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News, 10-15/01/03 (4) IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST RELATIONS * Syrian oil company joins Russian companies in developing the Iraqi al- Qurneh oil fields * Where is the Syrian-American relationship headed? * Kuwait hopes for "natural" change in Iraq not a war * Prince Abdullah Sees No War on Iraq * Gul brings peace pitch to Tehran * Odds on Iraqi War Are Half to Half: Mubarak * Iraq-Jordan oil pipeline pending * Beirut Seizes Equipment Destined to Iraq * Hundreds of American soldiers arrive in Israel for joint maneuvers * Turkish politics and an unwanted war IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST RELATIONS http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/030110/2003011014.html * SYRIAN OIL COMPANY JOINS RUSSIAN COMPANIES IN DEVELOPING THE IRAQI AL- QURNEH OIL FIELDS Arabic News, 10th January The Syrian al-Bayan oil company has expressed readiness to join Russian companies that develop the Iraqi oil fields in al- Qurneh after this contract was withdrawn from the Giant Russian "Look Oil." The company's director general Muhammad Muhammad Saaed said that his company which is originally working in Iraq "is ready to make a partnership with any Russian official establishment" to execute al-Qurneh west contract. However, Baghdad had withdrawn back this contract from "Look Oil" because it did not meet its obligations as Baghdad had stated, and then on December 22, 2002 proposed for Moscow to choose an alternative for this company, officially. Saad said that his company is carrying a contract of 300 million EUROS for drilling oil fields in various parts of Iraq. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/10_01_03_f.htm * WHERE IS THE SYRIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONSHIP HEADED? Daily Star, Lebanon, 10th January There's much Arab media interest in the subject of Syrian-US relations, following the conclusion in Damascus of the second round of the ostensibly "unofficial" but closely watched "dialogue" between the two sides. Arab newspapers offer conflicting initial assessments of the outcome of the three days of discussions, in which Syrian and American delegations - including serving and former diplomats and officials as well as academics and business and media people - debated bilateral and regional issues. The leading pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat portrays the talks as having succeeded in bridging important differences between the two sides. It splashes its front-page with the Syrian foreign ministry's statement describing the gathering as "constructive and helpful" and indicating that "clear understanding was reached over a number of issues that are extremely important for the region, for ties between Syria and the US and for Arab-American relations." But Saudi-run pan-Arab Al-Hayat headlines that the American and Syrian delegates differed sharply over the issues of Iraq and Palestine, with the Syrian side insisting that a US war on Iraq would be totally unjustified. The paper's sources nevertheless emphasize "the importance of this dialogue, which is unofficial despite the participation of officials on both sides, in putting forward viewpoints and proposing compromises," as well as "correcting Syria's distorted image in the American media." The Beirut daily As-Safir reports that the subject of Iraq dominated the meetings in Damascus, which are organized by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, set up and named after the former US secretary of state, and follow a first round of talks held in Houston, Texas in May last year. As-Safir quotes the institute's director and former US ambassador to Syria, Edward Djerejian, as saying while last year's "dialogue" session helped "break the ice" between the two sides, in their latest talks they delved deeper into various bilateral and regional issues, and began considering "solutions." Djerejian also indicated the two teams - who are due to hold a third parley in Houston, though no date has yet been determined - might eventually draft and publish a set of policy "recommendations." He said there was support high up in the US administration for the "dialogue," and while cautioning against "giving ourselves too much importance," said the discussions could influence the policies of both governments. Djerejian suggested it would be "useful" for the US to engage in "unofficial dialogue" with other important countries with which it has serious differences, "like Iran." Lebanese commentator Sarkis Naoum suggests Syria's behavior during a prospective American war on Iraq could be the key to determining how its relationship with the US develops. In a just-concluded three-part news analysis published in the Beirut daily An-Nahar, Naoum writes that the close security and anti-terrorism cooperation between the two sides post-Sept. 11 has failed to translate into an overall improvement in relations. Palestine and Iraq continue to divide the two countries, especially with the pro-Israel neo-conservatives wielding so much clout in Washington. Quoting Washington insiders who favor improved US-Syrian ties, Naoum says the Americans feel the high hopes vested in Bashar Assad when he became president have not been realized. His failure to deliver promised political and economic reforms, while perhaps attributable to resistance from "mainstays" of the Syrian regime, leaves Washington wondering whether his cautious "wavering" between reform and the old order is a "temporary policy" while he strengthens his home front position, or "the most that can be expected of him." Naoum argues that "regional conditions" have not helped the Syrian president institute reforms. He inherited office just as the peace process was melting down and the far-right was assuming power in Israel, then had to cope with Sept. 11 and its fallouts, and now faces the prospect of war on Iraq. He appreciates how vulnerable all this makes his country, and so has taken a number of steps - such as reining in Hizbullah and endorsing the US authored UN resolution on Iraq - aimed at enabling him to "strengthen his position and face up to the gathering storm in the region." The late Hafez Assad did something similar in 1990, when he joined the US-led coalition against Iraq and the US-sponsored peace process, thus securing "international protection" for Syria to offset the collapse of Soviet backing. But circumstances have changed: there's no prospect of restarting the peace process; the US administration is under heavy pressure to force Syria to crack down on the Palestinian organizations it hosts and get Hizbullah disbanded; and the Syrian president is in no position to join any US-led coalition against Iraq. "Accordingly, he will not obtain the international protection which his father secured by joining the coalition in 1990." Naoum's sources go on to argue that Damascus needs to do more to gain favor with Washington, and adopt a "strategy" to safeguard it from the "super hawks" in George W. Bush's administration who want to adopt a "identical or comparable" policy toward Syria as the US has done toward Iraq - and whose position will be strengthened if America succeeds in enforcing "regime change" in Baghdad. That would also greatly increase the risk of Syria and Lebanon being mugged by Israel. The elements of the strategy Syria needs to pursue to counter the Bush administration's super hawks are well known, Naoum remarks. "But the key element - which is certain to be well-received in Washington and specifically within the US administration - would be for Syria to decide to prevent the emergence of any movement opposing or resisting the anticipated military blitz against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and against the regime which the US is expected to install in Iraq afterwards," he writes Naoum reports that moves are ostensibly already being made to establish a "national resistance" to oppose the future US presence in Iraq, and the Americans know that, for these efforts to succeed, they will need "Syrian help, cover or protection." So they want Damascus not just to withhold assistance to these efforts, but to actively help foil them. Whether this appeases the American super hawks remains to be seen, Naoum concludes. They believe a "major dose of force" in the Middle East would cure all America's problems there, "from Iran to Saudi Arabia," and want to start with Iraq while enabling Israel to use that war to achieve some of its aims. Those aims may include mugging Lebanon and Syria, he says, but Israel's chief objective relates to its conflict with the Palestinians: it wants to change Palestine's "demography," and "the arena for that will be the West Bank," Saad Mehio predicts in the UAE daily Al-Khaleej that there is likely to be an upsurge in suicide bombings in Palestine as the start of the anticipated blitz on Iraq approaches, despite the Bush administration's efforts to "cool down the Palestinian front as the Iraqi and Middle Eastern front heats up." A variety of "regional forces" are bound to "use the Palestinian card" as a weapon in the pending conflict, which is set to "change all the Middle East map's features," he reasons. "No one engaged in the current game of life and death in the region could even consider neutralizing this valuable and potent card. And no one means no one - not Saddam Hussein, not Iran's mullahs, not Syria, and naturally not Osama bin Laden." That means it is a near certainty that the period between now and the start of the US invasion of Iraq will be "a period of martyrdom operations par excellence," he says. "The more efforts the US exerts to make its invasion of Iraq swift and 'clean,' the more the regional forces concerned will strive to make it protracted and costly." The reasons for that are evident, Mehio writes. If the US scores an easy and inexpensive victory in Iraq, it will "quickly and inevitably move to achieve similar victories against a considerable number of regional forces who figure on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's hit-list." The fact "the Palestinian front has been left open" provides all those forces with the opportunity to "open new fronts" of their own, perhaps starting in Palestine and eventually moving on to America proper. In that sense, the recent twin suicide bombings in Tel Aviv could prove to be only "the start of a deluge." France's shifting position on Iraq is noted with disapproval by Joseph Samaha, editor-in chief of the Beirut daily by As-Safir, who sees in President Jacques Chirac's latest speech on the subject "unmistakable" signs of a French tilt in favor of going along with a US-led war. Having earlier taken a strong independent stand against American unilateralism (a policy described by Samaha as "Paris I"), Chirac is now evidently inclined to defer to the US ("Paris II"). The French media depicted his speech as an attempt to prepare French public opinion - which remains overwhelmingly opposed to war, and will still take much convincing. Samaha suggests that one reason for Chirac's U-turn is the failure of Arab and regional states to lend meaningful support to Paris's earlier drive to restrain the Americans. But the key to understanding Chirac's policy shift could be Washington's recent hints that it doesn't mind post-Saddam Iraq being run by a "temporary international administrator" rather than an American military governor, as had earlier been touted. The "political meaning" of this is that rather than keeping all the "spoils" of war for itself, the US is willing to see them "distributed more or less fairly" among the countries that agree to join it. Consequently, "policy becomes determined not by the scope of the threat Iraq poses, but by the gains that can be made from making common cause with Washington." To Samaha's mind, France's policy shift illustrates one of the biggest ironies of the Iraq crisis: the more the UN arms inspectors confirm that Iraq does not appear to possess doomsday weapons, the more support the US rallies for war. "It's as though the real job of the inspectors is to confirm that Iraq is void of these weapons in order to persuade the waverers that the risks of waging war (to destroy non-existent weapons) are minimal," he remarks. After six weeks of inspections, no trace has been found of the arms programs which the US and Britain claimed Iraq was developing. "Nevertheless, these claims are gaining supporters, not the least important of whom is Chirac." As-Safir's editor adds as an afterthought that in Lebanon, while President Emile Lahoud's declared views echo "Paris I," Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's position is plainly closer to "Paris II." "This is not a value judgment, merely an observation that even over an issue as grave as Iraq, the two men resemble parallel lines," he writes. "Is it not time for this farce to be ended, so we can learn what the official Lebanese attitude really is to the 'gates of hell' that could be about to open?" Pan-Arab Al-Quds al-Arabi takes issue with those Arab states who are reportedly working on plans to try to persuade the Iraqi president to resign and go into exile as a way of averting war on his country. The paper sees the recent spate of media reports suggesting he might do so as part of an American disinformation campaign. Although Baghdad denied the reports, it didn't need to, it writes, "for no one who knows Iraq and its leaders' mentality could possibly believe that President Saddam Hussein, after all these years of standing fast in the face of the embargo and assassination attempts, would defer to a request by the US president to leave Iraq so that he can step in as invader and occupier without any confrontation. "Those calling for the Iraqi president's departure are falling for the American propaganda war, which is trying to blame the current crisis with Iraq on its president," Al-Quds al-Arabi writes in its main leader. "Such naive over-simplification amounts to collusion in America's neo-imperialism The war on Iraq is not aimed at disarming it or promoting democracy and freedom, but at seizing its oil, placing it under occupation and breaking it up along sectarian and racial lines." Iraq's cooperation with the UN over arms inspections has been exemplary, the paper points out, and yet Arab leaders continue to put the onus on Baghdad rather than Washington to prevent war, and urge the Iraqi president to go into exile to spare his country from being attacked. "Perhaps one of those Arab leaders should set an example by stepping down himself, and allowing his people to freely elect a president or king to replace him," it suggests. http://www.iranmania.com/news/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=13803&NewsKin d=CurrentAffairs&ArchiveNews=Yes * KUWAIT HOPES FOR "NATURAL" CHANGE IN IRAQ NOT A WAR IranMania.com, 11th January KUWAIT CITY, Jan 11 (AFP) - Kuwait said Saturday it hoped a US-led war on Iraq could be averted and that a change to Iraq's internal situation would take place "naturally". "We hope that military action can be avoided and that a change in the situation will occur naturally, from the inside, instead of military action," First Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah told reporters. The Kuwaiti official, who was speaking before leaving on an official three-day visit to Tehran, did not elaborate. The United States accuses Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of developing weapons of mass destruction and has threatened to attack Iraq and topple his regime. Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and occupied the emirate for seven months before being evicted by a US-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War. Sheikh Sabah said the Iraq crisis would top the agenda of his discussions with Iranian officials. "What is important to all the countries is, what is the future if something happens," he said. "We hope that nothing happens but if something does, there has to be consultations between countries that neighbor Iraq," Sheikh Sabah added. He said Kuwait and Iran would also discuss the disputed issue of the offshore Dorra gas field, on which Kuwait and Saudi Arabia plan to start work this year. The field is also claimed by Iran. A project to transport fresh water from Iran to Kuwait will also be on the agenda, Sheikh Sabah said. Kuwait has repeatedly voiced opposition to any US-led military campaign against Iraq without a UN mandate. US troops meanwhile continue to pour into this tiny oil-rich emirate as the US administration threatens to launch a massive war against Iraq if it fails to disarm. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Friday ordered nearly 35,000 more US forces to the Gulf, expected to arrive in the region over the coming weeks, US defense officials said. The deployments, which will push US force levels in the region to more than 120,000, come on top of 25,000 troops Rumsfeld ordered to the Gulf just before Christmas. Those forces, including the army's 3rd Infantry Division, have begun moving out of bases in Georgia to Kuwait and other points in the region. Currently there are 66,000 US troops in the US Central Command's area of responsibility, including more than 16,000 in Kuwait, defense officials said. http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20030113061700123 * PRINCE ABDULLAH SEES NO WAR ON IRAQ Palestine Chronicle, 13th January RIYADH - Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah yesterday told a group of Arab thinkers and intellectuals he was "convinced" there will be no US-led war against Iraq. "We are seeing fleets and concentrations (of troops) in the region but I have a strong feeling that there won¹t be a war," the crown prince said. "This is my conviction and my personal point of view," the crown prince told the gathering, cautioning that, "No one has spoken to me about war." Saudi Arabia, which has long borders with Iraq, has been lobbying to find a peaceful solution to the crisis between the United States and Baghdad. Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul held talks Saturday in Riyadh with Saudi leaders over a proposed initiative to end the standoff over Iraq and prevent war, and said time was pressing to find a peaceful settlement. Riyadh has reiterated that its decision to join a UN-sanctioned war against Baghdad will be based on its national interests and the evidence of Iraq¹s material breach of the UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The crown prince insisted that "war is in no one¹s interest", adding that Iraq was "dear" to his country. "As you know, Iraq is dear to us. Its people are our people, they are a precious part of the Muslim and Arab nation," he said. "If the United Nations, God forbid, takes the decision to declare war (on Iraq), the Arabs will have only one request, that is to be given a chance to talk with Iraq about a solution capable of preventing a war," he said. The United States has deployed tens of thousands of troops in the region ahead of an eventual military strike on the government of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who Washington accuses of developing weapons of mass destruction. In his address yesterday, Prince Abdullah also urged Arab and Muslim writers and media persons to work for the unity of Arab and Islamic countries. "We have to make intense efforts to unite the Arab and Islamic Ummah," the crown prince told Saudi and foreign thinkers and media persons who came to attend the Heritage and Culture Festival in Janadriah. "We welcome all proposals that will benefit and guide us," Prince Abdullah said, adding that the present situation required wisdom and deep thinking. Prince Abdullah blasted the ongoing campaign against Islam and Muslims. "We are targeted. The aim is not any country but the Islamic faith, but Islam will remain strong with the support of God and its followers," he added. Prince Abdullah called upon Arab countries to cooperate with Saudi efforts to strengthen Arab unity. "I hope they will accept our proposals and I believe that it will solve many problems," he added. High-level sources in Cairo, meanwhile, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the Kingdom had handed its proposal for Arab unity to the Arab follow-up committee in preparation to presenting it to next Arab summit scheduled for March in Bahrain. The Saudi proposal called for a new Arab charter that would ensure protection of Arab legitimate interests, realize just demands of Arab nation, promote Arab joint action and regulate inter-Arab relations. The proposal also called for self-reforms and development of political participation in Arab countries. It opposed illegitimate foreign attacks against any Arab country and called for resolving all Arab conflicts peacefully. The proposal urged all Arab states to stand united against any Arab country which attacks a member state. -[Arab News (arabnews.com).] Published at the Palestine Chronicle. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/13_01_03/art21.asp * GUL BRINGS PEACE PITCH TO TEHRAN Daily Star, Lebanon, 13th January TEHRAN: Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul took his diplomatic mission to avert war in Iraq to Iran on Sunday, insisting conflict would hurt all countries in the Middle East. ³We are following developments in Iraq with concern. Without doubt, the other countries in the region will be harmed if an attack takes place,² Gul was quoted as saying by Iran¹s official Islamic Republic News Agency. ³We should make an effort to prevent a probable war.² Gul arrived in the Islamic Republic from Saudi Arabia on a diplomatic offensive that comes amid a military buildup in the Gulf by US forces for a possible strike against Iraq. Turkey has not yet said whether it will allow US forces to use bases on its soil. Gul¹s peace message found favor in Iran, which fought a bitter eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s but is strongly opposed to any attack against its western neighbor. ³We don¹t see any legitimacy for any type of aggression and believe any aggression paves the way for a succeeding aggression,² Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said after meeting Gul. We believe that the Iraq issue should be resolved through political and reconciliatory ways. No country in the region can rely on America¹s pledges. Other regional countries will be targeted if an attack against Iraq takes place.² Unlike Turkey, which is an ally of Washington and has allowed US planes to fly from Turkish bases to patrol northern Iraq since 1991, Iran considers the United States an arch enemy. Several other Middle Eastern leaders are beating a path to Tehran this month as efforts to avoid conflict in Iraq increase. Also Sunday, Kuwait¹s foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, met Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. ³Despite what our countries have undergone on the part of Iraq, Tehran does not favor a military attack against Iraq,² Khatami was quoted as telling Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al Sabah. He stressed ³the need to maintain exchanges and contacts between the countries in the region² to found a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis. Khatami also expressed the hope that Baghdad ³fully applies international rules and UN Security Council resolutions² to facilitate such a solution. Sheikh Sabah handed over a message described as ³important² from Kuwait¹s emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah. On arrival in Tehran Saturday he called the situation in Iraq ³very dangerous² as the US threat of a new war on Baghdad cast a pall on the region. ³Only Iraq¹s full cooperation with the United Nations can assure calm and stability,² he said. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected in Tehran on Wednesday. - AFP, Reuters http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200301/13/eng20030113_110025.shtml * ODDS ON IRAQI WAR ARE HALF TO HALF: MUBARAK Peoples Daily, 13th January Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak estimated on Sunday that the odds on a war against Iraq are half to half. "Any war on Iraq will bring about very serious repercussions. Noone can predict what will happen in case of a war," Mubarak told reporters after he inaugurated a water pumping station in the southern city of Toshka. "No one would be able to prevent the United States from launching such a war on Iraq," he said, adding Egypt and Saudi Arabia have not yet put forth proposals on the Iraqi crisis. Mubarak is expected to kick off a visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday to seek common ground on the volatile Mideast situation, especially the Iraqi crisis. UN arms inspectors have been on resumed mission in Iraq since Nov. 27, while the United States continues war preparations againstBaghdad. There are more than 50,000 US troops already deployed in the Gulf region. The United States plans to double the figure in the coming weeks. Egypt, a key US ally in the region, calls for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi issue, fearing that any war on Iraq would further destabilize the volatile regional situation. http://ogj.pennnet.com/articles/web_article_display.cfm?Section=OnlineArticl es&ARTICLE_CATEGORY=Trasp&ARTICLE_ID=165679 * IRAQ-JORDAN OIL PIPELINE PENDING Oil & Gas Journal, 13th January NICOSIA, Jan. 13 -- Jordan selected 47 local trucking companies to deliver 5.5 million tonnes of Iraqi oil during 2003 at a cost of $56 million, pending construction of a new oil pipeline. The proposed $365 million, 750 km pipeline, which will link Jordan's Zarqa oil refinery with Iraq's Al-Haditha oil wells, is expected to replace the use of trucks for oil transport by 2004. Jordan's section of the pipeline, from Zarqa to the Iraqi border, is to be completed by yearend, following the award in January of the tender for a 30year build, own, operate, and transfer contract. Jordan receives all of its oil from Iraq, half of it free of charge and half purchased at $4 5/bbl less than the world market price. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/jan/14/011403034.html * BEIRUT SEIZES EQUIPMENT DESTINED TO IRAQ by Sam F. Ghattas Las Vegas Sun, 14th January BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Military equipment destined for smuggling to Iraq - including helmets, uniforms and communications gear - was confiscated at Beirut's airport, officials said Tuesday. The 13.2 tons of equipment arrived aboard a flight Sunday night from Belarus and was intended for land transport through Syria to Iraq, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. An Iraqi diplomat in Beirut denied that Iraq had any link to the shipment or the importers. Belarus also denied involvement. "The Foreign Ministry of Belarus rules out the possibility of delivery of dual-use items to Iraq. Belarus strictly follows accepted international norms in dual-use items," spokesman Andrei Savinykh said, referring to items that have military and civilian functions. He said it was possible the shipment could have been sent through Belarus from a third country. Belarus' Defense Ministry declined to comment. Lebanese customs agents were suspicious of boxes labeled "Head Protectors" that arrived on a plane from Belarus' capital Minsk. A spot check of one box uncovered the gear. The Lebanese army seized 600 helmets designed for tank crew and 240 wireless communications sets for tanks, customs officials said on condition of anonymity. Security officials said the shipment was to have been smuggled to Iraq disguised as food. Military authorities detained two Lebanese men listed as the importers for questioning. The importers also were fined $160,000 for making a false declaration, customs officials said. Under Lebanese law, only the state can import military gear. The names of companies involved were not released. http://www2.bostonherald.com/news/international/ap_jerus01142003.htm * HUNDREDS OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS ARRIVE IN ISRAEL FOR JOINT MANEUVERS Boston Herald, from Associated Press, 14th January JERUSALEM - Hundreds of American soldiers have arrived in Israel for joint maneuvers with anti-missile defenses, aimed at protecting against any Iraqi strikes if the United States attacks Iraq, officials said Tuesday. Israel is preparing for the possibility Baghdad will launch missiles against it during any new war as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel in that conflict, causing much damage, but few casualties. The joint maneuvers are being conducted in southern Israel using two anti-missile systems, the U.S.-made Patriot and the Arrow, which was developed by Israel and the United States, military officials said. The U.S. soldiers, who brought Patriot anti-missile batteries with them, will remain in Israel until the end of any war on Iraq, military officials said. On Wednesday, Israel will go into a higher stage of alert, codenamed ``Red Hail,'' media reported. Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Red Hail was planned long in advance and does not mean Israel knows if or when a U.S. attack on Iraq would be launched. As part of its preparations for a possible chemical or biological weapons strike, Israel is distributing gas masks to its citizens and launching a television and radio advertising campaign instructing people how to respond. Soldiers are visiting schools to instruct children and answer questions. Newspapers run banner headlines at least once a week about the threat of war. http://www.iht.com/articles/83279.html * TURKISH POLITICS AND AN UNWANTED WAR by Grenville Byford International Herald Tribune, 15th January BROOKLINE, MassachusettsThe United States wants two things from Turkey in the event of war on Iraq. First, the use of air bases like Incirlik. Second, permission to transport troops through Turkey to establish a northern front. If Turkey cooperates, the war will be shorter and all of the attendant suffering less. The Bush administration has not yet got what it wants, largely because the Iraq issue is being used as a weapon in a wider political battle between the new Turkish government, effectively led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the establishment made up of senior bureaucrats, the military and the unelected president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The underlying problem is that the Turkish people do not want to assist an attack on Iraq, and neither side wants to tell them that they should. Yet Turkey would benefit from cooperating. A shorter war would spare Turkey's weak economy, and if Ankara cooperates it could count on American economic help and a voice in the ordering of postwar Iraq. If Turkey stands aloof, the war will happen anyway and the pain will be much worse. In the calculus of self-interest, this is not a hard decision. In the realm of humanitarianism, Turkey's neighbors, the Iraqis, are suffering under the sanctions against Baghdad. Since it is hard to imagine how Saddam Hussein could persuade any American president to remove the sanctions and permit him to remain in power, the only ethical solution is to remove him, by war if necessary. Continuing the status quo merely imposes the costs of containing Saddam - an American security imperative - on the Iraqi people. I can say personally that this argument has traction with ordinary Turks. The issue for the United States, then, is whether it can persuade any Turkish leader to tell the Turkish people something they do not want to hear: that both self-interest and sympathy for suffering Iraqis argue that Turkey should support an American attack. The one man with enough political capital to pull this off is Erdogan, the leader of the victorious party in November's elections. Like Turgut Ozal, Turkey's last leader with any vision, Erdogan is bold and clear-sighted. It was Ozal who single-handedly brought Turkey into the American camp for the 1991 Gulf War, despite powerful opposition from the Turkish military. Unfortunately for the United States, Erdogan has other problems to deal with besides persuading Turks to support a war they detest. Despite his party's victory, he was disqualified as prime minister because he had been convicted in 1998 of reciting a poem that a court said incited religious hatred. Parliament passed constitutional amendments that would allow him to serve, but President Sezer vetoed them. Parliament then passed the amendments again, so Sezer had to go along. Now Erdogan plans to run for Parliament, and thus become prime minister, in February. Erdogan also faces opposition because he wants to negotiate a solution to the partition of Cyprus based on proposals by the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan. He understands that Ankara's past support of Rauf Denktash, who controls the Turkish Cypriot area of the island, is a barrier to Turkey's membership in the European Union. Sezer and the military unequivocally back Denktash even though he has become increasingly unpopular. That means preservation of the status quo. Erdogan understands that Turkey has to make internal reforms to qualify for the European Union. But to eliminate torture and corruption, as demanded by EU criteria for membership, he will have to tread on many establishment toes. To do all this, he needs his supporters solidly behind him. Volunteering to tell them that they have to swallow a war with Iraq cannot seem attractive. His choice is unenviable: spend his political capital to help America and risk defeat on other fronts, or offend America and take the consequences. Where does this leave the Bush administration? It needs to recognize two things. First, Erdogan is not in this predicament by accident - his opponents put him there. Second, this is a political problem, not a diplomatic one. Erdogan's opponents could not win the support of the Turkish people or the Parliament for a war on Iraq even if they wanted to. The political solution is for Washington to offer Erdogan its clear and unequivocal backing across the board. Then maybe he will feel secure enough to spend his political capital. Many would argue that supporting Turkey's democratically elected leader would be a good thing in itself, especially if it leads to a solution in Cyprus. Doing so when it may get the United States what it wants on Iraq is surely only good sense. The writer conducts research on Turkey as an affiliate of the Caspian studies program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk