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[casi] News, 13-17/7/02 (1)

News, 13-17/7/02 (1)


*  Iraq Weapons Glance


*  atlarge Iraq mainheadlines [Saddam executes fishermen]
*  Excerpts from Saddam Hussein's interview
*  Iraq Lets Polish Diplomats Travel Again: Diplomat


*  Cosying up to Iraq could prove costly
*  Pakistan Questions Iraqis in Attack
*  Iraq accountable for misdeeds: Straw


*  'Saddam kills strong men'
*  Iraqi opposition leaders warn US and Britain not to invade
*  Exiled generals promise civilian rule in new Iraq
*  Iraqi dissidents 'seek change and the removal of tyranny'


The Associated Press, 13th July

By the end of 1998, U.N. inspectors had been unable to account for numerous
weapons and chemicals used to make weapons believed to have been in Iraq's
armory. Iraq declared it had held certain weapons but that all weapons had
been destroyed. The inspectors left in December 1998, hours before U.S. and
British aircraft began four days of air and missile strikes against
suspected weapons facilities.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank,
made the following estimates of Iraq's remaining stockpiles, based on
statements from U.S. and U.N. officials:


Mustard gas: Iraq declared 550 tons to 650 tons to U.N. inspectors. Experts
estimate Iraq probably could make an additional 220 tons with chemicals
believed in its inventory. Mustard gas is a banned weapon first used during
World War I.

Nerve agents: Declared between 110 tons and 165 tons and probably could make
an additional 220 tons. Sarin and tabun are common nerve agents.

VX: Declared at least 4 tons and probably could make an additional 220 tons.
VX is an extremely deadly nerve agent.


Anthrax: Iraq declared 2,245 gallons of concentrated, weapons-grade anthrax;
United Nations believes Iraq could have made three or four times that.

Botulinum toxin: Iraq declared 5,125 gallons of weapons-grade toxin; United
Nations believes Iraq could have made twice that amount.

Gas gangrene: Iraq declared 90 gallons of weapons-grade material.

‹Unaccounted-for delivery systems:

Scud ballistic missiles: Two to 60.

Scud warheads: 45 to 70.

Rockets: Between 15,000 and 25,000.

Aerial bombs: 2,000.

Artillery shells: 15,000.

Aerial spray tanks: Unknown.


Source: Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies.


*  ATLARGE IRAQ MAINHEADLINES {This is indeed all that is given as a
Hoover's (Financial Times), 14th July

London - Iraqi President has executed several fishermen from the Duleimi
tribe. The massacre took place at al-Tharthar Lake, 120 kilometers north of
Baghdad, where the Iraqi strongman has constructed several palaces and
hideouts. The man-made lake is rich in fish and other forms of sea life. It
used to supply Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and other towns with fish.
But Saddam has declared the huge lake off-limits following the building of
several palaces on its shores. He has also placed a ban on the use of
firearms and dynamites in its vicinity.

The move came following reports that U.S. President George W. Bush has
authorized the CIA to use all tools to get rid of him. Informed sources told
Iraq Press that Saddam is no longer moving around in his convoy of
limousines and hundreds of bodyguards equipped with various weapons
including anti-tank and anti-air missiles. To keep his movements under
wraps, the sources say Saddam is now using simple means of transport and has
clamped a complete blackout on his movements and visits. The last time he
was in Tharthar he heard explosions which his bodyguards allegedly
attributed to Duleimi tribesmen fishing in the lake. The sources said Saddam
was so incensed that he ordered their execution on the spot, fearing that
the explosions might have been part of a coup to to kill him.

The sources did not say how many fishermen were exactly put death by Saddam.
The killing is said to have angered the elders of Duleimi tribe, whose
members inhabit the desert west and north-west of Baghdad. The restive
Duleimi tribe rose against the regime in a popular rebellion in Ramadi in
1996 when one of its members, a senior air-force officer, was executed
allegedly for plotting to kill Saddam.

Fishing is a pastime which Saddam enjoys immensely and has palaces and
retreats in major lakes in the country. Ponds and lakes, which he also uses
as fish farms, are a fundamental feature of his palaces. He has banned the
use of explosives and poison in fishing in Iraq and threatened violators
with serious consequences, which include hefty fines and long prison terms.
But Saddam might have viewed the Duleimi fishermen's alleged use of
dynamites in a lake where the has his most beloved palaces as a defiance
which he could not tolerate.

BBC, 16th July

Excerpts from the Saddam Hussein interview published in several Arab
newspapers, in which he said he believes the USA is threatening the whole of
the Arab world, and not just Iraq.

[Saddam Hussein] The Arabs are the subject of a savage onslaught.

They faced many invasions and wars in the past by the Moguls, the Tartars,
the Crusaders, and now the US-Zionist invasion of the Arab World represented
by Palestine and Iraq...

Among the things on which the people of the one Arab nation differ is
foreign intervention, which seeks to drive a wedge between them and deepen
their differences. It wants to exploit their differences in its interest and
the expense of our nation...

The foreigner will not let the nation heal its wounds and rise above its
differences, since this conflicts with its interests.

He seeks to divide the nation. The foreigner is using every means to
dominate the nation in order to increase its illegal share in the strategic
location and resources of this nation

Therefore, the nation must close its ranks, rise above its differences, and
concentrate on confronting the enemy...

The whole Arab nation is a target. This is not the battle of Iraq, but of
the entire Arab nation...

As to our brethren in the Gulf, we have announced more than once and stated
in official work committees and Arab summit conferences, the latest being
the Beirut conference that we want to turn a new leaf in the history of
inter-Arab relations.

But, whenever the United States and Zionism see us close to convincing
others on our relations with our Kuwaiti brethren they would fabricate
things so as to deepen the hatred and estrangement between brethren...

We had several members of the ruling family, officers and non-commissioned
officers from the Kuwaiti army and members of other Kuwaiti families [since
the 1991 Gulf War].

We gave them the choice between staying here in Iraq and returning to
Kuwait. They chose to return.

We treated them with full respect and returned them in a most respectful way
that befitted their position.

The heroic [suicide] operations in Palestine shall be recorded in the
history of our nation with letters of light.

I consider these martyrdom acts and the steadfastness of the heroic
Palestinian people as steadfastness by the Iraqi people...

Every Arab must view these acts from this viewpoint; that is, he has carried
out his work fully and this is the true Arab spirit.

The commando operations in Palestine are now our asset and give us the
power. They must not drag us from one position to another, as if the big
issue now is whether Yasser Arafat stays or leaves his post, and we forget
the whole of Palestine.

The enemies are trying to push the Arabs from one position to another and
make them pant after those stands, while Israel does not budge an inch. It
is indeed a sorrowful situation.

We must all understand that Iraq is targeted.

Therefore, all the ideas and views that are written or discussed in the news
media must serve Iraq and the Iraqi people in their confrontation of the
tyrannical forces.

Otherwise, some pens and views would deal with non-essential issues, thereby
diverting attention from the confrontation of the enemies of Iraq and the
Arab nation.

Tehran Times, 17th July

WASHINGTON -- Iraq has decided to lift restrictions on travel abroad that
has led to severe hardship for Polish diplomats representing U.S. interests
in Baghdad since April, a senior State Department official said Monday.

"The Iraqis have got back to the Poles and said they can return to the way
things were before," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Iraq banned overland travel to and from Iraq by the diplomats in April and
the United States says commercial flights to and from Baghdad violate UN
sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

The effect was to trap the Polish diplomats in Baghdad for long periods but
most of them were able to fly to Jordan on a plane that had brought
humanitarian supplies to Iraq.

Because of the hardship, the only Polish diplomat left at the U.S. Interests
Section in Baghdad is its chief, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
told a briefing on Friday.

He accused Iraq of "gamesmanship" and another U.S. official said the United
States had demanded an end to the restrictions.

A diplomatic source said Baghdad informed Warsaw verbally that Polish
personnel and their families could again travel overland from Baghdad to
Amman, Jordan, and Damascus, Syria, using border crossings.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iraq so its interests are
represented by Polish diplomats.

The Algerian Embassy similarly is Iraq's "protecting power" in Washington.
The United States has vowed to see Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of
office and President George W. Bush has declared Iraq to be a member of an
"axis of evil."


 by Larry Benjamin
News 24 (South Africa), 13th July

Last week South Africa played host to Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime

Why? The reasons for inviting Aziz may on the surface appear to many to be
mystifying and, at best, a case of very poor timing.

More broadly, it raises a general concern about South Africa's penchant for
embracing certain regimes (such as Libya and Cuba) that have acquired the
status of pariahs in the international community.

More than a year ago Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad issued a general
invitation to Tariq Aziz to visit South Africa. The decision was probably
based on a naive belief that he represents a more moderate strain within the
Iraqi government.

Although apparently coincidental, Aziz's visit comes after the breakdown of
yet another round of talks between instransigent Iraqi officials and UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan concerning the return of an international
weapons inspection team in Iraq that would seek to verify Iraq's claim that
it has abided by UN resolutions and has ceased all efforts aimed at
acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Additionally, at the very time that South Africa seems to be cosying up to
Baghdad, the Bush administration's attitude to Iraq has hardened. Iraq,
together with Iran and North Korea, was labeled as being part of an "axis of
evil" by President George W Bush in his State of the Union address earlier
this year.

Plans to invade Iraq with the overriding and unambiguous purpose of
overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein are currently being vigorously
debated in US military and political circles and such an operation may be
actualized as early as January 2003.

According to leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch, the regime in Baghdad continues to be
one of the most overtly repressive, not only in its own region, but on a
global scale.

The decision to roll out the red carpet for Aziz, at almost the same time
that the African Union was being launched, therefore seems incongruous and
baffling. South Africa's relations with the Arab world are motivated almost
exclusively by economic imperatives and have never been encumbered by
concerns such as democracy, human rights or good governance, principles that
supposedly will lie at the bedrock of Nepad and the AU.

Notwithstanding a genuine and laudable concern for the humanitarian
catastrophe that confronts Iraqi civilians as a result of more than a decade
of sanctions and equally as a result of Baghdad's failure to adequately
distribute humanitarian relief supplies, Pretoria's engagement with Iraq is
overwhelmingly predicated upon a desire to reap economic rewards that will
accompany the lifting of sanctions against Iraq.

Companies such as Eskom, who have apparently reached an "understanding" with
the Iraqi Electricity Commission, seem poised to be among those likely to
profit. By engaging with Iraq, South Africa is also able to demonstrate to
some of its detractors, that this country is not acting as a surrogate of
the developed states in south-south forums such as the Non Aligned Movement
or the AU.

By adopting positions on at least some issues that are clearly at variance
with US policy, Pretoria may hope to enhance its international influence.
This too may prove to be a costly illusion.

Policy makers in this country clearly believe that establishing nascent ties
with Iraq's political and business elite makes good sense and is in the
national interest. This simply is not the case.

The current policy of engaging Iraq has clearly been influenced to some
degree by Iraq's apparent reintegration into mainstream Arab politics.
Pretoria has also no doubt taken cognisance of the crumbling sanctions
edifice against Baghdad and the widespread opposition to US and British
efforts to maintain a policy of containment against Saddam's regime. But
this very failure by Washington and London to maintain an international
coalition against the Iraqis now makes a military operation almost

If such an operation achieves its aim of toppling Saddam, the people of Iraq
would have been truly liberated because their rights and hopes have been
systematically crushed by the calculated and cruel actions of their own

South Africa, as chair of Nam and in its private capacity, should be calling
for sanctions against Iraq to be lifted as soon as Iraq accepts a genuinely
impartial weapons inspection team back into Iraq.

South Africa should make known to the US and Britain its opposition to any
military adventurism against Iraq and should stress the need for a
diplomatic solution.

However the reality is that a regime change in Iraq, effectuated by massive
military action is now a distinct possibility. It is therefore more
important for South Africa to demonstrate its solidarity with the Iraqi
people, whose primary enemy is its own regime.

By so doing, Pretoria will offload the hypocrisy that underscores its
current policy and will, instead, remain true to its own declared commitment
to promoting human rights, democracy and good governance. Clearly any new
order in Iraq will also come closer to embracing those objectives than the
current dictatorship ever would.

Moreover, if South Africa adopts a policy informed by moral principles and
not just economic considerations, the material benefits that may come our
way in a post-Saddam Iraq may be all the greater and the more deserved.

Larry Benjamin is director of the Middle East and South Asia Project at Wits

The Associated Press, 16th July

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Pakistani police and security agencies are questioning
two Iraqis in connection with the March 17 grenade attack on a church in
Islamabad in which two Americans and three others were killed, an official
said Tuesday.

The official, Munawar Ali, refused to say why the Iraqis has been picked up
for questioning in the attack but said authorities had received permission
from a court to hold them.

Ali described the Iraqis as uncooperative.

An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the
Iraqis were detained Sunday in Islamabad.

The attack on the Protestant church in Islamabad's diplomatic quarter
prompted the United States to withdraw nonessential diplomatic staff and
family members of embassy employees.

Times of India (from AFP), 16th July

BEIJING: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Tuesday used a speech in
China to blast Iraq as an international "cheat" which must be brought to
account for its misdeeds.

Straw's address to students at Beijing's elite Tsinghua University further
ratchets up the rhetorical heat against the Iraqi regime as speculation
heightens that the United States wants to invade the country as part of its
war against terrorism.

Straw, on the second day of a two-day visit to China, condemned nations
which were unaccountable to international rules.

"The greatest challenges at the beginning of the 21st century come from
terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and states where the rule of law has
broken down," he said.

Among these, he singled out the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for
special criticism.

"We share responsibility to hold the cheats, such as Iraq, to account,"
Straw told an audience of students at the university's economics department.

The threat of a US-led strike against Iraq has appeared to grow in recent
weeks, with American President George W. Bush pledging to use "all tools" at
his disposal to remove Saddam.

US newspapers have also carried leaked military documents purporting to lay
out detailed plans for a potential war on Iraq -- a prospect to which China
has repeatedly expressed opposition.

Straw also singled out North Korea, another high-profile foe of Britain and
the United States but a close ally of Beijing, for condemnation over its
alleged sales of weapons of mass destruction.

"North Korea's continuing refusal to abide by its commitments under the
Non-Proliferation Treaty and Agreed Framework is another grave cause for
concern," Straw said, referring to international weapons accords.

China has also faced condemnation, mainly from Washington, for not doing
enough to halt the spread of advanced weaponry.

However, while Straw reminded his hosts of their obligations he did so
gently and in general terms.

"There is obviously responsibility in arms exporting nations -- the UK and
China included -- to take all necessary steps to end it," he said.

He additionally urged China to work with the UN Security Council, of which
both countries are permanent members, and other world bodies to form an
"international rule of law" over counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and
conflict prevention.

"In the coming decades, I think it likely that all states will adopt
international standards in various fields from environmental protection and
trade to human rights," he added.

On the first full day of his visit Monday, Straw met President Jiang Zemin,
vice premier Qian Qichen and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan in Beijing.

The issue of Iraq was raised in the talks with Tang, a British official said
later that day.

Straw is due to head to Tokyo from Beijing later Tuesday before stopping off
in Hong Kong on Thursday and India on Friday.

IRAQI OPPOSITION,,7-355786,00.html

Andrew Billen Interview with Ahmad Chalabi
The Times, 15th July

The urbane public-school educated businessman Ahmad Chalabi could be the
next leader of Iraq, if the US deposes Saddam. But as Iraqi opposition
groups meet to discuss a new leadership, many are already questioning
whether he has become too controversial to do the job well

The phrase "regime change" is so anodyne that it would best be confined to
the beauty pages: farewell dandelion facial scrub; hello camomile
moisturiser. Instead it has become a scary diplomatic euphemism, probably
dreamed up deep in the Pentagon, for something bloody and nasty that will
result in the dictator Saddam Hussein being removed from Iraq perhaps even
before the end of the year. President Bush and Tony Blair are both committed
to it as phase two of their war on terrorism. British and American spies are
apparently on the ground inciting riot. At the weekend, 70 exiled Iraqi
officers met in London to discuss tactics. Let's assume what we should not ‹
that everything goes to plan ‹ and then ask the next question: a change to
what and to whom?

The whom could just be sitting before me in his office in Knightsbridge. He
is Dr Ahmad Chalabi, a businessman, maths professor, and the leading figure
in the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella grouping of anti-Saddam
organisations. He is 57, married with four children and speaks beautiful,
witty English, learnt at Sussex public school in whose cadet corps he also
gained map-reading skills that proved remarkably useful 35 years later when
he led a military insurrection against Saddam. This afternoon he is dressed
in an expensive tweed jacket that looks as if it has slithered off the peg
from Harrods across the road.

Officially he is merely one out of six of the INC's executive council, whose
members include the heir to the Iraqi throne, Prince Sharif Ali, but he is
universally regarded as the first among equals. He insists that he is not a
candidate for the Iraqi presidency but does not deny that he believes his
destiny is to help rebuild Iraq into a functioning democracy. Entifadh
Qanbar, the INC's Washington director, is less discreet. He has said of
Chalabi: "He will be Saddam's replacement and the world, not just Iraq, will
be a better place for it."

Cynicism tells me that Chalabi is a probably an American puppet, bankrolled
by the CIA, and living it up in London. The idea of the West grooming him as
the next President sounds very Prisoner of Zenda and, knowing America, it
has probably backed the wrong horse anyway (for one thing Chalabi is a Shia
Muslim, which would most likely make him unacceptable to Iraq's
Sunni-dominated neighbour, Saudi Arabia). My prejudices receive a boost when
his assistant tells me that Chalabi is "not a morning person", and he won't
reach his office until midday. Late nights at the casino, I assume.

I am wrong on all counts. Far from a US stooge, Chalabi has been on terrible
terms with the CIA and State Department ever since he began blaming them for
the failure of the 1995 coup. Although he has his supporters in the White
House, his friends in Washington lie mainly in Congress. As for America
subsidising a playboy lifestyle, he is, for one thing, independently wealthy
and does not need the cash. For another, he's too donnish to be interested.
When we later have dinner, it is at a ridiculously cheap kebab house in the
East End of London, where the staff welcome him as a regular. "We also like
Wagamama a lot," he says.

Earlier, in his office, spartan except for some garish modern paintings by
Iraqi artists, I ask about his background. His reply turns into a short
history of Iraq, an indication of how, despite his English urbanity and
passport, his identity is wrapped up in that of his native land.

"Iraq is, of course, the cradle of civilisation," he begins.

Pythagoras' Theorem was known in Iraq a thousand years before Pythagoras was
born. Some of the first agricultural settlements in the world were in Iraq,
as were the first seriously politically organised cities. The first written
code of law was drawn up in Iraq in the 18th century BC. Millennia later,
when the Kingdom of Iraq was established by the British in 1921, there was a
constitution, a Parliament and, relatively speaking, free elections.

So, the idea that Iraqis are a fanatic, fundamentalist and primitive people
incapable of governing themselves is a nonsense? "Complete nonsense."

Chalabi's family arrived in Iraq from Syria at the time of the last Ottoman
conquest of Baghdad in 1673 and soon established themselves as prominent
citizens. His grandfather was an MP in the 1920s Parliament and his father,
a wealthy grain importer, also became an MP and senator. The youngest of six
sons and three sisters, Ahmad remembers a happy but politicised childhood.
He recalls Harold Macmillan dining at the family home in Baghdad, now the
Indian Embassy. His father was head of the senate when a coup d'état left
the king murdered in 1958, and would have been killed had he not been out of
the country at the time. Ahmad Chalabi, still there, remembers the king's
body being dragged through the streets.

After the coup, the family moved to England and Chalabi settled into his
boarding school on the South Downs. He graduated from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, took a PhD in mathematics in Chicago and taught at
the American University of Beirut for seven years. But he was also an
entrepreneur. In the 1980s he founded the Bank of Petra, which became
Jordan's second largest. His career there ended in 1989 in what the cuttings
call "financial scandal". Outraged by this phrase, Chalabi says that the
bank had become too powerful and the Jordanians sent in soldiers to take
over his business by military decree. Via Syria and the Lebanon, Chalabi
returned to Britain and, as he puts it, "started doing my politics". My
prejudice that Chalabi is a lounge lizard living high on the American hog
rather falls down before his subsequent record, for he did not remain in
London long.

In 1991 he organised a conference of 400 opposition leaders in northern
Iraq, and managed temporarily to reconcile both of the squabbling Kurdish
factions. Impressed, the incoming American Secretary of State, Warren
Christopher, promised to help the INC overthrow Saddam.

In 1992, Chalabi returned and set up base in the north, whose Kurdish
population was by now protected by American air cover. During this period,
as he planned the rebellion, the INC claims that he survived nine
assassination attempts, including poisoning, car bombing and sniper attack.
When battle finally commenced in March 1995, Chalabi was with his forces on
the front line. But the campaign ended in defeat and 130 INC members were

What went wrong? "Nothing. We achieved the defeat of two divisions of the
Iraqi Army and over 1,000 officers and men came over to our side.

"But the Americans would not help us. We did well, but the Americans
immediately pulled the plug from us."

Why is America so suspicious of the INC that it won't back it when it
counts? "The main reason is that we argue. We are not compliant. We put our
point of view forcefully forward and we don't accept things on their say-so.
And we have an agenda, an agenda for democratic change in Iraq. Many people
who are doing the operational work in America do not share this view. Our
message of democracy, human rights, representative government, is a threat
to the whole structure of American alliances in the Middle East and the Arab
world. They think we are off the wall in that respect."

Diplomatically, the INC's greatest victory came in 1988 when, after years of
lobbying, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Iraq Liberation Act. Signed by
President Clinton, the legislation officially stated that it was US policy
to fund opposition groups to establish democracy in Iraq. The State
Department got its revenge in January, however, when its auditors charged
that the INC had misspent $2.2 million. Despite the INC's detailed 173 page
rebuttal, its funding was stopped. In consequence the office we are meeting
in is soon likely to close. Chalabi actually seems rather cheerful about
this. "We will be free of their shackles," he says.

What really cheers him, however, is the hardening of President Bush's
attitude towards Iraq. At his ranch in Texas in April, Bush, with Blair at
his side, announced that he would remove "this guy Saddam".

Chalabi believes that he meant it and thinks that Saddam believes Bush too.

But will the INC be part of this regime-change? Chalabi shrugs. "Who they
co-operate with is up to them. We don't care any more. It doesn't matter. If
the United States is going to go to remove Saddam, there will be a
democratic government in Iraq even if they invade the country with hundreds
of thousands of troops as some people are advocating. What would the US
military do in Iraq? Establish a dictatorship, protect a government which
shoots demonstrators in the city? Of course not."

I ask if we can be sure that attacking Iraq would not make the region even
worse off. Wouldn't Saddam attempt to blow up Israel? "He'll blow something
up anyway. He wants to go down in history among the Arabs and Muslims as the
modern-day Saladin."

And aren't the Kurds, in their safe havens and no-fly zones, quite happy
with their quasi autonomy? "The Kurds are not short-sighted. They know that
this is an anomalous situation and cannot last."

As for the possibility that what replaces Saddam might be worse, he simply
cannot conceive it. "This is like saying don't remove Hitler or don't remove
Stalin. The issue of removing Saddam is not a significant military problem
for the United States. It's not a significant problem."

It can be done? "Easily. Without too much difficulty. The United States is
capable of doing it in many ways. They have many options.

"And many of them will work. The main issue is what happens after Saddam.
Iraq is a society which is devastated. Civil society has been systematically
destroyed by three decades of Baath Party rule. Half of the people under 20
are illiterate. Schools went to total ruin in Iraq in the past decade. It's
ridiculous what's happened in the country, worse than anything that the
Middle East has seen for many hundreds of years."

So Iraq will take ages to heal? "This is what I'm talking about. What we
need is a de Baathification programme like a de-Nazification programme. We
must develop structures, we must train people. We must train judges,
prosecutors, people who would investigate crimes, human-rights activists."

What worries independent experts on the region I have spoken to is whether
Chalabi is up to this job. One deeply unimpressed former security adviser to
the White House told me: "If the Americans think they can just parachute
Chalabi in, they must be crazy."

Ghassan Atiyyah, the elderly but diamond-sharp editor of the London-based
Iraqi File, believes that behind the front of public reasonableness Chalabi
lacks the gift of being able to work in a team. The umbrella of
organisations he claims to represent has huge holes in it and to all intents
and purposes the INC is a one-man outfit.

"Having Saddam in power makes any other candidate for president acceptable,"
he prefaces his remarks, "and if Dr Chalabi was elected fair and square I
would have no problem with him. But if I had a bet with you now, I'd say
there's no chance that whatever government follows Saddam will involve Ahmad
Chalabi. He has become too controversial. But then, if the democratic
process is adhered to, I doubt that many of those presently outside the
country would be elected to power."

Others merely wonder if such a well-meaning and civilised man could possibly
hold the country together. One academic told me he felt fairly sure that
America would prefer a friendly general from the Iraqi military to take

Chalabi has two responses to the proposition that only one of history's
proverbial "strong men" could govern Iraq. The first is practical. "The
strong man myth said that a strong man would emerge from Saddam's regime
(after the Gulf War and overthrow Saddam, but it did not happen because
there is no such animal. If there is a strong man and Saddam knows him, he
will kill him."

His other objection is more deeply felt. "There is a strong element of
racism in this thinking that Arabs, and Iraqis in particular, are incapable
of modern democracy. It is a very strong element and it angers us.

"You made a remark about our image here, that the INC are well-dressed
people, sitting in nice offices. Well, we were the only Iraqis to organise a
major military campaign against Saddam since the Gulf War.

"I lived in Iraq four years and every day we worked against Saddam.

"There was danger all the time. But also we played classical music. You
don't have to be grimy to be involved in liberating Iraq."

Iraq, we must remember, was the cradle of civilisation.

He spends the afternoon in meetings, but in the evening I join him with
three INC officials in their favourite restaurant, Chalabi using his fingers
to toss me rather more kebabs and lamb cutlets than I need. Some of the
chatter is prurient gossip about Saddam's sex life. Some centres on the
United States's unreasonableness. There are plenty of morale-boosting
anecdotes demonstrating that "our spies are smarter than their spies". The
correct response seems to be incredulous laughter. But the table hushes when
the INC's security chief tells us how he met the professional assassin whose
shots crippled Uday, Saddam's son, as he was leaving a nightclub five years

Our bizarre conversation conducted over pitta bread and CocaCola impresses
upon me that one quality any future Iraqi leader will need is bravery. Deep
down Iraq may well be a civilised nation, but for 50 years its leaders have
been proposed and deposed by the bullet and not the ballot box. Not the
least impressive manifestation of Chalabi's courage is that, in a grimy
world scarcely concealed by euphemism, he dares to sound too good to be

by Kim Sengupta
Independent, 15th July 2002

Iraqi exiles expected to participate in a future government of their country
warned yesterday that an invasion by American and British troops would bring
widespread destruction without removing Saddam Hussein.

Opposition leaders stressed that a large-scale offensive by Washington and
its allies would not be supported by opponents of the Baghdad regime, either
inside or outside Iraq.

In response to repeated reports of the Bush administration preparing for
war, with a 250,000-strong force, a number of prominent Iraqi defectors
insisted that more focused, specialist strikes would have far more chance of

In London, where more than 300 opposition military and political leaders are
taking part in the first conference of its kind, delegates said large-scale
Western attacks on Iraq were unnecessary because most Iraqi forces would
turn against President Saddam at the outbreak of hostilities.

A former major-general, Najib al-Salhi, said: "The United States will not
find support inside or outside Iraq for an offensive that would harm
civilians, destroy infrastructure, and target troops not defending the

"Any campaign must be limited to toppling Saddam. The army will not defend
him and neither will the Republican Guard [elite troops thought to be loyal
to the Iraqi leader]."

In Kuwait, a former Iraqi intelligence chief also warned Washington that a
land war could leave a desperate Iraqi regime with no option but to use
weapons of mass destruction. Wafiq al-Samarrai said: "The US should know
that Saddam will not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction on American
military groupings. Diplomacy is the only choice for the United States."

Mr Samarrai, who is close to Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the exiled Iraqi
National Congress ­ seen by some in Washington as a possible post-Saddam
leader ­ added: "If that fails then another option is an intelligence
operation that targets the regime only.

"Efforts must focus on core issues to topple the Iraqi regime by choosing
the best, quickest, and least costly method for the Iraqi people and
regional states ... carrying out a swift intelligence operation."

The opposition leaders are also concerned that the US and Britain may incite
Iraqis to rise against President Saddam and then fail to help, as happened
at the end of the Gulf War.

Another former major-general, Tawfiq al-Yassiri, who led an uprising in
southern Iraq at that time, and was wounded when Iraqi forces crushed the
rebels, is among senior officers counselling caution to compatriots inside
Iraq. They point out that it was the US President's father, George Bush Snr,
who abandoned the rebels, and that some members of his administration were
back in power in Washington.

The appearance at the conference of Prince Hassan of Jordan, an uncle of
King Abdullah, increased speculation over the likelihood of war. Leaked
Pentagon reports have stated that Jordan has agreed to become one of the
bases for a US attack. This, however, has been denied by the king.,3604,755342,00.html

by Brian Whitaker
The Guardian, 15th July

Exiled Iraqi officers meeting in London backed US efforts to remove Saddam
Hussein yesterday, but promised they would not seek to replace him with
another military regime.

The 60 former senior officers, several with the rank of general, avoided
grappling with blueprints for overthrowing the president.

Apparently aiming to reassure Iraqis that a change of regime would not
result in another dictatorship, they approved a military charter of honour,
declaring their readiness to join "any effort to establish a new democratic
federal regime, based on the rule of law and civil society".

They said they would welcome "any foreign help" to get rid of Saddam
Hussein's regime, and urged all Iraqi soldiers, inside and outside the
country, to work together to achieve this aim.

It was the first time that so many defectors from the Iraqi army had been
able to meet and talk freely.

After an opening session at Kensington town hall on Friday night, they moved
for security reasons to a three-storey cube of black glass in Neasden, north
London, next to a DIY superstore, which is rented by the Iraqi National

A cable through an upper window provided electricity from a mobile generator
in the car park.

"It's all the Americans' fault," one man complained: the INC has not paid
its electricity bill, allegedly because the state department is withholding
funds until the group gives a clearer account of what it does with US
taxpayers' money.

Sources at the meeting said that there was more agreement than many had

The main issue debated was whether Iraq should have a federal system of
government, which the Kurds strongly favour, because it would guarantee them
a measure of autonomy.

The Turkoman representatives, and some others, urged that the decision on
the system of government should be left to a referendum.

But the Kurds said a referendum immediately after the overthrow of President
Saddam could inflame ethnic and sectarian rivalries.

The charter of honour commits the officers to abide by the decisions of the
Iraqi people and to withdraw from political affairs once a change of regime

It says the future role of the army should be limited to "national defence
and not [to] committing aggression".

Arab analysts said the document would probably attract middle-ranking
officers in Iraq, but some in the highest ranks would not welcome its
emphasis on democracy.

The highest-ranking general in exile, Nizar al-Khazraji, who is understood
to prefer rule by a military council when President Saddam is overthrown,
was pointedly absent from the conference, which elected a council of 15,
without a chairman or a leader but with Brigadier General Tawfiq al-Yasiri
as its spokesman.

Brigadier-General Najib al-Salihi, one of the central figures at the
meeting, predicted yesterday that the Iraqi army would fold immediately if
the US attacked.

"Morale is at a disastrous level and the troops are sick of continuous war.
Saddam will find himself surrounded by a few hundred soldiers," he told

He also dismissed US con cern about President Saddam's possible use of
chemical and biological weapons, saying he did not have the means to deliver
such weapons.

The US, he said, had to declare that it was only after President Saddam and
not his troops, otherwise it would not have the support of the Iraqi people
or the army.

"This cannot be two armies facing each other. The United States must make it
clear that it is only after Saddam's head," he said.

He forecast a situation in which President Saddam would go on the run,
suggesting that the US aircraft policing the "no fly zones" could be used to
back an advance on Baghdad by rebel forces from the north.

"Saddam will try to escape, but he will find that he has nowhere to go,"
Brig Salihi said. "We will not be able to put him on trial. The people will
get to him first."


by Guy Dinmore
Financial Times, 16th July

The Kurdish mountains of northern Iraq lie far from the Shia Arab marshlands
in the south. Yet while they may be geographically far apart and culturally
distinct, recent meetings between leaders from the two regions indicate
closer co-operation in their attempt to agree on the shape of a future
Baghdad government.

But, according to diplomats, while the two sides may be working closer
together - a meeting is believed to have taken place as recently as last
week - the main Kurdish factions and the loose coalition of Islamic Shia
parties have so far failed to convince the US that they would hold Iraq
together, should Washington succeed in ousting Saddam Hussein, the

His exiled opponents spent the weekend in London discussing how to overthrow
Mr Hussein's regime. But while effective links among dissidents are being
fostered by the US and the UK, on the ground co-operation between the
various groups is more difficult.

As it seeks to engineer a change of regime in Baghdad, one of Washington's
prime concerns is the role of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq and other Shia Arab groups. The US fears that radical
Shia groups backed by Iran could come to dominate large parts of a
post-Hussein Iraq.

Shia Arabs make up more than 50 per cent of Iraq's population but have been
excluded from having a controlling presence in government by the Sunni
minority, now dominated by the al Tikriti tribe of Mr Hussein.

In 1991, after US-led forces ousted the Iraqi army from Kuwait, Shia Arabs
in the south and Kurds in the north revolted against the central government.
The Shia rebellion, joined by SCIRI and Iranian elements, soon took on a
religious form.

After encouraging the Iraqi people to overthrow Mr Hussein, the US stood
back. Its allies among the ruling Sunni families of the Gulf Arab states and
Turkey, with its restive Kurdish minority, were not alone in fearing
establishment of a pro-Iranian regime or the break-up of Iraq. Given a free
hand, Baghdad soon crushed the uprisings. Since that defeat, Ayatollah
Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, the exiled leader of SCIRI based in Iran, has
dropped the Islamic rhetoric.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the robed cleric spoke of the need
for a multi-party government for Iraq "with all Iraqis taking part". "We
want change and the removal of tyranny. We have no aim of playing a leading
role in Iraq," he said.

Asked whether SCIRI would support a US attack on Iraq, the ayatollah
indicated that his organisation would not remain idle. His hosts in the
Islamic republic, branded as part of an "axis of evil" by George W. Bush, US
president, are opposed to any attempt by Washington to impose change in
Baghdad, fearing they would be next in line.

"If an attack does take place, we will take measures according to the
prevailing condi tions. It is a matter for the future. We have said before
we would not join the US or the Iraqi regime, but what will happen will
determine our situation," Ayatollah Hakim said, adding that the SCIRI has
had contacts with the US.

Iranian analysts estimate SCIRI has a small force of 12,000 fighters, mostly
based in Iran and assisted by the Revolutionary Guards. Ayatollah Hakim
declines to reveal numbers but insists he has a popular-based army inside

Complicating the picture are splits emerging within SCIRI as factions jockey
for future power. According to Iranian press reports, the Al-Dawa group,
which enjoys ties with Iran, has broken away.

Nonetheless, leaders of the main Kurdish groups, which have proposed a
federal solution for Iraq, maintain close contact with Ayatollah Hakim.
Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), met the
ayatollah in Tehran in May to discuss the outcome of secret talks he held
with Massoud Barzani, leader of the rival Kurdish Democratic party, and
members of the US administration in Germany and Virginia. More than 20 per
cent of Iraq's population is believed to be Kurdish.

Barham Saleh, regional prime minister, said the PUK enjoyed good relations
with Ayatollah Hakim. "I believe that the US, if they are serious about
Iraq, have to deal with realities like Hakim," Mr Saleh told the FT. "There
is acknowledgement in Washington that Hakim is an important figure and can't
be ignored. The Shia must have a say and a role."

Nonetheless, US policy - to establish a "pluralistic, broad-based
government" - appears to fall short of demands by both Kurdish factions for
the formation of a federal state to protect the interests of Iraq's three
main ethnic groups.

While the rival Kurdish forces and diverse Shia Arab groups have a mutual
interest in talking up their democratic credentials and desire to preserve a
single Iraqi state, it remains to be seen whether the US is convinced of
their ability to share power.

However, Colin Powell, US secretary of state, has angered the Kurds and
Ayotollah Hakim by describing Iraqi opposition forces as weaker than the
US-allied Northern Alliance and Mr Hussein as stronger than the Taliban.

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