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News, 12-19/02/03 (3) IRAQI OPPOSITION/COLLABORATION * Iraqi Opposition Delays Meeting * Some in Iraqi opposition fault US plans for post-Hussein regime * U.S. general would run Iraq * Meet the new boss * Our hopes betrayed: How a US blueprint for post-Saddam government quashed the hopes of democratic Iraqis * The Left isn't listening: The Stop the War coalition is the greatest threat to any hope for a democratic Iraq * Opposition Scramble for Role in a Post-Saddam Iraq * Iraqi opposition groups meet in Seloubi, Turkey * Opposition puts its trust in new spirit of reconciliation * Iraq for the Iraqis: After the invasion, leave it to us to establish democracy ISRAELI INTEREST * The case against war: A conflict driven by the self-interest of America * 'The axis of evil' * Enthusiastic IDF awaits war in Iraq IRAQI OPPOSITION http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/feb/12/021207997.html * IRAQI OPPOSITION DELAYS MEETING Las Vegas Sun, 12th February SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi opposition leaders have delayed a long-planned meeting of 65 Iraqi opposition figures in the autonomous section of northern Iraq because of security concerns, a senior official said. The meeting will now be held sometime between Feb. 17 and Feb. 20 in the cities of Irbil and Salahuddin, Barham Salih, the prime minister of the Sulaymaniyah-based Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said Tuesday. The meeting had been planned for Saturday. Salih disputed reports that the United States opposes the Iraqi opposition meeting, which neighboring Iran has been supporting. "Our expectation is that when the meeting takes place, there will be a high-level American delegation that will take part," he said. He declined to provide the agenda for the meeting, but said the delegates elected during a London opposition conference in December would map out a framework for a future Iraqi government if Saddam Hussein is overthrown. It was not clear whether such a proposal would run afoul of U.S. plans. "We are on the brink of monumental fundamental change in Iraq," he said. He said safety and not American opposition was the main reason the meeting had been delayed. "Rationally, it's unlikely that Saddam will embark on such a foolish adventure by attacking us because by doing so he will be making the immediate case for his immediate demise," he said. "But this is a regime that does not think and act rationally." http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/044/nation/Some_in_Iraqi_opposition_fault_ US_plans_for_post_Hussein_regime+.shtml * SOME IN IRAQI OPPOSITION FAULT US PLANS FOR POST-HUSSEIN REGIME by Borzou Daragahi Boston Globe, from Associated Press, 13th February [.....] Under the US proposal, lower-level members of Hussein's Ba'ath Party would be allowed to keep their jobs in the Iraqi bureaucracy, another opposition figure said on condition of anonymity. "This policy was written by bureaucrats and technicians who know nothing at all of Iraqi reality," Makiya said. "It serves the interest of keeping the current Baathist power structure intact." Opposition leaders from the ethnic Kurdish community, however, indicated they were not as upset over the US role as Makiya and others in the Iraqi National Congress were. That indicated a possible rift between Kurds and Arabs in the factious Iraqi movement opposed to Hussein. Hoshyar Zebari, foreign relations chief of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said a US military occupation of Iraq was a logical step. "It's logical that it will happen if the US is going to create this campaign and put its credibility and soldiers on the line," said Zebari, who attended the Ankara meeting. The Kurds have their own government with democratic institutions and popular support among the 4 million people of their self-rule area, established after the 1991 Gulf War. Zebari said the once-warring Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union are collaborating on a "Kurdistan national unity government" to bolster their case for federal, semiautonomous status within any future government. Kurdish officials suggested yesterday that the interests of the Kurds and other opposition groups with no military force may not coincide. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/usatoday/20030213/ts_usatoday /4863221 * U.S. GENERAL WOULD RUN IRAQ by Barbara Slavin Yahoo, from USA Today, 13th February WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress on Wednesday that a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq would be run by a U.S. general using many of the bureaucrats who administer the country now. Powell spoke as the Bush administration firmed up plans for a military occupation of Iraq that would leave the country's Sunni Arab minority in control and permit Turkish troops to be stationed inside northern Iraq, over the vehement objections of Iraqi Kurds. The plan calls for a U.S. general to be in overall charge for at least two years. An Iraqi council that would include former senior statesmen would provide advice on a transition to a more representative form of government, U.S. and Iraqi sources say. "The plans we are looking at include using the institutions that are there," Powell told the House International Relations Committee. "There is a nation there. What it has is rotten leadership." With war possibly weeks away, the Bush administration is making public its most detailed vision yet for post-Saddam Iraq, in part to deflect criticism that it has few concrete plans for what to do after an invasion. Though some elements have leaked in recent months, Powell is the most senior administration official to publicly discuss the plan. Members of Congress say the administration has not done enough planning or prepared the American public for the war's aftermath. "We are way, way behind," Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a hearing Tuesday. Leaders of Iraqi opposition groups briefed in Turkey last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the top U.S. envoy for Iraq, said many of the administration plans are deeply troubling. A reliance on the current government infrastructure would continue the dominance of Arab Sunnis, who represent 10%-15% of the country's 22 million population. The majority, 60%-70%, are Arab Shiites. Most of the rest are Kurds, an ethnic group that has enjoyed relative independence for the past decade under the protection of U.S. and British air patrols. Farhad Barzani, representative of the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of two main Iraqi Kurdish groups, says he is particularly concerned about the Bush administration's agreement to allow Turkish troops to set up a buffer zone that would extend 15 miles into Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. The Turks have said they need the zone to prevent a repeat of the massive flow of refugees that occurred during the 1991 Gulf War. Barzani says that was before his group and another Iraqi Kurdish party established autonomous governments. Now, the Kurdish region is the freest and most prosperous in Iraq. It has a large presence of United Nations and non-governmental organizations. "We cannot accept the intervention of Turkey," he says. http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EB14Ak04.html * MEET THE NEW BOSS by Jim Lobe Asia Times, 14th February WASHINGTON - While final touches are being put on war plans that could involve as many as 250,000 US troops, officials here are still fighting among themselves over the shape of a post-war Iraq. Neo-conservative forces hoping for a complete removal of the governing Ba'ath regime from Baghdad and the creation of a new democratic state along the lines of a post-World War II West Germany or Japan are increasingly worried that the administration will settle for the removal of only the top layer of President Saddam Hussein's government. "It is very difficult for me to conceive of democratic institutions being established in Iraq with the Ba'athist power structure mostly intact," said Randy Scheunemann, executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), a group created last November that includes, among other influential foreign-policy players, Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman Richard Perle and former Secretary of State George Shultz. "It's like taking out Hitler and Himmler and leaving almost everyone else in place," he added. The same forces are also angry about the latest consultations of Bush's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition, Zalmay Khalilzad, who, they say, appears inclined to exclude the exiled Iraqi National Congress (INC) from a leading role in a transitional administration. Khalilzad, who met INC and other opposition leaders in Sulaymaniyah in US- and British protected northern Iraq last weekend, informed them of plans to install a US military governor in Baghdad for up to a year to oversee the transition with the aid of an appointed "consultative council" and a judicial committee that would draft a new constitution. INC sources briefed by Khalilzad also told the Washington Post that the US planned to remove only the top one or two Ba'athist officials in each government ministry, rather than attempt a much more sweeping purge of the structure that has ruled Iraq for more than a quarter century. Power is being handed essentially on a platter to the second echelon of the Ba'ath Party and the Iraqi officer corps," Kanan Makiya, an influential INC associate who met with Khalilzad and recently Bush himself at the White House, told the Post. Makiya and other INC sources said Khalilzad appeared to be favoring the interests of neighboring states, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which have expressed strong concerns about the implications of a major purge of the existing governmental and military apparatus on the stability of Iraq and the entire region. "They have come to the arrogant conclusion, 'Why piss around with the opposition? Why not do this in a way the Arab regimes will be much happier with'?" Makiya told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper after the meeting. A similar concern about the regional implications of Saddam's removal prompted severe warnings by Khalilzad to Kurdish opposition groups on the weekend against resisting Turkish intervention into northern Kurdistan once US troops invade. Ankara, which is believed to already have about 2,000 troops in the region, is worried that the Kurds will be tempted by the US invasion to quickly seize Kirkuk or Mosul, which could then form the basis of an independent Kurdish state which could, in turn, revive the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey itself. Washington reportedly has given the Turks a green light to send their own forces into northern Kurdistan in exchange for their agreement to let the US military use their territory as the jumping off point for a northern invasion of as many as 35,000 troops, as well as up to US$16 billion in various forms of aid. Khalilzad's advice to both the INC and the Kurds appeared to reflect the long-standing views of so-called "realists" in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who have been battling the pro-INC hawks centered in the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld over Washington's Iraq and Mideast policies since even before the September 11, 2001 attacks that launched Washington's war on terrorism. In addition to their sensitivity to the interests of Iraq's neighbors, both the State Department and the CIA, as well as the uniformed military with experience in the Gulf, have been openly skeptical about the INC. They have also ridiculed the neo-conservatives' notion that democratizing Iraq would have a "domino effect" on the rest of the region. Cheney himself has reportedly come to share their skepticism, particularly of the INC's leader, Ahmed Chalabi, who went to northern Kurdistan late last month reportedly in hopes of preparing a provisional administration that could assume power in territory taken by US forces as they made their way to Baghdad. It was the INC that nominated as many as 3,000 volunteers now being trained at a military base in Hungary to act as military police, interpreters, spotters and guides for invading US forces. "When Cheney took a look at the edifice the US was creating [with the INC], he apparently decided it couldn't bear the weight of international scrutiny," an anonymous official told the Los Angeles Times last week. The official said Cheney's distancing from the group has had a "chilling effect" on its Pentagon supporters who, according to another official, have not yet given up the fight. INC supporters were deeply disturbed by another meeting last week between Khalilzad and exiled former Iraqi foreign minister Adnan Pachachi, who, according to the New York Times, was being sounded out for a senior position in a transitional government. As a well respected Sunni Muslim - the minority group that has dominated Baghdad under Saddam - some US officials have argued that he would make a reassuring figure of continuity in a new government. But the INC and its Pentagon allies protested the meeting, pointing out that Pachachi, among other views, had advocated Kuwait's absorption by Iraq from 1961 until 1999, and questioned Israel's right to exist. "The outreach to Mr Pachachi ... suggests that the United States is mainly interested in perpetuating the status quo in a post-Saddam Iraq, and not in promoting democracy," one official told the Times. But pro-INC forces in and outside the administration remain optimistic that ultimately Bush will support their side. "The fact that one White House envoy is off having a rather strange meeting in the UAE is no indication that this president is going to give up on freedom for the Iraqi people," said Scheunemann. Paraphrasing a recent statement by Cheney himself, he added, "We are not going to risk American lives to replace one dictator with another." http://observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,896611,00.html * OUR HOPES BETRAYED: HOW A US BLUEPRINT FOR POST-SADDAM GOVERNMENT QUASHED THE HOPES OF DEMOCRATIC IRAQIS. by Kanan Makiya The Observer, 16th February The United States is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities. The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government. The plan reverses a decade-long moral and financial commitment by the US to the Iraqi opposition, and is guaranteed to turn that opposition from the close ally it has always been during the 1990s into an opponent of the United States on the streets of Baghdad the day after liberation. The bureaucrats responsible for this plan are drawn from those parts of the administration that have always been hostile to the idea of a US-assisted democratic transformation of Iraq, a transformation that necessarily includes such radical departures for the region as the de-Baathification of Iraq (along the lines of the de-Nazification of post-war Germany), and the redesign of the Iraqi state as a non-ethnically based federal and democratic entity. The plan is the brainchild of the would-be coup-makers of the CIA and their allies in the Department of State, who now wish to achieve through direct American control over the people of Iraq what they so dismally failed to achieve on the ground since 1991. Its driving force is appeasement of the existing bankrupt Arab order, and ultimately the retention under a different guise of the repressive institutions of the Baath and the army. Hence its point of departure is, and has got to be, use of direct military rule to deny Iraqis their legitimate right to self-determine their future. In particular it is a plan designed to humiliate the Kurdish people of Iraq and their experiment of self-rule in northern Iraq of the last 10 years, an experiment made possible by the protection granted to the Kurds by the United States itself. That protection is about to be lifted with the entry into northern Iraq of much-feared Turkish troops (apparently not under American command), infamous throughout the region for their decades-long hostility to Kurdish aspirations. All of this is very likely to turn into an unmitigated disaster for a healthy long-term and necessarily special relationship between the United States and post-Saddam Iraq, something that virtually every Iraqi not complicit in the existing Baathist order wants. I write as someone personally committed to that relationship. Every word that I have committed to paper in the last quarter of a century is, in one way or another, an application of the universal values that I have absorbed from many years of living and working in the West to the very particular conditions of Iraq. The government of the United States is about to betray, as it has done so many times in the past, those core human values of self determination and individual liberty. We Iraqis hoped and said to our Arab and Middle Eastern brethren, over and over again, that American mistakes of the past did not have to be repeated in the future. Were we wrong? Are the enemies of a democratic Iraq, the 'anti-imperialists' and 'anti-Zionists' of the Arab world, the supporters of 'armed struggle', and the upholders of the politics of blaming everything on the US who are dictating the agenda of the anti-war movement in Europe and the US, are all of these people to be proved right? Is the President who so graciously invited me to his Oval Office only a few weeks ago to discuss democracy, about to have his wishes subverted by advisers who owe their careers to those mistakes? We, the democratic Iraqi opposition, are the natural friends and allies of the United States. We share its values and long-term goals of peace, stability, freedom and democracy for Iraq. We are here in Iraqi Kurdistan 40 miles from Saddam's troops and a few days away from a conference to plan our next move, a conference that some key administration officials have done everything in their power to postpone. None the less, after weeks of effort in Tehran and northern Iraq, we have prevailed. The meeting will take place. It will discuss a detailed plan for the creation of an Iraqi leadership, one that is in a position to assume power at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. We will be opposed no doubt by an American delegation if it chooses to attend. Whether or not they do join us in the coming few days in northern Iraq, we will fight their attempts to marginalise and shunt aside the men and women who have invested whole lifetimes, and suffered greatly, fighting Saddam Hussein. To the President who so clearly wants to see a democratic Iraq, and to the American public that put its trust in him, I say: support us. Kanan Makiya is professor of Middle East studies at Brandeis University, Massachusetts http://www.observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,896502,00.html * THE LEFT ISN'T LISTENING: THE STOP THE WAR COALITION IS THE GREATEST THREAT TO ANY HOPE FOR A DEMOCRATIC IRAQ by Nick Cohen The Observer, 16th February When Saddam is sent to rendezvous with a judge in The Hague, or a rope on a lamppost, the democratic opposition in Iraq will need help. It has many enemies: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the CIA and the Foreign Office want to replace the old tyrant with a new, compliant dictator - a Saddam without a moustache. As the moment of decision arrives, Iraqi democrats and socialists have discovered that their natural allies in the European Left don't want to know them. They must add the shameless Stop the War coalition to the enemies list. Iraq is the only country in the Arab world with a strong, democratic movement. Yet I wonder how many who marched yesterday know of the dissenters' existence. The demonstration's organisers have gone to great lengths to censor and silence. How else could the self-righteous feel good about themselves? The usual accusation when whites ignore brown-skinned peoples is that of racism. It doesn't quite work in the Stop the War coalition's case. The Socialist Workers Party, which dominates the alliance, was happy to cohost the march with the reactionary British Association of Muslims. The association had blotted its copybook by circulating a newspaper which explained that apostasy from Islam is 'an offence punishable by death'. But what the hell. In the interests of multi-culturalism, the SWP ignored the protests of squeamish lefties and let that pass. The Trots aren't Islamophobes, after all. The only Muslims they have a phobia about are secular Iraqi Muslims who, shockingly, believe in human rights. The Iraqis made a fruitless appeal for fraternal solidarity last month. The Kurdish leader Barham Salih flew to a meeting of the Socialist International in Rome to argue for 'the imperative of freedom and liberation from fascism and dictatorship'. Those marchers who affect to believe in pluralism should find his arguments attractive, if they can suppress their prejudices long enough to hear him out. Salih explained that the no-fly zones enforced by the RAF and USAF had allowed his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party to build a fair imitation of democratic state in liberated northern Iraq. The Kurds promote the freedom of journalists, women and religious and racial minorities. Naturally, the local supporters of al-Qaeda agree with Baghdad that this intolerable liberal experiment must end, and the Kurds are having to fight both Saddam and the fundamentalists. Salih was prepared for that: what he wasn't prepared for was the enmity of the anti-war movement. Foolishly, he tried to reason with it. He pointed out that the choice wasn't between war or peace. Saddam 'has been waging war for decades and he has inflicted hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.' Indeed, he continued, the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds who are still under Baghdad's control continues to this day. 'I do not want war and I do not want civilian casualties, nor do those who are coming to our assistance,' he said. 'But the war has already begun.' What, he then asked, about the strange insistence of the anti-war movement that Iraqis must not be liberated until Israel withdraws from the occupied territories? Would the converse apply? If the Palestinians were on the verge of seeing Israeli rule overthrown, would hundreds of thousands take to the streets of London and bellow that Palestinians could not get rid of Sharon until Iraqis got rid of Saddam? Salih doubted it and also had little time for those who say war should be opposed because 'it's all about oil'. So what? he asked. 'Iraqis know that their human rights have too often been ignored because Iraqi oil was more important to the world than Iraqi lives. It would be a good irony if at long last oil becomes a cause of our liberation - if this is the case, then so be it. The oil will be a blessing and not the curse that it has been for so long... So to those who say "No War", I say, of course "yes", but we can only have "No War" if there is "No Dictatorship" and "No Genocide".' Readers with access to the internet can read the whole speech at www.puk.org. I urge you to do so because you're never going to hear democratic Iraqi voices if you rely on the anti-war movement. For most of the time, the comrades pretend the Iraqi opposition doesn't exist. Harold Pinter is the most striking member of a British Left with its hands over its ears. In 1988 he staged Mountain Language, a play about the banning of Kurdish in Turkey. The conceit was all too realistic: the world would never know of the suffering of the Kurds because the Kurds would never be allowed to speak. ('Your language is forbidden,' an officer bellows at Kurdish women. 'It is dead. No one is allowed to speak your language. Your language no longer exists. Any questions?') In 2003 when Iraqi Kurds found the words to ask for aid in an anti-fascist struggle, Pinter turned Pinteresque. He refused to hear the mountain tongue he had once defended and became a noisy supporter of the Stop the War coalition. The current issue of the left-wing magazine Red Pepper takes evasion into outright falsehood. It condemns journalists - well, one journalist, me - for being conned into believing the Iraqi opposition supports war. Only American stooges in the Iraqi National Congress want war, it announces with mendacious self-confidence. The main Iraqi parties - which Red Pepper lists as the Kurdish Democratic Party, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan - are with the peace protesters. It's a convincing case, spoilt only by the fact that the Iraqi National Congress is an umbrella organisation whose members include the Kurdish Democratic Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and, indeed, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, whose leader flew to Europe to beg the Left to get its priorities right and support a war against tyranny. If evasion and lies won't do, vilification is the last resort. The writings of the Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya have inspired the opposition and brought him many enemies, not least Saddam Hussein, who wants him dead. Edward Said has been only slightly less forgiving. Makiya, he wrote recently, is a man 'devoid of either compassion or real understanding, he prattles on for Anglo-American audiences who seem satisfied that here at last is an Arab who exhibits the proper respect for their power and civilisation... He represents the intellectual who serves power unquestioningly; the greater the power, the fewer doubts he has.' I like a good polemic and used to have some time for Said. But he too has fled into denial. Like the rest of anti-war movement he refuses to acknowledge that Makiya, Salih and their comrades are fighting the political battle of their lives against those 'Anglo-American audiences' in the powerhouses of London and Washington who oppose a democratic settlement. (See Makiya's article on page 20.) The democrats are struggling without the support of Western liberals and socialists because they don't fit into a pat world view. Here's why. The conclusion the Iraqi opposition has reluctantly reached is that there is no way other than war to remove a tyrant whose five secret police forces make a palace coup or popular uprising impossible. As the only military force on offer is provided by America, they will accept an American invasion. This is their first mistake. American and British power is always bad in the eyes of muddle headed Left, the recent liberations of East Timor, Sierra Leone and Kosovo notwithstanding. Then the uppity wogs compound their offence and tell their European betters to think about the political complexities. The British and American governments aren't monoliths, they argue. The State Department and the CIA have always been the foes of Iraqi freedom. But they are countered by the Pentagon and a US Congress which passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 - a law which instructs the American government to support democracy. Not one Iraqi I have met trusts the Foreign Office. However, they have had a grudging admiration for Tony Blair ever since he met the Kurdish leaders and gave them a fair hearing - a courteous gesture which hasn't been matched by the Pinters, Trotskyists, bishops, actresses and chorus girls on yesterday's march. The Iraqis must now accept that they will have to fight for democracy without the support of the British Left. Disgraceful though our failure to hear them has been, I can't help thinking that they'll be better off without us. http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=2244104 * OPPOSITION SCRAMBLE FOR ROLE IN A POST-SADDAM IRAQ by Joseph Logan Reuters, 18th February SALAHUDDIN, Iraq: Iraq's fractious opposition groups began gathering on Tuesday in the northern Kurdish enclave, hoping to form a united front and claim a role in government after any U.S. war to oust President Saddam Hussein. Representatives of numerous factions whose bickering has at times erupted into war began arriving in the breakaway Kurdish enclave to hammer out their own view of a post-Saddam Iraq in the face of U.S. plans for a period of direct military rule. A senior official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of two Kurdish groups that wrested northern Iraq from Baghdad's grip after the 1991 Gulf War, said bringing Saddam's foes together on his doorstep would show that Washington cannot simply impose its own order on a post-war Iraq. "Having this meeting here, people will take us more seriously and it will enhance our credibility, because this is on Iraqi soil; it will no longer be a matter of an 'exile' opposition," said KDP politburo member Hoshiyar Zebari, whose group will host the talks at its mountain base of Salahuddin. "There is still time to come to an accommodation about what they (the Americans) want to do," he said. "I am convinced the United States cannot ignore the Iraqi opposition." The meeting, due to start on February 19 or 20 and last two to three days, was organized after State Department officials raised the possibility of U.S. military rule as a transition phase before creation of a civilian government. The opposition groups, demanding a role in any U.S. plans for democratic government in Iraq, want the meeting to agree on forming a leadership council which would play a central part in a post-war government. But opposition infighting -- exemplified in a mid-1990s civil war between the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which now share control of northern Iraq -- has delayed the meeting and tarnished their image. That and the U.S. determination to push ahead with its plan for "regime change" in Iraq, mean the opposition groups have to present a united front and prove their relevance if they are to play a role on the post-war stage, analysts say. "It isn't as if the Americans would simply topple the regime, then tell the Iraqi opposition 'Here's the power; do what you like,"' said Kamran Karadaghi, a veteran analyst of Iraqi and Kurdish political affairs. "The U.S. troops are ready and they are determined to do this, no matter what happens in the United Nations or the streets of Europe...the Americans are going to do what they want. It is for the opposition to find a place in it." Washington is also sensitive to the concern of regional allies about the possibility of post Saddam Iraq fragmenting on ethnic and religious lines. Neighboring Turkey, whose support would be crucial to an invasion, is adamant there can be no autonomy for Iraq's Kurdish enclave that might rekindle separatism among Turkey's own Kurds. Participants will include the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which along with the Kurds form the only significant armed opposition to Saddam within Iraq. Also present will be the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress, long derided within the opposition as an American puppet with no support in Iraq. Zebari said he also expected U.S. and Turkish delegations at the meeting, which he said could influence anti-war sentiment by reminding outsiders of the Iraqi government's human rights abuses, including the use of chemical weapons against Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. "It will be timely, with all the anti-war demonstrations, for people to see that the bulk of the Iraqi opposition is for regime change," he said. "They are not informed about what Saddam Hussein has done to the people of Iraq over the years." http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/030218/2003021805.html * IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUPS MEET IN SELOUBI, TURKEY Arabic News, 18th February The meeting of the Iraqi opposition started yesterday in the Turkish city of Seloubi on the borders with Iraq. It includes the leader of the Kurdistani National Federation Jalal al Talibani; Najrwan al-Barazi, the regional officer at the Kurdistani Democratic Party and Saffan Agha, the official at the Turkman's Front. The Turkish TV said that an army general at the Turkish army staff and an American general, as well as a high ranking Turkish official at the general intelligence and the official for the Southern East Turkey region are taking part in the said meeting. The TV reported that the meeting will discuss cooperation and coordination between Turkey and the Kurdish groups and the USA before and after the forthcoming military operation against Iraq as well as the issue on the redeployment of the Turkish army to northern Iraq area. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1045510873088&p=1012571727172/ * OPPOSITION PUTS ITS TRUST IN NEW SPIRIT OF RECONCILIATION by Gareth Smyth in Salahuddin, northern Iraq Financial Times, 19th February In a heavy snowstorm yesterday on a narrow mountain road, senior officials of Iraq's two leading Kurdish parties got down from their four-wheel drive vehicles, walked towards each other and kissed. They and other opponents of Saddam Hussein hope a similar spirit will shape a crucial opposition meeting later this week. Jawhar Namaq, of the Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP), welcomed Fouad Massoum and Latif Rashid, of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in a simple act of reconciliation just outside Hiran, a village that saw bloody clashes between the two Kurdish groups between 1994 and 1997. Three subsequent years of fighting split the swathe of northern Iraq held by the Kurds. The PUK officials were on their way to the mountain resort of Salahuddin, less that 60km from Iraqi-controlled territory, where the KDP is preparing to host a meeting of the 65-strong co-ordinating committee of the Iraqi opposition, elected in December at a US-sponsored conference in London. It is expected to start at the end of the week, organisers say. The mood of quiet realism was reflected across the spectrum of delegates gathering in the Kurdish mountains. "The main elements of the opposition will work together," said Barham Saleh, de facto prime minister of the PUK-held region. A majority of the 65-strong committee represent the Kurdish parties and the main Shia Arab group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri). This reflects Iraq's ethnic and religious make-up. The Kurds, who are mainly Sunni Muslims, account for about 25 per cent of the population, and the Shia Arabs around 55 per cent. Together, they form a majority of Iraq's population, but have been largely - and often forcibly - excluded from power by Saddam Hussein's regime in which Sunni Arabs predominate. The conference is unlikely to endorse a proposal from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a liberal grouping led by Ahmed Chalabi, to declare a provisional government. The US, whose envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, is expected to be at the meeting, has opposed a declaration on the grounds that it does not want to tie its hands ahead of any regime change in Baghdad. And Bayan Jabor, of Sciri, said recently that while an alternative regime must be ready, it was important not to be distracted by arguments over ministries. Mr Jabor stressed that the challenge of the conference was a practical one of electing small working committees with specific briefs to develop co-ordination in areas such as external relations, information and field command. Similarly, while the opposition remains opposed to any US occupation of Iraq, both Sciri and Kurdish officials take a sober view of a plan for US military rule, working through Iraq's existing bureaucracy and lasting up to two years after Mr Hussein's removal. The plan, supported by some sections in the US administration, was put to Kurdish leaders at an Ankara meeting this month. Kanan Makiya, the US-based writer and INC member, at the weekend described as a "quisling" anyone co-operating with an American military administration, and a second INC official said that opposing such a plan was top priority as Mr Hussein was "already finished". But most in the opposition are in no mood to count unhatched chickens. "We must be pleased the Americans will help in liberating our country," Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader, said on Saturday. "The Kurds are the partners of the US in ending tyranny in Iraq." Underlying the confidence of Kurdish and Sciri officials is the belief that the US lacks the will and the stamina to control a country as complex and independent-minded as Iraq. "Iraqis will run Iraq sooner or later," said a senior Kurd with extensive experience in the west. "The transition won't be long, as the Americans don't have the stomach for nation building." For Sciri, Mr Jabor stressed that the US would need help even during the transition. "At the end of the day, the Americans will have to deal with the people - the PUK, the KDP and SCIRI - who are the main forces on the ground and who can influence the Iraqi street during and after any change," he said. With the Ba'ath party in power in Iraq since 1968, the opposition now senses its long haul may finally be leading to Baghdad. "People in Baghdad thought the opposition abroad could do nothing and so weren't interested," said a Baghdad Arab teacher recently arrived in the Kurdish zone. "Since America came on the scene [committed to regime change], they believed more in the opposition. Now everyone is beginning to listen." 'No dissent' among training camp recruits The US general in charge of training Iraqi opposition volunteers at a Hungarian air base yesterday said volunteers were enthusiastic and that he had noticed no signs of internal division, Robert Wright reports from Taszár. Maj Gen David Barno was responding to questions about Iraqi opposition groups' apparent unhappiness at the possibility of a lengthy military occupation, in case of war, before the country is handed over to domestic authorities. The general was speaking after showing Ferenc Juhász, Hungary's defence minister, and Nancy Goodman-Brinker, the US ambassador to Hungary, round the training camp, which has been named Camp Freedom. Volunteers have been training at the camp since late last month for support roles in running Iraq after any US-led invasion. The trainees had been able to maintain contact with the outside world, the general said. But he did not know whether they had stayed in touch with those who had put them forward for training. He said: "I can tell you that none of their discussions . . . indicates that there are any issues of divisiveness or concern in terms of their reasons for being here. They are very enthusiastic." He said all volunteers were being given the same training to equip them for rebuilding Iraq. But he would not say how many volunteers were at the camp. Reports have suggested there are far fewer than the 3,000 maximum set by the Hungarian authorities. Volunteers are aged from 18 to nearly 60. The general said that Iraqi opposition groups were still recruiting and he expected more volunteers. NO URL (sent to list) * IRAQ FOR THE IRAQIS: AFTER THE INVASION, LEAVE IT TO US TO ESTABLISH DEMOCRACY by Ahmad Chalabi Wall Street Journal, 19th February SULEIMANIYAH, Iraq--We the Iraqis are ready to embark on a final journey to fulfill our destiny as a dignified and free nation. Here in northern Iraq, I am surrounded by fellow Iraqi patriots, many of whom are now gathering in this liberated zone. We have long been united around the goal of claiming our country from the hands of tyranny. Our struggle for freedom has been a long epic, but our hour of liberation is now beginning. While the day of Iraq's freedom is at hand, a day of reckoning for U.S.-Iraqi relations is also close by. After decades of struggle the Iraqi people, with the assistance of the U.S., have a chance finally to construct a free and democratic society at peace with itself and with the world. This cooperation between the Iraqi people and the U.S. also has the potential of being a historical watershed between the Arab and Muslim world and America. No doubt the U.S. will carry the heavy burden of the immediate military campaign. However, we in the democratic Iraqi opposition have been carrying the equally heavy burden of the political struggle against Saddam for many long and lonely decades. The polite term of "regime change" is new in the American political vocabulary. But the idea of democracy in Iraq and liberty for the Iraqi people have been in the conscience of Iraqis for three generations. We have sought it, dreamed of it, and fought for it--always paying a high price in lives lost. As deliverance approaches, we therefore intend to be full participants in shaping the future Iraq. American help is essential--and is welcomed--in winning the fight against Saddam. But the liberation of our country and its reintegration into the world community is ultimately a task that we Iraqis must shoulder. This is why the proposed U.S. occupation and military administration of Iraq is unworkable and unwise. Unworkable, because it is predicated on keeping Saddam's existing structures of government, administration and security in place--albeit under American officers. It would ultimately leave important decisions about the future of Iraq in the hands of either foreign occupiers or Saddam's officials. Unwise, because it will result in long-term damage to the U.S.-Iraq relationship and America's position in the region and beyond. The current U.S. plan proposed for Iraq, as outlined by senior officials in congressional testimony and in discussions with the Iraqi opposition, calls for an American military governor to rule Iraq for up to two years. American officers would staff the top three levels of Iraqi government ministries with the rest of the structure remaining the same. The occupation authorities would appoint a "consultative council" of hand-picked Iraqis with non-executive powers and unspecified authority, serving at the pleasure of the American governor. The occupation authorities would also appoint a committee to draft a constitution for Iraq. After an unspecified period, indirect elections would be held for a "constituent assembly" that would vote to ratify the new constitution without a popular referendum. Here in Iraqi Kurdistan, it is easy to sense the people's mood of jubilation as President Bush moves closer to ending Saddam and his Baath party's 35-year reign of terror over Iraq. The Baathist ideology is rooted in the racist doctrines of 1930s fascism and Saddam has used the Baath to create a one-party totalitarian state. For Iraq to rejoin the international community under a democratic system, it is essential to end the Baathist control over all aspects of politics and civil society. Iraq needs a comprehensive program of de-Baathification even more extensive than the de-Nazification effort in Germany after World War II. You cannot cut off the viper's head and leave the body festering. Unfortunately, the proposed U.S. plan will do just that if it does not dismantle the Baathist structures. We deserve better. The U.S. has a moral obligation to Iraqis to fight for more. Apart from the practical and ethical problems in terms of loss of Iraqi sovereignty, it is a recipe for disaster on two grounds. First, it puts Americans in the position of having to defend Baathists. What will happen when Iraqis step forward to accuse Baathist officials of torture and crimes? Will American soldiers protect these officials? Second, it forces American officers to make difficult decisions about Iraqi society and culture with very little knowledge. For example, will an American colonel at the ministry of education decide on the role of Islam in school curricula? How will American officials determine issues of compensation and restitution for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people returning to their homes, which may be occupied by others? Will America have a seat at OPEC and the Arab League, or the Islamic Conference? Will it redesign Iraq's flag--or, even worse, keep the existing one, which was created by Saddam? The truth is, there is more to the liberation of Iraq than battlefield victory or the removal of Saddam and his top-tier cadre of torturers. The transition to democracy--the task of exorcising Saddam's ghosts from the Iraqi psyche and society--can only be achieved through self-empowerment and a full return of sovereignty to the people. This is our job, not that of a foreign officer. We are a proud nation, not a vanquished one. We are allies of the U.S. and we welcome Americans as liberators. But we must be full participants in the process of administering our country and shaping its future. Today, members of the Iraqi opposition and representatives of the many resistance groups inside government-controlled areas are gathering for a conference that marks the beginning of the final phase of our struggle. The biggest joke here is the criticism from our opponents in the West that we are fractured. Iraq is a diverse society and this multifaceted nature of the opposition is not its weakness--it is our core strength on the road to democracy. In embarking on a journey toward freedom in Iraq, the U.S. does not need to handpick a successor to Saddam, nor does it need to predetermine every single step in the post-Saddam era. But we expect the U.S. to make a full commitment to accepting the will of the Iraqi people and not fail us in our desire for justice. The idea that those who struggled against tyranny with blood and lives should have less of a say than those who have found a way to get by inside the tyranny is outrageous. We hope Washington and other allies of the Iraqi people will hear the message from this conference. We are ready to assume responsibility for the transition to democracy. ISRAELI INTEREST http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=378428 * THE CASE AGAINST WAR: A CONFLICT DRIVEN BY THE SELF-INTEREST OF AMERICA by Robert Fisk The Independent, 15th February In the end, I think we are just tired of being lied to. Tired of being talked down to, of being bombarded with Second World War jingoism and scare stories and false information and student essays dressed up as "intelligence". We are sick of being insulted by little men, by Tony Blair and Jack Straw and the likes of George Bush and his cabal of neo-conservative henchmen who have plotted for years to change the map of the Middle East to their advantage. No wonder, then, that Hans Blix's blunt refutation of America's "intelligence" at the UN yesterday warmed so many hearts. Suddenly, the Hans Blixes of this world could show up the Americans for the untrustworthy "allies" they have become. The British don't like Hussein any more than they liked Nasser. But millions of Britons remember, as Blair does not, the Second World War; they are not conned by childish parables of Hitler, Churchill, Chamberlain and appeasement. They do not like being lectured and whined at by men whose experience of war is Hollywood and television. Still less do they wish to embark on endless wars with a Texas governor-executioner who dodged the Vietnam draft and who, with his oil buddies, is now sending America's poor to destroy a Muslim nation that has nothing at all to do with the crimes against humanity of 11 September. Jack Straw, the public school Trot-turned-warrior, ignores all this, with Blair. He brays at us about the dangers of nuclear weapons that Iraq does not have, of the torture and aggression of a dictatorship that America and Britain sustained when Saddam was "one of ours". But he and Blair cannot discuss the dark political agenda behind George Bush's government, nor the "sinister men" (the words of a very senior UN official) around the President. Those who oppose war are not cowards. Brits rather like fighting; they've biffed Arabs, Afghans, Muslims, Nazis, Italian Fascists and Japanese imperialists for generations, Iraqis included though we play down the RAF's use of gas on Kurdish rebels in the 1930s. But when the British are asked to go to war, patriotism is not enough. Faced with the horror stories, Britons and many Americans are a lot braver than Blair and Bush. They do not like, as Thomas More told Cromwell in A Man for All Seasons, tales to frighten children. Perhaps Henry VIII's exasperation in that play better expresses the British view of Blair and Bush: "Do they take me for a simpleton?" The British, like other Europeans, are an educated people. Ironically, their opposition to this obscene war may make them feel more, not less, European. Palestine has much to do with it. Brits have no love for Arabs but they smell injustice fast enough and are outraged at the colonial war being used to crush the Palestinians by a nation that is now in effect running US policy in the Middle East. We are told that our invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a burning, fearsome wound to which Bush devoted just 18 words in his meretricious State of the Union speech but even Blair can't get away with that one; hence his "conference" for Palestinian reform at which the Palestinians had to take part via video-link because Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, refused to let them travel to London. So much for Blair's influence over Washington the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, "regretted" that he couldn't persuade Sharon to change his mind. But at least one has to acknowledge that Sharon war criminal though he may be for the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacres treated Blair with the contempt he deserves. Nor can the Americans hide the link between Iraq and Israel and Palestine. In his devious address to the UN Security Council last week, Powell linked the three when he complained that Hamas, whose suicide bombings so cruelly afflict Israelis, keeps an office in Baghdad. Just as he told us about the mysterious al-Qa'ida men who support violence in Chechnya and in the "Pankisi gorge". This was America's way of giving Vladimir Putin a free hand again in his campaign of rape and murder against the Chechens, just as Bush's odd remark to the UN General Assembly last 12 September about the need to protect Iraq's Turkomans only becomes clear when one realises that Turkomans make up two thirds of the population of Kirkuk, one of Iraq's largest oil fields. The men driving Bush to war are mostly former or still active pro-Israeli lobbyists. For years, they have advocated destroying the most powerful Arab nation. Richard Perle, one of Bush's most influential advisers, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Donald Rumsfeld were all campaigning for the overthrow of Iraq long before George W Bush was elected if he was elected US President. And they weren't doing so for the benefit of Americans or Britons. A 1996 report, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm) called for war on Iraq. It was written not for the US but for the incoming Israeli Likud prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and produced by a group headed by yes, Richard Perle. The destruction of Iraq will, of course, protect Israel's monopoly of nuclear weapons and allow it to defeat the Palestinians and impose whatever colonial settlement Sharon has in store. Although Bush and Blair dare not discuss this with us a war for Israel is not going to have our boys lining up at the recruiting offices Jewish American leaders talk about the advantages of an Iraqi war with enthusiasm. Indeed, those very courageous Jewish American groups who so bravely oppose this madness have been the first to point out how pro-Israeli organisations foresee Iraq not only as a new source of oil but of water, too; why should canals not link the Tigris river to the parched Levant? No wonder, then, that any discussion of this topic must be censored, as Professor Eliot Cohen, of Johns Hopkins University, tried to do in the Wall Street Journal the day after Powell's UN speech. Cohen suggested that European nations' objections to the war might yet again be ascribed to "anti-Semitism of a type long thought dead in the West, a loathing that ascribes to Jews a malignant intent." This nonsense, it must be said, is opposed by many Israeli intellectuals who, like Uri Avnery, argue that an Iraq war will leave Israel with even more Arab enemies, especially if Iraq attacks Israel and Sharon then joins the US battle against the Arabs. The slur of "anti-Semitism" also lies behind Rumsfeld's snotty remarks about "old Europe". He was talking about the "old" Germany of Nazism and the "old" France of collaboration. But the France and Germany that oppose this war are the "new" Europe, the continent which refuses, ever again, to slaughter the innocent. It is Rumsfeld and Bush who represent the "old" America; not the "new" America of freedom, the America of F D Roosevelt. Rumsfeld and Bush symbolise the old America that killed its native Indians and embarked on imperial adventures. It is "old" America we are being asked to fight for linked to a new form of colonialism an America that first threatens the United Nations with irrelevancy and then does the same to Nato. This is not the last chance for the UN, nor for Nato. But it may well be the last chance for America to be taken seriously by her friends as well as her enemies. In these last days of peace the British should not be tripped by the oh-so-sought-after second UN resolution. UN permission for America's war will not make the war legitimate; it merely proves that the Council can be controlled with bribes, threats or abstentions. It was the Soviet Union's abstention, after all, which allowed America to fight the savage Korean war under the UN flag. And we should not doubt that after a quick US military conquest of Iraq and providing 'they" die more than we die there will be plenty of anti-war protesters who will claim they were pro-war all along. The first pictures of "liberated" Baghdad will show Iraqi children making victory signs to American tank crews. But the real cruelty and cynicism of this conflict will become evident as soon as the "war" ends, when our colonial occupation of a Muslim nation for the US and Israel begins. There lies the rub. Bush calls Sharon a "man of peace". But Sharon fears he may yet face trial over Sabra and Chatila, which is why Israel has just withdrawn its ambassador to Belgium. I'd like to see Saddam in the same court. And Rifaat Assad for his 1982 massacre in the Syrian city of Hama. And all the torturers of Israel and the Arab dictatorships. Israeli and US ambitions in the region are now entwined, almost synonymous. This war is about oil and regional control. It is being cheer-led by a draft-dodger who is treacherously telling us that this is part of an eternal war against "terror". And the British and most Europeans don't believe him. It's not that Britons wouldn't fight for America. They just don't want to fight for Bush or his friends. And if that includes the Prime Minister, they don't want to fight for Blair either. http://www.jordantimes.com/Wed/opinion/opinion3.htm (available online for one week only) * 'THE AXIS OF EVIL' by Hasan Abu Nimah Jordan Times, 19th February WE LIVE in a world that has never lived without a natural or man-made catastrophe in one or other of its corners. We have come to accept that some of these disasters are simply inevitable. But that is not the case when a superpower decrees that we must have a war for the most unconvincing, fabricated reasons, for an openly imperialistic ideology, for power and greed, and for distraction from other, glaring, failures. These reasons, and nothing more, lie behind the US drive for an attack on Iraq, supported primarily by the United Kingdom and Israel. The irony is that more and more people in the world, especially in the Middle East, are starting to see these three countries acting together as the true "axis of evil". Haaretz confirmed that Israel's "military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq". ("Enthusiastic Israeli army awaits war in Iraq", Haaretz, Feb. 17, 2003) Israel's leadership hopes that the destruction of Iraq will lead to the total subjugation and defeat of Syria, Lebanon and Iran. Israel also hopes to benefit from deep divisions about Iraq among the United States and its European allies. According to the Israeli newspaper: "There is also excitement in the Israeli army's planning department over the stand-off between the US and its NATO allies. A paper distributed to the army's upper echelons even spoke of an opportunity to remove the pro-Palestinian Europeans from the Middle East. A senior source said Saturday that the US will punish the Europeans for their back-stabbing on the road to Baghdad, and will no longer ask them for input regarding Israeli concessions." This zeal for war and destruction is supposed to lead to an outcome where a defeated Arab world and a marginalised Europe cannot stand in the way of Israel, backed by an increasingly extremist and isolated United States, imposing any settlement it wants on the Palestinians. At best, what the Palestinians can hope for is direct Israeli rule with all their civil and national rights cancelled. This will be Israel's "generous" alternative to what many in Israel's leadership really want, which is the total ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Looking back, this is no more than an attempt to achieve what was tried ‹ but failed ‹ more subtly after the 1991 Gulf War. The main difference is that the first war was widely seen as justified by Iraq's clear transgression of invading and occupying Kuwait. What followed was essentially not different from what is planned this time. The 1991 war created "convenient" circumstances for an Arab-Israeli settlement. The PLO was severely weakened politically and hard hit financially, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians working in Gulf states were expelled and governments cut off their assistance to the leadership. The PLO was not even accepted as a direct participant in the October 1991 Madrid conference, and the talks which followed in Washington. With Israel's position thus strengthened, and unlimited American diplomatic support (except for token and temporary US resistance to aid for Israel's colony-building on Palestinian land), Israel did not respond to any of the far-reaching Palestinian compromises offered for peace, including full recognition of Israel in advance and full acceptance of the two-state solution. Rather, Israel took advantage of the weakness and desperation of the PLO and, behind the backs of the Washington negotiators, hatched the secret Oslo agreement which must go down in history as one of the worst deals ever made. This disaster simply laundered, with full PLO approval, all of Israel illegal war gains, at the expense of the Palestinian people. Negotiations were dragged on indefinitely in order to allow Israel the necessary time to achieve de facto annexation of all of the conquered territory. By imposing, by brute force, a scandalously unjust and humiliating deal on the Palestinians, entirely denying their political and national rights, and by reducing the PLO to nothing more than a South Lebanon army-like police force for the Israeli occupation, Israel laid the grounds for the present Intifada and did not achieve the "peace" of the strong that it hopes for. The warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv believe that this time round they can get it right, having failed twelve years ago, by going all the way. Once they impose "total defeat" on the Palestinians and Arabs, they believe a golden age will open for Israel, which will face no obstacles before it. This will not happen. It is quite possible that an attack on Iraq will destroy that country and produce immense political pressure on Syria, Lebanon and Iran. It is also possible that Israel, while world attention is focused on Iraq, will further intensify its campaign of war crimes against the Palestinians. It is even possible that by raising the level of atrocities even higher, Israel will claim to have imposed some sort of order on the situation, to have "defeated" the Palestinians. None of this will succeed. Israel, instead, will be guaranteed only more unrest, more determined resistance, more bloodshed and more horror. The planned war against Iraq is an idea of a small group of ultra-pro-Israeli hawks who hatched it in the mid-1990s when they were advising the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Today, this same small group has hijacked American policy at the Pentagon. This group, that gathered around figures like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, is not concerned with Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction", human rights or terrorism. Their concern is the pure pursuit of power. For this group, there is no difference between American interests and the interests of Israel as defined by the most extreme elements. They have an obsession with the Arab and Muslim world that borders on hatred. While it is easy to trace the growing influence of this group on an American establishment that has always allowed Israel to set the agenda for US policy in the Middle East, the UK's slavish commitment to this group is more puzzling. The British people are clearly concerned about how their prime minister seems to have transformed himself into America's deputy secretary of state in pursuit of an agenda that holds nothing positive for Britain. The UK always calculated that by forging a "special relationship" with the United States, it would gain influence both in America and in Europe. Prime Minister Tony Blair's foolish policies have done the opposite. The Americans simply take British support for granted, while Britain's position in Europe is worse even than it was under Thatcher. And for what? Blair claims that the UK is in danger from global terror. Maybe so, but many of his people answer that his dangerous policies are exposing the country to such terror rather than dealing effectively with any threat. The voices of the tens of millions who marched for peace all over the world are sending a loud message to the United States, Britain and Israel, the three pillars of this new axis, if not of "evil", then at least of raw, dangerous power and colonialism. These are voices of truth and reason. They are voices which bridge the gulf of misunderstanding, fear and suspicion between the West and the rest of the world, that figures like Bush, Blair and Sharon are fuelling. Let us hope that the millions who came out will act as an urgently needed check on the forces who relish war and use words like "justice" and "peace" only to mock them. http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=263522&displayTyp eCd=1&sideCd=1&contrassID=2 * ENTHUSIASTIC IDF AWAITS WAR IN IRAQ by Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent Haaretz, 16th February (?) The Prime Minister's Office ascribes little importance to the diplomatic hurdles America must overcome in the UN Security Council on the path to a war against Iraq. Israel estimates that the date of attack depends only on logistical considerations, when the deployment of U.S. troops is complete, and that the war will begin at the end of February or the beginning of March. No delays or any kind of influence are expected from the coalition negotiations. The military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq, seeing it as an opportunity to win the war of attrition with the Palestinians. According to their approach removing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from his position will signify Palestinian surrender. Major General Amos Gilad, Coordinator of Government Activities in the West Bank and Gaza, expressed the army's position Saturday, saying that a U.S.-led attack on Iraq would remove the Iraqi threat, and would be an example for "the removal of other dictators closer to us who use violence and terror." Senior IDF officers and those close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, such as National Security Advisor Ephraim Halevy, paint a rosy picture of the wonderful future Israel can expect after the war. They envision a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein followed by that of Israel's other enemies: Arafat, Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Assad, the ayatollah in Iran and maybe even Muhammar Gadaffi. Along with these leaders, will disappear terror and weapons of mass destruction. There is also excitement in the IDF's planning department over the standoff between the U.S. and its NATO allies. A paper distributed to the army's upper echelons even spoke of an opportunity to remove the pro-Palestinian Europeans from the Middle East. A senior source said Saturday that the U.S. will punish the Europeans for their back-stabbing on the road to Baghdad, and will no longer ask them for input regarding Israeli concessions. [.....] _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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