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A. Blair sees no need for new UN mandate to attack Iraq, Guardian, 10 April B. Labouring over Iraq, Guardian, 10 April [leading article] C. Is this man leading us to war with Iraq?, Guardian, 10 April D. Mr Blair must reassure his critics that he will not rush into war in Iraq, Independent, 10 April [leading article] Guardian: firstname.lastname@example.org Independent: email@example.com [Letter writers: remember to include your address and telephone number!] The title of A. should be self-explanatory. Apparently Mr Blair does not believe that his Party fears illegal (as opposed to 'precipitate') action. Given the historical record, he may well be right. The following passage, concerning the infamous UK 'dossier' on Iraq's WMD capabilities, reinforces earlier reports that it contains little or nothing in the way of hard evidence about the situation post-UNSCOM: 'In the battle to prepare public opinion the UK dossier will be vital. It refers to Saddam's success in developing chemical weapons, and biological ones, including anthrax. *But there is no clear idea what he has tried to do, and how far he has succeeded, as the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998.*' (emphasis added) Indeed, according to 'Whitehall sources' 'the promised dossier on Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programme [i]s being kept under wraps precisely because of a lack of hard evidence.' B. suggests that the distance between the Government and many 'dissenting' MPs may not be very wide - an assessment which may be correct. C. is an upbeat profile of Ahmed Chalabi, whom Porter describes as a 'humane optimist ... who wants nothing more than to give his people the freedoms enjoyed in the west.' Porter states that Chalabi 'is responsible for alerting the west to the build-up of weapons of mass destruction since the Unscom inspectors left Iraq four years ago. The information is not just rumour; it is high-grade intelligence, concerning plans, locations, expenditure and named personnel' as well as making the absurd claim that Iraq 'is now immeasurably better armed than [it] was in 1990'! Finally, D is an editorial from the Independent, where a couple of anti-sanctions / anti-war letters also appeared today. Keep on writing! Best wishes, Gabriel voices uk ************************************************************ A. Blair sees no need for new UN mandate to attack Iraq by Richard Norton-Taylor and Michael White Wednesday April 10, 2002 The Guardian Tony Blair will refuse to commit Britain to seeking a fresh UN mandate before any escalation of military action against Iraq, Labour MPs were warned last night. As Downing Street moved to calm backbench Labour fears of "precipitate" action, Whitehall sources claimed that the promised dossier on Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programme was being kept under wraps precisely because of a lack of hard evidence, that would only serve to deepen concern. British intelligence sources say that despite attempts by the CIA and FBI to find links between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and Iraq, the British dossier does not refer to them because there is no evidence to back up the US claims - such as the meeting between Mohammed Atta, the September 11 hijacker, and an Iraqi intelligence officer. The prime minister will meet his critics at the weekly session of the parliamentary Labour party today. He is determined to face them down and see off those leftwingers who have predicted doom and disaster over previous international interventions. But senior Labour MPs familiar with thinking in Downing Street and Washington warned colleagues last night that if the Bush administration did try to effect a "regime change" in Baghdad, it would do so on the legally flimsy grounds of existing UN resolutions, some dating from the 1991 Gulf War. One Labour MP, who does not dispute the idea that Saddam is highly dangerous and could obtain nuclear and medium-range rocket capability within five years, claimed there would not be a UN vote "next time", and that any military option would be highly risky. The view is widely shared among Whitehall policy makers, and Labour MPs believe public opinion would side with them. Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham South, said Mr Blair had not grasped that on this issue the public was not likely to side with "a gung-ho prime minister". Whitehall departments and agencies, worried about other Arab countries and the Muslim community in Britain, are deeply concerned about Washing's talk of invading. A full-scale war against Iraq would, in any case, be daunting. "The US military will say yes sir, then find 1001 reasons why it's too risky," said a senior Labour MP. Whitehall officials insist they are not complacent about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. "One of these days someone is going to use something, a hothead or as a result of miscalculation," a well-placed source said. The source added that Iran, Libya, North Korea, India and Pakistan have all acquired or sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Labour MPs also point to double standards. Today Mr Blair can expect to explain why the UK is not enforcing UN resolutions against Israel. The Foreign Office's policy has been to engage with those countries rather than threaten them, but the Bush administration is publicly torn between its hawks who want to topple Saddam, and its doves. In the battle to prepare public opinion the UK dossier will be vital. It refers to Saddam's success in developing chemical weapons, and biological ones, including anthrax. But there is no clear idea what he has tried to do, and how far he has succeeded, as the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998. UK intelligence sources believe, however, that Iraq is years away from being able to deliver a nuclear weapon. Labour MPs have been told in Washington that North Korea could sell Iraq the rockets that would extend Saddam's lethal capacity within five years - unless action is taken. ********************************************** B. Labouring over Iraq Blair and his MPs need a new approach Leader Wednesday April 10, 2002 The Guardian Tony Blair and Labour backbenchers bring out the worst in one another. Mr Blair ignores his own MPs too much, so the MPs start to grumble about Mr Blair. Grumbling gets Mr Blair impatient, so he ignores the MPs afresh, and so it goes on. Or at least it has done until now. Today, if both sides are sensible, they will try to break the vicious circle. If they do not, the Labour government could find itself in a whole heap more trouble than both it and the country can afford at this time. Mr Blair is due to meet his MPs this evening to discuss his weekend talks with George Bush and prospects for war with Iraq. Such meetings often threaten greater dramas than in fact take place, but things could be different this time. Suspicion of Mr Blair's intentions, and about the style in which he has handled the Iraq issue, is running high. At the last count, 146 MPs had signed Alice Mahon's parliamentary motion on Iraq, the vast majority of them Labour. Mr Blair seemed to up the ante in Texas, when his speech parroted Mr Bush's views on Iraqi "regime change", prompting some gung-ho reporting that Britain was poised to join the US in hitting Iraq. Everything seems set for a fine old confrontation. Except that the gap between Ms Mahon's motion and Mr Blair's position is not as great as some on both sides pretend. The motion says an attack on Iraq would be "unwise at this time"; Mr Blair in Texas said no precipitate action need be feared. The motion says an attack would disrupt support for the anti-terror campaign among Arabs; Mr Blair has made clear that his priority now and for some time to come is also the Arabs' priority, the Middle East. The motion calls for UN weapons inspections to resume; Mr Blair called for inspectors to be allowed back in "any time, any place that the international community demands". It ought to be possible, in other words, to find common ground on the undesirability of Saddam's regime, the danger of his weapons programmes, the need for effective new inspections under UN authority and, other things being equal, threats of force to back them up. Mr Blair needs to acknowledge the concern that an attack on Iraq has little to do with the war on terror. His critics need to recognise that Saddam's Iraq is a threat to world peace and to its own people. Common ground here is not only possible, but also desirable. Neither Mr Blair nor his critics should be too proud to seek it out. The onus is on them both. *********************************************************** C. Is this man leading us to war with Iraq? When Dr Ahmad Chalabi talks about toppling Saddam Hussein, the US hawks listen. Henry Porter meets the Iraqi dissident who wants to free his country by any means Wednesday April 10, 2002 The Guardian Saddam Hussein will go. George Bush has decided, and Tony Blair, after commuting between positions of support and relative caution through the winter, has given his wholehearted backing. Regardless of what Labour MPs say, or what happens in Europe and the UN, it seems likely that by the end of the year the greatly enhanced missiles of America's arsenal will be raining down on strategic sites throughout Iraq. Whatever we think about the prospect of a war in the Middle East at this extremely fragile moment, the statements over the weekend from Crawford, Texas, represent a considerable victory for Dr Ahmad Chalabi, who is one of six members of the leadership council of the dissident Iraqi National Congress (INC), its chief strategist and head of intelligence. Chalabi goes unrecognised as he walks in the spring sunshine in London, which is probably a good thing because the last count put the number of attempts on his life at nine. There have probably been others he hasn't known about and it is certain that there is never a moment when Saddam's intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, is not dreaming up a way of killing him. Under this threat, Chalabi is relaxed and purposeful. "I don't like to talk about attempts on my life. The details are sordid - thallium, rockets, car bombs, snipers. Many of our people have been killed by thallium [poison]. There have been many deaths in northern Iraq - that's what matters." He leads me through the foyer of an anonymous office block in central London, talking about the works of ancient Assyrian art looted by Saddam. We take the lift up to a floor where there are two security doors and more cameras than you would expect. At length we come to another door and are let into a study. There is a leather suite, contemporary Iraqi paintings and two walls of books which include the World of Parrots, Plato, Isaiah Berlin and many volumes of history. He spends a lot of his time in this room, plotting, but when he really needs to get away he vanishes into the stacks of the London Library and reads whatever his eye happens to fall upon. Chalabi, an MIT graduate with a PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago, is a promiscuous and retentive reader. It shows in his conversation which typically darts between number theory, ancient cultures and current espionage techniques. As he talks his mouth forms a boomerang smile that reaches up to a pair of glittering eyes. In many ways he is like a character from 19th-century fiction, improbably lit with intelligence, charm and sensibility and at the same time blessed with the darker gifts of the spy and master of intrigue. Among the things he does very successfully from the room where we talk is to run a spy network across Iraq. More than anyone he is responsible for alerting the west to the build-up of weapons of mass destruction since the Unscom inspectors left Iraq four years ago. The information is not just rumour; it is high-grade intelligence, concerning plans, locations, expenditure and named personnel. INC information is by far the best coming out of Iraq, but the CIA under director George Tenet won't have anything to do with him. And when Chalabi saw Colin Powell in the distance at the state department the other day, the US secretary of state waved weakly and made off in the opposite direction. Even now, as Bush prepares for war with Saddam, the state department does everything in its power to hinder Chalabi and limit his influence. He has some friends in Washington DC, principally at the Pentagon and among the staff of the Defence Intelligence Agency. According to the former CIA officer Bob Baer, whose book See No Evil was published last month, Chalabi's influence is now stronger than it was because, as Baer puts it: "He talks their language. He knows how to make himself clear and knows what they want to hear. He doesn't go round in circles like every Arab you ever sat down with in the Middle East." Of much greater importance are the defectors the INC has smuggled out of Iraq and served up to the Americans. Recently the product of these debriefings has been hitting the desk in the oval office. But it has been around for a while. In 1995 the head of military intelligence, General Wafic Sammarai, defected with Dr Khidir Hamza, head of the nuclear programmes who worked on Saddam's bomb. Late last year a building contractor and engineer - still unidentified - came out with information that the DIA called "spectacular". Chalabi couldn't be more pleased by the outcome of the Crawford summit. He is unabashed by his part in engineering the current state of high alert because of one simple reason: he is a freedom fighter and wants nothing more than to introduce democracy to his country. "We want a government that respects human rights, based on a constitution, free elections and a federal structure. But it is an oddly revolutionary idea. It leads to a great deal of disquiet among US allies. That is reflected in the hordes of organisations that talk to the state department and CIA about repressive Arab regimes, chiefly Saudia Arabia." He refers to the lobbyists who are at pains to reinforce the orthodoxy that Arab states can only be run by strong men and platoons of psychopaths, armed with electrodes and scalpels. This is the third time I have met Chalabi. I am always struck by the clarity and reasonableness of his ambitions, but it is important to remind oneself that he is a skilled manipulator who spends his time thinking how to hasten a war against a man who a) is now immeasurably better armed than he was in 1990; b) will probably strike at Israel the moment he is attacked; and c) will use anything he can when the chips are down - including dirty nukes and biological warfare. As Chalabi admits, if Saddam can go out having killed 100,000 Israelis, his ambition to live on in Arab memory as a modern Saladin will be achieved. The stakes are high, which accounts for the pallor of British ministers and officials who have seen some of the recent estimates of Saddam's arsenal and his plans. Chalabi feels that the single greatest mistake of the western governments is that they haven't communicated their fears and knowledge to the public. Besides this, he also points out that the US is bound by an act of congress to seeing democracy introduced in Iraq. Little happened after the bill was passed by congress during the last Clinton administration because of what Chalabi believes to be deep-rooted prejudice. "It's an attitude which nearly borders on racism. There is an infernal circle working which says the Iraqi people must be savages because they allow Saddam to rule them. Ergo they cannot be democrats and Saddam has to be replaced by another strong man. "The myopia of the left when it thinks of Iraq is principally caused by residues of third-worldism. But they also think that because the US is targeting Saddam, Saddam must have redeeming features. Let me tell you, Saddam has no redeeming features." One of the defectors brought out by the INC last year, General Abu Zenab of the Mukhabarat, underlines this. With his stories of torture, random arrests and the killings of thousands of young men after the 1995 uprising, he evoked a landscape of unending darkness for the American team sent to debrief him. He spoke without the slightest whisper of conscience or any sense, for instance, that raping a woman in his custody was not a perk of the job enjoyed by security boys the world over. Another defector has recently told how children have been tortured to gain confessions from their parents. But between now and any realisation of Chalabi's dream almost certainly stands a war - and one which could sprawl through the Middle East - and then an arduous unification process involving two Islamic sects (the Sunni and Shi'a), three racial groups (Arab, Turkoman and Kurdish) and numerous clans. As the former CIA director Richard Helms advised: "Pay attention to the things that are hundreds of years old - the religious sects and the tribes." Three quarters of Iraqis are members of one the country's 150 tribal clans. Chalabi is a Shi'a but says he has no special brief for the Shi'as and anyway does not harbour ambitions of standing for office if and when Saddam is overthrown. "This is about creating a civil society, liberating Arab history from despotism. The thing about a civil society is that there are common ideas about how it should be run - what people think of taxation, health and education services. That is what binds them now." This is the vision of a cunning and humane optimist. It will be greeted with scepticism by many, but it is extremely difficult to argue with an Arab intellectual who wants nothing more than to give his people the freedoms enjoyed in the west. ***************************************************** D. Mr Blair must reassure his critics that he will not rush into war in Iraq Independent 10 April 2002 Whatever else Tony Blair's trip to the Bush family ranch may have achieved, it is not likely to have won the hearts and minds of critics in his own party. Indeed, as the Prime Minister faces them at the regular weekly meeting of the Labour MPs today, he may well have cause to wonder what he can do to allay their fears on military intervention in Iraq, or "regime change" as it euphemistically known. True, some of the more assiduous of Mr Blair's allies will have pointed to some careful diplomatic distance being placed between British and American policy. Compared with President George Bush, Mr Blair's remarks about Saddam Hussein have been much more hedged around, with many more references to the United Nations, and military action being taken against the Iraqi regime only "if necessary and if justified". Of course, some of this is simply a product of Mr Blair's instinctively cautious approach to such issues, but it would be unfair, as one Egyptian commentator observed colourfully, to see the British Prime Minister as simply the American President's belly dancer. For, earlier than Mr Bush, Mr Blair rightly identified progress in securing a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as a condition for American intervention in Iraq. Without that, Arab support – always difficult to secure – would be impossible. The alarming sight of Kuwaiti and Saudi delegates warmly embracing their Iraqi counterparts at the recent Arab League summit must have given the Bush administration cause to wonder about the reliability even of those states that have most to fear from President Saddam. Mr Bush does now seem to share the view that outside intervention is necessary to find a settlement in the Middle East, and that some movement here is essential before he turns to Iraq. That is progress. However, it may well prove insufficient to placate Mr Blair's critics, who, due to the subtleties of his approach and his eagerness to echo the rhetoric of his host, will have formed the impression that he is unconditionally shoulder to shoulder with Mr Bush. Such internal opponents as George Galloway are irreconcilable. But others, say Chris Smith or Glenda Jackson, cannot be so easily dismissed, are not "naive" as Mr Blair called them, and it is they who must be convinced. The message that any military action is at least a year away seems to have infiltrated the debate, and Mr Blair would do well to signal that the United Nations should be given that sort of time to see if it can possibly reinstate the weapons inspectors. President Saddam, we would guess, will fail to comply, but he must be seen to do so if military action is to carry opinion here, in the rest of Europe and in the Arab world behind it. Mr Blair should also indicate that, if it comes to it, military action is unlikely to consist of a mass ground invasion of Iraq involving thousands of tanks and ground troops. In other words, he needs to say that we are not about to re-make the Gulf War, and complete the "unfinished business" of 1991. Above all, Mr Blair needs to pledge that he will consult his MPs if and when military action becomes a serious option, and that deployment of British forces will not automatically follow any American move. That last may be the most difficult. Mr Blair declared in Texas: "We don't shirk our responsibility. It means that when America is fighting for those values, then, however tough, we fight with her. No grandstanding; no offering implausible advice from the comfort of the touchline". Stirring stuff, but it is rhetoric like that which has alienated many. A British Prime Minister has to put British interests first. Mr Blair should say as much to his MPs. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk