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[casi] News, 12-19/4/02 (1)

News, 12-19/4/02 (1)

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*  Oman signs free-trade pact with Iraq
Times of India (from AFP), 13th April

MUSCAT: Oman signed a free-trade
agreement with  Iraq on Saturday, becoming
the ninth Arab state  to sign such an accord
with the sanctions-hit  country.

Oman’s Trade Minister Maqbool bin Ali bin
Sultan  signed the deal with Iraqi counterpart
Mohammad  Mehdi Saleh in Muscat during a
meeting of the two  countries’ joint trade

The accord “crowns brotherly relations”
between  Iraq and Oman, Saleh said,
stressing  the “balanced positions” of the
sultanate on  regional and international

Sultan welcomed the “important” text, which
will  be applied in “coming weeks” to stimulate
Omani  exports to Iraq under the
UN-supervised oil-for- food programme that
aims to ease Iraqi suffering  from the
embargo imposed on Baghdad since its
1990 invasion of Kuwait.

“67 per cent of Omani exports go to Arab
countries and Iraq is our leading Arab client,”
Sultan said.

Iraq has signed free-trade agreements with
Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria,
Tunisia,  the United Arab Emirates and

Oman, which maintained good relations with
Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf conflict and
held a  trade fair in Iraq in 2000, has
repeatedly  demanded a lifting of the

Financial Times/Hoover’s, 14th April

According to Al-Wefaq newspaper (April 3,
2002), Iraqi television recently reported that
Iran will participate, along with several other
Industrialized states, in rebuilding Iraq. The
Iraqi building and reconstructing scheme will
start in 2002 and 220 Iranian companies and
23 countries from all over the world
participated in Baghdad Fair, where they
displayed their latest innovations in the areas
of water, energy, agriculture and computers.

*  Call to raise voice for Iraqi children
by Mohammed Almezel
Gulf News, 15th April

Samira Rajab: A group of Bahraini advocates
and businessmen have decided it is time that
‘the silent majority’ of people in the world
raised their voices in support of Iraqi children.

The group, the Bahraini Association to Defend
Iraqi Children (BADIC), has established a new
humanitarian organisation of which the main
aim would be to expose the tragic conditions
in the besieged Iraq.

The new organisation has been founded by
23 personalities including academics, doctors
and businessmen.

“The voice of Iraqi children must be heard all
over the world. Our mission is to expose,
through extensive media campaigns, the
misery of the Iraqi children and to galvanise
support for them,” Samira Rajab, a rights
advocate and one of the leading founders of
the new organisation, told Gulf News

It will not be a politics-oriented association,
she said, neither will it attempt to raise funds
for aid supplies.

“We believe that Iraqis do not need
fund-raising campaigns. They probably have
sufficient resources to meet at least the
minimum basic food and medical demands.
But the real issue in fact is lifting the
sanctions,” she explained.

Experts say that the sanctions, imposed on
Iraq in the wake of its invasion of Kuwait in
August 1990, have taken the oil-rich Iraq back
to the middle ages.

“But most affected segment of the society is
the children who represent the future. Our
main objective thus is to help the children of
Iraq in any way possible,” said Samira.

One of the founding members, Dr. Akbar
Mohsin Mohammed, had led a team that
visited Iraq in 1995 to investigate first hand the
situation there. A report on the findings was
submitted to the Bahrain Red Crescent
Society, the UN Human Rights Commission
and other international organisations, Samira
noted, adding that the association should
have been established then.

“Looking back at the tense political
circumstances in the 1990s, I believe any
request to establish an organisation with such
objectives would have been denied. Now,
obviously, things have changed,” she said.

There has been a significant break-through in
the GCC-Iraqi relations in recent years.
Bahrain in particular has also announced
major procedural concessions to Iraqi traders
and investors, while an embrace between the
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
and Ezzat Ibrahim, Vice-Chairman of the
Central Revolutionary Command Council in
Iraq, at last month’s Beirut Arab Summit
ultimately signaled Baghdad’s return to the
Arab politics.

Those developments have encouraged us to
come forward in order to galvanise support for
the just demand of lifting the sanctions,” said

The founders, she added, are waiting for the
final approval of the Labour and Social Affairs

“I hope the ministry will speed the process as
we know Bahrain has been always a
pioneering nation in humanitarian fields,” she

*  52 killed, 122 injured while defusing Iraqi
mines: Official

Ahvaz, April 16, IRNA — Fifty-two Iranian army
deminers have been killed and 122 others
injured while clearing contaminated areas
from landmines and explosives, left from the
1980-1988 Iraqi-imposed war, a senior army
general Kiumars Heydari said here Tuesday.

The fatalities are related to demining
operations since the end of the war in
southern province of Khuzestan and part of the
western Ilam province, which were on the
fronts of the destructive war, he said, adding
1.851 million mines were cleared in the

“This number of mines have been cleared
from 327,595 hectares of lands,” Heydari said.
They included 970,000 anti-personnel mines,
453,000 anti-tank mines and 428,000
anti-vehicle mines.

An army commander, Brigadier Mohammad
Nabizadeh, said recently that 3.217 million
anti-personnel mines, 914,000 anti-tank
mines as well as 4.236 munition rounds had
been defused in total since the end of the war.

The cleared lands have gone either under
cultivation or turned into residential areas for
local villagers or citizens, he said.

According to UN sources, an estimated 16
million landmines and tens of millions of
unexploded objects, left over from the
imposed war, contaminate four million
hectares of land in southern and western Iran,
bordering Iraq.

Scores of Iranian shepherds and local people
are killed or maimed each year after tripping
on the mines.

Nabizadeh said dislocation of landmines and
lack of maps have slowed down clearance
efforts in the contaminated regions.

* Daily comments on Saddam's blunder

Tehran, April 18, IRNA -- The Thursday edition
of Iran Daily, quoting the Persian daily Azad,
under its Media Monitor column, suggested
that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's
decision to unilaterally suspend oil exports in
protest at Israeli brutalities in the occupied
lands seems more like political jockeying,
rather than a show of solidarity with the
Palestinian struggles.

By raising sympathy among Arab nations,
specially at a time when the Zionist regime's
atrocities against defenseless Palestinians
have reached their climax, Saddam is hoping
for fresh Arab backing in case of a future US
military attack to overthrow his regime.

The daily added that his plan is likely to flop
because the idea of an oil embargo has so far
failed to draw any support from Arab
governments. Both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
have openly opposed oil sanctions with Saudi
foreign minister saying that Riyadh does not
intend to use oil as a weapon.

In fact, if Muslim countries are truly resolved to
stand up against Israel, they must promote
their status by assuming full control of the

Instead of forging further unity among
Muslims, the Iraqi move has provided
competitiveness among petroleum exporting
countries, which are trying to get OPEC's
green light for raising their output quota to
compensate for the loss.

According to the daily, following the 1979
victory of the Islamic Revolution, the
government decided to substantially cut oil
exports. Meanwhile, OPEC sliced Iraq's quota
after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Both these
factors helped Saudi Arabia strengthen its
position and earn billions of dollars due to an
increase in its output.

Developments following the post-September
attacks have provided the US with a pretext to
expand its military and political influence all
over the world. Even a slight miscalculation at
this sensitive juncture could cause discord
among Islamic states and more the
Americans closer to their goals.

Saddam has, knowingly or unknowingly,
committed a grave mistake.

It said, "Presently, Iran sells oil neither to the
US nor to Israel. The US purchases its oil
requirements from Canada, Venezuela,
Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

>From a realistic viewpoint, an oil embargo to
protest Israeli crimes in Palestine will only
undermine our international status and irritate
our European partners.

*  Egyptian trade fair opens in Baghdad
Times of India (from AFP), 19th April

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin
Ramadan opened an Egyptian trade fair, with
100 exhibitors, on Thursday.

"Iraq welcomes favourably the organisation of
Arab fairs in Baghdad," Ramadan said,
particularly those promoting Arab industries.

The head of Egypt's industries union, Abdul
Monem Al-Saudi, arrived in Baghdad
Wednesday to look at ways to "widen bilateral
cooparation" between Iraq and Egypt.


*  War is best road to peace
Sun-Times [Chicago?], 14th April

Another week, another high-level mission to
the  Middle East. This time, Colin Powell’s
been  zipping around the region endeavoring
to bring  peace; last time, Dick Cheney was
zipping around  the region to whip up war
fever. It seems a  lifetime ago, but it’s just the
other day that  the vice president was released
from his ‘’secure  location’’ and dispatched to
Araby to shore up  support for toppling
Saddam from our ‘’friends’’  in the region.

As it happens, the axis of evil—Iraq, Iran—is
causing far less trouble at the moment than
the  axis of pals—Saudi Arabia, Egypt—but
such are  the mysterious ways of the Orient
and, indeed, of  Washington that it was
deemed a priority to kiss  up to the “good”
guys and attempt to bring them  on our side.
Saddam had nothing to do with Sept.  11, the
House of Saud had everything to do with  it.
But for some reason the administration
thought it would appeal to that famous Saudi
sense of humor if the old Butcher of Baghdad
got  stiffed for their mess. In order to establish
his  bona fides with these “moderate”
regimes,  President Bush slapped Israel
around a little and  declared military action
against Palestinian  terrorists “not helpful,”
while the vice  president talked up Saudi
Crown Prince  Abdullah’s “peace plan” for the
region and made  sympathetic murmurings
about the “desperation” of  the suicide

And what happened? The “moderates” told
Cheney to  get lost, and went off to the Arab
League summit  to shower the Iraqi
delegation in more kisses  than Halle Berry
got on Oscar night. Prince  Abdullah himself
planted a smackeroo on the lips  of the Iraqi
vice president, the first between  the two
parties since the Gulf War. Speaking of  which,
Baghdad promised not to invade Kuwait for
the foreseeable future. And the League as a
whole  signed on to some NATOesque
collective security  deal, declaring that an
attack on Iraq would be  regarded as an attack
on them all.

Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon did as he was told,
exercised “restraint” and put away his stick,
and  the carrot of a meeting with Cheney was
dangled  in front of Chairman Arafat, Israel’s
eternal “partner for peace.” The upshot was an
explosion of multiple suicide bombings
culminating in the Passover massacre at a
ballroom in Netanya. So much for
“interventionist  diplomacy.” Cheney’s now
back in his “secure  location,” and they seem
to have thrown away the  key.

Aside from the grim body count, these
missions  are a deranged exercise in
unrealpolitik, with  all parties negotiating
fictions. The vice  president wanted Saudi
Arabia to pretend to be  his friend, the Arab
League to pretend the peace  plan is for real,
Ariel Sharon to pretend that  Yasser Arafat is
cracking down on terrorism, and  Arafat to
pretend that he wants to crack down on
terrorism. Fortunately, none of this matters.
The  cynic’s view of the Cheney mission was
that the  administration needed peace in the
Middle East in  order to have a war against
Iraq. The opposite is  more to the point: You
need a war against Iraq in  order to bring
peace to the Middle East. And on  that, if little
else, Bush shows no signs of  going “wobbly.”
Indeed, interviewing the  president on Britain’s
ITV network a week ago,  Trevor McDonald
seemed to have difficulty taking  yes for an
answer. “Have you made up your mind  that
Iraq must be attacked?” he asked.

“I made up my mind that Saddam needs to
go,” said  the president.

“And, of course, if the logic of the war on  terror
means anything,” continued Sir  Trevor, “then
Saddam must go?”

“That’s what I just said,” confirmed the
president. “The policy of my government is that
he goes.”

“So you’re going to go after him?”

“As I told you, the policy of my government is
that Saddam Hussein not be in power.”

The stability junkies in the EU, UN and
elsewhere  have, as usual, missed the point.
The Middle East  is too stable. In Africa and
Latin America and  Eastern Europe, rare is the
dictator who dies in  harness. But, in the Arab
world, they get to pass  their diseased crowns
on to their designated  heirs: old Assad
bequeathed Syria to his son,  Saddam hopes
to do the same with Iraq. There has  been
“stability” for three decades, longer than
anywhere else in the non-democratic world.
But,  when a dysfunctional regime stays in
power,  that’s not stability, but a cesspit.

So if you were Washington and you wanted to
destabilize the Middle East, where would you
start? In the Gulf two weeks ago, I listened as
a  British diplomat bemoaned the coming war
with  Iraq: lot of nonsense; until the Yanks
buggered  everything up, Saddam was a
sound fellow,  indifferent to Islam,
pro-Western, a bit rough on  the Kurds but our
man through and through. “Good  heavens, he
wears a trilby!” said my British  chum, in
admiration of the dictator’s Anglophile
headgear, as if the fact that he likes dressing
up as the queen mother’s bookie settled the
matter. London invented the country and gave
it  its name—Iraq, “the well-rooted land”—and,
as  this quintessential British Arabist noted
with  pride, the Iraqi people are secular,
tolerant,  literate, the antithesis of those wacky
fundamentalists in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Their  deputy prime minister is
Christian—admittedly a  Kurd-gassing,
Scud-lobbing, terror-funding  Saddamite
Christian, but nevertheless this is  what
passes for progress in the Middle East.

I agreed entirely with the Brit guy’s analysis,
disagreeing only with his conclusion. As far as
he was concerned, these were all reasons for
not  invading Iraq; to me, they’re all reasons
for  pressing ahead. If you had to pick only one
regime to topple, this is the one. Once you’ve
got rid of the ruling gang, it’s the West’s best
shot at incubating a reasonably non-insane
polity. In Iraq and Iran, there’s a sporting
chance regime change would bring about
improvement. In Egypt, Syria and Saudi
Arabia,  it’s far more problematic. The best
way to  destabilize the Islamist regimes is by
destabilizing the non-Islamist one first. Sorry,
Saddam. Them’s the breaks.

In the end, the Middle East has to be fixed, and
the place to start is not the West Bank but
Baghdad. At the moment, all that prevents
Islamofascism being a truly global threat is its
practitioners’ stupidity and inefficiency. Say
what you like about Saddam but, by Middle
Eastern  standards, he’s a very smart and
efficient  genocidal maniac. All the more
reason to be rid  of him sooner rather than
later. Yes, it’s a  stylish trilby, but it’s time to
say here’s your  hat and what’s your hurry.

Mark Steyn is senior contributing editor for
Hollinger Inc.
comment% 2Dopinions

*  Iraq War: The Coming Disaster
Los Angeles Times, 14th April

Immanuel Wallerstein is  senior research
scholar at Yale University and  the author of
“The End of the World as We Know  It.”

NEW HAVEN — George W. Bush is a
geopolitical  incompetent. He has allowed a
clique of hawks to  induce him to take a
position on invading Iraq  from which he
cannot extract himself, one which  will have
nothing but negative consequences for  the
United States—and the rest of the world. He
will find himself badly hurt politically, perhaps
fatally. And he will rapidly diminish the already
declining power of the United States in the
world. A war against Iraq will destroy many
lives  immediately, both Iraqi and American,
because it  seems clear that high-altitude,
surgical-strike  air attacks will not suffice in
military terms.  Invading Iraq will lead to a
degree of turmoil in  the Arab-Islamic world
hitherto unimagined. Other  Arab leaders don’t
like Saddam Hussein one bit,  but their
populations won’t stand for what they  will
inevitably feel is an unprovoked attack on  an
Arab state, leaving leaders with little choice
but to be swept along in the turmoil or drown.
And an attack on Iraq might ultimately spark
the  use of nuclear weapons, which, if
unleashed now,  will be hard to again make
illegitimate. Iraq may  not have such weapons
yet, but we can’t be sure.  Even if it doesn’t,
might it not attack Israel  with conventional
missiles that would prompt  Israel to respond
with the nuclear weapons we  know it has?
For that matter, are we really sure  that, if the
fighting gets tough, the U.S. is not  ready to
use tactical nuclear weapons?

How have we gotten into such a disastrous
cul-de- sac?

It seems probable that U.S. military action
against Iraq is now not a question of whether
but  of when. The U.S. government insists
action is  necessary because Iraq has been
defying United  Nations resolutions and
represents an imminent  danger to the world
in general, and to the U.S.  in particular. This
explanation of the expected  military action is
so thin that it cannot be  taken seriously.
Defying U.N. resolutions or  other international
enjoinders has been  commonplace for the
last 50 years. I need hardly  remind anyone
that the U.S. refused to defer to a  1986 World
Court decision condemning U.S. actions  in
Nicaragua. And President Bush has made it
amply clear that he will not honor any treaty
should he think it dangerous to U.S. interests.
Israel has, of course, been defying U.N.
resolutions for more than 30 years, and is
doing  so again as I write this commentary.
And the  record of other U.N. members is not
much better.  So Hussein has been defying
quite explicit U.N.  resolutions. What else is

Is Hussein an imminent threat to anyone? In
August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. That action,
at  least, did pose an imminent threat. The
U.S.  response was the Persian Gulf War, in
which we  pushed the Iraqis out of Kuwait and
then decided  to stop there—for good military
and political  reasons. But that left Hussein in

The U.N. passed various resolutions requiring
Iraq to abandon nuclear, chemical and
bacteriological weapons and mandated
inspection  teams to verify that it had done so.
The U.N.  also put in place a variety of
embargoes against  Iraq. As we know, over
the decade since then, the  system of
constraints on Iraq put in place by  these U.N.
resolutions has weakened considerably,  but
not totally by any means.

Several weeks ago, Iraq and Kuwait signed an
agreement in which Iraq agreed to respect the
sovereignty of Kuwait. The foreign minister of
Kuwait, Sheik Sabah al Ahmed al Jabbar al
Sabah  said his country is now “100%
satisfied,” adding  that he had written the
agreement himself. A  spokesperson for the
United States nonetheless  exhibited
skepticism. The U.S. is not about to be
deterred simply because Kuwait is “satisfied.”
What is Kuwait, that it should participate in
such a decision?

U.S. hawks believe that only the use of force—
very significant force—will restore our
unquestioned hegemony in the world. It is no
doubt true that the use of overwhelming force
can  establish hegemony, as happened with
the United  States in 1945. But U.S. hegemony
is not what it  once was. The country’s
economic superiority in  the world between
1945 and 1965 has been replaced  with a
situation in which the U.S. economic  position
is not significantly better than that of  the
European Union or Japan. This relative
economic decline has cost the U.S. the
unquestioned political deference of its close
allies. All that is left is military superiority.  And,
as Machiavelli taught us all centuries ago,
force is not enough: If that’s all you have, then
its use is a sign of weakness rather than of
strength and weakens the user.

It is clear that, at this point, almost no one
supports a U.S. invasion of Iraq: not a single
Arab state, not Turkey or Iran or Pakistan, not
Russia or the great bulk of Europe. There are,
to  be sure, two notable exceptions: Israel,
which is  cheering Bush on, and Great
Britain—or rather  its prime minister, Tony
Blair, who declared last  weekend in Texas
that “doing nothing ... is not  an option” with
regard to Iraq. Yet an article in  The Observer
last month reported that “Britain’s  military
leaders issued a stark warning to Tony  Blair
last night that any war against Iraq is  doomed
to fail and would lead to the loss of  lives for
little political gain.”

I cannot believe that U.S. military leaders have
drawn a different conclusion, although they
may  be more wary of stating that unpleasant
truth to  President Bush. Kenneth M. Pollack,
formerly of  the CIA and the Iraq specialist on
Clinton’s  National Security Council, says
military action  in Iraq would require sending
in 200,000 to  300,000 U.S. troops,
presumably from bases in  either Saudi
Arabia or Kuwait, as well as  additional troops
to defend the Kurds in northern  Iraq.

The U.S. seems to be counting on intimidating
its  allies into going along. But after Israel’s
occupation of West Bank cities, the remote
hope  that Saudi (or even Kuwaiti) bases
would be made  available to U.S. troops has
almost surely  disappeared. Turkey clearly
has no interest in  defending Iraqi Kurds,
since such action would  certainly strengthen
the Kurdish movement in  Turkey, against
which the Turkish government  fights with all
its energy. As for Israel, Prime  Minister Ariel
Sharon—with Bush’s strong support- -is in the
process of destroying as rapidly as  possible
the Palestinian Authority, which  certainly won’t
help Bush build his anti-Iraq  coalition.

Still, there will be an invasion, which will be
difficult if not impossible to win. The action
could well become another Vietnam. Just as
in  Vietnam, the war will drag on and will cost
many  U.S. lives. And the political effects will
be so  negative for the U.S. that eventually
Bush (or  his successor) will pull out. A
renewed and  amplified Vietnam syndrome
will be the result at  home.

Can no one in the Bush administration see
this? A  few, no doubt, but they are being
ignored,  because Bush is in a self-imposed
dilemma. If he  goes ahead with the Iraq
invasion, he risks  bringing himself down, like
Lyndon Johnson. And a  U.S. failure would
finally give the Europeans the  courage to be
European and not Atlantic. But  those negative
consequences to Bush would be in  the future,
whereas the negatives of not invading  are

Bush promised the U.S. people a “war on
terrorism” that “we will certainly win.” So far,
all he’s produced is the downfall of the weak
and  impoverished Taliban. He hasn’t
captured Bin  Laden. Pakistan is shaky. Saudi
Arabia is pulling  away. If he doesn’t invade
Iraq, he will look  foolish where it matters to
him most—in the eyes  of American voters.
And he is being told this, in  no uncertain
terms, by his advisors on internal  U.S.
politics. Bush’s incredibly high approval
ratings reflect his being a “war president.” The
minute he becomes a peace-time president,
he will  be in grave trouble—all the more so
because of  failed wartime promises.

So, Bush has no choice. He will invade Iraq.
He  has made clear that the current Middle
East  crisis will not deter him from this. Quite
the  opposite. Sending Secretary of State Colin
Powell  to the region is a way of trying to
ensure the  operation. And we shall all live
with the  consequences.,11581,6
842 16,00.html

*  Our enemy’s enemies
by Nick Cohen
The Observer, 14th April

London has provided what I hope will be a
temporary home for an inspiring resistance
group.  Its headquarters has the sights and
smells of the  standard exile office: chairs you
eye warily  before accepting the invitation to sit;
a  suggestion in the stale air that the drains
have  been left unattended for too long. The
shabby  gentility of the office is balanced by
the  enormous ambition of its staff. The
revolutionaries want to replace minority rule
with a multiracial, devolved democracy which
stands up for human rights and all the ideals
which mean so much to Observer readers.
Unlike the African National Congress,
however,  the Iraqi National Congress hasn’t
become the  toast of Left-liberals. Its claim for
committed  support is at least as good
because, in fairness  to mass-murdering
white supremacists, the old  South Africa drew
the line at dropping chemical  weapons on
neighbouring states and rioting Soweto
schoolchildren. Nearly all South African whites
-  16 per cent of the population - enjoyed
wealth  and partial freedom under apartheid.
While it is  true that Saddam Hussein and his
lieutenants are  Sunni Arabs, who make up 20
per cent of the Iraqi  population, most Sunnis
suffer as much as  everyone else.

The shunning of the INC by right-thinking, Left-
leaning people is best explained by their
shambolic response to American power. As
Ariel  Sharon pushes Zionism towards
fascism, in its  modern ethnic-cleansing form,
the same voices  which condemn intervention
in Iraq as the  imperialism of the global bully
demand that the  US imposes sanctions on
Israel. To point out the  double standard on
the Left isn’t to deny Bush’s  hypocrisy.The
switch of emphasis from fighting al- Qaeda to
eliminating the old enemy in Baghdad  made
a nonsense of the screaming after 11
September that everything must be dropped
until  Islamic fundamentalism was defeated.

Unfortunately for lovers of consistency, the
INC’s spokesmen don’t care about Bush’s
motives.  They will accept freedom under
whatever messy  circumstances history offers.
If you oppose a war  against Saddam, you are
asked if you believe  democracy isn’t too good
for Arabs and Kurds. If  you mumble that, of
course, your principles  aren’t limited by race,
colour or creed, you are  invited to explain how
they can topple a tyrant  without foreign help.
You are saved from further  humiliation by the
welcome news that Washington  and London
can match your bad faith.

The INC is yet another CIA invention which
has  spooked its creators. It was formed in
1992 after  the US insisted that all the Iraqi
opposition  factions established a united front.
The US  provided money, but as one INC
leader said,  wanted ‘it to be a talking shop
which would  produce propaganda and give
cover to America’ as  it arranged the
installation of a more compliant  version of
Saddam. What was required was a Sunni
hard man who would repress the Kurds in the
north  and the Shia Muslims in the south, but
leave  Kuwait and Israel alone.

The INC wouldn’t accept puppet status. In
1995,  it thought it had American backing to
seize three  cities. The Clinton administration
sent mixed  messages, then called off the
revolution at the  last minute. The Kurds
abandoned their comrades  and fought
among themselves. But INC forces  decided
to attack. On the one front where they
engaged the Iraqi army they performed
creditably,  mainly because Saddam’s
conscripts were eager to  surrender to anyone
who looked as if they could  get rid of him.

The American and British refusal to support
the  rebellion ensured its defeat. (From now
on, by  the way, whenever I write ‘American’
could you  take ‘and British’ as read? It will
save time and  space.) Bureaucracies being
what they are, the  CIA blamed the victims for
its inability to seize  the moment. Resent ment
grew in 1996 when Ahmed  Chalabi, the INC
president, warned the CIA that  its plot to
install a new military dictator had  been blown.
If the INC knew about it, he  explained, the
agency could be certain that  Saddam was as

The CIA didn’t listen. The compromised coup
attempt went ahead and the few plotters who
weren’t double agents were murdered. Many
in the  INC believe that what truly infuriates the
CIA is  that Chalabi is a cultured
businessman, who  speaks English better
than most Western  politicians. He argues
with style and force  against the INC’s
detractors on the US networks  and in
Congress and the Washington think-tanks.

George Tenet, who, incredibly, remains the
CIA  director after his failure to protect his
country  on 11 September, is the leader of the
faction in  Washington which loathes the INC.
A democratic  Iraq, the thinking runs, would be
dominated by  Shia Muslims who would look
to Iran for  leadership. The Kurds in the north
would  infuriate our Turkish ally by breaking
away.  Better to maintain ‘stability’ in the
Middle East  by installing a military ruler.

The INC says Western fears are illusory. Both
the  main Kurdish parties have settled for
devolved  government in northern Iraq
because they know  that Turkey and Iran
would invade an independent  Kurdistan. The
Shia wouldn’t break up a  democratic Iraq and
join Iran. Why should they  when they are the

As for ‘stability’, Latif Rashid, leader of the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and a founder of
the  INC, exploded when I mentioned the
word. ‘Stability! Stability! Stability!’ he
bellowed. ‘Where is stability in the Middle
East?  You can’t have stability without
democracy.’ The  INC left me in no doubt that
its guerrillas will  carry on fighting if Saddam is
replaced with  another dictator.

In Washington, the State Department, which
has  stopped funding the INC after disputed
accusations of fraud, and the CIA take no
notice  of the threat and support the ‘nicer
Sunni  tyrant’ option. Paradoxically, the
greatest  supporters of the civilian movement
are the  military in the Pentagon.

The struggle between the departments is
underway,  but the balance of forces is against
the INC. A  democratic Iraq would give the
subject peoples of  the Gulf monarchies ideas
above their station.  (The Saudi royal family’s
secret service offered  to throw money at the
INC if it promised to stop  talking about
democracy and human rights.) Turkey  doesn’t
want its abused Kurds to see devolved
government in northern Iraq. Washington and
Whitehall are infested with Arabists who adore
Arab monarchs but have little time for Arabs.

Meanwhile, the Left must hope that the INC
loses  its battle to win the backing of the Bush
administration. If America went to war to
support  a multiracial democratic movement,
where would  that leave us? Would we dare
open our mouths?

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