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News, 27/411/5/02 (2) IRAQI-UK RELATIONS * 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 IRAQ * 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 [Guardian] * 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.] IRAQI-US RELATIONS URL ONLY: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/10/1021002391082.html * 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?] IRAQI-UK RELATIONS http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=293537 * 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 Council". 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. [.....] http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4675238 * 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 freedom². 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. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/page.cfm?objectid=11851437&method=full&sit eid=89488 * 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 http://observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,706471,00.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 men. 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 destruction. 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 weapons. 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 weapons. 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. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,706940,00.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 resignation. 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." http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=49499 * 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 country. 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 Annan. "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. http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,3604,708443,00.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 prophet. 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 daughters. . Muhammad Taqi Al-Hakim, religious leader, born July 1924; died April 29 2002. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020504/2002050417.html * 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. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,235385,00.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. [.....] http://www.dawn.com/2002/05/07/int12.htm * '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 plains. 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 yesterday. "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 http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,711564,00.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 time." 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 casualties. 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 chaos." 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 Hussein. 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 weaponry." 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. _______________________________________________ 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