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[casi] from today's paper: 30-04-02

A. Iraq ready to let weapons inspectors back in, Guardian, 30 April
B. The terrifying naivety of Blair the great intervener, Guardian, 30 April
[comment piece]
C. Editorial comment: Action on Iraq, FT, 29 April

Financial Times:

[Letter writers: remember to include your address and telephone number.]

A. and B. are from today's Guardian. C., which touches on "smart" sanctions
is a piece I missed from yesterday's FT.

Best wishes,

voices uk

A. Iraq ready to let weapons inspectors back in

Ewen MacAskill in Baghdad
Tuesday April 30, 2002
The Guardian

Iraq is preparing to back down on its refusal to allow UN weapons inspectors
to return to the country in the hope that this will avert a US attack.
The US and Britain have led calls for Iraq to permit the UN weapons
inspectors to establish whether Saddam Hussein is hiding biological and
chemical weapons and developing a nuclear capability.

Iraqi willingness to cave in, after more than two years blocking the entry
of the inspectors, comes amid reports that the US is planning an invasion of
Iraq early next year.

The Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri al-Hadithi, is to begin three days of
talks in New York tomorrow with the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, to
discuss the weapons inspectors and sanctions.

According to a participant in discussions at the Iraqi foreign ministry in
recent days, the Iraqi government will compromise, though it may try to
string out the negotiations.

"I think it is now very likely that the inspectors will return," the
participant said.

Both President Saddam and his deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, are said to
be extremely worried about the threats from the White House. The Iraqi
government is said to believe that any attack will be by missiles but does
not know whether the targets will be confined to military, presidential and
ministry sites or will include civilian infrastructure, such as power

The UN weapons inspectors, who first went into Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war,
spent seven years checking whether Saddam had a hidden arsenal. They left
before the US and Britain bombed Baghdad in 1998.

Both the US and Britain insist that Saddam has built up his arsenal in the
absence of the inspectors. Iraq denies it.

Mr al-Hadithi will tell Mr Annan that the weapons inspectors can return but
will try to set conditions. The main one is that the inspections be
time-limited rather than, as previously, indefinite. Another condition is
that they are not allowed into Saddam's presidential palaces.

The Iraqis may be willing to back down on the second condition. The
participant in the foreign ministry talks said that the inspectors had been
allowed in before: "It is nonsense to think that Saddam would sleep above a
pile of biological and chemical weapons."

In the talks with Mr Annan, the Iraqi government will press him to be
even-handed, claiming it is a breach of international law for President
George Bush to declare he wants to overthrow the head of another sovereign

Mr al-Hadithi will also challenge Mr Annan on the legitimacy of US and
British planes attacking Iraqi positions and the continuation of sanctions,
which are under the auspices of the UN but are only vigorously pursed by the
US and Britain.

Also on the agenda for New York is a new set of sanctions, in which almost
all goods other than military would be allowed through. Iraq opposes this,
claiming the UN would still retain control over Iraqi spending.

B. The terrifying naivety of Blair the great intervener

The prime minister risks turning Britain into the Pentagon's useful idiot

Hugo Young
Tuesday April 30, 2002
The Guardian

What Tony Blair sees when he looks at Iraq is a country that has the
ingredients to be a good and happy one. It has 60 million people and 9% of
the world's oil reserves. It could be one of the world's attractions rather
than its principal pariah, and would be so if only it weren't ruled by a
murderous psychopath, the worst villain in contemporary history. The world
needs protection from this evil maniac but, just as important, Iraq and
Iraqis need help. Here is the moral challenge of the hour, and perhaps the
supreme task facing political leaders in 2002.

Occupying this place in Mr Blair's mind, Iraq exemplifies the most
extraordinary change in British life since he was elected prime minister
five years ago tomorrow. You can keep class sizes, hospital waiting lists,
cuts in car crime or the fine-tuning of economic progress. These are tasks
all governments take on with variable success, and any shifts, though
important, are at the margin. What's new is Britain's evolution, entirely at
the personal hand of the PM, into an eager player anywhere in the world
where there is work, usually moral work, to do: whether with a handful of
retired security men in Israel/ Palestine; a few hundred troops camped
permanently in Sierra Leone; a couple of thousand in Afghanistan; or,
potentially, any number of thousands one day in Iraq.

For Mr Blair is a driven intervener. He believes in that role for Britain,
and defines the national interest more broadly than any leader since
Gladstone. Mrs Thatcher's sense of the national interest confined it to the
defence of Britain's shores and possessions. Mr Blair reaches beyond that,
beyond our local continent, into the far blue yonder, anywhere the world
might be made a better place by the benign intervention of a good, stable,
rich and militarily capable country like Britain. Iraq is the place where
this philosophy looks like next being tested.

Such zeal for intervention, as a way of making the world better rather than
the nation stronger, is unique in modern Europe. You never find it among
French or German leaders. Even De Gaulle didn't really fit the category,
being more of a pallid Metternich than a pious Gladstone. But the comparison
also stands against contemporary America. The Bush administration's
performance since September 11 has been driven not by a desire to improve
the world but to make American territory safe from the world, and the world
safe for American domination. The world will get some benefit. But those
non-travelling Republicans on the Hill, like Bush himself, do not have a
developed concept of disinterested idealism. If they go into Iraq, they will
leave when the business is done. The only business that matters is to kill
off Saddam and thus protect Americans, coupled with the name of Israel.

Mr Blair's impulse is different. Several conversations with high officials
persuade me that we misunderstand what, from his viewpoint, the Iraq option
is really about. London tends to be seen as a restraining force on Wash
ington, a wise tactical adviser on the side of caution. In the early tactics
against al-Qaida - notably the ultimatum to the Taliban and the binding in
of Putin and Russia - Mr Blair did, I can believe, have an influential

But over Iraq, the dynamic is to some extent reversed. Rather than being a
restrainer, Mr Blair is quite eager for action. His catalogue of infamy
against Saddam and the Iraqi arsenal of mass-destruction weapons, including
Saddam's imminent nuclear capacity, is not qualified by doubt. The moral
crusader offers a clarity of vision that makes some, though not all,
officials in Washington tremble. Sometimes it almost seems as though the US
is helping the UK rather than vice versa. If America can help the great
intervener, so much the better. Here we have a leader delighted to have at
his disposal the greatest power on earth, abetting any moral cause in which
he believes.

Another consideration pushes him the same way. He believes it is Britain's
duty to ensure that the US is not isolated in its great geo-political
campaign against terrorism. He hears America accused of unilateralism, and
counts it as a virtue on Britain's part to stand as the visible guarantor
that this is not the case. On trade issues, abrasiveness is permissible. But
on global security, irrespective of the substance, Britain's gift to America
is to demonstrate, by standing shoulder-to-shoulder or flying wing-to-wing,
that the unilateralist calumnies emanating from the Middle East and Europe
are false.

This Blairite attitude has a public history. Kosovo prompted him to
articulate a doctrine of moral interventionism, and September 11 drew a
great oration to the Labour party conference. But these impulses have
deepened and spread. He would think nothing, if he could persuade the
Americans to go along, of organising an Anglo-American expeditionary force
to move round Africa, training local police and armies a la Sierra Leone,
and thus at modest cost shoring up the democracies that could be the basis
of African economic recovery. The vision of the moralist demands nothing
less. An Iraq left in peace to prosper on its oil and educate its citizens
in democratic values naturally belongs there too.

However worthy this vision may seem - to some inspiring, maybe - its
insouciance strikes me as terrifyingly naive. Brazen words to say to a
five-year prime minister, but two reasons support them.

First, the interventionist compulsion is producing policies that have been
little discussed. Nobody minds sending a few retired officers to detain
Palestinian terrorists. Even Sierra Leone is paying virtuous dividends. But
an army, or an air force, against Iraq? Where are the frontiers of this
moral vision, and how much are we prepared to pay to make it come to pass?
How does it relate to Mr Blair's other driving priority, his alleged
intimacy with his European partners? Romano Prodi will doubtless be scorned
on many sides for his reproving words yesterday, asking Britain where she
stands on the EU. But the point was correctly made. It may be true, as Blair
insists, that Britain must remain in good odour with both Americans and
Europeans. History and geography still allow that possibility. But dreams of
wiping out Saddam Hussein smack more of a mesmerised attachment to American
power than any serious attention to what Europe needs and wants.

Second, what leverage does Gladstonian ambition retain for a country that
lost Gladstonian power a century ago? The danger Blair faces is that, when
the time comes, he will have none. Britain will turn out to have been the
useful idiot for the Pentagon's big project, supporting it in the name of a
virtuous imperialism for which Washington has no stomach, and dragged into
battle according to timetables that suit America's domestic needs not
Europe's or Britain's - which most other EU countries will possibly oppose.
Blair is deciding, if not saying, where he stands, because of a singularly
personal idea about the purpose of politics in the modern world. Some day
soon, Washington will eat him for breakfast, along with the morality it then
spits out.

C. Editorial comment: Action on Iraq

Financial Times
Published: April 29 2002

Although he has reached 65, Saddam Hussein shows no sign of retiring to tend
his roses. The US decision to draw up plans for toppling him next year
rather than in the autumn gives the Iraqi leader a breathing space. However,
negotiations this week over United Nations sanctions should make clear that
it is only time that Mr Saddam has been given. Pressure on the regime to end
its policy of making weapons of mass destruction must be maintained and

The UN Security Council will vote within the next few days on renewing the
current oil-for-food programme that allows Iraq to import humanitarian
supplies of food and medicines. The US wants to couple this with the
replacement of the blanket embargo with so-called "smart sanctions". These
would allow imports unless they were on a list of goods that require UN
scrutiny because they could be used for military purposes.

This week Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, will be pressed by the Iraqi
foreign minister to agree on a timetable for lifting trade sanctions in
return for a resumption of weapons inspections. Mr Saddam has been engaged
in a diplomatic campaign to divide the security council and to win support
for an easing of sanctions among Iraq's neighbours. This diplomacy has
already paid off over smart sanctions, where the carrot of an easing of the
embargo is no longer matched by the stick of stricter enforcement on Iraq's

Mr Saddam may see Washington's decision to delay action against Iraq as a
sign of weakness when the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has poisoned
relations between the US and its Arab allies. That would be a grave error,
however: George W. Bush, US president, remains committed to a "regime
change" in Baghdad. He has recognised that there will be little support in
the region for action while the blood-letting continues in Israel.

The administration has also recognised that there is no Afghan solution - no
internal opposition such as the Northern Alliance to fight a proxy war. That
means a lengthy build-up of a US-led invasion force.

Meanwhile, the pressure must be maintained on Iraq to readmit the weapons
inspectors - and not on Mr Saddam's terms. It is undoubtedly the case that
even imperfect weapons inspections offer some restrictions on the Iraqi
leader's ability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. Yet the
experience of the past decade is that he will use negotiations to impose
conditions that undermine the inspectors.

If inspections are to resume, there can be no restrictions on membership of
the teams or on sites they may visit. Mr Saddam must be left in no doubt
that failure to change his ways can result in only one outcome: his removal
from power.


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