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News, 15-22/11/02 (2) IRAQI/US RELATIONS * Saddam can be beaten in four days * Rumsfeld Confesses U.S. Assisted Saddam Hussein * Agencies Track Iraqis in U.S. Ahead of Possible War * Invisible Woman * Assyrians -- not just part of ancient history * Are students apathetic? Not on Bush's turf, where they're scuffling over Iraq * US erred in shifting focus of war on terror to Iraq: Gore * U.S. Politicians Back Group Labeled 'Terrorist' IRAQI/UK RELATIONS * CND threatens court action over Iraq invasion plans * The tragedy of Kut * Blair bows to pressure and grants MPs vote on Iraq * Military warn Labour on Iraq NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * U.S. cool to Kurds on offer of war aid IRAQI/US RELATIONS http://www.iht.com/articles/77114.html * SADDAM CAN BE BEATEN IN FOUR DAYS by Ralph Peters International Herald Tribune, from The Washington Post, 16th November WASHINGTON: The U.S. war to oust Saddam Hussein's regime began this week - with a series of newspaper reports outlining America's military strategy. Normally such leaks would be met with howls from the Pentagon that the media had betrayed the military by publishing U.S. secrets. But this time it was different. The Department of Defense wanted summaries of its war plan published. It was the beginning of a psychological operation to convince the Iraqis that we Americans are serious, we're coming and we mean to win. Leaking parts of the plan was intended, above all, to reach Saddam's military commanders, to convince them not to give orders to employ weapons of mass destruction, to suggest they drag their feet and jump sides at the earliest opportunity and to persuade them to fear us more than they fear Saddam. Second, broadcasting the plan was meant to assure the Shiites in the south, the Kurds in the north and disaffected Sunni Muslims in Iraq's center that we intend to go all the way this time. Given our abandonment of Iraq's minorities when they rose up against Saddam in the wake of Desert Storm, some strong guarantees are necessary, if we expect them to play anything but a wary, passive role in the campaign. In an ideal scenario, regional groups would flock to support us, while Iraqi military commanders would switch sides and fight against Saddam's loyalists as our proxies. Unfortunately, our plan is a Bill Clinton special. Rather than using every asset we have short of nuclear weapons from the moment the first shot is fired, operations would begin with another desperate attempt to prove that airpower alone can win big wars - even though it has not happened yet and will not happen soon. The initial role of the smallish contingents of ground forces in the theater of war would be janitorial. The army and marines would seize facilities to support the air war and facilitate logistical support, as well as further troop deployments, if needed. The secret within the not-so-secret plan is that the top decision-makers are hoping that Saddam's regime will collapse. Maybe so. But wise soldiers don't go to war with hope as their primary weapon. In war, you cannot count on your enemy conforming to your desires. Examining the plan as outlined, any experienced staff officer would note serious problems. First, this isn't really our plan - certainly not our ideal plan. This is, in a dangerous sense, a plan forced on us by the Saudis. Despite President George W. Bush's constant assurances that the Saudis are our friends, they have refused to allow us to use the multibillion-dollar air operations command center we built on their territory, and they will not allow any U.S. troop deployments in support of ousting Saddam. Without the use of Saudi territory, our planners have serious real estate problems. Second, insiders report that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld continues to look for all possible excuses to trim the army's contribution. This advances his personal agenda of pushing high-tech weapons and cutting troops, but it badly cripples our flexibility in the looming war with Iraq. Third, the "conveyor belt" approach by which troops would continue to be deployed throughout the conflict, starting with a minimum force on the spot and eventually reaching the maximum number of troops and resources required, assumes that everything will go our way and that the flow of soldiers and supplies will be uninterrupted. But large forces in theater from the start - the largest contingent possible under the geographic constraints - are our best insurance policy. If Rumsfeld's elegant plan goes wrong and we do not have the forces on hand to reverse any unanticipated setbacks immediately, here is what will happen: The world community will cry out for a cease-fire. The president's political advisers will panic and ask how to cut their losses. Congress will begin instant recrimination over who lost the war even before the war is really lost. And a war that should be a relatively easy win for the United States will turn into a paralyzing embarrassment. Were we to employ our full range of resources, the Iraqi military would be essentially finished in three to four days. Instead, we're planning for a war that, optimistically, will take three to four weeks of increasingly intense operations but could drag on much longer. In other words, we don't intend to go for a knockout in the first round, even though we have the ability to do so. War is not a testing ground for a defense secretary's pet theories. We tried that in Vietnam. In war, you pile on, with everything you've got. Try to fight a war on the cheap, and you're likely to get what you pay for. The writer is a retired U.S. Army officer and author of "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World." He contributed this comment to The Washington Post. http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=11/17/02&Cat=2&Num=021 * RUMSFELD CONFESSES U.S. ASSISTED SADDAM HUSSEIN Tehran Times, 17th November TEHRAN -- In a live interview with the Infinity CBS Radio, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confessed that his country assisted Saddam Hussein to prevent Iran's victory over the dictator of Baghdad during the eight years of Iran-Iraq war. He also said that Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people. What follows is an excerpt from his interview. Kroft: Mr. secretary, back in the '80s, when you were a Middle East envoy for the Reagan administration you actually met Saddam Hussein on one or two occasions. You're probably one of the few Americans who have met him. What do you remember about that meeting, and has it influenced your response in dealing with him in this crisis? Rumsfeld: I remember the meeting well, but it hasn't influenced my response in this crisis at all. If you think back to that time, Iran and Iraq were in a war. Our friends in the Persian Gulf region were concerned about the possibility that Iran could win. And were deeply concerned that it could upset, and create an instability in the entire region. So I was asked to go over there, and I met with Tariq Aziz and with Saddam Hussein and talked to him about our interests. And the fact that -- it was one of the few countries from the Middle East war that we had not reestablished relationships with. So I was, I guess, the first senior American to go in there in some time. And we had a good discussion. He recognized his situation, and was interested in getting some assistance, so that he had better information. And I was Middle East envoy for about six months, right after 241 marines had been killed in Beirut, Lebanon, at the airport there. And it's my understanding that subsequent to my visit, the United States government did, in fact, provide some intelligence assistance to him, so that he -- the war ended up kind of at a standstill, or a stalemate, rather than either country being defeated. Kroft: Do you remember anything about it, did he impress you one way or the other? Rumsfeld: Well, he's -- I suppose anyone who lives in a country that he's the head of, like Saddam Hussein is, and sees his picture in every room in every building, in every city of the country, begins to inhale and believe that he's different. I suppose that could happen to most anybody. But, he is clearly a survivor, he is a brutal, repressive dictator; he has imposed enormous harm to his people. His determination to have weapons of mass destruction is so great that he's denied his people billions and billions, and billions of dollars of revenue they would have if he wanted to give up his weapons and have the sanctions lifted. But, he won't do it. He has an attitude about himself that suggests that he wants to try to destabilize the neighboring countries, and periodically describes them as illegitimate, and attempts to take them over. I guess he is a long-term dictator who has killed an awful lot of people. He's even used chemical weapons on his own people. http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/breaking_news/4537276.htm * AGENCIES TRACK IRAQIS IN U.S. AHEAD OF POSSIBLE WAR by Adam Entous The State, from Reuters, 17th November WASHINGTON - The U.S. government has begun monitoring Iraqis in the United States, hoping to flush out potential terrorist threats in the event that war breaks out with Iraq, Bush administration and congressional sources said on Saturday. As part of the intelligence operations, U.S. authorities are tracking hundreds and possibly thousands of Iraqi citizens who work and study in the United States and who may be sympathizers of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, sources said. If President Bush takes military action against Iraq, the operation could be expanded -- through closer monitoring and possible detentions -- with the goal of thwarting terrorist attacks against Americans, sources said. "The American people should know that the government is taking appropriate measures with regards to any potential terrorist activity," a government official said. Disclosure of the program comes at a time of growing criticism by Democrats of Bush's war on terrorism. Critics say the administration and U.S. intelligence agencies, distracted by the Iraq campaign, were making too little progress dismantling terrorist cells in the United States and overseas. They cite evidence that indicates that Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden is alive and that his guerrilla network, al Qaeda, may be plotting "spectacular" new attacks against Americans. The White House responded by releasing a three-page list of Bush's achievements to date in the war on terrorism, from the freezing of $113.5 million in "terrorist assets" to 2,290 terrorism-related arrests in 99 countries. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/17/magazine/17LIVES.html?ex=1038655469&ei=1&e n=3cae210de1e9d461 * INVISIBLE WOMAN by Nuar Alsadir New York Times, 17th November One summer evening a few years ago, as I waited for friends to meet me at an East Village dive, I was lured into conversation by three men. I didn't feel like talking to them. They had the slightly combative conversational style of 20-something men on the make. But I didn't want to be rude. The burliest of the three, the attention seeker, delighted himself by jumping from subject to subject while the others blew smoke through lazy smiles. He glanced at me through the corners of drunken eyes, half-closed like hooks trying to snag my attention, and asked my name. "Nuar," I enunciated slowly. "What kind of name is that?" he asked. "Arabic," I replied. "I was born here, but my parents are from Iraq." "No joke!" he said, suddenly animated, as though recognizing an old acquaintance. "I killed a lot of your people in the war." Then, filling the silence my astonishment created, he added with an eye to his friends, "Do an imitation of an Iraqi for me: put your arms up and say, 'Please don't kill me."' Although I've thought of dozens of snappy comebacks since, my reaction then was not fight but flight -- at Concorde speed. As I rushed home, heart in throat, the split-second image I'd caught of his two friends, mouths agape in either laughter or disbelief, was frozen in my mind. Days later, I kept replaying his words. At first, I thought he had threatened me because he considered me the enemy. Later, I realized that the opposite was true. He had deemed me safely American, someone with whom he could share his crude joke. I had told the man my parents were from Iraq, yet he did not see me as an Iraqi. In order to be an Iraqi, I would have had to "do an imitation." Such imitative status (minus the hostile overtones) is commonplace for first-generation Americans: I can never be truly Iraqi or feel purely American. It's difficult to look at one part of a person without eclipsing another, like the optical illusion that never lets you see the hag and the young woman at the same time. Before the gulf war, no one knew where Iraq was. Now even though most people do, many still say I'm the only Iraqi they've ever met. And yet somehow I always defy expectations. I feel like a walking Rorschach test; what people see in me reflects as much about them as it does about me. Why don't I seem Iraqi? Is it my urban aesthetic, which includes vintage suede and funky shoes but no hijab? Or is it the graduate degree I'm working on that contradicts the myth that Arab women are denied education? My mother graduated from a Baghdad medical school in 1964 (one-fourth of her class was female), opened a practice in the States and raised two kids, while most of my American friends' mothers were stay-at-home moms. Yet my mother is dismissed as an exception. It doesn't help to mention that her sisters became a doctor and a teacher and that most of her female friends have higher degrees. Then people ask, "Are you Christian?" as though that would explain things, even though Iraq is a secular state. The more the image of Iraqis has become supplanted by Saddam Hussein, the more difficult it has become for Americans to think of me -- or anyone else -- as an Iraqi. During the gulf war, when I was in college, the same classmates who hung "Nuke Iraq" banners befriended me but were also unable to accept that I was related to the country they wanted to bomb. At a wedding, years after I graduated, when I mentioned my relatives in Baghdad, a roommate who lived with me during the tense months before the American attack made a confused face. "I thought your family was from Iran," she said. Most of the time this disconnect does not, I believe, reflect bad intentions. Some people repress my identity in order to grant me a kind of amnesty, so as not to implicate me in the war that Bush would like to wage, or they develop amnesia about my background. Such was the case with a professor who, perhaps seeing the ghost of Alasdair in my last name, kept insisting I was Scottish, even though I repeatedly asserted that I was an Arab through and through. Once I ran into him on the street, and he introduced me to a companion. "Noire," she said, clearly associating the sound of my name with the French word for "black." "That's beautiful. Is it French?" "No," I said. "It's Arabic. My family is from Iraq." "But," the professor cut in, "she's part Scottish." If I'm not considered a real Iraqi, I can never counter the image people have in their minds. Even when they acknowledge I'm part Iraqi, as the man in the bar did, I'm a knock-off, like a fake Gucci sold on the street. Why should I have to shoulder this illusory contradiction? The world shouldn't be a funhouse in which we're forced to stand before the distorting mirror, begging for our lives. Nuar Alsadir is a poet living in Brooklyn. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2002/11/18/MN130417 .DTL * ASSYRIANS -- NOT JUST PART OF ANCIENT HISTORY by Rob Morse San Francisco Chronicle, 18th November "I didn't think there were so many Assyrians in the world," said a non- Assyrian guest to Narsai David at the Ritz-Carlton on Friday night. David, the Berkeley food expert, had drawn 430 Assyrian Americans from all over the West to a banquet to raise money to build school buildings in their homeland in Northern Iraq. "We don't get together often," said Dr. John Aivaz of Palos Verdes, president of the American Assyrian Chamber of Commerce. It was an interesting time for an Assyrian get-together. Their brethren in Northern Iraq soon may be in the middle of an American invasion and, if all goes well, finally get a voice in Iraqi affairs. The Assyrian Americans at the Ritz-Carlton were still joyful that a month ago, for the first time, the president had recognized their role in a future Iraq. "The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a and Sunni must be lifted," said President Bush in a speech on Iraq. Immediately afterward, I got a call from David. Despite his not being a big Bush fan, he was bubbling over, saying, "Did you hear the president mention us?" I have to confess that before August, when I wrote a column about David's visit to Northern Iraq on behalf of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, I thought Assyrians were something from ancient history. It turns out they're a part of whatever history is to come in the next year. We mentally isolationist Americans somehow missed the fact that the 20th century -- the world's most criminal century -- has been tough on this great civilization that became the first Christian nation. Assyrians were slaughtered by the Turks, a mass murder more forgotten than the Turkish genocide of the Assyrians' fellow Christians, the Armenians. Surviving Assyrians trekked to Baghdad, where they were massacred again and forced to Northern Iraq, along with Assyrians from Iran. There, along with the Sunni Muslim Kurds, they have suffered Saddam Hussein's depredations. At Friday's dinner, Youel A. Baaba, a literary scholar and patriarch of the Assyrian Aid Society, spoke in the Assyrian language about how few people knew of the 200 Assyrian villages destroyed by Hussein and people forcibly relocated to undesirable places. "Sadly, not too many people are aware of the atrocities committed against Assyrians or their deplorable living conditions in Iraq," he said. Baaba spoke of the need to support their countrymen in the homeland to secure their language and culture. Or else, he said, "We, like millions of other people before us, will melt away in this beautiful pot called the United States of America." The handsome, well-dressed people in the audience applauded Baaba, most without having to look at the English translation. They hadn't entirely melted in this beautiful pot. A children's dance troupe ended its spirited interpretations of Assyrian folk dances by appearing with American flags and singing "God Bless America." They were greeted with the applause of immigrants and children of immigrants for whom the flag means what it's supposed to mean. This was one of the few large gatherings in the Bay Area where you could find mass support for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. These are people who know a thing or two about Hussein's branch of the axis of evil. "Assyrians and other groups should have their right of survival, property and democracy," said Aivaz. "They are just surviving. In the 21st century, that is not acceptable. They are looking for the greatest democracy in the world to do something." "Whatever happens, it will happen for the best," said Los Angeles developer Pierre Toulakany. "It couldn't be worse that what we've had, with chemical weapons used against our people." This is America, though, and you could find healthy dissent. Dorothy Clark and Julia Roberts of Modesto, both Assyrian Americans, said they feared a Bush invasion of Iraq. "That man will do what he wants," said Roberts. There are many things I fear, among them America's power to fire and forget, to use a missile metaphor. The world doesn't need more peoples used for our strategic purposes, then consigned to ancient history. Rob Morse's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. His e-mail address is email@example.com. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101021125-391550,00.html * ARE STUDENTS APATHETIC? NOT ON BUSH'S TURF, WHERE THEY'RE SCUFFLING OVER IRAQ by Melissa Sattley/Austin Times, 25th November They hooted. They jeered. There was even one scuffle between the opposing sides. But it wasn't just another football game that roused such passions at the University of Texas last week. It was a debate about whether the U.S. should wage war on Iraq. That's become an increasingly divisive subject on college campuses across the country, and perhaps nowhere more so than on U.T.'s Austin campus, the largest in the nation, with some 50,000 students, including the President's daughter Jenna. The tension first surfaced in October when the student government passed a resolution condemning a U.S. attack on Iraq by a 20-to-17 vote. Pro-war advocates on campus jumped on it and immediately began pushing for a repeal. On Veterans Day, more than 300 students poured into a campus auditorium for a formal exchange of views between the Young Conservatives of Texas, strong supporters of the President's plan for Iraq, and the Campus Coalition for Peace and Justice, a group formed after the Sept. 11 attacks to oppose the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and which is just as fervently against a second war front. Speaking for the Young Conservatives, Erin Selleck told the audience that the al-Qaeda terrorist network and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were one and the same. "They are enemies of the civilized world. Even more frightening is the idea of Iraq having nuclear weapons. Imagine if he supplies them to terrorists," she argued. Countered Campus Coalition member Joel Feldman: "The U.S. dictating who will be in power in the Middle East is part of the problem, not the solution. This war will be seen by the rest of the world for what it is, an act of aggression for a strategic purpose." Most listeners in the audience seemed to agree with the Campus Coalition, or at least people on that side seemed more vocal about their feelings. Still, the Young Conservatives also had defenders. When an antiwar advocate began heckling a student in the pro-war camp, other supporters of the President's policies stood up, and a fistfight almost broke out. The evening's moderators managed to restore order before any damage was done, and the meeting ended civilly two hours later with each team thanking the other for its participation. But the debate is far from over. The resolution against a war could still be overturned should a government member file a motion for a new vote. So the antiwar students continue to make their case. "With the passing of the U.N. resolution, it seems more important now than ever. We have to add our voices to the growing resistance and check this war before it gets started," says Andy Gallagher, 28, a senior majoring in psychology. Jordan Buckley, 20, a junior who wrote the resolution, is in the process of constructing a website to help other campuses get organized against the war. Buckley concedes that the peace efforts at U.T. may have little bearing on the country's actions, but he hopes that they will at least catch the ear of the President, whose daughter Jenna is a junior and nephew George P. Bush attends the law school. Neither of the younger Bushes has participated in the campus discussions about the war. "I don't think they are particularly interested in joining this debate," Buckley says. But, he speculates, "maybe word will get to Mr. Bush that we don't want a war; maybe he'll hear it through the grapevine." http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/bw-cong/2002/nov/20/112002771.html * Senate OK's Bill on Iraq Scientists Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 20th November [We owe it to Iraq's people to blow them to bits to deprive them of the means of defending themselves; we owe it to the people of the US to try to do it peacefully through a process of bribery and corruption, says Sen Joseph Biden.] WASHINGTON: Iraqi scientists yielding information on their country's weapons of mass destruction would be given safe haven in the United States under a bill the Senate approved Wednesday. The bill, which would cover up to 500 weapons scientists and their families, comes as the United States threatens war against the Iraq unless leader Saddam Hussein agrees to disarm. "We owe it to Iraq's people and its neighbors to do everything we can to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del. "We owe it to our own people to do all we can to achieve that end peacefully." Biden co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. The Senate adopted the measure by voice vote just before adjourning for the year. If the House does not approve it Friday when it meets for the last time, lawmakers will have to begin work on the measure anew when the new Congress convenes in January. The bill is S. 3079. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/html/uncomp/articleshow?artid=288 45623 * US ERRED IN SHIFTING FOCUS OF WAR ON TERROR TO IRAQ: GORE Times of India (from AFP), 20th November WASHINGTON: Former US vice president Al Gore has accused the Bush administration of diverting its attention from the war on terrorism, saying it had erroneously focussed instead on Iraq. "The administration lost focus where the war on terror is concerned and that was a serious mistake," said Gore in an interview on CNN's Larry King Live programme on Tuesday night. "Al-Qaeda is back posing just as serious a threat as it did during the weeks leading up to 9/11, according to our intelligence agencies," said Gore. "I would put the top priority on winning the war against terror, and not diverting resources away" from it, the Democrat added. Qualifying his statement on Iraq, Gore said: "I think the goal of moving Saddam from power is worthy of support. "Hussein is a bad guy, but he's not the one who's attacked us and he's not the one who's publicly trying to destroy us," he said, pointing instead toward the author of the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. "We should have built the international coalition first instead of distracting attention and shifting time, effort and energy away from the war on terror," Gore insisted. "If you are going after Jesse James, organise the posse first instead of riding off by yourself." http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20021121/pl_nm/iran_usa_dc _1 * U.S. POLITICIANS BACK GROUP LABELED 'TERRORIST' by Jonathan Wright Yahoo, 21st November WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One hundred and fifty U.S. congressmen on Thursday came out in support of the Iranian Mujahideen Khalq, the opposition group the Bush administration calls a terrorist organization. The lawmakers, more than one third of the 432 current members of the House of Representatives, said the Mujahideen was a legitimate resistance movement and should be removed from the State Department's list of "foreign terrorist organizations." The level of support was lower, however, than in October 2000, when 225 members of the House and 28 of the 100 U.S. senators released a similar statement. A spokesman for the group said it was still exceptional that so many U.S. politicians should challenge the designation in the political climate that followed the September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. "It's extraordinary that after Sept. 11, 150 bipartisan members of Congress asked the Bush administration to remove the Iranian Mujahideen from the list," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, congressional liaison for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which the State Department says is a Mujahideen alias. Since the attacks, U.S. politicians rarely challenge the administration's ideas about terrorism and unpopular governments such as those of Iran and Iraq. The Mujahideen Khalq, a highly disciplined group now based in Iraq, has survived relatively intact as the Bush administration launches what it calls a "war on terrorism." The National Council of Resistance of Iran runs an office two blocks from the White House and holds news conferences in Washington, but the Mujahideen appear to have cut back on their armed attacks on Iranian government targets. In theory, it is illegal to provide material support to a group on the State Department list. Banks must freeze their assets and members are liable to be denied U.S. visas. But a spokesman for the Justice Department, Bryan Sierra, said that designation by the State Department does not in itself constitute a violation of the law. He declined to say whether the Justice Department had investigated the finances of the Washington office. A State Department official said the office personnel may be U.S. citizens but a Mujahideen source said several of the most prominent were permanent residents, not citizens. The statement on Thursday, organized by Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said: "The time has come for evaluating the democratic opposition in Iran. As a majority of our colleagues in the House have repeatedly underscored, the Mujahideen is a 'legitimate resistance movement."' "We are concerned that the ... designation will cause unnecessary harm and will undermine the efforts of those legitimately working to establish democracy in Iran," the statement added. The status of the Mujahideen has been a running battle for several years between successive administrations and members of Congress favorable toward them. The group has also challenged its designation in the U.S. courts, at one stage winning a ruling that the State Department must give groups a chance to answer allegations against them. The Mujahideen began as a leftist-Islamist group opposed to the late Shah of Iran. They took part in the Iranian revolution against the Shah in 1979 but soon fell out with the Shi'ite clerics who came to dominate the Islamic republic. The leadership fled to Paris, and then to Baghdad during the first Gulf War between Iran and Iraq. It strongly opposes clerical rule in Iran but maintains some Islamist features, such as compulsory headscarves for female members. But unlike most Islamic groups, it has projected women into some of its most prominent positions. IRAQI/UK RELATIONS http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_711928.html * CND THREATENS COURT ACTION OVER IRAQ INVASION PLANS Ananova, 19th November CND is threatening legal action against the Government unless it guarantees that Britain will not invade Iraq without UN backing. A letter is being sent accompanied by a top QC's opinion to Tony Blair, Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw. CND is seeking a written guarantee within seven days that the UK will not use armed force against Iraq without a further Security Council resolution. It says the current resolution hammered out in recent weeks does not authorise force and that a fresh resolution authorising force is required. The letter includes an opinion from Rabinder Singh QC and Charlotte Kilroy, both at Matrix Chambers in London, arguing that the UK would be in breach of international law if it were to use force against Iraq without a further resolution. CND's Carol Naughton says the group is determined to take legal action if a guarantee is not forthcoming. She said in a statement: "The Government can be sure that we will go to court unless they give us the written assurance we seek." Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said: "We have made it clear to the Government that Resolution 1441 does not contain a 'trigger' for armed force... "Even if eventually the security council issues a clearly worded authorisation there will be strict limits on what force would be lawful. "Armed force to bring about a 'regime change' or high level air strikes would be unlawful." http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,843481,00.html * THE TRAGEDY OF KUT by Ross Davies The Guardian, 20th November The 500 military headstones that have just arrived in Baghdad from England already bear the names of soldiers killed in action in Iraq. But these troops died in an ill-fated, little remembered attempt at "regime change" nearly a century ago. In the winter of 1915, towards the end of the first full year of the first world war, an Anglo-Indian force was sent to capture Baghdad. To the historian and veteran CRMF Cruttwell the attack was "a capital sin": the advance on Baghdad was "perhaps the most remarkable example of an enormous military risk being taken, after full deliberation, for no definite or concrete military purpose." Officials from the Commonwealth war graves commission have just arrived in Iraq to assess the damage done by 20 years of upheaval - and many more years of decay - to the 13 war cemeteries the commission tends there. The new headstones are the first phase of a major programme: a total of 51,830 British and Commonwealth servicemen died during the war in what was then Mesopotamia, and there are 22,400 graves (more than two-thirds of the troops who fought in Mesopotamia were Indians whose faith requires cremation rather than burial). Many of these deaths were the result of the decision to attack Baghdad, and in particular of what happened in a loop of the Tigris river at Kut-al-Amara. On November 22 1915, General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend and his force of about 9,000 men of the 6th Indian division were advancing on Baghdad by boat along the Tigris, the land being roadless - an "arid billiard table". At Ctesiphon, about 20 miles short of the capital, the Indian and British troops came up against a larger, better armed and better supplied Turkish force which had had months to dig in on both sides of the river. Townshend's force drove out the defenders, but at the cost of 40% casualties. Unable to withstand a counter-attack, let alone continue the advance, Townshend retreated back down the Tigris, with 1,600 Turkish prisoners and more than 4,500 wounded from both sides. The long, slow journey was nightmarish for the wounded, for Townshend had been kept short of boats and medical supplies by a stingy government in India. An over optimistic superior, Sir John Nixon, had ordained that the men would find all they needed - in Baghdad. Collecting other troops as he inched along, Townshend made his stand at Kut, a strategic river junction he had captured a month previously. It had been one of a number of cheap and brilliant victories by a clever and resourceful soldier who knew the value of morale, and until the end kept the respect of his men. He had argued all along against going on to Baghdad; he lacked sufficient men, food and artillery as well as river transport and medical back-up. But the general and his men were to be the victims of their own success. The invasion of Mesopotamia itself was about oil, but that required only a landing on the Gulf coast to secure the southern part of the country around Basra. This would keep the Turks away from the nearby Persian port of Abadan, terminus of the Anglo-Persian pipe line which was the source of the Royal Navy's oil supply. Basra was taken and held with little cost at the end of 1914 by a small invasion force launched from India. By late 1915, however, the war cabinet needed a success story to round off a year of military disaster, most recently at Gallipoli, where the British were preparing to pull out, having failed to break out and take Constantinople. Why not push beyond Basra province and take Baghdad? The Gallipoli campaign ended on January 8 1916 with a re-embarkation of Dunkirk proportions. By then, Kut, a collection of flyblown hovels, with Townshend and his men inside, had been surrounded for more than a month: included in the 13,500 penned inside were some 3,500 Indian non-combatants and 2,000 sick and wounded. There were also 6,000 Arabs to be fed. They held out in freezing cold and then torrential rain against infantry assault, sniper fire, shelling, and bombing, until a relief force could get near enough for the defenders to risk breaking out. It never happened. Three attempts were made to relieve Kut. Each failed, at a total cost of 23,000 casualties. Food began to run out, and many of the Indian troops could or would not eat what meat there was. The defenders' draught animals, the oxen, were the first to go, followed by their horses, camels, and finally, starlings, cats, dogs and even hedgehogs. Kut was the first siege in which aircraft dropped supplies: these ranged from money to millstones to keep the garrison's flour mill going (and thus the Indians' supply of chapatis). But the Turks and their German officers were able to send up more and better aircraft, and too few friendly planes could get through to avert starvation. Repeated attempts to supply Kut by river were also repulsed. Desperate to keep his men alive, Townshend suggested - and the government endorsed - a ransom of £2m (about £67m today) for the defenders to go free. The Turks, elated by Gallipoli and able to switch troops from there to Kut, refused. Finally, on April 29, when vegetarian Indians were down to seven ounces of grain a day, Kut capitulated. Townshend was given permission to surrender, and obtained promises of humane treatment for his men from the Turks. It was then, after five months of siege, that the troubles of the defenders of Kut really began. The Turks had a different notion of what constitutes "humane treatment" and, as they treated their own soldiers with extreme brutality, saw no reason to pamper their captives. About 1,750 men had died from wounds or disease during the siege. Some 2,600 British and 9,300 Indian other ranks were rounded up and marched away. Two-thirds of the British and about a seventh of the Indians never saw their homes again. Relative to the numbers of men involved, the British losses at Kut dwarfs those of the far bigger battles on the Western Front. The historian and war poet Geoffrey Elton was a junior officer at Kut and saw the rank and-file being marched away, officerless, "none of them fit to march five miles ... full of dysentery, beri-beri, scurvy, malaria and enteritis; they had no doctors, no medical stores and no transport; the hot weather, just beginning, would have meant much sickness and many deaths, even among troops who were fit, well-cared for and well supplied." Some were marched to captivity elsewhere in Mesopotamia, others all the way to Turkey. Elton spoke of the Arab guards stealing the mens' boots, helmets and water bottles, and of dead and dying stragglers left where they fell. Cruttwell said: "The men were herded like animals across the desert, flogged, kicked, raped, tortured, and murdered." The Turks abandoned Kut in February 1917, and Baghdad fell in March. That June a royal commission reported on who was to blame for ordering Townshend to advance so far forward. The answer was everybody but Townshend. His commanding officer, Sir John Nixon, was censured. So too was the viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge, the commander-in chief in India, Sir Beauchamp Duff, the secretary of state for India, Austen Chamberlain, and the war cabinet in London, which had disregarded the advice of its own secretary of state for war, Earl Kitchener. As the horrors of the death marches and prison camps became known after the war, so the sufferings of the men were contrasted with more favourable treatment given to their officers - Townshend, in comfortable captivity near Constantinople, was knighted in 1917. From being the hero of his country's longest siege, "Townshend of Kut" became its villain. In the end, however, people forgot the deadbeats and chancers who paved the way to Kut. The CWGC now hopes to see that other names from Kut are remembered in its Iraqi war cemeteries. "We have always found the Iraqis willing to take us for what we are," says director-general Richard Kellaway, "a non-governmental organisation, whose duty is to commemorate, by name, the people who died in the two world wars." http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=353907 * BLAIR BOWS TO PRESSURE AND GRANTS MPS VOTE ON IRAQ by Andrew Grice Political Editor The Independent, 20th November Tony Blair has bowed to pressure to grant MPs a full-scale debate and vote on Iraq, but the prospect of an embarrassing rebellion by backbenchers spurred Labour whips to embark on a concerted arm-twisting operation yesterday. The Cabinet will tomorrow agree the wording of the Government motion to be debated in the Commons. It is expected to be in line with the resolution agreed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council, which gives Iraq one last chance to avoid war by ridding itself of its weapons of mass destruction. Until now, Mr Blair has avoided a formal Commons vote on Iraq amid fears that a revolt by Labour MPs would undermine his tough line against Saddam Hussein. In September, 53 Labour backbenchers registered their concern over his support for President George Bush by rebelling on a technical motion to adjourn the House. After persuading the US President to pursue the UN route rather than launch unilateral military action, the Prime Minister believes the time is right to seek Parliament's formal backing. Rebel Labour MPs might table their own amendment questioning the US-British approach and demanding that a war must be authorised by a new vote at the UN. But Government whips, who began contacting potential rebels early yesterday morning, hope the revolt will be smaller than in September because military action is not seen as imminent. Anti-war MPs face a dilemma over whether to vote against the Government. Some are reluctant to rock the boat, but others fear that a big majority on Monday will be cited by Mr Blair as an endorsement for military action later. Malcolm Savidge, MP for Aberdeen North, said last night: "I do not want to be in a position of giving a blank cheque for any action. People may assure us beforehand that voting for the Government motion would not be interpreted as the go-ahead for whatever the US wants to do. But what guarantees does that give us for what they might say later?" Mr Blair's united front with the US was under strain yesterday after British and American planes came under fire from Iraqi forces while patrolling the no-fly zones in Iraq. The White House said the attack was a "a material breach" of the UN's resolutions, a definition which could justify military strikes without waiting for the findings of the UN's weapons inspectors. Downing Street said the attacks on the planes would not be a trigger for war, but denied any split with Washington. Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "Obviously it is a violation of the UN resolutions to fire on British and American aircraft in the no-fly zones. It is then ... a matter for the UN Security Council to decide what to do." Mr Blair will not speak in Monday's debate. The Opposition is expected to vote with the Government, although some Tory MPs have reservations. http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,3605,844198,00.html * MILITARY WARN LABOUR ON IRAQ by Patrick Wintour and Richard Norton Taylor The Guardian, 21st November The chief of the defence staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, lifted the lid on a bitter row between the military and the Labour government yesterday when he bluntly warned that the army's fighting capability in an Iraqi conflict would be severely undermined by the diversion of 19,000 troops to cover for striking firefighters. He said he was "extremely concerned" that the use of the army in the strike was undermining troop morale and weakening their fighting strength. Sir Michael's "overstretch warning" was delivered at a press conference in front of a startled and angry defence secretary, Geoff Hoon. It reflects a series of tense discussions inside the Ministry of Defence about the wisdom of an attack on Iraq. The political embarrassment was compounded as Sir Michael's assessment came on the day Mr Hoon confirmed that he had received a formal US request for a troop commitment to Iraq. The request, one of 60 sent by President George Bush to potential allies, was delivered personally by the American ambassador, William Farish, on Monday. Sir Michael also insisted yesterday that British troops would not cross Fire Brigades Union picket lines to bring out the much needed modern red fire engines. "They should not do it," he said. His comments place an extra pressure on both sides in the fire dispute to reach a settlement before the eight-day pay stoppage begins at 9am tomorrow. No progress was made yesterday to avert the strike and the government insisted that no extra cash was available from the Treasury. Downing Street said the government might instead direct the police to fetch the engines from the fire stations - a move likely to lead to picket line violence. The threat is not expected to be carried out in the next strike. At a press conference called to discuss the Nato summit in Prague, Sir Michael spelled out the severe military implications of British troops operating the green goddesses. He said: "We don't have a box of 19,000 people standing by to be called on to do firefighting duties. They must have been drawn from operational units - which they have been ... and as they have been standing by since September, when we started training for the duties, they are not doing their tasks of training for whatever eventuality might come." He said was "extremely concerned", adding that the demands of the fire dispute were sapping morale and motivation, especially of soldiers just back from overseas duties in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Mr Hoon felt forced to interrupt to insist that Britain did have the forces to fulfill its potential twin roles in the fire dispute and a potential conflict in the Middle East. He also gave a reassurance that troops would not be asked to cross the FBU's picket lines. It is not the first time that Sir Michael has publicly voiced his concerns about the strains being imposed on the army by the fire dispute. He told the Commons defence select committee three weeks ago that if the dispute "runs into next year, we shall have extreme difficulty". Mr Hoon also felt forced to repudiate him on that occasion, insisting: "We shall be ready, we can cope." The Defence Secretary yesterday insisted that no decision had been taken on Washington's request to provide troops for any attack on Baghdad, but said that he would set out the government's position more fully in Monday's Commons debate on Iraq. Defence sources later rejected speculation that Mr Hoon would announce troop mobilisations. MPs will instead be asked to vote to endorse the UN security council resolution calling on Iraq to cooperate with a tough new weapons inspections regime. Labour whips are working to minimise any rebellion. At prime ministers' questions yesterday, Tony Blair was forced to play down Sir Michael's remarks when challenged by Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader. Mr Blair said: "What he pointed out, perfectly obviously, was that if you have 19,000 troops engaged in activities to do with the fire dispute, they can't be engaged in other activities. However, he said we would have the full operational capability for any requirement that might be made of us." Mr Blair's spokesman said only 10% of the armed forces' 190,000 manpower had been diverted to the fire dispute. NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN http://www.washtimes.com/world/20021118-6365341.htm * U.S. COOL TO KURDS ON OFFER OF WAR AID by David R. Sands The Washington Times, 18th November The Washington representative of an Iraqi Kurdish faction says his group is prepared to put 100,000 troops in the field against Saddam Hussein but that the Pentagon has shown little interest in the offer. The failure to connect underscores the delicate diplomacy behind U.S. preparations for war with Iraq, where handling U.S. allies in the Iraqi theater is proving almost as complicated as confronting the enemy in Baghdad. Iraq's Kurds, with tens of thousands of armed fighters on the ground inside the country ready to take on Saddam, would seem a fabulous resource for a country contemplating military action against Baghdad. But the Bush administration has found the Kurds' proposal too good to accept. "We can mobilize 100,000 fighters against Saddam in the north, and you would only need a very small international force," Mohammed Sabir, Washington representative for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said in an interview last week. "So far, the Pentagon has yet to take up our offer," added Mr. Sabir, a nuclear physicist whose faction is one of two major Kurdish political parties that have battled between themselves. The prospect of an important role for Kurdish fighters in the campaign against Saddam has infuriated Turkey, a critical U.S. ally that fears a revived independence movement within its own ethnic Kurdish minority. The Turks' fears are shared by Iran and Syria, which also have Kurdish minorities. Pentagon planners also have concerns about the only proven anti-Saddam fighting force in southern Iraq: the Iranian-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which can field an estimated 7,000 to 15,000 mostly Shi'ite Muslim soldiers. The SCIRI has had a complicated relationship with the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Tehran, but American war planners fear it may be too close to another member of the "axis of evil." Also ready to fight are 1,000 Iraqi military defectors, most of them drawn from the country's minority Sunni Muslim elite, who argue that Iraq's professional military is a victim of Saddam's tyranny and should have a role in U.S. military planning and in the armed forces of a post-Saddam Iraq. "Saddam was never a military expert. He was an amateur warrior who never served in the military at all," said Brig. Gen. Najib Salhi, a top commander under Saddam before his 1995 defection and now the head of a group of former Iraqi military officers working to overthrow the regime. "Iraq's security after Saddam cannot be handled through vestigial armies," Gen. Salhi said in Washington on Friday at a conference on Iraq's military future. Several top U.S. officials have traveled to Ankara in recent months seeking to ease Turkish concerns about the Iraqi Kurds and affirm that Washington will oppose any territorial breakup of Iraq. Earlier this month, the Istanbul daily Hurriyet reported that Turkish military leaders had insisted that any U.S. invasion plan not include Iraqi Kurdish militias, known as peshmergas, and that Kirkuk, an oil-rich northern Iraqi city that Kurds were seeing as a future provincial capital, not be placed under Kurdish control. The Bush administration's wariness over the roles of the Iraqi Kurds and the SCIRI in any military action is reflected in the Pentagon's plan to fund combat training for yet another Iraqi opposition force, using carefully screened recruits from several exile communities to assist the U.S.-led invasion force. In the interview, however, Mr. Sabir insisted that the PUK and its sometime rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, could fill the critical role the opposition Northern Alliance played in the U.S. campaign last year against the Taliban government in Afghanistan. "We could do even more. We are ready to help in any way," he said. Protected by U.S. and British air cover, the Kurds in Iraq have enjoyed an unprecedented degree of autonomy and prosperity since the end of the 1991 Gulf war. But Mr. Sabir said Kurds know that their situation is precarious. "Yes, you may call it a golden age, but we know we are living on a bubble," he said. "The day the United States changes its policy and Saddam Hussein is still in power, we know that the Kurds will be his first target." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk