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[casi] News, 17-20/7/02 (2)



News, 17-20/7/02 (2)

IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS

*  Hussein Tries to Mend Fences With Neighbors
*  Turks deny debt deal the price of support
*  Israel TV shows "distribution" of cheques from Iraq to "families of
terrorists"

AMERICAN OPINION

*  Invading Iraq: Would the public go along?
*  'Let's get Saddam,' soldiers tell Bush
*  US senator demands vote before strike against Iraq

IRAQI OPPOSITION

*  Iraqi exiles in Iran agree to help US: Attack to overthrow Saddam

PROSPECT FOR WAR

*  We're gonna kill Saddam, but we need an excuse
*  Pentagon Probes Leak on Iraq Plans



IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28375-2002Jul18.html

*  HUSSEIN TRIES TO MEND FENCES WITH NEIGHBORS
by Walter Pincus
Washington Post, 19th July

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is waging a concerted campaign to improve
relations with countries in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle
East in what senior Bush administration officials say is an attempt to
forestall any U.S. effort to topple him.

U.S. officials say the diplomatic offensive, aimed at ending more than a
decade of isolation in the region, is a direct response to repeated vows by
President Bush and administration officials to seek a change of leadership
in Baghdad. One official said that Hussein's efforts began in earnest
shortly after Bush "showed we were serious" by publicly calling for a
"regime change."

Officials cite the fact that many of the countries Hussein is courting would
be potential launching pads for any U.S. military strike. It was not by
chance, according to a senior intelligence analyst, that Oman and Qatar, two
Gulf states where the U.S. military presence has been expanding, were
enlisted by Iraq to assist with its recent overtures to Kuwait.

The campaign began at the Arab summit in Beirut last March, when Iraq agreed
to recognize Kuwait's border, discussed locating missing Kuwaiti prisoners
and arranged talks on the return of Kuwait's national archives, which were
stolen during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.

It has picked up pace since, as Hussein's government signed economic
agreements with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, discussed prisoner exchanges
with Iran and bolstered relations with almost all Gulf states. The Iraqi
leader also has stepped up his public rhetoric in support of the
Palestinians.

[.....]

Central to Iraq's campaign is its foreign minister, Naji Sabri, who took
office last fall when Hussein held a major housecleaning of his foreign
affairs team. A diplomat with an Iraqi Christian background, Sabri once
taught English literature at Baghdad University and was director general of
the information ministry during the Gulf War.

Described recently as "smart and smooth" by a U.N. official, Sabri is seen
as much more effective than his combative predecessor, Tariq Aziz, who moved
up to the post of deputy prime minister. Sabri "is a type that appeals to
Westerners," the official said.

Sabri in January took the unusual step of visiting Iran and meeting with its
leaders. In February, he was in Turkey, hinting at some movement in the
Iraqi position on allowing resumed U.N. weapons inspections.

In March, after the Arab summit, Sabri told reporters, "There are other
steps and measures that we should both cooperate on in order to bring our
ties back to normal." As a first step, he said, "We have instructed our
media to avoid any references which annoy the state of Kuwait."

Since then, Sabri and other Iraqi officials have been involved in almost
nonstop diplomacy in the Middle East and Europe. Sabri visited Moscow prior
to talks with U.N. officials on arms inspections, and last week, in return
for his January visit to Tehran, met in Baghdad with Iranian Deputy Foreign
Minister Javad Zarif.

Sabri announced the exchange of prisoners captured in the 1980-1988
Iran-Iraq war and said, "Iraq wants to establish good neighborly relations
with Iran through a comprehensive settlement of unresolved issues."

In March, Baghdad secured a declaration at the Arab summit that called for
"respecting Iraq's independence, sovereignty, security, territorial
integrity, and regional safety." This has been echoed in public statements
from regional leaders since, as the Bush administration pressed its case for
ousting Hussein.

Yesterday, at a meeting in Abu Dhabi, King Abdullah of Jordan and Sheik
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, Abu Dhabi crown prince, reaffirmed their
opposition to any attack on Iraq. At the same time, however, they called on
Baghdad to comply with U.N. resolutions on allowing resumed inspections of
Iraq's weapons program.

Kuwait's defense minister, on a trip to South Africa, said yesterday his
country would only approve a U.S. attack on Iraq if done under the auspices
of the United Nations. "Kuwait does not support threats to hit Iraq or to
launch an attack against it," said Sheik Jabir Ahmed Sabah.

However, he added, "Our acceptance for this matter is conditional on an
international blanket decision within the global organization."

Qatar presents a typical problem faced by the Gulf states. The United States
already has an air and naval base in Qatar plus a large military warehouse
containing heavy arms and equipment for a full mechanized brigade. It is
spending $1 billion to improve facilities there, including building an air
command center designed to serve as an alternative to one built in Saudi
Arabia after the Gulf War.

A Qatari official was quoted Monday in a Gulf newspaper discussing the
dilemma. Asked what would happen if Washington requested use of the Qatar
air base, the official said, "If and when it comes, it will be a very
critical moment for the leadership to accept or reject the request."

When Qatar's emir, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Thani, took power seven years
ago, the United States was the first country to recognize his government.

However, the official told Reuters, "Iraq is a sisterly Arab state. . . .
There could be a popular backlash if Qatari soil is used by the U.S. for the
destruction of Iraq."

Administration officials acknowledge that Qatar and other Gulf states are in
a difficult position. "From time to time there are questions about whether
our assets can be used" against Iraq, a senior State Department official
said. "That is why we consult so closely with these countries."

The official added that he had been told by a key Gulf state diplomat, "When
you [the United States] make up your mind, we will fall in behind,
begrudgingly."


http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/07/18/1026898888408.html

*  TURKS DENY DEBT DEAL THE PRICE OF SUPPORT
Sydney Morning Herald, 19th July

Ankara: Turkey wants the United States to write off more than $US4 billion
($7 billion) of debt, although government officials deny they are naming a
price for their support for military action to topple Iraq's President
Saddam Hussein.

Turkish officials, who publicly oppose an operation against Iraq but
privately admit they may be willing to compromise, said they had discussed
cancelling the arms debt with the US Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul
Wolfowitz, during talks in Ankara. "The economic support we discussed was
independent of any other issue," a senior government official said on
Wednesday.

Turkey also wants the US to hasten congressional approval for a $US228
million aid package that the Bush Administration has earmarked for Turkey.

But the Turkish Government said this did not amount to laying down
conditions for an operation in which the support of Turkey, NATO's only
Muslim member, would be vital.

Before leaving Ankara, Mr Wolfowitz also stressed that Washington was not
asking Turkey - mired in its worst recession since 1945 and a political
crisis that has brought about early elections - for backing for an attack on
Iraq.

He assured the Turks - who say the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent sanctions
against Iraq cost billions of dollars in lost trade - that the US would
provide support to ease the crippling economic crisis.

And he sought to ease Turkish fears that an attack on Iraq could create
problems with Kurds who are demanding independence.

Since Kurdish fighters wrested control of northern Iraq from Baghdad after
the Gulf War, the US has protected the breakaway region. But Mr Wolfowitz
ruled out creation of a separate state, which Turkey opposes, fearing its
own Kurdish minority would renew the fight for independence.

Mr Wolfowitz also told Turks they stood to gain from a change of regime in
Iraq. "It won't only be the people of Iraq who benefit," he said. "It will
be the whole world and very much this region."


http://hoovnews.hoovers.com/fp.asp?layout=displaynews&doc_id=NR20020719670.2
_ecd6000378b1e344

*  ISRAEL TV SHOWS "DISTRIBUTION" OF CHEQUES FROM IRAQ TO "FAMILIES OF
TERRORISTS"
Hoover's (financial Times), 19th July
Source: Channel 2 TV, Jerusalem, in Hebrew, 1700 gmt, 18th July

The families of terrorists receive financial compensation sent by Iraqi
President Saddam Husayn. For the first time, the camera documented the
distribution of such funds in Gaza. Our Arab affairs correspondent Ehud
Ya'ari reports:

[Ya'ari - recording] There is a large picture of Saddam Husayn and the
families bring photographs of their dead sons. Senior PNA [Palestinian
National Authority] officials are on the stage. The event, in which money is
being distributed, is sponsored by the Arab Liberation Front, Iraq's
auxiliary arm inside the Palestinian areas.

Permission was not granted to film the decorated cheques. The members of the
bereaved families, who this time were not the parents of suicide bombers,
climb up to the stage in turn in order to collect the prize. All in all,
Saddam has disbursed approximately 15m dollars dollars in the territories.
The families of run-of-the-mill martyrs receive approximately 10,000
dollars, while suicide bombers get up to 25,000 dollars. The money is
transferred through the banking system. Everything is done in public with
the PNA's blessing.

Yesterday in Baghdad, Saddam met with his generals again and spoke about how
important it was to keep the toilets clean. His representative in Gaza
explains that people are not choosing to die because of the money.

Who said that terrorism is being funded in secret? On the contrary, Saddam
is interested in generating as much publicity as possible for the product he
is marketing: instant legacies...


AMERICAN OPINION

NO URL [sent to list]

*  INVADING IRAQ: WOULD THE PUBLIC GO ALONG?
by Ann Scott Tyson
Christian Science Monitor, 17th July

WASHINGTON: Plans for a US invasion of Iraq are being drawn and redrawn.
News reports of a likely military push against Saddam Hussein unfold daily.
And the American public almost uniformly agrees with President Bush in
viewing the Iraqi regime as "evil." In fact, many believe Mr. Hussein poses
a greater danger than Osama bin Laden.

But the effort to unseat Hussein faces important hurdles with the American
public, with prospective allies overseas, and even in some quarters of the
military. In recent polls, when weighing whether Washington should use
military force to unseat Hussein, the public becomes more tentative in its
backing, diverging from the drum-beating rhetoric of Mr. Bush.

Indeed, opinion polls suggest that the Bush administration must put forward
a more powerful case than it has so far to mobilize the public fully behind
a military invasion of Iraq. Moreover, Bush must offer more proof of threats
posed by Iraq's links to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terrorism 
and use such evidence to build an international military coalition.

In essence, Bush needs to lay the political and diplomatic groundwork for a
military campaign against Iraq, much as his father did in the six months
prior to launching the Gulf War in 1991, say analysts.

"He is making threatening statements to warn Saddam Hussein and rattling
swords, but in terms of the international community, he doesn't have the
support or a place to launch the invasion. He does not have deep public
support," says James Thurber, a professor of government at American
University.

Still, mobilizing public opinion is a task clearly within The White House's
reach. A June 21 Gallup poll found that 59 percent of respondents favor
sending American troops to the Persian Gulf to topple Hussein.

But more detailed questions by pollsters indicate that many people have
caveats to add. A little more than half of Americans say that if the US wins
some allied support, they would approve of military action against Iraq,
according to another June Gallup poll. That number shrinks to a minority,
however, in a scenario where the United States would go it alone  an option
administration officials have not ruled out.

"The public wants the company of our friends in dealing with global bad
guys, and would be much more comfortable doing this with our allies," says
Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

Solidifying such support, among major European allies will be contingent
upon clear evidence of Iraqi transgressions. For example, large majorities
of people polled in the United States as well as Britain, Germany, Italy,
and France, say that an important 'or very important' criterion to justify
the use of military force would be the certainty that Iraq is now developing
nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Also important 'although more so
to the Americans than to the Europeans' would be proof that Baghdad helped
terrorists in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, according to
an April poll by the Pew Research Center.

The US government will have to lay out the case against Hussein, says
Kenneth Katzman, an Iraq expert at the Congressional Research Service.

"If there is not a clear and present danger on Iraq, I think public support
is going to be slow to come around," he says.

Moreover, the US public appears to lack President Bush's sense of urgency.
Polls show the public is willing to wait for an international alliance and
for a quieting down of the Mideast crisis.

In terms of military strategy, Bush is considering a war plan that
reportedly would involve up to 250,000 US troops in a three-pronged, air,
land, and sea assault on Iraq. Yet the public remains ambivalent about
dispatching US ground troops, with 7 out of 10 preferring only airstrikes in
one March poll.

Indeed, some Americans and members of the armed forces question whether
Washington has a well-thought-out plan, including clear objectives for
Iraq's future.

"I think there is enormous reluctance in many circles up to the highest
levels in the US military about taking on Iraq," says Col. David Tretler, a
strategist at the National War College here. He expresses concern that the
military would not be given a sufficiently free hand or adequate resources
to overthrow the regime, thus resulting in a sizable cost.

Colonel Tretler and others in the military stress that a political vision
for Iraq is a vital prerequisite to waging war. "The time to declare a
desired end state for Iraq is now, before we consider how best to use the
military tool to fashion and consolidate what is essentially a political
outcome," writes Roger Carstens, a member of the Council for Emerging
National Security Affairs.

All of these reservations make it likely that Bush will postpone a
potentially messy military campaign against Iraq until at least after the US
general elections in November, says Fred Greenstein, an expert on the
presidency at Princeton University in New Jersey. In coming months, however,
a continued refusal by Iraq to allow in UN weapons inspectors could foster
an international coalition to topple Hussein.

Alternatively, Bush may initially attempt to use the less-controversial tool
of covert action. He reportedly has authorized CIA agents and elite US
troops to use lethal force to oust Hussein.


http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/nation/1500920

*  'LET'S GET SADDAM,' SOLDIERS TELL BUSH
Houston Chronicle (from Associated Press), 19th July

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- After watching Army helicopters drop troops and howitzers
from a steel-blue sky, President Bush answered a soldier's shout of "Let's
get Saddam!" with a promise today to defeat the "mounting danger" of
terrorist regimes.

"We will use diplomacy when possible and force when necessary," Bush told
thousands of flag-waving members of the storied 10th Mountain Division, many
of whom served in Afghanistan.

In a dusty, scorched-grass field, the president rallied troops from a
makeshift stage. His 22 minute speech was punctuated by applause and shouts
of "Hoo-ah!" -- the traditional Army yell of approval.

Bush did not mention Saddam Hussein or Iraq, Iran and North Korea, countries
he has said constitute an "axis of evil," but his audience read between the
lines.

"Some parts of the world, there will be no substitute for direct action by
the United States. That is when we will send you, our military, to win the
battles that only you can win," the president said.

He urged Democrats in the Senate to swiftly pass a huge boost in Pentagon
spending already approved by the GOP-led House.

One soldier yelled, "Let's get Saddam!" A thunderclap of applause and shouts
forced Bush to pause.

He did not react directly to the challenge, but renewed his case, opposed by
most U.S. allies, for the United States to intervene against oppressive
regimes that produce, hide and prepare to use weapons of mass destruction.

"These tyrants and terrorists have one thing in common: whatever their plans
and schemes, they will not be restrained by a hint of humanity or
conscience," Bush said. "The enemies of America no longer need great armies
to attack our people. They require only great hatred, made more dangerous by
advanced technologies."

Bush has summed up Iraqi President Saddam's rule in similar terms.

"Against such enemies, we cannot sit quietly and hope for the best," he
said. "To ignore this mounting danger is to invite it. America must act
against these terrible threats before they're fully formed."

Before the speech, at a field shaded against the summer heat by camouflaged
screens, the president slipped on reading glasses to review the maps and
weaponry the division uses.

After the briefing, two Chinook helicopters landed within 100 yards of their
commander in chief in the wide expanse of field. Two dozen soldiers in
camouflage poured out, formed a perimeter the size of a large pool and lay
on their bellies with automatic weapons pointed in defense.

Just then, two Black Hawk helicopters flew in, each dangling a howitzer,
which they dropped to soldiers below. As the guns were fired, the blasts
rang out across the field and belched white smoke into the faint breeze.

Afterward, both groups of soldiers, their weapons carried at their waists,
jogged up to form a semicircle in front of the president.

Snapping off a salute, Bush said, "I'm proud of you guys" and shook hands
with the soldiers.

Each man gave his name and rank while gripping the president's hand.

"The enemy made a bad mistake. They didn't understand you, and they did not
understand us," the president said. "We're staying after them until we get
all of them."

The enthusiastic welcome here offered Bush respite from Washington, where
criticism has grown about his past business dealings and handling of the
sagging economy.

Democrats are even beginning to question some of Bush's war policies,
despite polls that show Americans support his actions and generally approve
of his presidency.

Bush urged resolve by telling soldiers at the large rally, "In this war,
there'll be times of quiet, and there'll be times of crisis; times that call
for patience, and times that call for sacrifice."

Troops from Fort Drum were the among the first Army units deployed after the
terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Most were home by the end of April.

The 10th Mountain, a light infantry, rapid-deployment force ready to go
anywhere in the world within 48 hours, was the Army's most frequently
deployed division in the 1990s.

Based a Fort Drum since 1985, the division earned its reputation in World
War II. Its soldiers scaled a sheer cliff in northern Italy, fought their
way through the snowy mountains and spearheaded the drive that would
liberate the country from the Nazis.

Bush called one 10th Mountain Division veteran, former Senate Majority
Leader Bob Dole, "one of the great living Americans."


http://www.dailystarnews.com/200207/20/n2072013.htm#BODY6

*  US SENATOR DEMANDS VOTE BEFORE STRIKE AGAINST IRAQ
Daily Star (Bangladesh), 20th July

AFP, Washington: US Senator Arlen Specter Thursday introduced a resolution
affirming the power of Congress to declare war and calling for a debate and
vote by Congress prior to any military action against Iraq.

"There is a need for the American public to understand the issues involved
in the use of military force against Iraq," Specter said on the Senate
floor.

"If congressional consideration was followed by the authorisation for the
use of force... the international community might well be reassured that the
US military action was not the decision of just one man, even though he is
President of the United States."

[.....]


IRAQI OPPOSITION

http://www.dawn.com/2002/07/18/int11.htm

*  IRAQI EXILES IN IRAN AGREE TO HELP US: ATTACK TO OVERTHROW SADDAM
by Michael Slackman
Dawn (from Los Angeles Times), 18th July, 07 Jamadi-ul-Awwal 1423

TEHRAN: Iraq's main opposition forces have begun coordinating their military
efforts and would welcome US air support in their bid to topple President
Saddam Hussein, according to the leaders of one of the groups.

Speaking from a well-guarded compound in Tehran, where he has been in exile
for more than two decades, Shia opposition leader Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr
Hakim said last week that his organization opposes a full-blown US invasion
but supports the idea of a mission in which massive bombing paves the way
for local forces to fight on the ground.

"We don't need an invasion," Bakr Hakim said. "You must distinguish between
an American invasion and (an) attack - the Iraqi people can protect
themselves if there is no heavy artillery or weapons of mass destruction in
the hands of the regime."

He said his group has been working with the military leaders of the two main
Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, which make up the strongest opposition
force inside the country. US officials have acknowledged that the Kurdish
opposition probably would play a substantial role in any effort to overthrow
Saddam.

Bakr Hakim, president of the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq, said his organization hadn't been contacted by Washington, D.C - a
claim disputed by US State Department officials - because, he said, America
is reluctant to approach a group based in Iran.

Officials with SAIRI, as the group is widely known, said the United States
is overlooking a potentially valuable ally in the battle for Baghdad. They
dispute the apparent US assessment that Iraqi opposition forces lack a
credible military capability and argue that with appropriate backup, a
united Kurdish and Shia advance would win the support of the Iraqi people
and overthrow Saddam.

"You see, we are sure, from inside Iraq, if the balance of power is broken
by bombing or whatever, you will see what happens," said Sami Mahdi,
director of international relations for SAIRI. "Even the security forces
will join us."

For years, Washington had no contacts with the group, in part because of
concern over its close ties with and financial dependence on the Iranian
regime as well as its religious orientation, according to US officials.
Republican as well as Democratic administrations wanted to ensure that
Iraq's secular dictatorship wasn't replaced by a religious dictatorship -
especially one with close ties to theocratic Iran.

Nevertheless, top State Department officials meet regularly with SAIRI
representatives in London - and over the years have met with representatives
in Washington, D.C, State Department officials said. Both the Clinton and
Bush administrations also tried to meet with Bakr Hakim when he travelled
outside Iran, but he has refused the overtures, department sources said.

While Iran still officially opposes US military action in Iraq, the Interior
Ministry announced this month that it wouldn't block Bakr Hakim from talking
with the United States. That was taken as a nod and a wink from a regime
that could easily shut down any communication between the two.

Bakr Hakim's comments suggest that Iran is prepared to take a hands-off
approach - which it says is what it did with Afghanistan - neither assisting
Iraq in the event of an offensive against Baghdad nor seeking to further its
regional ambitions afterward.

Bakr Hakim said he wanted to assure the world community that his group
supports a united Iraq and that there is no intention to create an Islamic
republic on the model of Iran.

"There is a lot we can do for America. We have a militia here. We can help,"
one Iranian official said, referring to Bakr Hakim's militia, known as the
Badr Brigade. "But not unconditionally."


PROSPECT FOR WAR

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/dynamic/news/story.html?in_review_id=644593&in
_review_text_id=615574

*  WE'RE GONNA KILL SADDAM, BUT WE NEED AN EXCUSE
by Christopher Hitchens
London Evening Standard, 19th July

Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, has announced his intention of
holding hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in order to see
if the Bush administration will perchance disclose any of its thinking about
the future of Iraq. Senator Trent Lott, the Republican leader, recently
announced that a constituent of his in Mississippi had demanded to know what
was all this about Mr So Damn Insane. Washington currently exists in a weird
limbo, where all things press towards an event, but the scale and timing and
purpose of that event are unknown. The "event" is the forcible removal from
power of the above-mentioned "So Damn". Here is what can be said with
certainty. The decision to oust him has already been made. In my opinion,
the decision to kill him has also already been made, in that the
Administration has stated - without being asked - that it has no plans to
put him on trial at The Hague or anywhere else.

A huge amphibious and airborne force is in preparation, which will strike
Iraq from every direction at once. The likeliest launching-pads are the Gulf
States to the south - with the interesting possible exception of Saudi
Arabia - and Turkey to the north.

There is also a side-bet on the Kingdom of Jordan, where the United States
would like to station troops and missiles in case Saddam Hussein tries to
take revenge on Israel.

All these military details are knowable or discoverable to a quite
extraordinary extent. There appears to be complete official indifference to
the usual mantras of secrecy and "national security".

Saddam Hussein has not just been warned. He has been tipped off. This argues
either for a very high level of confidence on the part of the Pentagon, or
for a dimension of psychological warfare that tells Iraq's bloody dictator
everything about his future except the date.

However, this also means that Congress, which is supposed to have the sole
power to make war, and the United Nations, which is supposed to authorise
the international use of force, are likewise kept guessing. For what it is
worth, I have been told by some people allegedly in the know that it will be
done before the mid-term elections. In other words, there will be a new
regime in Baghdad by November. (I was told this before the recent meltdown
of the corporate system, a melt-down which might cause some cynics to say
that a war was being fought to change the subject away from domestic
politics.)

However, if you ask what the political as opposed to the military strategy
is supposed to be, you encounter a wall of official silence. Does the United
States intend to install a pet general as a military ruler? Does it propose
to place the exiled Hashemite monarch - close relative of the King of Jordan
- on an improvised throne? Does it plan to hold elections?

Does it plan to keep Iraq as a unitary, if somewhat artificial, state, or
allow it to dissolve into a federation of Kurds, Shia and Sunni Muslims?
These rather urgent questions are also being asked by the spokesmen for the
exiled Iraqi opposition (which itself is divided between civilian and
military defectors) and by the leaders of the semi-autonomous enclave in
Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Kurds are willing to fight, and to have their territory be used for an
intervention, as long as they are not simply used and then discarded, as has
happened to them several times in the past.

This confusion also repeats itself in Washington, where the State Department
and the CIA are very cold towards the Iraqi National Congress and refuse to
meet with its representatives, while the Pentagon is more sympathetic.

Then there is the question of justification. Is Saddam to be removed because
of his incubating of hellish weaponry, or because of his ties - via the
"axis of evil" - to the forces of Bin-Ladenism?

You may have noticed that the "axis" phrase hasn't been used much lately.
You may also have noticed that several alleged contacts between Baghdad and
al Qaeda turned out not to be as sinister or as probable as had been first
alleged.

Mr Blair, in his latest hints about the connection, has not been able to
improve much on this deficit of hard evidence. There are defectors who
maintain that Saddam Hussein keeps a back-channel open to the Islamic
extremists, on the grounds that every little helps. But we are not certain
how trustworthy these informants are.

In its present state, the American public would support the idea of
destroying Saddam Hussein if he simply looked at it the wrong way. And we
know that for the President himself it is personal: a matter of family
honour and of unfinished business. But these reasons, no doubt deeply felt,
would not quite do if they were produced before the United Nations Security
Council.

Saddam himself has clearly resolved to be on his best behaviour and to offer
no pretext. Thus, if there is to be a "trigger" event, it will have to be
another quarrel over the right of the international community to inspect
Iraqi bunkers and missile sites. And here it does seem that Saddam Hussein
would rather fight than give in.

Indeed, some of the Iraqi defectors have told me that his ambition is for an
Armageddon type last stand; an apocalyptic ending that will spur the Arab
world to eternal revolt. The difficulty here is that any attack from outside
would be deliberately bringing this on.

There is another motive which nobody much talks about. If the United States
became the patron of a new Iraq, with some semblance of democratic or lawful
government, it would simultaneously become the patron of the world's
second-largest proven oil reserves.

And that in turn would mean that it could finally tell the Saudis to - well,
finish the sentence for yourself. The time to be raising these questions is
now, because the present status quo is not going to last very much longer.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.


http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/bw-exec/2002/jul/19/071903230.html

*  PENTAGON PROBES LEAK ON IRAQ PLANS
Las Vegas Sun (from Associated Press), 19th July

WASHINGTON- The Pentagon is investigating who leaked a highly classified
planning document that outlined in detail how the U.S. military might go
about toppling Iraq's Saddam Hussein, officials said Friday.

The unannounced probe is being conducted by the Air Force Office of Special
Investigations, whose primary missions are criminal investigation and
counterintelligence, meaning efforts to counter the threat to Air Force or
national security posed by hostile intelligence services and terrorist
groups.

The Pentagon public affairs office would not comment, but the investigation
of the leak of the document to The New York Times was confirmed by officials
who said they had been questioned in their offices this week by agents of
the Office of Special Investigation.

Bryan Whitman, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs,
said he could not comment beyond saying that if such an investigation were
under way, "it would by no means be unique." He said other news stories had
prompted investigations, although he would not provide details.

It was not clear whether the probe had been ordered by Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld, who has publicly warned Pentagon officials that leaking
classified information is a criminal act.

Also unclear was why the Air Force's criminal investigations arm has taken
the case instead of equivalent agencies within the departments of the Army
or Navy or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In his July 5 report, New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt wrote that a
person familiar with the planning document said it called for air, land and
sea-based forces to attack Iraq from three directions. It envisioned tens of
thousands of marines and soldiers probably invading from Kuwait.

Hundreds of warplanes based in as many as eight countries would assault
thousands of targets, including airfields, roadways and fiber-optics
communications sites in Iraq, the Times report said.

The document, entitled "CentCom Courses of Action," was prepared by planners
at the Central Command in Tampa, Fla., the Times said. The document
described a concept for how to attack but was not an actual war plan.

Asked about the Times disclosure, Rumsfeld said Monday in a CNBC interview
that he was disturbed by it. He said this kind of leak "is putting people's
lives at risk." He did not specifically mention an investigation but alluded
to hunting down the Times' source and punishing that person.

"I would dearly like to find them," he said. "I think that people who know
who those people are would do the country a service if they'd let me know
who those people are. And I'd like to see them behind bars."

At another point in the interview Rumsfeld said, "if we find out who they
are, they will be imprisoned."

Rumsfeld on many occasions has publicly cautioned Pentagon officials against
disclosing classified information.

In a July 12 memo Rumsfeld ordered Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
and all other senior Pentagon officials to meet with their staffs to discuss
"the seriousness of the lack of professionalism we continue to see on a
daily basis" - a reference to leaks of classified information to reporters.

Rumsfeld attached to that memo a one-page unclassified CIA analysis that
concluded that the al-Qaida terrorist network has learned a great deal from
American and foreign news media about how to foil U.S. counterintelligence
efforts. It said this has hurt the U.S. war against terrorism.




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