militant Muslim movement that would challenge the ruling conservative order. An oil price of $25 a barrel would do little harm to the west, but should it rise to $30 a barrel and stay there for a prolonged period, the consequences would be profound. Hopes of a strengthening recovery this year would be snuffed out; instead, the phoney recession of the past six months would be followed the real thing. Could this happen? Recent evidence suggest that it could. Opec price curbs led to a tripling of the oil price in 1999-2000, the first time that such a sharp increase had been managed in a period when the Middle East was no major Middle East war. Certainly, this was during the period when the US economy was in the final stages of a raging boom, but it shows that Opec is far from a toothless animal, even when it is under the control of "moderate" forces. Nor is there much likelihood that non- Opec nations would ride to the West's rescue. The ability of Opec to bring on board countries like Russia and Norway that are not members of the cartel has been important in making the production curbs of the past few months stick. Russia, in particular, is unlikely to do the US any favours. A higher crude price not only boosts revenues from oil; it has a knock-on effect on gas, which is even more important for Russia's economy. And if you were Vladimir Putin, would you be in a hurry to help George Bush? Your country has been used a test-bed for crackpot neo-liberal ideas, you have your nose rubbed in it for the past decade that you are no longer a superpower, and you have just had swingeing tariffs imposed on your steel industry. The White House and Downing Street appear to believe that problems such as Iraq can be compartmentalised; they are unwilling to listen to those counselling caution - be it the European Union summit in Barcelona, a growing number of Labour MPs and - if the weekend reports are to be believed - Britain's brasshats. Bush and Blair see Saddam as an enemy who needs to be tackled. But not all the enemies of Britain and America are in foreign lands, and some thought needs to be given to how they are going to be attacked, as well. One thing is for sure. A soaring oil price would not help. ************************************************** I. Iraq and responses to international law Monday March 18, 2002 Letters, The Guardian Michael Byers (What Blair needs to know, March 15) argues that it would be illegal to attack Iraq without the approval of Russia and China. It is a curious version of liberal internationalism that makes western action contingent on the approval of corrupt oligarchs. Saddam Hussein was granted an armistice in 1991, under which he agreed to divest himself of all weapons of mass destruction. He is 10 years outside the terms of his agreement; the allied powers therefore have the right to resume hostilities at a time and in a manner of their choosing. Mark F Proudman · It has become clear that policy makers now regard "international law" as a hollow expression, ignored when convenient and open to selective manipulation. Yes, perhaps the exhaustive use of the terms international law, the Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions and the like by pro-Arab commentators and spokespeople have become tiresome, but that does not mean that our government can compensate by making them obsolete. Salim Gailani London · Contrary to the statement that "the Kurds would use their freedom to press again for a wider Kurdistan, potentially destabilising Turkey, which is already having cold feet about the Afghan operation" (Comment, February 27), all the political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, both inside and outside the Kurdistan national assembly, are in full agreement with the decision of the Kurdish deputies when they declared, in October 1992, federalism to be the best solution for Iraq. Although, like any other nation, the Kurds (who number more than 30 million in the region) have the right to a state of their own, they have acted reasonably and responsibly and are asking for what is achievable in the present climate. In spite of the atrocities which Saddam's regime has committed against the Kurds, killing thousands of innocent men, women and children, the Kurds are still calling for an equitable solution to their problems and a federal arrangement for all the peoples of Iraq. Ihsan Qadir London ************************************************************* J. Comment What Tony Blair needs to know An attack on Iraq without UN authorisation would be illegal Michael Byers Guardian Friday March 15, 2002 The prime minister has been talking to his lawyers. George Bush has decided to attack Iraq, and Blair wants to join in. There is one obvious way forward: the UN security council could authorise military action. But, since Russia and China have the capacity to veto any resolution, the council can't be counted on to agree. Blair knows that Bush detests the UN. Having hamstrung a dozen major treaties already, he's hardly going to ask permission to take out Saddam Hussein. "What about the no-fly zones?" Blair asks. "Didn't we use existing security council resolutions then?" "The council authorised the Gulf war with resolution 678. But it then adopted resolution 687, which superseded resolution 678 and imposed a ceasefire. The US has argued that, by denying access to weapons inspectors, Iraq breached resolution 687 and the earlier authorisation was thus revived. The problem is, resolution 687 states that the council: 'Decides to remain seized of the matter and to take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution and to secure peace and security in the region.' No-fly zones might be considered implicitly welcome assistance to the council, but the same could hardly be said of a full-blown war. In any event, Saddam could undercut the argument by allowing some inspectors in." "What about self-defence? Didn't we use that against the Taliban?" "The military action in Afghanistan was based on self-defence, but in response to attacks. Although self-defence is part of customary international law, the UN charter has imposed certain limits, including a stipulation that self-defence arises when "an armed attack occurs". As a result, since 1945 few countries have claimed a right of pre-emptive action. Israel justified the strikes that initiated the Six Day war on the basis that Egypt's blocking of the Straits of Tiran was a prior act of aggression. The US justified its 1962 blockade of Cuba as regional peacekeeping, and the 1988 downing of an Iranian Airbus as a response to an armed attack. Since Iraq has not attacked anyone since 1991, self-defence cannot be used." "George says the prohibition on pre-emptive action is outdated, that waiting for weapons of mass destruction to be used is not an option. Surely we can update the rule?" "Rules of customary international law and interpretations of the charter do evolve in response to the behaviour of states. But such changes require the express or tacit support of the majority, which has not been forthcoming." "How do we make it happen?" "One could seek advance consent to an extension of the self-defence rule. The Americans tried this after the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. A few hours before he ordered strikes against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan, Bill Clinton telephoned the leaders of France, Germany and the UK and requested their support. All three immediately agreed, and followed this up with public statements. "Last September, the formation of the coalition against terrorism was based on a similar strategy. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty was invoked even though Nato was never called into military action. As in 1998, countries were asked to give advance consent to an extended claim of self-defence. If you want to push for another change in the rule to allow pre-emptive action now might be the best time to do so, while the scale of the action and the tactics and weapons to be employed remain unknown. What the lawyers didn't tell Blair is that any right of pre-emptive self-defence would be dangerous. Who decides that a threat justifies anticipatory action? How does one protect against opportunistic interventions justified on the basis of pre-emptive self-defence? The UN charter is clear: in the absence of an attack, the security council alone can act. Pressing ahead against Iraq without council authorisation would be illegal under current international law and would undermine a significant accomplishment. The charter has helped prevent wars by maintaining a delicate balance between the good achieved by collective action and the catastrophic destruction that might result if an intervention conflicted with the vital interests of a major power. Only those who have no reason to fear military force can contemplate a world without these protections. It is the possession of a credible nuclear deterrence - and plans for missile defence - that make Bush think he can disregard the UN. The UK, as a middle power, needs international law. The effective use of the UN, not Trident, is what enables the UK to punch above its weight. Why didn't the lawyers tell Tony this? Who knows, perhaps they did. · Michael Byers teaches international law at Duke University, North Carolina ************************************************************************* K. The Times March 18, 2002 Short 'may be forced to quit over Iraq' By Philip Webster, Political Editor CABINET concern that military action against Iraq could worsen the problems of the Middle East surfaced yesterday, with Clare Short hinting she could be forced to resign. The International Development Secretary spoke out against “blind military action” and suggested that there were conditions on her continuing involvement in the current Administration. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, appeared to confirm suggestions that he had warned the Cabinet over the threat of disorder in Britain after an attack on Iraq. He said that at a Cabinet meeting ten days ago the Prime Minister had told colleagues that he was aware of their concerns. On Breakfast with Frost on BBC1, Mr Blunkett said that everyone at the Cabinet discussion had given a balanced profile of what they thought. “The Prime Minister was able to say, quite rightly, ‘Look, the management has not lost its marbles. We know that there are difficulties here. We are talking to the United States. Let us try and get this right, but let us do so in the context of tackling that intractable problem of what is happening in the Middle East.’ ” He did not deny reports suggesting that he had told the Cabinet that Iraq could not be separated from the Middle East, and that an attack could lead to disturbances both in the region and in Britain. Ms Short told BBC1’s On the Record: “Blind military action against Iraq does not deal with the problem. The best thing is to get the UN inspectors back in. With the state of the Middle East, the terrible suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people, with the anger there is in the Arab world, to open up a military flank on Iraq would be very unwise.” She added: “We should face up to how serious this is. We can’t put our heads in the sand, but people fear that there’s going to be instant mass bombing or something. That won’t do either. “We are nowhere near that. The media tries to hype it, but no one has proposed any specific or detailed action. But everyone who is serious would say that Saddam Hussein and his determination to have weapons of mass destruction is a real threat to his region and the world, and that we’ve got to get tighter about how to deal with it.” Asked whether she would resign if the United Kingdom were to support unilateral action by the United States, she said: “Of course there are conditions in which I would not be able to support action, but I do not expect them to be proposed.” Ms Short, who has twice resigned over matters of principle in the past, added: “I’m proud to be a member of the Government, but I’ve got lots of bottom lines. I don’t expect the Government to breach them, but if they did, I would (resign).” Peter Hain, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said that plans for military action (against Iraq) would not be drawn up “for a while yet”. Although there were “discussions in the corridors” about the next step, efforts through the United Nations had to be given a chance first. ************************************************************** L. Letters, The Times March 18, 2002 Action and impasse in Middle East >From Mr Andrew Elishahoff Sir, Mr Alex Kirby (letter, March 14) expresses scepticism as to how it may be proper for the United States and its allies to hold weapons of mass destruction, whilst forbidding them to those whom President Bush defines as “evil”. For those who are not comfortable with such terms as evil I have another definition. How about irresponsible? It is irresponsible for a country to supply arms to those who purposefully fly planes into buildings full of civilians. It is irresponsible for a country to supply arms to those who purposefully bomb civilians in pizza restaurants and café bars. It is entirely responsible for any country subjected to such attacks to use its full force to stop them. Those who do not meet the test of responsibility should not have weapons of mass destruction. Yours faithfully, ANDREW ELISHAHOFF, >From Mr David Colvin Sir, On June 19, 1967, the Israeli Cabinet unanimously decided to renounce most of its territorial gains in the Six-Day War in return for permanent peace with its Arab neighbours. Thirty-four years ago, the proposition recently advanced by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia would have been broadly in line with official Israeli policy. Later in 1967, the Israelis in effect reversed their own policy by embarking down the road of settlement and creeping annexation, fuelling the mutual enmities and hatreds at the root of the present disastrous situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli political classes should perhaps reflect deeply on the strategic impasse in which the state of Israel now finds itself, not least as a result of ignoring its own policy. The situation is rather analogous to that of France in Algeria, which was exacerbated by military oppression and only resolved by French withdrawal. The time has come for Israel to recognise that it took a false turn in 1967, against its own Cabinet’s better judgment. The Saudi proposal provides the opportunity and the basis for doing so. Yours faithfully, DAVID COLVIN (Diplomatic Service, 1967-2001), >From Mr Lionel Blumenthal Sir, Alasdair Black (letter, March 14) says that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to the problem of Iraq and that if it were to be solved then the problem of Iraq “would recede or even disappear”. This cannot be right. The problem of Iraq is that its evil dictator is amassing weapons of mass destruction to be used against the US and/or the UK in revenge for their part in the 1991 Gulf War and the subsequent bombings and sanctions. This clear and present danger would remain even if Israel did not exist. It is true that the Arab states will try to blackmail the US into pressuring Israel before they give their support to any US action. But with or without that support the Iraqi menace must be dealt with. Yours faithfully, LIONEL BLUMENTHAL >From Mr Graham Weinberg Sir, There should be no linkage between Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Iraq did not invade Kuwait, gas thousands of its own citizens, fight a ten-year war with Iran and support international terrorism to advance the Palestinian cause. Yours faithfully, G. WEINBERG, >From Mr Ahmed Shames Sir, As an Iraqi living in London, I believe that the suffering of civilians in Iraq is becoming a joint responsibility of both Saddam Hussein and the West. Saddam’s idiotic policies brought on a war in which the country was devastated by the West, which then persisted with the blunt sanctions that starved the people and made little distinction between Iraqi civilians and their dictators. Establishing democracy inside Iraq should be a priority for every peace-loving human being, and the West, with its involvement in Iraq for the last ten or 11 years, bears a major responsibility. The Western airstrikes on Iraq after the liberation of Kuwait benefited Saddam by attracting support for him from other Arab nations. We need a new approach towards tackling the humanitarian (and political) problems we are facing in Iraq. Yours faithfully, AHMED SHAMES, ********************************************************* M. Saddam must be ousted now, says Duncan Smith By George Jones, Political Editor Daily Telegraph (Filed: 18/03/2002) SADDAM HUSSEIN should be toppled in Iraq before he can finish developing missiles and nuclear weapons capable of threatening European cities, Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative Party leader, says today. Iain Duncan Smith: accused Europe of 'gazing at its political navel' His call comes as Tony Blair faces a Cabinet split and possible isolation in Europe over British support for American military action against Iraq. Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, said yesterday that a military response would be "very unwise" and would not solve the problem. She insisted any action would need United Nations backing. Making clear that she was prepared to quit the Cabinet if there was "crude military action", she said there were "bottom lines" to her continued membership of the Government. Miss Short's decision to make public her opposition to military action was a further setback for Mr Blair, who is already facing a major Labour backbench revolt. More than 100 Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion warning the Government against joining America in a new Gulf war. Mr Blair returned from an EU summit in Barcelona over the weekend having failed to win any agreement for US military action against Iraq. Romano Prodi, the European Commission president, told him President Bush still needed to convince the Europeans that fresh action against Saddam was justified. Mr Duncan Smith accused Europe of "gazing at its political navel" while its cities have been coming in range of Middle East missiles. He made clear that a Conservative government would seek to join the United States in developing a global missile defence system and would allow America to use the early warning radar bases at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill for such a system. In a pamphlet published today, he said a British contribution to a US-led missile defence system, protecting the UK and its Armed Forces, would be the most significant change in Britain's defence strategy since it acquired an independent nuclear deterrent 50 years ago. The Tory leader, who was an Army officer before entering politics and his party's defence spokesman in the last Parliament, has made a detailed study of the threat posed by so-called "rogue" states developing ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological warheads. His pamphlet, Europe's Growing Vulnerability to Missile Attack, spells out in stark terms the threat to Europe's security, with all of the Continent coming within range within just a few years. Mr Duncan Smith accused Mr Blair of failing to take a lead in protecting Britain against the new threat, concentrating on developing an embryonic European army whose purpose was political rather than military. Although Mr Blair has said Saddam's weapons of mass destruction presented a threat that must be dealt with, he has stopped short of publicly backing American plans for military action. Mr Duncan Smith, however, said America's determination to "topple Saddam" was fully justified by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, by the known links between so-called "rogue" states and the terrorists they sponsored, and continued Western vulnerability. "Until the US completes its unfinished business with the Iraqi leader - preferably with European help - there can be no regional stability and the risk of further attacks on the US, and its European allies, will steadily become more grave," he said. Mr Duncan Smith, who is in touch with key figures in the Bush administration, said America was consulting its allies on alternative courses of military action, ranging from supporting a Kurdish invasion from the North to a full-scale land invasion. America's goals in dealing with Saddam were identical to Britain's. "Failure to realise them will increase Europe's present vulnerabilities to attacks on its cities. There should be no doubt. Saddam must go." The Tory leader said 38 states now possessed ballistic missiles, and 25 possessed or acquired nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Three states - Iran, Iraq and North Korea - that President Bush characterised as an "axis of evil" were all known to be developing such weapons and each had known relations with terrorist groups. A study by the previous US administration suggested all of Europe would be in range of missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction two years from now. Mr Duncan Smith said Britain should now give its support to the Bush plans for a defence system against ballistic missiles and ensure it provided protection for Britain as well. ************************************************ N. Saudis 'refuse to let America use bases for attacks on Iraq' By Alan Philps and Toby Helm in Berlin Daily Telegraph (Filed: 18/03/2002) SAUDI ARABIA has told Vice-President Dick Cheney that American forces will not be allowed to use the kingdom's territory to launch military strikes against Iraq. Launching a war on Iraq would be "catastrophic" for regional security, Al-Watan, a local newspaper, reported. Saudi Arabia served as command centre for the 1991 Gulf war in which an American-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. A military onslaught against Saddam Hussein would be hard to imagine without the use of Saudi bases. Mr cheney met Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, on Saturday as part of an 11-nation tour. The newspaper said that, instead of using force, Washington should lead international efforts to make Iraq comply with UN resolutions. The vice-president acknowledged that Arab leaders were more worried about conflict between Israel and the Palestinians than the threat of Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction. "It is a preoccupation for everyone in this part of the world," he said. He refused to discuss his talks with the Saudi crown prince, though he said he had enjoyed one of the warmest receptions ever in Saudi Arabia. He suggested that reports of a rebuff were misleading. Seeking to mend its strained relations with Saudi Arabia's most important protector, the Crown Prince accepted an invitation to visit America. The newspaper said that Saudi Arabia wanted Mr Cheney to put pressure on Israel to allow Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, to attend an Arab summit in Beirut in 10 days. Provided Mr Arafat attends, the meeting will discuss the Crown Prince's new peace plan, which calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in 1967, in return for "complete peace" with the Arab states. Germany meanwhile hardened its opposition to military strikes against Iraq, with its foreign and defence ministers ruling out support for a new campaign against Baghdad. Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, told a conference of the Green Party in Berlin that a military assault against Saddam Hussein stood no chance of winning parliament's support. "There has been a lot of speculation but there would be no majority in the Bundestag for a military intervention in Iraq." ************************************************************* _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk