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[casi] News, 22-29/01/03 (7)

News, 22-29/01/03 (7)


*  Iraqi people have a voice - KDP
*  SAIRI Official Warns of Saddam Disaster Plan for War
*  Iran to Give Safe Passage for Iraq Opposition Meet[ing in the Kurdish
Autonomous Zone]
*  Iraqi Opposition Leaders Meet in Tehran
*  Iraqi Opponent Says He's Leaving Iran to Plan Takeover
*  Opposition is confident it can build a coalition after Saddam
*  US aims to lessen Iran's influence: Post-Saddam Iraq


*  Rebels raise the stakes on Iraq
*  Blair: Iraq Inspectors Should Get Time
*  Wartime deceptions: Saddam is Hitler and it's not about oil
*  Fight club


by Tanya Goudsouzian
Gulf News, 26th January

 Salahuddin, Northern Iraq: The organising committee of the Iraqi opposition
conference, scheduled to take place on February 5, is sending a clear
message to the international community by holding the much-awaited meeting
in Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq - "the Iraqi people have a voice".

"In spite of the complications involved with staging an international
opposition conference in Iraq while Saddam Hussain's regime remains in
place, we don't need other countries to host us," said Jawhar Namiq Salim,
Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) politburo, and head of the
conference organising committee.

"We are willing to spend all this time to bring everyone home, and show the
world that the Iraqi people have a voice, and they can speak against
dictatorship," he told Gulf News.

The actual location of the conference has not yet been finalised, and will,
in all likelihood, be kept a secret until the very last moment for security

Security has been a prime concern in the planning of the conference, and
early this week, there were rumors circulating that the Kurdish authorities
were waiting to receive an assurance from the U.S. before announcing a
specific date and location.

The conference was originally planned for January 15, but logistical snags
and other unforeseen problems caused a delay, first till January 22, and
then, February 5, said Salim.

"We can secure our own environment," he maintained. "But the Iraqi military
has positions at a stone's throw away from us, so we needed to hold some
consultations on how to further secure the area."

The Kurdish-ruled areas of northern Iraq are located within a no-fly-zone
manned by the U.S. and Britain. Some KDP officials, who asked not to be
named, expressed the hope that prior to the conference, they would receive
an assurance from the allied forces that security would be tightened on that

According to Salim, the logistical issues involved devising the most
practical access routes for the delegates depending on their passports.

As northern Iraq can only be accessed through its borders with neighboring
countries, a number of delegates have faced difficulties in obtaining the
necessary visas for Syria, Iran or Turkey. This week, a former Iraqi
military officer and an Assyrian community leader, en route to Arbil, were
turned away at the Turkish border.

There has also been some criticism that the Iraqi opposition conference is
primarily a gathering of Kurds and Shiites.

The groups met in London last month to discuss the future of Iraq after the
removal of Saddam Hussain. It was agreed that at a follow-up conference in
mid-January, a committee of 65 elected members would meet to discuss a
mechanism for a post-Saddam transitional government.

The 65-member follow-up committee includes at least 30 Shiites, two
Christians, five Turkmen and three monarchists.

"It is a false perception," said Salim. "If you look over the list of
members correctly, you will find 31 Shiites and 31 Sunnis. It is a reality
that Shiites make up 60 per cent of the Iraqi population. Together with the
Kurds, they make up 80 per cent of the Iraqi population. The follow-up
committee is representative of the country, and we have established a very
good balance."

He dismissed criticism over the composition of the committee as "efforts to
incite the minorities by elements close to the Baghdad regime".

Salim served as president of the National Assembly in 1992 when it was
agreed that Kurds shift their national project from autonomy to federalism.
Under his tenure, laws were passed to secure the rights of women and

by Fereydoun Ahmadi
Tehran Times, 26th January

TEHRAN -- The Iraqi opposition groups, the most outstanding of them being
the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), last month
met in London to discuss the prospects of the political future of the
country after the anticipated U.S. war on the country.

Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the head of SAIRI's delegation in the conference, in an
exclusive interview with the TEHRAN TIMES, has elaborated on the Iraqi

Hakim, as a high-ranking Iraqi opposition official, stressed that the Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein has prepared a three-phase plan to resist the
anticipated U.S. war on the country. The plan, he cautioned, primarily aims
at increasing the human casualties as well as damages to Iraq's economy.

The plan, the SAIRI official says, includes using the Iraqi nation as a
human shield against U.S. attacks, severely oppressing any public uprising
or opposition, and detonating underground energy reservoirs, oil wells and

The full text of the interview follows: Q: To what extent do you think that
the coalition of the Iraqi opposition will be effective in unseating the
government of Saddam Hussein? A: The project to change the government of
Saddam Hussein will be materialized only by the Iraqi people, because it is
currently the Iraqi people who have the required ability to carry out the
regime change in the country -- as was the case with the 1991 uprising. The
Iraqi nation even has the ability to join the opposition by taking up arms
against Saddam's regime.

Still, they need the international support for toppling Saddam from power,
particularly they demand that the UN Resolution 688 be implemented against
the Iraqi regime. Also, the countries of the region have a significant role
in supporting the Iraqi nation in their struggles against Baghdad.

The Iraqi opposition groups can rely on their unity, solidarity and popular
support to change the Iraqi regime. However, certain camps may try to
downplay the role of the people in future Iraqi developments.

Q: What will be the role of the Iraqi opposition groups in a future Iraq? A:
The Iraqi opposition has so far been able to present a clear picture on the
cooperation of different groups in forming a government and its future. The
future transitional government in Iraq must be democratic, and the people
must have an active and dynamic participation in it. The government must
also represent all the political, social, ethnic and religious nucleus of
the Iraqi nation and all these nucleus must have an active and dynamic
presence in the government.

The future Iraqi government must also try to encourage public participation
in running the affairs of the country. It must then try to organize Iraq's
regional and international relations.

The government must respect the right to self-determination of the Iraqi
nation and let the people elect their own leaders as soon as peace and
stability is established in the country once the regime is changed there.

The future Iraqi government must follow the policy of non-interference in
internal affairs of other nations and try to promote the good-neighborly
ties with the countries of the region. It must also try to alleviate the
international concern about Baghdad's alleged possession of weapons of mass

Q: What is SAIRI's role in the future coalition of the opposition in the
country? A: The SAIRI is the largest Iraqi opposition group and is the only
group that has a comprehensive and vast military, political and propaganda
organization. It also enjoys a significant popular support, and has been
able to forge and maintain strategic ties with several regional and
international countries.

Therefore, the SAIRI is considered as an important and fundamental group
that is trying to close ranks among the Iraqi opposition, coordinate efforts
toward liberating and saving the Iraqi people.

Q: What do you think would be the reaction of the Iraqi people toward the
U.S. possible attacks on the country particularly considering Washington's
policies in Afghanistan and Palestine? A: The Iraqi people that has been
subject to so many years of harsh cruelty, oppression and apartheid is
impatiently waiting for the moment that it is liberated from the rule of the
Baathist regime in the country, and does not really care how and by whom
that will be materialized.

Q: What is the root of the Turkish claims on ownership of Iraq's northern
oil reserves, including those in Kirkuk and Mosul? A: These claims do exist,
but have been rejected by some Turkish officials. The SAIRI and other Iraqi
opposition groups do not accept these claims, and consider them as a kind of
interference in Iraq's internal affairs. We regard such claims as
manifesting the fact that Turkey is casting a covetous eye on Iraq's
national assets.

We, in fact, believe that not only Turkey but also other countries have no
right in Iraq's Kirkuk and Mosul.

Still, the main reason behind raising such claims is Ankara's concern about
our Kurdish brothers.

Turkey is in fact using these claims merely as a pretext.

Ankara maintains that as long as the anticipated U.S.-led attacks on Iraq
will prompt the country's disintegration, it is also possible that an
independent Kurdish state is established in northern Iraq. The ripple effect
of this, Turkish officials say, will provoke the Kurd dominated areas in
that country, and will foment insecurity and instability in those areas.

Of course such claims for which there is no historical documentation are
absolutely baseless.

We have held several meetings with Turkish officials, and have tried to
alleviate their concerns over the issue. We have repeatedly explained to
them that our Kurdish brothers do not advocate the establishment of an
independent state in Iraq, and that they are struggling to promote the unity
of Iraq and to preserve the territorial integrity of the country.

Q: The regional states are currently on tenterhooks over the consequences of
the U.S.-led war on Iraq. Still, Washington has been struggling hard to win
the support of these states to start the war. The efforts taken by the U.S.
in that connection include decreasing the psychological warfare on Saudi
Arabia, pledges on financial support to Turkey, and also giving certain
concessions to several countries in the Persian Gulf. Do you think that the
U.S. efforts to the effect have been fruitful? A: I cannot comment on the
success or failure of such U.S. policies. We have urged Washington in talks
with the country to reassure the regional states that they will suffer no
harm in case a war breaks out against Iraq, and have also called on the
country not to follow unilateral policies in that connection. Now I don't
think that the U.S. has been successful in easing the concern of regional
states about its war effort on Iraq.

Q: Is it possible to solve the Iraqi crisis through peaceful means? If
positive, what are the approaches? A: Yes, it is. Of course, if the
international determination is materialized in this respect, then there
could be several approaches in that connection: Firstly, through making Iraq
comply with the UN resolutions, particularly the resolution 688 that
prohibits Baghdad's using suppressive means and also crushing the Iraqi
nation. Once this resolution is completely implemented, the Iraqi nation
will put Baghdad under pressure, and will thus change the regime or its

Secondly, by putting pressure on the Baathist regime of Iraq to quit the
government; we have included this in our program over the past months, and
are pursuing it either through the media, or at the political level. We have
urged the regional states to pressure the Iraqi government and have it
resign so as to prevent a war on the country.

Thirdly, by establishing an international tribunal to put the Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein and the Baathists on trial.

Fourthly, by enabling the Iraqi nation, themselves, to carry out the Iraqi
regime through military approaches. This should also be carried out in
accordance with the UN resolutions. In fact, we never advocate the military
approaches that the U.S. proposes. Still, after the UN resolutions fail and
the Iraqi people are unable to change the Baathist regime in the country,
war will be the last alternative to solve the issue.

Q: After Saddam is toppled from power, what kind of a government do you
think will be established in Iraq? A: We have two phases ahead; a
transitional phase and a permanent phase. The transitional phase is based on
basic parameters on which all Iraqi opposition groups agree. These
parameters include considering independence, participation and democracy in
the government build-up, promoting good-neighborly relations, destroying
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and respecting international disarmament
norms, and also banning the support for terrorist groups against Iraq's

We will try to remove organizations such as the Mojahedin Khalq Organization
(MKO) that launch terrorist activities against Iran and were even used in
Baghdad's oppressing the Iraqi people, and the Kurdistan Workers Party
(PKK). We will also try to promote relations with other states, and will try
to compile a permanent constitution for Iraq.

Q: What have been the results of the Iraqi opposition conference in London?
A: The most important development in the conference was the promotion of
unity among the Iraqi opposition groups. This was particularly significant
considering that Baghdad has always rejected that there ever existed an Iraq
opposition -- what certain neighbors of Iraq unfortunately confirm -- and
also the fact that if there is any opposition, it has never been unified.

Therefore, one of the most important goals of the SAIRI has been to
reinforce unity and solidarity among the Iraq opposition. This had been
clearly visible at two levels at the London conference: Firstly, the massive
participation of the groups from all ethnic backgrounds, including Shia,
Sunni, Kurd, Turkmen, Arab and Assyrian, and also various political camps
with pluralist inclinations such as Islamists, liberals, democrats and other
groups. This testified the fact that the Iraq opposition does exist at a
wide and very active level.

And secondly, the London conference provided an opportunity for the SAIRI to
promote unity, solidarity and dialogue among the Iraq opposition, to draw up
the prospect for the future of Iraq regarding the structure of the
transitional government, and the political developments in the country. It
was also a success for the conference that a committee was established to
follow up the decisions of the Iraq opposition and provide cooperation among
the groups, either those who have attended the conference and those who have

The conference proved to the world that the Iraqi opposition is active, and
that this opposition enjoys a strong unity and solidarity.

Q: What are latest news regarding the current Iraqi developments? A: The
Iraqi regime is ready to implement certain evil plots in case the U.S.-led
war on the country breaks out. It has adopted the strategy of using its
people as a human shield so as to cause the highest possible amount of
casualties and the worst damage to the country's infrastructure in efforts
to prevent the war. This is particularly felt when considering that the
Iraqi government has ordered its troops to take shelter in the cities when
the war starts, and thus trigger the urban war.

Furthermore, Baghdad has already prepared itself to oppress public uprisings
and rebellions. Iraq's digging moats and installing three defense layers
comprising the military, the Special Republican Guard and the Al-Qods
militia are other parts of the regime's preparations for the war.

The Baghdad regime has filled several underground tanks with gasoline and
other inflammable materials so as to detonate them at a certain time and
thus cause a humanitarian disaster. The regime will then put the blame for
the incident on foreign forces so as feigning innocence.

New York Times, 27th January

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has promised safe passage to Iraqi opposition
leaders heading next month to their first congress on Iraqi soil for over a
decade, the leader of a pro-U.S. Iraqi exile group said on Monday.

Although publicly opposed to an attack on its western neighbor and a sworn
enemy of Washington, Iran is playing an increasingly important role in
hosting and aiding Iraqi exile groups opposed to President Saddam Hussein.

"If the delegates come through Iran, they will have no problems to get to
northern Iraq," Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC)
told a news conference in Tehran.

Iraqi opposition leaders are planning to hold a meeting in Kurd-controlled
northern Iraq around the middle of next month to continue preparations for a
government-in-waiting if Saddam is toppled.

The meeting will comprise a 65-member committee selected at a conference of
Iraqi exiles in London last month.

"The Iranian government has ordered its embassies to issue visas for the 65
members of the committee," said Chalabi, who is perceived as being the Iraqi
opposition leader with the closest ties to the U.S. administration.

Iran has mixed feelings about an attack on Iraq. The two oil powers fought a
brutal eight year war in the 1980s that left a million people dead. But a
pro-U.S. post-Saddam Iraq would leave the Islamic Republic encircled by
states friendly to Washington.

The Tehran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI),
a Shi'ite Muslim group with strong links to Iran's ruling clerical
establishment, is the largest single group on the Iraqi opposition

Some Iraqi opposition sources have said that Washington is concerned about
the influence of the Shi'ite SCIRI and has reservations about the ability of
the Iraqi exile groups to fill the power vacuum in a post-Saddam Iraq.

But Chalabi, who said he had positive meetings with SCIRI head Ayatollah
Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim and Iranian officials in Tehran, insisted the
opposition groups were united and had good support within Iraq.

"We (the Iraqi opposition) are close to the U.S. and anyone who looks for
fundamental differences between us and the U.S. is wasting their time," he

New York Times, 27th January

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- About a dozen Iraqi opposition leaders have quietly
gathered in Iran ahead of a planned conference in northern Iraq on the
future of their homeland after Saddam Hussein, according to Iraqi opposition

"Ten top opposition leaders, along with a large delegation, have arrived in
Iran to formulate plans for their entry into northern Iraq through Iranian
territory," Dana Ahmad Majid of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party told
The Associated Press on Sunday. Iran, he said, was playing the role of a
"bridge," providing opposition groups with transit to Iraq.

The gathering of Iraqi opposition figures could suggest an increasing
Iranian involvement in plans for Iraq's future although Iranian newspapers,
including state-run media, have remained tightlipped on the gathering.
However, there also have been rifts between Iranian based Iraqi opposition
figures and more liberal U.S.-based dissidents.

Meeting in Iran could allow them to iron out some of those disputes --
chiefly over how much influence clerics should have in a post-Saddam Iraq --
before they would cross into northern Iraq for the conference now planned
for mid-February.

Haj Abu Zeid, a leader of the largest Shiite Iraqi opposition group, the
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said opposition meetings
in Tehran have "resulted in bringing the views closer and reducing
differences" ahead of the February conference.

Zeid did not elaborate on those differences or how they were being smoothed
over, said Iraqi opposition groups were showing support to a reported
Iranian offer to protect the groups on their way into northern Iraq.

Other senior council officials, speaking on condition of anonymity with The
Associated Press in Cairo, said the liberals wanted to assure their leader,
Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim, that they have no plan to try to undermine his
influence among Shiite Iraqi dissidents. Al Hakim was angered by remarks
attributed to Brandeis University professor and prominent Iraqi dissident
Kenan Makiya accusing Shiite clerics of trying to manipulate opposition
efforts for a regime change.

Another Iraqi opposition official, speaking in Iran on condition of
anonymity, said the visiting dissidents also were having talks with Iranian
elite Revolutionary Guards and other officials about the developing Iraqi
crisis. He did not elaborate.

A leading analyst familiar with Iran-Arab affairs said increasing Iranian
involvement and reported secret Iran-U.S. cooperation on Iraq was one of the
reasons for the postponement of Syrian President Bashar Assad's visit to
Tehran earlier this month.

"There is an increasing feeling in the Arab world that Iran is quietly
increasing contacts with Iraqi opposition groups and secretly developing
cooperation with Washington" to topple Saddam's regime," Sadeq Al-Husseini

Iran has said it would not shed any tears if Saddam was toppled, but at the
same time that it was opposed to any U.S. unilateral military action to oust
Saddam without U.N. backing.

Iran holds Saddam responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its
soldiers and civilians in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, during which Saddam
used poison gas against Iranian troops.

Meanwhile, Iran says it will accept a maximum of 200,000 Iraqi refugees on
its soil if their lives were in danger. Interior Ministry official Ahmad
Hosseini said Iran's policy was to close its borders to a possible refugee
influx in case of a war in Iraq.

"We can only facilitate settling of Iraqi refugees in camps just inside the
Iraqi border," he told reporters Sunday. "However, a maximum of 200,000
refugees would be allowed inside Iran's borders only if their lives were in
serious jeopardy."

Hosseini also said Iran would remain committed to the 1951 Geneva Convention
and will offer refugee status to Iraqi officials seeking asylum. He said a
decision on top Iraqi leaders, if any, would come from Iran's top

by Elaine Sciolino
New York Times, 28th January

TEHRAN, Jan. 27  Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi opposition leader, announced today
that he intends to travel to Iraq shortly to meet other opposition leaders
and plan a provisional government to replace the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi National Congress, the main Iraqi umbrella
opposition group, told a news conference here that he was going into Iraq
despite objections from some members of the Bush administration but with the
blessing of the White House.

The setting of Mr. Chalabi's message was almost as striking as the
substance. It was conveyed at his organization's headquarters in a private
villa in a gated community in an affluent neighborhood of Tehran.

Despite American economic sanctions against Iran, the villa, which is
decorated with expensive Persian carpets and brocade-covered sofas and
armchairs and staffed by about a dozen Iraqi aides and security people, is
paid for by the State Department, Mr. Chalabi said in an interview. A
special Treasury Department exemption under the Office of Foreign Assets
Control was required to allow American funds to finance his operation, he

[In Washington, the State Department confirmed his statement about obtaining
government funds for political activity in Tehran.]

"We hope to go to our country in northern Iraqi Kurdistan to have
consultations with the leaders over there," Mr. Chalabi said. "And we expect
we can come up with a coalition leadership council, which will be empowered
to establish a coalition provisional government at the appropriate moment so
that the government will lead the process of liberation and would also
assume control of the administration of Iraq."

Mr. Chalabi, wearing a suit and tie in a country where ties are still
suspect for being too Western, seemed to revel in his surroundings. He
welcomed a reporter to his headquarters and said the villa had been "paid
for by the State Department."

Mr. Chalabi's comfort in inviting journalists to his American-financed
headquarters in Iran and announcing plans to cross into Iraq underscored how
confident he feels about the support of his Iranian hosts.

He and about 15 aides have been in Teheran for several days. Although their
presence has not been officially acknowledged, they said they had been
meeting with senior officials in agencies like the Revolutionary Guards and
the security and intelligence apparatus who report directly to Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader and the most powerful man in the country.
Iranian officials have promised to help them enter Iraq illegally, they

One senior Iranian official played down the Iraqi opposition's activities in
the country, saying in an interview: "They are just passing through. They
happen to have friends here."

The "friends" are Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim, the Iraqi cleric who was
the official host of the visit. The ayatollah heads an Islamic opposition
movement and militia that has been given a headquarters, protection, money,
weapons and training by Iran since the early days of its revolution nearly
25 years ago.

In the interview, Mr. Chalabi acknowledged that the ayatollah, a Shiite
Muslim who once favored the installation of an Iranian-style Islamic
republic in Iraq, had been fiercely opposed to working with the United
States to topple Mr. Hussein. In recent months he has forged an alliance of
convenience with Washington, although he opposes American military
occupation of Iraq.

Mr. Chalabi lavished praise on Iran in the news conference, calling
discussions with Iranian authorities "useful and fruitful" and disclosing
that Iran has quietly allowed him and his group safe passage through their
territory into Iraq since the mid-1990's. "As the hour of liberty
approaches, they will support our efforts," he said.

Mr. Chalabi also acknowledged that not all members of the Bush
administration were in favor of the creation of a provisional government
inside Iraq. He also said he was "sorry to say" that some Arab states
friendly to Washington "prefer the option of a United States military
government in Iraq to a provisional government led by the Iraqi opposition."
He did not name the countries. But he also said he believed that resistance
within the Bush administration to his intentions could be overcome because
"President Bush has decided to confront Saddam Hussein." Mr. Chalabi also
said that Zalmay Khalilzad, the White House envoy to the Iraqi opposition
movement, even said that he would travel to northern Iraq to join a meeting
of a committee of 65 opposition leaders chosen at a conference last month in
London. "Khalilzad knew all about it, and he has encouraged me and said he
favored my travel plans," Mr. Chalabi said in the interview.

There are still logistical, security and visa issues that must be resolved
before all 65 Iraq opposition committee leaders can come together in
northern Iraq for the meeting, which is now tentatively scheduled for the
second half of February.

Despite a policy of "active neutrality" in the crisis with Iraq, Iran has
launched a strategy of conducting business as usual with Mr. Hussein's
regime while also dealing with Iraqi opposition leaders.

Even Iran's officially declared position is ambiguous. It opposes an
American-led war against Iraq on the grounds that it will cause regional
instability, kill innocent civilians and create a refugee crisis on its
730-mile border with Iraq. But Iran also insists that Baghdad must comply
fully with the United Nations weapons inspectors. What the consequences will
be if it fails to do so, Iranian officials do not say.

It would be hard to find even one Iranian with a good word to say about Mr.
Hussein, the man who invaded their country in 1980 and later used chemical
weapons to kill Iranian soldiers in the first use of chemical weapons on the
battlefield since World War I. Until Iran made peace with Iraq after eight
years of war, the official policy of the Iranian government was Mr.
Hussein's ouster.

Now the stated policy is that the fate of the Iraqi government must be
determined inside the country. "We stress that any change in Iraq should be
made by the Iraqi people," said Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, the presidential
spokesman, in an interview.

But personally, Mr. Ramezanzadeh, an Iranian Kurd and a former soldier whose
brother was wounded in a chemical weapons attack, said he feels differently.
"I have fought as a soldier against Iraq, and many of my friends who were
fighting at my side died before my eyes," he said. "So I cannot have a
positive opinion about Saddam."

The current war fever has shaken Iran's uneasy coexistence with Iraq, which
has prevailed since the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

Earlier this month parliament summoned Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to
explain why his Iraqi counterpart, Naji Sabri, was planning an unexpected
visit to Iran.

Mr. Kharrazi replied that Iran wants to help prevent a war against Iraq by
the United States "through diplomatic initiatives" and was pressing Iraq "to
comply with U.N. resolutions."

by Mark Landler
International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 29th January

DAVOS, Switzerland: After five days suffused by fear and anger over the
American push for war in Iraq, Europeans and Arabs attending the World
Economic Forum spent their last day here talking about life after a conflict
that few want, but most now believe is inevitable.

As the debate subtly shifted Tuesday, eight prominent members of the Iraqi
opposition arrived, with impeccable timing, to sketch out a vision of their
country following the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

It was their first major public appearance together since a conference in
London in December. After that chaotic meeting, which was marked by shouting
matches, walkouts and a fragile joint declaration, the Iraqis seemed
determined to bring an image of unity to this Alpine ski resort.

All agreed that post-Saddam Iraq should be a democratic state with a federal
structure and a parliamentary system. All acknowledged the doubts in the
United States and elsewhere about whether the factions could live with each
other, given their history of often-bloody clashes. As if reading from a
script, nearly every Iraqi on the panel warned, "Democracies are not built

"Instead of having a mighty state and a weak, deprived society, we need to
have a dynamic, powerful society," said Adil Abdul Mahdi, president of the
Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a conservative Shiite

That did not quite answer the question of what kind of government Iraq
should have, given the secessionist impulses of the Kurds in northern Iraq
and the Shiites in the south. But nobody here was interested in exploring
the possibility that Iraq after Saddam might be carved up into pieces.

"The Kurds of Iraq are not seeking independence," declared Hoshyar Zebari of
the Kurdish Democratic Party.

About the only area of dispute was how to deal with Saddam. One leader
favored amnesty, if it opened the way for him to resign; another said it
should be up to a newly elected Parliament.

The opposition leaders had a ready answer for every question, except one:
How did they know if people inside Iraq supported them, since most of them
had been exiled from the country for many years?

A pantomime of finger pointing and embarrassed laughter ensued, as the
leaders tried to pass the question off to one another. Finally, Mahdi spoke
up to say that his group had deep ties to the Shiites in Iraq. "We have the
population behind us," he said.

Before their presentation, the Iraqis had listened raptly to a military
briefing on Iraq given by General Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander,
who is rumored to be pondering a bid for the presidency.


by Knut Royce
Dawn, from The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, 29th January

WASHINGTON: As the White House campaigns to topple Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein, it is manoeuvring to dilute Iranian influence in a committee of
Iraqi exiles that would help form a post-Saddam government.

Some in the fractious exile community accuse the United States of
heavy-handed interference for seeking to enlarge the panel from 65 members,
agreed to at a conference in London last month, to 100. The US government
played a major role in selecting the six exile organizations that formed the

There also were signs of splits over what role the committee should have in
forming a provisional government. The exile groups are bent on quickly
forming a government they would control, according to influential exiles and
administration sources. But the State Department opposes such a rush, saying
a provisional government should include Iraqis inside the country, according
to a spokesman who insisted he not be quoted by name. "We believe that
creating a government for the Iraqi people now is tantamount to
disenfranchising the vast majority of Iraqis," he said.

After Saddam is forced out, "significant individuals, groups of individuals
or institutions ... are going to emerge that are going to represent a very,
very important source of stability and legitimacy for a future government,"
the spokesman said.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who is the White House's point man for a post-Saddam
government and is close to Vice President Dick Cheney, reportedly has
different ideas. A source close to Khalilzad said the "policy-makers" of any
provisional government "would be drawn from the leaders of the opposition,"
while the "technocrats" would be chosen from current Iraqi officials,
academicians or leaders with no lingering loyalty to Saddam Hussein.

With Muslims of the Shia sect forming about 60 per cent of Iraq's people,
the exile steering committee has numerous Shias, and they have ties to
Shia-ruled Iran. They include 15 members of the Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq, which is based in Tehran.

Cheney and Khalilzad are seeking to dilute the Shias' influence by enlarging
the panel from 65 to 100, the source close to Khalilzad said. Iran is
unhappy, seeing this "as an effort to diminish their influence," he said.
Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the largest dissident group, the Iraqi National
Congress, or INC, and a leading Iraqi opposition intellectual, Kanan Makiya,
a professor at Brandeis University, are in Iran to reassure officials that
Iran's interests will be preserved.

An aide to Chalabi confirmed last week he was in Tehran meeting with
officials there, but said it was merely a transit stop on Chalabi's route to
northern Iraq, where the committee is planning to meet next month. A
spokesman at Brandeis would not provide a phone number for Makiya, saying he
could be reached only by e-mail.

The State Department spokesman said he was unaware of any plan to alter the
panel, whose role he said should be limited to serving as a link between the
administration and the "formalized Iraqi opposition groups." At the same
time, he said, "It probably wouldn't come as a surprise to you to know that
there have been disagreements across several" US government agencies.

Members of the Iraqi exile community said the administration also wants to
dilute influence of ethnic Kurds on the opposition committee. An INC source
said that at a Jan. 10 meeting with Iraqis, a State Department
representative complained that the panel "looks like a Kurdish-Shia

Laith Kubba, who helped create the Iraqi National Congress in 1992 but has
left the group, said the exiles intend on their own to enlarge the panel "to
be more inclusive." Still, "it is not up to the United States to decide the
numbers," he said. "It just doesn't look right."

One group the White House wants to include in the panel, the source close to
Khalilzad said, was Dawa, a secretive organization of Shias in southern
Iraq, who would get five seats. Other new members would be "liberals closer
to the administration's point of view," he said.

Besides the Tehran-based Shias and the Iraqi National Congress, groups now
on the committee are the Kurdish Democratic Party and its rival, the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; the National Accord, composed of former
military and intelligence officers; and the Constitutional Monarchy
Movement, which wants to restore the Hashemite monarchy buttressed by the
British from 1921 until 1958.

Kubba, who many in the administration wanted to see appointed to the panel
but was not chosen, is not sanguine that the last- minute manoeuvring can
prevent a post-Saddam collapse of Iraq.

"What kept the US away (from ousting Saddam) for all this time was the
concern that the country (Iraq) might be dismembered," he said. "Now it has
become more problematic than ever. Now the concern is real."


BBC, 22nd January

Labour anti-war rebels stood up to government policy on Iraq by forcing a
symbolic vote against it.

They acted after a stormy debate on defence issues and just days after the
government announced it was to deploy 26,000 more troops for possible
military action against Iraq.

The procedural motion to adjourn the House of Commons was opposed on
Wednesday by 53 votes to nil.

The numbers included 41 Labour MPs, along with Welsh Nationalists, Scottish
Nationalists and Liberal Democrats.

Normally such a debate would end without a vote, but the rebels forced one
as the only means of showing their opposition to the prospect of military
action against Iraq.

Outspoken Labour MPs forced Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon on the defensive
with a barrage of criticism against government policy on Iraq and its
support for the US missile defence system.

He strongly denied reports that UK troops were being sent to Iraq poorly
equipped and insisted that Britain could not ignore the threat from "rogue"

"If we don't deal with these threats the consequences will haunt future
generations," he stressed.

But Labour MP Alice Mahon, one of the rebels and a long-time opponent of war
on Iraq, accused the government of "dishonesty and cowardice," claiming the
prime minister had already pledged support to US President Bush for military

Former armed forces minister Doug Henderson pointed to reports that
Falklands war hero Simon Weston was one among those who believed attacking
Iraq was wrong.

Mr Henderson said: "Aren't you concerned that there is considerable anxiety
among the chiefs in the forces and among the rank and file that the
government might be asking them to do something which lacks the support of
the public in this country?

"Isn't that extremely dangerous for the relationship between our political
institutions and our military institutions?

"Wouldn't it be better for the government to listen to the public ... and
get back into a containment strategy and if not go through the UN?"

Mr Hoon said the latest opinion polls showed the overwhelming majority of
people supported the government's stance.

Other left-wingers were critical of the government's support for US national
missile defence after Mr Hoon insisted it was a "defensive system and
threatens no-one".

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn said many of the party's electors in 1997 also wanted
a government committed to global disarmament of nuclear weapons.

"I've heard nothing from you today that says anything about global
disarmament, but says a great deal about accelerating and exacerbating the
dangerous arms race around the world," he said.

Mr Hoon dismissed claims troops were being sent abroad without the right

He told MPs: "British personnel deployed on operations will be properly
equipped and fully capable of fulfilling the tasks that may be required of

Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews QC described the motive for war as "suspect
in the extreme."

He claimed the current American "regime" was being ruled and governed and
motivated by a "ghastly mixture of fundamental Christian evangelism, the
ruthless Zionism and the oil economy" which if allowed to rule the UK's
international affairs "would bring us nothing but disaster".

Shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin said his party supported the "broad
thrust" of the government's policy of "diplomacy backed by force" against
Iraq and endorsed the Fylingdales upgrade for missile defence.

But he warned against any prime minister committing the UK to war on the
"say so of another country - even the US".

While he did not consider a second UN resolution on Iraq "a prerequisite"
for military action, he added: "The danger is that in such circumstances
Britain could find its hands tied."

by Beth Gardiner
Las Vegas Sun, 26th January

LONDON (AP): United Nations weapons inspectors should have the time they
need to do their job in Iraq, but it should not take them months to
determine whether Saddam Hussein is cooperating fully, Prime Minister Tony
Blair said Sunday.

Blair also said he would be "very focused" on securing formal U.N. backing
for military action against Saddam if force becomes necessary.

Interviewed on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s "Breakfast with Frost"
program, he emphasized that Saddam has a responsibility not just to give
inspectors access to sites they ask to see, but to tell them exactly what
weapons of mass destruction he has.

"I have always said the inspectors should have the time to do their job," he
told the BBC. "But what is important is that their job is not to repeat what
happened in the 1990s."

Asked whether they should have weeks or months, he replied "Well, I don't
believe it will take them months to find out whether he is cooperating or
not, but they should have whatever time they need."

The prime minister downplayed the significance of the report inspectors are
to deliver to the Security Council Monday, saying it was "just the first
full report, there'll be other reports."

He said that if the weapons inspectors eventually determine Iraq is in
breach of the United Nations resolution demanding it disarm, Britain
believed it was very important to secure a second resolution authorizing the
use of force.

"There is only one set of circumstances in which I've said we'd move without
one," he said. "That is the circumstance where the U.N. inspectors say he's
not cooperating and he's in breach of the resolution ... but the U.N.,
because someone, say, unreasonably uses their veto, blocks a resolution."

"I don't believe that will happen," he continued, saying it was crucial that
the world body enforce its demands that the Iraqi leader disarm.

Failing to do so, he argued, would dangerously weaken the United Nations'

"If we face an issue where ... the United Nations comes to a position and
says 'You've got to disarm yourself of those weapons,' and then the U.N.
does nothing about the failure to disarm, well, how when we deal with North
Korea are we going to get them to treat us seriously?" he asked.

"How when we take these issues out to other countries that are developing
potentially nuclear capability, are they going to take the international
community seriously, when faced with the challenge with Iraq we've done

Struggling to win over a British public skeptical about war, Blair sought
again to make his case for confronting Saddam, arguing that Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction pose a serious threat.

"Unless we take a stand ... it is only a matter of time before international
terrorism and these types of weapons come together," he said.

While polls show a majority of the British public opposed to war against
Iraq, Blair said that sentiment could change as events develop.

If inspectors discover evidence of banned weapons or the United Nations
authorizes military action, Blair said, then "public opinion's in a
different place."

Blair also rejected suggestions that Britain's strong backing of American
policy made it a tempting target for terrorists. He pointed out that
would-be terrorists have also been arrested in France, which has been less
supportive of President Bush's Iraq strategy.

"We're not going to avoid this by hiding away, and it's not what the British
do anyway," he said. "I mean, there's a struggle on and we've got to be
there, and we would have no influence in shaping it unless we were there."

"When America is taking on these tough ... questions, our job is to be there
... in the difficult and tricky times, not simply there as fair weather

by Robert Fisk
New Zealand Herald, from The Independent, 27th January

The Israeli writer Uri Avnery once delivered a wickedly sharp open letter to
Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister who sent his army to defeat in

Enraged by Begin's constant evocation of the Second World War - likening
Yasser Arafat in Beirut to Hitler in his Berlin bunker in 1945 - Avnery
entitled his letter: "Mr Prime Minister, Hitler is Dead."

How often I have wanted to repeat his advice to Bush and Blair. Obsessed
with their own demonisation of Saddam Hussein, both are now reminding us of
the price of appeasement. Bush thinks that he is the Churchill of America,
refusing the appeasement of Saddam. Now the US ambassador to the European
Union, Rockwell Schnabel, has compared Saddam to Hitler.

"You had Hitler in Europe and no one really did anything about him,"
Schnabel lectured the Europeans in Brussels a week ago.

"We knew he could be dangerous but nothing was done. The same type of person
[is in Baghdad] and it's there that our concern lies."

Mr Schnabel ended this infantile parallel by adding unconvincingly that
"this has nothing to do with oil".

How can the sane human being react to this pitiful stuff? One of the
principal nations which "did nothing about Hitler" was the US, which enjoyed
a profitable period of neutrality in 1939 and 1940 and most of 1941 until it
was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. And when the
Churchill-Roosevelt alliance decided that it would only accept Germany's
unconditional surrender - a demand that shocked even Churchill when
Roosevelt suddenly announced the terms at Casablanca - Hitler was doomed.

Not so Saddam it seems. For last week Donald Rumsfeld offered the Hitler of
Baghdad a way out: exile, with a suitcase full of cash and an armful of
family members if that is what he wished. Funny, but I don't recall
Churchill or Roosevelt ever suggesting that the Nazi fuhrer should be
allowed to escape. Saddam is Hitler - but then suddenly, he's not Hitler
after all. He is - said The New York Times - to be put before a war crimes
tribunal. But then he's not. He can scoot off to Saudi Arabia or Latin
America. In other words, he's not Hitler.

But even if he were, are we prepared to pay the price of so promiscuous a

Arabs who admire Saddam - and there are plenty in Jordan - believe Iraq
cannot hold out for more than a week. Some are convinced the US 3rd Infantry
Division will be in Baghdad in three days, the British with them. It's a
fair bet that hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis will die. But in the
civil unrest that follows, what are we going to do? Are American and British
troops to defend the homes of Baath party officials whom the mobs want to

Far more seriously, what happens after that? What do we do when Iraqis - not
ex-Baathists but anti-Saddam Iraqis - demand our withdrawal? For be sure
this will happen. In the Shia mosques of Kerbala and An Najaf, they are not
going to welcome Anglo-American forces. The Kurds will want a price for
their co-operation. A state perhaps? A federation? The Sunnis will need our
protection. They will also, in due time, demand our withdrawal.

Iraq is a tough, violent state and General Tommy Franks is no General
MacArthur. For we will be in occupation of a foreign land. We will be in
occupation of Iraq as surely as Israel is in occupation of the West Bank and
Gaza. And with Saddam gone, the way is open for Osama bin Laden to demand
the liberation of Iraq as another of his objectives. How easily he will be
able to slot Iraq into the fabric of American occupation across the Gulf.
Are we then ready to fight al Qaeda in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan and
Pakistan and countless other countries? It seems that the peoples of the
Middle East - and the West - realise these dangers, but that their leaders
do not, or do not want to.

Travelling to the US more than once a month, visiting Britain at the
weekend, moving around the Middle East, I have never been so struck by the
absolute, unwavering determination of so many Arabs and Europeans and
Americans to oppose a war. Did Tony Blair really need that gloriously
pertinacious student at the Labour Party meeting on Friday to prove to him
what so many Britons feel: that this proposed Iraqi war is a lie, that the
reasons for this conflict have nothing to do with weapons of mass
destruction, that Blair has no business following Bush into the
America-Israeli war?

Never before have I received so many readers' letters expressing exactly the
same sentiment: that somehow - because of Labour's huge majority, because of
the Tory party's effective disappearance as an opposition, because of
parliamentary cynicism - British democracy is not permitting British people
to stop a war for which most of them have nothing but contempt.

>From Washington's pathetic attempt to link Saddam to al Qaeda, to Blair's
childish "dossier" on weapons of mass destruction, to the whole tragic farce
of UN inspections, people are just no longer fooled. The denials that this
war has anything to do with oil are as unconvincing as Colin Powell's claim
last week that Iraq's oil would be held in trusteeship for the Iraqi people.
Trusteeship was exactly what the League of Nations offered the Levant when
it allowed Britain and France to adopt mandates in Palestine and Transjordan
and Syria and Lebanon after the First World War.

Who will run the oil wells and explore Iraqi oil reserves during this
generous period of trusteeship? American companies, perhaps? No, people are
not fooled.

Take the inspectors. George Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and
now, alas, Colin Powell don't want to give the inspectors more time. Why
not, for God's sake? Let's just go back to 12 September last year when Bush,
wallowing in the nostalgia of the 11 September 2001 crimes against humanity,
demanded that the UN act. It must send its inspectors back to Iraq. They
must resume their work. They must complete their work. Bush, of course, was
hoping that Iraq would refuse to let the inspectors return. Horrifically,
Iraq welcomed the UN. Bush was waiting for the inspectors to find hidden
weapons. Terrifyingly, they found none. They are still looking. And that is
the last thing Bush wants.

Bush said he was "sick and tired" of Saddam's trickery when what he meant
was that he was sick and tired of waiting for the UN inspectors to find the
weapons that will allow America to go to war. He who wanted so much to get
the inspectors back to work now doesn't want them to work.

"Time is running out," Bush said last week. He was talking about Saddam but
he was actually referring to the UN inspectors, in fact to the whole UN
institution so laboriously established after the Second World War by his own

The only other nation pushing for war - save for the ever-grateful Kuwait -
is Israel. Listen to the words of Zalman Shoval, Israeli Prime Minster Ariel
Sharon's foreign affairs adviser, last week. Israel, he said, would "pay
dearly" for a "long deferral" of an American strike on Iraq.

"If the attack were to be postponed on political rather than military
grounds," he said, "we will have every reason in Israel to fear that Saddam
Hussein uses this delay to develop non conventional weapons." As long as
Saddam was not sidelined, it would be difficult to convince the Palestinian
leadership that violence didn't pay and that it should be replaced by a new
administration; Arafat would use such a delay "to intensify terrorist

Note how the savage Israeli-Palestinian war can only - according to the
Shoval thesis - be resolved if America invades Iraq; how terrorism cannot be
ended in Israel until the US destroys Saddam. There can be no regime change
for the Palestinians until there is regime change in Baghdad. By going along
with the Bush drive to war, Blair is, indirectly, supporting Israel's
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza (since Israel still claims to be
fighting America's "war on terror" against Arafat).

Does Blair believe Britons haven't grasped this? Does he think Britons are
stupid? A quarter of the British Army is sent to fight in a war that 80 per
cent of Britons oppose. How soon before we see real people power - 500,000
protesters or more in London, Manchester and other cities to oppose this
folly? Yes - an essential part of any such argument - Saddam is a cruel,
ruthless dictator, not unlike the Dear Leader of North Korea, the nuclear
megalomaniac with whom the Americans have been having "excellent"
discussions but who doesn't have oil.

How typical of Saddam to send Ali "Chemical" Majid - the war criminal who
gassed the Kurds of Halabja - to tour Arab capitals last week, to sit with
President Bashar Assad of Syria and President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon as if
he never ordered the slaughter of women and children. But Bush and Blair
said nothing about Majid's tour - either so as not to offend the Arab
leaders who met him or because the link between gas, war crimes and
Washington's original support for Saddam is a sensitive issue. Instead, we
are deluged with more threats from Washington about "states that sponsor

Western journalists play a leading role in this propaganda. Take Eric
Schmitt in The New York Times a week ago. He wrote a story about America's
decision to "confront countries that sponsor terrorism". And his sources?
"Senior defence officials", "administration officials", "some American
intelligence officials", "the officials", "officials", "military officials",
"terrorist experts" and "defence officials". Why not just let the Pentagon
write its own reports in The New York Times?

But that is what is changing. More and more Americans - aware that their
President declined to serve his country in Vietnam - realise that their
newspapers are lying to them and acting as a conduit for the US government

More and more Britons are tired of being told to go to war by their
newspapers and television stations and politicians. Indeed, I'd guess that
far more Britons are represented today by the policies of President Chirac
of France than Prime Minister Blair of Britain.,3604,882891,00.html

by Jamie Wilson and David Pallister
The Guardian, 27th January

Andrew Roberts, the prolific rightwing historian, is commander-in-chief of
the hawks. At 39 he is currently writing a biography of Henry Kissinger,
having disposed - in a decade - of Salisbury, Churchill, Hitler, Napoleon,
Wellington, Chamberlain, Halifax and the House of Windsor. Roberts is a keen
supporter of the Atlantic Partnership, an exclusive band of
influence-peddlers whose support for the Bush/Blair line of attack is based
on a passionate belief in preserving the fragile partnership between America
and Europe.

The Partnership, which Roberts describes as "Yanks Anonymous", was set up
two years ago by the former Tory minister Michael Howard with Charles
Powell, formerly Mrs T's foreign affairs adviser, as vice-chairman and John
Mayor, Henry Kissinger and the former Labour defence minister Lord Gilbert
as patrons. Last October it launched the Atlantic Partnership panel which,
although not exclusively hawkish, now counts among its members some of the
leading advocates for the removal of Saddam.

"I support a war against Iraq because I think it would be relatively easy to
topple the greatest menace to world peace alive today," says Roberts. I
would prefer we did not go back to the UN before taking action because it is
a vapid talking shop beholden to the French."

William Shawcross, the historian and journalist, is one of the prominent
guests at the high table of the debate, a longstanding critic of the
feebleness of UN intervention, a one-time liberal who has turned into a
belligerent Atlanticist. "The case for getting rid of this terrifying madman
as soon as possible is overwhelming," he says. "I simply do not believe that
America and Britain would be acting in this way unless Iraq has weapons of
mass destruction. They are either buried very deep or are mobile and being
kept one step ahead of the inspectors. But I simply do not think we can go
on appeasing Saddam forever. Let us hope that the diplomats and the military
build-up will make him step down peacefully, and that there will be pictures
of Iraqis dancing in the streets in the way they did in Kabul. If that
happens, I think the left will be thinking, 'Where were we?'"

Charles Powell is flushed with admiration for Blair. Another keen member of
the Atlantic Partnership, which in the past three months has hosted power
breakfasts with foreign secretary Jack Straw, defence secretary Geoff Hoon
and Sir Mike Jackson, commander-in chief, land command. Powell's brother,
Jonathan, is chief of staff at No 10.

Writing in the Telegraph, Powell has said: "Britain has shown steadfastness,
and the prime minister political courage, in facing up to the threat from
Iraq to international peace and security and to hopes of a world order in
which the UN's voice is heard and obeyed. Saddam's record of duplicity
leaves little doubt that military action is required."

Sir John Keegan, the venerable historian and Daily Telegraph defence editor,
predicted last July that: "Saddam, his awful family and his venal supporters
are living on borrowed time. They have less than a year to enjoy their
depredation of their homeland."

Now the Atlantic Partnership panelist says: "I feel very strongly that the
anti-war party is wrong. I don't understand them. I'm beginning to
understand what the [appeasement of the] 1930s was like. Saddam is a
completely unpredictable leader. He's carried out two illegal wars. He is a
monster in his own country. He has personally murdered people. He's in the
Bokassa class [ex-emperor of the Central African Republic accused of

"But my case has actually nothing to do with Saddam. I've always taken the
view that when the world unfroze at the end of the cold war there would be a
proliferation of aggressive rogue states and the responsible powers of the
world couldn't allow irresponsible rulers to acquire nuclear weapons and
throw their weight around."

Lord Renwick, the Labour peer and former ambassador to the US, is another
Atlantic Partnership regular. During the Falklands conflict it was Renwick,
then a senior diplomat in the British embassy in Washington, who was ordered
to go along to the Pentagon to ask them for 105 Sidewinder missiles to
bolster British air defences that are widely believed to have stopped
Britain from losing the war.

"I do support military action against the Iraqi regime if it continues to
defy mandatory resolutions of the UN security council prohibiting the
continued possession or development of nuclear, biological and chemical
weapons, including the development of weapons such as nerve gas and anthrax
in contravention of all norms of international law," he says.

Christopher Hitchens is another recruit to the war party. He believes there
are at least four reasons why there should be immediate regime change in
Iraq: Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, the fact that Saddam
has broken the genocide convention, Saddam's link with international
gangsterism, and the human rights of the Iraqi people. "I have always
considered myself a supporter of the Iraqi people and the Kurds who are in
favour of regime change, and I would be on their side even if Bush was not.
That is my position of principle."

Salman Rushdie bases his support for war on purely humanitarian grounds.
"There is a strong, even unanswerable case for a regime change in Iraq that
ought to unite western public opinion and all those who care about the
brutal oppression of an entire Muslim nation," he said in the Observer
earlier this month. "Saddam Hussein and his ruthless gang of cronies from
his home village of Tikrit are homicidal criminals... As I listen to Iraqi
voices describing the atrocities of the Saddam years, I am bound to say that
if the US and the UN agree on a new Iraq resolution, then the rest of the
world must stop sitting on its hands and join the Americans and British in
ridding the world of this vile despot and his cohorts."

Gwyn Prins, the Alliance Professor at the London School of Economics and
senior fellow at the Institute of International Affairs, believes there is
already both a legal and moral duty to rid Iraq of Saddam by whatever means
necessary. Previous UN mandates concerning the Iraqi leader's barbarous and
genocidal behaviour towards his own people were enough of a legal mandate,
regardless of the question of weapons of mass destruction, he says.

"The choice is not between whether people will die in the context of
military operations or not. We live in a world where people who suffer under
barbarous and illegitimate regimes die as a consequence of their own
government's hand, as we have already seen in Iraq with the Kurds. If we
take no action, then they die anyway, and so in moral terms I am perfectly
well persuaded that if a military action is the only way to remove Saddam,
then that is what should happen."

Melanie Philips of the Daily Mail cannot be considered a Blair fan. But she
admires the prime minister's "very high level of courage and statesmanship"
over Iraq. "I am only for war as a last resort," she says. "The aim of the
exercise is to force Saddam to fulfil his commitments to destroy his weapons
of mass destruction and show the world that he has done so, which was one of
the conditions for the ceasefire at the end of the Gulf war. If all
diplomatic efforts fail to persuade him to do that then the threat he poses
to the whole world is so grave that as a last resort the west would have no
choice but to force him to do so. The repeated claim that there should be a
second UN resolution is merely a device for not facing up to the issue.
We've had 11 years of failure to adhere to UN resolutions."

Matthew D'Ancona of the Sunday Telegraph says: "I support Blair's position.
I think it's not strictly necessary to have a second resolution, but the
American phrase 'a coalition of the willing' is a useful one: the more
multilateralism the better. A second resolution is desirable but not a
precondition. US attitudes changed hugely after 9/11 and I think not many
people understand that Blair has taken a decision so that he can influence
that change. It is better to be in the tent rather than outside."

Bernard Jenkin, the shadow defence secretary, is one of the most staunch
cheerleaders for war on the Tory benches. He is one of Iain Duncan Smith's
closest allies and an uncritical supporter of America's tough new foreign
policies. Last week he caused a furore when he called the firefighters tying
up thousands of troops on their one-day strike "idiots" and a "disgrace" to
their country.

"No civilised person wants a war," he says. "Military force should only ever
be used as the last resort, but there comes a time when your whole society
and way of life is threatened.

"Why Iraq? Saddam Hussein has got what the terrorists want. He has the worst
record in the world on the use of weapons of mass destruction alongside
links to terrorism. The UN has given him the 'final opportunity' to disarm.
If he has squandered it, he must still be disarmed."

Compared to the other hawks on the list, the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs, is
a veritable pigeon, but trying to find a supporter for war against Iraq
among Britain's religious leaders is a bit like trying to turn bread into
fishes. He told the Jewish Chronicle recently that he was ready to back
military action by America and Britain against Saddam if certain conditions
were met. He said the campaign must have "clear and achievable aims, must be
supported by a broad international coalition and all possible precautions
must be taken to prevent civilian casualties", but added that the world
should reflect on the Israeli air force's attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear
reactor in 1981, which was widely criticised at the time. "If not for that
air attack, the world would today be facing a virtually impossible

Peter Stringfellow, down in the West End, is firmly in the pro-war camp:
"For there to be stability in the region there needs to be a stable Iraq so,
reluctantly, if the US go we have to go with them 100%."

George Best, the former footballer, joins him in the celebrity hawk
squadron. "After the horror of the Bali nightclub bombing, I hope the
do-gooders who think we are overreacting to the recent terrorist threats
will wake up and realise what we are facing," he said in his Mail on Sunday
column. "Of course, invading Iraq won't stop al-Qaida and other terrorists,
but I do believe that we need to seriously address all threats to modern

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and
Clarifications column, Tuesday January 28 2002
In our report on the pro-war hawks in Britain, headed Fight club, G2, page
2, yesterday, we misspelled the name of the chief rabbi. He is Jonathan
Sacks, not Sachs. Reference was also made in the piece to an alleged
biblical miracle of bread being turned into fishes. No such
transmogrification is recorded - two loaves and five fishes were, however,
multiplied to feed the five thousand (Mark 6: 31-44). A more appropriate
miracle would have been turning water into wine.

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