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[casi] from today's papers: 22-07-02

A. Go on, call Bush's bluff, Guardian, 22 July [comment piece by Hans von
B. Wolfowitz trip hints at date of Iraq campaign, Daily Star (Lebanon), 19

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

A. is an opinion piece by former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq, Hans
von Sponeck, while B. - from Lebanon's Daily Star, speculates that major
military action against Iraq 'can take place not earlier than October 2002
and probably not much later than January-February 2003.'

A. Go on, call Bush's bluff
If Iraq lets the arms inspectors back in, America's case for war will be
exposed as fiction
by  Hans von Sponeck

Monday July 22, 2002
The Guardian

During the 17 months of the Bush administration just about everything has
gone wrong for the US government in preparing the public for military
strikes against Iraq. Convincing friendly governments and allies has not
fared much better. Acts of terrorism against US facilities overseas and the
anthrax menace at home could not be linked to Iraq. Evidence of
al-Qaida/lraq collaboration does not exist, neither in the training of
operatives nor in support to Ansar-al-Islam, a small fundamentalist group
which allegedly harbours al-Qaida elements and is trying to destabilise
lraqi Kurdistan.

In the aftermath of the carnage of September 11, the political landscape in
the Middle East has changed dramatically. Years of US double standards in
dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have taken a heavy toll. The
Arab, Turkish and Kurdish public in the area is wary of facing more turmoil,
suffering and uncertainty.

The Beirut summit of the Arab League in March signalled that all 22
governments want to see an end to the conflict with Iraq. Saudi Arabia and
Iraq have since reopened their border at Arar and Saudi businessmen are
selling their wares in Baghdad. Iraq has agreed to return Kuwait's national
archives and to discuss the issue of missing Kuwaitis. Iran and Iraq have
accelerated the exchange of refugees. Syria has normalised its relations
with Iraq. Lebanon has done the same. Hardly a week passes without Turkish
and Jordanian officials and business delegations visiting Iraq. Jordan's
national airline flies five times a week between Amman and Baghdad. Airlinks
exist between Damascus and Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdistan maintains contacts with
Baghdad at scientific, cultural and sports levels and tries to make the best
out of its present (albeit tenuous) local stability. Iraq's political and
economic isolation in the Middle East is all but over.

A wave of senior US visitors has tried to dislocate these trends towards
normalisation and reconciliation in this troubled region. The US
administration has put the UN secretary general on a short leash in his
meetings with the Iraqi authorities. The only topic worthy of discussion
according to the Americans is the return to Iraq of the UN arms inspectors.
This became most apparent during the recently concluded talks with the
Iraqis in Vienna.

Europe is increasingly uncomfortable with this unilateral insistence on
solving the Iraqi conflict militarily. In varying degrees the same applies
to countries in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has served notice that the
Sultan air base near Riyadh will not be available for a new US offensive
against Iraq. Under severe US pressure, Qatar has agreed to permit the
transfer of logistics from Saudi Arabia to its territory. A political crisis
is looming in Jordan as a result of US demands to use Jordan as a possible
staging area in a war against Iraq. A similar debacle will face the Turkish
government once the prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, decides to relinquish his
post and fresh elections are scheduled. An entire region is being
destabilised to suit American preferences for political change in Iraq.

Concurrently, a systematic dis- and mis-information campaign, one of the
biggest ever undertaken by the US authorities, is intensifying. The US and
the international public are being sedated daily with increasing doses of
propaganda about the threat Iraq poses to the world in 2002. In the
forefront of those advocating war against Iraq has been the US deputy
secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, who sees a military solution as the
only option. On July 14 he stated in Istanbul: "President Bush has made it
clear how dangerous the current Iraqi regime is to the United States and
that it represents a danger we cannot live with indefinitely."

To make such statements without offering supporting evidence is
irresponsible. It promotes government-induced mass hysteria in the US and is
meant to garner bipartisan support for military action. A war on Iraq
justified by conjecture is politically foolish and morally repugnant. In the
words of the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Rowan Williams: "It is deplorable that
the world's most powerful nations continue to regard war, and the threat of
war, as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy."

The US Department of Defence and the CIA know perfectly well that today's
Iraq poses no threat to anyone in the region, let alone in the United
States. To argue otherwise is dishonest. They know, for example, that
al-Dora, formerly a production centre for vaccine against foot and mouth
disease on the outskirts of Baghdad, and al-Fallujah, a pesticide and
herbicide manufacturing unit in the western desert, are today defunct and
beyond repair. The UN concluded the former had been involved in biological
agent research and development and the latter in the production of materials
for chemical warfare. UN disarmament personnel permanently disabled al-Dora
in 1996. During a visit with a German TV crew to al-Dora in mid-July - a
site chosen by me and not the Iraqi authorities - I found it in the same
destroyed condition in which I had last seen it in 1999. Al-Fallujah was
partially destroyed in 1991 during the Gulf war and again in December 1998,
during operation desert fox. In between a UN disarmament team disabled all
facilities in any way related to weapons of mass destruction there,
including the castor oil production unit. My visit this month disclosed
beyond any doubt that the castor oil unit was inoperable. Remnants of other
production facilities are used to manufacture herbicides and pesticides for
plant protection and household use.

One does not need to be a specialist in weapons of mass destruction to con
clude that these sites had been rendered harmless and have remained in this
condition. The truly worrying fact is that the US Department of Defence has
all of this information. Why then, one must ask, does the Bush
administration want to include Iraq in its fight against terrorism? Is it
really too far-fetched to suggest that the US government does not want UN
arms inspectors back in Iraq? Do they fear that this would lead to a
political drama of the first order since the inspectors would confirm what
individuals such as Scott Ritter have argued for some time, that Iraq no
longer possesses any capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction? This
indeed would be the final blow to the "war against Iraq" policy of the Bush
administration, a policy that no one else wants. The Iraqis would be well
advised to seize this opportunity and open their doors without delay to
time-limited arms inspectors, thereby confirming that they indeed have
nothing to hide.

This would make a US war against Iraq next to impossible and start the long
journey towards the country's return to normality. What was it that Paul
Wolfowitz said on the west front of the US Capitol on April 15? "May God
bless all the peacemakers in the world." He still has a chance to be among

· Hans von Sponeck was the UN humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq from
1998-2000 and has just returned from a two-week stay in Iraq

B. Wolfowitz trip hints at date of Iraq campaign

Daily Star (Lebanon)
July 19 2002

Paul Wolfowitz arrived in Istanbul earlier this week, leaving for Kabul the
same night. But the US deputy secretary of defense did return to Ankara on
Tuesday for a two-day visit, where he met with Turkey’s weakened, ailing
prime minister, Bulent Ecevit.

Wolfowitz also met key Turkish figures, including the new Foreign Minister
Sukru Sina Gurel, and several of the country’s top generals before heading
back to Washington ­ but he skipped another scheduled stop in Istanbul.
Wolfowitz wrapped up his trip and returned to the United States to brief
President George W. Bush on his trip’s focus ­ a potential US strike against
Described as one of the Pentagon’s “leading hawks” who is obsessed with
toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Wolfowitz left many unanswered

I can take the liberty of answering one still hanging in the air: That is,
an American military operation against Iraq is not imminent. Yes ­ not
imminent, for the time being at least.
This, I can argue after a conversation with Wolfowitz when he visited
Istanbul, before flying to Afghanistan.
However, this does not mean Washington has not decided to carry out an
operation against the Iraqi leader. On the contrary, one such decision does
exist, and Americans are more than ever committed to undertaking the
Two factors are pending: the date of such an operation and its type and the
The Bush administration is working on several military scenarios. Wolfowitz
gave the impression that a decision on which scenario would be made after
consultations with Iraq’s neighbors, first and foremost, Turkey.

Of course, any such move would still require consensus within the American
administration; thus the intense inter-agency debate raging in Washington.
The impression Wolfowitz’s left is that the timing will likely be in January
or February 2003, following US congressional elections.
One clue is that Turkey’s crumbling government coalition partners ­ Ecevit,
and Deputy Prime Ministers Devlet Bahcheli and Mesut Yilmaz ­ decided to
hold early elections by November.
Their meeting followed the Ecevit-Wolfowitz meeting that had taken place
only an hour earlier.
Ecevit had no intention of holding elections at that date and his rejection
of which had been announced once again only a few hours before his meeting
with Wolfowitz and Yilmaz.
The Turkish position toward the United States was listed under four main
headings to Wolfowitz:

First, meet our economic losses from such an operation; second, any new
Iraqi regime should be accepted by the Iraqi people; third, Turkey opposes
any independent Kurdish entity in northern Iraq; fourth, the rights of
Turcomans should be guaranteed, and Kirkuk and Mosul cannot be left to the
hands of the Kurds.
Wolfowitz had earlier predicted Turkish officials to make these demands,
clearly disclosing the aim of his visit to Turkey and trying to demonstrate
to the Turks the incentives of removing Saddam regime in Baghdad.
“During my meetings with Turkish officials, I look forward to hearing what
they have to say concerning the future of Iraq. We value Turkey’s views
highly, and my colleagues in Washington will be interested in what I have to
report,” he said.

“Turkey has large and legitimate interests in Iraq, and it has suffered
economically from Iraq’s international isolation since the Gulf War.
“Turkey is interested in the fate of Iraq’s Turkoman minority which, like
the rest of the Iraqi population, has suffered under tyrannical rule.
“And Turkey wants assurances that events in Iraq won’t have a negative
impact on its own unity.
“President Bush has made clear how dangerous Saddam is to the United States
and that he presents a danger we cannot live with indefinitely. But we also
understand that Turkey has a vital national interest in the kind of regime
that rules in Baghdad. Natural patterns of trade and investment should
prevail, not those that Baghdad manipulates today.
“It is vital to Turkey that Iraqis govern themselves democratically, with
full respect for minorities, including the Turkomans, and to maintain the
territorial integrity of Iraq.

“A separate Kurdish state in the north would be destabilizing to Turkey and
unacceptable to the United States. Fortunately, the Kurds of north Iraq
increasingly seem to understand this fact and understand the importance of
thinking themselves as Iraqis who will participate fully in the political
life of a future democratic Iraq.
“A democratic Iraq will stimulate economic growth with neighbors like Turkey
and will stabilize the region,” he said.
This same message was carried by Wolfowitz to Turkish officials in Ankara.
Notably, he described Kemal Darwish, the state minister, as Turkey’s
“economy czar.”
Darwish said Turkey’s economy may be hurt by an operation against Iraq and
he suggested ways to compensate Turkey’s losses.
Wolfowitz now knows, how to satisfy Turks economically. Moreover, the
military details of his visit remain known to only those taking part in
discussions held with military officials in Ankara.

In that meeting Wolfowitz was joined by US Air Force Commander General
Joseph Ralston, the No. 1 commander of NATO. Ralston commands 65,000 troops
from 39 countries and his mission includes Europe, Africa and the Middle
Wolfowitz, accompanied by Ralston and the State Department’s undersecretary
of state, Marc Grossman ­ a former American ambassador to Turkey ­ examined
operational plans and various battle scenarios.
The Turkish side sought payments for military units, stationed in
Afghanistan and the negation of Greek objections to Turkey’s role in Europe’
s security and defense policies ­ a formula that Turkey, the United States
and Britain agreed in 2001.
Wolfowitz now knows what is needed to persuade the Turks. He also knows
Turkish conditions for aiding or joining an American campaign against Iraq.

Although it seems he went back to Washington leaving behind some unanswered
questions, Wolfowitz has a better understanding of what must be done to
garner support for an operation against Saddam.
As he told me personally, his will not be the final visit of an American
official on the eve of an operation against Iraq.

But the main fact-finding mission is over and one could speculate that such
an operation can take place not earlier than October 2002 and probably not
much later than January-February 2003.

Cengiz Candar, a Turkish journalist, wrote this commentary for The Daily

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