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[casi] News, 15-22/11/02 (2)

News, 15-22/11/02 (2)


*  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
*  US erred in shifting focus of war on terror to Iraq: Gore
*  U.S. Politicians Back Group Labeled 'Terrorist'


*  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


*  U.S. cool to Kurds on offer of war aid


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

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

In war, you cannot count on your enemy conforming to your desires. Examining
the plan as outlined, any experienced staff officer would note serious

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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.

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

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,9171,1101021125-391550,00.html

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."

*  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.

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."

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

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

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

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

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

"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

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

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


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

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

"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.",3604,843481,00.html

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

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

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."

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

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

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

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.,3605,844198,00.html

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

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.


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

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

"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

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

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."

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