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[casi] News, 19-26/4/02 (1)

News, 19-26/4/02 (1)


*  RAF and US warplanes bomb Iraq
Ananova, 19th April

British and US warplanes bombed air defence
systems in northern Iraq in response to
anti-aircraft fire within the no-fly zone.

The bombs were dropped after Iraqi forces east of
Mosul fired on a routine air patrol.

It is the first bombing of northern Iraq since
February and the third this year.

"All coalition aircraft departed the area
safely," a US military statement says.


*  British pilots face more Iraqi missiles
by Michael Evans
The Times, 24th April

THE increased deployment by President Saddam
Hussein of surface-to-air missiles in the
north and south of Iraq poses a greater threat to
American and British combat aircraft engaged
in patrols to protect the Kurdish and Shia
communities from Iraqi attacks.

General Richard Myers, Chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said that it was the first
time in two years that Baghdad had significantly
reinforced the number of mobile Sams for
use against the coalition aircraft involved in
the no-fly zone operations.

Iraq has made regular ground-to-air attacks on
overflying American and British aircraft since
the combat patrols began after the end of the
1991 Gulf War. The scale of the attacks, using
anti-aircraft artillery and Sam missiles, has
varied year by year. The deployment of more
missiles in the south and north could herald an
intensification of Iraqi attacks.

In the past two months, Iraqi air defence units
have attacked coalition aircraft five times in the
north and three times in the south. RAF aircraft
retaliated once against an air defence site in
the north.

General Myers said that the extra missiles had
been moved into place over the past few days,
which ‘obviously increased risk to the pilots’.

The latest deployment of Sams could be part of
Saddam’s attempt to prepare for a possible
attack by the United States after President
Bush’s declaration that he intended to confront
Iraqi leader over his clandestine weapons-of-mass-
destruction programme. Mr Bush’s policy,
supported by Tony Blair, is to effect a ‘regime
change’ in Baghdad.

Already there had been signs of other forms of
Iraqi military preparations, including the
construction of concrete bunkers to protect
soldiers, equipment and aircraft. According to
reports, the building began soon after the
September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

At a press conference at the Pentagon, General
Myers said that there had been ‘more activity
in the last couple of days than we have seen in
the last couple of years’.

Iraq is known to have rebuilt its fibre-optic
communications links, which connect the air
defence systems to a control centre in Baghdad.

The fibre-optic cable facilities were attacked by
the US early in Mr Bush’s presidency because
of the perceived growing threat they posed to
coalition aircraft. ‘They have a very good
fibre-optic system,’ General Myers said.

The disclosure by General Myers came as Baghdad
announced that it was intending to start an
initiative to try to prevent the United States
from persuading the United Nations to enforce
‘smart sanctions’ against Iraq. The sanctions are
proposed because Iraq is continuing to refuse
access to arms inspectors to check on Saddam’s
programme to develop weapons of mass
destruction The inspectors have been barred from
Iraq since 1998.

Naji Sabri, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, visits
Moscow next week at the invitation of Sergei
Ivanov, his Russian counterpart. Russia is the
current holder of the presidency of the UN
Security Council.

The United States wants to replace the present
sanctions, which have operated over the past 12
years, with measures that would allow the import
of civilian goods but continue to ban any
product that had a military application. Baghdad
has called for the sanctions to be lifted

*  Size of force on ground key in plan for Iraq
by Rowan Scarborough

The commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf
has told senior Pentagon officers that a new
war against Iraq would likely take five divisions
and 200,000 troops. Top Stories

Gen. Tommy Franks "wants to do a Desert Storm
II," said one official, referring to the
550,000 troops deployed to the region in 1990-91
to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Two defense sources said the briefings by Gen.
Franks, who heads the U.S. Central Command
that oversees U.S. forces in Central Asia and the
Persian Gulf, came as the Bush
administration is moving closer to deciding on a
general military campaign to topple Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein.

Officials say it likely will rely on fewer ground
troops than suggested by Gen. Franks and call
on extensive use of air power and indigenous
rebel forces.

"Less ground-centric and more air-centric," is
how one official described the emerging

Sources said that several weeks ago Gen. Franks
provided face-to-face briefings on his ideas
for combating Saddam.

The sources said Gen. Franks believes four or
five divisions of ground troops are needed, with
a total strength of about 200,000 land, sea and
air forces.

Officials said President Bush met with some of
his top national security advisers at Camp
David last weekend and discussed war options.

Gen. Franks, a four-star Army officer, is partial
to the use of large numbers of ground forces.
In the planning for the war in Afghanistan, he
initially proposed three divisions to oust the
Taliban but then settled on relying greatly on
special-operations troops and air power.

Officials say Pentagon civilian policy-makers are
skeptical of Gen. Franks' Iraq outline.

They want him to rely less on conventional ground
troops and incorporate more features of the
Afghan conflict: Army Green Berets organizing
anti-Saddam forces in the north and south,
and extensive use of air power unleashing a new
generation of precision-guided munitions.

Air advocates say the Navy and Air Force could
generate up to 1,000 sorties, or air strikes,
daily over Iraq. While less than 10 percent of
munitions used in the 1991 Gulf war were
"smart bombs," up to 90 percent would be
precision-guided ordnance in a new war against

The officials said, however, that a full-blown
debate on strategy inside the Pentagon has not
yet begun. They said Central Command is drafting
several war options.

"There is the beginning of a debate going on in
Central Command and in the Joint Chiefs of
Staff on the merits of a larger U.S. ground force
versus a small U.S. ground force supporting
Iraqi opposition troops, a la the Afghan model,"
one official said.

Mr. Bush on numerous occasions has threatened
Saddam with military action. His aides talk
openly of how Washington cannot allow Saddam,
whose regime has ties to terrorist groups, to
achieve his goal of building nuclear weapons.

Some weeks ago, the Pentagon, State Department
and National Security Council agreed to
seek Saddam's removal sooner rather than later.
But the administration has not settled on how
to do it.

CIA Director George J. Tenet is said to favor
covert action to undermine Saddam's regime and
instigate a coup. But Pentagon civilians argue
that such measures have failed in the 11 years
since the Gulf war.

 "All options are on the table," Mr. Bush said
recently. "But one thing I will not allow is a
nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future
by developing weapons of mass destruction."

The administration is also undecided whether it
can deploy forces and launch an attack while
the Arab world is upset with Mr. Bush over his
tilt toward Israel in its war against Palestinian

The Pentagon is planning to work around Saudi
Arabia's opposition to launching strike aircraft
from its soil.

Air Force planners believe adequate air strips
will be available in countries such as Turkey,
Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.

Vice President Richard B. Cheney conducted an 11-
nation tour of the region last month.
Administration sources said that although Arab
leaders publicly voiced opposition to going to
war against Saddam, in private some delivered a
completely different message.

One senior official called the trip "very
successful" on the issue of gaining support for
moderate Arab states for ousting Saddam.

"All the stuff you heard publicly, turn it upside
down," this official said. "The Cheney trip was
a very good trip. Look where Prince Abdullah is

This was a reference to Saudi Crown Prince
Abdullah traveling yesterday to Crawford, Texas,
for more than five hours of talks with Mr. Bush.

Also, the administration is mulling its policy on
having U.N. arms inspectors re-enter Iraq. Mr.
Bush in the past has said Iraq faces some type of
action if Saddam refuses to let in inspectors.

But his advisers are split on the issue. The
State Department wants to give inspections another
try, arguing that it is a way to build global
support for deposing Saddam. Pentagon
policy-makers believe inspections are a waste of

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told
reporters earlier this month: "I just can't quite
picture how intrusive something would have to be
that it could offset the ease with which they
had previously been able to deny and deceive, and
which today one would think they would be
vastly more skillful, having had all this time
without inspectors there."


*  Senate kills Bush's plan for Alaska drilling
by Tom Doggett
Swissinfo (from Reuters), 19th April

WASHINGTON: In a big defeat for the Bush
administration's national energy plan, the
Democratic-led U.S. Senate has killed a White
House proposal to let oil companies drill in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Republicans fell 14 votes short of getting the 60
needed under Senate rules to end debate on
the controversial proposal and move to final
passage of the measure.

The 54-to-46 vote also showed that a majority in
the Senate did not support the proposal, the
centrepiece of the Bush administration's energy

Five Democrats crossed party lines and supported
the ANWR drilling amendment, while eight
Republicans went against their party's position
and backed keeping the refuge closed.
Independent James Jeffords of Vermont voted
against drilling.

The administration and many Senate Republicans
framed the ANWR debate as a national
security issue, saying the refuge's potential 16
billion barrels of oil was crucial to reduce U.S.
dependence on crude from unfriendly countries
like Iraq.

ANWR is roughly the size of South Carolina,
sprawling over 19 million acres (7.7 million
hectares), on Alaska's northeast coast.
Republicans offered to keep any drilling in ANWR
limited to just 2,000 acres (800 hectares) at any
one time.

With congressional elections seven months away,
Democrats said the ANWR vote showed
they would not allow Republicans to weaken
environmental protections.

"We are just not going to allow Republicans to
destroy the environment," Majority Leader
Tom Daschle told reporters. "We believe that this
is a dividing line between Republicans and
Democrats, and we're willing to take it anywhere
in the country. We feel that strongly about

Environmental groups praised the Senate
vote. "It's a great victory for wildlife over (oil
prospecting) wildcatters," said Mark Van Putten,
head of the National Wildlife Federation.

Democratic lawmakers said they were worried that
with ANWR off-limits, the Bush
administration will push to open more federal
lands to drilling, particularly in western

President George W. Bush, a former Texas oilman,
made drilling in ANWR the most
important component of his proposed U.S. energy
policy. The White House plan also
encourages more U.S. production of natural gas,
coal and nuclear power.

"At a time when oil and gas prices are rising the
Senate today missed an opportunity to lead
America to greater energy independence," White
House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

The administration may try to revive ANWR
drilling in a conference committee to resolve
differences between an eventual Senate energy
bill and one passed earlier by the U.S. House
of Representatives, Fleischer told reporters.

"The president will continue to fight for the
tens of thousands of jobs that are created by
opening ANWR," he said.

The Republican-led House last year approved an
energy bill that would allow drilling in the
refuge. If the Senate finishes a bill, lawmakers
from both chambers would work out
differences before a final plan could be sent to
the president.

Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska said he was not
giving up on ANWR drilling.

Stevens said he would offer a new amendment to
allow native Americans living in ANWR the
right to drill on the 92,000 acres they own. If
that fails, Republicans will try to include the
provision in other legislation.

"We'll be voting on energy until this Congress is
over," Stevens said.

During a two-day Senate debate on ANWR, Democrats
said the refuge does not hold enough
to oil to significantly reduce U.S. imports.
Also, ANWR is home to polar bears, caribou and
other wildlife that would be threatened by oil
drilling and its heavy equipment, roads and
buildings, they said.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and John
Kerry of Massachusetts led the Democrats'
move to kill the measure. Both are expected to be
Democratic presidential hopefuls in 2004.

The ANWR issue stirred heated debate.

"The so-called environmentalists are not
interested in science, they are not interested in
health of the planet," said Republican Frank
Murkowski of Alaska. "They know if we win
ANWR -- and we will some day -- their chief
fundraising issue goes away."

Other Republicans insisted that ANWR's oil
reserves were needed more than ever because of
the volatile Middle East.

"This is a great loss for American security and a
big victory for (Iraq's) Saddam Hussein and
other nations which sell to us their oil and
export back to us their terrorism," said
Conrad Burns of Montana.

Separately, the Senate voted 88-to-10 for an
amendment to ban U.S. imports of Iraqi oil until
Baghdad allows United Nations weapons inspectors
back in the country, stops smuggling oil,
and ends its policy of paying $25,000 each to the
families of Palestinian suicidal bombers
against Israel.

*  Iraq to propose OPEC candidate
World Oil, 23rd April

Iraqi Oil Minister, Amer Mohammed Rashid has
announced the nation's intention to nominate
a candidate the OPEC secretary general post, to
replace Ali Rodriguez when he leaves to take
up Presidency at PDVSA on June 26.

"Iraq will look into the situation in light of
the departure of the incumbent secretary general
Ali Rodriguez and will nominate a candidate for
the post," newspapers quoted him as telling
visiting Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources
Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro yesterday.

Iraq has suspended oil exports for a month from
April 8 in retaliation for Israel's insurgence
into the Palestinian West Bank.

*  Iraq Diary Part 10: Using the oil weapon
by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 23rd April

BAGHDAD - Three days after Saddam Hussein's
landmark April 8 speech which spelled out
Iraq's decision to halt exports of oil for one
month, Minister of Oil Amir Muhamad Rasheed
said this was in agreement with the official
motto "Iraq and Palestine is one cause and trench
to confront the joint foe represented by the US-
Zionist administration". The measure was
supposed to "hurt the US economy and put pressure
on the Zionist entity to withdraw from
occupied Arab territories".

According to Iraq's Oil Ministry, the proportion
of Iraqi crude imported by the US is between
10 percent and 15 percent, "through a number of
companies Iraq is dealing with". According
to Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, Iraq is the
sixth largest oil supplier to the US. The ministry
swears the oil market has been affected by Iraq's
decision, "because of the withdrawal of more
than 2 million oil barrels a day". Oil sources in
Jordan say that Iraq is currently producing
around 2.6 million barrels a day, of which 2
million are exported: these account for 4 percent
of internationally traded supplies.

According to the Iraqi oil minister, "The ugly
crimes perpetrated by the Zionist entity against
Palestinians will prevent OPEC [Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries] states from
increasing their production." He is right on this
one. He also hopes OPEC states "will adopt
more active measures, decreasing or halting oil
exports, to support the Palestinian cause and
halt savage massacres". On this one, he is wrong.

The massacres perpetrated by Israel's army -
already being compared around the Arab world
and in China to the Holocaust - may have ceased,
at least for a while. But no OPEC member
dared follow Iraq's steps to withdraw, even
temporarily, from the oil market.

In another widely broadcast speech last week,
titled "Arabs shouldn't submit to
American-Zionist blackmail" by Iraq Daily, Saddam
emphasized that "all means are legal to a
people whose land is occupied" and who are
suffering from aggression. He says "Iraq has
stopped its oil flow for one month after it heard
from Iran its suggestion to halt oil flow for
one month. It is worthy that those who suggest
something should apply it." Iran though, has
not followed Iraq's move.

Saddam also appreciates Iran's suggestion that
oil countries should provide "one month of oil
export revenue out of twelve for the
Palestinians". His main point is that
when "America and
the Zionist entity realize that Arabs are
supporting Palestinians in solidarity with the
countries, including the neighbors of Arabs, then
it is as if we have sent armies to support

Asia Times Online was repeatedly assured by Iraqi
authorities in Europe and then in Baghdad
that a visit to oil industry installations in
Basra or Kirkuk would be approved. The oil
was in principle in favor of a face-to-face
interview - "the next day". On one of these "next
days" we finally learned that everything was
cancelled: the visits, of course, and even the
pre-agreed interview. It's virtually impossible
for a regime like the Ba'ath Party's to understand
that this paranoia about all foreign media
certainly does not advance the Iraqi cause.

No OPEC member country joined - or will join - an
oil embargo. Libya and Iran gave only
rhetorical support. They would join the embargo
only if it were backed by all Arab oil
producers. Since the Gulf War, the largest OPEC
member, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait have
totally abandoned the use of oil as a political

Oil prices did indeed rise, but only marginally
(a dollar or two), to around US$25 a barrel due
to the Iraqi move. Saudi Arabia (10 percent of
world production), Kuwait (2.6 percent) and
the Emirates (2.7 percent) have an enormous
excess capacity of 6 million barrels a day. They
could easily step up their production to
compensate for the Iraqi loss. But they won't. The
Arab street would never forgive them, after
watching the destruction in Jenin, Ramallah and
Bethlehem on al-Jazeera or Abu Dhabi TV. After
the Iraqi decision, US oil giants which have
contracts to import Iraqi oil took no time to
request extra supplies from Saudi Aramco: they
were all turned down.

Middle East oil analysts like Henry Azzam, from
Jordinvest, suggest that to put pressure on
the US to press Israel to behave in a civilized
manner, "the best strategy to follow is to keep
the lid on oil production in order to push oil
prices higher". An oil embargo - although very
unlikely - would be suicidal for the Arab oil
producers and hurt "the noble cause they are

Fuel prices have already risen 20 percent since
the Israeli army started rampaging through the
West Bank. The Arab capitals know that if there
ever was an oil embargo, Israeli Prime
Minister Sharon would be able to say he is the
one and only friend of the West in the Middle
East. And to top it all, history shows that the
1973 oil embargo did not work: Israel did not
leave Arab territories occupied in the 1973 war.

Oil prices certainly won't go down after the
Iraqi decision or the failed, cartoonish coup
against Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, which the US,
embarrassingly, was quick to endorse.
Venezuela is the fourth largest OPEC producer,
and the world's fourth largest exporter (2
million barrels a day). It competes with Saudi
Arabia, Mexico and Canada as the leading oil
exporter to the US. American hawks certainly
haven't forgotten that Chavez was one of the
brains behind the OPEC supply cuts that helped
oil prices recover from their very low $10 a
barrel in 1998.

But the question remains: what is Iraq doing with
all these non-exported barrels of oil?

A thorough examination of the labyrinth of Iraqi
oil sales - documented or not, and subjected
or not to the UN "oil for food" program -
yields ... another labyrinth. But there's no
doubt Iraq
will be trying to sell and smuggle to its
neighbors at least part of the oil not available
on the
international market.

It is impossible to exactly ascertain how much
oil Iraq exported in the first months of 2002.
The figure of 2 million barrels a day from Jordan
oil sources is contradicted by a figure of 1.7
million barrels a day from industry sources in
Southeast Asia. Tragic irony or not, the US is
itself Iraq's main oil client: 74 percent of its
Iraqi imports come from Basra, and 36 percent
from Kirkuk - a total of no less than 700,000
barrels a day. By comparison, it is fair to assume
that at least 400,000 barrels a day are consumed
internally in Iraq.

In the past few years since the implementation of
the United Nations' "oil for food" program,
59 percent of Iraqi revenues from oil sales went
to an escrow account in the Banque Nationale
de Paris (BNP) in New York, controlled by the UN.
Only 13 percent of the money actually
went to Iraq. The Iraqis are trying harder and
harder to avoid using the UN-controlled (but in
fact US-controlled) BNP account. The Russians,
meanwhile, are closing in: a crucial Russian
delegation was recently in Baghdad.

>From Kirkuk, a pipeline carries oil to Turkey -
at least 700,000 barrels a day. This pipeline is
subject to Iraq's one-month embargo. But the bulk
of Iraqi oil is usually exported from Basra,
by ship, to the Persian Gulf and beyond: around
1.2 million barrels a day. So-called
"semi-legal" sales go to Jordan - as much as
200,000 barrels a day, transported by a serpent of
tanker trucks that use a special road parallel to
the Baghdad-Jordan border highway, and then a
hairy Jordanian side road. Fifty percent of this
oil is practically "donated" to Jordan at a huge
discount. The UN Security Council more or less
tolerates the practice, because it alleviates
Jordanian economic problems.

The Iraqis' biggest coup to date to escape the
backbreaking UN sanctions is an arrangement
with Syria. Hundreds of import contracts are on
hold in New York - blocked by the US and
Britain. In the past six years, Iraq had access
to only 16 percent of the revenues of its sales.
But when the Iraq-Syria pipeline was reopened,
the UN allowed it, "as a test". The "test" still
goes on, at a rhythm of 250,000 barrels a day.
It's a swap: Syria exports its own oil.

For each barrel sold at around $18 - the price
during the first two months of 2002 - Iraq
actually only gets $6. Syria, for instance, can
pay $10 a barrel in cash. So the UN infernal
machine obviously encourages smuggling. There is
indeed a lot of smuggling - and not only of
oil. Between 40,000 and 100,000 barrels a day
float to the Gulf toward Dubai on small cargo
ships. An unimpeachable source told Asia Times
Online that the reason we did not get our
visit to the oil fields and refineries in the
south is that Basra is a base for Iranian
boats. They sail at night from Iraq, carrying no
flag, and as soon as they are in international
waters they start displaying the Iranian flag.
The days of the Iran-Iraq war are long gone.
Today Iran suggests an oil embargo, Iraq applies
it, and a lively smuggling interchange keeps
on going between the two. Call it the axis of

*  Iraq oil deal not probed
by Jaco Leuvennink
News 24, 24th April

Imvume clinches a R1bn oil dealCape Town - The
Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs
will not carry out an investigation into the R1
billion contract granted to black empowerment
group Imvume Resources by the Strategic Fuel Fund
(SFF), a spokesperson for Minerals and
Energy Affairs Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
said on Wednesday.

Spokesperson Kanyo Gqulu said although the
delivery of the last 2 million barrels of the
order is affected by the current Iraqi ban on
exports in protest again events in the Middle
South Africa can easily purchase oil elsewhere.

Mlambo-Ngcuka was earlier asked by DA minerals
and energy spokesperson Ian Davidson to
order an investigation into the Imvume contract
to buy 4 million barrels of Iraqi oil, because
previously intermediaries with whom Imvume had
done business allegedly had to repay to the
United Nations (UN) the profits from the illegal
sales of Iraqi oil.

The conditions of the UN's food-for-oil programme
with Iraq were apparently violated.

The companies that were named are Glencore
International, which allegedly previously
belonged to the controversial American commodity
dealer Marc Rich, and Montega Trading,
whose directors include Imvume chairperson Sandi
Majale. Rich fled from the US in the
Eighties and was last year given a free pardon
from criminal charges in controversial
circumstances by President Bill Clinton.

Davidson also asked questions about why the
contract was given to Imvume, which has no
experience in commodity trading.

Gqulu said on Wednesday the transaction with Iraq
is fully in agreement with the UN's
prescriptions. "After all, we underwrite the UN's
decisions on oil trading with Iraq and we will
of course ensure that the prescriptions are
complied with."

He went on to say the Imvume contract is fully in
accordance with the rules, and people with
questions should simply go and look at the tender
documents, which are available at the SFF.
They show why Imvume and not other tenderers was
granted the contract.

Dr Renosi Mokate, chairperson of the Central
Energy Fund (CEF), which also controls the
SFF, said on Wednesday negotiations are still
under way on the delivery of the last 2 million
barrels of Iraqi Basrah Light oil in the Imvume

It is intended for storage at Saldanha, and that
is why the SFF wants to stay with the Basrah
oil, which is suitable for storage. It is
possible that the oil will only be delivered
after the Iraqi
oil ban ends.

She repeated there is nothing unusual about the
Imvume contract. The SFF cannot buy oil
directly from the Iraqi State oil company, Somo,
and must make use of intermediaries,
because it places relatively small orders.

Somo only sells directly to large commodity
dealers who place regular orders and with whom
a long-term relationship is built up. These
dealers therefore actually market and distribute
Iraq's oil. The international oil market operates
through intermediaries, she said.

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