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[casi] from today's papers: 19-07-02

A. Jordan prince touted to succeed Saddam, Guardian, 19 July
B. Reservists called up in build-up for Iraq, Daily Telegraph, 19 July
C. If Iraqis want a king, Hassan of Jordan could be their man, Daily
Telegraph, 19 July [opinion piece by rightwing think-tanker and
sanctions-apologist Michael Rubin]


[Letter writers: remember to include your address and telephone #]


A. Jordan prince touted to succeed Saddam

Brian Whitaker
Friday July 19, 2002
The Guardian

As US officials and Iraqi opposition groups squabble over possible
successors to Saddam Hussein, Prince Hassan of neighbouring Jordan is
emerging as a surprise contender.
The idea, which has support in the Pentagon and among conservative thinkers
in the US, envisages the prince rising above Iraqi factionalism as a
compromise figurehead, or even as king.

Some argue that his involvement could also ease tensions in Washington,
where the state department and CIA have been at loggerheads with Congress
and the Pentagon over Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial leader of the Iraqi
National Congress, an umbrella opposition group funded by US taxpayers.

"Prince Hassan is someone who has not been poisoned by the past 40 years of
chaos in Iraq and is perhaps the only person who can transcend the ethnic
and political complexities," said Michael Rubin of the Washington thinktank
the American Enterprise Institute.

Hassan, 55, was crown prince of Jordan for many years and effectively ruled
the country during the terminal illness of his eldest brother, the late King

But a few weeks before his death in 1999, King Hussein removed him from the
succession and nominated his own son, now King Abdullah.

On April 8 this year, Prince Hassan had talks at the Pentagon with Paul
Wolfowitz, the US deputy secretary of defence. The subject was never
disclosed but since then he has begun to assume a higher political profile.

This culminated in his dramatic "coming out" last week when - surrounded by
TV cameras - he arrived unexpectedly at a conference of exiled Iraqi
officers in London. It was the first time that a high-ranking Arab had
publicly associated himself with the Iraqi opposition. His move appears to
have been well received.

Speculation has been heightened by the fact that the Jordanian royal family
is related to the Iraqi royal family, whose last king, Faisal II, was
deposed and assassinated in 1958.


B. Reservists called up in build-up for Iraq
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent

Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 19/07/2002)

The Ministry of Defence is planning a mass mobilisation of key reservists
beginning in September, heightening expectation that the United States and
Britain are stepping up preparations for an attack on Iraq.

British troops have also been pulled out of Nato's ACE Mobile Force rapid
reaction corps and British involvement in a large number of exercises has
been cancelled or scaled down to leave troops ready for the attack on Iraq.

The Prime Minister has strongly backed the idea of a pre-emptive strike on
Iraq and refused to commit the Government to a vote in the House of Commons
on the deployment of British forces.

British military planners are working on the basis that Britain will provide
a very large force, including an armoured division, a naval task force and
substantial numbers of combat aircraft.

The decision to pull out of the Nato rapid reaction force was taken at the
same time as it was announced that the bulk of British forces were being
withdrawn from Afghanistan and Bosnia.

It means that the 1,500 British troops previously earmarked for the force
will not now be taking part in two major exercises this autumn, in Germany
and Ukraine.

In another move to free forces for an attack on Iraq, 3,000 members of
Britain's main fighting force, 1 (UK) Armoured Division, have been withdrawn
from a tank exercise in Poland. The MoD insisted that no decision had been
made on Iraq but did not deny that planning was under way. "Any government
department has contingency plans," a spokesman said.

Defence sources said the reservists who would be called up would cover key
shortages such as pilots, medical staff, special forces, intelligence and

C. If Iraqis want a king, Hassan of Jordan could be their man
By Michael Rubin

Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 19/07/2002)

Last weekend, more than 70 exiled Iraqi military officials and Ahmad
Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, met in London to discuss
the ousting of Saddam Hussein. American diplomats, Pentagon officials and
members of Vice-President Dick Cheney's staff joined British colleagues.

The surprise participant was Jordan's Prince Hassan bin Talal. Crown prince
for more than three decades, Hassan frequently served as regent while his
brother, King Hussein, travelled abroad. As Hussein was, Hassan is known for
his moderation, his genuine desire for peace, his humour and his learning.

Two weeks before his death, Hussein altered the Jordanian succession to
allow his son Abdullah to take the throne. Despite the slight of being
passed over, Hassan has painstakingly avoided any action that might undercut
his nephew's rule.

Pundits rushed to explain Hassan's surprise appearance at the London
conference. Some argued that King Abdullah II and Hassan merely sought to
replicate Hussein's shrewd diplomacy in the months before the Gulf war, when
Jordan masterfully straddled the fence between American friends and Iraqi

Others speculated that Hassan's presence indicated palace intrigue, with
Hassan seeking to prove himself a better friend of Washington than Abdullah.
Not likely. Not only are Abdullah and Hassan well liked and respected in
Washington, but Hassan has also had far better opportunities to upstage his
nephew if that were his goal.

In his speech to the exiled Iraqi officers, Hassan avoided politics and
focused instead upon his family's relationship with Iraq - his cousins ruled
the country until 1958. He insisted his visit was strictly personal, telling
reporters: "I'm not carrying any signals." Nevertheless, his address raises
intriguing possibilities for Iraq's future.

July 14, 1958, is a date most Iraqis wish to forget. Just after dawn,
soldiers stormed the palace and murdered the 19-year-old King Faisal II and
his family. For a decade after the revolution, there was sporadic street
fighting, mass killings, assassination attempts and violent changes in

On July 30, 1968, the ethnic chauvinist Ba'ath party seized power. A young
functionary named Saddam Hussein took charge of purging dissent, and did so
with brutal efficiency, quickly ensconcing himself as Iraq's strongman.
Within a month of formally assuming the presidency in 1979, 500 top
officials lay dead, victims of Saddam's paranoia. One year later, Saddam
launched his first war of aggression, targeting Iran and killing or maiming
one million people in the process.

In 1988, he executed a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against Iraq's
ethnic minorities, killing up to 182,000 Kurds. Local surveys indicate that
Saddam's government used unconventional munitions on at least 280 separate
occasions. Two years later, he was at it again, pillaging Kuwait and once
more bringing death and destruction to Iraq.

It is not surprising, then, that a common quip in teahouses and pool halls
throughout Iraq is: "Saddam Hussein is God's curse because the communists
killed the king." Iraqis did not grieve over the end of the monarchy, but
the violent death of the young king engendered great sympathy. "He was just
a young boy. He didn't need to die," one retired Iraqi teacher told me.

Most Iraqis today no longer remember their monarchy, but many nevertheless
consider it to be the golden age of Iraq. After all, Iraqis can readily
compare the post-Hashemite decline of resource-rich Iraq with the relative
prosperity brought to a barren and resourceless desert nation by the
Jordanian branch of the family.

As one drives through the hills near Sarsang in northern Iraq, locals point
with pride to the former Hashemite palace (now a hospital) perched on the
hillside, while they treat with disdain the ruins of Saddam's ostentatious
palaces. Iraqis are not alone in looking back fondly on bygone royalty. In
April, Zahir Shah returned to Afghanistan after nearly three decades of
exile. While he no longer seeks the crown, the former king has played an
invaluable role in Afghan reconciliation. His long exile gave Zahir Shah
distance to mediate, and put him above the fray of blood feuds, warlordism
and ethnic politics.

Equally significant is the rise of Reza Pahlavi. In little more than a year,
the son of the late Shah of Iran has risen from relative obscurity to become
the leading catalyst for democracy in Iran. Iranians old enough to remember
the Shah used to visualise their society as European, on a par with Spain,
Portugal and Greece, but now see their country plunging into economic chaos.

Too young to remember the corruption and brutality of the last Shah, they
long for the good life of the past. To many Iranians, such sentiment is not
empty glorification. In 1977, Iran's per capita income was equivalent to
Spain's; two years ago, it hovered near that of the Gaza Strip.

A role for royals in Iraq should therefore come as no surprise. While Sharif
Ali, cousin of the 19-year-old murdered king, pretends to the Iraqi throne,
Hassan has spent more time in Iraq, is tried and tested, and enjoys respect
and legitimacy throughout the Middle East. At the Kensington Town Hall
conference, Chalabi lauded Hassan as "a friend of the Iraqi people". For the
ruling families of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, a place for royals in
Iraq may be more palatable than primacy for republicans.

Should he be interested, Hassan's experience and lineage - Hashemites claim
direct descent from the Prophet Mohammed - give him the unique ability to
usher a post-Saddam Iraq back into the family of nations, with him chairing
a future constitutional convention and overseeing the reconciliation
process. With Saddam's days numbered, Hassan's appearance in London may
signal that Iraqis will have a future far brighter than their past.

Michael Rubin is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute


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