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[casi] News, 12-19/02/03 (1)

News, 12-19/02/03 (1)


*  Turkey denies British troops role on border
*  Turkey Delays Vote on U.S. Troops
*  Turkey Wants Bigger Aid Deal From U.S.
*  Why Turkey cannot refuse to support a US attack on Iraq
*  Turkey Warns Support for U.S. Not Inevitable
*  Bush losing patience with Turkey's growing demands


*  Barazani, Talibani open two new offices
*  One wrong word, one fearful village
*  Kurds look south and see weakness
*  Iranian-backed forces cross into Iraq
*  Oil and ethnic rivalries fuel fight for Iraqi border town


*  Insults fly as Canada falls out with its next-door neighbour
*  Iran joins the club with a risk management exercise
*  U.N. Nations Urge U.S. to Choose Peace in Iraq

UPPITY TURKS,3604,894394,00.html

by Owen Bowcott and Ian Black in Brussels
The Guardian, 13th February

Turkey is withholding permission for the deployment of British troops in
support of American ground forces preparing a northern front against Saddam
Hussein's regime. A formal request made three weeks ago has still not been

News of the delay emerged as Turkey's foreign minister, Yasar Yakis, flew to
Washington to smooth its troubled military cooperation with the US. The row
within Nato over deploying troops to the Turkish border with Iraq last night
also remained deadlocked.

One Istanbul newspaper has reported Turkish military sources as saying that
senior officers are reluctant to accept British troops because they fear the
British "are trying to influence the Iraqi Kurds to create distrust for

The formal request was made in late January when the chief of the defence
staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, met his Turkish counterpart, General Hilmi
Ozkok and visited the Turkish airbase at Incirlik, where a British squadron
of Jaguars enforces the no-fly zone over northern Iraq. The 16 air assault
brigade, several thousand strong, consists of two battalions of the
Parachute regiment as well as commando units, helicopters and engineers.


by Harmonie Toros
The State, from Associated Press, 17th February

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Complicating U.S. planning for a possible Iraqi war,
Turkey's premier said Monday that parliament will not consider allowing more
U.S. troops on its soil until strategic and economic issues are resolved.

Parliament was expected to vote Tuesday on whether to allow the United
States to use bases and place tens of thousands of combat troops in Turkey.
That permission would allow the United States to open a northern front
against Iraq, which American officials said would shorten a war.

Washington has warned Turkey that time is running out and has pressed
Turkish leaders relentlessly for backing.

But Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said Monday in Brussels, Belgium, "We are
not going to the parliament tomorrow (Tuesday). We have some concerns on
economic and political issues."

Gul also said Turkey will send troops into Iraq if a war breaks out to
prevent an influx of Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq into his country.
He urged the European Union to prepare large-scale humanitarian aid.

Gul said in the 1991 Gulf War to oust Iraq from Kuwait, "500,000 people came
into Turkey in one night. We don't want that to happen again.

"Turkey respects the territorial integrity of Iraq. We do not want a divided
Iraq (but) have to prepare ourselves" for a refugee problem, he added.

Turkey fears a war against Iraq may lead Kurdish leaders in the de facto
autonomous zone in northern Iraq to seek independence from Baghdad and
encourage separatist aspirations among Turkey's Kurdish minority.

One of the main sticking points in U.S.-Turkish negotiations is the economic
aid package that would compensate Turkey for any losses incurred in an Iraq
war, diplomats said. There also are disagreements on military issues such as
the command structure in case of a joint Turkish-U.S. operation in northern

"We are of the belief that it will be difficult to convince parliament
before an agreement is reached," Gul said earlier Monday, before leaving for
talks in Brussels on the Iraq crisis with EU leaders. "We will again inform
the United States of our concerns."

The delay came after worldwide protests this weekend against a U.S.-led war
in Iraq. The Turkish public is overwhelmingly against any war in Iraq.

Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered Monday outside the U.S. Embassy in
Ankara and outside the headquarters of Gul's Justice and Development Party.

"If the United States is in a hurry" then an agreement should be reached as
soon as possible for the draft to be sent to parliament, Foreign Minister
Yasar Yakis was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

Economy Minister Ali Babacan, who was in Washington last week negotiating
the agreement, said Sunday there was "no agreement yet on the size of the
package" and discussions would continue.

Turkish leaders repeatedly have said they would only back a war as a last
resort and they would want a new U.N. resolution before any military action.

But the government also has acknowledged that it cannot afford to remain
neutral in case of war. The United States is Turkey's most important ally,
lobbying for Ankara to be accepted in the European Union and for
international agencies to grant Turkey loans to recover from a deep economic

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish officials held talks on the Turkish-Iraqi border.
Officials of the two factions that govern the de facto autonomous zone in
northern Iraq were to discuss the consequences of a possible U.S.-led war in

Washington insists it aims to keep Iraq intact as one country.

Turkish military officials were present at the meeting, a Turkish official
said. More details were available.

by Harmonie Toros
Las Vegas Sun, 18th February

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP): Turkey asked the United States to nearly double its
multibillion dollar aid package as a condition for allowing U.S. troops on
its soil in a war against neighboring Iraq, diplomats said Tuesday.

The Turkish parliament had been expected to vote Tuesday on whether to allow
tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops in Turkey, which would be necessary
for a northern front in any war against Iraq.

Instead, officials gave U.S. Ambassador Robert Pearson a new proposal late
Monday for a beefed-up economic aid package that would provide compensation
for any losses in an Iraq war.

Top politician Recep Tayyip Erdogan said authorization for U.S. combat
troops to be deployed in Turkey depended on Washington meeting Turkish

"The other side must meet our demands, and if they do, we shall see. After
this is finalized, the authorization will come to parliament," Erdogan was
quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

The delay could upset U.S. war plans as ships carrying the tanks and armored
vehicles that would be used in a thrust from Turkey into Iraq are already
reportedly on the way to Turkey.

Washington says opening a northern front would shorten the war, making it
less deadly.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that although
the United States had made its final offer to Turkey, Washington was
reviewing the latest Turkish proposal. A response was expected later Tuesday
or Wednesday.

The diplomat said Turkey had to make a decision on U.S. troops this week -
the sooner the better - or risk being left out of any future planning of an
Iraq war. Analysts warned that Turkish-U.S. relations also were at risk.

Newspapers reported that a vote could take place Thursday. Turkish officials
refused to give a date.

Turkish and U.S. officials have been in intense negotiations for weeks on
the conditions of the U.S. deployment.

Diplomats say a particular sticking point is an economic aid package to
cushion NATO member Turkey from losses incurred in the war. Turkey is barely
emerging from a deep economic crisis, which saw some 2 million people lose
their jobs.

According to the proposal put forward by Turkish officials late Monday,
Turkey is demanding $10 billion in grants and up to $20 billion in long-term
loans, diplomats said.

Turks and Americans had been negotiating on the basis of $4 billion to $6
billion in grants and $10 billion to $15 billion in loans, according to news
reports and diplomats. The grants reportedly would be split between cash and
military debt write-offs.

Turkey's economy is heavily dependent on loans of the International Monetary
Fund and U.S. support is seen as key for Ankara to secure the loans.

Erdogan, who is leader of the governing Justice and Development Party,
warned that Turkey could not be forced into backing a U.S.-led war because
of its economic difficulties.

"Nobody should expect a decision or an attitude dictated by Turkey's
temporary problems and troubles," he said.

Erdogan urged the United States to take into account Turkey's importance as
a strategic ally.

Erdogan appeared nonetheless to advise his party members to vote in favor of
allowing the U.S. deployment.

"You will either remain outside the process, remain an onlooker to history
and ... put up with the outcome, or you will play an active role in shaping
history," Erdogan said.

Turkey wants to send tens of thousands of troops into northern Iraq to
prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, which its fears
would boost aspirations among Turkey's 12 million Kurds.

by Gretel Kovach
Hoover's (Financial Times), 18th February
Source: South China Morning Post

Greenpeace and Turkish activists scaled a government cultural centre in
downtown Istanbul last Thursday and unfurled a massive banner which read:
"No to War". Aside from perhaps Baghdad, the protesters could hardly have
chosen a more sympathetic staging ground.

According to a January poll, 94 per cent of Turkish citizens oppose a war in
Iraq. Both major parties in parliament and Turks of all walks of life fear
that an attack against their southeastern neighbour could intensify economic
woes during their worst recession in modern history, and rekindle war with
separatist Kurds.

But the protest in Taksim Square ended after just 90 minutes, when fierce
winds ripped down the anti-war banner - a metaphor for how outside forces
have overwhelmed pro-peace sentiment in Turkey.

With the blessing of the Turkish parliament, about 38,000 US combat soldiers
are poised to enter Turkey to form a bulwark on Iraq's northern front. The
ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP), with its moderate Islamist
orientation, spent last month reaching out to like minded anti-war Arab
neighbours. But though the JDP swept into power last November on a populist
platform, defying America was never an option. "Because of Turkish
dependency on the US at this time, Turkey could not say no," said Ilter
Turan, a former University of California at Berkeley professor who is
teaching at Bilgi University in Istanbul.

Behind-the-scenes American arm-twisting, and open goading by army generals
said to represent the true ruling power of Turkey, forced JDP leaders to
foist American war plans on Turkish voters. Turkey's secular army generals
had threatened to organise a constitutional overthrow of the JDP if needed,
according to one US intelligence officer in the region. "And it worked," he

Economic anxieties also overrode anti-war sentiment. After the 1991 Gulf
War, Turkey lost more than US$10 billion (HK$78 billion) from forfeited
trade with Iraq and tourism. Turkey is dependent on periodic infusions from
the International Monetary Fund, and only last week secured US assurance of
a multi-billion dollar aid package to cushion economic fallout from a war in
Iraq. "If Turkey even tries to shun the US, it will face immediate economic
disaster," wrote Ilnur Cevik in a Turkish Daily News editorial.

Turkey could stand to gain from supporting the US war in some important
ways. America will lobby the European Union to admit Turkey, its first
Muslim member, if Turkey co operates on Iraq. The US is also prepared to arm
Turkey against Iraq with early-warning aircraft and Patriot missiles - with
or without Nato's blessing.

Turkey's economy could also benefit from lucrative contracts to help rebuild
Iraq, and from a reopened cross-border oil pipeline, shut down in 1991.

Yet for now, supporting America has painful consequences for the JDP. Their
fundamentalist Islamic supporters are categorically opposed to a war against
another Muslim country.

The threat of hostilities across the border may already have provoked
Turkey's militant Kurdish factions, who are threatening to end their
three-year ceasefire and wage an even more ferocious war across all Turkey.
"They are talking about a return to violence," says Kerim Yildiz, director
and co-founder of the London-based Kurdish Human Rights Project. "We are
horrified. It could be even worse than before."

A renewed civil war in Turkey may fulfil anti-war protesters' darkest fears,
but is unlikely to derail American war plans. "This is an internal problem,
and Iraq is another issue," said a spokesman for the US embassy in Ankara.

Cairo-based freelance writer Gretel Kovach contributed this piece to Pacific
News Service

by Ayla Jean Yackley
Reuters, 18th February

ANKARA: Turkey warned the United States on Tuesday not to take for granted
its support in a war against Iraq, backing which Washington needs to open a
"northern front" against Saddam Hussein.

The NATO allies have been negotiating a deal to allow tens of thousands of
U.S. troops on Turkish soil to be able to strike from the north should the
United States attack Iraq for allegedly building weapons of mass

Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP),
told his deputies Turkey had not yet committed itself to allowing the United
States to use its bases.

Turkey has permitted U.S. engineers to upgrade bases and sea ports, and
Washington had expected parliament to open the military facilities to U.S.
soldiers during a Tuesday vote.

But Turkish political leaders said on Monday that would have to wait until
agreement was reached on billions of dollars in U.S. aid and on the role
Turkey's army could play in any war.

"Our American friends should not consider the decision made by parliament on
modernizing bases and ports means we have set off on an irreversible path of
support," Erdogan said.

"We have in no way made a single one-sided pledge of commitment, including
the date of February 18."

If Ankara drags its feet, U.S. military planners could go ahead without a
northern front. But a move on Iraq from Turkey would relieve a main invasion
into the south and could shorten any war and cut American casualties.

The AKP, which traces its roots to banned Islamist movements, has publicly
opposed a war in Iraq. Public opinion against an attack on a fellow Muslim
state is running strong.

"If we are going to work together, if our support has meaning for the United
States, then the United States needs to keep in mind our sensitivities and
greet our requests with good intentions," said Erdogan, who could become
prime minister after a March by-election.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said the U.N. Security Council would have to
pass a second resolution before Turkey would allow U.S. troops to deploy on
its territory.

"There must be international legitimacy for foreign armed forces to deploy
to Turkey. We believe there must be another Security Council resolution for
international legitimacy."

Turkey is seeking a financial aid package from Washington that could total
$15 billion or more to brace its economy against losses in tourism and trade
in the event of a war.

Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said the government would go to parliament only
when Washington met Turkish demands on aid.

"When conditions are fulfilled we are prepared to present it in the shortest
possible time," Yakis told reporters.

Ankara also wants to send into northern Iraq its own troops to deal with a
potential refugee crisis as well as block any Iraqi Kurdish attempts to set
up an independent state.

Kurds have been running northern Iraq since rising up against President
Saddam Hussein in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. Ankara fears they will try
to cement their autonomy during the chaos of a war and spark unrest among
Turkey's Kurds.,,3-583040,00.html

by Roland Watson in Washington and Suna Erdem in Istanbul
The Times, 19th February


In diplomatic terms, though, the co-operation of Turkey, one of America's
closest Muslim allies, remains critical.

Mr Bush held out an olive branch yesterday, saying he had "great respect"
for the Turkish Government. "They have got no better friend than the
American Government, and hopefully we can come up with an agreement that's
satisfactory to both parties. We're still working on it."

A Western diplomat in Ankara said: "There are ships on the way here with
troops on board and they have to decide where to go. They won't wait long,
the situation is now or never as far as Turkey is concerned. It was
emphasised over and over that February 18 was an important date."

When the Turkish parliament voted earlier this month to let the US modernise
bases and ports in Turkey for possible use in a war, a second vote on troop
deployment seemed a formality, albeit one that Turkish leaders would delay
until after last week's Muslim Eid ul Adha holiday. A visit by Turkey's
foreign and economy ministers to Washington at the weekend was seen as the
final step in tying up an economic package to compensate Turkey for
war-related losses.

Senior American officials, including President Bush, made the Turks their
final offer, which Western diplomats and Turkish officials put at $6 billion
of grants and up to $20 billion in credit, and urged an immediate decision.
However, diplomats say that Ankara is holding out for $10 billion in grants,
$15 billion in credits and loans and an additional $6.8 billion in
forgiveness of military debts.

As the diplomat said: "That's some difference . . . and I'm not sure how it
will be overcome given that President Bush was very clear that Washington
had offered all it can . . . Turkey knows perfectly well that it will suffer
economically whether or not it joins in a war. If there is no agreement, it
stands to lose billions of dollars and receive nothing."


Arabic News, 14th February

The two rival Kurdish groups who control northern Iraq, have strengthened
their interests by opening, each of them, an office in the area where the
other has control.

A statement by the Kurdistani Democratic Party led by Masoud Barazani said
on Wednesday that the Kurdistani National Federation led by Jalal
al-Talibani re-opened its office in Irbil, the headquarters of the
Democratic party.

For its part, an official at the Democratic party said that his party will
open on Saturday an office in al-Suleimaneyah, the headquarters of the
National Federation.

These two measures fall in the framework of normalizing relations between
the two organizations who have been controlling since 1991 the area of
Kurdistan in the north of Iraq.

In October 2002, the Kurdish parliament ratified a peace agreement signed in
Washington by Talibani and Barazani who has been in continued clashes.

by C.J. Chivers
The Age, from New York Times, 18th February

Mullah Marwan Ismail Hussein, his beard grey and long and his eyes green and
tired, sat in a courtyard outside Ibn Taymiyya mosque and shared a sentiment
now common in Khurmal.

You would think, he said, that "a great politician like Colin Powell should
have looked at a map".

The mullah might have spoken for much of this village on Iraq's mountainous
border with Iran. This is a place filled with worry because of one careless

In an address to the UN Security Council on February 5, Secretary of State
Colin Powell displayed a satellite photograph of what he described as a
poison factory and terrorist camp that has received support from the Iraqi
Government and al-Qaeda's terrorist network.

The photograph, offered as a reason to consider risking war to topple Saddam
Hussein, carried a caption that bore this village's name, Khurmal.

The camp in question, however, is in Sarget, a 35-minute drive away and on
the other side of a military front, in territory occupied by Ansar al-Islam,
a militant Islamic group that the United States says is an affiliate of

Since the slide was shown, US officials have said they know exactly where
the Ansar camp really is. They note the distance between Sarget and Khurmal
is only about six kilometres and Khurmal, by far the larger village, was a
convenient marker for a public not familiar with the geography of northern
Iraq, an area independent of Saddam but largely isolated from the world.

>From Washington, a few kilometres was close enough, and to hear US officials
tell it, there seems virtually no chance the Pentagon regards Khurmal as a
potential target.

But to villagers in Khurmal, the labelling was frightening, and their fear
is an indicator of the United States' low credibility when it comes to
distinguishing military and civilian targets.

Khurmal, population about 7500, was once a part of a savage front in the
Iran-Iraq war. Its environs are polluted with trenches and hidden mines. The
village was razed by Saddam in the late 1980s.

Recently rebuilt, it is little more than a cinderblock shantytown, an
impoverished municipality on a front between the Kurdish fighters and Ansar.
It is controlled by a comparatively moderate Muslim party, Komala Islami
Kurdistan, which has resisted Ansar's jihad politics but distrusts the US.

Many villagers clustered into homes with televisions to watch Mr Powell's UN
presentation, and said they were astonished to see their village named as
the nexus between Osama bin Laden and Saddam.

Long a luckless place, Khurmal now fully expects to be struck by American
bombs. "We have seen this kind of mistake in Afghanistan, when the Americans
bombarded the wrong villages," Komala leader Sheik Ali Bapir said. "The
people of Khurmal are very helpless and very poor. Please do not make any

Villagers say they support a war to unseat Saddam but are discomfited by the

"We are not with Saddam," said Ibrahim Ali Karim, a labourer and father of
four children. "But we don't want America to destroy our lives."

Mullah Hussein said he had no faith in the Bush Administration's stated
reasons for wanting to change the Iraqi regime. If the US genuinely opposed
chemical weapons, he said, it could have attacked Iraq in 1988, when Iraq
was using nerve and mustard gas against Kurds in this valley.

Sheik Bapir suggested that if the US attacked, its weapons should be more
precise than the words on Mr Powell's slide.

This is a place where the population could break either way, he said.

"If we are hit by fire that is meant to burn Ansar, the United States would
turn us from a popular party to a party that is against them," he said. "It
is better to have friends than to have enemies."

by Karl Vick
MSNBC, from Washington Post, 17th February

CHAMCHAMAL, Iraq, Feb. 17  The traffic comes all day long, taxis and trucks
and private sedans darting across the plain of government-controlled Iraq
toward the mountains where ethnic Kurds maintain their autonomous zone. It
is a routine passage from confinement to relative freedom, and last week the
Iraqi government made a glancing effort to make it more difficult, imposing
a limit of 21/2 gallons on what a taxi can purchase at the last chance for
gas in government territory.

But the travelers continue to cross, with their luggage and jerrycans and
their intriguing details about a country on the cusp of war.

Secrets have always transited this place with the same ease as battered
white and orange taxis. It's a porous line that separates the zones, and
people from both sides easily negotiate checkpoints that, on the Kurdish
side, often amount to a brake and a wave.

The information flows thickest from Kirkuk, which after Baghdad would be
perhaps the most crucial prize of a military campaign against Iraq. If
Turkey permits U.S. troops to use its territory to open a northern front in
an Iraqi war, analysts say, Kirkuk would figure prominently in the
Americans' plans.

Barely 20 miles from the checkpoints, Kirkuk lies on an open plain defended
by a trench line facing north and tens of thousands of soldiers and citizens
who have far more guns than will to use them, according to Kurdish officials
and Kirkuk residents visiting the Kurdish region.

"The regular army doesn't find enough to eat, so I don't believe they'll
fight," said a young man visiting the Kurdish-controlled city of
Sulaymaniyah for the Muslim holidays last week. His account, like those
offered by other travelers and by officials here in the Kurdish zone, could
not be independently verified.

The youth said he has seen army conscripts in tattered uniforms and damaged
shoes, too poor to afford bus fare to their homes in southern Iraq. "The
Republican Guard," he said, "is the only force the government will trust."
Well-paid and well-provisioned, Republican Guard troops are regarded here as
formidable fighters. An unspecified number reportedly are deployed in the
heart of Kirkuk, reinforced by thousands stationed at Khalid Camp, a vast
military complex southwest of the city.
Kurdish officials concur that Kirkuk's outer defenses are manned by a ragged
regular army supplemented by perhaps 100,000 civilians who have been given
automatic rifles and a month of training. Many are members of the ruling
Baath Party; others reported for duty after being told each family must
volunteer one member for the makeshift militia. About 20,000 are Kurds 
called traitors by their ethnic brethren to the north, who refer to Saddam
Hussein's Kurdish militia as the "donkey army" and boast of infiltrating its

"Most of this military I call sacrifice military," said Shalaow Askari, a
Kirkuk native, veteran Kurdish fighter and a minister in the self-government
Kurds have established under the cover of U.S. and British warplanes
enforcing a "no-fly" zone since 1991.

"They won't run. They will surrender," Askari said. "The military the Iraqis
are counting on are inside the city."

Kirkuk residents say they have seen evidence that Hussein's regime is on its
last legs.

"The intelligence guys are not like in the past, because they know they have
just a little time," said a resident visiting Chamchamal, just past the
front line. Criticism that once might have guaranteed arrest is now voiced
in semi-public spaces such as taxis.

"They speak as they like, openly," said the middle-aged man, who asked to be
identified only as a laborer.

Kurdish officials spoke of recent information that Iraqi forces have moved
missile batteries into the city and to positions on the eastern outskirts.
But the most intense speculation is over the fate of the oil fields
northwest of town. They are the oldest and most productive in Iraq, which
ranks second only to Saudi Arabia in total crude reserves.

Reports that Iraqi forces have planted explosives around the wells percolate
regularly into the Kurdish region but have yet to be confirmed by photos or
other direct evidence, officials said. After Iraqi forces blackened the
skies above Kuwait by blowing up wells as they retreated during the Persian
Gulf War, people anticipate the worst in the event of a U.S. invasion.

"This is going to be a big issue, the environmental terrorism," said Barham
Salih, prime minister of the Kurdish administration.

Kirkuk is combustible in other ways as well. Long before the discovery of
oil, the area was treasured as a homeland for two ethnic groups: the Kurds
and the ethnic Turkomen, who speak Turkish. Both have suffered as, during
more than two decades of Hussein's rule, thousands of Arabs were moved to
the city, where they are now the majority. Kurds have been banned from
registering as owners of property unless they took on Arabic names, "so you
have to find someone who's Arabic to register the home for you," said
another Kurdish visitor from Kirkuk, seeing family for the holidays.

In the city's Kurdish neighborhoods, armed members of Hussein's Baath Party
have dug fresh bunkers, fearing revenge killings. "They have to be afraid of
the Kurdish, because we have suffered a lot," said the young man visiting
Sulaymaniyah. "They have a lot to fear from us."

Kurdish leaders say they cannot stop Kurds inside Kirkuk or Mosul, the city
that borders Iraq's oil fields to the west, from taking up the arms they
have hidden. Nor, they say, will they prevent Kurds in the north from
rushing south to claim their old houses from the Arabs who have taken them
as their own.

"They are free to do so," said Jalal Talabani, chairman of the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan, the party that controls the areas north and west of
Kirkuk. "We can't control them."

by Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran and Guy Dinmore in Washington
Financial Times, 18th February

Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition forces have crossed into northern Iraq from
Iran with the aim of securing the frontier in the event of war, according to
senior Iranian officials.

The forces, numbering up to 5,000 troops, with some heavy equipment, are
nominally under the command of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a
prominent Iraqi Shia Muslim opposition leader who has been based in Iran
since 1980 and lives in Tehran.

A US State Department official said he was aware of reports that part of
Ayatollah Hakim's Badr brigade had crossed into northern Iraq but declined
further comment. Analysts close to the administration of President George W.
Bush said the US was concerned about the intentions of this new element in
an increasingly complicated patchwork of forces in northern Iraq.

Turkey has long had a limited military presence in northern Iraq, and US
special forces began moving into the region several months ago. The Badr
brigade has been trained and equipped by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and
could be regarded as a proxy force of the Iranian government.

Iranian officials insist that force's role in the north is defensive but its
presence will exacerbate the concerns of the US and especially the Arab
world that military intervention in Iraq will lead to a permanent
disintegration of the country. Through inserting a proxy force, Iran is
underlining that it cannot be ignored in future discussions over Iraq's

Ayatollah Hakim's forces had previously been based in southern Iran, close
to Iraq. Two months ago they began moving into the area of northern Iraq
governed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of two Kurdish
parties that rule an area the size of Switzerland outside Baghdad's control.

A senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named, said the presence of
Ayatollah Hakim's troops was defensive and aimed at countering a possible
attack on Iran by the People's Mujahideen Organisation (MKO), an Iranian
opposition group based in Iraq and strongly supported by President Saddam

Another official said the Badr force had moved into an area near
Darbandikhan, a depopulated and rugged stretch of hills and ravines about 15
miles from the closest point on the Iranian border.

The MKO used Iraqi territory to mount attacks on Iran during the 1980-88 war
between Iran and Iraq. The Kurdish parties controlling northern Iraq have
also expressed fears that Mr Hussein would try to use the MKO against them
in the event of a US-led invasion of Iraq.

Ayatollah Hakim is the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in
Iraq (Sciri), a mainly Shia Muslim group that fought in the failed 1991
uprising against Baghdad in southern Iraq. More recently Sciri has taken
part in talks between the Iraqi opposition and the US.

His office in Tehran denied that the Badr brigade had moved into northern
Iraq but said Sciri had maintained forces in that region for several years,
gathered from Iraqi Shia who had fled the Iraqi regime. A representative of
the PUK also denied there had been a recent movement across the border but
confirmed a presence of Sciri forces.

by Patrick Cockburn in Arbil, northern Iraq
The Independent, 19th February

Abdul-Samat Ali Baram is the latest casualty of a prolonged campaign by the
Baghdad government, stretching back decades, to reduce the Kurdish
population of the oil province of Kirkuk and replace its people with Arabs.

The fate of Kirkuk, at the centre of Iraq's northern oilfields, will once
again become a explosive issue in Iraqi politics if Saddam Hussein is
overthrown. For years he has sought to change its demography, replacing
Kurds and Turkomans, another of Iraq's multitude of minorities, with Arabs
from southern Iraq.

But the looming war has rekindled the hopes of the Kurds that they will be
able to reclaim their homes.

Sami Abdul-Rahman, the deputy prime minister of western Kurdistan, said:
"There are a quarter of a million Kurds who have been expelled and want to
go home. And they are not just from Kirkuk. I am from Sinjar, from which
Kurds were also expelled, and I can't tell my relatives not to go back. It
is their inalienable right and they have suffered a lot."

Mr Baram, a paunchy, unhealthy looking man of 50 with a swollen neck, has
just been expelled from Kirkuk for refusing to join the Iraqi army. "Three
or four men with guns started visiting my house every day, asking me to join
the al-Quds Army [an Iraqi militia], but I refused. My brother was killed
fighting in the Iraqi army in the Iran-Iraq war and I did not want to die as
well," he said.

Mr Baram, a Kurd who was working as a casual labourer, was hurriedly packed
into a small pick-up earlier this month with his wife and four children and
driven to the last Iraqi government checkpoint on the road from Kirkuk to
Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish region and outside President Saddam's

He and his family made their way to Bnaslawa, a grim town with streets of
glutinous, foul smelling mud where 50,000 people, almost all Kurds from
Kirkuk, are crammed into houses scarcely bigger than huts, made out of
breeze blocks often daubed with mud.

For a city that rouses such passions, Kirkuk is a disappointingly
nondescript place. Its most impressive buildings are associated with the oil
industry. The half-ruined ancient citadel was badly damaged in fighting
between Kurds and government troops in the most recent Kurdish uprising 12
years ago.

Sami Abdul-Rahman, 71, a veteran of Kurdish politics, said: "It was the
question of who should control Kirkuk which prevented us reaching agreement
with Saddam in negotiations in 1970 and 1974, and led to another war." At
the high point of the uprising against President Saddam in 1991, Kurdish
troops seized the city only to be driven out in a fierce counter-attack by
the elite Republican Guard a few days later.

The Kurds are unlikely to attack Kirkuk again if the Iraqi armed forces
break up. Any such action would be opposed by the United States and Britain
and would provoke intervention by Turkey. America reportedly plans to land
troops at an early stage in any war to seize the city and protect the
oilfields from sabotage.

But the Kurds do not have to make a frontal assault on Kirkuk to regain
control of the city. All they need do is allow the hundreds of thousands of
Kurdish refugees, who are now living in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has had de
facto independence for a decade, to go home. This would once again make them
the predominant community in this much fought-over city and province.

That is an outcome much feared by the Turkomans, who claim that they were
once the majority in Kirkuk. Orhan Ketene, a Turkoman spokesman, said Kirkuk
was the Turkoman capital "and it will stay that way". But the demographic
history of Kirkuk is much disputed and the Kurds are the ones in the best
position to regain their lost lands.

The Kurds in Bnaslawa, living in their miserable concrete hovels with the
stench of raw sewage wafting through the dark little rooms, do not have to
think much about their intentions. Deportees from every village and city
district have appointed committees to organise their return to Kirkuk as
soon as it is safe to do so. Many have been for years. Salah Rashid, 36,
wearing a torn leather jacket and selling lemons from a cart in a muddy
lane, was deported from his village of Klisa, near Kirkuk, in 1987.

"They forced all the Kurds  20 families of us  to come here," Mr Rashid
said. "They let us take half our furniture. I don't know why they chose us.
I'd like to go back as soon as we can. They gave our house to an Arab, but I
am sure he will want to leave automatically."

Going by past experience, the reversal of decades of ethnic cleansing in
Kirkuk might not be so easy or bloodless.

Patrick Cockburn is a visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington.


Daily Telegraph, 15th February

Canada's relations with the United States sometimes seem as much dictated by
psychology as politics - combining friendship and rivalry, insecurity, and
the conviction that Canada is a "kinder, gentler", even morally superior,
version of North American culture.

After September 11, 2001, Canadians responded instantly - throwing open
their homes to tens of thousands of grounded airline passengers. Canada sent
combat troops to Afghanistan, where their snipers impressed American

But crises also arose. Canadians were shocked when US fighter pilots
accidentally bombed Canadian troops training in Afghanistan, killing four.
They were enraged when President Bush took 24 hours to apologise, and the
incident was barely reported in the US media.

Jean Chretien, Canada's prime minister, has clashed with Mr Bush over the
war on terror and has yet to commit any troops for action in Iraq.
Successive Canadian governments have bled the military of funds, amid talk
that Canada's military should become a purely "peacekeeping" force.

The tensions between the two leaders were made farcically clear when Mr
Chretien's communications director was overheard referring to Mr Bush as a
"moron" at last autumn's Nato summit in Prague.

Mr Chretien felt obliged to state that Mr Bush was a friend of his and "not
a moron at all".

Canada has criticised the new US policy of fingerprinting all men born in
certain suspect nations - including those holding Canadian passports.

Criticism turned to anger when a dual Syrian-Canadian national from Montreal
was detained at JFK airport while changing planes in New York, and deported
to Syria.

At the height of the row, Canada's foreign minister issued a travel warning
for Canadians born in the target countries to avoid the United States.

American politicians have hit back, calling Canada soft on terrorists, and a
meek, whining nation unwilling to face its international responsibilities.

by John Simpson
Daily Telegraph, 16th February

When President Khatami of Iran announced last week that his country was
producing nuclear fuel from its own uranium deposits and planned to widen
its nuclear programme, it looked like an own-goal.

The nuclear reactors which the Russians are building in Bushehr, in southern
Iran, have their Russian-made fuel ready-supplied. The only apparent point
in Iran producing its own fuel would be to enable it to make its own nuclear

In other words, the three countries which President Bush, to some people's
embarrassment, linked together last year in an axis of evil - Iran, Iraq and
North Korea - have indeed all come out of the nuclear closet. And Iran must
surely have placed itself firmly on the American hit list.

Not so. Iran's decision to join the club of potential or actual nuclear
powers in the region, whose members are Israel, Iraq, Pakistan and India,
may be distinctly depressing, but it isn't suicidal.

Iran has judged its position, and American intentions, carefully. It knows
that despite all the patriotic noise about American power that emanates from
Washington at the moment, President Bush has no intention of taking Iran on.
It is, quite simply, too hard a nut to crack.

A leading Saudi politician says he recently had an argument with the
American vice president, Dick Cheney, about the wisdom of attacking Iraq.

"Why do it?" he asked despairingly in the end. "Because it's do-able," Mr
Cheney answered, with commendable frankness.

Defeating Iraq is indeed do-able; the Americans and their allies found that
out in 1991. We were, you may remember, subjected to weeks of propaganda
about the Iraqi armed forces being the fourth largest in the world, yet they
crumbled within a few hours. Nowadays Iraq's defensive powers are even

Attacking Iran, by contrast, is not do-able. It is far larger than Iraq,
both in population and in area. Its armed forces are still not very well
equipped. Yet it has a very definite strength which protects it.

This, curiously, derives from its politics. Whatever Westerners may think
about the way Iran is governed, it is not a dictatorship like its neighbour,
Iraq, and although I have sometimes mischievously listed Ayatollah Khomeini
as one of the various dictators I have interviewed, it is unfair to his

Khomeini was never remotely a dictator. He was always a kind of chairman of
the board, overseeing the quarrelsome figures who actually ran the place and
intervening when he felt that circumstances required it.

And however unpopular the government of the day might have been, Khomeini
himself retained the basic loyalty of most Iranians.

Iran is, in fact, a kind of looking-glass democracy, in which people can
[within certain clearly defined limits] genuinely express their opinions
about their rulers through the ballot box even if they no longer expect
their votes to change things in any very serious way.

The long battle between reformers and conservatives, which has been played
out ever since the revolution of 1979, has led to an intractable stalemate
in Iran's affairs.

The voters have consistently shown by majorities of more than 80 per cent at
election times that they favour the reformers; but the conservatives,
outside the government yet with their hands on many of the levers of power,
refuse to take the hint.

As a result everything - the trial of a respected writer, the nomination of
a first-rate Farsi speaking British ambassador, the editorial line of a
newspaper, the precise wording of an official notice - becomes the
battleground where this self-defeating war can be fought out.

And despite the defeats which every fundamentalist presidential candidate
receives from the voters, nothing changes this. The reformers may be in
government, but their hands are tied.

The announcement of Iran's nuclear ambitions last week didn't come from the
conservatives, though. It came from President Khatami himself, the man who
has always enjoyed consistent public support. The fact is, Iran cannot allow
itself to seem weak, now that the United States is flexing its muscles in
the region.

Iran is profoundly sceptical about Western motives. It remembers how the
Americans, desperate to prevent an Iranian victory in the eight-year war
with Iraq, sent Dick Cheney to give Saddam Hussein American satellite
intelligence to counter the danger from Iran.

Iranians remember, too, how, soon after Saddam Hussein's chemical warfare
attack on his own citizens in Halabja in 1988, the British government was
enthusiastically selling weapons to Iraq. And then denying it indignantly in

If you are a medium-sized power in the Middle East nowadays you do not tell
yourself that you should rely on the United States and Britain to establish
peace and democracy: you make sure you can defend yourself. You wouldn't
want George Bush and Dick Cheney to think that attacking you might be

by Louis Charbonneau
Reuters, 18th February

UNITED NATIONS: Nation after nation from all parts of the globe demanded
weapons inspectors have a chance to disarm Iraq peacefully, defying
intentions by the United States and Britain to seek a resolution authorizing

Only Australia, Japan, Argentina and Peru, in varying degrees, supported the
tough U.S. British position during 27 presentations on Tuesday by U.N.
members who do not have seats on the 15-nation Security Council. Another 29
ambassadors address the council on Wednesday.

But most speakers, many from developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin
America as well as Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East, spoke out against
war and backed France's position to let arms inspectors have more time to
account for Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction programs.

So did Greece, New Zealand, Ukraine and Belarus.

South Africa's U.N. ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, head of the 115-member
Non-Aligned movement, which called for the meeting, said that "Resorting to
war without fully exhausting all other options represents an admission of
failure by the Security Council in carrying out its mandate."

Iran's ambassador, Javad Zarif, whose country was invaded by neighboring
Iraq in 1980, said "the prospect of another destabilizing war in our
immediate vicinity is a nightmare scenario of death and destruction."

Zarif said that war would produce "the prospect of appointing a foreign
military commander to run an Islamic and Arab country is all the more
destabilizing and only indicative of prevailing delusions."

The strongest support for the United States came from Australian Ambassador
John Dauth, who said that given President Saddam Hussein's "record" he was
"not sure why we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt."

"The council could give Iraq more time, yes. We could wait until March. We
could wait another three months," Dauth said. "But do we really think more
time will make Iraq cooperate. Does Iraq really need more than three more
months to make a decision that should take no more than three minutes?"

But New Zealand's U.N. ambassador, Don MacKay said his government " has a
very strong preference for a diplomatic solution to this crisis."

Turkey, another Iraqi neighbor which the United States wants to use as a
springboard for a possible invasion, emphasized the money it lost by years
of sanctions against Baghdad and said talk of war further depressed its

"This is precisely why we are genuinely distressed with the escalation of
this crisis," Ambassador Umit Pamir said.

To Washington's dismay, Turkey has not yet accepted a $26 billion U.S.
economic aid package in exchange for its help.

The United States and Britain maintain that Iraq is still hiding its banned
weapons programs in violation of a Security Council resolution adopted on
Nov. 8 and have started work on a follow up measure to authorize force. The
resolution has not yet been circulated and probably would not be put to a
vote before the end of the month, diplomats said.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States wants to wait until
after the open debate is completed before deciding on "the specifics, the
timing and the contents of such a resolution." He said such a decision would
be made shortly.

Iraq's U.N. envoy, Mohammed Aldouri, dismissed accusations that Baghdad had
failed to cooperate with arms inspectors and referred to last weekend's
massive anti-war demonstrations across the globe as proof that the world
opposed war.

But Aldouri warned the U.S. and Britain that Baghdad would not react
passively to a military attack.

"If the aggression against Iraq takes place, Iraq's sons, famous for their
struggle against British occupation in the 1920s, will defend their
country," Aldouri said.

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