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[casi] from today's papers: 2-04-02

A. Downing St tries to quell growing revolt over Iraq, Independent, 2 April
B. High noon: The Bush-Blair meeting will test their leadership, The Times,
2 April [leading article]
C. Blair 'will not sign on dotted line' to back action in Iraq, FT, 2 April
D. Blair opts for delay on Iraq, Observer, 31 March
E. Iraq’s Weapons: US/UK Lies And Distortions, voices uk briefing, 26 March

The Times:
Financial Times:

Remember to include your address and telephone number and that the Times
require exclusivity. It's still not too late to hit the Observer, provided
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Best wishes,


Downing St tries to quell growing revolt over Iraq
By Nigel Morris Political Correspondent

02 April 2002

Downing Street moved to quell growing backbench dissent over Iraq last
night, dismissing suggestions that Tony Blair and George Bush would draw up
plans this week for a military strike against President Saddam Hussein's

With Labour MPs threatening to bring up the crisis in the Middle East during
tomorrow's recall of Parliament to pay tribute to the Queen Mother, Mr
Blair's official spokesman played down the importance of a meeting between
the two leaders in Texas. The spokes-man said the world could not "bury its
head in the sand" over the threat posed by President Saddam, but stressed:
"This isn't a decision-making summit. This is a thinking-through-the-options
summit. We're not going to be coming out of Texas with decisions taken. It
is not a council of war."

Mr Blair is expected to use the meeting, at Mr Bush's ranch in Texas, to
urge caution on the President, arguing in favour of diplomatic, rather than
military, action against Iraq. He is also likely to point out that toppling
President Saddam, without having a clear idea of his replacement, could
prove futile.

A British dossier on Iraq's weapons threat has already been delayed by the
Prime Minister amid speculation that it provided too little hard evidence to
justify strikes on Baghdad. The Government is also understood to believe
that publishing it on the eve of the Bush-Blair summit would exacerbate
fears among Arab states that attacks were imminent.

The new note of caution reflects worries within the Ministry of Defence over
the armed forces' capacity to join attacks on Baghdad and opinion polls
displaying public doubt over the wisdom of extending the war on terrorism
beyond Afghanistan.

Mr Blair will also be keen to mollify critics of action against Iraq, both
within the Government's ranks and on his back benches. A total of 122 Labour
MPs have signed a Commons motion opposing an attack.

Several left-wingers suggested yesterday that the emergency three-hour
recall could be extended to include a statement, and short debate, on events
in Israel and the Palestinian territories. George Galloway, MP for Glasgow
Kelvin, said he had no wish to be disrespectful or to impinge on the
commemoration of the Queen Mother. However, he added: "Britain has a special
responsibility for the crisis in the Middle East, and it is an issue that
must be discussed, perhaps on the adjournment."

Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, said it would be "ludicrous" not to
take the opportunity to discuss the latest crisis in the region.

"It is not disrespectful. It is the right thing to do and I would support
any moves to do that. The situation in the Middle East has become so grave
that Parliament should have been recalled to discuss it anyway. Once the
House is there, it can do anything it likes," Mr Corbyn said.

David Hinchliffe, MP for Wakefield, said: "Obviously the purpose of the
recall is to pay tributes to the Queen Mother. But we have got to live in
the real world and, looking at the seriousness of the situation, I would be
supportive of at least some form of statement."

Downing Street suggested their calls would be rebuffed. A spokesman said:
"Parliament is being recalled for a specific purpose and that purpose is to
pay tribute to the Queen Mother."

High noon
The Bush-Blair meeting will test their leadership

The Times
2nd April

When Tony Blair arrives in Texas on Friday, he will begin a weekend visit to
President Bush’s ranch that will be as cordial as it will be difficult. The
cordiality has already been demonstrated by the venue. Mr Bush takes huge
pride in Prairie Chapel, his rambling 1,600-acre spread where he invites
only those guests whom he wants to make especially welcome. Mr Blair will
gamely fit in with the folksy style, for he knows that Mr Bush, whatever the
irritations of steel tariff disputes or Europe’s defence policies, values
Britain’s support for the war on terrorism and is determined to show it.
The visit will not be easy, however. There is plenty to talk about — the war
on terrorism, Afghanistan, Iraq, the bloodshed in the Middle East, Russia
and the proposed enlargement of Nato. Many of the issues look more
intractable than they did a few months ago. And the political and largely
domestic constraints on both men are far greater than they were when Britain
and America stood shoulder to shoulder in September. In several areas the
going has become more difficult. The continued resistance of al-Qaeda in
Afghanistan has drawn in large numbers of troops, but there is little
prospect now of a quick victory.

The war on terrorism is also proving a challenge. Both Mr Bush and Mr Blair
gave warning six months ago that this was a long-term campaign. They were
right. Al-Qaeda is far from defeated, even if Osama bin Laden has
disappeared. New cells are being consolidated around the world even as
extremists are being arrested in Western capitals. Western governments are
finding it harder to convince their people that vigilance remains essential
and that resources must still be spent pursuing this war.

The focus of this dilemma is Iraq. President Bush is rightly determined to
tackle this source of regional instability. But how, when and whether a
military campaign should be launched is far from decided in Washington. Mr
Blair is no less convinced now than he was a month ago that Saddam Hussein’s
determination to rebuild his capacity to make weapons of mass destruction
poses a real and long-term threat. But the mood has hardened in Britain and
especially within the Labour Party. More than 140 MPs have signed a motion
calling for restraint and expressing “deep unease” at the prospect of
British support for a US military strike. Mr Blair, to his credit, is
unlikely to be swayed from his promise to see through the fight against

Mr Blair must also persuade Mr Bush that the United States must do more
about the unfolding catastrophe in the Middle East. The cycle of violence
and retaliation has now led to what Ariel Sharon calls full war. The chance
of salvaging peace talks becomes ever harder. Mr Blair can see the growing
horror in Europe at what is happening. He also sees the immediate link
between bloodshed on the West Bank and Islamist extremism. This has now,
despicably,spilt over into Western Europe, with arson attacks on synagogues
in France and Belgium. The folksiness of the Texas setting should not
disguise the importance of the meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair. The two
leaders, who have both shown strength of purpose over the past few months,
must again prove that their leadership qualities are equal to the daunting
tasks ahead of them.

Blair 'will not sign on dotted line' to back action in Iraq

Financial Times; Apr 2, 2002

Downing Street extended an olive branch to rebellious Labour backbenchers
last night, promising that Tony Blair would not "sign on the dotted line" to
support US-led military action against Iraq when he meets George W. Bush
next weekend.

The prime minister's official spokesman moved to head off opposition in the
government and on Labour's backbenches when he promised that the meeting at
the US president's Texas ranch would not culminate in a decision to go to
war against Saddam Hussein.

"It's not that he is going to Texas to sign on the dotted line. He's going
to think through the options," the spokesman said.

Downing Street's attempt to pour oil on the troubled waters of dissent
followed Mr Blair's decision to postpone publication of a dossier of
evidence against Mr Saddam. The government was concerned that releasing the
evidence would infuriate MPs and raise alarm among Arab states.

The prime minister has faced rebellion not only from normally loyal
backbenchers over the issue, but also threats of resignation from within his
government. At least one cabinet member has threatened to quit if he backs a
US-led assault.

But while Downing Street wants to be seen to be conciliatory, it warns that
tough decisions over Iraq cannot be dodged. "You can't just cross your
fingers and hope it goes away," the spokesman said.

Mr Blair is to discuss three broad options with President Bush: military
action, tighter sanctions on military imports, and putting pressure on Iraq
for the return of UN weapons inspectors.

The prime minister's preferred option is for Iraq to comply with UN Security
Council resolutions, which Baghdad is breaching by refusing to re-admit the
inspectors. But despite Downing Street's soothing words, backing for
military action is still a real possibility.

The Middle East crisis more generally will top the agenda at the informal
meeting. The economy, and Mr Bush's decision to slap tariffs of up to 30 per
cent on most steel imports, will also be addressed.

Following the wave of suicide bomb attacks in Israel and the West Bank, some
Labour backbenchers are pressing the government for a statement on the
Middle East when parliament is recalled tomorrow.

Tony Lloyd, a former Foreign Office minister, was among those to argue that
MPs, back in Westminster to pay their respects to the Queen Mother, should
simultaneously debate the crisis.

Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the Commons culture committee, said he felt
passionately about the Middle East, but that it would be "inappropriate" to
discuss it. He indicated that conventional party politics should be
suspended for the day.

D. Blair opts for delay on Iraq

U-turn on Saddam: No 10 postpones 'damning dossier' to avert a Labour
backbench backlash, reports Kamel Ahmed

Sunday March 31, 2002
The Observer

Tony Blair executed a last-minute U-turn on plans to publish a dossier of
evidence against Saddam Hussein because he feared it would increase the
frenzied speculation about an immediate war against Iraq, leading to an
overwhelming backlash from his own MPs.
In a significant move which reveals the first softening of the line against
the Iraqi dictator, Blair ordered that the report be pulled a few days
before the Foreign Office was due to publish it.

He was also concerned that nervous Arab countries would see it as giving a
green light to military action against Saddam, something they are set

The news comes five days before Blair is due to travel to the United States
for a summit with President George Bush. At Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas,
Blair will privately argue for a more cautious tone on Iraq and say that any
military action is 'a long way off'. He will also say that all diplomatic
avenues should be explored and that the United Nations should have a key
role in backing any coalition operation against the country.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was due to publish the Government's
evidence during a speech last Monday, but No 10 told him the weekend before
that it was no longer 'politically useful' to continue with the plans.
Senior government sources said that 'frenzied speculation' about military
action against Iraq was damaging Blair's relations with his party and had
led to the suggestion that two Cabinet Ministers, Clare Short and Robin
Cook, would quit.

The Observer revealed this month that senior figures in the armed forces are
concerned that any moves against Saddam could be ill-thought out and lead to
British forces being involved in an open-ended and highly dangerous military

The decision to abandon the report has also led to speculation that the
evidence against Saddam produced so far is not as strong as No 10 would
like. Officials have been told to look again at declassifying more documents
to make a more powerful case against the Iraqi dictator.

It is now expected that some form of document will be published in the next
few weeks, missing the original US summit deadline set by Blair.

Backbench MPs possessing expertise in defence and military matters were
called to a private meeting with Straw three weeks ago and were shown two
pages of a report due to form the backbone of the Government's evidence. The
document, seen by The Observer, was said by one MP to be 'pretty
unconvincing'. 'They will have to do a lot better if they are going to get
the widespread support they need for a move against Iraq,' the MP said.

There is now a concerted effort among senior government figures to move away
from the bellicose language employed by Bush against Iraq. A number of
senior figures in the Cabinet are urging Blair to seek a solution in
Palestine before turning Britain's attention to Saddam. 'The two things are
inextricably linked,' one said. 'It is clear that one cannot progress
without the other.'

Peter Hain, the Europe Minister held in high regard by No 10, made it clear
yesterday that any military action against Iraq was for the very long-term
future. 'The idea that we'll be launching cruise missiles over Baghdad
tomorrow is not on,' he said. 'A lot of people are reacting to something
that isn't even on the agenda.'

Blair hopes the decision to back-pedal on Iraq will please nervous
backbenchers, concerned that an attack on Iraq will not be backed by Arab
states, would split Europe and could lead to mass anti-government

'Any massive strike against Iraq would further polarise and alienate opinion
within the Middle East and broader afield,' said Tony Lloyd, the former
Foreign Office Minister who is seen as a moderate, in an article this
weekend on the Red Pepper website. 'Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, firmly
in the pro-Western camp, are hostile to military action. Turkey has warned
against action.

'The majority of our EU partners believe that diplomacy must take priority
and that every alternative to invasion must be examined rigorously. If it
isn't, the unprecedented global coalition formed since last September could
collapse, and military action could push the Middle East still further away
from the West.'

E. Iraq’s Weapons
US/UK Lies And Distortions
A voices in the wilderness uk briefing (26 March 2002)

US/UK Propaganda To Undermine Public Opposition

The Prime Minister seems determined to support an illegal war on Iraq led by
the United States, despite public opinion - 51 per cent of people oppose war
against Iraq (and only 35 per cent would support one). (Guardian, 19 Mar.
2002, p. 1) War propaganda designed to create public acquiescence in the war
will play on our fears about weapons of mass destruction.

Blair Goes Further Than Bush Or Cheney

On 11 Mar. 2002, ‘Mr Blair was more hawkish than Mr Bush, declaring
emphatically that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD): “There is a
threat from Saddam and the weapons of mass destruction he has acquired. It
is not in doubt.”’ (Guardian, 12 Mar. 2002, p. 1) This is particularly
interesting since the 10-page briefing document circulated by Jack Straw  to
sceptical Labour backbenchers at a private meeting on 12 Mar. acknowledged
that ‘there is no firm evidence that President Saddam Hussein has weapons of
mass destruction at present’. (The Times, 13 March 2002)
Likewise a new British Joint Intelligence dossier on Iraq will apparently
‘focus on Saddam’s attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, but
there is said to be little new or surprising evidence in this area.’
According to a senior Foreign Office official, “It will say what you would
expect it to say: this is a man who is politically unpredictable, capable of
doing bad things to his neighbours and to his own people. We have known that
for a long time.”
‘Blair has encouraged expectations among MPs and cabinet colleagues that
[this] intelligence dossier would provide fresh support for action to
overthrow the Iraqi dictator. But there is little new information worth
sharing or publishing, according to insiders.’ (Sunday Times, 10 Mar. 2002,
p. 2)

Potential Marriage

‘Mr Blair pointed out that as early as September 14 he had spoken of the
threat of countries “trading” in such weapons’ (Times, 12 Mar. 2002, p. 1),
but where’s the evidence of Iraq “trading” in weapons of mass destruction?
US Vice-President Cheney has focused attention on the “potential marriage”
between terrorist groups and those states with weapons of mass destruction.
(Times, 12 Mar. 2002, p. 5) So far no evidence has been produced that Iraq
has  ‘traded’ - or might ‘trade’ -  in WMD.

Iraq Was Qualitatively Disarmed By 1998

Scott Ritter, the former Marine who resigned from the UN weapons inspection
agency UNSCOM because it was not pursuing Iraqi weapons programmes
aggressively enough, suggests that instead of trying to verify the
destruction of all Iraqi weapons and equipment related to weapons of mass
destruction – “quantitative disarmament” – the UN should focus on ‘the more
important task of monitoring Iraq to ensure that its dismantled weapons
programs are not reconstituted’, or “qualitative disarmament”.
 Ritter wrote in Arms Control Today (June 2000 – hereafter ACT) that by
1998, Iraq ‘no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or
biological agent, if it possessed any at all, and the industrial means to
produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent
monitoring’. Ditto Iraq’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. (ACT)

How the US reacted.

According to Ritter ‘By the end of 1998, Iraq had, in fact, been disarmed to
a level unprecedented in modern history’ and ‘as long as monitoring
inspections remained in place, Iraq presented a WMD-based threat to no-one’
(ACT). it is worth recalling how the US Government responded to this
achievement: they chose first to subvert UNSCOM by infiltrating it with
members of its intelligence agencies and then - with Britain - to destroy it
by launching an illegal military assault against Iraq, knowing full well
that this would terminate inspections. Clearly concern over Iraq’s WMD
capabilities is not driving policy.

Since 1998?

If Ritter is correct, is there any evidence that Iraq has reconstituted its
weapons capabilities since Dec. 1998, when UN weapons inspectors were pulled
out on US instruction, as a precursor to the Operation Desert Fox bombing
raids? Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, the new UN weapons inspection agency
which has replaced UNSCOM, has said he ‘does not accept as fact the US and
UK’s repeated assertions that Baghdad has used the time to rebuild its
weapons of mass destruction’: ‘“It would be inappropriate for me to accept
and adopt this position, but it would also be naïve of me to conclude that
there may be no veracity – of course it is possible, I won’t go as far as
saying probable,” Mr Blix said.’ (Financial Times, 7 Mar. 2002, p. 20)

Ballistic Missiles

UN Security Council Resolution 687 banned Iraq from possessing ballistic
missiles with a range of over 150 kilometres, because they might carry
weapons of mass destruction. In Dec. 1992, UNSCOM reported that ‘All
ballistic missiles and items related to their production and development…
have been destroyed.’ Much has been made of Iraq’s (thwarted) attempts since
1991 to acquire missile guidance and control equipment yet Ritter points out
that, ‘these covert procurement efforts, though illegal, were in support of
a permitted missile system, the 150-kilometer-range Al Samoud’. (Ritter,

Nuclear Weapons

The head of German intelligence, August Hanning, claims, “It is our estimate
that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years.” (New Yorker, 25 Mar.
2002, p. 75) No evidence is provided. On the other hand, a British
intelligence report, ‘not yet complete’ (it appears to be the same Joint
Intelligence Committee report already referred to) concludes that, ‘The
status of Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme remains a mystery to Western
Intelligence agencies’. (Times, 14 Mar. 2002, p. 17)
According to Ritter, the ‘massive infrastructure’ Iraq had built up in its
nuclear weapons programme ‘had been eliminated by 1995’ by the IAEA. Even if
some components have been retained, ‘it would be of no use to Iraq given the
extent to which Iraq’s nuclear program was dismantled by the IAEA’. (ACT)
Rosemary Hollis, head of the Middle East programme at the Royal Institute of
International Affairs, concludes that ‘Iraq does not have the capacity to
build nuclear weapons’: ‘She suggests that the emphasis now on Saddam’s
nuclear ambitions is dictated by Washington’s plans for a pre-emptive strike
on Iraq.’ (Guardian, 15 Mar. 2002, p. 16)

Chemical Weapons

Ritter concedes that problems remain regarding VX nerve agent and mustard
gas loaded onto 155mm artillery shells. He notes that VX mass-production
equipment turned over to UNSCOM in 1996 was never actually used, and argues
that the lack of any evidence of VX production found during UNSCOM’s
‘numerous inspections’ of possible storage and production sites ‘minimizes
the likelihood that Iraq maintains any significant stockpile of VX weapons.’
As for the mustard gas artillery shells, 750 shells are unaccounted for.
Ritter argues that ‘A meaningful CW attack using artillery requires
thousands of rounds,’ ‘a few hundred 155mm mustard shells have little
military value for use on the modern battlefield’, and ‘cannot be viewed as
a serious threat’. (Ritter, ACT)
Chemical weapon production equipment could be easily distributed throughout
Iraq’s commercial chemical-related facilities but according to Ritter,
manufacturing chemical weapons ‘would require the assembling of production
equipment into a single integrated facility, creating an infrastructure
readily detectable by the strategic intelligence capabilities of the United
States’, and ‘the CIA has clearly stated on several occasions since the
termination of inspections in Dec. 1998 that no such activity has been
detected.’ (Ritter, ACT)

Biological Weapons

For Charles Duelfer, former deputy chair of UNSCOM, ‘The biological issue is
the biggest issue and least understood.’ Iraq has mobile laboratories
capable of producing such weapons ‘in large quantities.’ Ritter, on the
other hand, argues that unaccounted for stocks of chemical and biological
weapons “would no longer be viable”: ‘Weapons built before the Gulf war that
slipped through the Unscom net would by now have passed their sell-by date.’
(Guardian, 5 Mar. 2002, p. 16) ‘Contrary to popular belief, BW cannot simply
be cooked up in the basement; it requires a large and sophisticated
infrastructure, especially if the agent is to be filled into munitions. As
with CW, the CIA has not detected any such activity concerning BW since
UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq.’ (Ritter, Arms Control Today, June 2000)

No Evidence

The head of the UN weapons inspectorate, Hans Blix, does not believe the
available evidence proves the US/UK case regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass
destruction. British intelligence apparently has no new evidence. Even if it
were true that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, this would not justify
a pre-emptive war. David Albright, former UNSCOM inspector, remarks, ‘The
evidence produced so far is worrying. It is an argument for getting the
inspectors back in as fast as possible, but not for going to war.’
(Observer, 17 Mar. 2002, p. 15) There is no evidence concerning the supply
of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.

An Offer Rejected

On the other hand, Baghdad has offered to allow in British weapons
inspectors, an offer that has been rejected and ignored (apart from a buried
note in the Guardian, 4 Mar. 2002, p. 2). Baghdad will permit inspections if
‘the locations to be searched are identified and a timetable is set up and
respected.’ (FT, 19 Mar. 2002, p. 11) These offers should be explored, not

Britain and the US reject such conditions, or any negotiation. ‘Key figures
in the White House believe that demands on Saddam to re-admit United Nations
weapons inspectors should be set so high that he would fail to meet them
unless he provided officials with total freedom.’ (Times, 16 Feb. 2002, p.
19) A US intelligence official has said the White House ‘will not take yes
for an answer’. (Guardian, 14 Feb. 2002, p. 1)
Unproven allegations about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are being used
to undermine public opposition to an illegal war.

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