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News, 12-18/5/02 (1) IRAQI/UN RELATIONS * Iraq Sanctions Overhaul Postponed [Syria tries, unsuccessfully, to establish the point that Iraq has a right, guaranteed by the UN Charter, to defend itself.] * Iraq has been offered a chance to rejoin the international community [Idiot level editorial from The Independent which has fallen hook, line and sinker for the idea that a measure which continues to prevent Iraqi oil money from being spent on Iraqi produced goods, thereby stimulating the Iraqi economy, is good for Iraqi civilians. Of course they¹re all just Arabs so The Independent probably thinks that living off foreign goods doled out in handouts by the government is good enough for them. The Independent also believes that, because a terrible evil has been slightly moderated, the Iraqis are under a moral obligation to reciprocate by opening the entire country up to minute inspection by enemy spies.] * U.N. panel votes to revise Iraq sanctions [It appears from this account that the US has failed to secure the tougher enforcement of sanctions by neighbours (Syria, Jordan, Iran) which at one point seemed to be the whole raison d¹être of the exercise, leaving us feeling that the Americans are only going through the motions on this one. It isn¹t necessarily a comforting thought, since tougher measures against smuggling was touted as Colin Powell¹s alternative to war.] * Sanctions altered to aid Iraqi civilians [Extracts giving the views of Ari Fleischer, Jack Straw and Richard Perle.] * Iraq Accepts U.N. Sanctions Reforms [Curious remark from the Arab League Secretary General, Amr Moussa, that "the sanctions issue is gradually heading toward being solved."] * Revised Iraq sanctions still US policy tool [Thoughtful review from MERIP member of the latest initiatives.] NEW WORLD ORDER * US has little reason to feel triumphant [Not much about Iraq but a useful summary of the present state of the ŒWar against Terror¹, surprising from the normally quite belligerent Bangkok Post. Thanks to Felicity for sending it to me.] * A question of faith [Nick Cohen is a supporter of Œuniversal human rights¹ who believes that the US after Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Panama, not to mention the road to Basra - has the moral right to enforce them. Here he gives an account of a new book, a novel about the Dome of the Rock by Kanan Makiya, who wrote The Republic of Fear, a pre-Gulf War expose of the evils of the Iraqi regime. Cohen remarks that although the Israelis (with US support) only destroyed 400 Palestinian villages, Saddam (with US support) destroyed 3,000 Kurdish villages. A more interesting comparison might be with the number of Kurdish villages destroyed by the Turks (with US support). Difficult to see how it amounts to an argument for a US right to intervene in Iraq ...Extract on Iraq, leaving out Mr Cohen¹s views on the foolishness of religion in general and Islam in particular (Mr Cohen is also a believer in Œthe enlightenment¹.] * On Atta, Prague and Iraq [Mainly notable for D.Rumsfeld¹s implicit admission that there is no evidence for the Atta/al-Ani meeting in Prague.] * 'Start Wars' poster aims to highlight opposition to Iraq attack IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * Iraq sends minister to S. Arabia * Iraq gives priority to Saudi Arabia to trade cooperation [The article also refers to Iraq opening to the import of goods from Kuwait.] * Saudi importers allowed to re-export to Iraq * Spell out the goals for Iraq [Proposed constitutional arrangements for a post Saddam Iraq aimed at the difficult job of reconciling the aspirations of the Kurds and of the Turks.] IRAQI/UN RELATIONS http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2002/may/13/051306797.html * IRAQ SANCTIONS OVERHAUL POSTPONED Las Vegas Sun, 13th May United Nations: The U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on overhauling sanctions against Iraq until Tuesday in hopes of getting Syria on board for a united show of support. The five veto-wielding council members - including the United States and Russia - had pressed for a vote on Monday. But Syria's U.N. Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said he asked for voting to be postponed until Tuesday to consult his government. U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham said Wehbe told the council that he hoped the extra day would result in Syrian support for the resolution, putting all 15 council members in favor. "We've always made clear we want to have consensus where we can have it," Cunningham said. Council experts met Monday morning to consider amendments to the sanctions overhaul proposed by Syria - which would have favored Saddam Hussein's government - and rejected all of them, diplomats said. Syria then indicated it was likely to abstain in the vote, but asked for an extra day Monday afternoon. One amendment would have included a reference to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which gives countries the right to self-defense "if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations." The proposal appeared aimed at responding to U.S. threats to topple Saddam. Syria's Wehbe said it was also aimed at the so-called "no-fly" zones over northern and southern Iraq enforced by U.S. and British aircraft. [.....] http://argument.independent.co.uk/leading_articles/story.jsp?story=295150 * IRAQ HAS BEEN OFFERED A CHANCE TO REJOIN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY Independent, 15th May Yesterday's United Nations Security Council resolution updating the sanctions regime against Iraq is one of those rare products of international diplomacy that manages to combine sound common sense with tangible benefits for all but the chief villain of the piece the leadership of Saddam Hussein. Hard-fought and hard-won, the agreement aims to toughen the restrictions on military goods reaching Iraq, while increasing the quantity of food, medicine and other goods that reach ordinary Iraqis. The wonder is less that so seemingly uncontroversial a resolution was passed by the Security Council than that it took so long. As the past 11 years have shown, however, very little that relates to Iraq is without controversy. Iraq's few remaining friends viewed the proposed new regulations as too harsh. Russia feared the loss of what it maintained were non-military contracts already signed. And the United States was concerned, especially after 11 September, that it would appear "soft" on a regime it demonises as the founder of its "axis of evil". Classic diplomacy persistent and discreet finally produced a resolution that was agreed unanimously. Britain's so far untrumpeted contribution to reconciling the apparently irreconcilable deserves recognition and praise. Yet the misjudgments and errors that necessitated such a fundamental overhaul of the sanctions regime five years after the oil-for-food programme was introduced should also be learned from. The original reason for overhauling the sanctions provisions was twofold. On the one hand, evasion was rife. Iraq was exporting oil over and above the quotas set by the UN, while also receiving banned goods in return. On the other hand, however in a perverse triumph of public relations the defeated invader of Kuwait was able to present itself as the injured party, flaunting stories and pictures of ill and dying children and successfully blaming the heartless West for its plight. If they have the desired effect, the "smart" sanctions now agreed should help to banish some of that adverse publicity and improve conditions for the many civilians who have experienced intolerable hardship. The new arrangements should also benefit the many foreign companies British ones included, but above all, Russian which have an estimated $5bn (£3.5bn) worth of orders destined for Iraq that are currently on hold. The new sanctions can only be accounted a success, however, if they also make it much more difficult for the Iraqi regime to evade restrictions on its oil exports (and profit from their evasion), and genuinely tighten the prohibition on imports that could be put to military use. Potentially, however, it is not only the West and Russia and the credibility of the UN that stand to benefit from yesterday's resolution. Baghdad, too, gains its first real chance for many a year to reassess its stance towards the outside world. By easing restrictions on imports of non-military goods, the UN has recognised at least some of Iraq's long-standing complaints. Baghdad should respond by reconsidering its intransigence towards UN weapons inspections. By coincidence or design, both the US and Britain have recently toned down their threats of military action against Iraq. Just hours before yesterday's UN resolution was adopted, they stated that no attack was imminent. But Baghdad's leaders should know that this ceasefire, rhetorical or real, will not last forever and they should bring their country into conformity with all UN resolutions while they still can. http://www.washtimes.com/world/20020515-550690.htm * U.N. PANEL VOTES TO REVISE IRAQ SANCTIONS by Ben Barber The Washington Times, 15th May The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to revise U.N. oil-for-food sanctions on Iraq, making it easier for Baghdad to import consumer goods but keeping a block on weapons materials. Russia had blocked the measure for more than a year but supported the final version yesterday after it was significantly weakened from the original American proposal. "This will make the process move more speedily" in approving imports of civilian goods, said John Wolf, assistant secretary for nonproliferation, at the State Department yesterday. "This program will create a transparent process ‹ contracts destined for civilians will go forward." After the 15-0 vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte told reporters, "We believe it will facilitate greatly the movement of humanitarian and purely civilian goods to the Iraqi economy." But the so-called "smart sanctions" lack a key element sought by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell ‹ a tightening of the noose around Iraq by getting front-line states, such as Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran and the Persian Gulf states, to stop smuggling. Mr. Powell's plan, announced last year, would have ended oil sales that put cash directly into Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's control. The aim was to prevent him from rebuilding his military and acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Powell also wanted to beef up border patrols to block imports of materials to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missiles to deliver them. "None of these elements are there" in the final resolution approved yesterday, said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergei Lavrov in New York. Russia had blocked the smart sanctions for more than a year, favoring a more liberal approach to Iraq that would let it repay billions of dollars owed to Russia. Syria, Iraq's neighbor and the only Arab member of the 15-nation Security Council, decided at the last moment to vote in favor of the revision, after having delayed the vote for several days, criticizing the resolution and sanctions against Iraq. In his response to the resolution, Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said, "We see the American political goals in this exercise." He did not say whether Baghdad would honor the measure and would continue oil exports through the U.N. program, estimated at about $10 billion a year. The system approved yesterday renews the sanctions for six months and takes effect at the end of the month. U.N. sanctions on Iraqi oil sales were imposed after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The oil-for-food program was set up in 1996, allowing Iraqi oil to be sold through a U.N. system that allocated cash for humanitarian and other civilian goods. Cash also went to reparations for Kuwait, which was invaded in 1990 and saw its oil fields set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops. The system had bogged down with $5 billion in contracts blocked by U.S. and some British objections to items with likely dual use by Iraq's military and civilians. Mr. Powell proposed the smart sanctions during his first official Middle East visit in February 2001 after irate Arab diplomats and reporters complained to him that suffering Iraqi children were malnourished because of the U.N. sanctions. U.S. officials told reporters that Saddam was responsible for any malnutrition and lack of medicines because he diverted resources from needy Iraqi people to his Republican Guards and other allies. While foreign visitors were brought on tours of hospitals with sickly children, Saddam built a series of spectacular palaces, U.S. officials said. But the Iraqis won the propaganda war, said U.S. and congressional leaders, and Mr. Powell feared a collapse of the U.S.-Arab coalition that defeated Iraq. Mr. Powell proposed to make it easier for humanitarian goods to enter Iraq while tightening controls on smuggled imports of weapons materials and smuggled exports of Iraqi oil. "We didn't do as well as we could in explaining how the food programs worked ‹ diversion by Baghdad led to people suffering," said a senior State Department official speaking on the condition of anonymity yesterday. "This [new system] makes clear there are no impediments to the sale of food to the Iraqi economy." The system approved yesterday has no provision to prevent Saddam from diverting food and medicine from needy children. It will speed approvals of requests by Iraq to import food, medicine and even industrial equipment such as oil drills and power plants, the official said. But it also will include a 300-page list of items that could have dual use ‹ civilian and military ‹ and will require special scrutiny to ensure they are intended for civilian projects. The senior official, however, said that without the return of U.N. weapons monitors to Iraq it will be impossible to be certain that dual-use equipment is not diverted to military use. Iraq continues to seek to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as the missiles to deliver them, the official said. However, he cited the need to preserve intelligence secrecy and would not divulge details of the programs. The system will end the U.S. role of blocking contracts. And objections to individual items in a contract would not prevent the rest of the contract from going forward. Vendors also would be required to give clear information with each contract, proving that items to be imported are destined for civilian use. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal te.iraq15may15.story?coll=bal%2Dnews%2Dnation * SANCTIONS ALTERED TO AID IRAQI CIVILIANS by Mark Matthews Baltimore Sun, 15th May [.....] "For this new system to be effective in bringing help to the people of Iraq, there must be a real commitment by the government of Iraq to the same goal," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Now Iraq's government has an opportunity to prove that it seeks the same benefits for all its citizens." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country is the strongest U.S. ally on the Security Council, said the council action "removes Saddam's spurious excuses for the suffering he inflicts on the Iraqi people and puts more pressure on the regime." [.....] But Richard Perle, a leading voice among Washington hawks who are determined to oust Hussein, was not impressed by the U.N. vote, calling the new import system for Iraq "trivial." He said it would have "no bearing ... whatsoever" on efforts to topple the Baghdad regime. Whether Iraq allows its people to continue suffering despite the relaxed sanctions is a side issue, he said. "The reason why the regime has to go is that it's a threat to the United States." http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2002/may/16/051602632.html * IRAQ ACCEPTS U.N. SANCTIONS REFORMS Las Vegas Sun, 16th May BAGHDAD, Iraq- Iraq begrudgingly accepted a new U.N. resolution that makes sweeping changes to the current sanctions program, but still criticized the new measures Thursday, saying they exposed America's "tendency toward harming Iraq." The comments come two days after the U.N. Security Council revamped the sanctions to speed the delivery of food and medicine and also strengthen an 11-year-old military embargo. It extends a humanitarian program under which Iraq can sell oil for things like food, medicine and educational services. Tuesday's vote was the greatest change in the humanitarian program since its launch in 1996 to help Iraq's people cope with sanctions imposed after President Saddam Hussein sent troops into Kuwait in 1990. Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told the official Iraqi News Agency that "Iraq will reluctantly accept Resolution 1409 regarding the renewal of the oil-for-food deal for another six months." But in a separate statement released to the agency, the Iraqi leadership described the new U.N. sanctions plan as a U.S. manipulation of the Security Council. "Once again the Security Council ... exposes its weakness and inability to face the American tendency toward harming Iraq," INA quoted a statement issued in a joint meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council and the Regional Command of the ruling Baath party as saying. To what extent Iraq would work with the resolution beyond agreeing to an extension under its terms for the humanitarian oil-for-food program wasn't clear. Baghdad has yet to agree to the U.N.'s chief demand - permitting weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. Tough U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait, which led to the 1991 Gulf War. To lift the sanctions, international inspectors must certify Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad claims it has done this, but has not let inspectors into Iraq since 1998, saying sanctions must be lifted first. In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the Iraqi approval was "a positive step" and said "the sanctions issue is gradually heading toward being solved." The new sanctions regime capped yearlong U.S. and British efforts to both get more humanitarian goods to Iraqis and tighten the military embargo on Baghdad. Under the program, most civilian goods are to be allowed into Iraq, but a 332-page checklist spells out civilian items with potential military use that require approval of the United Nations. Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammad Al-Douri, had said earlier that the new goods review list will complicate, not simplify, delivery of humanitarian items and harm Iraq's economy by blocking agricultural, electrical and sanitation imports. He said Baghdad was "unhappy" with any resolution that didn't lift sanctions. The influential state-run Babil newspaper called the revamped sanctions a U.S. attempt to prolong the economic embargo rather than to ease Iraqis' suffering. "Changing the U.N. party responsible for monitoring the flow of goods to Iraq will not end the evil and negative impact of the ongoing embargo imposed on our country since 1990," the daily owned by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Odai said in a front-page editorial. Babil also said the Security Council resolution "is a breach to the U.N. charter because it neglects Iraq's right to self defense against any external attack." Also Thursday, the ruling Baath party newspaper al-Thawra labeled British Defense Minister, Geoffrey Hoon "another evil liar." Hoon, referring to calls for the return of U.N. weapons inspectors, told reporters Tuesday in Kuwait that it was important for the sake of international security to know "what is happening in Iraq as far as the development of weapons of mass destruction are concerned." Al-Thawra said Iraq has no intention of threatening neighboring countries or world security. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/16_05_02/art4.asp * REVISED IRAQ SANCTIONS STILL US POLICY TOOL by Sarah Graham-Brown (Middle East Research and Information Project) Daily Star (Lebanon), 16th May Concluding almost a year of diplomatic wrangling, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has agreed to revise UN sanctions on Iraq when the 11th phase of the ³oil-for food² program ends on May 29. Under the oil for food program, Iraq is allowed to sell its oil on the world market to import needed civilian goods. The changes to the sanctions system, passed by a unanimous vote on Tuesday, are more modest than the range of ³smart sanctions² proposed by the the United States and the United Kingdom in 2001. Russian backing for the proposal will be presented as a triumph for the United States, which has sought to fine-tune the sanctions regime over the objections of Russia and other countries that only lifting sanctions entirely can revitalize an Iraqi economy sapped by 12 years of international isolation. Since Sept. 11, however, the maintenance of sanctions has become something of a sideshow for the Bush administration¹s policy toward Iraq. The key element in the new arrangements is the Goods Review List provided for in paragraph 2 of UNSC Resolution 1382, passed in November 2001. Items specified on this list, defined as for military or dual use, are to be separated from humanitarian goods. Russia¹s agreement to accept this list, after protracted negotiations, cleared the way for implementation of the new ³smarter² sanctions. The United States sweetened the pot for Russia by removing holds on more than $200 million of Russian contracts with Iraq in late March. By the rules of the 661 Committee which presently scrutinizes orders for humanitarian goods, all Security Council members are allowed to query and hold up such orders. About 90 percent of the $5 billion worth of contracts currently on hold are being blocked by the United States and Great Britain. The new proposals are expected to end this system of 661 Committee scrutiny of humanitarian goods. Under the new system, contracts containing goods on the Goods Review List will be reviewed by the UN Office of the Iraq Program (OIP) - which administers oil for food. This office would then send the contracts to the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which head up efforts to prevent Iraq from obtaining banned weapons. In turn, these offices can refer contracts considered objectionable to the 661 Committee for rejection or passage. A proposal to tighten up on regional smuggling - key to earlier drafts of the ³smart sanctions² resolution - has been dropped. Neighboring states, including Syria, which is currently a Security Council member, are unlikely to give up their expanded commercial contacts with Baghdad and resisted any attempts to restrict this trade. The State Department estimates that Iraq reaps $2.5 billion a year from smuggling oil outside the oil for food program. In the last few years, the US has become frustrated that sanctions had come to share the blame in international opinion for Iraq¹s public health and malnutrition crises throughout the 1990s. The motive of the United States and United Kingdom for promoting ³smarter² sanctions in mid-2001 was not just to regain the higher moral ground by claiming that they would improve humanitarian conditions but, more critically, to ensure that the sanctions regime remained in place. In March 2001, early in the Bush administration¹s term, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of his concern to ³rescue² the sanctions policy that was ³falling apart.² He later claimed that the United States had ³snapped back the consensus in the Permanent Five and Security Council as a whole on the continued need for sanctions.² Powell¹s push for smart sanctions was seen as the State Department¹s riposte to the strident arguments of hawks in the Defense Department that regime change - toppling Saddam Hussein¹s government - should be the centerpiece of US policy in the Middle East. Before Sept. 11, those who advocated regime change ahead of all other policy priorities were still a minority voice in the Bush administration. But since that time, regime change has become the focus of presidential policy, and speculation in Washington has focused on when rather than whether the United States will move militarily against Iraq. In this context, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan¹s discussions with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri in March and early May on the renewal of weapons inspections highlight a new ambiguity in US policy. At the previous round of talks held in New York on March 7, Sabri posed a series of questions to Annan, including whether US threats of military action for Iraqi non-compliance with inspections were legal under UN resolutions. In the second, still inconclusive, round, Iraq also raised broader issues, including the lifting of sanctions, the US-UK no-fly zones and US saber-rattling. Sabri said Iraq wants inspections to be time limited, and to lead to the lifting of sanctions. Annan called for an early resumption of talks, to avoid spinning out the discussions. Previously the ambiguity in US policy was that key players would not say that if Iraq complied with inspections and was given a clean bill of health, sanctions would be lifted. When Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2001 that if Iraq let weapons inspectors in, the United States ³may look at lifting sanctions,² he continued the Clinton administration¹s strategy of using sanctions as a form of punitive control and containment, rather than enforcement of specific requirements on Iraq. Today the Bush administration, while not identifying one particular strategy, clearly speaks of action - unilateral if necessary - to end Saddam Hussein¹s regime, without further reference to the United Nations. It is not clear whether Iraq¹s compliance with weapons inspections would be sufficient to trigger a withdrawal of the threat of military action. Recent comments suggest not. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has predictably reiterated his skepticism, first expressed in 1998 during the Clinton administration, as to whether weapons inspections in Iraq can ever be effective under Hussein. On May 5, Powell perpetuated the ambiguity, saying that the issue of inspectors is a ³separate and distinct and different² matter from the US position on Saddam¹s leadership. ³The United States reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be appropriate to see if there can be a regime change,² Powell said. ³US policy is that, regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad.² In the early months of the Bush administration, the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was not near the top of the foreign policy agenda. Revival of the issue after Sept. 11 appeared primarily to be a pretext for settling unfinished business. Iraq¹s links to Al-Qaeda have proved too tenuous to include Iraq directly in the ³war on terrorism.² Most recently, the FBI itself has raised doubts about the veracity of the story that Muhammed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. Hence the weapons issue has now taken center stage, with the US invoking UN resolutions and hoping to rally international support on this basis. The lack of clarity in Bush administration pronouncements inevitably signals to the Iraqi leadership that even if they were to comply with WMD inspections, the United States would still try to oust them. As in the past, moving the goalposts on sanctions and arms control leaves the Iraqi government with a reason not to comply - citing a ³no-win² situation. Furthermore, the leadership¹s long-held belief in the usefulness of chemical and biological weapons would suggest they would be even more likely to conceal and try to retain them if they were faced with a major attack. For the United States, the worst-case scenario would be for the UN inspectors to declare Iraq free of banned weapons and therefore call for the lifting of sanctions. Fear of this eventuality may be behind recent attacks on the arms control record of Hans Blix, formerly head of the IAEA and now of UNMOVIC. Asked to investigate him by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, doyen of the regime change crowd, the CIA found that Blix had conducted inspections within the IAEA¹s parameters. But Wolfowitz¹s approach fits with the Bush administration policy of attacking or removing unwelcome chairpersons of international bodies - working on human rights, climate change or chemical weapons - with which the United States has disagreements. Blix, for his part, has presented a firm view of UNMOVIC¹s work, stating that Iraq would need to give the inspectors hard proof that its WMD had been destroyed. At the same time, he has held out the possibility that if Iraq cooperated fully, sanctions could be lifted within a year. If the Iraqis agree to the return of weapons inspectors, the United States will have a still more difficult task in convincing either Arab states or Europe to go along with or actively support an attack. The Palestinian crisis seems to be hardening popular attitudes in the Middle East against the US, spooking Arab regimes about appearing too close to US priorities. Crown Prince Abdullah stated explicitly that if Iraq accepted the inspectors, then Saudi Arabia would not ³see any reason for any attacks.² Such a confluence of events would reveal how far the unilateralists in the Bush administration will go to put their theories to a practical test. Sarah Graham-Brown is author of Sanctioning Saddam (I.B. Tauris, 1999). MERIP, a non profit, non-governmental organization based in Washington DC, is the publisher of Middle East Report NEW WORLD ORDER http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/10May2002_news38.html * US HAS LITTLE REASON TO FEEL TRIUMPHANT Bangkok Post, 10th May 10, 2002 by WALDEN BELLO Over eight months after the launching of the global war against terror, it is becoming increasingly clear that the United States is caught in a relentlessly expanding conflict from which there is no easy withdrawal. Trying to keep up the momentum of its war against terror after it declared ``victory'' in Afghanistan in early January, America sent troops to the Philippines that same month to help hunt down members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group that it alleged had ties with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. The Philippines, a former colony, seemed to be a convenient choice as a site for expanding the war against terror as Washington debated from January to March a far more important question: whether or not to take out Saddam Hussein. But just as the faction favouring an invasion of Iraq appeared to have gained the upper hand, the brutal Israeli sweep into the West Bank threw a spanner into US calculations, which had rested on the assumption of political support from the pro-US Arab states. Meanwhile, nearly three months after Washington designated the Philippines a ``second front'', some 60 to 80 Abu Sayyaf bandits continue to elude 6,000 Filipino troops coached by 160 American advisers on the small island of Basilan. Moreover, the realities of the Afghanistan campaign that filtered out after the ouster of the Taliban have punctured the triumphalist mood that reigned last December. The idea that Afghanistan vindicated a new strategy of fighting based on the employment of massive, precision-guided airpower with little commitment of ground troops is now less persuasive. Thousands of civilians apparently died owing to less than precise bombing, and scores of people allied to the United States were targeted and killed by US forces acting on bad intelligence. Relying on Afghan mercenaries to do the fighting on the ground for the United States is now acknowledged by some in the Pentagon to have resulted in Osama bin Laden's escape from the Tora Bora mountains. And when US troops did engage in close-quarters fighting with the Taliban/al-Qaeda forces in the Shah-i-kot area near Pakistan in early March, they were bloodied by an enemy that was supposed to be on the run. Although it has not achieved its prime objective of capturing bin Laden or dismantling the al-Qaeda network, Washington still thinks it has the strategic initiative. It seems to be the case, however, that it has launched itself into a multi-front war of attrition where it cannot consolidate victory on any front. The momentum is also being lost on the political front. As the military campaign lessened in intensity in Afghanistan, the United Nations was brought in to broker a political settlement that would usher in representative democracy while the European Union was dragged in to police the peace. It has become clear, however, that the centralised authority that had been forged by the Taliban has given way to the return of warlord hegemony in different parts of the country, and the role of the security force is increasingly to keep the ex-partners in the Northern Alliance from cutting each other's throats. As Afghanistan slides into anarchy, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been destabilised and delegitimised by American pressure to take sides in the war against terror. The prestige of Islamic fundamentalists among the population is now probably greater than before Sept 11. Saudi Arabia is seething with discontent, and Washington faces the unpleasant prospect of having to serve ultimately as a police force between an increasingly isolated Saudi elite and a restive youthful population that regards bin Laden as a hero. Washington's tilt towards Israel has not helped in shoring up the legitimacy of its Arab allies among their peoples. Israel is the great spoiler of the American effort to manage the Middle East, and it can get away with it because it can rely on its massive support in the US congress to blunt pressure from the US executive, as the brazen Israeli moves to destroy the Palestinian Authority in defiance of Washington recently demonstrated. Indeed, the Afghan fiasco and Israeli intransigence, it can be argued, have combined to make Washington's strategic situation in the Middle East worse rather than better. Nor have there been any political or military gains in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia maintaining its distance from Washington and the US build-up in the Philippines turning out to be an open ended commitment. Not surprisingly, there are voices in Washington that now question if America has the troops and resources to engage in a multi-front war of attrition. An invasion of Iraq, even if it does oust Saddam Hussein, would merely exacerbate the dilemma of over-extension, since once one goes into Iraq, there is, as in Afghanistan, no easy extrication from the massive political mess that would create. One is tempted to say, in fact, that there is a historical parallel to America's indiscriminate creation of new fronts against terror, and that is the Japanese rampage through the Southeast Asia and the Pacific in the first six months of 1942. Large swathes of territory were gained, but at the price of over-extending Japanese imperial power. By creating so many fronts, Japan ended up unable to concentrate its forces and attention on the few really strategic sectors. There are no clear winners so far in the so-called war against terror. But there are clear losers. The Taliban is one. The other big loser is liberal democracy in the United States. Not even the Cold War was presented in such totalistic terms as the ``War against Terror''. Laws and executive orders restricting the rights to privacy and free movement have been passed with a speed and in a manner that would have turned Joe McCarthy green with envy. The US was scarcely three months into the war when legislation had already been passed and executive orders signed that established secret military tribunals to try non-US citizens; imposed guilt by association on immigrants; authorised the attorney-general to lock up indefinitely aliens on mere suspicion; expanded the use of wiretaps and secret searches; allowed the use of secret evidence in immigration proceedings that aliens cannot confront or rebut; destroyed the secrecy of the client-lawyer relationship by allowing the government to listen in; and institutionalised racial and ethnic profiling. Americans have often prided themselves with having a political system whose role is to maximise and protect individual liberty along the lines propounded by the 17th century English thinker John Locke and the third US president Thomas Jefferson. That Lockean Jeffersonian tradition has been rudely overturned in the last few months, as Americans have been stampeded into giving government vast new powers over the individual in the name of guaranteeing order and security. The extent to which assaults on traditional liberties can now take place with impunity was illustrated during a memorable Senate hearing when Attorney-General John Ashcroft said that critics of the Bush administration's security measures were fear-mongers ``who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty [and] aid terrorists''. The fact that liberal, Democrat senators against whom these remarks were directed dared not respond shows how skilfully the conservatives have used the struggle against terrorism to win the real war at home, which is the war against liberals and progressives. It is only recently that significant Democrats have moved to speak against curtailment of civil liberties, and rather timidly at that. To conclude, over six months after Sept 11, the US has failed to achieve a decisive victory in the war against terror and may now find itself in a situation of strategic over-extension. The alienation that has fuelled fundamentalism has, in contrast, gained in strength in the Middle East, greatly assisted in the last few months by Israel's acts of impunity against Palestinians. Southeast Asia is turning up into a strategic black hole swallowing up more and more American military manpower. But if there are no clear winners, there is, aside from the Taliban, a clear loser: civil liberties and democracy in the United States. And that is a pity. - Walden Bello is executive director of the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South, a programme of Chulalongkorn University's Social Research Institute. http://observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,714231,00.html * A QUESTION OF FAITH by Nick Cohen The Observer, 12th May Kanan Makiya has a good claim to be the Solzhenitsyn of Saddam's Iraq, if such a grand title can be given to a modest scholar who offers you coffee and digestives in his London flat. In the mid 1980s, he wrote Republic of Fear, a remorseless chronicle of murder and torture in a prison state. Seventy publishers returned the manuscript before the University of California Press accepted it. One of the best descriptions of state terror from the crowded twentieth-century field was met with silence. The West and the Arab dictatorships and monarchies supported Saddam and the Western Left was afflicted with a kind of Orientalism which indulged, and continues to indulge, Arab despotism. Very few outsiders wanted to know about Saddam's crimes until he suddenly grew horns when his troops invaded Kuwait. A consequence of the Gulf War was that Republic of Fear became a bestseller and turned Makiya from an obscure exile working for his father's architecture practice into something of a star. Makiya, who had once called himself a socialist, found new friends but was hated by many of his former comrades for insisting that America forces shouldn't leave Iraq with the worst of both worlds - bombed but with Saddam still in power - but carry on to Baghdad. He dates the schism between supporters of universal human rights and those on the Left and Right who regard any Western intervention as imperialism to the moment when the opponents of Saddam were denounced. Israel was built on the destruction of 400 Palestinian villages, Makiya says; Saddam destroyed at least 3,000 Kurdish villages. Makiya, like every other Iraqi democrat you meet in London, has lost patience with those who will oppose the former but not the latter and is desperate for America to support a democratic revolution. All in all, we have a man whose been on Saddam's death-list for years and has more than enough enemies. He has still found the time and courage to pierce the thin skins of religious fundamentalists. [.....] http://www.suntimes.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak13.html * ON ATTA, PRAGUE AND IRAQ by Robert Novak Baltimore Sun, 13th May Seated next to Donald Rumsfeld last Tuesday as he drank coffee at the Pentagon with reporters in the Godfrey Sperling group, I asked the secretary of defense to confirm or deny whether suicide hijacker Mohamed Atta met an Iraqi secret service operative in Prague and then returned to the United States to die in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. ''I don't know whether he did or didn't,'' Rumsfeld replied. In those eight words, the defense chief confirmed published reports that there is no evidence placing the presumed leader of the terrorist attacks in the Czech capital--with or without Iraqi spymaster Ahmed al-Ani. His alleged presence in Prague is the solitary piece of evidence that could link Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime to the carnage at the World Trade Center. Rumsfeld followed his terse response to my Atta question with an explanation of why it really doesn't matter. A connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, he made clear, is not necessary to justify U.S. military action against Iraq to remove Saddam from power. The cause for war is alleged development of weapons of mass destruction by the Baghdad regime. Why, then, do ardent attack-Iraq advocates outside the government--William Safire, Kenneth Adelman, James Woolsey--cling to the reality of the imagined meeting in Prague? Because President Bush would be alone in the world if he ordered the attack without an Iraqi connection to Sept. 11. It is impossible to prove whether Atta was or was not in Prague in April 2001 as first claimed last October by Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, but these are the facts: Atta definitely did not travel under his own name back and forth from the Czech Republic. The 9/11 terrorists always traveled in the open. For Atta to have used an assumed name would be a radically different method of operation. The sole evidence for the Prague meeting is the word of Czech officials, who are now divided and confused. The CIA does not want to be dragged into public debate with New York Times columnist Safire, and its officials insist that ''we don't have a dog in that fight.'' In truth, however, cool headed analysts at Langley see no evidence whatever of the Prague meeting and in their gut believe it did not take place. Is there evidence of any other Iraqi connection to 9/11? ''I don't discuss intelligence information,'' Rumsfeld replied. In fact, there is none. Responding to my question whether it made any difference to U.S. policy on Iraq, he said, ''I don't know how to answer it.'' He then depicted terrorist nations--''Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, I suppose North Korea''--working together to develop weapons of mass destruction. This could mean the death of ''potentially hundreds of thousands of people.'' Responding to another reporter's question, Rumsfeld said ''the nuclear weapon . . . is somewhat more difficult to develop, maintain and use than, for example, biological weapons,'' adding, ''I would elevate the biological risk.'' Indeed, nobody in the U.S. government takes seriously statements by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his recent visit to Washington that Iraq can deliver a nuclear bomb here in a suitcase. Whether the Iraqis possess biological capability is unknown and debatable. Former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter contends Iraq's biowar factories and their equipment were destroyed. Without ''acquisition of a large amount of new technology,'' Ritter has said, ''I don't see Iraq being able to do high-quality production on a large scale of bioweapons.'' While Ritter's detractors are many, his allegations never have been contradicted. There is justifiable belief in the White House, the Pentagon and even the State Department that the world--not to mention Iraq--will be better and safer without Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. But that does not justify to the world the overthrowing of a government. That is why ace reporter Bill Safire writes column after column insisting that the Prague meeting took place. That is also why national security expert Ken Adelman insisted April 29 on CNN's ''Crossfire'' that Atta ''went 7,000 miles to meet with one of the Iraq intelligence officers in Prague.'' Even if it never happened, the meeting is essential to justify a U.S. attack on Iraq. http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_588316.html * 'START WARS' POSTER AIMS TO HIGHLIGHT OPPOSITION TO IRAQ ATTACK Ananova, 15th May Campaigners opposed to military action against Iraq have launched a poster parodying the new Star Wars movie. Stop the War Coalition's poster, entitled Start Wars, features Tony Blair and George W Bush holding light sabres. It's been launched to coincide with the nationwide release of the new Star Wars film, Episode II: Attack Of The Clones. The Coalition is hoping the poster will raise publicity for its "Don't Attack Iraq" petition campaign, which is aiming for 100,000 names. Among those helping to officially launch the poster will be Labour MP George Galloway and journalist Yvonne Ridley. Both have just returned from visits to Iraq. The STWC and CND are also backing a recent call from former MP Tony Benn, who called for peaceful one-hour general strike protests in the wake of any UK action against Iraq. A spokeswoman for the STWC told Ananova they want people to come onto the streets where they live and block traffic the evening after any British attack. She also said she hoped people would download the petition from its website and take it to their workplaces, clubs and schools. IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS http://www.dawn.com/2002/05/12/int7.htm * IRAQ SENDS MINISTER TO S. ARABIA Dawn, 12th May, 28 Safar 1423 BAGHDAD (Reusters), May 11: Iraq sent its industry and minerals minister to Saudi Arabia on Saturday in another sign of thawing relations between the two countries, Iraqi newspapers reported. They said Maissar Rija Shlah would attend an Arab meeting in Riyadh, the first time an Iraqi minister has led an official delegation to Saudi Arabia since the 1991 Gulf war. The government newspaper al-Jumhouriya said the visit follows an invitation by Saudi Minister of Industry and Electricity Hashem bin Abdullah bin Hashem bin Yamani. Iraqi and Saudi leaders shook hands and embraced each other at an Arab summit in Beirut in March. Saudi Arabia, the launch pad for the US-led Gulf war, has previously refused to have direct dealings with Iraq under President Saddam Hussein. "This is the first high-level contact between Iraq and Saudi Arabia since the two Arab brotherly states started to normalize relations," Al Jumhouriya said. Iraqi newspapers have also reported in the last few days that an exhibition of Saudi products will be held in Baghdad for the first time. The papers quoted Iraq's Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh as saying that the volume of Iraq's purchases from Saudi Arabia had reached one billion dollars under the United Nations' oil-for-food programme. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020516/2002051616.html * IRAQ GIVES PRIORITY TO SAUDI ARABIA TO TRADE COOPERATION Arabic News, 16th May In the context of the detente realized during the Beirut's summit, Iraq has for the first time offered a licensing for Saudi investors to establish a project for processing irrigation systems, giving Saudi Arabia the priority to trade relations and welcoming any relations with Kuwait. These are in line with presidential directives in Iraq to revitalize Iraq's relations with the Arab states on the ground of solidarity and a message of appreciation carried by an Iraqi minister to the Saudi leadership. Muyassar Raja Shallah, the Iraqi minister of industry, currently visiting Riyadh to take part in the meetings of the 7th session of the Arab ministers of industry said that trade with Saudi Arabia exceeds USD one billion, expressing his hope that this number will increase. Shallah said in a statement to the Saudi daily al-Watan that his ministry issued its consent to found the project that is 100% Saudi capital. He stressed that Baghdad, following the positive developments that took place at Beirut's Arab summit gave its directives to give Saudi Arabia the priority in trade relations. The Iraqi minister of industry also stressed his country's welcome to trade dealing with Kuwait. He indicated that Kuwaiti goods had recently arrived to the Iraqi markets, but he gave no more details. http://www.dailystarnews.com/200205/17/n2051705.htm#BODY9 * SAUDI IMPORTERS ALLOWED TO RE-EXPORT TO IRAQ Daily Star (Bangladesh), 17th May AFP, Riyadh: Saudi importers have been allowed to re-export non-Saudi products to Iraq in a bid to boost trade between the two Arab states, the chairman of the Saudi Export Development Center was quoted as saying Thursday. The decision, taken by Saudi Commerce Minister Osama Faqih, would benefit Saudi importers and the Iraqi market, Abdulrahman al-Zamel told Al-Iqtissadia business daily. Zamel made the announcement after meeting Wednesday with Iraqi Minister of Industry and Minerals Muyasser Shallah, who visited Riyadh to attend a conference of Arab industry ministers. Baghdad will post customs officers at the Iraqi side of the Arar border crossing with Saudi Arabia in preparation for opening the post, closed since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Zamel quoted Shallah as saying during the meeting. http://www.iht.com/articles/57813.html * SPELL OUT THE GOALS FOR IRAQ by David L. Phillips International Herald Tribune, 16th May [Proposed constitutional arrangements for a post Saddam Iraq aimed at the difficult job of reconciling the aspirations of the Kurds and of the Turks.] ISTANBUL: Recent negotiations between the United Nations and Iraq ended inconclusively. In the past three years the Baghdad regime has repeatedly obstructed efforts to resume monitoring of its program to produce weapons of mass destruction. As a result, military action led by the United States seems inevitable. While U.S. allies, including Turkey, have so far resisted plans to invade Iraq, they would welcome a role in developing political and security arrangements for Iraq after its dictator Saddam Hussein is overthrown. Defining the end-state would encourage potential coalition partners to participate, when called upon. It would also help assuage countries like Turkey, by signaling America's commitment to stability. States bordering Iraq will resist efforts to depose Saddam until their concerns about chaos and fragmentation are addressed. The Bush administration places special value on relations with Turkey. As a secular, democratic, majority Muslim country, Turkey is a key partner in the global war on terror. It is slated to assume command of the multinational force in Afghanistan. Should military action be required against Saddam, Turkish bases would be an essential staging ground for an air campaign and humanitarian intervention. But Ankara has stated publicly that it opposes a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. It worries that military action would create a power vacuum, destabilize the region and encourage separatism among Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin. Turkey is also concerned about the economic consequences of conflict with Iraq. As a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, Turkey estimates that it may have lost as much as $40 billion in trade and revenue. The Bush administration's position is clear. By whatever means, it will seek removal of Saddam and establishment of a federal democratic republic in Iraq. But such objectives cannot be achieved without Turkey's participation. The United States must satisfy Turkey's demand not to undermine the territorial integrity of Iraq. On the other hand, America wants to help Iraqis fulfill their long-suppressed democratic aspirations. Iraqi Kurds and others have suffered terrible abuses under Saddam's tyrannical rule. Kurds will not easily relinquish their dream of independence unless they are assured a secure and prosperous future in a unified Iraq. Establishing a federal democratic republic represents a structural solution, which can help reconcile Turkish concerns with Kurdish aspirations. To this end, Iraq could be divided into three entities: a Kurdish, Turkmen and Assyrian region in the North, a Shiite Arab area in the South and a Sunni Arab belt in the middle. There would be a clear demarcation of boundaries between the entities. For example, Iraqi Kurdistan would encompass Kirkuk as well as other traditional tribal lands north of the 36th parallel. While the central government in Baghdad would retain jurisdiction over defense and foreign policy, a highly decentralized system of governance would include a local executive, assembly and a security apparatus controlled by regional authorities. Local government institutions in Iraqi Kurdistan would reflect power-sharing provisions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Turkmen and other minority groups would also be fairly represented. In addition to local self-rule, Kurds would be allocated key central government ministries and share responsibility for border control and customs collection. Baghdad would continue to manage the country's energy sector. The Kurdish entity would be allocated a predetermined percentage of the country's overall oil income at least equal to the 13 percent of oil revenues it currently receives via the UN Oil for Food Program. Central government control of the national oil industry would discourage Kurdish nationalism, as well as separatism among the Shiite population of Basra, a rich resource region near Iran. Such constitutional arrangements would simultaneously meet Kurdish aspirations and address Turkey's primary requirements. A buffer zone between Turkey and Iraq would help deter incursions by armed groups. A commercial agreement could expedite cross-border transport and trade. And provisions would need to be enacted to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, including 2 million ethnic Turks in Northern Iraq. There is widespread agreement that the world would be safer without Saddam, but debate persists on how to achieve this goal. Focusing on the end-state would advance cooperation and help harmonize the ambitions of stakeholders in the region. The writer, a senior fellow and deputy director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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