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News, 16-23/3/02 (3) DOUBTS AND QUERIES * Iran should come before Iraq [An interesting piece that argues that SH is really our friend and a bulwark against the real enemy which is Islamic fundamentalism.] Should we go to war against Saddam [This is a very long article that attempts to assess the evidence for Iraq¹s possession of WMDs defectors, satellite pictures which show that the Iraqi military possesses trucks, and the implications of the UNSCOM Report of 1998. I have cut the early pro-defector part because there¹s little in it that¹s new. What is new (to me) and very important is a strong criticism of Khidr Hamza by his former mentor¹, David Allbright. The article ends by saying that US Special Forces are already operating in northern Iraq¹, though this is constantly being denied by the Kurds.] * British troops for Iraq war denied training [Satisfying account of British military incompetence thoroughly appropriate for a nation so situated that it has no need to engage in military activity (why should our needs be any different from those of Ireland?). Offers a spark of hope that we might be saved in the end by Gordon Brown.] * If the Allies attack Iraq there will be a huge desire by terrorists to punish them and a nuclear explosion in the U.S. might well come true [Last week we had the Sun giving us the case for mass-murder in free verse. This week the Mirror gives us the case against in free verse. By Tariq Ali. Who does quite a good job.] * Invading Iraq sure wasn't about oil [This is quite a treat. The realpolitik¹ argument for tolerating, or even supporting, SH as a bulwark against backwardness. Its so well argued that one wonders if George Jonas doesn¹t secretly mean it. What Jonas may have missed, however, is that the US wants more than just access to oil. It has an imperialist mission to extend actual control, but without itself taking direct administrative responsibility. So it wants a world of puppet governments. So it definitely doesn¹t want the sort of strong and independent Iraq that Jonas¹ realpolitik solution would produce. Jonas implies that the US has altruistic motives, but he¹d be hard pushed to say what they were.] * There is no justification for waging war against Iraq [At last. An intelligent assessment from a British Tory (and this fellow, being an academic, might just be a real Tory. They¹re a rare breed.] URL ONLY: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,3604,669248,00.html * AN IRAQ WAR COULD FAN FLAMES OF RECESSION by Larry Elliott The Guardian, 18th March [A rather long winded way of saying that war with Iraq might put up the price of oil.] IRAQIS OUTSIDE IRAQ * UN helps Iran plan for flood of refugees [Note again the generosity of Iran with respect to receiving refugees. Contrast with Australia, one of the countries engaged in the International Coalition to Drive People into becoming Refugees. The article finishes by saying that the Shi¹ite marsh Arabs¹ were totally defeated in the early 1990s and their territory is now deserted. So what good was/is the southern no-fly zone? And what word is adequate to describe the journalists who continue to mouth the platitude that it was set up to protect them?] * Italy Admits Shipload of Iraqi Kurds [Although these emigrants, who appear to be from Iraqi controlled parts of Kurdistan, say they are fleeing Saddam Hussein it should be remembered that, through the policy of containment¹ we have delivered them up to SH bound hand and foot, not to mention that they too are victims of sanctions.] IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * Iraq Minister Praises Russian Economic, Political Support * [[Igor] Yusufov [representing the Russian government] called Iraq Russia's "top strategic partner in the region"] * The Iraq Quandary [A glimpse into the depths of abject humiliation to which the once great Russian nation has been reduced ...] * Belarus president calls for lifting sanctions imposed on Iraq * Germany Expresses Reservations Over U.S. Military Strike Against Iraq [But they go on to say they want the inspectors in and how can you get the inspectors in without a credible threat of war? Or a clear route to the end of sanctions. But the German Socialists¹ and Greens¹ haven¹t the spunk to call for that.] IRAQI/UN RELATIONS * Iraq weakens its resistance to UN arms inspections [Contains the interesting suggestion that Iraq would happily accept inspectors from Arab countries, and perhaps give them unlimited access. How could the Brits argue against that? Arabs can¹t be trusted?] * UN to Examine US Actions Toward Iraq * US: UN Should Ignore Iraq Questions * UK and U.S. object to Iraq U.N. questions URL ONLY: http://unfoundation.org/unwire/current.asp#24812 * CHEMICAL WEAPONS: U.S. CALLS FOR OPCW HEAD TO RESIGN; BRAZIL BALKS UN Wire, 21st March [This may be very significant but the article doesn¹t give a clear idea of what it is about.] HISTORY * From friend to foe [Chronology of Iraqi history from 1920.] DOUBTS AND QUERIES http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2002/03/17/do1 704.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/03/17/ixnewstop.html * IRAN SHOULD COME BEFORE IRAQ by Con Coughlin Sunday Telegraph, 17th March SO now there is no doubt: the Libyan government was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing - the worst act of terrorism ever committed in Britain. It is a verdict that will bring some degree of comfort to the relatives of the 270 people who were killed when Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a suitcase bomb 13 years ago. It should also cause those responsible for prosecuting the war on terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the US to pause for thought and assess their true priorities. With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the next target, certainly if the White House has its way, will be Saddam Hussein. The reasons for this are primarily that he has failed to abide by the terms of the 1991 ceasefire agreement which ended the Gulf war, and that he has devoted his energies to building stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Few dispute that Saddam is a threat to the region and that, as he showed during the Gulf war, if he has powerful weapons, he will use them - to defend himself. Yet there is a crucial distinction between those responsible for the Lockerbie and September 11 atrocities and the Iraqi dictator: Saddam has never used his arsenal to attack the West. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, it should be remembered, we were on Saddam's side. It was British intelligence, after all, which arranged for Saddam to build the "supergun" that would provide him with the technology to shell Teheran, while the CIA helpfully chipped in by providing satellite intelligence on Iran's military deployments. Saddam might have been an ogre, but at least he was our ogre. The principal reason, of course, that the West backed Saddam in the 1980s was the simple realpolitik assessment that Iraq constituted a buffer against the far more dangerous forces of militant Islam, as articulated by the constant stream of rabid anti-Western rhetoric emanating from the Ayatollahs in Teheran. (In the Ayatollahs' lexicon, Britain, remember, played "Little Satan" to the American "Great Satan".) So far as the current war on terrorism is concerned, the dynamics of the 1980s, when we backed rather than attacked Saddam are still very much alive. While American and British intelligence have been unable, despite considerable effort, to link Saddam to the September 11 attacks, the relationship between Iran's Islamic militants and al-Qaeda is well-established. The Revolutionary Guards, who take their orders from radical figures such as Ayatollah Khamanei, not the government, and still regard themselves as the custodians of the Islamic revolution, have been involved in arming and training al-Qaeda fighters. Revolutionary Guard detachments are currently based in Afghanistan, keeping a wary eye on the activities of US special forces. The Iranians, with Syrian assistance, have also been busy stoking the fires of Middle Eastern terrorism by training Hamas activists in the deadly art of the suicide bomb and arming and financing the Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon. And now that Libya's official involvement in the Lockerbie bombing has been resolved, there are good grounds for re-examining the role that Iran, and even Syria, played in the atrocity. Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who handled the Lockerbie investigation, claims in his recently published book See No Evil that one of the key suspects was an Iranian agent, and that Iranian intelligence paid £8 million into the bank account of a Syrian-based terror group days after the bombing in December 1988. For some inexplicable reason the Lockerbie trial was disinclined to consider these allegations. If the West is serious about dismantling the Islamic international terrorist network and preventing a recurrence of the Lockerbie and September 11 atrocities, then greater emphasis should be placed on investigating claims such as this rather than confecting a casus belli for invading Iraq. http://observer.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,668867,00.html * SHOULD WE GO TO WAR AGAINST SADDAM? by Peter Beaumont, Kamal Ahmed and Edward Helmore in New York The Observer. 17th March [.....] The INC's detractors, however, tell a different story. They describe how it was set up by the CIA in 1992 in the aftermath of the Gulf War to replace the 'Wafiq' opposition movement, which the Americans thought was too dependent on former officials of Saddam's Ba'ath Party and which, they felt, lacked popular appeal. It received millions of CIA dollars to foster a rebellion in 1993 that failed disastrously, the detractors say. For years afterwards, Chalabi was cold-shouldered by the senior security officials in the Clinton administration, who were dubious about his real levels of support in Iraq and about his group's financial probity. Most seriously of all, the critics contend that the INC goes on producing a series of defectors schooled to tell the Americans exactly what they want to hear about the threat from Iraq, with the aim of persuading America to launch a massive military attack. In the increasingly bitter debate about the level of the threat, it is the evidence of these INC sponsored defectors that has become the source of the greatest controversy. Even those who support an American hard line on Iraq, such as the British former UN weapons inspector Terry Taylor, urge caution about what they say. Taylor and other former inspectors, who also handled Iraqi defectors and checked their evidence in Iraq, claims that many of them have a tendency to exaggerate their personal knowledge and importance to guarantee pensions, protection and employment in their new host countries, particularly the US. Among the most prominent and controversial public sources of information on Iraq's ambitions for weapons of mass destruction has been Dr Khidir Hamza, the self-described former head of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme, who defected in 1994. According to his supporters - Woolsey and his friends among them - Hamza was 'Saddam's bombmaker', the mastermind of his country's nuclear programme, who fled from Iraq to reveal to the world the scope of Saddam's nuclear ambitions and was widely feted by senior figures of all political persuasions in US foreign policy circles. What is accepted without question is that until 1990, when he retired from the Iraqi nuclear programme, the US-educated theoretical nuclear physicist was a senior managerial administrator in Saddam's secret bombmaking programme, which included six months in 1987 spent in charge of the programme. What troubles his former supporters - now his fiercest critics - is not the valuable information he was able to give. Rather, it is about claims he has subsequently made about programmes and technical issues of which, they believe, he has no direct knowledge. These, they say, are claims driven by a desire to persuade the US that military intervention is the best course. Among his most questionable allegations, they say, are those which have been taken up most forcefully by the US hawks. It is Hamza who insists how close Iraq was to assembling a viable nuclear bomb. It is Hamza who has claimed Iraq was near to building a viable 'radiation weapon'. It is Hamza who was prominent on US television speculating that Iraq had assisted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in their attacks on 11 September and the later anthrax attacks on the US. One of Hamza's sternest critics is Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector and US Marine intelligence officer, who recently switched from being an anti-Saddam hawk to joining the anti-invasion voices after he visited Iraq to make a film. Ritter describes Hamza simply as a 'fraud' who has consistently lied about his importance in Iraq's nuclear programme and his own knowledge of it. Then there is David Albright, Hamza's former mentor in the US and himself a former nuclear inspector involved in assessing the scope of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. 'If Hamza has become a monster,' he told The Observer last week, 'I partly blame myself. He had good information on what he knew about, but where we fell out was that I was concerned he was telling me stuff he had read elsewhere, including stuff he could have read in Time magazine. He was not one of the technical experts on the programme, but I found he was a bright man who picked up things very quickly.' One of the problems, says Albright, was that Hamza was given access in the US to Iraq's own declaration of what its nuclear programme comprised. This was provided in the mid Nineties after another high-level defector disclosed the scope of the Iraqi programme. Hamza, says Albright, was recycling this as his own first-hand knowledge. 'His book is full of technical inaccuracies and there is no doubt he exaggerated his importance. For instance he has a section about the biological weapons programme which he had no knowledge of or access to,' says Albright. Albright believes that Hamza's unreliability can be dated to 1998 when the Clinton administration published its Iraq Liberation Bill, voting funds to depose Saddam. 'From that point on he felt US military action was the only course. He told me he wanted to get a gun himself and go back and fight with his sons. These days he travels with people with a very heavy agenda.' Ritter - whom critics accuse of having become an Iraqi apologist after recent visits to Iraq - believes that Hamza is not alone among defectors sponsored by the INC in singing for his supper. 'In over seven years as a weapons inspector I chased down countless so-called intelligence sources and defector stories saying what Iraq was doing. Most were completely baseless. It is in the nature of the intelligence business that there is an awful lot of crap,' Ritter said. 'The biggest problem you get with defectors is that they often have legitimate tit-bits that are squeezed out in their debriefings. They feel under pressure to say more. So they read up what others have claimed and develop it, saying a cousin or a friend visited such and such a plant and saw such and such a thing, and you end up with a circle of falsehood.' But what of other recent claims presented by hawks in the US about Saddam's intentions? A second strand of evidence presented by the US to support the contention that Iraq is reconstituting its offensive capability was contained in a presentation to the permanent members of the UN Security Council two weeks ago. They were shown US satellite images allegedly showing evidence that Iraq was violating the UN's oil-for-food programme by diverting lorries designated for humanitarian use for military purposes. Some of the lorries appear to have been adapted to carry missiles and other military equipment, and they were used in Saddam's annual military parade in Baghdad. 'We have strong reason to believe that a number were being diverted for Iraq's missile programme,' says one administration official. Furthermore, US intelligence believes the hydraulic systems of some of the imported dumper trucks were removed for use on military applications, in particular for missile guidance systems. The leading sceptic is again Scott Ritter. While Ritter accepts that lorries have been converted for military use, he claims that US officials have used deliberately misleading langauge to suggest that the vehicles were converted to carry long-range missiles 'What we are talking about,' he said last week, 'is the conversion of lorries to take rocket artillery systems, [which are] short-range and inaccurate. He scoffs too at the idea that the hydraulic fluid from the lorries could be used in missile guidance sustems, as some US officials have suggested. But there is one last source of evidence that is already in the public domain. By its very nature it provides the most compelling case to support suspicions of Iraq's continuing ambitions to build weapons of mass destruction. It is also the most difficult for the Bush administration to use to justify a war. That piece of evidence is the Final Report of the UN inspectors, a 280-page document released in 1999 produced under the aegis of the UN Security Council. It provides a chilling history of Iraqi evasions when confronted by the inspectors; of how they tried to hide or deny entire programmes - not least Iraq's nuclear programme; of missing components and precursors for chemical and biological weapons that simply disappeared without trace. This document is the source of much of the material presented by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Labour back-benchers last week as part of efforts to persuade them of Saddam's continuing threat. And if many of the MPs remained unconvinced it was because the 'new evidence' has been as much about extrapolation and fresh interpretation of old data as it has been about hard new leads. 'The Iraqi regime has admitted hiding chemical, biological weapons and missile parts in the desert (buried in the sand), caves and railway tunnels. We believe it still has chemical and biological weapons, and means to deliver them in a range of locations,' Straw's report said. Charles Duelfer, briefly an acting head of Unscom and a supporter of Bush's case for a change of the Iraqi regime, acknowledges that the UN report is the source of much of the 'new' intelligence on Iraq's weapons programmes. 'Once we were out of Iraq, we had time to analyse the information and there were new stories to be told,' says Duelfer, member of Unscom from 1993 to 2000. 'It's not new information. It's new analysis. What you are seeing now is consistent with what the President has been saying since 11 September. We have good reason to believe that Saddam Hussein's weapon programs, chemical, biological and nuclear, is ongoing.' The Straw report replicates this line. 'We believe,' it argues,'that the Iraqi regime has recently accelerated its weapons programmes. Its ballistic missile programme has made continued progress, and facilities damaged by Operation Desert Fox in 1998 have been repaired. 'In the absence of inspections, we believe Saddam is planning to extend the range of his current missiles beyond the 150km limit imposed by the UN.' One Government source said Britain expected Saddam to be able to 'deliver' some form of nuclear or chemical attack within four years - a time David Albright says he deduced from his own original work. Duelfer's analysis of the Final Unscom Report is shared by Randy Schuenemann, a Washington consultant and senior Pentagon adviser who as the senior foreign policy staffer to Senator Trent Lott drafted the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, so providing new funding to the INC after its drought years out of favour. He remains close to the group widely seen as Washington's main nest of hawks around Deputy Defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and his views summarise the kind of arguments which have induced Bush to reject the more doveish arguments advanced by the CIA and State Department. He told The Observer that Iraq's proven ability to deceive inspectors and conceal its weapons, coupled with Saddam's 'willingness to use them', made it an egregious strategic risk. 'Every piece of evidence suggests that weapons of mass destruction are a crucial part of Saddam's structure,' he says, 'The West's knowledge that Iraq had such weapons is', Schuenemann argues, 'of a key element of his strategy for staying in power.' This kind of risk assessment is at the heart of the present row. Hawks backing 'regime change' insist Saddam's weapons of mass destruction will threaten regional and international security, and they say he could give them to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. They cite an alleged plot to assassinate George Bush Senior on a visit to Kuwait in 1993 and Saddam's Scud missile attacks on Israel in the Gulf War. The doves say the core of all Saddam's efforts is his own survival, not an attack that would inevitably result in self-immolation. 'The evidence produced so far,' says David Albright, 'is worrying. It is an argument for getting the inspectors back in as fast as possible, but not for going to war.' That may be so, but the argument may already be over. Bush and Blair have made it clear they are already convinced. In May, Saddam will be given a deadline for readmitting the inspectors that his enemies hope he cannot meet. US Special Forces are already operating in northern Iraq. And in Washington and London, the hawks promise war in the autumn. http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/17/niraq117 .xml&sSheet=/news/2002/03/17/ixnewstop.html * BRITISH TROOPS FOR IRAQ WAR DENIED TRAINING by Robert Fox Daily Telegraph, 17th March THE Army's biggest annual training exercise for the armoured units expected to join ground operations in a possible allied attack on Iraq is to be cancelled as part of a programme of budget cuts. Ministry of Defence officials have warned commanders that money is not available for scheduled manoeuvres in Canada this summer. The proposed cancellation follows cuts in the defence budget ordered by the Treasury. The exercises include live ammunition firing and co-ordinated battle training involving tanks, infantry, artillery and aircraft on the British Army Training Unit, Suffield (Batus) ranges near Calgary, a remote area that provides more space than all the Army's ranges in Europe combined. Army officers regard the Batus exercise as essential training for the "high readiness" brigades, the units most likely to serve in any desert operations in the Gulf. Cancellation of the Batus exercise is expected to save £19 million. Although a final decision has yet to be taken, the brigade commanders have been told by the MoD not to begin preparations for going to Canada. A senior Army officer said: "They have been told that they can have the money for war or for training but not both. They can't afford two sets of spares. Besides, there aren't enough spares to go round at the moment." Within the Army, Batus is seen as much a part of military life as Salisbury Plain. Because of their remote location, the Batus ranges are virtually the Army's only training area where all types of weapons can be fired. Senior officers have been assessing where to make cuts across the already overstretched MoD. Although the department was given £155 million from contingency funds by the Treasury towards fighting the war in Afghanistan, this did not cover the estimated £261 million bill that the military action by British forces cost. Furthermore, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has demanded additional cuts in defence and other departmental budgets to find extra cash for the health service. With Dick Cheney, the United States vice-president, warning European allies and Gulf countries that operations against Iraq are likely this autumn, British armoured units are preparing once more for war in the desert. Most will have the same equipment as that used in Operation Desert Storm 11 years ago. During that conflict, British soldiers drove personnel carriers and scout cars that were often at least twice their own age. Government cuts were blamed for turning elements of last year's Saif Sareea II desert exercise in Oman into farce. The event was to have been the first significant demonstration of the new Challenger 2 main battle tank but most of the vehicles broke down because the MoD refused extra funds for sand filters needed to protect engines in the desert. It would have cost an extra £1.2 million to fit the sand filters; the bill to repair and replace the damaged engines has come to at least £3.5 million. British peacekeepers in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have been astonished to discover how much better equipped European allies - the Germans, Dutch, French and even Italians - are for peacekeeping duties than they are. "We are far behind our allies," said a British Army commander in Kabul. "Something will have to give soon." http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/page.cfm?objectid=11711175&method=full& siteid=50 143 * IF THE ALLIES ATTACK IRAQ THERE WILL BE A HUGE DESIRE BY TERRORISTS TO PUNISH THEM AND A NUCLEAR EXPLOSION IN THE U.S. MIGHT WELL COME TRUE by Tariq Ali Daily Mirror, 18th March 18 2002 A NEW war is being plotted against Iraq and, while most of Europe is nervous, the boy scout in No.10 is ready and willing once more. The Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals know there is not much left to destroy. In August 1999 the New York Times reported: "American warplanes have methodically - with virtually no public discussion - been attacking Iraq." In the last eight months of 2001, US and British pilots have fired 1,100 missiles against 359 targets in Iraq. In October 1999 American officials were telling the Wall Street Journal they would soon be running out of targets. "We're down to the last outhouse," they admitted. By the end of the year, the Anglo-US airforces had flown more than 6,000 sorties, and dropped 1,800 bombs on Iraq. By early 2001, the bombing of Iraq had lasted longer than the US invasion of Vietnam. And still they talk of going on because he has "weapons of mass destruction". Even if he does, they're useless if he can't deliver them. Economic sanctions have driven the population into misery. Before 1990 the country had a per capita GNP of over $3,000. Today it is under $500, making Iraq one of the poorest nations. What justification is offered for this? THAT Saddam's regime is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Thus the civilized world - read Israel - can never rest until Saddam is killed. The argument is hollow. The deadly threat from Iraqi weapons was never a problem as long as the regime in Baghdad was regarded as a friend in Washington and London. As Iraq crushed Communists at home and fought Iranian mullahs abroad, few apprehensions about its weapons were expressed. Once the Iraqi regime had turned against Western interests in the Gulf, of course, the possibility of it acquiring nuclear weapons suddenly became an apocalyptic danger. But this is no longer a valid view. Today the nuclear monopoly of the big powers has collapsed with India and Pakistan getting the weapons. And Iraq's own nuclear programme has been thoroughly eradicated. Even the super-hawk Scott Ritter, the UNSCOM inspector now says there is no chance of its reconstitution. He says the blockade should stop and a new war would be a disaster. That the Ba'ath regime is a tyranny no one could doubt. That it is unique in its cruelties is an abject fiction. Turkey, where the Kurdish language is not permitted in schools, has displaced 2 million Kurds from their homelands. This is much worse than Iraq, where - whatever Saddam's other crimes - there has never been any attempt at this kind of annihilation. Yet, as a valued member of NATO and candidate for the EU, Turkey suffers not the slightest measure against it. And the Saudi kingdom makes not even a pretence of keeping human rights. Yet no state in the Arab world is more toasted in Washington. In killing and torture, Saddam was never a match for President Suharto, whose massacres in Indonesia far exceeded Iraq's. But no Third World regime was more prized by the West. Not a single part of the argument for war stands up. So what? I've heard it said. Blair's favourite foreign policy man, ex-diplomat Robert Cooper, has said: "We need to get used to double standards." The maxim underlying this view is that we will punish the crimes of our enemies and reward the crimes of our friends. This moral blank cheque will increase terrorism. If Iraq is attacked, the instability in the region will be accompanied by a desire to punish the US and its allies. The worst-case scenario of a nuclear explosion in the US might well come true. That's why a political solution is needed. A war could end badly for all sides. Tariq Ali's book, The Clash Of Fundamentalisms, is published by Verso in April http://www.nationalpost.com/home/story.html?f=/stories/20020319/377934.html March 19, 2002 * INVADING IRAQ SURE WASN'T ABOUT OIL George Jonas National Post (Canada), 19th March Say what you will of Saddam Hussein, he's not stupid. Wicked, yes, but not stupid. Even so, he failed to understand something about the West. Failing to understand it nearly cost him his fiefdom, not to mention his life, 11 years ago. It may yet cost him both. What Saddam didn't understand then, and probably doesn't understand still, is that the West isn't entirely guided by self-interest. Iraq's dictator was convinced America wasn't going to interfere with his invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990. That's why he reacted with a smile (noted in the transcript) when U.S. ambassador April Glaspie said to him that "the Kuwait issue is not associated with America." The misunderstanding wasn't all Ms. Glaspie's fault. It didn't require the ambassador's infelicitous remark: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait" for Saddam to reach his conclusion. Iraq launched its invasion a mere four days after Saddam's conversation with the Ms. Glaspie on July 25, 1990. No invasion could have been launched in four days if the Bully of Baghdad hadn't fully anticipated (mistakenly as it turned out) a green light from America. Why, Machiavelli himself would have viewed a green light as a sensible signal. Had U.S. President George Bush Sr. been guided by realpolitik, as Saddam believed him to be, he would have said to Iraq's tyrant: "My friend, why should we quarrel? We have no essential conflict. You live in the Middle East; we don't. You have no territorial ambitions in our part of the world; we have no territorial ambitions in yours. You want to sell oil and we want to buy it. Well, we can buy oil from you as easily as from the Emir of Kuwait. If the West cared only about oil -- as the West's enemies always maintained it did -- embracing Saddam would have been the logical thing to do. Saddam wasn't trying to hijack the oil supply of the Middle East to feed it to the camels. Oil would be of no use to him unless he could sell it, and he could sell his oil profitably only to the developed industrial democracies. Giving Saddam a free hand in the Gulf region would have been the essence, the veritable Armagnac of realpolitik. By allying itself with the strongest power in the region, America could have brought about a stability in oil prices and production. Saddam would have appreciated America's unscrupulousness, which was the code he himself lived by. By dumping his Kuwaiti and Saudi allies, Bush Sr. would have won Saddam's respect. Saddam's respect, if coupled with a threat to nuke him if he didn't live up to his bargain, could have ensured a supply of fossil fuel for America and its allies for at least a generation. There was no reason for Bush Sr. not to prefer Saddam to the theocrats of Tehran or to the hypocritical potentates of Riyadh. Unlike the ayatollahs of Iran or the equally medieval sheiks, emirs and sultans of the oil kingdoms, Saddam was just a straightforward despot, a kind of Mideastern Don Corleone. He wasn't a fanatic, an Islamist, a suicide bomber. He never thought of America as the Great Satan. Far from being a fundamentalist, Saddam was barely Muslim. He had no quarrel with Christendom. By the standards of the region he wasn't even virulently hostile to Israel. He became a champion of the Palestinian cause only as an afterthought. Before 1990, far from funding terrorists like the treacherous Wahabi sheiks, Saddam had spent years fighting the America-hating ayatollahs of Iran. He had received military assistance from the West. Why would old man Bush suddenly turn on him? All Saddam wanted was to grab the riches of the region, not in order to keep them from America, but to sell them to America in due course. In fact, Iraq's dictator might have been contemplating his wardrobe for his first ceremonial visit to the White House when America's demand to withdraw from Kuwait or else had reached him. He was probably astounded. Why would America ally itself with the weaker powers in the region against the stronger power? Why would it ally itself with the House of Saud that sponsored terrorists against Israel, America's only friend in the Middle East? If Kuwait or Saudi Arabia had been Western-style democracies, Bush Sr.'s sympathy might have been explained by a sense of ideological kinship -- but the sheikdoms of the Gulf were no more democratic than Saddam's regime. The emirates were worse in that, they were historical throwbacks. At least Iraq's Ba'athist "socialist" system was a modern rather than a monarchical despotism. So why was President Bush so hostile? Just because Saddam used poison gas against his Kurdish subjects in the north? Or because he oppressed and massacred his Shi'ite countrymen in the south? What were the Kurds and the Shi'ites to America? Now, 12 years later a lot of bad blood has been spilt. It's probably impossible to turn the clock back, but Saddam might still be hoping. Hoping that perhaps the son will see the light. Perhaps George W. will understand the logic that eluded his father. Perhaps this week, after Vice-President Dick Cheney has tried and failed to revive an Arab coalition against Iraq, it will finally dawn on Bush Jr. that realpolitik demands a different coalition. It should be America together with Iraq against the Islamic sheikdoms and republics of the Gulf. Behind the shield of this pragmatic alliance, the tide of puritanical Muslim militancy could be stemmed. Supported by American air power, Saddam's elite Republican Guard could cleanse the region of Islamist forces, whether of the Saudi Wahabi or the Iranian Shi'ite variety. All terrorism, from Hamas to al-Qaeda, could be eradicated, and the chaotic whims of OPEC's ludicrous princelings could be replaced by the tranquility of a well-regulated monopoly ensuring the flow of oil to America under Iraq's wise leader, the one whose life size picture would grace every public square in the region, Saddam Hussein. Why, if assured hegemony in the Middle East, Saddam may even acquiesce in the existence of Israel, if it matters so much to Washington. Should the Palestinians balk at such a solution, Saddam would have ways of dealing with them. There's plenty of poison gas left over from the Kurdish reserves. Oh, if the Americans were only practical! If they were only guided by pure self-interest! If they only wanted oil badly enough! http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2002/03/21/do2 101.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2002/03/21/ixopinion.html * THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR WAGING WAR AGAINST IRAQ by John Casey Daily Telegraph, 21st March Enoch Powell liked to say that the Americans have always taken a "Manichean" attitude to world affairs, dividing the world into "good" (Us) and "evil" (Them) camps. In its application to Iraq and the forthcoming war against that country it is an attitude that generates plenty of heat, but not that much light. I hope it is still allowable to ask the sorts of question that come naturally to an English Tory sceptic. It was quite right that the Tories forced an emergency debate on further commitments in Afghanistan yesterday, but both sides of the House should also be asking: what should our aims be in a war against Iraq? Answer: "To get rid of Saddam Hussein." Question: "In favour of what successor regime?" Answer comes there none. There was, similarly, no answer when the same question was asked of Afghanistan - which explains how so much of that country was incontinently handed over to the barbarian warlords of the Northern Alliance, whose excesses had created the popularity of the Taliban in the first place. America talks vaguely of "opposition forces" in Iraq. But the truth is that any government in Baghdad will have to be a minority, authoritarian regime whose chief aim must be to prevent an artificial, fissiparous country from flying apart. Ever since the founding of the Hashemite kingdom of Iraq by the British in 1921, the country has been run by a Sunni Arab minority of about 20 per cent of the population. The Kurds of the north (also Sunni but permanently disaffected) were excluded from a share in power, as were the Shias who populate the south all the way down to the Iranian border, and are well over half the total population. If Saddam is overthrown, the likeliest possibility is that the country will break up, with the Kurds declaring independence and going on to foment trouble with their fellow Kurds in Turkey, and the Shias becoming a client state of the only officially Shia country in the world - Iran. The only way to prevent this will be for the Americans to impose another aggressive military leader. With every change of regime - from the end of monarchy in 1958, to the Ba'ath socialists in 1963, to Saddam's regime, which is a small rump of the Ba'athists - the need to tighten the screws has got stronger as the basis of popular support has got tinier. The British had set up the state to provide stability and prevent religious and ethnic conflicts from destabilising the region. Now, if you are not against the Axis of Evil, you must be for it. No matter that a Triple Axis consisting of two such bitter enemies as Iran and Iraq (and a third partner, North Korea, that might as well be on the moon as far as the other two are concerned) could not possibly act in concert. We have to fight Evil. So - is Saddam's regime supremely evil? Possibly. It is more oppressive than the Saudi regime. But there is religious freedom in Iraq, a secular state, where there is none in Saudi Arabia. Saddam may have killed thousands of rebellious Kurds and Shias, but he has probably not matched the single greatest atrocity of the area: the late President Assad's massacre of tens of thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian town of Hama. But hasn't Saddam got megalomaniac ambitions? I am sceptical even here. Iraq had a particular quarrel with Kuwait. It was partly a small dispute over an oilfield from which Kuwait was alleged to be syphoning off Iraqi oil. Kuwait had also pushed down the price of oil when Iraq desperately needed the income to rebuild its infrastructure after the war with Iran, which Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and all the other Arab states had cheered on. Iraq had always claimed Kuwait. King Faisal I and King Ghazi used to broadcast to the "lost province", urging it to "return" to the motherland. So did all the republican rulers before Saddam. Obviously none of this begins to justify the disgraceful seizure of Kuwait. But there is no historical backing and no serious evidence to suggest that Iraq ever had designs on Saudi Arabia or the Persian Gulf. Saddam now has peaceful relations with these states. The attempt to show that Iraq has links with al-Qa'eda seems to me worse than feeble. There is no solid evidence. Saddam's main relation with Islamic radicals has been to fight them. He fought against the Islamic Republic of Iran for eight years - with very useful help from the CIA, who gave him regular satellite updates on the battlefield dispositions of Iranian troops. So it comes down to weapons of mass destruction. Do we know that Saddam has rebuilt his armoury of chemical and biological weapons? Several members of the United Nations inspection teams deny this. Few objective observers think Saddam is anywhere near getting nuclear weapons - but he would obviously love to have them. Does that justify war? One of Aquinas's conditions for a just war is that one's enemy has committed a "fault" - that is, done one an injury. The possession of particular technologies is not in itself a "fault". The question is what Iraq intends to do with them. The notion that it intends to attack America is patently ridiculous. Israel? Israel is one of the most formidable fighting machines in the world, and could pulverise Iraq, using its own weapons of mass destruction if necessary. And now some United States politicians are saying that, even if Iraq allows the inspectors back, the march to war should still go on, since we can never be sure of finding such weaponry. That means that we will be prepared to go to war simply on grounds of suspicion. We are looking for excuses for a war when the decision to wage it has already been taken. That has very unpleasant historical resonances. The very name of Saddam Hussein is enough to bring blood to the eye - but that should not be a guide to policy. Neither on grounds of reason nor justice - let alone our national interest - has the case for war been made. The author is a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge IRAQIS OUTSIDE IRAQ http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,668442,00.html * UN HELPS IRAN PLAN FOR FLOOD OF REFUGEES by Jonathan Steele in Tehran The Guardian. 16th March The United Nations has started moving tens of thousands of tents and blankets to western Iran in readiness for a huge wave of Iraqi refugees who are expected to escape across the border if the US and Britain launch military action to topple the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. The move, which is the first concrete sign that international and Iranian officials are taking the threat of a US-led war against Iraq seriously, is described as a "contingency plan" by Pierre Lavanchy, who heads the Tehran office of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR). "We've started to prepare for a possible influx. We are in discussions with Iranian officials", he told the Guardian yesterday. "We are taking stocks which were in place in south-eastern Iran for refugees from Afghanistan and moving them across the country to be near the border with Iraq." As well as tents and blankets, the supplies include kitchen utensils, plastic sheeting, pots, and jerry cans for water. They will go to the main UNHCR depot at Ahwaz, and at an office in Orumiyeh. Food and medicine is expected to be added after a meeting tomorrow of all the Iran-based UN agencies, including the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation. "We are already moving enough for 40,000 people. It's better to have at least a minimum in place," Mr Lavanchy said. Although Mr Lavanchy declined to give a figure for the total number of refugees expected to flee across the border because of US air strikes and ground operations, some diplomats believe it could reach 150,000, even though Saddam Hussein is expected to close the frontiers, as he did in previous conflicts. Tens of thousands of others would be displaced inside Iraq, unable to bypass or bribe the Iraqi border guards. During the US bombing of Afghanistan, both Pakistan and Iran mounted extra guards on their respective borders to keep refugees out. By contrast, in the case of a US attack on Iraq, Iran is expected to open the door. "Foreign ministry officials have said that they will allow refugees from Iraq to enter," Mr Lavanchy said. "The Iraqi lobby here is much stronger than the Afghan one." The policy difference also seems to stem from the size of the refugee communities that are already in Iran. Iran felt it could not take any more Afghans after a registration drive last spring discovered that 2.36 million Afghan refugees were already inside the country. Only 203,000 Iraqis were recorded. The Iranian government is just about to launch a new programme, with the UNHCR, to persuade Afghan refugees to return home now that the Taliban have been defeated. The exodus from Iraq is expected to consist mainly of Kurds from northern Iraq. Arab Shi'ites from the southern Iraqi marshlands, which provided some of the main battlegrounds in the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, were driven from their homes in the early 1990s by Saddam Hussein's strategy of damming rivers and draining the marshes to destroy the livelihoods of communities that he suspected of being hostile to him. The area is now almost empty. Around 100,000 of the marsh Arabs fled to Iran, while others fled to Iraqi cities. Apart from creating a new refugee crisis, a war in Iraq is also likely to put an abrupt end to a cautious refugee and prisoner-of-war return programme which Teheran and Baghdad started just two months ago, almost 14 years after the end of the Iran-Iraq war, which left some 500,000 dead. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52762-2002Mar19.html * ITALY ADMITS SHIPLOAD OF IRAQI KURDS Washington Post, 19th March BARI, Italy, March 19 -- The Italian government admitted about 900 Iraqi Kurds to a refugee center in southern Italy today after they reached Sicily on a crowded, rusting freighter Monday. The group, the largest to land in five years, has sparked a political debate in a country that has grown more accustomed to taking in immigrants than keeping them out. Interior Minister Claudio Scajola moved for the emergency release of government funds to provide more shelter for illegal migrants, saying the ship was likely to be followed by others. "The instability created in the Middle East by September 11 means that many more people will decide to set off in search of a better life," Scajola said. "Italy is the natural entry point for the West." At a gathering today in Padua, Italy's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, said "the human spirit should prevail" in dealing with immigration. But Umberto Bossi, Italy's reform minister and the head of the Northern League, an anti immigrant group, retorted that Ciampi's words "continue to give messages that we are accepting the problem when what's needed is stopping it." His group has favored the rapid expulsion of immigrants after they arrive. Italian authorities are sheltering the new influx of people even as the country's ruling coalition is trying to pass a law that would crack down on such arrivals. The law, which is before the lower house of Parliament, would send some illegal immigrants to jail for up to a year. To remain in Italy, immigrants would have to prove that they had a job waiting; the Italian navy would step up patrols off the coast. In recent years, the clandestine inflow of people from Africa, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent has become one of the most contentious political issues in the 15 countries of the affluent European Union. Some of the migrants are fleeing political oppression, but many seem to be motivated by hopes for a higher standard of living. Citing respect for human rights, EU countries generally do not deport the newcomers but allow them to live in refugee centers and work while they formally seek asylum status. Last year, about 20,000 immigrants landed in Italy. Police said they believe that the immigrants who arrived on Monday began their journey in Mersin, Turkey. When Italian naval ships approached the ship, people aboard threatened to throw children into the sea if the ship was not allowed to dock in Sicily, police said today. The vessel, with 928 people aboard, was escorted to the Sicilian port city of Catania. Most of the migrants then boarded 19 buses, which were ferried to the mainland, and traveled to Bari, a city in the southern region Puglia that is set up to care for illegal immigrants. Women, children and men gazed through shaded windows of the buses that arrived at a government refugee campground after a 16-hour journey. Some flashed a V-for-victory sign to onlookers. A young married couple expressed fear in recounting their week-long journey. "We saw death," said Siham, 28, who said he comes from Mosul in northern Iraq. "The waves were rough, and we didn't eat for four days. Everyone was falling on top of each other, with vomit everywhere." His wife, Siham, 20, said, "We wanted to leave our country and get away from the control of Saddam Hussein." About 10 adults and seven children suffering from exhaustion or dehydration stayed in the Catania hospital, according to hospital workers. Riccardo Grimaldi, a Red Cross doctor who worked as a volunteer during Italy's largest immigrant influx -- 10,000 Albanians in 1991 -- said most passengers he examined tonight were in reasonably good condition. If the immigrants follow the patterns of other arrivals, most will ask for political asylum. While waiting to see whether it is granted, they can stay at the camp for 45 days, paying about $15.50 a day, said Sebastiano Giangrande, the Bari refugee camp's director. They can leave to find a job after their term is up, he said. IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2002/03/19/045.html * IRAQ MINISTER PRAISES RUSSIAN ECONOMIC, POLITICAL SUPPORT by Vladimir Isachenkov Moscow Times (from The Associated Press), 19th March Visiting Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid conferred with Russian officials Monday about contracts that are on hold pending the lifting of UN sanctions against Baghdad, and expressed gratitude for Moscow's support for his nation. "We highly assess Russia's efforts in the United Nations Security Council aimed at lifting the unjust economic blockade imposed on our country," Rashid told his Russian counterpart, Igor Yusufov, Itar-Tass reported. Yusufov called Iraq Russia's "top strategic partner in the region" and voiced confidence that bilateral cooperation would expand further once the sanctions are lifted. Russia, Iraq's main trading partner, has strongly pushed for lifting the sanctions, hoping that would allow Iraq to start paying off its $7 billion Soviet-era debt to Russia and help expand trade. Iraq has several prospective deals with Russian oil companies, but they have been put on hold until the end of the sanctions, which were imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. [....] Lifting the UN embargo would "create the basis for full-fledged cooperation between Russia and Iraq," Yusufov told Rashid during a meeting of a Russian-Iraqi commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation. Rashid said the Russian-Iraqi contracts are now worth $2 billion, $500 million of which is in the oil sector, Itar-Tass reported. The bulk of them have been frozen by the UN sanctions committee. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2002/03/19/006.html * THE IRAQ QUANDARY by Vladimir Frolov Moscow Times, 19th March Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told The Times of London last week that Moscow opposed any U.S. strike on Iraq but made it clear that Russia would not withdraw from the coalition against terrorism even if the Bush administration decided to attack Baghdad unilaterally. He indicated that participation in this coalition served such vital Russian interests that it couldn't be jeopardized by pushing disagreements over Iraq to the limit. This pragmatic position, despite some strong criticism in the State Duma, makes it possible to avoid the inevitable international humiliation other options are likely to entail for Russia. Washington's determination to confront Iraq over weapons of mass destruction presents Moscow with both a challenge and an opportunity. There is a need: to avoid disrupting the cooperative relationship with the United States in which President Vladimir Putin has invested so much political capital; to secure debt repayment and the significant commercial interests of Russian companies in a post-Saddam Iraq; and to reaffirm Russia's role as a leading player on a major international issue by preserving the centrality of the UN Security Council in dealing with Iraq. Any successful strategy for achieving these objectives is likely to include the following elements: The exploitation of fissures within the Bush administration in order to convince it of the need to exhaust the inspections option. Verifying the elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction through a rigorous inspection regime in accordance with UN armistice Resolution 687 is the only legitimate objective the international community can support. Only Baghdad's obstruction of a serious international effort to readmit inspectors could provide any semblance of legitimacy to U.S. military action against Iraq. Unfortunately, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney have recently expressed doubts regarding the ultimate effectiveness of renewed inspections in Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the other hand, seems open to the idea that Saddam Hussein would prefer to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction and cooperate with international inspectors if faced with the credible threat of military force. Russia needs to help Powell convince President George W. Bush that renewed inspections have a reasonable chance of success in stripping Iraq of WMDs. And one way to do it might be to inform Powell privately that, were the Iraqis to prove uncooperative, Moscow would not seek any additional UN authorization for the use of force, but rather accept the view that such authorization is already included in Resolution 687. Persuading Washington to temper its unilateralism and work through the UN on Iraq could become a major foreign policy success for Putin and would significantly strengthen Russia's international position. It needs to be made clear to the Iraqis that this is really their last chance to cooperate with the UN and that they cannot haggle over inspections. For a U.S. unilateral strike to be avoided, the inspections would need to be credible in Washington's view -- meaning there have to be visits "any time, anywhere," or as UNMOVIC's chief Hans Blix puts it, "immediate, unconditional, unrestricted." The composition of inspection teams, however, could be the subject of discussion within the Security Council, but not with Baghdad. Duma foreign affairs committee chairman Dmitry Rogozin has recently proposed that the Middle East "Group of Four" (the United States, Russia, the EU and UN) -- widely respected throughout the region -- be the principal source of inspectors for the most sensitive missions. Iraq should be denied grounds for claiming that inspections are being used for espionage. The trigger for the final lifting of sanctions should be the UNMOVIC's certification of full Iraqi compliance on all WMD programs. However, no artificial deadline for completion of this process should be imposed. Russia, furthermore, needs to establish direct channels of communication with Iraqi opposition groups. Work must be done to secure our interests in Iraq in the case of a forcible regime change. At a minimum, Russia needs to be informed of the opposition's vision for Iraq's future and to make it clear that it expects any new Iraqi government to respect Iraq's financial obligations to Moscow. Washington could prod the Iraqi opposition to heed Russian commercial concerns. Vladimir Frolov, an adviser to the chairman of the State Duma foreign affairs committee, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times. The views expressed are those of the author and do not in any way reflect the position of the committee or its members. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020321/2002032126.html * BELARUS PRESIDENT CALLS FOR LIFTING SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON IRAQ Arabic News, 21st March The Russian President Alexander Lukashenko has called for canceling the sanctions imposed on Iraq. The Russian daily Izvestia said on Wednesday that President Lukashinko said on Tuesday during his meeting with an Iraqi delegation chaired by the deputy premier and minister of finance Hikmat al-Azouzi that the sanctions inflict great damage in the Israeli people. The Belarus president also stressed deliberate rejection to any military pressure on Iraq. [.....] http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2002-03/18/content_320688.htm * GERMANY EXPRESSES RESERVATIONS OVER U.S. MILITARY STRIKE AGAINST IRAQ BERLIN, March 17 (Xinhuanet) -- High-ranking German officials on Sunday reiterated their reservations about Washington's intention to launch a military strike against Iraq. Speaking at the congress of the German Green Party, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he saw the reports of the U.S. intention with "great concerns" and that there would be no " majority in the Bundestag (lower house of German parliament)" to support Germany's participation in such a military action. Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, in an interview published in the "Tagesspiegel," said that the best way to prevent Bagdad's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction is to let U.N. inspectors return to Iraq. Therefore, he added, it was necessary to put as much as possible political pressure on Iraq. Wolfgang Gehrke, a foreign policy spokesman for the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), called on the Germans to demonstrate their protest against possible U.S. action when U.S. President George W. Bush visits Berlin on May 22-23. Earlier this week, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany would not participate in U.S. military action against Iraq if it was unsanctioned by the United Nations. IRAQI/UN RELATIONS http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/19/wirq19.xm l&sSheet=/news/2002/03/19/ixworld.html * IRAQ WEAKENS ITS RESISTANCE TO UN ARMS INSPECTIONS by Anton La Guardia Daily Telegraph, 19th March IRAQI opposition to international weapons inspectors softened yesterday as it mounted a major counter-offensive to America's campaign to convince the Arab world to help Washington remove President Saddam Hussein. As Iraqi envoys fanned out through the Arab world, criss-crossing paths with US Vice President Dick Cheney on his 11-nation journey through the region, Baghdad suggested it might be ready to re-admit UN weapons inspectors if they provide precise details of sites they want to visit and how long they will stay. Iraq's conditional offer falls far short of the "any time, anywhere" arms inspections demanded by the US and was seen in the West as reminiscent of Baghdad's delaying diplomacy in the countdown to the Gulf War. Nevertheless, it will allow Saddam to present himself as conciliatory as he sends out three of his most senior lieutenants - vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan, Ezzat Ibrahim, deputy chairman of Iraq's ruling Revolution Command Council, and the deputy prime minister, Tareq Aziz - to win over Arab governments. "Iraq refuses the return of inspectors for as long as the sites for inspection and a precise timetable are not drawn up," Iraq's vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, was reported as saying. He told the London-based Arabic daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, that Iraq "is totally free from weapons of mass destruction" and suggested that an Arab inspection team could visit any site. In Morocco, Iraq's parliamentary speaker, Saadoun Hammadi, reinforced the message, saying: "Many Arab and non-Arab friends have called on Iraq to remove all pretexts for a US invasion of Iraq, so we are happy to co-operate with all countries . . . including the United Nations, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to avoid new US attacks." Britain rejected the overture out of hand. "Our position is that we want full and unfettered access. We're not prepared to accept any watering down of the UN requirements," said a Foreign Office spokesman. "Many of the so-called Iraqi offers have been ruses to make Iraq appear reasonable when it has been unreasonable in refusing to co-operate with the UN for many years." UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998, shortly before the US and Britain launched a sustained bombing campaign against Iraq. http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/ap20020320_1867.html * UN TO EXAMINE US ACTIONS TOWARD IRAQ ABC News, 21st March UNITED NATIONS March 20 Iraq has asked the United Nations whether U.S. actions toward Saddam Hussein violate international law, according to documents obtained Wednesday. Secretary-General Kofi Annan passed this and 18 other questions posed by Iraq to the U.N. Security Council, asking for "any response" it might want to provide by April 10. The questions were given to Annan by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri during talks earlier this month focusing on the return of weapons inspectors. A second round of U.N.-Iraq talks is expected to be held around April 18, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday. Annan said the initial meeting with Sabri had been "a good start." But it produced no sign Iraq would allow weapons inspectors to return the first step toward lifting 11-year-old U.N. sanctions and a key demand of the United States and other council members. Inspectors left Baghdad before the United States and Britain carried out airstrikes in December 1998 to punish Iraq for not cooperating with the inspection program. Saddam Hussein's government has barred them from returning. President Bush has warned Saddam that he faces unspecified consequences if he fails to heed American demands that inspectors be allowed into Iraq to verify whether it has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction. While some questions were technical and deserved answers, a U.S. official said "the other issues raised by the Iraqis were conditions, not questions." "This is just an attempt by the Iraqis to open up a dialogue with the Security Council ... which we're not willing to get engaged in. There's no need for dialogue. The Iraqis know exactly what they need to do," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It's just another example of Iraqi polemics." Sabri also asked how Iraq's relationship with the Security Council could be normalized "under the present declared U.S. policy," which he claimed was aimed at overthrowing Saddam. And he asked if this violated international law. Sabri's questions did not rule out allowing the return of weapons inspectors but indicated that Iraq wants inspections to be conducted for a limited time period and lead to certification that the country is free of weapons of mass destruction the key condition for sanctions to be lifted. Western officials, however, reject any conditions set by Iraq and demand unfettered access to suspected weapons sites. The questions deal with the time needed to complete weapons inspections and to certify that iraq's banned weapons programs have been eliminated, the nature of the inspections, and the composition of inspection teams. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council that if Iraq gave a green light for inspectors to return, and actively cooperated with them, he could recommend suspending sanctions in one year. Iraq has accused some U.S. and British inspectors in the former U.N. inspection agency of spying for the West. Sabri asked whether the United Nations can guarantee that the new inspectors "are not spies and will not conduct spying tasks," and how U.S. and British inspectors could be neutral. Blix has said he will fire anyone found to be working for a government. He also said Iraq should not have a veto over the composition of inspection teams. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2002/mar/21/032107395.html * US: UN SHOULD IGNORE IRAQ QUESTIONS Las Vegas Sun, 21st March UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United States does not want the Security Council to consider a list of questions from Iraq, including whether U.S. actions toward Saddam Hussein violate international law. "The Iraqi questions given to Secretary-General (Kofi) Annan earlier this month are an attempt by the Iraqis to distract U.N. attention away from Iraq's noncompliance with ... Security Council resolutions and to portray Iraq as a victim," said Robert Wood, spokesman for the U.S. mission at the United Nations. Annan passed the 19 questions on to the U.N. Security Council and asked for a response by April 10. The questions were given to Annan by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri during talks focusing on the return of weapons inspectors. A second round of U.N.-Iraq talks is expected to be held around April 18. Annan said the initial meeting with Sabri had been "a good start." But it produced no sign Iraq would allow weapons inspectors to return - the first step toward lifting 11-year-old U.N. sanctions and a key demand of the United States and other council members. Inspectors left Baghdad before the United States and Britain carried out airstrikes in December 1998 to punish Iraq for not cooperating with the inspection program. Saddam Hussein's government has barred them from returning. President Bush has warned Saddam that he faces unspecified consequences if he fails to heed American demands that inspectors be allowed into Iraq to verify whether it has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction. Diplomats said some of the questions were technical in nature while others appeared to be conditions. Wood said the Security Council should not "entangle itself" with the questions. "Iraq has an obligation to permit full inspections that can demonstrate the end of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. That is where the council should focus." Sabri's questions did not rule out allowing the return of weapons inspectors but indicated that Iraq wants inspections to be conducted for a limited time period and lead to certification that the country is free of weapons of mass destruction - the key condition for sanctions to be lifted. Western officials, however, reject any conditions set by Iraq and demand unfettered access to suspected weapons sites. The questions deal with the time needed to complete weapons inspections and to certify that Iraq's banned weapons programs have been eliminated, the nature of the inspections, and the composition of inspection teams. http://www2.swissinfo.org/sen/Swissinfo.html?siteSect=143&eid=1076167 * UK AND U.S. OBJECT TO IRAQ U.N. QUESTIONS by Evelyn Leopold Swissinfo, 22nd March [.....] Specifically, Sabri asked if "threats to invade Iraq and to change the national government by force violate Security Council resolutions (and) rules of international law." He asked whether it was possible to normalise relations between the Security Council and Baghdad "when calls are made for invading Iraq and overthrowing its national government by force." And Iraq wanted to know if elimination of the U.S.-imposed flight-exclusion zones over northern and southern Iraq could be "guaranteed" and whether Baghdad would be compensated for the "destruction of its economic, educational and other infrastructure" caused by sanctions and violations of Iraqi sovereignty. Sabri also asked if there were any limits on the powers Blix would have and how inspectors from the United States and Britain could "fulfil a neutral international mandate." HISTORY http://observer.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,668809,00.html * FROM FRIEND TO FOE The Observer, 17th March 1920 Iraq placed under British mandate. 1932 Iraq becomes an independent state. 1937 Saddam Hussein born in Tikrit, Saladdin province 1959 Saddam sentenced to death for involvement in failed assassination of General Abdul Karim Qassim 1963 Returns to Iraq, elected member of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party (ASBP) 1968 Ba'athist coup installs Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as president. 1975 At Opec meeting in Algiers, Iraq and Iran sign treaty ending border disputes. 1979 Shah toppled in neighbouring Iran by Islamic revolution. President Al-Bakr resigns and Saddam is installed as the new leader. 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war 1988 Iraq uses chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabjah. Ceasefire between Iran and Iraq. 1989 The supergun affair. British engineering company provides parts to Iraq, which are used by military to build huge artillery weapon capable of striking Israel. 1990 Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian-born journalist with The Observer accused of spying on a military installation, is hanged in Baghdad. 2 August Iraq invades Kuwait. 8 August Iraq announces the merger of Iraq and Kuwait. 29 November UN resolution authorises states co operating with Kuwait to use 'all necessary means' to uphold Iraq's full withdrawal. 1991 Gulf war 16 January Operation Desert Storm begins with air strikes. 24 February The start of a ground operation, led by US General Norman Schwarzkopf, which results in the liberation of Kuwait on 27 February. 3 March Iraq accepts ceasefire. 1991 Plan for UN safe haven in northern Iraq to protect Kurds. 1992 No-fly zone imposed in southern Iraq. 1993 US forces launch a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation for attempt on life of former US President George Bush in Kuwait. 1995 UN allows partial resumption of Iraq's oil exports to buy food and medicine. 1998 Iraq ends all co-operation with the UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom). US and Britain launch Desert Fox, a bombing campaign designed to destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes. 2000 New weapons inspection proposals rejected. 2001 US and Britain launch bombing raids to disable Iraq's air defences - but these gather little international support. 11 September Terrorist attacks on US raise spectre of Iraqi involvement. _______________________________________________ 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