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[casi] from the Sunday papers: 07-07-02



A. Blair under renewed pressure over US plans to oust Saddam, Independent on
Sunday, 7th July
B. US 'to attack Iraq via Jordan', Observer, 7th July
C. UK to send 30,000 to help oust Saddam, Sunday Telegraph, 7th July

Independent on Sunday: sundayletters@independent.co.uk
Observer: letters@observer.co.uk
Sunday Telegraph: stletters@telegraph.co.uk

Letters writers: please remember to include your address and telephone
number. Letters should be posted by Tuesday afternoon for next Sunday's
papers.

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A. Blair under renewed pressure over US plans to oust Saddam
By Rupert Cornwell, in Washington and Colin Brown, in London

Independent on Sunday
07 July 2002

The disclosure of American plans for a massive military assault on Iraq was
this weekend putting further pressure on Tony Blair's unquestioning support
for the Bush administration  already severely stretched by disagreements
over Yasser Arafat, the new International Criminal Court (ICC) and a string
of protectionist trade moves from Washington.

The blueprint, calling for a force of some 250,000 men to carry out a
three-pronged offensive to oust Saddam Hussein, has yet to be approved by
George Bush. But he has already reportedly been briefed on them in two White
House meetings with General Tommy Franks, who as the head of US Central
Command, would be in military charge of the operation.

The leak to The New York Times  this sort of document never surfaces by
accident  seems to be a clear attempt to raise the stakes after a new round
of talks in Geneva between Iraq and the United Nations failed to produce
agreement on the return of UN weapons inspectors to the country for the
first time since December 1998.

It also signifies that the Bush administration no longer believes  if it
ever did  that Iraq's internal opposition, including the Kurds, could do
the job itself with a little help from the CIA and US special forces. The
hawks who dominate the policy debate in Washington insist that Iraq's
suspected nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes must be the
next priority target in the "war against terrorism". They have never hidden
their view that President Saddam is using the inspections issue as a pretext
for delay, and that even if some tortuous agreement were secured for them to
go back, he would never permit them to see anything worth seeing.

Mr Blair is probably the only European leader who comes close to agreeing
with the hawks. But even he believes the inspectors should be given a
chance. He is also under fierce domestic pressure to secure some form of UN
mandate for an operation in which Britain would be expected by the US to
take part. The alternative would be the most serious backbench rebellion of
his five years in power.

Around 150 Labour MPs have already signed a Commons motion opposing action
against Iraq without a UN mandate. Although Downing Street believes it can
overcome this opposition, the GB-Iraq society is organising a meeting next
week between Labour MPs and the former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, at
which he will say that there is no evidence President Saddam has secured
weapons of mass destruction.

"We are hoping to double the number who have signed the Commons motion,"
said Stuart Halford, secretary of the society. To do so would require the
entire Labour backbench to line up against an attack on Iraq.

America's determination to foist "regime change" on both Iraqis and
Palestinians, its visceral hostility to the ICC and its controversial
protectionist measures on agriculture and steel, are making the Prime
Minister's balancing act harder by the day as he attempts to be a "bridge"
between Europe and the US.

Mr Blair's discomfort with Washington's stance on trade and the ICC in
particular is palpable. But in every case, Britain soft-pedals its
criticism, faithful to the time-honoured "special relationship" argument
that Britain has more chance of being listened to by the administration if
it keeps disagreements private and does not get involved in a public
slanging match.

But this approach is increasingly hard to sell to more vocal critics of the
US within the European Union, where Mr Blair aspires to be a driving force.
It is also somewhat at odds with his own Foreign Office. Only last week Jack
Straw acknowledged that the world would have to deal with Mr Arafat if he is
re-elected as Palestinian leader, telling colleagues that "we have to deal
with many leaders who are not trustworthy".

The Foreign Secretary's order to Mike O'Brien, the new junior Foreign Office
minister, to meet the Palestinian leader reflects a similar realism  that a
British government official could not credibly visit the Middle East without
meeting the man whom Palestinians have elected as their leader.

*************************************************************************
B. US 'to attack Iraq via Jordan'
Military planners prepare to use British forces in an allied assault within
months

Jason Burke, Martin Bright and Nicolas Pelham in Amman
Sunday July 7, 2002
The Observer

American military planners are preparing to use Jordan as a base for an
assault on Iraq later this year or early in 2003, The Observer can reveal.
Although leaked Pentagon documents appear to show that Turkey, Kuwait and
the small Gulf state of Qatar would play key roles, it is believed that
Jordan will be the 'jumping-off' point for an attack that could involve up
to 250,000 American troops and forces from Britain and other key US allies.

Jordan, with good roads and communications, would be perfect for the launch
of an American armoured force, military analysts say. Its capital, Amman, is
linked to Baghdad by a 600-mile motorway that cuts through a virtually
featureless desert - perfect terrain for US tanks and high-precision
air-launched munitions.

Iraqi dissidents in Amman have told The Observer that hundreds of American
advisers have arrived in Jordan in the past few months.

The Amman-based Iraqi National Accord (INA), which contains many of the key
military dissidents, has held talks in Washington about plans for a strike
on Iraq. They expect the US to begin with intensive bombing and missile
raids launched from the Gulf and Turkey, leading to a military rebellion
within Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard.

The INA, they say, could play a military role from Jordan. They envisage a
military coup, leading to transitional military rule.

Eye-witnesses claim preparations are under way at the Muafaq Salti air base
in Azraq, 50 miles east of Amman on the road to Baghdad.

Ten days ago the Jordanian news agency, Petra, reported that the head of the
US Central Command, General Tommy Franks, met Jordan's chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Lieutenant-General Khalid Jamil Surayrih.

The agency said 'the two sides reviewed the general situation in the region
and areas of co-operation between Jordanian and US armed forces...'
Officially, Jordan is opposed to a war on Iraq, but informed sources said
that there is a tacit agreement on the issue between the Jordanian
government and Washington.

The US has apparently given Jordan and other Arab states the freedom to pay
lip-service to support for Iraq.

News of a military build-up coincides with a US attempt to wean Jordan from
its deep economic ties with Iraq, and some observers see a growing military
role for Jordan in the country once ruled by its Hashemite royal family.

'Jordan's role will be that of Pakistan in the US-Taliban war,' said a
prominent Jordanian analyst. Jordan's economy is inter-woven into Iraq's,
and the kingdom shares a close military and economic alliance with the US.

Others say Jordan will pay a heavy price for co-operating with an attack. 'A
US strike against Iraq will increase the influence of radicals [in Jordan],'
said former Prime Minister Taher al-Masri. 'The feeling that the US is an
enemy will be enhanced.'

Although Marwan Moasher, the Jordanian Foreign Minister, denied the presence
of any American troops in his country, government sources confirmed that
major manoeuvres involving the American and Jordanian forces took place in
March. Moasher issued denials after the Lebanese daily Al Safir reported
that 2,000 American forces in Jordan are preparing to carry out military
operations against Iraq.

Observers point out that President George Bush has met King Abdullah of
Jordan at least five times since taking office. The US is expected to double
its aid to Jordan to $500m next year, and Congress is now considering a
request by the administration to increase it by another $100m.

The American planners now believe only military force can remove Saddam from
power. Earlier this year American intelligence operatives were sent to
northern Iraq to gather information on Iraqi defences and gauge the fighting
capability of the Kurdish militias. The Americans reconnoitred Iraqi
frontline positions and requested maps of minefields from demining agencies
working in the area. They decided the Kurds would be no match for the
Republican Guard.

Some elements in the US administration still hope that disaffected military
officers in Iraq can stage a coup. Next week about 70 former Iraqi officers
will gather in London for the biggest dissidents' meeting yet to discuss the
overthrow of the Iraqi President.

The US hopes some of them retain links with brother officers still in Iraq.
The conference is being organised by a former brigadier, Tawfiq al-Yassiri,
who took part in an uprising in the Babylon region south of Baghdad at the
end of the Gulf war. The co-organiser of the conference is a former general,
Saad Ubeidi, who was the Iraqi army's head of psychological operations.

The three-day conference will discuss ways of mobilising military efforts in
support of political opposition to Saddam.

*****************************************************
C. UK to send 30,000 to help oust Saddam
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent

Sunday Telegraph
07/07/2002

Britain is preparing to join America in a full-scale invasion of Iraq to
oust Saddam Hussein from power early next year.

The British armed forces are to commit at least 30,000 troops from all three
services to an overwhelming air, land and sea campaign commanded by the US.
In the past six months British troops' commitments in Kosovo, Macedonia,
Bosnia and Sierra Leone have all been reduced in preparation for the attack.

It is understood that President Bush has accepted that the US will not be
able to replicate the size or make-up of the allied coalition that invaded
Iraq in 1991 and is relying on Britain for moral and military support.

American military chiefs believe that the mission to remove Saddam can be
achieved with a force of about 250,000 troops, aided by an uprising of Iraqi
dissidents inside the country.

The Telegraph has been told by a senior Ministry of Defence official that
Britain will contribute a division of 20,000 men composed of armoured and
infantry brigades to fight alongside the US. The force would also be
supported by up to 50 combat jets, an aircraft carrier group composed of
frigates, destroyers and a submarine from the Royal Navy.

The early spring is regarded as the "next best option" for an attack because
the weather is still cool enough to conduct military operations in the Iraqi
desert. It also allows both the British and Americans to build up forces and
munitions depleted by the war in Afghanistan.

A senior MoD official said: "Troops have been pulled back from the Balkans
and Afghanistan in preparation for a spring attack against Iraq. The Army
would contribute a division, similar to what we contributed in the Gulf War.

"There would be casualties but soldiers join the Army to take part in
military operations not to sit on their beds in barracks. I believe that the
fighting would be relatively straightforward until we got to Baghdad. That's
when it could get messy."

Tony Blair and George Bush are known to have discussed in detail how Iraq
should be governed once Saddam's Ba'ath regime has been toppled. The
preferred option is to allow the Iraqi people to decide for themselves in a
referendum.

The British and US governments are concerned that any attack would meet with
international opposition. The Telegraph, however, understands that Britain
has "ample classified evidence" that proves Saddam has manufactured and
stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.

An MoD official said: "Justifying any attack would not be a problem because
the evidence exists that he has weapons of mass destruction. It will not be
made public yet because it would compromise the means by which it was
acquired."

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