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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 Independent: firstname.lastname@example.org The Times: email@example.com Financial Times: firstname.lastname@example.org Observer: email@example.com 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 you send your letter this evening. Best wishes, Gabriel ************************************************** Downing St tries to quell growing revolt over Iraq By Nigel Morris Political Correspondent Independent 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 regime. 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 terrorism. 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 By CATHY NEWMAN 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 against. 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 mission. 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 demonstrations. '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, ACT) 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 ignored. 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. voices in the wilderness uk breaks the economic sanctions on Iraq. Please help with the cost of printing/distributing these briefings by sending cheques made out to ‘voices in the wilderness’ (marked ‘briefings’) to voices, 16B Cherwell St, Oxford OX4 1BG. We can also send you our bimonthly newsletter. Phone: 0845 458 2564 (local rate call) <firstname.lastname@example.org> The voices website: <http://www.viwuk.freeserve.co.uk> _______________________________________________ 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 email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk