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NEWS, 30/3-6/4/02 (2) NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * Iraqi Kurdish leader evades assassins * Jude Wanniski's Genocide Denial ['Wherein the supply-side guru disputes, against all evidence, Saddam's gassing of the Kurds.'] * U.S. Envoy Visits Kurds in Iraq * Kurdish leader survives Saddam assassination bid FINGER POINTING AT IRAQ * Defector: I Bought Iraq Nukes [Yes, indeed, another one pops up just when he's needed.] * Gulf War POWs Accuse Iraq of Torture INSIDE IRAQ * IRAQ DIARY, Part 2: The vanishing middle class [Series by Pepe Escobar] * IRAQ DIARY, Part 3: Baghdad and Ramallah - the same struggle * IRAQ DIARY, Part 4: Sorry, your credit is no good [Interview with Iraqi minister of trade, Mohamed Mamdi Salim] * IRAQ DIARY, Part 5: What is terrorism? BRITISH/EUROPEAN OPINION * Teachers make a stand on Iraq sanctions * Short 'carpeted' over Iraq * Overthrow Saddam But don't Harm His People, Urge Protesters [Yasser Alaskary advocating the rather difficult trick of toppling Saddam without hurting anyone else]. * 'Saddam land war is vital' [In-depth analysis by SAS Major Peter Ratcliffe, writing in The Sun] NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east /newsid_1909000/1909073.stm * Iraqi Kurdish leader evades assassins BBC, 3rd April The head of the Iraqi Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) regional government, Barham Salih, escaped an assassination attempt outside his house in Sulaymaniyah on Tuesday. Two gunmen opened fire at Mr Salih while he was leaving his house in the afternoon. His bodyguards returned fire and the shootout resulted in the killing of the two gunmen and five of the bodyguards. In an interview with BBC News Online after the incident, Mr Salih said that the assailants, who posed as taxi drivers of a red Volkswagen car were on "a suicide mission" and that their car was "full of bombs and grenades". He said that he was not accusing anybody "at this stage" but added: "We have obtained very useful leads about the identity of the assailants." He also said: "There are unconfirmed reports that there were three assailants, we are looking into this matter and investigation is underway." Salih refused to disclose any further information: "Because we do not want to jeopardise the outcome of the investigation." Barham Salih was representative for his party in Washington for almost 10 years before he became the Prime Minister of the PUK-led Kurdish regional government in Sulaymaniyah last year. The PUK has been in control of the Kurdish region together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party since 1991. In September 2001, a newly established Islamist group, Jund al-Islam, which is suspected of having links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation, seized control of an area of the Kurdish region near the Iranian border. Trying to oust them from their area, the PUK entered into an armed conflict with the group. Jund al-Islam, alongside a number of other Islamist groups, has merged into a new group, Supporters of Islam. Despite a few negotiation rounds - with Iranian mediation - tension between the PUK and the Islamist group remains unsolved. Asked about the PUK's response to the attack, Mr Salih said: "I do not want to prejudge any course of action that we may take. When the investigation concludes, we will decide accordingly." Terrorism is alien to our society," said Dr Salih. But we will not be swayed foreign-inspired terrorists who seek to undermine the civil and democratic institutions that we are trying to build in Iraqi Kurdistan." http://slate.msn.com/?id=2063934&device * Jude Wanniski's Genocide Denial Wherein the supply-side guru disputes, against all evidence, Saddam's gassing of the Kurds. by Timothy Noah (Chatterbox column) Slate [Whatever that is], 1st April Jude Wanniski, the former Wall Street Journal editorialist whose book The Way the World Works popularized supply-side economics (and therefore helped create the deficit crisis that paralyzed domestic policy-making during the 1980s and 1990s), has a gift for forging screwball alliances. A decade ago, he romanced Jerry Brown, even though Wanniski himself was a conservative Reaganite. A few years later, Wanniski cozied up to Louis Farrakhan. He's even tried (unsuccessfully) to find common ground with Lyndon LaRouche. Now Wanniski has developed his most improbable crush of all. He's fallen for Saddam Hussein. On March 26, Wanniski sent out an urgent e-mail message to his followers expressing distress that President Bush and Vice President Cheney had both recently "repeated the charge that Saddam Hussein had used poison gas to kill his own citizens. I believe the charge is without merit." Wanniski urged readers to eyeball two memos (click here and here) that he'd sent about the matter to Karl Rove, "the one counselor who has only one job, looking after the President's interests." The first memo elaborates: "There is no possibility that Saddam gassed his own people and no evidence that he did. None. Forget Iraq's protests that he never did, as I would not base any conclusion on "not guilty" pleas from Saddam or his team. But all the evidence is that whatever bad stuff he has done as Iraq's political leader, he has never presided over troops who dropped poison gas on his own Iraqi citizens." Weirdly, this assertion contradicts not only a mountain of evidence accumulated by the United Nations, journalists, and various human rights groups (more on that below), but also the testimony of Stephen Pelletiere, former chief of the CIA's Iraq desk and Wanniski's main information source on the matter. Last year, Pelletiere published a book that Wanniski seems to think argued that Iraq never gassed Iraqi citizens. But as one can plainly see by scrolling down to the portion of Wanniski's memo that quotes Pelletiere at length, Pelletiere's claim is that in March 1988, both Iran and Iraq gassed the Kurdish city of Halabja, which they were fighting over. Pelletiere's viewwhich is not widely shared by othersis that the Iraqis used mustard gas, while the Iranians used a much deadlier cyanide-based gas, and that it was this cyanide gas that killed most or all of the thousands of Kurdish civilians who died at Halabja. Pelletiere further suggests that Israel conned the world into thinking that Iraq was a gas-wielding demon, and that it did so because Iraq posed a much greater menace to Israel than did Iran. Joost Hiltermann of Human Rights Watch is writing a book about Halabja and other incidents in which the Kurds were gassed. He says that he's seen no evidence that Iran used chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq war and plenty of evidence that Iraq did. Much of the latter is available online. Here, for example, is a description of the chemical attack on Halabja from the 1993 Human Rights Watch report, Genocide in Iraq: "Those outside in the streets could see clearly that these were Iraqi, not Iranian aircraft, since they flew low enough for their markings to be legible. In the afternoon, at about 3:00, those who remained in the shelters became aware of an unusual smell. Like the villagers in the Balisan Valley the previous spring, they compared it most often to sweet apples, or to perfume, or cucumbers, although one man says that it smelled "very bad, like snake poison." No one needed to be told what the smell was. Some tried to plug the cracks around the entrance with damp towels, or pressed wet cloths to their faces, or set fires. But in the end they had no alternative but to emerge into the streets. It was growing dark and there were no streetlights; the power had been knocked out the day before by artillery fire. In the dim light, the people of Halabja could see nightmarish scenes. Dead bodieshuman and animallittered the streets, huddled in doorways, slumped over the steering wheels of their cars. Survivors stumbled around, laughing hysterically, before collapsing." United Nations reports from 1986, 1987, and 1988 confirm (based in part on reports from Iraqi soldiers who had been taken prisoner) that Iraq used mustard gas and nerve agents in the Iran- Iraq war and that these killed a growing number of civilians. In 1993, Physicians for Human Rights found evidence of nerve agents in soil samples in the Kurdish village of Birjinni and cited Kurdish eyewitnesses who said that one day in August 1988, they saw Iraqi warplanes drop bombs emitting "a plume of black, then yellowish smoke" and that shortly thereafter villagers "began to have trouble breathing, their eyes watered, their skin blistered, and many vomitedsome of whom died. All of these symptoms are consistent with a poison gas attack." The March 24 New Yorker carries a lengthy account by Jeffrey Goldberg of Iraq's systematic gassing of the Kurdish population, based on extensive eyewitness interviews that Goldberg recently conducted in Halabja and other Kurdish-controlled areas in Northern Iraq. None of those interviewed seem to doubt that it was Saddam Hussein's army that gassed them. If one does not wish to take the word of journalists, human rights groups, and the United Nations that Iraq conducted a deliberate campaign to eradicate the Kurdish population, there's always the word of the Iraqis themselves. Goldberg's New Yorker piece cites an audiotape from the 1980s of Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al- Majid, discussing the Kurds in an address to members of Saddam's Baath Party: "I will kill them all with chemical weapons! Who is going to say anything? The international community? Fuck them! The international community and those who listen to them." Human Rights Watch has a cache of documents that the Kurds captured from the Iraqis during the war. Search for the word "chemical" or the word "special" (the Iraqi euphemism for gas attacks was "special attacks"), and you'll see the Baath Party was as good as its word. Chatterbox can't understand why Wanniski chooses to ignore all this evidence. Wanniski is clearly opposed to extending the war on terrorism to Iraq. But to deny that Iraq is a bloody and vicious regime just makes the dove position look idiotic. Chatterbox himself is inclined to dovishness about Iraq, not because he's deceived about Saddam but because he wants to keep the international get-Osama coalition together. (There is further, of course, the small practical matter that with Israel now having declared war on Yasser Arafat, it would be unwise to further inflame the Middle East.) For Wanniski to deny what Iraq has done to the Kurds requires a depth of fanaticism approaching that of Holocaust revisionism. http://cgi.wn.com/? action=display&article=12862134&template=baghdad/i ndexsearch.txt&index=recent * U.S. Envoy Visits Kurds in Iraq The Associated Press, 4th April WASHINGTON (AP) A top U.S. official completed a four-day visit Thursday to the Kurdish region of Iraq, which included talks with groups opposed to Saddam Hussein, the State Department said. Ryan Crocker, a deputy assistant secretary of state, met with leaders of the Kurdish Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and other groups, spokesman Philip Reeker said. He said the visit reflected continued U.S. engagement with the Iraqi opposition. He added that Crocker will visit neighboring Turkey on Friday and Saturday. http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/st ory.jsp?story=281720 * Kurdish leader survives Saddam assassination bid by Patrick Cockburn Independent, 5th April A pro-American leader in Iraqi Kurdistan was the target of a failed assassination plot this week, believed to have been ordered by President Saddam Hussein. Three gunmen killed five of Dr Barham Salih's bodyguards before they were shot down themselves. The attack is a sign that President Saddam is determined to prevent the Kurdish region, which enjoys de facto independence, being used by the United States as a base to overthrow him. Dr Salih, the prime minister of the Kurdish regional government in the city of Sulaimaniyah, is known to favour close co-operation with America. For many years he was a Kurdish representative in Washington. He was uninjured in the attack. He was returning to his house on Tuesday afternoon when the three gunmen opened fire. They killed the head of his private office and four bodyguards before two of them were shot dead and a third was wounded and captured, according to reports from the region. Threats by President George Bush and senior members of his administration to overthrow President Saddam by armed force are already beginning to destabilise Iraqi Kurdistan, where leaders have tried to strike a balance between the Iraqi dictator and his enemies. The Iraqi government is anxious that America might use the Kurds as its local allies against Baghdad, just as it used the Northern Alliance so successfully in Afghanistan last year. Earlier this year the CIA appeared to give credibility to those fears when its agents were reported to have inspected three airfields in Iraqi Kurdistan that could be used by an American force. America and Britain currently fly patrols over the region to deter Iraqi military intervention. Dr Salih, an affable, cultivated man who speaks excellent English, is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the eastern part of Iraqi Kurdistan. The party, led by its founder, Jalal al-Talabani, is more sympathetic to joining an American crusade against Saddam than its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls the western part of Iraqi Kurdistan. The KDP fears that the Kurds will once again be used as cannon fodder against Baghdad. The attempt to kill Dr Salih is in keeping with Saddam Hussein's past record of assassinating leaders, notably those of the Shia Muslim community in southern Iraq, before they can become a threat. One Iraqi analyst suggests that the Iraqi leader might have been angered by an interview given by Dr Salih in a US publication in which he suggested that Baghdad had links with al-Qa'ida. It is also possible that Kurdish Islamist groups, who dislike Dr Salih because of his secular outlook, might have been involved in the assassination attempt. [.....] FINGER POINTING AT IRAQ http://www.nydailynews.com/2002-04- 03/News_and_Views/Beyond_the_City/a-146432.asp * Defector: I Bought Iraq Nukes by HELEN KENNEDY New York Daily News, 3rd April An Iraqi defector has given Pentagon officials a detailed inside look at Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons programs and told of buying nuclear materials with a briefcase full of $100 bills. The defector, whose story is recounted in the new edition of Vanity Fair magazine, says he was involved in the most sensitive of Iraq's secret arms programs before fleeing a year and a half ago. Presented to U.S. officials by the Iraqi National Congress, a London-based exile group pushing for an American attack on Iraq, the defector says Saddam is close to finishing a long-range ballistic missile that could hit Cairo; Ankara; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Nicosia, Cyprus, or Tehran. The defector said he helped run a network of shell corporations that smuggled missile parts hidden inside TV sets and refrigerators. He claims also to have worked on weapons programs, saying he came up with the idea to house eight mobile germ labs in meat and dairy trucks. The defector told Vanity Fair he also was involved in Saddam's nuke program, saying he and two colleagues were sent on a clandestine trip to Tanzania in 1994. He says they met with five Eastern Europeans and traded a briefcase stuffed with $100 bills for a heavy metal trunk of "what looked like pieces of black rock, glittery." The description could match pieces of spent nuclear reactor fuel rods the type of material that could be used in a radiological, or dirty, bomb. The defector was one of 29 suspected conspirators arrested in 1998. He says he was tortured, interrogated and sexually abused for six months, then freed when it was clear he was innocent. He said such treatment normally serves to frighten Iraqis into line, but he resolved to escape. The defector also said Iraq is backing and training the Hamas leaders who are sending suicide bombers into Israel even showing them how to build bombs. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/bw- exec/2002/apr/05/040503020.html * Gulf War POWs Accuse Iraq of Torture Las Vegas Sun, 5th April WASHINGTON (AP) - Seventeen U.S. servicemen held prisoner during the Gulf War have filed a lawsuit against Iraq alleging torture and seeking $910 million in damages for themselves and their families. The prisoners of war endured severe beatings, starvation, electric shock, threats of amputation and dismemberment and continual death threats, according to Stephen Fennell, lead attorney representing them. The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court and also names Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Intelligence Service. "The individuals involved have suffered enormous injuries and enduring injuries. These are not things that went away several months after leaving captivity," said Fennell of the D.C.- based law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The plaintiffs, nine of them still in active service, are each seeking $25 million in compensatory damages, plus $5 million each for 37 family members. The suit also asks for $300 million in punitive damages. A hearing date has not yet been set, Fennell said. Nearly 125 pages of the complaint chronicle the soldiers' stories, including those of Marine Maj. Michael Craig Berryman, who said his legs were beaten with a metal pipe and a wooden ax handle; Marine Col. Clifford Acree, who said he was so near starvation he could "feel his body consuming itself;" and Navy Cmdr. Lawrence Slade, whose body was described as so blue from bruises that it was "as if he had been dipped in indigo dye." The POWs were all captured between mid-January and the end of February 1991, most after being shot down over Iraq or Kuwait, said Fennell. They were sent to the Persian Gulf as part of the United Nations' military response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. INSIDE IRAQ http://atimes.com/front/DC30Aa02.html * IRAQ DIARY, Part 2: The vanishing middle class by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 30th March Part 1: Baghdad glued to Beirut BAGHDAD - Tahir (not his real name) used to be a teacher in Baghdad. He can be found at the traditional streetwalk book souk (market) in Moutanabi street, perusing dusty copies of biographies and dictionaries. A made-in-Iraq pirated copy of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Windows 98 sells briskly for the equivalent of about US$3. The vendor, Abil, used to be a civil engineer. He's been jobless for the past nine years. Now these pirated computer manuals and English dictionaries help him feed his family of five. Tahir, speaking faultless Spanish, reminisces about his days in southern Europe in the 1980s. He once worked for the Ministry of Culture, but the pay was too low, so he quit to support his family of four. Now he is an occasional driver, "My wife is also a teacher," he says. "Do you know how much she makes? Six dollars a month." Shown a remarkable war-photography book by Iraqi lensman Rahim Hasan, published in 1987, both Abil and Tahir are reminded of the "forgotten" - at least in the Western press - Iran-Iraq war. "I fought in that war," says Tahir. "There were one million and a half dead. It was the elite of the population - doctors, engineers." Abil and Tahir are survivors. They are now part of a vanishing group: the Iraqi middle class. They cannot exercise their chosen profession. They don't have the "connections" to obtain an exit visa and try a new life, maybe in Jordan, maybe in the Gulf, maybe in Europe. They are bewildered when told that Iraq is going to be attacked - again - by the United States, and they ask, "Has the decision been made? Is it inevitable?" Dr Humam Al Shamaa, professor of economy and finance at Baghdad University, explains the progressive impoverishment of Iraq. "The state made a tremendous effort to rebuild the infrastructure of the country after the war ended [in 1988]. With no financial resources, it was forced to resort to emission of currency, which accelerated the rhythm of inflation four and a half times a year until 1995. Wealth disappeared under the inflationary pressure. The currency deteriorated. People depending on salaries were gradually impoverished. Tens of thousands of Iraqi families now rely only on government rations to survive. Iraq's riches disappeared under the pressure of inflation on one side and the embargo - which is the cause of this inflation. The value of the Iraqi currency fell 6,000 times compared to the 1980s. Poverty is everywhere." The rations supplied by the state are at least sufficient to prevent a famine, according to Shamaa. "They're enough to assure the survival of the Iraqi people. The rations are calculated according to basic necessities: wheat, oil, rice, tea, sugar, soap. It's impossible to raise the amount of ration tickets because we cannot support a people that does not work. That was the aim of the 'oil for food' program. We think that if we import everything we need to feed ourselves, we will forget the agriculture sector - and that would instigate a crisis in all other economic activities in Iraq. The agricultural sector employs 50 percent of the population. Iraq cannot be turned into a country that eats without producing anything." According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, had Iraq not organized a rationing and distribution system, the country would certainly have faced a terrible famine. Apart from any political considerations, this is an Iraqi merit that is never acknowledged in the West. Denis Halliday, former assistant secretary general of the UN, the man who started the oil- for-food program in Iraq - and later resigned from the UN, calling the US-inspired embargo "a genocide" - has never stropped criticizing the United States and Britain for blocking the shipping of humanitarian supplies to Iraq. As much as US and British politicians and the media accuse the Iraqi regime of "punishing" Iraqis, the US and Britain themselves increase the punishment by withholding humanitarian shipments of vaccines and painkillers. Shamaa says that unlike in most developing countries, there is no migration in Iraq from the countryside to the urban centers - rather the reverse. "There are no jobs in the cities. Jobs are in agriculture. Many people left the cities to work in the countryside, raising cattle and poultry." But in the bazaars of Baghdad, some people who agree to talk stress that there is no work in the provinces: workers have to migrate to Baghdad. And in Baghdad, there are no jobs even for qualified people such as Abil and Tahir. According to Shamaa, "The industrial sector in Iraq also faced enormous difficulties. Access to raw materials and intermediate materials was assured by income from the oil industry. But with the embargo, we could not import these materials anymore. Seventy percent of the industrial sector is practically paralyzed. We try to start things over by providing at least some materials allowed by the oil-for-food program. We have managed to reactivate 50 percent of the private industrial sector." Yet Iraq has very few pockets of excellence in the industrial sector: cement and the chemical and petrochemical industries. "But they are handicapped. They work at a maximum 30 percent capacity. The embargo prohibits the import of almost any heavy machines. Only spare parts are allowed." And even if Iraq managed to bypass the hellish UN bureaucratic machine - controlled and vetoed by the US and Great Britain - it would not have enough means to pay for these parts as it does not have enough foreign currency. Baghdad now displays the same floating population of street kids that can be found in Jakarta or Rio de Janeiro. Signs of impoverishment are everywhere, contrasting with the bland and usually gray intimations of Islamist-Stalinist architecture. Madinat-es-Salam ("The city of peace"), the dream of its founder, the caliph Al-Mansur, in the 8th century, has seen it all in terms of misery and massacre. Yet it remains defiant. It's historically a city of survivors. Everybody mentions with pride how the destruction caused by the Gulf War has been rebuilt. There's even a Challenge Museum - painstakingly detailing the reconstruction of telecom centers, bridges or schools bombed during the war. After the Gulf War, only a "minority that practices commerce", according to Shamaa, managed to maintain their standard of living. "There are no official statistics, but they are not more than 10 percent of the population". So would it be fair to say that the middle class simply vanished? "There is no more middle class in Iraq. Before they were rich, then they became semi- rich, but now the majority is poor." In Baghdad's two or three relatively upscale streets are a cluster of "investment banks". Shamaa dismisses them outright. "They call themselves investment banks but they are in reality commercial banks, of a very mediocre level. Capital does not surpass 1 billion or 2 billion Iraqi dinars [the current exchange rate is $1 to 1,960 dinars; it used to be about $1 to three dinars before the Gulf War]. There is not a lot of investment in Iraq. There is no Arab investment to speak of. Everything is frozen because of the embargo. There is only one authorized investor, a Lebanese. That's it." Iraq's national budget for 2002 is about 1 trillion dinars. Unemployment is officially estimated at 17 percent, but Shamaa says actual unemployment is closer to 30 percent, including disguised unemployment. But among informal opinions in the bazaar, unemployment is placed at almost 50 percent. At a Chinese restaurant in the relatively upscale Masba quarter, a lawyer behind his Yamaha synthesizer singing Que Sera Sera allows himself a smile: He may be living a surreal life staring at empty tables, but at least he's got a job. http://atimes.com/front/DD02Aa02.html * IRAQ DIARY, Part 3: Baghdad and Ramallah - the same struggle by Pepe Escobar Part 2: The vanishing middle class BAGHDAD - Just like anywhere else in the Arab world, pro-Palestinian rallies take place practically every day in Baghdad. Strictly organized and highly choreographed by the ruling Baath Party, they always include a large number of Palestinians living in Iraq. Palestinian women usually don't deliver the inevitably passionate speeches, as do Iraqi women affiliated with the party. Everybody is ready to "fight the Zionist state". And linking the Palestinian fate with the American menace over Iraq, the crowds repeatedly chant "We will sacrifice ourselves for Saddam." With or without a party directive, in the minds of the Iraqi population the Palestinian struggle to get rid of Israeli occupation is equivalent to the Iraqi struggle to get rid of the embargo imposed on Iraq by the US. At Almustansyria University, photos are prohibited, even in the courtyard, even in the presence of the ubiquitous guide from the Ministry of Information. Nothing happens without a letter of authorization, signed by a battery of "high-level authorities". But some of the uniformed students in white shirts and black trousers or skirts at least manage to talk. One of them, an economics major, says, "The whole world must know that the intifada is not a terrorist act as the US calls it, but on the contrary, it is a popular movement for independence, human rights and basic principles of justice and freedom." The Beirut Declaration, adopted unanimously last Thursday at the Arab summit in Beirut, represents - at least on paper - an unprecedented display of Arab unity and solidarity. It has set in no uncertain terms the parameters for any future Arab negotiation with the Jewish state. The next day, Israel occupied and practically razed Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority. Israel will never agree to Beirut's parameters - especially the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But the real key to decode Beirut is the new agreement between Iraq and Kuwait, which is intimately linked to the unanimous Arab refusal to support an American attack against Iraq. Essentially, through the powerful No 2 of the regime, vice chairman of the Revolution Command Council Izzat Ibrahim, Iraq has stated that it will not invade Kuwait as it did in 1990. Iraq and Kuwait should from now on be engaged in a "normal relation based on mutual respect of security, dignity and territorial integrity" for both countries, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Relations. Arab diplomats admit off the record that to maintain its control of the oil flow from the Middle East, the US has been manipulating Saudi and Kuwaiti fears of Iraq for too long: more than 11 years. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, present in Beirut, has repeatedly made the point that the summit "considered any threat against any Arab country, especially Iraq, as against national Arab security". Sabri stressed the "very positive atmosphere" when Izzat Ibrahim met Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, whose "land for peace" proposition was unanimously adopted in Beirut. After Beirut, it would be politically and morally impossible for any Arab state to offer its bases to the US military in the event of an attack against Iraq. But Asia Times Online has learned from an European diplomatic source in the Middle East - who insisted on remaining anonymous - that this is all talk. US Vice President Dick Cheney, in his recent 11-stop Middle East trip, may have cajoled a host of Arab countries to give the US the green light for an attack. In Baghdad as well as Damascus, Beirut and Cairo, the US response to the Arab unity in Beirut has been interpreted as approval for Israel to destroy the Palestinian infrastructure. This would be the first step. The next would be to destroy Iraq's crumbling infrastructure - again. According to the Iraqi daily al-Joumhouriya, destroying Iraq's capacity to develop is essential for the US because "this is the only Arab and Islamic force which actively opposes the expansion of Zionism". The "Zionist entity" is unanimously accused in Iraq of being "based on military terrorism, religious fundamentalism and expansionist policies". The "terrorist" Ariel Sharon (as the Israeli premier is known in Iraq) in ordering his tanks to destroy the West Bank does not exactly contradict the Iraqi perception. Nasra al-Sadoon, editor of the Iraq Daily, accuses the United Nations of "ignoring the Zionist occupation of Arab lands of three states, the right of return to all Palestinian refugees, and the right to a safe life for the population living in the occupied land". For al-Ahram Weekly Online, "the goal of eliminating weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq was used to maintain and prolong sanctions. After years of inspection and destruction, the elimination of the no longer existing weapons, together with unfounded accusations of international terrorism, "are now used to wreak further destruction on Iraq and install a puppet regime that will conclude a peace treaty with Israel". It's fair to say that this is the consensus in Baghdad - even among people who are not affiliated to the Baath Party. For the daily Babil, the US target is "the installation of an American military base in Iraq". But the US supreme interest, viewed from Iraq, is of course oil. According to al- Joumhouriya, "if the embargo was lifted, Iraq would double its oil production, from 3.3 million to 6.6 million barrels a day". This would force other oil-producing countries to reduce their level of production to prevent lower prices. "And so the Arab oil market would evade the control of the Americans." Iraq is unanimously accusing the US of "naked imperialism". It's unlikely that the US will remain silent for too long. http://atimes.com/front/DD04Aa03.html * IRAQ DIARY, Part 4: Sorry, your credit is no good by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 3rd April BAGHDAD - The United States consistently accuses Iraq of being a country incapable of development, and under a "merciless Stalinist dictatorship". Iraq consistently accuses the US of enforcing an inhuman embargo which has caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Some voices in the West recognize that the United Nations embargo and sanctions are not only playing against the interests of Iraq, but against the interests of the international community as well. Mohamed Mamdi Salim, Iraq's Minister of Trade, received Asia Times Online in his office, dressed in military uniform, to talk about the UN embargo. Excerpts Asia Times Online: What kind of trade is Iraq still allowed, considering the country is subjected to an array of UN sanctions? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: As you know, Iraq is allowed the "oil for food" program, in certain limited quantities: food, medicine, and other requirements for education, sanitation, agricultural equipment, etc. But there are severe difficulties in the process of approval of contracts, and consequently opening letters of credit and delivering the commodities. Asia Times Online: How many contracts are blocked at the moment? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: More than US$8 billion worth of contracts. Asia Times Online: Most of them are with European, Arab or Asian companies? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: With Arabian countries, Russia, France ... Asia Times Online: Who blocks these contracts? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: The United States, of course, and the British. There's no objection at all from other members of the Security Council. Only the United States and Britain, since the beginning of "oil for food" in 1996. Sometimes Japan supports the United States, although the support is limited. The United States and Britain have a political attitude, rather than [an attitude] relating to the procedure of "oil for food". Asia Times Online: In the Iraqi government's view, what could be done to circumvent this dead- end situation? Is there a way out? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: No, unless they change their position. The situation of approval runs through the veto system. [If] any country rejects any contract, or has any complaints on any contract, then that contract will be on hold. They have the power over the Security Council 661 Committee. So they are doing their job efficiently, rejecting contracts for the Iraqi people. The implementation of "oil for food" has reflected that policy and has become a project for meeting the requirements of United Nations compensation, United Nations expenses, balancing of oil prices, and not for the Iraqi people, due to the fact that Iraq received, from the US$52 billion during this program, only US$17 billion worth of commodities. US$10 billion was deducted by the United Nations for compensation and their expenses, and the remaining contracts are on hold. Asia Times Online: So who is benefiting from the embargo and the "oil for food" program? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: The United Nations. And those who import oil. Asia Times Online: What kind of contracts are blocked? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Even food and medicine, they are blocking it. Basically the humanitarian side, which is related to water supply and purification of water. We are not allowed imports of pipes for supplying water to houses, for example. They have actually a policy of selecting any contract at random. Sometimes they approve a contract to import a commodity from certain countries, and reject one [for importing] from others. Asia Times Online: Is there a fixed list of what you cannot import? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: They don't say, "We are not allowing you to buy." So we have to decide what kind of items to buy, we put them on the list, then we submit this list to the Sanctions Committee, and the committee decides whether to allow it or not. Asia Times Online: Hospital doctors in Baghdad say they cannot import incubators, for instance. And you cannot import computers as well. Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Yes. We are not allowed. Everything is 100 percent politically motivated. Asia Times Online: Diplomatically and politically, would Iraq be able to change the situation with more support from other parts of the world? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Europe itself has benefited from the contracts. "Oil for food" reflects the reality of the policy of the United States for the international community - using the blockade policy against their contracts with Iraq. They [the Europeans] know what is the real intention of the United States and Britain against Iraq. They [the Europeans] are trying but they cannot do much. Asia Times Online: Is this all oil motivated? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Of course it is oil, to stabilize the supply of oil rather than deliver food and medicine to the Iraqi people. This is entirely for the United States and United Nations compensation and expenses. The United Nations has been saved by this program, which has financed it significantly. Who works in this program? The richest people in the United Nations. Asia Times Online: Wouldn't Iraq be able to get the medicines it needs by evading the blockade? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: No. The important thing is how to pay. And we can pay only through an escrow account. The money is under United Nations approval. If you have the money controlled by the United Nations no one can sell you anything unless he gets the money. Asia Times Online: Is Iraq part of an "axis of evil"? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: The "axis of evil" is the United States and Britain. Not Iraq, Iran or other Muslim countries. Asia Times Online: So there are other motives for demonizing Iraq? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Now Israel is destroying the Palestinian people, the Palestinian state, and Palestinian entities which are approved by the international community through the Oslo agreement supervised by the United States. The terrorist Sharon and the terrorist state Israel are destroying everything, even hijacking President Arafat. And the United States is supporting this policy. Asia Times Online: Will the Arab world finally unite, politically and economically? Mohamed Mamdi Salim: Well, they should. And they must. Because the United States will never look to their interests, even those who are under [the greatest] control of the United States. But the Arab people, even in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, are rejecting United States policy toward Arabs and toward Palestinians. http://atimes.com/front/DD06Aa04.html * IRAQ DIARY, Part 5: What is terrorism? by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 6th April BAGHDAD - The 57-country Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in a meeting of foreign ministers in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur this week, could not manage to define what is terrorism. But at least the gathering managed to define what is not terrorism: and that applies in full to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation. The OIC firmly stressed support for last week's Beirut declaration of Arab leaders to establish peace and normal relations with Israel in exchange for withdrawal from all Arab lands occupied in 1967. This was all happening while Washington was accusing three OIC member nations - Iran, Iraq and Syria - of using terror in a "war against civilization". Baghdad took no time to react. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri branded the allegations, made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as part of a US campaign aimed at deflecting attention from Washington's support for Israel, "These are lies. It's an excuse to promote American policies, which are completely biased in favor of the Zionist entity." Washington's tirade, though, managed to accomplish a miracle: to unite Iran and Iraq - and not in an axis of evil mode. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi not only rebuffed Rumsfeld, but also voiced strong support for an Iraqi proposal for Muslim nations to restrict oil supplies to pressure the United States and Israel. This probable replay of the 1973 oil shock might be the only way out for Muslim nations to counteract what their public opinions consider an ongoing, pervasive process of humiliation by the West. The hawkish, isolationist American right, Rumsfeld-style, loves to deride "resentful foreigners" for criticizing the contours of the global American Empire. But now even the New York Times has picked up on an Asia Times Online article published last October on "The New Imperialism". Solid scholars such as Yale's Paul Kennedy or would-be scholars like journalist- turned think tank cheerleader Robert Kaplan are now examining or theorizing the benefits of an empire. Part of the American intelligentsia is trying to sell itself the concept of an "attractive empire", as if imperial domination - military, political, economic, cultural - could be condensed into a one-size- fits-all centerfold bunny. A visit to an Iraqi university classroom is always instructive. Here, the concept of an attractive empire is a non-starter. After a lively lecture on European History at the Almustansyria University - where the students eagerly intervene with lots of questions and comments - the answers to questions posed by the foreign visitor quickly turn into questions themselves, and sharp comments on American and Western foreign policy. "Is Europe a slave of America?" "Does Europe have as many prejudices against Muslims as America?" "Why does the West does not react to what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians?" A dead-serious bespectacled girl has a message for Donald Rumsfeld, "The real axis of evil is the US and Britain." An overweight girl, with a smile on her face, says, "Look at me. I'm strong. We will defend our country against an attack the best we can." In three of the four authorized, official Iraqi TV channels - Al-Iraq, The Youth Channel and Iraqi Satellite Chain - the only news is Palestine tragedy news. But these students were not told by the ruling Baath Party what to say. They buy Backstreet Boys pirate cassettes for less than US$1 in stalls in front of the university, and they cruise the Internet searching for English editions of Muslim explorer Ibn Batutta's travels or the writings of Shakespeare. And they theorize about the Empire - on the receiving end - more sharply than many a self- satisfied scholar. Trying to understand the point of view expressed by young people in Baghdad, one can also figure out the impossibility for the West to comprehend what it means for the Arab world to watch every day on their TVs the abominable humiliations suffered by the Palestinians. This "voice of the Arab university", represented by Baghdad students, has understood too well that the Bush administration is not remotely interested in a peace agreement in the Middle East. They have understood that a world leader mentally in perpetual holidays in a cowboy ranch has got a single obsession: to blame all the evils of the world on terrorism - and terrorism only. But "terrorism" - undefinable even by a congregation of Muslim nations essentially on the receiving end of the American accusations - does not explain the war going on in Palestine. The latest Palestinian war has happened because of an American leadership void. The White House Middle East "policy" since the beginning of 2002 has been reduced to announcing an attack on Saddam Hussein, probably between June and October. There has been absolutely no effort to prevent an escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. A Washington-based scholar has told Asia Times Online that as far as the Arab world was concerned, it all boiled down to an image problem. Washington had to polish its extremely tarnished image in the Arab world before attacking a controversial and still crucial Arab nationalist leader. Washington pressed pliable Saudi Arabia for an opening. Saudi Arabia delivered - in the form of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's "land for peace" proposal, unanimously adopted at the Beirut summit last week. It was too little, too late. The void had turned into a deep black hole. George W Bush is under a terror of doing anything that the hard-worker and aspiring Middle East peacemaker Bill Clinton did. And he is also under a terror of doing anything his father George did that might alienate the hardcore Republican right. Ariel Sharon at the same time knew his government would implode if compelled to a peace negotiation. The Bush administration had been giving him the green light to invade the West Bank for weeks - since George W Bush refused to even shake hands with Yasser Arafat at the United Nations. The Washington-based scholar says that the hawks in control of the Bush administration would never admit to it. But the facts are, for them, as follows. Arafat is over. Israeli colonies in Palestinian land are OK. A Palestine state is not a viable option. But life is slightly more complicated than a Texas holiday. There's only one interlocutor for a peace process in Palestine: Yasser Arafat. A delegation of the Brazilian Movement of Landless Peasants has just offered one of their flags to Arafat. He is considered by many to be the number one landless person in the world. "Terrorist" Iraqi university students could not agree more. BRITISH/EUROPEAN OPINION http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_557554.html * Teachers make a stand on Iraq sanctions Ananova, 1st April Far Left teachers say the sanctions on Iraq which are supported by Britain - are just as bad an atrocity as the September 11 attacks. They are trying to commit their union to a declaration that the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children are down to the West's sanctions. The extreme left wing of the NUT is also calling for Palestinian refugees to have the right of return to Israel written into official union policy. The Iraq call said: "The UN reported death toll of up to 5,000 Iraqi children aged up to five each month are just as significant an atrocity as the deaths of the 5,000 in the USA." [.....] http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk_politics/newsi d_1908000/1908358.stm * Short 'carpeted' over Iraq BBC, date unknown Mr Blair faces opposition to military action A Cabinet split over military action in Iraq has re-emerged ahead of Tony Blair's weekend meeting with US President George Bush. Mr Blair is reported to have "carpeted" International Development Secretary Clare Short after she expressed reservations about a possible attack. The government is insisting no decision has been made on whether to launch a new offensive against Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein. But according to the Guardian newspaper, Mr Blair is "privately reconciled" to British involvement in any military action. Blind action' The newspaper says Mr Blair has told Ms Short to speak to him before airing her views in public, after she appeared to question the government's position. In an interview with the BBC's On The Record programme last month, she hit out at "blind military action". And in a remark widely interpreted as a resignation threat, she said everyone had "a bottom line". Ms Short quit Labour's front bench 10 years ago in protest at the Gulf War. Her views on Iraq are believed to be shared by Home Secretary David Blunkett and Robin Cook, the leader of the House. Meanwhile, a Commons motion expressing "deep unease" over the prospect of British support for US action against Iraq has now been signed by 141 MPs, many of them Labour backbenchers. [.....] http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4541353 * Overthrow Saddam But don't Harm His People, Urge Protesters by Danny Kemp, PA News The Scotsman, 6th April Thousands of protesters were today calling for action to overthrow Iraqi president Saddam Hussein so long as it does not harm his country's people. The march from Marble Arch to Whitehall in central London will appeal for an end to non- military sanctions against the country. The demonstrators were also urging Tony Blair and US President George W Bush not to take any military action that would harm civilians. Instead they want Saddam and his regime to be charged with war crimes so that they would be arrested if they left Iraq. The rally was being organised by the Iraqi Human Rights Division and involves a coalition of Iraqi groups from across the UK. "The Iraqi people have been neglected for far too long," said organiser Yasser Alaskary. "We are not against any sort of military action that would be targeted directly at Saddam Hussein. "But we oppose any aggression against the Iraqi people, such as during the 1991 Gulf War. "We are also calling for the formation of a free Iraq. In the Gulf War, 14 out of 18 Iraqi regions revolted but received no support from America. The rebellions were then crushed." Protesters were leaving from Marble Arch at 3.30pm and arriving at Whitehall Place by 5pm. http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,5- 2002152304,00.html * 'Saddam land war is vital' By SUE EVISON The Sun, 4th April THE SAS soldier who led a raid on one of Saddam Hussein's key bases during the Gulf War has launched a blistering attack on Britain's "war wobblers". Major Peter Ratcliffe, who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his role in the Scud base attack, believes Britain should support any American military action in Iraq. And he describes anti-war critics in Tony Blair's Government as "traitors". Ratcliffe, 51, also fought terrorists in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Oman during his 25- year career. He told The Sun: "There's no doubt that Saddam Hussein is one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. He was dangerous when we fought him during the Gulf War and he's even more dangerous now. "Tony Blair vowed to support America in the war on terrorism. He said: Whatever it takes'. I see no reason why he should go back on that. "And I believe Britain should continue to support the war on terrorism if that means US military action in Iraq. "Those who now say otherwise old Labour lefties like Clare Short and Tam Dalyell, the pacifists, those now turning on Blair they're traitors." Ratcliffe, a regimental sergeant major sent to relieve a major of his command when the attack on the Scud base during the Gulf War stalled, led the crack Alpha One Zero squad behind enemy lines. His team escaped amid a hail of bullets fired by Iraqi guards. Ratcliffe later wrote a best-selling book, Eye Of The Storm, based on the incident. He now believes a land war with Iraq is the only way to break Hussein's grip on power. He says: "There's no point in thinking a covert operation could remove Hussein. The SAS are not assassins soldiers are not assassins. Only terrorists are assassins. "Few doubted at the time of the Gulf War that Saddam's true goal was to become a ruler of the Muslim world in the Middle East. "There is no reason to believe that goal has changed. He is a megalomaniac. "I feel no doubt that he has stockpiled some of the most vile weapons known to man. They include nuclear material. "Saddam wants to dominate the Middle East, he wants to terrorise the world. His own people revile him. "I would lay my life savings in a bet that information will emerge which proves Iraq helped al-Qa'ida in the orchestration of September 11. "Hussein has always vowed to avenge himself on America. "His people suffer more, not less, because Saddam Hussein is allowed to remain in power. And they will continue to do so until he is removed. "And no amount of hand-wringing, no amount of international aid, no amount of windy wobbling will change that fact." Ratcliffe, who left the SAS with the rank of Major in 1997, does not believe Hussein would be brought to justice as a result of war. "It is very likely he would go on the run. But, effectively, he would be neutered, his life constantly under threat. "He would always be prey. "Most importantly, the Iraqis would be saved from his tyranny and be able to form a government of the people. "Nobody likes war. Nobody enters a war recklessly, without deadly serious consideration of all the facts. "Everyone would prefer to stay at home and hope for a political solution. But the fact is that there isn't one. "Saddam Hussein has been butchering his own people thousands of them for 20 years. "He continues to do that today, despite sanctions, despite the air exclusion zone. "He is hellbent on building a nuclear bomb and world experts estimate that Iraq will be a nuclear power within a few years if we sit back and do nothing. "Anybody who says they are concerned for the civilians in Iraq and the rest of the world should support Tony Blair and any American action on those facts alone." ------------------------------------------------- This mail sent through UK Online webmail _______________________________________________ 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