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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 Guardian: firstname.lastname@example.org Financial Times: email@example.com [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, Gabriel 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 plants. 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 state. 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 voice. 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 strengthened. 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 borders. 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. *************************************************************************** _______________________________________________ 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