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[casi] News, 27/4­11/5/02 (2)

News, 27/4­11/5/02 (2)


*  Blair says no attack on Iraq without UN assent
*  Tory Warns of Attacks on Iraq [First glimmerings of thought on this
matter within the Tory Party?]
*  Caged for 90 years: Real IRA trio plotted deal with Saddam [This real
IRA/British Intelligence fantasy seems to be the closest we¹re going to get
to any recent Iraqi terrorist activity in the US or UK.]


*  Inside a vile republic [Iraqi defector¹s tales.Supported by Charles
Duelfor so they must be true. But isn¹t it stretchng things a little to say:
ŒSaddam's tyranny trains and finances Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic
fundamentalist movement. According to the defector, it was Iraq which taught
Hamas how to make bombs.¹ Is there no-one in Saudi Arabia who knows how to
make bombs? Haven¹t the Palestinians themselves a fairly impressive track
record in the field?]
*  Happy birthday Mr President. But your party masks a nation living in fear
*  Farming sector under biological attack says Iraq
*  Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Al-Hakim [Obituary for Shi¹ite leader.]
*  Millions of Shiite flux into al-Najaf, Karbalaa
*  Inside Saddam's World [Very long account of life in Iraq. Rather short on
political analysis. Extracts.]
*  'Happy are those' who see sites in Iraq
*  The Road of Death remembered [The massacre on the road to Basra, which
still hasn¹t found an adequate chronicler.]


*  The siege of Baghdad
by Gay Alcorn
Sydney Morning Herald, 11th May
[A very long article summarising the present state of US policy but not I
think adding very much to our knowledge onthe subject. Concludes with the
remarkable statement from ex-Clinton adviser, Kenneth Pollack that Saddam
Œhas threatened or attacked every single one of Iraq's neighbours.¹ Really?
Syria?, Jordan?, Saudi Arabia?, Turkey?]


*  Blair says no attack on Iraq without UN assent
by Andrew Grice and David Usborne in New York
Independent, 10th May

Tony Blair has privately reassured his Labour Party critics that Britain
will not back US military action against Iraq unless it wins the backing of
the United Nations Security Council.

His assurances, at a private meeting with senior Labour figures, were
disclosed as Britain stepped up the pace to secure agreement through the
Security Council for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.

British ministers and officials are optimistic of a breakthrough at the UN
which would lift the immediate threat of American-led military intervention.
But Britain has warned Iraq that it must guarantee that weapons monitors
could "go anywhere, anytime" to prevent Saddam Hussein's regime from moving
weapons around to evade detection.

Despite Mr Blair's solid public support for President George Bush's threats
to take military action, there is evidence that London and Washington are
pursuing diverging strategies behind the scenes.

While Mr Bush has made no secret of his goal of toppling Saddam, calling
publicly for a "regime change", Britain is working hard to make the
diplomatic route pay dividends. One senior British source said yesterday:
"Our policy is to divest Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, not to divest
Iraq of Saddam Hussein."

British officials suggested that Mr Blair's tough warnings about military
action were aimed partly at forcing Iraq to the negotiating table at the UN.
"We have seen a different approach recently; we think Iraq is now taking the
threat seriously," said one.

Members of Labour's ruling national executive committee (NEC) said that Mr
Blair assured them at their last meeting that he would seek UN backing
before supporting military action.

The actor Tony Robinson, a member of the NEC, said in a report of the
meeting circulated to grassroots Labour activists: "I think most NEC members
were to some extent reassured by his response, particularly his categorical
statement that he won't do anything without UN backing or consultation with
our European allies. My own impression was that he was implying that a large
part of the bellicose rhetoric currently flying around is being deployed in
order to get Saddam to the negotiating table."

Blair aides admit privately that widespread concern in the party about the
Prime Minister's hawkish stance is not confined to "the usual left-wing
suspects". Yesterday 10 MPs tabled a Commons motion saying that "any
offensive military action against Iraq can only be morally justified if it
carries a new and specific mandate from the United Nations Security

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said at the weekend that the issue
of the inspectors was a "separate and distinct matter" from a military
attack. But other governments, including Britain, believe that Iraq
reopening the door to inspectors would rob Washington of any diplomatic
justification for an all-out attack.


*  Tory Warns of Attacks on Iraq
by Leigh Arnold
The Scotsman, 11th May

Former Tory Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, today urged the United
States not to launch an attack on Iraq without the support of European and
Arab governments.

Mr Rifkind told a conference of legal professionals in St Andrews, Fife,
that Washington should resist an invasion until it had built up an ³axis of

He said military action which only had the backing of the UK and Kuwaiti
governments could unite the Arab world and lead to Iraqi attacks on Israel.

Mr Rifkind, the president of the Scottish Tories, was speaking at the joint
annual conference of the Law Society of Scotland and the Law Society of
Northern Ireland at the St Andrews Bay Golf Resort and Spa.

He said: ³Iraq is, as it has been for the last 12 years, a menace to its
neighbours and to the western world. It is led by an evil and wicked man.

³It is a threat, but as yet, we have not seen evidence that that threat is
any different than it has been in the past.

³Nor, so far as we can tell, is that threat any more to the United States
than it is to the moderate states of the Middle East or to western Europe.²

He went on: ³If the United States can persuade its European and Arab allies
that the ousting of Saddam Hussein is essential either to defeat terrorism
or to ensure regional security then a new Gulf War would be justified.²

And he added: ³But if there is no axis of freedom; if the US is alone, or if
it has only Britain and Kuwait as willing collaborators, its basic interests
should inhibit it from full invasion.

³In these circumstances an American invasion of Iraq would create a new
alliance of Saddam Hussein and most other Arab governments.

³It would expose moderate Arab governments in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt
to intolerable pressure from their own public opinion.

³It would be likely to lead to Iraqi attacks on Israel perhaps using
chemical weapons, which would further exacerbate the Middle Eastern crisis.²

Mr Rifkind insisted the ³alternative to invasion is not inaction² and
recommended maintaining sanctions and enforcing the no-fly zone in the north
and south of Iraq.

*  Caged for 90 years: Real IRA trio plotted deal with Saddam
by Ian Miller
Daily Record, 8th May

THREE Real IRA terrorists who plotted a chilling alliance with Saddam
Hussein were jailed for a total of 90 years yesterday.

Michael McDonald, Declan Rafferty and Fintan O'Farrell got 30 years each.
They wanted the Iraqi tyrant to supply hundreds of guns and grenade
launchers, a million dollars in cash and enough plastic explosive for more
than 3000 car bombs.

Ringleader McDonald wrote the "shopping list" on a restaurant napkin, and
promised to make the Iraqis smile by causing carnage on the UK mainland.

The gang even offered to go to Iraq to plan the murders of British leaders,
including Tony Blair. McDonald was told he would be flown to Baghdad.

But the terrorists did not know an FBI agent had infiltrated the Real IRA
and exposed the plan to build links with a "rogue state" like Iraq.

The spy's courage allowed British agents posing as Iraqis to lure the trio
to a series of meetings across Europe.

The MI5 officers collected hours of taped evidence. McDonald, 44, admitted
being on the Real IRA's eight-man "board of directors".

The plotters were arrested and broke with years of terrorist tradition by
pleading guilty in an English court.

Each man will serve at least 15 years.


INSIDE IRAQ,6903,706471,00.html

*  Inside a vile republic
by Henry McDonald
The Observer, 28th April

Children aged between five and 10 are tortured and beaten. Their screams and
cries are recorded on video. The horrific images are then shown to other

But this is no sick, paedophile, child-abusing fantasy captured on camera.
According to one man who was forced to watch these vile scenes, the terror
inflicted on these tiny victims was motivated principally for cold-hearted
political reasons. Because whatever revolting pleasure was obtained by the
torturers and the filmcrew alike, the main purpose of this recorded sadism
was to brutalise, terrorise and wear down potential enemies and traitors.

This repulsive testimony of child torture as psychological warfare comes via
a defector from the sinister Iraqi Mukhabarat or intelligence service and
demonstrates the depravity of a regime objectively defended by Irish and
other Western peaceniks.

The defector's claims appear in the current edition of Vanity Fair, compiled
by David Rose. Never before has an article provoked such a feeling of
disgust. For Rose's account of the extent to which Saddam Hussein's
dictatorship will go to terrify its own servants and agents makes the flesh
crawl. More disturbing still is the defector's allegations about the lengths
the Ba'athist élite have gone in order to acquire weapons of mass

For example, the former Iraqi agent claims he travelled to Africa to buy
highly toxic 'radioactive material with which to build a dirty radiological
bomb' that kills thousands slowly through radioactive pollution and cancers.

He also outlines how Saddam's tyranny trains and finances Hamas, the
Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist movement. According to the defector, it
was Iraq which taught Hamas how to make bombs. Moreover, he says that Iraq
has developed a new missile system to hit Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and
Iran as well, of course, as Israel.

Rose's courageous and thoroughly researched report will make uncomfortable
reading for those on the Western Left most vociferously opposed to any
United States-led attack on Iraq. Because if the defector is telling the
truth (his evidence is supported by Charles Duelfer, the former deputy head
of UNSCOM, the mission aimed at overseeing the destruction of Saddam's
weapons of mass destruction), then there are serious challenges for the West
and hard questions for Western peace groups.

For Western governments, especially those EU nations, including Ireland,
which still adopt an ostrich-like approach to Iraq's nuclear ambitions, the
dilemma will not disappear - how to stop Saddam getting the bomb.

Every pacific avenue has been tried since the second Gulf War, from
diplomacy to sanctions, and yet the Baghdad dictatorship, according to
former agents such as the one who spoke to Rose, continues to search for the
technology and raw material needed to build nuclear, biological and chemical

The defector outlines how the regime evades sanctions through a series of
front companies in the Middle East and Europe to import material into Iraq
that forms the basis of 'dirty bio-bombs' that can kill tens of thousands.
His evidence suggests that even targeted smart sanctions may not prevent the
acquisition of these weapons. The United States and the EU are then left
with only one other option - military intervention.

Some policy-makers express concern that an outright military assault on
Saddam and the Ba'ath will set the entire Middle East ablaze. They argue
that in an atmosphere of seething Arab anger over the Israeli incursions
into Palestinian territory, invading Iraq would push the region over the
edge into widespread, possibly global, conflict.

This thesis, however, entirely misses the point of Saddam's project to build
a nuclear, chemical and/or bio-bomb. Iraq's acquisition of weapons of mass
destruction is designed precisely to escalate the Arab-Israeli conflict into
a nuclear confrontation. Young Arabs such as the polite Palestinian student
I met last Thursday evening in Queen's University Belfast look forward to
the day of the Arab bomb. And their goal, according to him, regardless of
the rhetoric about two-state solutions from the PLO's apologists in the
West, is the complete destruction of the state of Israel, if necessary
through the use of, or threatened use of, chemical, biological and nuclear

The trouble with Western peace groups and their leftist support base is that
they have held a starry-eyed or, in the case of the Irish Left, a
Starry-Plough-eyed view of the Third World, especially those states that
style themselves 'anti-imperialist'. What they surely cannot ignore any
longer is the existence of a regime that endangers the stability not only of
the Middle East but perhaps the planet itself and which will torture and
murder even its own children in order to shore up Saddam's Republic of Fear.,3604,706940,00.html

*  Happy birthday Mr President. But your party masks a nation living in fear
by Ewen MacAskill in Tikrit
The Guardian, 29th April

A monumental golden horse leaping from a gilded tank stood at the centre of
a lavishly executed public display of adoration laid on to mark Saddam
Hussein's birthday in his home town of Tikrit last night. He was 65, though
there is no retirement age for Iraqi dictators.

Provincial officials had struggled to come up with something suitably
splendid to mark the celebrations. Not an easy challenge, bearing in mind
that the Iraqi leader's personality cult is as strong as ever and he is
honoured with a seemingly infinite number of statues and portraits, most of
them, it seems, located in Tikrit.

Which is why they settled on the monument of President Saddam (containing 76
kilograms of silver) astride a golden steed - itself on top of a tank headed
toward the al-Aqsa mosque, the Muslim holy shrine in Jerusalem - as the
necessary ostentatious mark of respect.

More than 100,000 Iraqis paraded through the streets of his birthplace while
army officers and foreign dignitaries crowded into a stadium to hear
speeches, listen to martial music and watch traditional dancing. Officials
said that about one million people had joined the parades nationwide - many
of them shouting anti-American slogans and some burning dollar bills.
Attendance at the rallies was practically mandatory.

Hundreds of children danced in the Tikrit stadium yesterday, dressed in
traditional Iraqi costumes, mainly flowing silks, but a score were dressed
in black masks with the green headscarves of Hamas, the Palestinian suicide
bombers. It was not a scene designed to dissuade the US from attack.

In public, residents expressed love for their president and made a great
show of bravado, claiming to be unafraid of war with the US and Britain. In
private, the mood was very different - a combination of worry and weary

As the celebrations reached their culmination last night, flashes and
explosions filled the sky over Baghdad. The fear of the Iraqis is that in
six months or a year's time the same night sky could be filled with flashes
and explosions triggered by American and British warplanes.

President George Bush and Tony Blair have discussed the prospect of a war to
depose the Iraqi dictator, and the Iraqi army is preparing its defences.

Many Iraqis watching the celebrations expressed the hope that war would not
come, but they tended to be morbidly resigned to the fact that it would. A
doctor, reflecting the powerlessness of the population, said: "We cannot
change Bush and we cannot change Saddam."

Baghdad's population faced allied bombing during the 1991 Gulf conflict, and
again by the US and Britain in operation Desert Fox in 1998. In the south of
the country, and to a lesser extent in the north, bombing has continued
throughout the decade, sometimes daily.

Against that background, and after more than 10 years of sanctions, there is
little love for Washington in views expressed either in private or public.
On arrival at Baghdad airport, every third step down the gangway has been
spray-painted in red with "down with the US".

Outside what used to be the American embassy in Baghdad, about 150
journalists, all working for government-controlled organisations,
demonstrated on Saturday evening. Holding candles to mark President Saddam's
birthday and banners denouncing Washington, they chanted: "Bush, Bush, we
are not afraid of America." That confidence is not shared in private on the
streets. The worry is that the bombing may be fiercer this time and that the
Iraqi dictator will not give up Baghdad easily, and it will be the civilians
who will suffer most.

Official guests at the birthday celebrations came from from a diverse range
of countries and organisations, among them Othman Dawlat Mirzo, from
Jordan's Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. A regular visitor to
Iraq, he shared the assessment of the public mood. "They are worried. The
war will not be easy for children, for women, for the old," he said. Such an
attack would carry great risk. "The Americans, when they decide to do
something, they just do it. They do not think of the consequences."

In preparation for a war, President Saddam has ordered the army to begin
work on the defence of Baghdad, with stockpiles of fuel and food already
being gathered. Even more important, he has told his foreign ministry to
work harder to improve relations with the Arab world and elsewhere and to
try to delay an attack.

The prospect of war comes as the country is beginning to recover from the
economic disaster caused in the main by sanctions. In the past two years,
the standard of living in Baghdad has greatly improved. The main street,
Arasat, sells every available luxury, though in the suburbs life can still
be harsh. People are generally better dressed. Brand new and expensive cars
are fast replacing the beat-up vehicles that Iraqis so skilfully maintained
throughout the sanctions.

What is galling for the Iraqis is that just as they see a semblance of
normality returning, they face the prospect of a return to economic ruin.

Which explains why, despite the outpourings of birthday congratulations that
have been running non-stop on Iraqi television for days, President Saddam is
increasingly unpopular. It would be a brave person to criticise him in
public, but there are hints of the public's real feelings in raised eyebrows
and muttered remarks, a sarcastic comment about his new play, a love story,
which opened in a Baghdad theatre last night, or criticism of the behaviour
of his son Uday. Or a moan about the haves and have-nots.

There is admiration for his standing up to the US, but his 22-year-old rule
has led the country into two costly wars and,for a time, international
isolation. Under him, one of the most advanced Arab states, with the best
welfare system in the Middle East, has gone backwards.

But Nada, one of the Iraqi women journalists taking part in the
demonstration against George Bush, dismissed this, and lavish comfort of the
president and his immediate clique. "All the Iraqi presidents had palaces,"
she said. "Even if Saddam has 900 palaces, that is not a reason to bomb us."

*  Farming sector under biological attack says Iraq
Gulf News, 30th April

Abu Dhabi: Iraq accused foreign countries yesterday of trying to destroy its
agricultural sector by smuggling insects that cause deadly diseases to its
plants and animals as part of a biological attack against the sanction-hit

Iraqi Minister of Agriculture, Abdullah Mohammed Saleh, said a large number
of farm animals in Iraq had recently suffered from unknown diseases, while
some trees were wrecked by insects that have not been seen before in the
Gulf region.

"I can affirm to you that there are clear indications now that they have
started a sort of a biological war against Iraq," he said in a lecture in
Abu Dhabi.

"We have recently discovered diseases in our animals caused by an insect
called Screw Worm Fly. Another insect hit our citrus trees and after a
series of seminars and research work, we found that all these insects are
alien to our country and the region.

"It is a serious problem because we can handle such diseases if the insect
is known to us... but we need a long time to identity such an insect and its
effects and how to face it."

Saleh said such insects had been smuggled into Iraq through imported
material, but stopped short of directly accusing the United States. "I am
not saying the Americans did this to us but there are foreign parties
involved in a biological war against Iraq."

In the lecture at the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up, Saleh
spoke about the political situation and US threats to invade Iraq and oust
president Saddam Hussein.

He said Iraq had no problem with the United Nations and is currently engaged
in "clear and constructive" negotiations with UN Secretary General Kofi

"If it is up to the United Nations, I assure you that we have no problem
with them because we do not have any weapons of mass destruction...Israel
has such weapons," he said.,3604,708443,00.html

*  Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Al-Hakim
by Zaheer Kazmi
The Guardian, 2nd May

Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Taqi Al-Hakim, who has died in the Iraqi holy city
of Najaf, aged 77, was one of a long line of eminent Shi'a Muslim religious
leaders from the Al-Hakim family; the late Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhsin
Al-Hakim was his cousin, and the title sayyed indicates descent from the

Ayatollah Al-Hakim's life spanned a period of major social change and
political turmoil in Iraq, and echoed the struggle of Iraq's Shi'a religious
establishment in the face of long-standing and endemic persecution. He was
also an intimate player in the modernist transition of the traditional
religious schools.

Born in Najaf, one of Shi'a Islam's oldest centres of religious learning, in
keeping with tradition Al-Hakim began his religious studies as a young boy,
and went on to be taught by prominent scholars. He came to appreciate the
need to update the traditional way of learning and, together with
like-minded colleagues, especially Shaykh Muhammad Ridha Al-Muthafar, set up
the first religious school (Montada al-Nashr) which was not based on the
traditional system.

He also helped found the first formal college of jurisprudence (Kuliyyat al
fiqh) where, in addition to the usual emphasis on theology and Arabic,
subjects such as history, modern philosophy, psychology, sociology and
English were introduced. He taught at the college from its inception in
1958, was elected its dean in 1965, and in 1970 resigned his post to
complete his work on comparative jurisprudence.

In the years before the second Ba'th coup in 1968, Al-Hakim ventured out of
Najaf to teach comparative jurisprudence at the Institute of Advanced
Islamic Studies at Baghdad University, where, in 1964, he was recognised as
a professor. There he supervised a number of PhD students and was a
postgraduate examiner in the departments of theology and Arabic.

His openness to the wider Arab world was evident in his many affiliations to
Arab institutes of learning. He was elected a member of the Iraqi Scientific
Institute (Majma al-ilmi al-Iraqi), where he formed close friendships with
fellow members Kurkis Awad, a well-known Christian Iraqi historian, and
Father Yusuf Hubbi, a Christian theologian. He also became a member of the
institutes for the Arabic language in Cairo (1967), Damascus (1973) and
Jordan (1980). His deep interest in poetry and literature reflected Najaf's
vibrant literary scene.

In addition to jurisprudence, his works included papers on inter-religious
dialogue, Methods Of Research In History (1978), The History Of Islamic Law
(1998), and Shi'ism In The Seminaries Of Cairo (1998). The modernist thread
in his work was also evident in his innovative thinking: as early as 1952,
he was one of the first Muslim scholars to publish a work on human rights
and Islam. At this time, the discourse and practice of human rights had only
just begun to become institutionalised in the post-war west.

Al-Hakim was also famed for his efforts in outreach to the wider Muslim
community and intra-faith dialogue, particularly between the Sunni and
Shi'a. To this end, he had forged strong links with major Sunni centres of
learning, such as that of the Al-Azhar in Cairo, and met prominent Sunni
thinkers, including Mawlana Sayyed Abul A'la Mawdudi of Pakistan.

But, as with so many of his fellow Shi'a religious leaders in Iraq, he and
his family ultimately fell victim to the Ba'th government's moves to silence
any opposition and to attack the symbols of Shi'a religious authority. In
1983 he was imprisoned, along with 71 male members of his extended family,
in what was to be the beginning of a fatal sojourn for some of them.

On his release 10 days later, Al-Hakim was put under house arrest for four
years, a period in which he developed Parkinson's disease. Of his family
that remained in prison, six were executed in that year in front of Muhammad
Hussain, Al-Hakim's brother, who was then dispatched by the Iraqi government
to relay this news as a warning to Sayyed Muhammad Baqer Al-Hakim, the head
of the opposition group, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
based in Tehran. Ten more were executed in 1985, including three of Muhammad
Hussain's sons.

With the increasingly hostile policies of the Ba'th, Al-Hakim feared that
the institutions he had helped build, and with them his life's work, were
being destroyed. The college of which he had been dean was closed down by
the government after the civil uprisings in 1991 following the Gulf war.

In an earlier wave of persecution, in the 1970s, the government had
nationalised all private Shi'a schools in Iraq, including Montada al-Nashr.

Ayatollah Al-Hakim is survived by his wife, Badreeya, three sons and four

. Muhammad Taqi Al-Hakim, religious leader, born July 1924; died April 29

*  Millions of Shiite flux into al-Najaf, Karbalaa
Arabic News, 4th May

Millions of Shiite believers will head during this time of the year into the
holy shrines in al- Najaf and Karbalaa in Iraq to commemorate the death of
al-Hussein, the third Shiite Imam.

The pilgrims come from all parts of Iraq, and also from Lebanon, Saudi
Arabia and Iran to visit the tomb of Imam al-Hussein in Karbalaa, 100 km to
the south of Baghdad and also the tomb of his father Imam Ali in al-Najaf,
80 km to the south. In Karbalaa crowds of pilgrims were gathered on Friday
in the shrine which is topped by a dome and two golden minarets and also
includes the tomb of Imam al-Hussein who was killed in 684 AD, together with
members of his family at the hand of the Umayyads.

The pilgrims, men and women, hurried to just touch the silver and golden
fence of the tomb and to kiss it and many of them burst into tears while
doing so. Most of the pilgrims put coins or jwellery through the openings of
the fence whose ceiling and part of its walls are covered with small
mirrors. Just few meters from the Shrine, there is the hotel of al-Hussein
land which is crowded by visitors.

However, estimates said that between 7 to 8 million Shiite perform al- Haj
rituals to Karbalaa every year to commemorate the anniversary of Imam
al-Hussein assassination and his brother Imam al-Abbas who was also killed
in the same battle.

Before visiting Karbalaa the pilgrims visit the tomb of Imam Ali who was
killed in 661 AD.,8599,235385,00.html

*  Inside Saddam's World
by Johanna McGeary
Time, 4th May


In all things about Saddam, contradictions abound. He is known to surround
himself with paranoiac security. Yet when Saddam invited Mohammed Sobhi, an
Egyptian actor performing in Baghdad last year, to one of his palaces,
security seemed almost nonchalant. Sobhi and his troupe were ushered inside
with nary a frisk. Saddam chatted easily, about Iraqi poetry, about the
Palestinian problem. He allowed each guest to pose for a picture with him.
The notorious dictator struck his Egyptian visitors as steady, smiling,
relaxed, cheerful, sensitive, amiable, hospitable. He sounded confident that
he had weathered a storm. "Saddam said every Iraqi feels inside him that he
is a winner, with his pride intact," recalls Sobhi. "Saddam said, 'We did
not lose anything. We refuse to be humiliated in front of the Americans.'"

In the weeks before the Gulf War, the CIA presented George Bush Sr. with a
psychological profile of Saddam that hasn't altered in its essentials since.
Analysts concluded that Saddam was a stable personality and a rational,
calculating decision maker. They had no evidence he suffered from mental
illness. He was not exactly reckless but was comfortable wielding absolute
power, using naked force and taking risks. He was wary and opportunistic and
relied only on himself to make decisions. And his sense of mission could
taint his judgment.

For Saddam, the Gulf War was not a defeat but a victory: though he was
evicted from Kuwait, he remained in power. In the decade since, he has
endured strict economic sanctions and has evaded U.N. inspections designed
to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction. Today Iraq has emerged
significantly from its isolation.

Saddam's "Republic of Fear"‹as Iraqi exile Kanan Makiya dubbed Iraq in the
title of his 1989 book‹looks remarkably tame these days. You can fly into
Baghdad's Saddam International Airport on one of the embargo-busting planes
from Jordan or Syria or Lebanon that make regular runs‹even if you are
greeted by blood-red down with america slogans daubed along the gangway in
English. All the capital's buildings, bridges and roads damaged in the 1991
war and in follow-up American attacks in 1998 have been rebuilt. Fancy shops
selling the goods of globalization line the posh streets of the al-Mansur
neighborhood, and even the poor man's market in the Washash neighborhood
peddles plentiful fruit and cheap Chinese TVs.

As goods of all kinds flood in, incomes are rising to pay for them. In 1998
Yusef, a Baghdad resident, drove a broken-down taxi and lived in a house
that was bare after he sold the furniture to support his five children.
Today Yusef is a partner in a fleet of GMC vans that carry people and
merchandise to Amman, Damascus and Beirut. "Life is so much better," he
says. "We have some money, we have a good house, my children are healthy."

The supply of medicine from abroad, bought with money the U.N. allows Iraq
to earn from limited exports of oil, has improved substantially over the
past year. Electricity now runs 24 hours a day, at least in Baghdad. There
is plenty of money too for Saddam's fantastic construction projects: giant
mosques, more palaces and enough statues of him, goes the joke, to have one
for each of Iraq's 24 million people. These grandiose projects are widely
resented as a waste of money better spent on desperately needed housing. But
the new mosques, at least, address a surging religious faith among
dispirited Iraqis seeking escape from the bitter realities of daily life.

For years, Saddam ruthlessly milked the suffering of the Iraqi people to
erode the global determination on maintaining the U.N. sanctions. Now he has
shifted gears to meet a different objective: to keep those same
long-suffering Iraqis from rebelling against him. So the taps have opened:
more of the money from his legal oil sales and illicit oil smuggling, once
reserved for the purpose of bribing regime loyalists, is now being spread
around to the populace.


The tales of Saddam's brutish violence are legion. Abu Harith (not his real
name) spent his life in Saddam's inner circle. He still looks the part: he
has the characteristic paunch, the moustache, the Rolex, the confident walk
of a senior officer. He spent a year in the foreign directorate of the
Defense Ministry, then transferred into Jihaz al-Amin al-Khas, or Special
Security Organization (SSO), the elite intelligence outfit responsible for
Saddam's personal security, the construction and hiding of weapons of mass
destruction and other sensitive tasks. In the 1990s, Abu Harith ran a front
company in Jordan purchasing computers, chemical-analysis equipment and
special paper for forging passports; then he moved on to Dubai to oversee a
lucrative oil-smuggling enterprise.

Abu Harith can't feel his fingertips or his right leg anymore. His joints
ache, and his fingers are puffy. These, he says, are the aftereffects of
being poisoned by the guards of Saddam's son Uday in 1998. One day that
October, he was out walking with a young female cousin when Uday, cruising
in his car, spotted her and ordered his guards to snatch her for his
evening's entertainment, as is his notorious practice. Abu Harith fended
them off. That night Uday's thugs grabbed him at his house and sped him to
Uday's farm, where he says he was tied to a palm tree for two days and
repeatedly beaten. Uday branded him with a hot iron on his back and
shoulder. Then one of the guards injected Abu Harith's arm with something
that hurt; he still has a lump there. He was driven back to Baghdad and
dumped near his home. When he fled to the Kurdish-controlled north, his
suspicions were confirmed: he had been given thallium, a heavy metal used in
rat poison that kills slowly through internal bleeding. Kurdish officials
got him to Turkey, where he received medical attention.

Colonel Hamadi (not his real name) was commander of a tank unit in Iraq's
Third Army before he was arrested for links‹which he denies‹to an opposition
party. He was held for 10 months. Saddam's military intelligence, he says,
tortured him several times a week. "Sometimes they hung me from a ceiling
fan to make me confess to something that was not true," says the colonel.
When he was released last spring, he fled to northern Iraq, where the
country's Kurdish minority functions almost autonomously from Baghdad under
the protection of the U.S.-British no-fly patrols. But Hamadi left his
family behind. His father was recently arrested. "If you are against them,"
says the colonel, "every one of your relatives is in danger."


But ex-Colonel Hamadi says the army he left behind last year was in sorry
shape, demoralized, underpaid and ill equipped. Of the 33 tanks in his
sector, he says, 15 were out of commission. In a land of oil wells, there
was even a shortage of tank lubricant. Washington officials say sanctions
have worked well to undermine Saddam's 424,000-man army. Only the 100,000 or
so Republican Guards are still considered serious fighters. So a cataclysmic
collapse of the army under pressure from U.S. attack is possible. But
experts inside and outside Iraq count 15,000 to 25,000 Saddam loyalists in
Qusay's SSO and the Special Republican Guard, the elite of the elite, who
would put up a tougher fight.


*  'Happy are those' who see sites in Iraq
Dawn, 7th May, 23 Safar 1423

SAMARRA (Iraq): The name means "happy is he who sees it" but few people do
these days. Samarra, on the banks of the Tigris river some 100 km north of
Baghdad, was once the relaxed centre of a world empire stretching from
Morocco to China.

Wary of the growing power of the Turkish slave soldiers he had imported into
the capital of the Abbasid Islamic empire, Caliph Mutasim moved his court in
its entirety in AD 833 to a new city in the calmer climes of Iraq's central

The garden city, with its huge mosque, minaret, and 25-km -long central
street, was a return to the spacious and simple style of the Arabs who had
conquered the region 200 years before, and a contrast to Persian-influenced
Baghdad. But international isolation under United Nations sanctions imposed
during the 1990-1 Gulf crisis, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, has kept the
tourists away.

With only a few European tour groups passing through the country, religious
tourism from neighbouring Iran has formed the main interest in recent years.
Iraq opened its borders to pilgrims visiting Shia shrines in 2000.

The modern town of Samarra houses a shrine to three of the 12 Imams revered
by Shias. One of the three is the 12th Imam, who, according to Shia
theology, disappeared here to return one day as a Messiah figure.

Isolation has also had its consequences for the upkeep of Iraq's wealth of
antiquities which suffered during the 1991 fighting, said Donny Youkhanna,
an Iraqi archaeologist.

"After the war we counted 400 machinegun shots on the walls of the remains
of the city of Ur. At the ancient remains of Hatra in the north an arch
collapsed from the effects of nearby bombings," he said. There is no money
to restore them.

The last year has seen improvements, with the return of French, Italian,
Austrian and German missions to up to 25 sites that have been excavated in
the last 10 years.

In April, a delegation of six Iraqi experts was able to take part in a
conference on north Iraq's Assyrian culture organised by the British Museum,
Youkhanna said.

Shut off from the world and other scholars of Mesopotamian history,
Youkhanna and his colleagues have furthered their ideas about Iraq's early
history. He believes that Iraq's first inhabitants around 10,000 BC were the
same Sumerian people who formed Iraq's first great empire in the south
around 3,000 BC, at the time the Pharaohs united Egypt.

The Sumerians, who invented writing, remain a mystery to scholars since they
were ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Semitic peoples,
including the Arabs and the Babylonians, who subsequently populated Iraq.

"We believe strongly that the Sumerians are the (first) real people of the
country," Youkhanna said.

Iraq's long history has given its people long memories. Samarrans - today,
Sunni Muslims - sit drinking tea in the late afternoon, detached from the
fervor of the pilgrims, and talk of the city's demise as if it happened

"When the caliphs went back to Baghdad, the place went to ruins. It went
from 'happy is he who sees it' to 'unfortunate is he who sees it'," said
Khaldoun, a guard at some sites.-Reuters,3604,711564,00.html

*  The Road of Death remembered
by Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian, 8th May

Abdul Maaunaim Abdul Wahab, a former Iraqi commando sergeant, still has
nightmares about the Road of Death, the route from Kuwait to the Iraqi port
of Basra along which Saddam Hussein's army retreated during the Gulf war 11
years ago, and the scene of its worst carnage

"We left at one, in the middle of the night," he said. "My division had
1,650 men. When we arrived in Basra at 10 in the morning, half the division
had gone, killed. So many killed in such a small area, in such a short

As the people of Baghdad face up to the prospect of another war with the US,
Iraqi veterans told the Guardian what it is like to be on the receiving end
of allied firepower. They hope another generation of Iraqis does not suffer
such a fate.

Sympathy for the Iraqi army is not easy to arouse. Its record under Saddam
Hussein is horrific: chemical and gas attacks on Iraqi citizens, the brutal
suppression of the Kurdish and Shi'ite Muslim minorities, the atrocities in
Kuwait. But Iraqi soldiers have suffered, too, and sustained heavy

Mr Wahab, 56, hands over a photograph, the colours faded and distorted, of
himself with six comrades, smiling as they eat their rations in the desert:
three were killed in action. His brother Abdul Hafaz was killed by allied
aircraft on the Road of Death. He was 37. On a wall is a framed photograph
of Mr Wahab's eldest son, Mohammed, killed aged just 15 in the Iran-Iraq war
of 1980-1988.

Iraqi conscripts come mainly from the urban slums and the impoverished
countryside. Mr Wahab lives in Aljumhriya, a central Baghdad slum between
Rashid Street and the river Tigris: a confusion of alleys, lined with a
mixture of crumbling Arabic houses and desperate hovels.

Like the rest of Iraq, he has lived with war for more than 20 years, from
the mass slaughter of the Iran war to the Gulf war and the subsequent allied
bombing raids. But it is January 17 1991, the day that Operation Desert
Storm began, that Mr Wahab and other veterans recall.

"We were not prepared for an attack, because we were retreating. It was

The convoy was hit first by allied artillery, then by air raids, he said.
"It seemed like a bomb was falling every eight seconds." Drawing his hand
across his throat, he added: "The soldier closest to me had his head taken
off in the first bombardment ... Another lost his leg."

Riad Mohamed Adal, 32, a welder, also living in Aljumhriya, was an infantry
private, dug in at Hafar-al-Batten in Kuwait, near the Saudi border. "A US
plane dropped papers saying, 'If you want to live, you must surrender.' The
next day, when the sun came up, we saw US tanks close to my unit. We hid in
foxholes and were bombed for three to four days.

"We could not fire back. If the Americans saw anyone opening fire, they
would kill him, firing at him from the land or air within minutes. It was
simple: open fire, you die.

"Our sergeant told us at night: 'I can't help you. You are free to do what
you want. Save yourselves.' I headed off. I did not believe I would survive.
I thought the Americans would get me or the wolves. There were bombs
dropping all the time. Bodies everywhere. I did not count them."

It took him 12 hours to reach Basra, walking across the desert. He left the
army three years later and now lives in Baghdad with his wife and young son.
He is angry at the prospect of a US attack.

"It is unjust. There will be no good from this war."

There is a fierce sense of pride that Iraq has stood up to the US. The pride
is genuine, and separate from whatever opinions they hold about Saddam

It finds expression in another veteran, Ziad Makmuht Wahad, 37, owner of the
Abu Hamed Cafe, on an Aljumhriya backstreet. He does not see the war as the
west see it, a humiliation for Iraq. "There was no equality in the forces,"
he said. "It was Iraq against 31 countries. There was no balance in

Mr Wahad was a sergeant, stationed at the Kuwaiti oil port of Ahmadi. "I saw
some British troops in front of us and I began to fire at them," he said.
The British returned the next day with tanks. "I knew my gun was no use. I
surrendered." He was held prisoner for two months then sent back to Iraq.

Married with three daughters, he said life has been hard ever since. Already
low standards of living have been pushed further down by 11 years of
sanctions. While streets in wealthy Baghdad districts were full of smuggled
luxury goods, districts such as Aljumhriya continued to suffer. Rationing
remained in force.

He was worried about a further US attack. "Maybe they will attack Mosul or
Basra. I have relatives there. Maybe Baghdad. I am not afraid," he said.

Near by, Gassan Abdul Hamid, 46, a market trader, is still waiting for news
of his brother Hassam, a tank gunner who went missing in 1991, aged 24. "I
hope he is still alive," he said. But Hassam is almost certainly one of the
many unidentified bodies buried in the Kuwaiti sand.

There will be more sacrifices from the slums of Baghdad if the US invades to
depose Saddam Hussein. They may feel such a sacrifice worthwhile if Saddam
Hussein can be easily toppled. There might be less enthusiasm if the price
was another Road of Death. Or even worse.

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