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[casi] News, 02-10/1/03 (1)

News, 02-10/1/03 (1)


*  In Baghdad, art thrives as war hovers
*  Aflaq-political guru of Saddam Hussain?
*  Iraq issues decrees on smuggled money, banned materials
*  In Iraq's Tribes, U.S. Faces a Wild Card
*  Saddam's troublesome marsh dwellers left high and dry by drainage
*  Excerpts: Saddam's Army Day speech
*  Two-layer defense for Baghdad
*  Puzzle over Iraqi minister's ouster
*  Iraqis may have GPS [global positioning system] jammers
*  Saddam remembered as manipulative convict


by Robert Collier
San Francisco Chronicle, 2nd January

Baghdad -- Thick with cigarette smoke, the scene at the Hewar Art Gallery
has a familiar feel.

Long-haired artists with goatees and three-day stubble. Elegant women with
distracted eyes and languid hauteur. Highbrow bohemians gossiping and
glancing at the latest paintings and sculptures. The discreet clinking of
coffee cups.

For a while, at least, in this nondescript middle-class neighborhood of
eastern Baghdad, you can imagine being closer to Berlin, Paris or New York,
unencumbered temporarily by the deprivation, oppression and fear that haunt
the country.

You also are in the presence of some of the Mideast's most prized artworks -
- from abstract oil painting to powerfully gaunt bronze sculpture to quasi-
primitivist assemblage.

The Hewar probably has Iraq's hippest arts scene, but the gallery is not as
unusual as it appears. While the country is increasingly coming under siege,
dozens of galleries have sprouted up in Baghdad. Iraqi painting and
sculpture have become a thriving, if clandestine, export industry, filling
museums and private collections throughout the Mideast and even Europe.

The theater also is booming, and even the nation's beleaguered symphony
orchestra is drawing packed crowds.

All of this despite -- or in deliberate obliviousness to -- the country's
harsh dictatorship and the prospect of another potentially devastating war.

Notable in its almost complete absence from the galleries and museums is any
representation of this nation's recent history: the deaths of millions in
the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 and the 1991 Gulf War, the international
sanctions and the privations of dictatorship.

While Iraq has had more than its fill of pain, violence, loss and sorrow,
little of it registers in the country's artwork.

For Baghdad's cultural elite, however, this is not simple escapism. It is a
deliberate rejection of the mundane, they insist.

"We are not just a country of war or oil," said Qasim Alsabti, a painter who
runs Hewar with his wife, Iman Al-Showg, a prominent sculptor.

"We are a proud culture that goes back 6,000 years to the Sumerians. We have
been making art for longer than anyone. This is what gives us identity. This
is what will make our art last another 1,000 years, when all this war is

Some visitors also might expect Iraqi art to be imbued with a Stalinist
socialist realism typical of a totalitarian dictatorship. But apart from the
omnipresent government-sponsored paintings and statues of President Saddam
Hussein, Iraqi art displays a sometimes refreshing, if eerie, independence.

Hussein himself is believed to have written three novels in recent years
under pen names -- works viewed by most non-Iraqi critics as amateurish and
forgettable. He apparently sees himself as a patron of the arts and has
given strict instructions to the nation's cultural authorities to avoid

"The last time anything deliberately political happened was in the 1980s,
when an artist made paintings with the blood of soldiers who were fighting
in the war against Iran," said an official in the Ministry of Culture, who
asked to remain anonymous.

"It was horrible, just the thought of it, and that sort of thing was not

Of course, painting with blood might seem like a natural for some Western
artists, for the shock value alone. For the Iraqi literati, however, it is
merely retrograde.

"We have to forget the black side of life," said Reem Kubaa, a poet, as she
sat with the Alsabtis and a group of friends one recent afternoon, sharing a
masgouf, or traditional Iraqi fish fry, in Hewar's leafy courtyard. "If our
art is black, that means we are stopped. We are not doing our job as

When a visitor remarks that Iraqi artists might have ample inspiration to
produce a latter day "Guernica," -- Picasso's anguished masterpiece on the
Spanish Civil War -- Kubaa snapped back: "Times have changed. It's very
important for us to not cry over spilt milk. We have to prove to the world
that we are a culture. We are greater than our suffering."

Although Iraq has never been known in the Mideast for producing high-
quality fiction or film -- fields that are dominated by Egypt and Iran -- it
is viewed as the region's leader in painting, sculpture and poetry. In these
fields, Iraqi artists reached their modern-day zenith in the 1950s and
1960s, then declined in the 1980s and finally revived in the 1990s.

Although the international economic sanctions on Iraq have reduced artists'
contacts with the outside world, many say their influences are eclectic.
When asked which foreign artworks have influenced his work, sculptor Ahmed
Al-Safi mentioned the Popol Vuh, the epic poem of Central America's Mayan
Indians, as well as Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti, the ancient
Sumerians and Irish singer Enya.

Al-Safi's bronze sculptures are among the most socially conscious -- thin
figures walking in hoops, never going anywhere, always solitary, imbued with
what Al-Safi calls "a lack of hope."

However, some of the artistic choices stem from simple market economics.
With the Iraqi economy in shambles, many artists depend on the tastes of
foreign buyers.

Haider Wady, a sculptor who, along with Al-Safi, is a leader in Iraq's new
generation of artists in their 20s and 30s, admits that "nearly all" of his
clients are foreigners -- either diplomats and aid workers living in Baghdad
or people who buy his works when he shows them at exhibitions in Amman,
Damascus and Cairo.

"We are selling for an international audience. We have to go farther than
Iraq, farther than our small problems," he said.

There also has been a boom in domestic art appreciation, in part because
imported entertainment has become harder to get. Since 1990, when U.N.
sanctions were imposed, nearly all foreign movies have been unavailable. As
a result, most of Baghdad's cinemas have been converted to stage theater.
Now, with about 30 theaters producing everything from slapstick burlesque to
serious drama, times have never been better for Iraqi actors.

Government largesse also has helped. The Ministry of Culture gives handsome
salaries to many artists and actors -- even those who have yet to achieve
prominence, said Mais Kumer, lead actress in a long-running Baghdad stage
comedy, "I Saw It With My Own Eyes," and a prominent figure on state-run

Kumer's play, which mixes slapstick with high melodrama, is an example of
how political content increases as one descends the artistic ladder toward
mass taste. "I Saw It With My Own Eyes" tells of Martians who arrive on
Earth to warn the oblivious, happy-go-lucky Earthlings that an evil empire
named America is plotting to wage nuclear war and enslave the world.

And when asked about political boundaries -- for example, whether Hussein is
off-limits as a target for jokes -- Kumer answered in a way that suggested
how deep the roots of authority penetrate, even among artists.

"There's no reason to ever criticize the president, of course," she said.
"But he met with us several weeks ago, and he told us that nothing is off-
limits, not even government ministers. He told us to be artists, to be
comedians, to say what we want to say and not worry about the consequences.
But yes, there are two things we never criticize -- teachers and parents."

Asked why those are sacred cows, Kumer answered: "Because the president gave
us strict instructions that they cannot be criticized. The children might be
watching, and they might be influenced. We are a high culture, with high

by Syed Mehdi Momin
Bangladeshi Independent, 3rd January

Saddam Hussain's Iraqi opposition refers to his regime as Aflaqite. This
term is little known outside the Arab world and serious Arab watchers. Aflaq
was the founder and chief ideologue of Ba'th Arab Socialist Party. Saddam
Hussain was deeply influenced by him as his references to him in his
speeches suggest. While the Western media is apt to label Saddam as a roving
lunatic it must be remembered that he was no military General usurping power
through a coup. He rose steadily through the party ranks to the top. He is
first and foremost a political activist, a party man. While his actions
against the opposition is vicious he does have a strong power base and
popular support. The highly organised Baath Party through its apparatus is
there in every aspect of Iraqi public life and is on the whole loyal to
Saddam. And to understand Saddam you need to understand Michel Aflaq and the
Baathist ideology.

It was Aflaq, a Syrian intellectual and political organiser, who in 1963
elevated Saddam Hussein to the Regional Command in Iraq's Baath party, and
so set him on his course to dictatorship. And it was Aflaq who laid down the
ideology that continues to dominate Saddam's thinking today. Saddam has
great respect for the Arab Christian "It is Michel Aflaq who created the
party and not I," Saddam told an interviewer in 1980.

"How can I forget what Michel Aflaq has done for me? Had it not been for
him, I would not be in this position." Saddam grew up as a cadre in the
highly ideological and dogmatic Baath party structure. His speeches, from
the time he entered government in 1968 until today, have had a consistent
ideological, pseudo-intellectual character, even if in the past decade a
layer of Islamic rhetoric has been added.

His Islamic exhortations do have a tinge of hollowness as his secular views
are too well known.

Saddam says the Baath party is not just any other party. He says the Bathist
philosophy offers "spiritual ascendance in the process of the nation's
uplift" through "great deeds in conquest, liberation, justice, altruism, and
flexibility." President Bush has said that Saddam is the reincarnation of
Adolph Hitler. Well, he like Hitler believes in racial supremacy theory. He
believes the Arabs to be a sort of master race. He says "What does an
African in Rhodesia have to lose when he adopts Marxism, since he does not
have the historical depth or the intellectual heritage of the Arab nation, a
heritage which offers all the theories necessary for a life of change and
progress. The Arab nation is the source of all prophets and the cradle of

Aflaq was born in Damascus in 1910, a Greek Orthodox Christian. He won a
scholarship to study philosophy at the Sorbonne sometime between 1928 and
1930 (biographies differ), and there he studied Marx, Nietzsche, Lenin,
Mazzini, and a range of German nationalists and proto-Nazis. Aflaq became
active in Arab student politics with his countryman Salah Bitar, a Sunni
Muslim. Together, they were thrilled by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi
party, but they also came to admire the organizational structure Lenin had
created within the Russian Communist party. Though born a Christian, Aflaq
believed that Islam provides Arabs with "the most brilliant picture of their
language and literature, and the grandest part of their national history."
He did not see the confrontation with the West in Muslim versus Christian
terms. Arguing that all three great religions originated in the Middle East,
he asserted that "religion entered Europe from the outside, therefore, it is
alien to its character and history."

Europeans and Americans, he believed, cannot really be Christian or
religious or highly spiritual in the rich way that Arabs can. The Baath
party, Aflaq felt, embodying the transcendent Arab spirit, needed to be
ruthless against those who did not share its beliefs. Moreover, it was
through this combat, or struggle, that the Baath could achieve Arab
perfection. As Aflaq wrote: "In this struggle we retain our love for all.

When we are cruel to others, we know that our cruelty is in order to bring
them back to their true selves, of which they are ignorant. Their potential
will, which has not been clarified yet, is with us, even when their swords
are drawn against us."

Struggle necessarily involves sacrifice, he emphasised, but amidst fiery
conflict and bloodshed, each person "is forced to return to himself, to sink
into his depths, to discover himself anew after experience and pain. At that
point the true unity will be realised, and this is a new kind of unity
different from political unity; it creates the unity of spirit among the
individuals of the nation."

Now compare this to Saddam's fervent message to the Iraqi, "You are the
fountain of will power and the wellspring of life, the essence of earth, the
sabers of demise, the pupil of the eye, the twitch of the eyelid. So be as
you are, and as we are determined to be. Let all cowards, piggish people,
traitors, and betrayers be debased."

He sincerely believes in the Arab nation because he believes it has been
assigned by God an eschatological mission. "We can state without hesitation
that our nation has a message," he told an interviewer. "That is why it can
never be an average nation: Throughout our history our nation has either
soared to the heights, or fallen into the abyss."

The contempt he has for the Americans vis a vis the Arabs is quite clear.
"The Americans have not yet established a civilization, in the deep and
comprehensive sense we give to civilization. What they have established is a
metropolis of force. . . . Some people, perhaps including Arabs and plenty
of Muslims and more than these in the wide world . . . considered the ascent
of the United States to the summit as the last scene in the world picture,
after which there will be no more summits and no one will try to ascend and
sit comfortably there. They considered it the end of the world as they hoped
for, or as scared souls suggested it to them." Like it had for Aflaq the
word "revolution" has a special meaning for Saddam.

"That is why a Revolution has no beginning and no end; it is not like a war,
and its soldiers must not profit from its spoils. It is something
continuous, it is a message to life, and the human being is only the bearer
of the message." "The Revolution chooses its enemies, and we say chooses its
enemies because some enemies are chosen by it from among the people who run
up against its program and who intend to harm it."

"The Revolution has its eyes wide open. Throughout all its stages the
Revolution will remain capable of performing its role courageously and
precisely without hesitation or panic, once it takes action to crush the
pockets of the counter-revolution."

All this suggests that Saddam, contrary to his image in the West is hardly
thug or a bully, but with a missionary whose lofty ideology has not changed
in four decades. The ideology of Baathism calls for relentless struggle,
ever-widening conflict, until some ideal culmination of history is achieved,
the end of time. So, Saddam may indeed welcome any US led attack and may
prefer to die in a bunker like Hitler.

Hoover's (Financial Times), 5th January
>From INA news agency web site, Baghdad, in Arabic 27 Dec 02

Baghdad, 27 December: The Revolution Command Council [RCC] issued Decrees No
265 and 266 on 17 December 2002.

The two decrees deal with the smuggling of money and currencies prohibited
from circulation in the local market, and the manufacture, import,
possession, keeping, transportation or distribution of books, publications,
printed materials, drawings, pictures, films, compact discs, signs or other
materials that violate public decency and public order or are prohibited
from circulation.

The first decree, which cancelled the first article of the RCC Decree No
111, issued on 17 October 1996, and RCC Decree No 164, issued on 25
September 1994, has authorized the Interior Ministry, the Intelligence
Service, the General Military Intelligence Directorate, the Public Security
Directorate, the General Customs Commission, the Border Force Command, the
Customs Police, the Contingency Units, and other parties assigned
permanently or temporarily by the president of the republic to seize
smuggled money and currencies prohibited from circulation in the local

The decree also stipulates that military personnel who seize smuggled money
and currencies prohibited from circulation in the local market while
carrying out their military duties after 8 October 2001 shall be eligible to
receive the reward stipulated in RCC Decree No 111, issued in 1996.

The minister of finance, in coordination with the interior minister, is in
charge of issuing regulations that facilitate the implementation of the
provisions of this decree, which shall become effective as of the date of
its publication in the official gazette.

The second decree stipulates the following:

Any person who manufactures, imports, issues, possesses, keeps, transports
or distributes books, publications, printed materials, drawings, pictures,
films, compact discs, signs or other materials that violate public decency
and public order or are prohibited from circulation shall be punished by
imprisonment for not less than six months and a fine of not less than
500,000 and not more than 2m dinars, or by either of the two said penalties.

Any person who advertises any of the prohibited items mentioned in the
decree, puts it on public display, sells it, rents it, offers it for sale or
lease - even secretly - distributes it, or delivers it for distribution in
any possible way shall be punished by the above-mentioned penalties. An
aggravating circumstance should be considered if the crime is committed with
the aim of corrupting moral values.

These provisions also apply to movie theatres. Any items mentioned in these
provisions shall be seized and destroyed according to regulations set by the
minister of information, in coordination with the director of Public
Security. Twenty-five per cent of the amount of the above-mentioned fine
shall be given to the personnel of the above agencies who seize the smuggled
currencies, according to regulations set by the minister of information, in
coordination with the director of Public Security.

This decree shall go into effect as of the date of its publication in the
official gazette.

by Neil MacFarquhar
Yahoo, from The New York Times, 5th January

MOSUL, Iraq Sheik Talal Salim al-Khalidi, the portly chieftain of the Bani
Khalid tribe, stomped through a farming hamlet in his fief on the broad,
flat Mosul plains, gloating that the mud oozing underfoot heralded an
auspicious sign in the face of a possible American attack.

"God is fair," proclaimed the sheik, wearing a headdress, a gray suit and a
flowing gray wool cloak edged in gold that sweeps the ground. "Whenever we
face some kind of oppression, he compensates us with something else."

Three men armed with Kalashnikovs and one with a machine gun dogged his
every footstep. "The same thing happened in December 1998," he said,
recalling a season of bountiful harvest. "When the Americans were bombing
us, we had heavy rains that year."

Intensely devout, armed and nationalistic, the storied tribes of Iraq have
played a pivotal role in controlling the country under the Ottomans, the
British, the monarchy and especially Saddam Hussein. They have remained the
ultimate swing voters in the brutal politics of the Middle East, where in
legendary wars across the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, they were known to
switch allegiances in the heat of battle.

Iraq's tribes are under increased scrutiny as the Bush administration casts
about for some credible force that can help it oust Mr. Hussein. The country
is home to about 150 major tribes, which break down into about 2,000 smaller
clans. The largest number more than one million people, the smallest a few
thousand. Of the larger groups, roughly 30 to 35 are believed to have a
significant role in controlling Iraq.

The tribal formula worked in Afghanistan in 2001. Cash payments persuaded
chieftains to abandon the Taliban. There has been talk of similar payments
in Iraq, but few expect it to be quite so simple here.

Mr. Hussein has worked diligently in recent years to woo the tribes,
dispensing cash, cars, arms, schools and other bounty to assure their
loyalty. At the same time, those who failed to kowtow, or worse, plotted
rebellions, have been brutally suppressed, their chiefs killed, replaced or
driven into exile, their houses destroyed, their crops burned.

Opposition figures in London report that Mr. Hussein summoned the chiefs of
the southern tribes to Baghdad three months ago and demanded that they vow
not to repeat the 1991 uprisings against him.

The question hanging over the tribes now is how deep their professed loyalty
runs. They could become a nightmare for any American force penetrating Iraq,
a patriotic guerrilla army spread throughout the country.

Sheik Talal, echoing other tribal chiefs, said he had placed a request with
the local Baath Party leader in Mosul for heavier arms, like
rocket-propelled grenades, antiaircraft guns and antitank weapons, to help
fight the Americans, but he has yet to receive a response.

The tribes could also be waiting for the right moment to rise up against the
Baghdad government, though if they are, they are understandably not
advertising it. They slice across the society along a different axis than
the traditional divisions between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, with some
tribes including Sunni, Shiite and even Christian members.

"You cannot ignore them because they are an important element of the
government," said one Western envoy in Baghdad. "But you cannot expect the
tribes alone to change the regime in Iraq."

Pride of place naturally goes to Saddam Hussein's tribe, the Tikritis, whose
members fill many senior government positions, as well as important posts in
security organizations and the presidential guard. All such groups draw
heavily on the tribes, although occasional rebellions among major tribes
have been put down with tanks and artillery.

Iraqi opposition figures interviewed in London contend that one crucial
element delaying American military action is the lack of clearly identified
support in Iraq. One said the Americans were working hard to forge some sort
of tribal link, meeting with chieftains in neighboring countries to see if
they can influence their Iraqi cousins. All major tribes in Iraq have
related branches in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the other gulf
states and Turkey, although under Koranic prescriptions loyalty to the
national leader trumps relations across borders.

The British experience during World War I is a cautionary history cited
often in Iraq these days. Expecting a warm tribal welcome when they marched
into Iraq to toss out the Ottomans, the British instead were met with
hostility from the tribes, which united to massacre tens of thousands of
British soldiers.

"The graveyards of the British are still in Iraq," Sheik Talal said.

The Baath Party, which came to power in 1968 with Mr. Hussein as a vice
president, painted the tribes as outdated, with loyalty instead owed to the
state and the president. Even the use of tribal names was banned. (Another
explanation for the policy was that it was to disguise the predominance of
Mr. Hussein's clan in the government.)

Things began changing in the 1980's, when the government needed soldiers for
the fight against Iran, and the tribes obliged. But it was after Baghdad
lost control of large swaths of the country in the years following the
Persian Gulf war in 1991 that Mr. Hussein resurrected the role of the
tribes. He reached out to the leaders, allocating them areas to supervise in
exchange for more autonomy over tribal affairs.

Sheik Talal, who says his tribe has about 100,000 armed men all over Iraq,
is proud of the tribe's various roles in the 1990's. They were assigned a
72-mile section of the highway to protect at night between Al Diwaniya in
Nasiriya in southern Iraq, for example. "It became a duty to prove our
loyalty to the president," said the sheik, who has been a member of the
rubber-stamp Iraqi Parliament for the past three years.

Wamidh Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University, said:
"The tribal leaders were very happy that their old role was to be returned.
They were good at protecting roads, delivering water and sorting out the
problems the government can't. I don't think they have the strength they did
in the early days of Iraq, though, when they outgunned and outnumbered the
Iraqi Army."

On the visit to Naharat Nimrud, a tribal hamlet some 12 miles down the road
from the famous Assyrian ruins, Sheik Talal listed the benefits accrued from
the president. Right off the main road sits the Saddam Mosque, then a new
school and an infirmary, all paid for by Mr. Hussein. In those years when
the rains do not come and crops fail, the president regularly forgives
government loans for seeds and fertilizer.

Various sheiks scoff at the idea that American money might persuade crucial
tribes to switch sides.

Sheik Ahmed Mohiedin Zangana, the leader of a small Kurdish tribe opposed to
his American-allied brethren in the north, noted that he had already
assigned members of his tribe positions to take up around the city of Mosul
and elsewhere in event of an attack, although he too, awaits heavier

"I have my specific plans to distribute members of the tribe if paratroopers
land," he said. "Each sniper knows his special assignment."

Sheik Talal described the likely resistance in religious terms. "We protect
the nation's land and we would consider killing Americans a jihad in the
service of God if they come here as aggressors," he said. "The Koran says an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, so when anybody kills us, we will
kill them.",3604,869151,00.html

by Rory McCarthy in Chibayish
The Guardian, 6th January

Across the barren scrubland either side of the road to Chibayish the land is
grey, cracked and dry. The village, once an island surrounded by marshes, is
empty and in ruins.

Chibayish was once home to the Madan people, the Shia Muslims who lived on
the broad marshes that stretched across southern Iraq. Eleven years ago, in
the days after the Gulf war, the villagers of Chibayish, like hundreds of
thousands of Shias in the south, rose up against Saddam Hussein in a vast
but eventually futile rebellion.

During the past decade the Shias have paid a terrible price. Now, with the
US again drawing up plans for a war in Iraq, there is little chance that
western troops can count on a coordinated uprising against the Iraqi

Influential Shia clerics in the south who have criticised President Saddam's
regime, which is drawn from Iraq's Sunni minority, have been intimidated and
in several cases killed. Many Shia political prisoners have disappeared
without trace. Most Shia mosques are now run by clerics who are deferential
to the president.

Perhaps the most devastating impact of the president's paranoia has been the
systematic draining of the marshlands north of Basra, an area which was a
base for pro-Iranian fighters in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and where
many rebels and army deserters sought sanctuary after the 1991 uprising.
Massive irrigation works have dried the wetlands, decimated the population
and destroyed a way of life which had lasted for 5,000 years.

The result has been that while many across the south may harbour deep
resentment of the regime, it is doubtful whether large numbers are willing
to repeat the 1991 revolt.

Today Iraqi soldiers man checkpoints every mile along the roads running
through the marshes in the south. They are not there to defend against an
American attack, but to stifle any hint of revolt.

Most of the original marsh Arabs, who a decade ago numbered around 250,000,
have become displaced. While President Saddam's attacks on the Kurds in the
north have been well documented, much less has been uncovered about the
repression of the Shias in the south.

"It has been really very extensive. The population of the marshes has been
completely decimated," said Hania Mufti, who is the London director for the
Middle East division of Human Rights Watch. "When you have a minority Sunni
government which presides over a majority Shia population which has not been
granted basic civil and political rights I think there is always going to be
paranoia there."

For now the remaining marsh Arabs are trying to adapt to a life without
their beloved wetlands.

A decade ago Jari Muftim Thijil sold his wooden canoe and moved south with
his family from Chibayish to live closer to the town of al-Qurnah. When he
moved Mr Thijil, 57, brought with him his small, intricately woven reed
guesthouse, the mudhif . As a boy he lived in one of these houses, built
precariously on a reed island floating in the heart of the marshes.

"Every age has its beauty and ours was the marshes. We lived in a world of
water and fish. Now I yearn for those days," he said. "For 10 years the
marshes have been dry. Our sweet water has gone."

His is one of the few authentic mudhifs remaining. It is little different
from the homes photographed and recorded by the British explorer Wilfred
Thesiger who lived among the Madan people in the 1950s.

>From the early 1950s engineers in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq began
building a series of huge dams across the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. In
the early 1990s President Saddam's engineers dried the marshes. In their
place are long, straight canals. The irrigation works carry names such as
the Mother of Battles river and Fidelity to the Leader canal.

The Iraqi government said the drainage work it carried out was for
irrigation or to gain access to untapped oil reserves. But the UN
environment programme, in a damning report last year, noted how canal banks
had been built up to prevent any flow into the marshes and concluded that
the intention was simply to drain the marshland dry.

Some campaigners believe the marshes could be recovered and the Madan people
allowed to rebuild their culture. "They have a unique way of life that is
historic and we owe them every effort to bring the marshes back," said
Baroness Nicholson, a Liberal Democrat MEP. "What matters now is the will of
the international community."

BBC, 6th January

The following are excerpts from a nationally televised speech delivered on 6
January marking the 82nd anniversary of Army Day.

When you, the valiant people of Iraq, renew your pledge to Allah, to
yourselves, to the nation and to humanity at large, that you will continue
the march of jihad, you do not only strengthen your adherence to your belief
and your sacrifices for the Faith, whose meanings have been eloquently
expressed, in your sacred blood, as well as in your suffering, sacrifice and
perseverance, but you also ensure final victory over the enemies of Allah,
your enemies...

The objective is rather to subject the Arab Gulf area to a full, complete
and physical occupation

We are the offspring of the sword and the pen; and, in the Name of Allah, we
shall fear no one in defending our right, and shall continue our march on
the path drawn by Allah, in order to achieve the tasks assigned to us by the

Iraq is not the only target in this confusion, even if the noise is meant to
intimidate us and to cover the aggression to be decided by the enemy
whenever the devil so instructs him.

The objective is rather to subject the Arab Gulf area to a full, complete
and physical occupation through which to achieve many goals.

These include political interference and military intervention in the
countries of the region in a manner unaccustomed before, with a view to
securing complete control over their resources...
 The inspection teams are interested in collecting names and making lists of
Iraqi scientists

But the enemy will pay dearly later, on top of what it is paying at present
for its reckless policies of greed and expansionism.

Through its noise and rumblings, coupled with the ongoing aggression and
blockade inflicted on Iraq, the enemy is providing cover for the heinous
crimes perpetrated by the Zionist entity against our people in Palestine...

The enemy is in full coordination with the Zionist entity in this respect,
and has achieved a lot of what it wanted to see achieved in order to cover
the weaknesses of its agencies, as exposed before the US public opinion,
vis--vis the events of 11th September 2001 and the weakness, or indeed
near-collapse, of the United States economy...

As we monitor the hiss of snakes and bark of dogs accompanied by continued
aggression in the north and south of the country, we act with the confidence
of the assured whose actions are not hurried or confused.

Here, we have prepared for everything.

One of the objectives of the enemy's continued aggression and pressure on
Iraq is to provide psychological support, in a climate of sabre-rattling, in
order to intimidate the people of the Middle East and the world, and to make
the inspection teams go beyond the declared objectives of the Security
Council, even in the bad resolution issued in its name.

So, now, instead of looking for the so-called weapons of mass destruction,
in order to expose the distortion and lies propagated by those who
endeavour, in vain, to deceive public opinion, the inspection teams are
interested in collecting names and making lists of Iraqi scientists,
addressing employees with questions that carry hidden agendas, giving
special attention to military camps, to unproscribed military production,
and to other matters, all or most of which constitute purely intelligence

The light of truth belongs to us, while our enemy has the darkness of the
present and the darkness of distant horizons...

For the people of Iraq, their victory, with reliance on Allah, is at hand,
having already existed in their hearts; and it is up to our enemies to trace
the echoes of their trumpets...

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and
translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the
Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

by Bill Gertz
Washington Times, 7th January

Iraqi military forces are setting up a two-layer defense ring around Baghdad
in preparation for U.S. military action, according to U.S. intelligence

Planning of the defense perimeters has been under way since November and
involves the deployment of units from the regular Iraqi army and the
Republican Guard in an outer ring around the Iraqi capital.

A closer defense ring is being set up using troops and forces belonging to
the Special Republican Guard. Those units are assigned with leadership
protection, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Iraqi military believes that U.S. and allied forces will break through
the first ring but be held back by the inner ring's better-trained and
better-equipped Special Republican Guard, the officials said.

Baghdad's deployments indicate that a key element of the Iraqi war strategy
is to draw U.S. and allied forces toward the capital, where urban fighting
could prove difficult and lead to high military and civilian casualties, the
officials said.

Disclosure of the Iraqi defense preparations coincided with Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein's Army Day speech in which he declared that his country was
prepared for war and said U.N. arms inspectors are U.S. spies.

"The enemy will be defeated disgracefully," Saddam said in a taped speech
broadcast on Iraqi television. "When the enemy comes as an aggressor, the
victory will go to the people of right when they are inside their homeland."

President Bush responded by saying that it doesn't look like Saddam wants to
comply with the U.N. Security Council's demand to surrender any weapons of
mass destruction, "but he's got time."

The U.N. inspectors' first report is due Jan. 27. Administration officials
have said Mr. Bush will review the report before deciding whether to pursue
war with Iraq.

The establishment of two defense perimeters is one of several recent signs
of Iraqi military preparations. In September, two Republican Guard units
were moved from bases to less vulnerable sites in Iraq.

Other signs include construction of earthen barriers, the dispersal of
ammunition and the movement of surface-to-air missile batteries.

Military experts said the Iraqis plan to trap U.S. and allied forces, which
under current plans would begin a ground invasion after extended bombing
raids. The double perimeter may be designed to draw U.S. and allied forces
toward Baghdad and then conduct artillery attacks on them using shells
filled with chemical and biological weapons.

The attacks would make it difficult for the United States to retaliate with
tactical nuclear weapons without causing large-scale civilian casualties.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis said the dual defense rings would
serve two purposes: keep foreign troops from reaching the capital and
prevent defecting Iraqi forces from attacking the city.

"If there is penetration of the outer ring, that will be overcome to a
certain degree by better defenses dug by the Golden Division," a Special
Republican Guard unit that has orders to protect Saddam and high-value
targets such as chemical and biological weapons, Col. Maginnis said.

"I don't put a lot of credence to the outer ring," Col. Maginnis aid. "But
it's the inner ring and the paramilitary forces scattered around the city
that are going to be the real problem."

Col. Maginnis said he believes that the Iraqi military's loyalty is

"I believe that given the right circumstances, most Iraqi forces will
collapse," he said. "We have to get behind the scene and contact the
commanders covertly."

Anthony Cordesman, a military specialist at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, said urban warfare in Iraq would be a dangerous trap
for U.S. forces.

"Extended urban warfare would create major military and civilian casualties
on both sides, and greatly increase civilian casualties and collateral
damage," Mr. Cordesman said in a recent report.

"The situation would be particularly serious if Iraqi forces throughout the
country maintained control of all urban areas and rallied to Saddam for
nationalistic or other reasons."

Col. Maginnis said Iraq's military has been working on defensive positions
for years and skillfully uses decoy forces that are designed to make U.S.
air power waste limited precision-guided bombs and missiles on wooden
silhouettes of tanks or other weapons.

"Unless we have up-to-the-minute data and are watching very closely the
movement of decoys, we're not going to know where his guns are," Col.
Maginnis said of the Iraqi leader.

Mr. Cordesman estimated that Iraq has six Republican Guard divisions, each
with 6,400 to 8,000 troops. They include four Special Republican Guard
brigades of several thousand troops each.

The regular army has about 10 divisions with 5,600 to 7,000 troops each,
including three armored divisions and three mechanized infantry divisions,
Mr. Cordesman said.

Former U.N. arms inspector Scott Ritter said the battle for "Greater
Baghdad" would begin as U.S. ground forces approach the cities of Baiji in
the north, Ramadi in the west and Suweira-Kut to the south of the city. All
are fortified with Iraqi forces.

"These positions represent the geographic reach of Greater Baghdad, and it
is here that Saddam's plan of urban-oriented defense would probably begin,"
Mr. Ritter said.

At Baiji, about 800 Iraqi Special Republican Guard forces have been building
up ground and air defenses at an underground complex in the Jabal Makhul
mountains. One of Saddam's presidential palaces is located in the complex.

According to Mr. Ritter, any military operation against Baghdad will require
knocking out the Baiji defenses.

"As long as the Iraqis hold Jabal Makhul, any invasion force coming from the
north will have to move westward, into the desert, to bypass the defenders,
thus extending lines of communication and complicating logistical support,"
Mr. Ritter wrote in a recent journal article.

by Robert Windrem
(MS)NBC NEWS, 8th January

NEW YORK, Jan. 8  The unexpected "retirement" of Iraqi Oil Minister Lt.
Gen. Amer Mohammed Rashid may indicate that President Saddam Hussein is
determined to surround himself with hard-line officials ahead of a looming
U.S. military campaign, analysts inside and outside the U.S. government said
Wednesday. They also suggested that Rashid's key role, as well as that of
his wife, in developing Iraq's weapons program made them prime candidates
for scrutiny by U.N. inspectors.

The departure of Rashid, 62, was so sudden it left analysts mystified.

On Monday, he laid a wreath at an Army Day ceremony, an honored guest as the
nation's highly successful oil minister.

But on Tuesday, he was gone.

According to the official Iraqi News Agency, Rashid was transferred by
presidential decree to the Directorate of Reserve Service, which will allow
him to be recalled to another job if necessary.

Rashid was succeeded by Sameer Aziz al-Najim, a member of the ruling Baath
party's regional command, who has a long association with Saddam and served
as Iraq's ambassador to Egypt, Turkey, Spain and Moscow. He will serve as
acting minister.

However, U.S. officials were unconvinced by Iraq's statement that Rashid
stepped down because he had reached the mandatory retirement age.

Instead, they noted the key role played by Rashid and his wife, Ribab Taha,
in establishing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.

Rashid's wife, the former director of Iraq's biological weapons program,
labeled "Dr. Germ" by the Western tabloid media, has a history and record of
instability that makes her a prime candidate to be interviewed by U.N.
inspectors, U.S. analysts said.

Saddam may have feared that the U.N. inspectors  inside Iraq since November
 would demand to take her to another country for an interview, as is
permitted under the latest U.N. resolution.

They also noted that Rashid himself was one of the founders of Iraq's
program to develop weapons of mass destruction and is a former minister of
military industrialization.

One analyst described him as being a far better interview subject for the
U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) than his
wife because of the breadth of his knowledge of Iraq's program for weapons
of mass destruction.

It was Rashid who organized the Iraqi missile programs, oversaw technology
transfers and developed Iraq's military electronics operations, the keystone
of its quick technological advances.

Moreover, he also served as Iraq's chief liaison to UNMOVIC's predecessor,
the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) during the mid-1990s, frequently
visiting New York and Vienna, on some occasions accompanied by his wife.
They met, even dined with U.N. officials then and gave up nothing, U.S.
officials said.

Overall, his reputation was one of total competence. Intelligence reports
indicated that he was educated in the West and speaks fluent English and

As oil minister, Rashid brought Iraq's oil production capability back to
pre-Gulf War levels, and during one week in November, Iraq pumped a record
4.4 million barrels a day, twice its normal capacity.

"He has kept the oil industry going with Band-Aids and chewing gum," said a
leading oil trader. "He was not handicapped by the restrictions, and just
recently he got the U.N. to allow them to buy items needed for maintenance
of the oil industry  items specifically related to oil production. He got
them added to list of approved items. It was curious that he was removed
like that."

As for his replacement, one senior U.S. official said Najim has been a loyal
Saddam supporter but knows nothing about oil.

As a result, analysts are considering two possibilities as they try to
figure out what happened: one is that as he did just before the Gulf War,
Saddam is ousting technocrats in favor of loyalists, believing in a fight to
the death he would prefer having his own men around him. The other is more

"[He] is one of the sole progressive/Westerners in the inner circle, kind of
like [Former U.N. Ambassador Nizar] Hamdoun," said a military analyst
outside the government who knows the former oil minister.

"This is a sign of Saddam getting rid of dissenters who probably want to
cooperate with the U.N. If a hard-liner is put in this position, the march
to war will be quicker."

The analyst said that Rashid often served as a sounding board, quietly
talking to Americans and others he believed to be valuable to understanding
U.S. policy, even providing them with his home phone number.

This analyst pointed to the recent rise in anti-U.S. and anti-U.N. rhetoric
this week in Iraq, adding that it should not be considered coincidental.
The turning point, he believes, could have been a UNMOVIC decision last week
to have inspectors visit military labs and bases where conventional weapons
are based.

Another U.S. official noted that Saddam has a history of turning from one
set of advisers to another if he believes the strategy those advisers have
pushed is failing. Those decisions can occur overnight, the official noted.

Nevertheless, all the analysts believe that nothing untoward, other than
rhetoric, will take place before Jan. 27 when UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix and
the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei,
report to the U.N. Security Council on Iraqi cooperation.

by Jim Miklaszewski
(MS)NBC NEWS, 9th January

Jan. 9  NBC News has learned from senior U.S. officials that the Iraqi
government is believed to have bought a large number  perhaps 200  of
Russian-made global positioning system jammers, which can disrupt GPS
signals. The devices, each about the size of a cigar box, may be able to
fool the precision-guided bombs and missiles that would form the backbone of
the U.S. military arsenal in a war with Iraq.

"They have been trying to buy them," said one U.S. official. "They have been
in the market. They are not that difficult to obtain, so we have to believe
that they have them. The question is their effectiveness."

The concern is so great that the U.S. Air Force is testing some weapons
against the jammers. The United States anticipates that more than 80 percent
of the munitions used in any war on Iraq would be precision-guided munitions
using GPS.

One official said the jammers' "effectiveness is questionable," claiming
that only a broad network of such equipment could throw U.S. bombs off

Some officials fear that the Iraqis would put the jammers on mosques and
residential buildings, but Air Force officials do not believe that is

The Pentagon is believed to have long had the capability to jam GPS signals.
Some experts in nonmilitary applications of GPS technology have said that
the Defense Department has likely been selectively jamming GPS signals in
Afghanistan since the start of the air campaign in October 2001.

Commercial airlines rely on GPS technology for transoceanic navigation. GPS
receivers, which sell for about $100, have increasingly been used by hikers,
commuters and law enforcement agencies.

Toronto Star, 9th January

LONDON (AP) - Locked in a fetid Iraqi prison nearly 40 years ago, Hussein
al-Rikabi met a serious-minded young inmate who he recalls was so cunning
that he once engineered a jailhouse dispute to identify informers among the

"He was very serious, more than necessary," al-Rikabi, 71, said of the young
prisoner - Saddam Hussein.

"All he talked about was his Baath party and how just and fair it would be
if it came to power," al-Rikabi told The Associated Press. "He talked about
the struggle and that the party had no alternative but to wrest power."

In 1964, al-Rikabi, a businessman who now lives in London, led a group of 76
military members and lawyers in a failed coup against President Abdul Salam

He was jailed at Military Prison No. 1 along with hundreds of political
prisoners - among them the future Iraqi president, who had been rounded up
in a crackdown against the Baath Party which now rules Iraq.

Even then, Saddam stood out among the hundreds of Baathists, communists,
nationalists and others held in the prison, al-Rikabi recalled. Saddam, then
27, preferred to speak Arabic with a heavy Bedouin accent because "he wanted
to appear a true Arab" and he rarely cracked jokes, al-Rikabi said.

Late one night, al-Rikabi said he experienced first-hand the cunning and
ruthlessness for which Saddam would someday become famous.

Al-Rikabi said guards rousted him from his sleep and brought him to the
director of the prison, Ali Ashqar, who accused him of trying to secretly
organize inmates from rival political factions.

Al-Rikabi maintained his innocence and was eventually taken back to his
cell. Saddam was waiting for him. When al-Rikabi related what had happened
to him, Saddam burst out laughing.

"Don't worry," Saddam told him, admitting he had planted the false rumour
which led to the accusation against al-Rikabi. "I engineered this in order
to see what their reaction would be and see whom they are watching and who
their informers are," Saddam said of the guards.

Saddam also showed his leadership potential, emerging as head of one faction
of the Baath Party. Saddam's wing was opposed by inmates loyal to
neighbouring Syria. The two factions often clashed inside the prison.

After one bust-up, Ashqar, the prison director, rebuked the prisoners,
calling them "traitors, criminals and murders." He asked the inmates if they
had anything to say in their own defence. The leftists said only Saddam
could speak for them.

"We are the sons of the Ramadan Revolution," Saddam said, referring to the
1963 coup in which military officers killed Iraqi strongman Abdel-Karim
Kassem. "We helped you raise your heads high and liberated you from
Abdel-Karim Kassem. We will soon return and make the guilty pay."

Saddam fled to Syria and then to Egypt in 1959 after taking part in an
assassination attempt against Kassem during which the future president was
wounded in the leg. Saddam returned to Iraq only after Kassem was killed.

Saddam eventually escaped from prison under circumstances that remain
unclear. Al-Rikabi said some friendly guards helped Saddam slip out of
prison disguised as a garbage collector.

However, Dr. Tahsin Moala, another Iraqi exile who treated Saddam for the
1959 gunshot wound, said that on his way to court, Saddam convinced his
guards to stop at a restaurant and managed to escape with another prisoner,
Abdul Karim Shaikhali, who later became foreign minister.

When the Baath party seized power in 1968, al-Rikabi went to the
presidential palace to congratulate Saddam, who was in charge of internal
security and the No. 2 national figure after President Ahmed Hassan Bakr.

There, al-Rikabi said he was warmly welcomed by Saddam, Shaikhali and
Saddam's cousin, Adnan Sharif, who reminisced about their prison days.

Saddam asked al-Rikabi to mediate a dispute between the government and
Nasseriin tribesmen. A few days later, al-Rikabi led 14 tribal chiefs to a
meeting with Saddam, but the gathering "didn't go very well and ended with
tension," al-Rikabi said.

Soon afterward, all the 14 chiefs were arrested and taken to Ramadi prison
outside Baghdad, apparently as a warning. They were released about a month

"From then on, the gaze of the Baathists was on me," al-Rikabi said. He was
arrested in 1969 as he returned from a trip to London and was held for 15
days, he said.

After his release, he flew to Amman, Jordan, and lived for several years in
Lebanon, where he founded one of the first Iraqi exile groups opposed to the
Baath Party regime.

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