The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] 2 comment articles

A couple of cheap polemics, that may nevertheless be of interest. Both are
to appear in the Sept edition of Labour Left Briefing.
Comments appreciated, as always, especially if critical.

Glen Rangwala examines a US agenda fixed on aggression.

When the Prime Minister was touring the Middle East in October last year
to drum up support for the war on Afghanistan, he was unequivocal on one
point. After Blair held talks with Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, a
senior British official told journalists there would be no steps taken
against Iraq unless there was "absolute evidence" of Iraq's complicity in
the events of 11th September.

Those who attended the meeting, including the BBC political editor,
reporters from the Guardian and the Independent, and the Reuters
correspondent, all came to the view that Blair was attempting to reassure
the Arab world of the limited aims of the "war against terror". The
message was that the Arab countries could endorse or acquiesce in the war
against Afghanistan without fearing a new regional conflagration.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon emphasised the point at a London press
conference later that month: "There is no hidden agenda; this is not a
prelude to a wider war. Our objectives are linked to the events of 11th
September ... there is no evidence linking Iraq to the events of 11th
September; there is no evidence either so far that links Iraq to the
anthrax attacks in the United States. It's important that we emphasise
those things."

The about-turn in the government's position, with tacit though substantial
support now for US plans to invade Iraq, amounts to more than Blair's
willingness to be blown whichever way the wind from across the Atlantic
sends him. It demonstrates the loss of Britain's credibility as an
independent actor in the diplomatic world. On 22nd August, Jack Straw
flickered back into life to tell the BBC that the prospects for an
invasion of Iraq would "recede" if Iraq readmitted weapons inspectors.
Even if Straw had ruled out British participation in an invasion if
weapons inspectors were admitted - which he did not do - it would be
difficult to take him seriously, given how easily British ministers have
switched position on Iraq whenever US leaders lay down the line.

In fact the Bush administration has abandoned all effort to induce the
Iraqi government to allow weapons inspections. During August, Secretary of
State Colin Powell, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice joined the president and vice-president
in asserting that renewed inspections would not be sufficient to alter the
aim of toppling the Iraqi leadership. Most explicit in this regard was
John Bolton, US under-secretary for arms control, who told the BBC on 3rd
August: "Our policy ... insists on regime change in Baghdad and that
policy will not be altered, whether inspectors go in or not." In contrast
to British statements that Iraq should implement Security Council
resolutions, Bolton has gone on record - in an article entitled "Is There
Really 'Law' in International Affairs?" - to claim that international law
is a malicious figment of the academic imagination, harmful to the pursuit
of national interests, and best ignored. He presumably believes that
Security Council resolutions - effective only due to a particular legal
treaty, the United Nations Charter - are also best brushed aside when

Hans Blix, the current head of the weapons inspectorate (Unmovic), said on
18th August that, "if the Iraqis conclude that an invasion by someone is
inevitable then they might conclude that it's not very meaningful to have
inspections." It even has a clear disincentive if it believes that the
weapons inspectors will - like their predecessors in Unscom - collect
information that the US government would use to plot its overthrow or
provoke crises that will be used to justify the bombing of Iraq. That
Unscom was engaged in such actions is now beyond doubt. Its executive
director from 1991 to 1997, Rolf Ekéus, said on Swedish radio at the end
of July that the US tried to gather information about Iraq's security
services, its conventional military capacity and even the location of
Saddam Hussein through the supposedly impartial weapons inspections
programme. It is not hard to guess why the US wanted such information.

Given this, Iraq has tried to obtain assurances from the UN that the
readmittance of inspectors would be linked to an end to the US agenda of
"regime change". It put a series of questions, some of which were on this
theme, to the UN Security Council in March this year. A US spokesman
dismissed these questions as a "distraction" and the US mission at the UN
blocked the Security Council from making a reply.

Since March, Iraq has also been making offers to allow inspections by
experts from the US and UK. None of these offers have met the UN standard
for unlimited and unimpeded access, and have been rejected for that reason
by the UK. However, it could be more relevant to consider how such
inspections could help uncover Iraq's non-conventional weapons, if fears
about these are genuine.


What regime change?

Glen Rangwala surveys the former associates of Saddam Hussein that the US
is planning to install in Iraq.

For those on the left who recognise that the current Iraqi government is
one of the most repressive in the world today, casting aspersions on Iraqi
opposition movements must seem to be a rancorous, even perfidious,
activity. Many in these movements have suffered directly at the hands of a
regime that has committed violations of human rights on a scale that is -
in the words of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in 1993 - "so
grave that it has few parallels in the years that have passed since the
Second World War". Their programmes for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein,
some requiring the support of the US military, often arise from
unimpeachable motives to advance democracy, freedom and peace.

Nevertheless, the various Arab opposition groups promoted by the US as
potential collaborators in the plans for an invasion of Iraq, and as
replacements for the current regime, do not provide models for what a
democratic, responsible Iraq would look like after Saddam Hussein. Indeed,
the Bush administration has favoured individuals who have a history of
engaging in severe repression within Iraq.

The plans circulated by the Bush administration all rely on the prospect
of extensive defections from the Iraqi army, with units turning against
the regime to ally themselves with the tiny opposition guerrilla forces
inside Iraq. For this purpose, the US has aggressively courted Iraqis who
have risen through the ranks of the Iraqi military, and thus retain
personal knowledge of, and can command some respect from, serving Iraqi
officers. The US has also been recruiting former senior members of Saddam
Hussein's Baath party, to gain a better understanding of the attempts that
the party will make to mobilise citizens. The pay-back may well be that
these individuals will be placed in positions of power if the current
regime is overthrown. One military clique would be replaced with another,
acting in as brutal a way as its predecessor to fulfil Washington's
ambitions for Iraq. The slogan may be "regime change", but "leadership
change" may be a more appropriate description.

The Iraqi National Accord (INA), the group that has become the protégé of
the CIA, is a prime example of this: it is made up of Baathists and former
military officers who have turned against Saddam Hussein. Before it
launched a failed coup in 1996 in league with the CIA, it made its name by
planting bombs, including in a Baghdad cinema in 1995 that killed a number
of civilians. Rather than arresting the INA's leaders on suspicion of
terrorism, Washington has openly funded the INA from 1999, and invited its
head to meet Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld.

Similarly, the Iraqi National Movement, a grouping of some 40 former Sunni
Muslim military officers has received financial support from the US State
Department since February 2002. The Iraqi National Coalition is another
umbrella group of former officers led by former Brigadier Tawfiq
al-Yasiri, including former General Saad Ubeidi, once head of
psychological operations in the Iraqi army. It hosted a conference in
London in July, and established a "military council". Although the
Coalition disavows a future role as a ruling junta, it already stridently
publicises its views on global and economic issues, leading one to believe
that it has an agenda beyond the liberation of Iraq.

Other recent graduates from the Iraqi military who have held meetings with
US officials include Brigadier-General Najib al-Salihi, heading the Free
Officers' Movement, who commanded an armoured division of the Republican
Guard in the invasion of Kuwait; General Fawzi Shamari, heading the Iraqi
Officers Movement, who now admits to having ordered the use of chemical
weapons against Iran during the 1980-88 war; and Wafiq Sammara'i, now
heading the National Salvation Council and a one-time chief of military
intelligence. The most high-ranking defector is General Nizar al-Khazraji,
who was until 1991 Saddam's chief of staff. A number of Kurdish and human
rights groups in his current base of Denmark have collected testimonies
with a view to prosecution that allege that he planned the devastating
chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988, which
killed 5,000 people. A prominent critic of the Iraqi regime has also
testified that he witnessed Khazraji kicking a Kurdish child to death in

In contrast to these military groupings, the umbrella Iraqi National
Congress (INC) was given priority at the Washington meeting of 9th August.
The INC is led mostly by two bankers, Ahmad al-Chalabi and Sharif Ali bin
al-Husayn, the cousin of King Faysal II who was assassinated in 1958.
Neither Chalabi nor Sharif Ali have been to Baghdad since the 1950s. Part
of their attraction for Washington may be that they can take the role of
the figurehead leaders of a post-Saddam Iraq. Weakened due to their lack
of political experience in the country, the actual power would remain with
the military officers that the US installs behind their throne.

The US has a more difficult relationship with the explicitly sectarian
groupings within Iraq. The two major Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan
Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Shi'a
revivalist and Tehran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq, have all voiced doubts about the prospects for a US invasion.

Much more forthright still have been the two major non-Baathist parties
that were founded inside Iraq. The Iraqi Communist Party, founded in 1934
and at its height bringing out demonstrations of half a million activists,
has joined together with their historic enemies in the Islamic Daawa
party, which commanded in 1977 the largest ever demonstrations against the
Baathist regime. Together, as the Coalition of Iraqi National Forces, they
have declared themselves not only against the regime of Saddam Hussein,
but also against foreign interference and economic sanctions. Unlike the
non-Kurdish groupings mentioned so far, they have legitimacy inside Iraq
as popular, anti-regime movements. Those who want to know what the Iraqi
people think of US warmongering should take note.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]