The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
News, 15-22/01/03 (4) IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN RELATIONS (1) * Kuwaitis support war to oust Saddam * Turkey, Arabs advising Saddam to go into exile: diplomats * Syrian diplomacy stalls as Assad calls off Tehran visit * Iran warns US to be ready for tough fight * Turkey to host Iraq summit * Saddam ready to go into exile: Diplomats' proposal in few days * An alliance with a price tag may prove too costly * Report: Saudi Arabia Plotting Iraqi Coup * Are strains surfacing between Iran and Syria? * Revived 'Fertile Crescent' to crown 'new' Middle East IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN RELATIONS (1) http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/world/4952042.htm * KUWAITIS SUPPORT WAR TO OUST SADDAM by Drew Brown The State, from Knight Ridder Newspapers, 15th January AL DAHER, Kuwait: A junked Chevy Suburban erupts in a powerful blast as a shock wave and roar pulse through abandoned cement-block apartment buildings on the outskirts of Kuwait City. While the sirens of emergency vehicles begin to wail in the distance, the sharp flash and crack of a second explosion rips from a couple of other wrecks as another "Scud missile" rains down. Although the spectacle last weekend was just a civil defense drill, the threat is all too real for the people of Kuwait, the tiny, oil-rich emirate on the front lines of America's showdown with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Though braced for the worst, people in Kuwait strongly support a war to oust Saddam. The refrain "Saddam must go" is heard often in the streets of the New Jersey-sized nation of 2.2 million people. In contrast, many other Muslim countries firmly oppose war plans and have had violent anti-American demonstrations. "The Kuwaitis don't want a war; no one wants to go to war," said a Kuwaiti government official, who asked not to be identified. "We just want this situation finished." Kuwait is famous for its fabulous wealth, but it has a sharp gap between rich and poor. Only 10 percent of the male population can vote, women are disenfranchised and a Persian Gulf form of Jim Crow laws keeps most foreigners, who make up 55 percent of the population, from becoming citizens. Yet it is a land of opportunity for many, especially people from the Arab and Muslim world. More than 120 nationalities live in Kuwait, reflecting an ethnic diversity that spans North Africa and the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent and the Pacific Rim. As thousands of U.S. troops pour into Kuwait and a small force of British marines heads toward the region, the question for Kuwait - from high-rise government offices to cheap immigrant eateries and gleaming seaside shopping malls - is not if America will strike, but when. "Why would they bring all of these troops over here if they weren't going to attack?" asked Walid Muhammed, 34, an American-educated engineer. "What do you think they're doing out there in the desert, taking pictures? Sure, there are a lot of mixed feelings about it. But most people feel that it's not in their hands anymore, that it's going to happen whether we want it to or not." Saddam's armies invaded and occupied Kuwait for nearly eight months in 1990 and 1991. Although his troops were defeated and driven out by an American-led coalition, Kuwaitis and foreign workers alike say Saddam's Iraq has hung over them like a menacing cloud ever since then, threatening to unleash a new torrent at any moment and dampening their hopes for lasting peace and a return to the economic stability they once enjoyed. Saddam faces possible military action for violating U.N. edicts to dismantle his nuclear, biological, chemical and long-range missile programs after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but many in Kuwait say that whatever the reason, they just want him gone. "All of the people I know want Saddam Hussein to go, because he's making the economic situation here very bad," said Hamid Bakry, 30, an Egyptian security guard. "We just hope that Saddam goes without another war, but he must go." Kuwaitis want to recoup the economic losses from Saddam's attempted destruction of their oil fields and to resolve the fate of 600 Kuwaiti men who were taken prisoner during the occupation and remain unaccounted for. "A lot of us who remember the invasion want to get rid of the nuisance of Saddam Hussein once and for all," said Muhammed. Though U.S. and allied warplanes have kept Saddam shackled in part with "no-fly" zones in the northern and southern parts of Iraq, their presence - and a continuous, though token U.S. ground force in Kuwait - hasn't kept him from occasionally flexing his military muscle at the southern neighbor he once claimed as Iraq 19th province. Periods in which troops massed in southern Iraq kept fears of another incursion alive throughout the 1990s. U.S. and allied planes responded with intense bombing sorties and American commanders beefed up the ground presence on several occasions, and Saddam backed down. He grew belligerent again in 1998, after the first U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in frustration, then offered to allow the inspectors back in under certain conditions. Even with the onset of tight new restrictions in November, Saddam has oscillated in his behavior toward Kuwait, first apologizing for the 1990 invasion, then calling last month for the overthrow of the Kuwaiti monarchy. Though they overwhelmingly support war, citizens and residents of Kuwait said they hoped it would be quick and that damage to the country and its people would be minimal. "All Arabs are against destroying Iraq and its infrastructure," said Ahmed al Jarallah, the editor in chief of the Arab Times, an English-language daily newspaper. "But they are happy to see the regime removed from Iraq. We are saying please remove Saddam Hussein, but we don't want to see the country destroyed." Kuwait was ill-prepared when Iraqi tanks and mechanized divisions rolled across its northern border in August 1990. Iraqi troops swept in and seized Kuwait City in a matter of hours, causing many Kuwaitis to flee into exile. Most Iraqi troops were unpaid, ill-fed conscripts who looted the country. "But even then, most of them had nothing to eat," said Mohammed Khazal, 51, a Lebanese cabdriver who has lived in Kuwait for 20 years. "They would stop people at roadblocks and say, `Give me just one cigarette, please.''' There is very little visible damage left from the war. The abandoned apartment block where the civil defense drill took place is a rare example. American bombers smashed in the roofs of several buildings. Shrapnel pockmarked others. Kuwaiti officials say they hope their country escapes revenge attacks by Scud missiles or other weapons. But they say they are also better prepared now. The country has held civil defense drills regularly since 1998. Massive floods that struck part of the capital that year also prompted the construction of six large shelters that are stocked with food, water and other supplies. Because of the threat of Scuds and the constant presence of U.S. troops, Kuwait has the most sophisticated air-defense system in the region. Patriot missile batteries ring the city and other strategic areas. Gas masks have been widely distributed. A team of about 500 German, Czech and U.S. soldiers, under command of a Marine Corps lieutenant general, is stationed in the country, ready to assist local authorities in the event of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack. The team can determine what kind of weapons were used, plot the spread of contamination and provide limited decontamination facilities. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld recently ordered 35,000 more troops to the region, bringing projected strength there to about 150,000. Another 100,000 troops are expected to be in the region by late February, ready to launch an attack if President Bush orders it. The Kuwaiti response to the increased American presence has largely been favorable. Kuwaiti officials described a shooting incident in October, in which two alleged al-Qaida sympathizers killed a Marine, and an attempted ambush in November as isolated incidents. In an apparent reflection of the public mood, several prominent newspapers have published editorials condemning the assailants and Islamic extremism. http://www.dawn.com/2003/01/16/int3.htm * TURKEY, ARABS ADVISING SADDAM TO GO INTO EXILE: DIPLOMATS Dawn, 16th January CAIRO, Jan 15: Turkey is working with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries on convincing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to go into exile in order to prevent a US-led invasion, Arab diplomats in the region said on Wednesday. Despite Arab and Turkish denials of having considered asking Saddam to step down and go abroad, diplomats said such efforts were based on an initiative by Turkey, whose Prime Minister Abdullah Gul toured the region this month. The idea being mooted is that Saddam would go into exile in return for assurances that he would not be prosecuted, they said under the cover of anonymity. Turkey and certain Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in particular, "have accelerated their efforts in this direction" ahead of a report to be presented on January 27 by the UN weapons experts tasked to oversee Iraq's disarmament, they added. According to Egyptian political analyst Waheed Abdul Mejeed, deputy director of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), the proposition that Saddam goes into exile was floated during Gul's tour which included regional players Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran. Another ACSS analyst, Nabeel Abdul Fattah, said "Egypt justifies undertaking this role to preserve its regional standing, while Saudi Arabia wants to prove to Washington that it is fighting extremism." Riyadh and Cairo are also trying "to play a political and diplomatic role that would reflect positively on their public opinions, in such a way that if Iraq is attacked, they would say that they had tried by all means to reach a solution but did not succeed," he added. On Tuesday, US President George Bush warned that "time is running out" for Saddam. The United States is pouring troops into the Gulf, with some 150,000 US ground, air and naval personnel expected to be ready to strike Iraq by mid-February. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on his return from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday that Arab states and Turkey were trying to find a formula acceptable to both Washington and Baghdad to head off war in Iraq.-AFP http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/16_01_03_f.htm * SYRIAN DIPLOMACY STALLS AS ASSAD CALLS OFF TEHRAN VISIT Daily Star, Lebanon, 16th January Unaware that President Bashar Assad was intending to call off a planned visit to Iran at the last minute, the Arab press highlights Syria's role in the regional melee of Iraq-related diplomacy as Vice-President Abdulhalim Khaddam holds talks in Russia, following Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa's bridge-building trip to Turkey. While newspapers concur that the question of Iraq tops the Syrian agenda, the Saudi-run pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat leads with a report that Damascus may be poised to conclude important nuclear power and arms deals with Moscow. The paper reports that an "agreement in principle" to negotiate the supply of a Russian-built nuclear power station and a reactor-powered desalination plant to Syria was unveiled just hours before Khaddam's arrival in Moscow. The Syrian vice-president is also due to discuss "military cooperation and the possible sale of anti-aircraft and anti-armor weapons" with his Russian hosts. These might include C-300 missile systems, which the Russians had earlier refused to sell Syria because of US objections that their radars would make Israeli air space "vulnerable." Al-Hayat quotes the head of the Russian Duma's defense committee, General Nikolai Bezborodov, as saying Syria has bought $800 million worth of Russian weaponry over the past five years, and "negotiated" the purchase of anti-tank and other arms worth a further $2 billion. Khaddam will also be discussing Damascus's accumulated debts to Moscow, which according to a Russian economist Syria is offering to repay in the form of commodities, raw materials and investments, while Russia "insists" that a proportion be settled in hard currency. The two sides have, however, agreed to "separate the debt issue from the development of their relations, especially in the military domain." But Al-Hayat says the main focus of Khaddam's talks with President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials will be Iraq. It quotes a Moscow-based Arab diplomat as saying Russia "might support joint Arab efforts to resolve the Iraq crisis." President Assad's now-aborted visit to Tehran for consultations with the top Iranian leadership had been billed by the Beirut daily As-Safir as part of Syria's endeavors to prevent an American war on Iraq, complementing Khaddam's efforts in Moscow and Sharaa's in Ankara. The Iranian Arabic-language daily Al-Vefagh had used the planned visit, which was stopped in extremis, to stress that Tehran has become the focal point of "intensive diplomatic moves to exchange views between the countries of the region and the world in order to resolve the Iraq crisis peacefully and prevent the outbreak of war in the region." It notes that among the Iranian capital's visitors in the past fortnight have been the prime minister of Turkey and acting premier of Kuwait, various European, Arab and Asian envoys, the leaders of Iraq's two rival Kurdish parties and the head of the opposition Iraqi National Congress. Al-Vefagh adds that a planned visit by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri - whose reported "cancellation" the paper had earlier portrayed as a sign of growing hostility in Tehran to the current regime in Baghdad - has been "decided" but "no date has yet been set" for it. In Damascus, the Syrian government daily Tishrin stresses the importance of mobilizing Arab, regional and international opposition to a war on Iraq. "The American military buildup against Iraq forebodes only evils and calamities for the region," the paper warns, and a war, "which could begin at any moment," would have unpredictable consequences that could be extremely grave "not only for Iraq and the region but for world peace." The paper goes on to argue that the Arab states can "do much to reverse the direction in which developments are moving," provided they close ranks and support each other. The notion that the Arabs share a "common destiny" is "not a theory but a firm fact confirmed by current developments," it remarks. Tishrin also stresses the importance attached by Syria to consultations with Iran, Turkey, Russia and the various European countries about regional affairs, in its efforts both to counter Israel's "racist expansionism," and to "work unrelentingly to prevent American military action against Iraq." As-Safir columnist Mustafa Husseini takes a skeptical view of the current flurry of regional diplomacy billed as being aimed at avoiding war. He writes that much of what is going on around Iraq appears to defy rational analysis, including the repeatedly changing position of the US, which is now massing forces for an Iraq invasion while declaring that it will give the arms inspectors time to complete their job. Equally perplexing is the attitude of Hans Blix, who sometimes appears to be "honestly" doing an impartial job, and at others to be "colluding" in Washington's war plans, or feigning "naivety" about them. London too blows hot and cold, at times appearing as though it were trying to restrain the US and at others behaving even more belligerently, such as vowing that Britain and America won't let the UN prevent them from going to war if they choose, Husseini writes. Baghdad, in turn, while appearing to be acquiescing to the harsh new arms inspections regime, "looks as though it is considering other ideas," Husseini says. It has been complaining increasingly loudly that the inspectors have overstepped their mandate, and accusing them of spying. And it has been playing up talk of "preparations to resist the invasion." "It's as though Baghdad has been encouraged by what is happening in the comparable and concurrent crisis between the US and North Korea, and concluded from it that the best way of turning the crisis to its advantage is via 'confrontation' rather than 'submission,'" Husseini says. As for the "regional powers" - Turkey, Iran and some Arab states - "they look as though they were alerted by developments in the Korean crisis to the possibility of injecting a regional element into the Iraq crisis, while some countries in the region perform the function of springboards and operations centers for the pending invasion," he writes. The moves of all concerned are probably best explained in terms of "ulterior motives and undeclared and unseen long-term objectives," Husseini suggests. Saudi Arabia's opposition to war on Iraq is emphasized by Al-Hayat's Saudi columnist Daoud al-Shiryan, after Riyadh unveiled ill-defined plans to propose a major pan-Arab "initiative" aimed at preventing war and promoting reform in the Arab world. Shiryan writes that the Saudi proposal for "reforming the Arab order" was given conflicting interpretations. "Some said it was a response to American pressure, because it called for political participation to be expanded within the Arab states as one of the most important conditions for overall progress," he observes. And others saw it as a "means of building an Arab front to oppose war on Iraq in order to ease the pressure on Saudi Arabia over this issue." He explains that what has been reported in the press about the Saudi document relates to its attempt to forge a unified Arab position on four key issues: the Arab-Israeli peace plan; war on Iraq; domestic reforms and the development of political participation; and enhancing economic cooperation between the Arab states. Shiryan says this does not imply any change in the Saudi position on Iraq. It simply reformulates and reaffirms Riyadh's opposition to war. This has been its view "since day one" and remains so, but it has sometimes been misrepresented in the media. "That is why the Saudi document was interpreted as a Saudi attempt to rally collective opposition to war so as to spare Riyadh embarrassment. The reality is that the document is a bid to unite the Arabs around the Saudi position, which believes war is not the solution and questions the legitimacy of any prospective war on Iraq," he writes. Sarkis Naoum, of the Beirut daily An-Nahar, argues that there are many reasons why Saudi Arabia might prefer to see the current Iraqi regime remain in power in its weakened condition, rather than overthrown by US military force. For one thing, the advent of a more "reasonable, acceptable and attractive" regime in Baghdad might focus the public's attention in every other Arab and Gulf country on its "internal problems" and fuel uncontrollable demands for change, he writes. Nor would the domestic situation in Saudi Arabia "remain as calm and stable as usual," he says. The "many differences" between the twin pillars of the regime, the royal family and the Salafi (Wahhabi) religious establishment, were containable and reconcilable in the past. But since Sept. 11, 2001, America's decision to wage "military and intelligence war" against Islamist fundamentalism has set the Saudi Wahhabis on a collision course with America for the first time. And they could "in the not distant future" be headed for a clash with the royal family itself, which is under US pressure to crack down on the Salafi current sympathetic to the likes of Osama bin Laden, as well as to allow US warplanes to use Saudi territory to attack "Muslim Iraq." If Riyadh were to "introduce certain internal changes with repercussions on the social and religious structure," that would also upset tribal balances, which remain crucial in Saudi society, Naoum warns. And it could in addition fuel differences within the royal family, which might exacerbate all the country's other problems and lead to instability. Naoum writes that US administration insiders who support maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia argue that the kingdom should not feel "terrorized" by the prospect of regime change in Iraq, but acknowledge that its concerns about the matter are not unwarranted. They state that with a pro-American government in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia could gradually lose importance to Washington as the latter turns increasingly to Iraq for both oil and military bases. Moreover, if the US were to succeed in establishing a democratic regime in Iraq, it could become a "model" whose application dissidents in other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, might demand at home. Naoum's American sources add that if democracy were to take hold in their country, the Iraqis - who while religious, are less extreme and more open to the outside world than the Saudis - could nurture "Islamic reform movements" that could spread to the rest of the Muslim world, or at least the Arab countries. Given that both the Sunni and Shiite traditions have many adherents in Iraq, a "reformist democratic Islamic Iraq" could thus pose a "threat" both to Saudi Arabia and Iran, they reason. Accordingly, "Saudi Arabia has to deal with the unfolding situation intelligently and wisely to avoid its negative repercussions," Naoum says. Abdelbari Atwan, publisher and editor of pan-Arab Al-Quds al-Arabi, suspects that Iraq related considerations prompted the Arab invitees (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) to dutifully show up at the London conference on reform of the Palestinian Authority, even though Israel prevented the PA's own delegates from going. Atwan suggests the gathering was an exercise in tokenism by the British government, and objects to the way it "reduced" the Palestine question to the single issue of "reforming" the PA while requiring the Palestinians to abandon the bulk of their rights and settle for the promise of a "mini-state tailored to Israeli specifications." He says the conference was called in order to "fill the vacuum" in the region after the Israeli government foiled successive peace plans, including Mitchell, Tenet and the "road map" of the "Quartet." "Tony Blair's government wanted to send a false message to the Arab street, saying: we haven't forgotten the main issue and we're trying to find a solution for it - but you Arabs must allow us to occupy Iraq, kill hundreds of thousands of its people, and seize its oil, and after that we'll resolve the Palestine question," he writes. "One is at a loss to understand how Tony Blair intends to persuade the Arabs and Palestinians of his good intentions towards them when he's sending aircraft carriers to attack Iraq," he says. And how can he be expected to convince Israel to sue for peace when he failed to even obtain its permission for the PA delegates to attend the London gathering? Sharon's snub was a "public insult" to Blair, all the more humiliating because the Bush administration did not intervene in his favor, despite the "many services" he has rendered it in the Middle East, whether in the "war on terror" or the planned invasion of Iraq, Atwan says. http://www.dawn.com/2003/01/16/int1.htm * IRAN WARNS US TO BE READY FOR TOUGH FIGHT Dawn, 16th January TEHRAN, Jan 15: Iran said on Wednesday it did not expect any US-led attack on Iraq to start before the Haj and warned US troops to be prepared for house-to-house fighting in case of an invasion. Iran also said it would put its own interests first in the Iraq crisis, taking no sides in the conflict between its two longtime foes, Baghdad and Washington. Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani said he did not expect war to start before the Haj, to be performed next month. "The pilgrimage (Haj) time is not a proper time to attack an Islamic country," Shamkhani told reporters. He also warned Washington to expect a tough battle if it did decide to go after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "I believe the Iraqi regime in Baghdad will fight the Americans house-by-house," he said. Torn between its hatred of Saddam and deep distrust of Washington, Iran has several national interest concerns in case of a war at its doorstep. "Iran's stand is crystal clear. We are neither supporting the United States nor Iraq. We are concerned with our own national interests. We are impartial but not indifferent," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told parliament on Wednesday. Iranian officials fear war in Iraq would destabilize the oil-rich region and force Iran to cope with waves of Iraqi refugees. A post-Saddam, pro-US Iraq would complete Iran's encirclement by states friendly to Washington. Greater autonomy or even independence for Iraq's Kurds could cause unrest among Iran's own Kurdish population. There are also some in the Islamic Republic who fear Washington could turn its spotlight on Iran after dealing with Saddam, although officials play down that threat. "We do not want to get into a war with the United States. It wants to put pressure on Iran but we will do our best not to give the US any excuse," a source close to Iran's pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami said.-Reuters http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/WireFeed/WireFeed&c =WireFeed&cid=1034950847769&p=1014232938216 * TURKEY TO HOST IRAQ SUMMIT by Ayla Jean Yackley Financial Times, 16th January ANKARA (Reuters) - Muslim NATO member Turkey says it has invited five Middle Eastern leaders to Ankara next week for a summit to discuss ways of avoiding war in Iraq. Turkey has opposed a war against Iraq, accused by Washington of developing weapons of mass destruction, because it fears conflict could spill across borders and stir economic and social upheaval. But it is a close ally of the United States and would be ill-placed to resist U.S. requests for its support. Officials said on Thursday Turkey had prepared a declaration for the leaders of Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia to sign and jointly present at a summit in Ankara next week. Ambassadors of the five states had met Foreign Ministry officials Thursday. "Inviting the ambassadors to the ministry shows that Turkey is ready to host a meeting," a Foreign Ministry official said. Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is preparing another tour of Middle Eastern states next week, the Anatolian news agency said. Aides to Gul could not confirm such a trip was planned, and it was not immediately clear which states Gul may visit. Earlier this month, Gul visited several capitals in the region in an effort to build consensus for a peaceful end to the stand-off between Washington and Baghdad. "(The summit) shows this is a multilateral crisis...This is an attempt to show the countries' commitment to a peaceful solution," said Ahmet Davutoglu, a professor at Beykent University and foreign policy adviser to the prime minister. Davutoglu said Ankara was continuing close consultations with the United States, as well as European leaders, on its undertaking to prevent war. "None of these steps are conflicting, they are complementary to achieving one specific goal to force the Iraqi leadership to comply with the U.N. resolutions and avoid chaos in our region." NATO partner Turkey's recession-hit economy is dependent on billions of dollars in International Monetary Fund loans. Analysts say Washington could well use its influence with the IMF to win Ankara extra cash if war breaks out. Turkey is allowing U.S. military experts this week to inspect its air bases and sea ports for possible use as staging points in the event the United States attacks Iraq. If Turkey allows U.S. troops on its soil, it could cut the duration of any war against Iraq and lessen the number of potential U.S. casualties, analysts say. Though the focus of any military action might be from the south of Iraq, a "second front" opened from Turkish frontiers in the north could greatly ease U.S. operations. http://www.dawn.com/2003/01/17/top15.htm * SADDAM READY TO GO INTO EXILE: DIPLOMATS' PROPOSAL IN FEW DAYS Dawn, 17th January DUBAI/CAIRO, Jan 16: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has agreed to leave Iraq and go into exile in an African country if certain conditions are met, three diplomats in the United Arab Emirates were quoted as saying on Thursday. The diplomats in Dubai, one Western and two Arabic, who did not want to be named or reveal their sources, said the Iraqi leadership was prepared to accept a deal under which Saddam Hussein would leave the country if he was guaranteed not to be prosecuted or persecuted by the United States or any of its European allies. Hussein would be accompanied by other members of his government and their families, and an African country was considered as the location for their exile, they said. According to observers in the region, news of a possible exile for Saddam could be related to recent announcements that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were due to present a proposal to avoid an invasion in the next few days. The speculations gained pace after Syrian President Bashar al Assad cancelled a scheduled trip to Tehran on Wednesday and a visit of Iraq's Gen Ali Hassan al Majid to Cairo was postponed. Egyptian media had first announced that al Majid, a member of Iraq's Revolution Council and a cousin of President Saddam, wanted to bring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a message from Saddam. No new date had been set for the visit, it was said. "The timing was not appropriate," Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said in Cairo on Thursday. According to the three diplomats, further conditions for Saddam's departure would be the withdrawal of United States troops from the Gulf region, the end of United Nations arms inspections and sanctions against Iraq as well as measures against the production of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, the US had so far rejected these conditions and Egypt was now trying to convince Baghdad to accept a compromise, the diplomats said. Cairo has in recent days been the centre of a flurry of regional diplomatic activity involving Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Iran, aimed at resolving the standoff through diplomatic and political means, which was "our objective", according to Maher. Politicians and observers had repeatedly dismissed speculations that Saddam might resign, adding that such rumours could have been spread deliberately in order to cause uncertainty amongst government officials in Baghdad. Baghdad said Saddam Hussein would not leave his country under any circumstances. According to Turkish media reports on Thursday, the heads of state and government from Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iran were invited to meet in Turkey next week in order to issue a joint declaration on the Iraq conflict. Abdullah Gul, the Turkish Prime Minister, was also reported as planning a visit to the Middle East next week. http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/commentary/story/0,4386,166646,00.html? * AN ALLIANCE WITH A PRICE TAG MAY PROVE TOO COSTLY by William Safire New York Times, 17th January WASHINGTON - An alliance with a price tag is no alliance at all. I like the Turks. They shared our human sacrifice in the Korean War, were a Nato bastion against the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and provided all we asked for in Gulf War I. In recent years, the 'secret alliance' - quiet military cooperation among the Turks, Israelis and Americans - has been one of the few forces for stability in the Middle East. That history of reliable alliance is the basis for longtime American support of Turkey's interests. This has ranged from influencing the International Monetary Fund to bolster its economy to urging the anti-Muslim European Union to admit this model of a secular Muslim democratic state. Paradoxically, the growth of democracy in Turkey - which America cheers - has introduced an element of uncertainty in that alliance. The new, freely elected government in Ankara, with roots more Islamic than secular, is waffling about joining US President George W. Bush's 'coalition of the willing' against Iraq. The old Turkish power structure - the nation's military leadership and governmental establishment, which previously called the shots - is laying back to show Europeans how sensitive to public opinion Turkey has become. That public opinion is neither as pro-Saddam nor as anti-United States as recent polls report it to be. When asked, 'Are you for war?', of course the answer nine times out of 10 will be 'No', but if asked, 'Are you for the overthrow of Saddam?', Turkish friends tell me the answer would be much more sharply divided. New officials in Turkey's leading party, which controls two-thirds of Parliament, are doing nothing to prepare the public for the necessity of deposing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Instead, temporary Prime Minister Abdullah Gul has been racing around to Arab capitals to show how eager he is for a way out of siding with the US; he rejects cooperation with any allied attack without another United Nations resolution. A large delegation of Turkish businessmen has also just visited Baghdad. Such failure to rally the Turkish voters' support for Turkey's long-range best interest in ending the tyranny oppressing its neighbour was mistake No 1. Worse than that is the mistake its Justice and Development Party is now making, which threatens to damage the valuable Turkish-American alliance: to seem to attach a price tag to taking part in our liberation of the Iraqi people. When the US asked for permission, as required by Turkey's Constitution, to use bases in Turkey from which to stage an invasion, dickering began over how many hundreds of millions of dollars would be provided to upgrade the bases and lengthen landing fields. While this dragged on with no concrete being poured, an economic aid package was sought that Ankara estimates at US$5 billion (S$8.6 billion) and US sources say is more than double that. If the Turkish economy, already in deep trouble, takes a hit in the coming war, our ally could legitimately turn to the US as well as to New Iraq's oil resources for recompense. And surely Ankara should make the Turkish public aware of America's interest in cushioning any shock to its major local ally. But the unseemly hard bargaining going on now over money for military assistance is demeaning and could change the nature of the two nations' alliance. What should Turkey's new leaders do? First, make prompt parliamentary and construction arrangements to welcome US troops. And then go the extra mile: volunteer to mass 100,000 Turkish troops on its border with northern Iraq. The real threat of a Turkish army descending on Baghdad from the north would hasten the surrender of Iraqi generals facing an American army rolling up from Kuwait in the south. It may be that we would decline a Turkish offer to join the allied invasion, lest the Turks be reluctant to leave oil-rich Kirkuk. But if Turkey acted like a strategic ally rather than a nervous renter of bases, it would have an unwavering superpower on its side for decades to come. http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=098F90A8-0ECA-4291 B7058B4C947FB09B&title=Report%3A%20Saudi%20Arabia%20Plotting%20Iraqi%20Coup& catOID=45C9C78D 88AD-11D4-A57200A0CC5EE46C * REPORT: SAUDI ARABIA PLOTTING IRAQI COUP Voice of America, 17th January The American newsmagazine Time reports Saudi Arabia is trying to orchestrate a coup in Iraq in the hope of averting a U.S. led war to oust President Saddam Hussein. Time says the plan is aimed at encouraging Iraqi generals to overthrow President Saddam and his inner circle. Western and Arab diplomats say the Saudi plan requires a U.N. Security Council resolution providing amnesty for Iraqi officials who bring a change in power. The Saudi plan calls for offering the amnesty immediately before the outbreak of war. The deal would require those who take power from President Saddam to actively cooperate with U.N. disarmament resolutions. The amnesty would not cover the most senior officials of Iraq's ruling Baath Party, including President Saddam's sons. This reported development comes amid a flurry of Mideast diplomatic activity aimed at averting war. Turkey has invited leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Syria and Jordan to a summit aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the Iraq crisis. Meanwhile, the Defense Department says General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is going to Turkey in coming days to confer with his Turkish counterpart about security matters. Washington wants Turkey to grant permission for U.S. warplanes to used Turkish air bases in the event of a war with Iraq. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/17_01_03_f.htm * ARE STRAINS SURFACING BETWEEN IRAN AND SYRIA? Daily Star, Lebanon, 17th January Why did Syrian President Bashar Assad's anticipated trip to Tehran this week fail to materialize? Arab papers report the official explanation given by both sides: that a date for the visit hadn't been finalized and that media reports that it had been scheduled for Wednesday were mistaken. But a variety of different sources, including Iranian officials, are quoted as saying that the visit had indeed been arranged but was called off by the Syrians - at the "last minute," by some accounts. That is seen as reflecting serious differences of opinion between Damascus and Tehran, chiefly over the prospect of an American war on Iraq, though some commentators also detect additional sources of mounting tension between the two longstanding allies. Saudi Arabia's pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat attributes Assad's decision not to go to Tehran to he Syrian government's "dismay at the shift in Iran's position on Iraq" - i.e. its seeming willingness to collude with Washington in enforcing "regime change" in Baghdad. Along with other Arab newspapers, it highlights remarks made by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to the Iranian Parliament, just as news of the cancellation of Assad's visit was breaking, indicating that Iran won't back the current regime in Iraq if it comes under attack, and will strive to uphold its own interests in the event of a conflict. Ali Nourizadeh writes in Asharq al-Awsat that the suspicions of Syria - which opposes any attempt to force regime change in Iraq - appear to have been fueled by the way Tehran has been "extending an unusually warm welcome to one Iraqi opposition leader after another" in recent weeks, and facilitating plans to convene a meeting in Iraqi Kurdistan of the newly formed alliance of opposition groups recognized by the US. Quoting Iranian sources, Nourizadeh says the Syrians were also annoyed by the way the Iranians got Hizbullah to signal that it has no plans to attack Israel in the event of a US war on Iraq. Although Damascus wants the Lebanese-Israeli border to remain calm, it was "surprised" that Hizbullah's new line was agreed and announced without its prior knowledge. To Nourizadeh's mind, these are all signs of growing "hitches" in the hitherto "strategic" relationship between Damascus and Tehran. He suggests that among the reasons the partnership is unravelling is that Iran no longer needs Syria as its "gateway" to the Arab world, since President Mohammed Khatami succeeded in rebuilding Iran's bridges with other key Arab states like Saudi Arabia. He adds that Syria, which has occasionally acted as a back channel between Iran and the US, is also dismayed at "Tehran's attempts to woo Washington directly" and cut deals with it behind its back. This is not the first time this has happened, Nourizadeh indicates: The Syrians acted to foil secret Iranian-US talks in the 1980s by leaking word of them to the media - hence the Iran-Contra affair - and moved again last year to scupper similar hush hush contacts between the two sides. "The last time Tehran concealed its contacts with the US from Damascus was a few weeks ago, when Damascus learned of the existence of a quasi-agreement between Iran and the US on keeping a channel open between them as part of Washington's handling of the Iraq issue," he writes. Under the terms of the deal, Tehran agreed to place no restrictions on the "active and effective participation" of the Iran-based Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its guerrilla army, known as the Badr Brigade, in the war on Iraq. In exchange, Washington undertook to "recognize the role" of SCIRI and its leader, Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, in determining Iraq's future government. This was all done without the knowledge of Iran's "strategic ally" Syria, Nourizadeh writes, and "for this reason, and others which remain unknown, the Syrian president decided to cancel his planned trip to Iran at the last moment, after Tehran failed to reply to questions which reached it from Damascus recently." The Lebanese daily An-Nahar quotes analysts as saying that the reason Damascus is opposed to an American war on Iraq and the overthrow of its regime "is not love for Saddam Hussein" - with whom it maintained a 20-year breach, which it only ended in 1997 "for economic reasons" - but because of "other Syrian considerations." Above all, Syria fears the installation of a US client regime in Baghdad would leave it isolated and surrounded by pro-American regimes, making it more vulnerable to Israel. The forcible removal of an Arab regime would, moreover, set a precedent that could be used to threaten any other government that doesn't do Washington's bidding in the future. Syria also fears the demise of the regime in Iraq could trigger a civil war, leading possibly to partition and anarchy on Syria's eastern border, and believes "regime change anywhere should be an internal and not external decision." As for Tehran, while sharing Damascus' opposition to a war on Iraq, it takes a "different view" on regime change - as illustrated by the attempts of Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition groups to promote the idea of a "Shiite regime" to replace Saddam's. An-Nahar's sources say that it was their shared hostility to Baghdad that prompted Iran and Syria to develop their "strategic alliance" in the first place, under which they jointly backed the Lebanese resistance and Hizbullah. But they argue that since Khatami's election, the partnership has appeared bound to weaken to some extent, given "Tehran's desire to draw closer to Washington under the guise of the 'dialogue between civilizations,'" and its conviction that "Hizbullah's role ended with the liberation of the South." Lebanese commentator Saad Mehio warns that Hizbullah could find itself on the receiving end of an Israeli blitz on Lebanon - especially if the Americans opt to postpone planned action against Iraq. Writing for the UAE daily Al-Khaleej, Mehio points to a number of recent indications that an Israeli attack could be imminent, including Israeli claims that Iraq has moved weapons of mass destruction to South Lebanon for safekeeping and statements by various US officials and politicians portraying Hizbullah as a greater threat to US national interests than Iraq or Al-Qaeda. Washington is in the mood to exact revenge from Hizbullah for the hostage-takings of the 1970s and 1980s, he writes, and the only thing that appears to be preventing it from giving Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon the "green light" to attack is the timing. There are many uncertainties, Mehio continues. "A war against Hizbullah could last several weeks and we could see a dangerous escalation given the various types of missiles at Hizbullah's disposal. Moreover, many players, including Saddam and Osama bin Laden, could get in on the act to take advantage of the turning of attention away from them." That means the odds on an imminent assault on Hizbullah are about even, "but what is certain is that the party's turn on the American agenda will eventually come," he says. "Hassan Nasrallah knows that, and so does Sharon. It remains for us to know whether President Assad will manage to get Hizbullah, his principal regional card, off the American radar screen." That can be done relatively easily now by curbing the party's operations in the Shebaa Farms, "but after the fall of Baghdad, more than mere curbing may be required," Mehio remarks. "Syria may have to reconsider Hizbullah's role in toto." A columnist in the Omani daily Al-Watan identifies Syria and Saudi Arabia as the two Arab countries that most fear being targeted by the US after Iraq. Mohammed Abdulkhaleq writes that with the US virtually treating Saudi Arabia as a terror sponsor and leveling new charges against Syria related to doomsday weapons, both countries are treating the US campaign against Iraq as a "warning." He sees them making common cause with a range of other countries - from Pakistan to Iran - who also feel threatened by the behavior of a US administration whose policies in the region are increasingly being determined by Israel's lobby in Washington. The prospect of Pakistan becoming "the next target after Iraq on the American hit-list" is raised by Ahmed Muwaffak Zaydan, Al-Jazeera television's correspondent in Islamabad, in an article for the Saudi-run pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. He writes of the "alliance" between the US and Pakistan against "terrorism" in Afghanistan having given way to something of a "cold war," with strains growing between the two sides and Washington lending an increasingly receptive ear to Islamabad's detractors in New Delhi. Zaydan says the recent spate of American statements accusing Pakistan of having passed on nuclear material or expertise to Iraq or North Korea, or even Al-Qaeda or the Taleban, have strengthened the feeling that the two sides may be on a collision course. These charges, plus hints that the US may take steps to curb Pakistan's arms programs, have been accompanied by a steady strengthening of military relations between the US and Pakistan's adversary India, he notes. Many observers attribute Washington's "anger" at Islamabad to its failure to curb elements of Al-Qaeda, the Taleban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami in the tribal regions adjacent to the border with Afghanistan, where US forces are subjected to constant hit-and run attacks. Things have been made worse by the election of an Islamist administration in the frontier region, where they are establishing a "Taleban-style" administration. The Pakistani Islamists reject any cooperation with US forces in the area, which the Americans believe has become the main bastion of Al-Qaeda sympathizers, and this has greatly hindered America's moves and enabled Islamabad to justify its non-cooperation with US forces. So has the advent of a civilian government and an elected Parliament in Islamabad, which makes it harder for the US to make unpopular demands of military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. Zaydan adds that Washington is well aware that there is a "strong current" within the Pakistani military that has major qualms about the country's cooperation with Washington, which they view as damaging to Pakistani national interests, and it may have had a hand in the wave of anti-US protests that swept the country earlier this month. By cooperating with the US in Afghanistan, Pakistan helped its local enemies, the Northern Alliance, assume power and become a "thorn in its side." It feels that US demands for it to crack down on groups the Americans suspect of "terrorist" links are also jeopardizing its national security, without earning it Washington's appreciation. It has detained and extradited large number of people at the Americans' behest and complied with many other requests, yet is still treated as "suspect" by Washington. Zaydan writes that the Pakistanis are increasingly showing their frustration with the US in various ways. They had been expecting to be "rewarded" for their cooperation in Afghanistan with a settlement to their dispute with India over Kashmir, only to find India upping the ante against them with the perceptible support of the Americans. The US appeared to hope that the threat from India would prompt Pakistan to make more concessions to it on the Afghan front. As a result of all this, and of the perception that the US and the West are intent on ensuring that no Muslim country possesses a nuclear capacity or sophisticated military capability, there is a growing feeling that "2003 will be a problematic year for Islamabad." Zaydan adds that the former head of Pakistani military intelligence, retired General Hamid Gul, recently went so far as to predict that "the next target for the US after Iraq will be Pakistan and its military and nuclear capability, which constitute a threat to America's strategy in the region and to its ally, Israel." http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/18_01_03_c.htm * REVIVED 'FERTILE CRESCENT' TO CROWN 'NEW' MIDDLE EAST by Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi Daily Star, Lebanon, 18th January It is always good to believe that even the darkest of clouds have silver linings. This is especially the case now, with war looming in the Middle East. For it seems almost certain that the near future is going to bring conflict, innocent victims and multitudes of refugees seeking safety and shelter. Inter-Arab quarrels are sure to erupt and there will be fury and confusion as well as feelings of impotence expressed along the breadth of the Arab world. We are also sure to listen to many fiery sermons, and contradictory fatwas and edicts that are certain to further confuse people. Turkey's young Prime Minister Abdullah Gul - an old friend since his Welfare Party days - expressed these fears during his recent tour of four Arab capitals that are as concerned as his country is at the consequences of the imminent US war on Iraq. Gul tried his best to find ways to avoid conflict, not by pressuring the United States but by concentrating efforts on the main cause of the wars and crises the region has seen in recent decades - namely, Saddam Hussein. Only through working on Saddam can the region's leaders hope to be able to do something positive to influence events in the region. By joining the Middle Eastern leaders' club, Turkey's young Islamist leaders - chiefly Gul and his party boss Recep Tayyip Erdogan - with their pragmatism and traditional Muslim values, can help inject new blood into the veins of the old Fertile Crescent, which could be expanded to include the entire Middle East with the exception of Israel. Only by adopting more civilized values, and by becoming more modest and understanding of its true size - and the fact that it is an alien entity in an ancient and cultured region - can the Jewish state ever hope of being accepted in our midst. The dark clouds of war (which I don't expect would last more than two or three months) now enveloping the region can herald a better future if our leaders play their cards right; they should not allow the alien entity (Israel) planted in our midst to exploit the situation, and should pressure the United States not to adopt an agenda that serves only Israel by redrawing the regional map and fanning the flames of sectarianism and ethnic strife. We have in our hands a civilized blueprint for the future of the region in the shape of the partnership initiative recently announced by US Secretary of State Colin Powell. This plan was initially met with skepticism by many Arab commentators, as if they were afraid that its provisions would threaten their free and prosperous societies. While Powell's initiative did have its weak points (it almost completely overlooked the rights of the Palestinian people), it had much that could be built on and developed. By agreeing to Powell's plan, we Arabs can test the sincerity of American intentions. The war would then be about more than oil, domination and promotion of Israel's interests; it would become a war for a new, happy and more prosperous Middle East - built on the same standards Powell proclaimed. I believe the major and more stable countries in the region - Saudi Arabia especially - can, in cooperation with others, prevent the evil ideas thought up by far-right Americans allied to Israel's Likud from bearing fruit in a Middle East yearning for progress. The Middle East can indeed become a better place. Just take a look at a map: Put your finger on Basra in southern Iraq (it doesn't matter if you point at neighboring Kuwait at the same time, since we are talking of a different world in which both can be seen together), drag your finger north up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; you will pass through Baghdad and Kurdistan and end up in Diyarbakir in southern Turkey. Continue in an arc, and you will find yourself pointing at eastern Syria after passing through Aleppo, Latakia, and on to Beirut. Go south and you will arrive at Amman. Jerusalem, alas, though forming the heart of this crescent geographically and spiritually, is not part of it politically. The American orientalist James Henry Breasted (1865-1935) dubbed this arc, extending from Basra to Beirut or Amman, the Fertile Crescent. The term is still sometimes used to describe the area, although its use has lessened in the last 30 years for political and economic reasons. But a fertile crescent it certainly is, rich in human, natural and mineral resources. Unfortunately, however, it has fallen on hard times. Political conflicts, domestic strife, and wars between its different countries have taken their toll. With the exception of the Arab wars with Israel, most conflicts in the Middle East have been fought in the Fertile Crescent: Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon - all have had more than their fair share of conflict. No one in the region wants war, but that is not our choice. If war it is to be, then we had better prepare for the worst. We must also not lose sight of the opportunity for creating a prosperous Middle East with Saudi Arabia at its heart crowned by the Fertile Crescent. As a Saudi, I felt proud to see billboards advertising Saudi goods on the road between Syria and Lebanon last summer. In Beirut, Saudis own many supermarkets and apartment complexes. Taking my children to a Lebanese amusement park, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that an Iraqi owned it. This is a modest example of the Fertile Crescent I wish to see; an integrated region in which Saudi, Iraqi, or Lebanese businessmen can find large and ready markets for their products and services; a region free of political conflicts, corruption and constantly changing investment regulations - a single market extending from Dubai to Sanaa, from Riyadh and Jeddah to Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. There is no doubt that the Americans have ulterior motives for pursuing their war on Iraq. Some of these motives might coincide with ours, while others might not. This is politics, after all. But there is another player with which we will never agree. Consequently we must try our best to keep him away from our Arab problems. This player is none other than Israel under its extremist Likud government. What is essential is that we have a plan to transform the painful events to come into a beginning of a new era of stability and cooperation in which the long-suffering Iraqis can prosper in freedom and integrate with their neighbors in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Lebanon without the security concerns made necessary by the mistakes of Saddam Hussein and others of his ilk. In this context, the assurances of former Saudi Deputy Trade Minister Abdel-Rahman al Zamil, who led a delegation of Saudi businessmen to Iraq a few weeks ago, were encouraging. Zamil said he found unbounded enthusiasm among Iraqi businessmen for the day when they could do business with their Saudi counterparts. After all, the wars that created boundaries between the two peoples were not of their making. There were no borders between Iraq and Saudi Arabia before Gertrude Bell (English traveler, administrator in Arabia and writer who played a principal part in the establishment in Baghdad of the Hashemite dynasty) came along to create modern Iraq after the Great War - which was supposed to end all wars. The revival of the Fertile Crescent would be good news to us Saudis; it would also be a source of strength for the entire region when its energies are dedicated to cooperation and construction instead of the conflicts that have plagued it over the last 50 years, and which have only resulted in political defeats and economic backwardness. It is time to make a new beginning, to pick up where the late Kings Abdel-Aziz (of Saudi Arabia) and Faisal (of Iraq) left off in the mid-1950s, in which the two most important countries in the region met and dreamed together of a better tomorrow. Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi is a Saudi political analyst and the deputy editor in chief of Saudi Arabia's English-language Arab News. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk