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[casi] News, 19-26/02/03 (6)

News, 19-26/02/03 (6)


*  Britons are urged to quit Iraq as war looms
*  Iraq minister raps Blair for misinformation
*  10 million land mines lie in wait inside Iraq
*  What is the US really up against?
*  Prominent Iraqis appeal for democracy
*  Arslan meets with Saddam to show Lebanese support
*  Saddam Hussein Rejects Going Into Exile


*  Norway Expels Islamic Extremist Leader
*  KDP arrests agents of Iraq regime
*  Move to freeze assets of Islamic group
*  Iraqi Kurd leader says strong moral case for war
*  Feud Between Kurdish Clans Creates Its Own Warion
*  U.S. Slow To Sanction Terror Group


by Kim Sengupta
The Independent, 20th February

British nationals were warned yesterday to leave Iraq immediately, or risk
becoming "human shields".

The warning was issued as the last major wave of troops was dispatched from
Britain to the Gulf for a possible war. The deployment, from RAF Brize
Norton in Oxfordshire, comprised more than a thousand paratroopers, infantry
and support troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade. Military sources pointed
towards mid-March as the most likely time for a conflict.

With diplomatic manoeuvring accompanying the military build-up, the Foreign
Office also urged Britons not to travel to Kuwait or Israel unless
absolutely necessary, and to leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The warning
may be extended to other countries in the region depending on changing

Defence sources say a campaign against Iraq is likely to start with fierce
aerial bombardment lasting "just a few days" followed by a massive armoured
sweep towards Baghdad. American and British special forces are believed to
be entering the region, including elements moving into Kurdistan.

On its travel advice website, the Foreign Office cited the "increasing
regional tension" and the risk of terrorism as the reason for its advice. It
said "If you are considering going to Iraq you should be aware that British
nationals were used as hostages during the 1990-91 crisis by the Iraqi
regime, being held where their safety was at most risk. You should also be
aware that there is no British diplomatic presence in Iraq."

It is estimated there are between 150 and 250 Britons in the country,
including journalists as well as volunteer "human shields" ­ anti-war

The latest troop deployment will take the British military presence in the
region to about 19,000 ­ 9,000 soldiers, 8,000 sailors and Royal Marines and
2,000 from the RAF. But the bulk of the main British ground force, the 7th
Armoured Brigade ("Desert Rats"), has yet to leave its bases in Germany.

by Neena Gopal
Gulf News, 20th February

Baghdad: In a spirited rebuttal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's
critique of Iraq being better off before Saddam Hussein became president of
the country, Iraq's trade minister Mohammed Mahdi Saleh produced documentary
evidence to prove that Iraq's revenues had in fact jumped by 2807 per cent
from its pre-revolution era.

"I would like Tony Blair to read his history," he said, "the UN resolutions
imposed by his country and that of the US is responsible for the
malnutrition in our country."

He also blamed the US and UK for the contaminated water supply in the
country after the water and sewerage systems were bombed by coalition forces
in '91.

Saleh said that until sanctions were imposed Iraq's population enjoyed a
high standard of living from its oil revenues, that were further enhanced by
the Iraqi President's decision in 1972 to nationalise oil.

Saleh indicated that despite the embargo and the attempts by the US and
Britain to destroy Iraq's resources, they were far better placed to face an
attack than they were in 1991.

"We have distributed six months of food stocks to our people, and  we have
made alternative arrangements if they bomb our water and power supply

"We cannot protect the water treatment plants because they are so big, but
we are distributing water purification tablets and so on, asking people to
get small generators for their homes and to use small wells."

The food was distributed to all the people of Iraq, "regardless of whether
they are from Kurdistan or from elsewhere in Iraq, every Iraqi has a right
to an equal amount of food," he said.

He also vowed that even if Iraq was attacked, the government would ensure
that food would continue to be distributed, despite reports from the west to
the contrary.

Rejecting the need for UN humanitarian agencies to set up refugee shelters,
he said Iraq knew what needed to be done. "We took care of it in '91, we can
do so again, there is no worry about this."

He said the average for Iraq's oil revenues for 1931-50 was $43.45m, which
rose to $306m from 1958-67, which further jumped to $8590m post 1968 July
revolution until sanctions were imposed in '91..

He said Iraq had imported goods and services worth a whopping $20b to
benefit a population in 1989 of 18 million Iraqis, which in 2003 stood at 26

He clearly pointed to sanctions imposed by Britain and the US after August
'90's UN resolution 661 as responsible for the downturn, after a complete
embargo on all oil and other exports and imports of food and medicine was

This was relaxed later he said through UN Resolution 687  in April 91 to
allow the purchase of limited amounts of food and medicine.

"Iraq used $500m of its $4b in frozen assets to purchase food and medicine "
until another resolution banned it from using its frozen assets to buy food
and medicine. "These assets could only be used to finance UNSCOM
operations," he said, adding

" uptil now neither the US administration nor the British government have
allowed the release of the Iraq's four billion dollars frozen at their

"Had Iraq been allowed to use its frozen assets and had the US
administration not put pressure on the UN to block funds, many lives would
have been saved, and suffering averted."

Saleh slammed the oil for food programme as "political rather than
humanitarian," that instead of improving the welfare of Iraqis had led to a
rise in infant mortality.

"Nearly 1.7 m children and adults have died. Upto 1990, FAO certified Iraq
had one of the highest per capita food availability and WHO certified that
90 per cent of the population had access to clean drinking water.

by Juan O. Tamayo
The State, from Miami Herald, 20th February

CAMP 6, Kuwait -- U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Vanormer spotted it first, a green,
tennis-sized ball on the desert sand: It was an anti-personnel bomblet left
over from the Persian Gulf War in 1991, still lethal enough to blow off a

Munitions like it have killed 1,700 civilians in Kuwait since the war ended,
despite a massive and continuing campaign that has removed one million land
mines and 100 tons of unexploded ordnance from the Kuwaiti desert since the

U.S. troops will face the same threat if they invade Iraq: 10 million land
mines sown by Saddam Hussein along his borders, plus unexploded ordnance, or
UXO, from 1991 and from the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

"Kuwait de-mined heavily and people still find them to this day. Iraq never
de-mined, so that must be a very dangerous UXO environment," said an army
colonel from an Asian country who worked on Kuwait's de-mining campaign. He
spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

U.S. military officers here awaiting President Bush's decision on an attack
against Iraq say they are deeply concerned about land-mine and UXO risks.

"We know Saddam will put some mines out there to try to block our way, and
we're trained to deal with those threats," said Vanormer, 32, a Pittsburgh
native and combat engineer with the 3rd Infantry Division.

But the gulf war showed that land mines and UXOs can slow down attacks,
divert units from assigned targets and cause friendly casualties, especially
among rear-guard units that lack armored vehicles.

One 1st Cavalry Division support unit took five days to move 20 miles into
Kuwait because its route was "saturated" with dud U.S. bomblets that were
fired at Iraqi troops, according to a September report by Congress' General
Accounting Office on the use of land mines during the Gulf War.

Although the Pentagon reported that 177 of the 1,364 American casualties in
that war were caused by Iraqi and "unknown" mines and UXOs -- not U.S.-made
-- the GAO said some casualties probably were caused by American munitions.

U.S. troops deployed 117,634 land mines in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, "the
largest U.S. combat use of its newer aircraft and artillery-delivered . . .
self-destructing mines" in history, the GAO reported.

These so-called smart mines are supposed to self-destruct within four hours,
48 hours or 15 days of deployment, and their batteries are designed to die
in 120 days. The United States didn't deploy "dumb" mines in Kuwait or Iraq,
the GAO said.

U.S. warplanes also dropped thousands of tons of bombs around Iraq, many of
them canisters with up to 250 bomblets designed to spread in the air and
explode on the ground.

Despite what the Asian colonel called "the most intensive, extensive and
expensive de mining campaign in history" to clean up unexploded munitions,
they have killed 1,700 people and injured another 2,300 since the Gulf War

Three youths joy-riding in the western desert last month were injured when
their four-wheel drive vehicle set off an unidentified UXO, the Kuwait Times
newspaper reported.

One U.S. soldier was injured and his 70-ton Abrams tank lost three pieces of
tread when it detonated an apparent anti-tank mine on desert maneuvers in
October, Vanormer said.

The U.S. bomblet that he spotted near Camp 6, a U.S. urban warfare training
base 10 miles from the Iraqi border, was marked and safely detonated later
by an explosives and ordnance-removal unit.

In contrast to Kuwait, Iraq isn't known to have carried out any methodical
demining operations since 1991.

Iraq's military actually has planted 10 million mines to protect itself,
according to State Department reports. They are mainly along Iraq's northern
border with rebel Kurdish areas and its southern and eastern borders with
Kuwait and Iran.

Half of Iraq's agricultural land is reported to be unusable now because of
the mines and UXOs, and the Iraqi News Agency carries occasional reports on
children killed by UXOs, especially in areas of southeastern Iraq that saw
pitched fighting during the war against Iran.

by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 21st February

CAIRO - Whatever the spin, whatever the rhetoric about "liberation",
whatever the wishful thinking of a Japan rising in the Middle East, whatever
the battle plan one subscribes to, this will be a war essentially against
the Iraqi people. It won't be a war in the first place. It will be a
one-sided massacre. Iraq has no air force. Iraq has no navy. Iraq has no
satellite network to coordinate military action. But Iraqi Trade Minister
Mohammed Mahdi Saleh is the latest in a flurry of regime officials to swear
that the country is preparing as if war could happen tomorrow. Let's try to
find out how.

In Iraq, the Ba'ath Party controls the army and the clans control the
Ba'ath. Iraqi historian and sociologist Faleh Jaber, a researcher at the
University of London, notes that in the 1960s the Iraqi armed forces
consisted of a regular army plus the Republican Guard. When the Ba'ath Party
regained power in 1968, it upgraded the Republican Guard: the army still had
the responsibility to defend the country, but the guard's responsibility
became to defend the regime. When Saddam Hussein took power in 1979, there
was not a single army official in the Revolutionary Command Council. Another
Iraqi historian, Majid Khuduri, says that Ba'ath was the first regime to
subordinate the army to civil authority.

The young Saddam Hussein, heavily influenced by his maternal uncle, was a
big fan of Adolf Hitler's system. Then he became a huge fan of Josef Stalin.
Jaber says that Saddam's system follows these influences, but with original
features: "Like the German model, the Ba'ath system in Iraq has four
supporting bases: a totalitarian ideology, a single party, control of the
economy [so-called socialist], and control of the media and the army." Ilios
Yannakakis, a Greek historian based in Paris and a Middle East specialist,
arguably has the best definition of the Ba'ath Party: "The social and
socialist branch of fascism."

Unlike the Nazi model, the Ba'ath model is all about tribes and clans
supporting the state. Since the early years it has been a sort of state
tribalism, limited to the ruling elite's tribe, the Albu Nasir. The core of
this tribe is the very important al-Beijat clan. The fact that Iraq
literally floats over a sea of oil enabled the Ba'ath Party initially to
invest heavily in public services and many forms of social protection. Jamal
Salman, professor of economics at the University of Baghdad, confirmed to
this correspondent last year that the Iraqi middle class became prosperous
in the 1970s not because of Western-style capitalism, but thanks to state
contracts and jobs. In the 1970s, tribal groups ruled: what Jaber calls
"class-clan" controls of the party, the army, the bureaucracy and business.
Ba'ath operates a complex balancing act as it applies its recipe of merging
army control with tribal solidarity. It describes itself as an Arab
socialist party - and that is something certainly at odds with tribal

Many surviving victims of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war also confirmed to this
correspondent how the social fabric of the country was destroyed because of
that disastrous conflict. The state lost control over many important tribes.
Iraq was left with a US$50 billion debt. At the end of the 1980s, Iraq had a
million-strong army. For the war generation, it was impossible to go back to
the good life of the 1970s. Jaber is clear: the invasion of Kuwait on August
2, 1990, happened as an attempt to re-establish internal stability. But Iraq
has been mired in a logic of war for too long.

The defeat in the Gulf War - which is still known inside Iraq as the "Mother
of all Battles" - caused a profound structural adjustment. The state was
terribly weakened - as well as the security services. The army was reduced
to a third of its original size. There were rebellions in Kurdistan and in
the Shi'ite south. The United States - illegally, without United Nations
approval - imposed no-fly zones. Professor Salman in Baghdad stresses some
of the terrible consequences of two totally useless wars: the Iraqi economy,
based on oil wealth, collapsed; market forces began to emerge; and the
middle class - a very important base for the Ba'ath Party - was smashed by

Jaber says that Saddam's regime managed to survive the 1990s by meticulously
applying a five-point strategy: imposition of order in the main tribe;
reorganization of the army; co option of tribes around the country so that
they could replace party organizations; more ammunition to the ideological
arsenal; and new forms of economic control.

State tribalism at the top used to be based on an alliance of Sunni clans
around the very important al-Beijat clan. The al-Beijat clan has 10
branches. The center of power was changing among all 10, so seven of them
were thoroughly smashed. The predominant clan became the Albu-Ghafur,
Saddam's sub-clan. The al-Majid clan was also in the ascendancy in the
1990s. Key members such as Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel - both married to
daughters of Saddam - and Ali Hasan Al-Majid controlled the arms industry,
the Jihaz al Khas (Special Services) and the Defense Ministry. At the same
time, Saddam's sons, Udai and Qusai, were also in the ascendancy. A conflict
was inevitable. Hussein and Saddam Kamel went into exile in Jordan. But
then, foolishly, they returned to Baghdad and Saddam ordered them to be shot
along with their families.

In the late 1990s, Saddam finally cemented his power based on his sub-clan,
the Albu Ghafur, and he chose Qusai to be his successor. A Republican Guard
talking to Asia Times Online last year confirmed that this caused a
tremendous rift between Saddam and his wife. They were said not to have been
sleeping in the same bed, or room for that matter, for years. Udai, Mama's
favorite, was a playboy. But Qusai was the brainy one. Saddam ordered Qusai
to reorganize the intelligence services and internal security. He was named
supervisor of the "Army of the Mother of All Battles" - which later became
the Republican Army. Since 2000 he has been interim president and in 2001 he
was given regional control of the Ba'ath Party.

The two strongmen of the regime are now Qusai and Kamal Mustapha, a paternal
cousin of Saddam who controls the Republican Guard, the de facto praetorian
guards of the regime. It's all in the family: Kamal's brother, Jamal, is
married to Saddam's youngest daughter. In fact, Iraq is now run by a
triumvirate: Father (Saddam), Son (Qusai) and Holy Ghost (Kamal Mustapha).

And it's still all about state tribalism, plus social tribalism, but now
combined with Iraqi patriotism - thus the frequent references to the
glorious history of Mesopotamia - and of course Arab patriotism. As can
easily be attested in Basra in the south of the country, Saudi Wahhabism has
infiltrated the country, but it has been tolerated by the security services
because it functions as a counterpower to militant Shi'ites.

But the ultimate tool of social control in the regime is in fact a
contribution of the international community: sanctions and the "oil for
food" program, or UN Resolution 986, adopted by Iraq in May 1996. People
receive their meager state rations through certificates. Suspected
dissidents, of course, never see such certificates. This is what Jaber calls
the "politics of famine". As to the upper middle class, it continues to
support the regime because of market deregulation. These are the smugglers
who can be seen in Baghdad driving posh German cars with tinted windows,
eating gourmet pizza in flash cafes and throwing parties in million-dollar
houses next to Saddam's main presidential palace, near Saddam Tower.

So the regime survives thanks to a mix of tribalism, nationalism, patriotism
and Sunnism. As many as 80 percent of senior army officers are related to
Saddam's Albu-Ghafour sub-clan. So it is a cohesive army, at least as far as
the Republican Guards are concerned.

The Iraqi army today has seen no improvement since 1990, except for air
defense systems - which have been the targets of relentless strikes by US
and British planes for months now. But the reduced military budget served a
purpose: the regime was able to concentrate on reinforcing clan alliances.
Today the Iraqi armed forces have four divisions: as many as eight regular
regiments of the Republican Guard; another division from the Republican
Guard; the regular army (four armored, three mechanized and five infantry
regiments); and an array of tribal militias specialized in smashing civil
rebellion. These militias will be key in the event of urban warfare once the
US bombing starts.

This will be an extremely political war. Washington's obsession is regime
change. So the main prize is Baghdad. Republican Guards will not chicken
out, and there will be no coup d'etat: as we have seen, a big, extended
family's survival is at stake. An entire division of the army - as many as
four regiments - would be necessary for a coup, and with essential input
from the president's own sub-clan. Out of the question. This means
full-scale invasion and occupation of Iraq is inevitable.

The regime fights two huge imponderables. Its own structure by definition is
extremely vulnerable. And absolutely nobody, inside or outside Iraq, can
estimate how substantial is the gap between the official, nationalist,
patriotic rhetoric and the feelings of the Iraqi population. There are wild
rumors in Baghdad that Saddam is secretly negotiating oil for his survival.
For many Iraqis, and for quite some time now, Saddam is not a Saladin
fighting against American imperialism: he remains an American agent. And
Americans are widely perceived not as "liberators" but as an occupation
force. There's intense speculation that the regime will eventually fall, but
what will be the price to pay?

The regime is taking no chances, and it has adopted a variety of tactics.
The Ba'ath propaganda machine is reinforcing the notion that all members of
the ruling elite face death, so there's only one way out: to fight for
survival no matter what. The government is also playing the religious card
by persuading Shi'ite spiritual leaders to issue fatwas against Shi'ite
opponents of the regime.

The overall strategy of defense is concentrated in the cities, especially
Baghdad, which could magnify the political nightmare in terms of Western and
Arab public opinion as there will be high "collateral damage". And as the
Central Command in Qatar will welcome those who want to follow the war by
remote control, the regime will also play the media, although there are
rumors in the Middle East that the Americans will bomb any satellite phone
signal that is not registered with them.

Two key bridges over the Tigris in Baghdad were bombed by the Americans in
1991. According to the latest echoes from Baghdad, people suspect all six
bridges will be bombed this time, so everybody will have to use boats or
motorboats to get from one side to the other. The US forces will certainly
divide the city to confine the defense to certain areas. This means that
civilians will also be confined to their neighborhoods. Local Ba'ath Party
members in each neighborhood are now mostly housed in schools. Their
fundamental mission during the war will be to distribute stocks of water and
alcohol - essential for heating and cooking. Order will be maintained by a
party official in each and every street (that's how it already works
anyway). People won't be allowed to leave their homes.

This could also mean that many wounded won't be able to go to hospital, and
aid agencies will have a nightmare trying to distribute food. The regime
says that rations that could last until June have already been distributed,
and Iraqi TV every day alerts that they should not be resold because
everyone will need them. And residents fear above all the hellish rain of
fire already promised with glee by many a Pentagon official. Ordinary
Iraqis, naturally fatalistic, expect to be the main targets, as they have
been the targets of sanctions for the past 12 years.

US forces may not disable Iraq's command and control systems because the
army-as-an extended-family simply will not be relying on high tech. There
will be suicide martyrs everywhere, according to the Ba'ath leadership, and
civilians in some neighborhoods seem to be prepared to defend the city in
house-to-house fighting. Indeed, Kalashnikovs have been distributed to
certain sections of the population. It's unlikely that the Americans will
know how to deal with the extremely complex tribal and clan structures
already pre-positioned for a new redistribution of land, water, arms and
prestige in case there's a new central power. Anyway, these clans are
heavily armed already, and they will not help the United States during the
war. They have nothing to gain by betraying Saddam: he can always survive
and his revenge would be devastating. Iraqis, with a keen sense of history,
remind anyone that Saddam has survived endless assassination attempts,
coups, US presidents and a war against a 33-nation coalition.

Saddam is betting on a replay of the siege of Stalingrad. His key strategy
is to maintain the control of the population for as long as possible. He
might even be betting on a popular revolution against the invader.

And Saddam may escape alive. He has as many as nine doubles. Like Osama bin
Laden, he could vanish into virtual reality - cynics with a wicked sense of
humor even advance that this may be part of the whole deal.

One thing is certain. It's absolutely impossible for anyone who hasn't been
to Iraq even to imagine the tremendous frustration, anger, humiliation and
terminal desperation caused by 12 years of sanctions. When the United States
stops bombing, and if the security apparatus disintegrates, the
decomposition of the regime will be beyond brutal. Iraqis are convinced
chaos is inevitable. Even with the fall of the regime, there will be violent
popular opposition to an invasion. Few may heed a call to arms to defend the
regime. But many would not hesitate to force the invader out. Especially
because very few in Iraq seem to be convinced that the US wants to invest in
a Marshall plan and mold the country into a "beacon of democracy", as well
as prosperity, in the Middle East. The fact is, the whole country could be
easily engulfed in a bloody mix of civil war and liberation struggle that no
Douglas MacArthur and no occupation force will ever be able to control.

Daily Star, Lebanon, 25th February

Four prominent Iraqi figures, including two former ministers,  have appealed
to the UN Secretary-General to initiate Security Council moves to establish
an interim civil administration in Iraq, should the Iraqi regime collapse or
be overthrown.

In an appeal made available to the press on Sunday, they called on the UN to
help establish "a democratic regime in Iraq" in a post-Saddam Hussein era.
Their request coincides with other voices in the Arab world calling on the
Iraqi regime to reform and increase freedoms for its citizens.

The four Iraqis who issued the appeal are former Foreign Affairs Minister
Adnan al-Babjaji, former Industry and Economy Minister Adib al-Jader,
economist and former UN official Mahdi al-Hafez, and respected economist and
publisher Walid Khaddouri. They called for the creation of an Iraqi
temporary government under UN supervision.

"We call on the Security Council to adopt our legitimate request for the
benefit of our people and to establish an interim Iraqi government by
cooperating with a special UN mission in the framework of a timetable
leading to a democratically elected government," said the statement.

Jader told the Daily Star in a telephone interview from Geneva on Monday
that they issued the appeal due to the imminent threat of an invasion of
Iraq. He said Iraqis would view a long-term American presence as an
occupation that would be rejected, saying instead that the idea of a joint
UN-Iraqi interim administration would be for the benefit of all, including
Iraq, its neighbors, the USA, and the UN.

"Iraqis will be more willing to cooperate with the UN than with an American
administration," he said.

The four said an interim administration and UN agencies should "prepare
themselves to supply humanitarian aid to the citizens and help them overcome
the forthcoming hardships."

The four had previously issued an appeal on Feb. 13 calling on the Iraqi
leadership to step down to avert the "disastrous consequences of war."

Meanwhile, more than 70 Mideast nongovernment organizations and 131
intellectuals on Monday urged Baghdad to improve conditions for ordinary
Iraqis. The call was made in a petition organized by the Cairo Institute for
Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).

The petition, drawn up under the slogan "No to War Š No to Tyranny," also
voiced opposition to a US-led war against Iraq. The groups backed a list of
recommendations to be presented to the Arab summit scheduled for March 1
Sharm el-Sheikh.

The CIHRS initiative called for the "salvation of the Iraqi people Š and
obstructing the accelerating US war vehicle."

A CIHRS statement said political reform in Iraq "requires abolishing overly
restrictive laws, invalidating laws that encompass aggravated penalties
against opponents, providing for freedom of expression, the right to
association and membership in political parties and recognizing the right to
participate freely in public affairs."

by Hala Kilani
Daily Star, Lebanon, 25th February

Saddam Hussein denounced the "laziness" of the Arab world in confronting a
possible US led attack against Iraq during talks with Lebanese Minister of
State Talal Arslan over the weekend.

Arslan, the president of the Lebanese Democratic Party, conveyed to the
Iraqi president Lebanon's "solidarity with Iraq in standing up against the
American-Israeli attack," as well as regards from President Emile Lahoud,
according to a statement from the party Sunday.

Hussein chastized the "laziness" of Arabs in defending Iraq, saying that if
the "Arab nation gives up its human role, it would have failed humanity."

"Any true patriotic and nationalistic person would believe in the right of
the nation, in sovereignty and independence, and would realize the dangers
facing the nation," Hussein said. "Otherwise, there would be something wrong
with his patriotism and national belonging."

Arslan's visit to Baghdad followed an earlier one by Maan Bashour, the head
of the Association of Leagues and Committees, who visited the Iraqi
president for the first time since he and Minister of State Beshara Merhej
broke away from the Iraqi Baath Party 30 years ago.

Bashour told The Daily Star that Hussein thinks Israel is involving the US
in a war that will end its influence in the world, as it did in the past
with Great Britain and France.

"In the 1950s Israel led Britain and France against (former Egyptian
President Gamal Abdel) Nasser, and that war proved to be the beginning of
the end for the European powers' influence," Bashour quoted Hussein as
saying. Saddam said that the 1956 war ended an era in the history of the

"Now Israel is doing the same with the United States. This war against Iraq
will end America's influence in the world; therefore both the Iraqis and the
Americans will be victims of a war planned by the Zionists," Hussein said.

Asked if he sensed whether the Iraqi leader was scared by the threats
targeting him, Bashour said "not at all.

"The morale of the whole leadership is not low at all; they are preparing
themselves as if the war were starting tomorrow, and they are reconstructing
the country as if there were no threat at all,"he said.

Bashour said that he did not expect to see Saddam shaken by the current
situation because whether the war takes place or not, the Iraqi President
believes that he will emerge from it victorious.

"Saddam identifies himself with two historical characters: that of
Salaheddine, the Arab (actually a Kurd) who liberated Palestine, and the
Prophet Mohammed's grandson Hussein" Bashour said.

"Facing a superpower like the United States makes him feel like Salaheddine
and getting defeated by it would make him feel like a martyr, like Hussein
was," he said. "In both cases for him, it's a victory."

Associated Press, 26th February

BAGHDAD, Iraq: Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein says he would rather die than
leave his country, dismissing recent arguments by U.S. and Arab leaders that
he could go into exile to avoid war.

"We will die here. We will die in this country and we will maintain our
honor ‹ the honor that is required ... in front of our people," Saddam says
in an interview with CBS' Dan Rather.

The network reported excerpts of the interview on its Web site Tuesday
night, and said the comments would air Wednesday on "60 Minutes II."

"Whoever decides to forsake his nation from whoever requests is not true to
the principles," Saddam says. "I believe that whoever ... offers Saddam
asylum in his own country is in fact a person without morals."

President Bush said last month that he would welcome Saddam Hussein going
into exile and some Arab countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, have proposed
offering Saddam exile to avoid a war.

Saddam also denied any links to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida and indicated he
would not set fire to Iraq's oil fields or destroy its dams if a U.S.-led
invasion occurs in Iraq.

"Iraq does not burn its wealth and it does not destroy its dams," Saddam

He said that Iraq has never had any relationship to al-Qaida terrorists,
"and I think that Mr. bin Laden himself has recently, in one of his
speeches, given such an answer that we have no relation with him."

In a part of the interview that aired earlier Tuesday on CBS, the Iraqi
president indicated he wouldn't heed a U.N. demand to destroy Iraq's Al
Samoud 2 missiles and said his missiles didn't exceed ranges allowed by the
United Nations.

But Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz insisted Tuesday that the
government had not yet decided whether to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles.
"It's being studied," Aziz said.

"Readiness for the aggression is continuing ... but this doesn't mean that
we should stop our political and diplomatic work," Aziz said. "We should
continue with it, but we should also prepare ourselves for the battle."

Both Iraqi and U.N. officials spoke of new, substantive cooperation. U.N.
inspectors visited a pit where Iraq says it destroyed biological weapons in
1991, and Iraq reported finding an R-400 bomb containing liquid at a
disposal site.

"We have made some progress. In fact, we have made some breakthroughs," said
Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Saddam's adviser on the inspections.

Iraq appeared to be sending conflicting messages over an order from chief
weapons inspector Hans Blix to begin destroying its Al Samouds and their
components by the end of the week because the missiles can fly farther than

The missiles are still being produced and tested, the inspectors' spokesman
in Baghdad, Hiro Ueki, said Tuesday. He said the last test took place

Al-Saadi also said Iraq was still studying the U.N. missile order. He said
he would not comment on the Saddam interview because he had not seen it.

Ueki said at a news conference that the United Nations was still awaiting an
official response on the missiles.

He said inspectors have completed tagging all deployed Al Samoud 2 missiles
but still needed to tag some unassembled components.

Ueki also said inspectors have begun to visit excavations by the Iraqis
southeast of Baghdad at a site where Iraq says it destroyed bombs filled
with biological agents in 1991. On Monday and Tuesday, inspectors examined
munitions fragments around the pit, he said.

U.S. warplanes, meanwhile, bombed missile launch systems in northern and
southern Iraq on Tuesday because they threatened coalition forces enforcing
no-fly zones, the U.S. military said.

U.S. and British planes have been enforcing no-fly zones in north and south
Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. They are intended to protect minority Kurds in
the north and Shiite Muslims in the south from Iraqi government forces.


Voice of America, 19th February

Norway has expelled the head of an Iraqi Kurdish Islamic extremist group,
calling him a possible attraction for terrorists and a threat to Norwegian
national security.

Norway says Mullah Krekar controls the radical Islamic group Ansar al-Islam,
based in an autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq near the Iranian

Norwegian officials believe the group has ties to al-Qaida and say some of
its members fought in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned the group during his speech
to the U.N. Security Council two weeks ago. He said Ansar al-Islam has
allowed a senior Iraqi official inside the group and believes there is a
chemical weapons factory in the area under its control.

Mullah Krekar says he will appeal Norway's expulsion order. He has denied
any ties to al Qaida and says he has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein.
Authorities are giving Mullah Krekar two weeks to leave the country. He has
had refugee status in Norway since 1991.

He was arrested in the Netherlands last September and spent for months in
custody during which time he was reportedly questioned by F-B-I agents.
Jordan has also asked Norway to extradite him there, where he is wanted on
drug charges.

Gulf News, from Reuters, 20th February

Arbil: Kurds running a breakaway enclave in north Iraq said yesterday they
had arrested agents of Baghdad who threatened the safety of Iraqi opposition
leaders gathering here to plan for a future after Saddam Hussain.

One detainee comes from a party representing Turkmens, a small ethnic group
whose interests are upheld by Turkey, which has a long history of friction
with its own Kurdish minority.

A top official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of two Kurdish
factions that wrested northern Iraq from Baghdad's grip after the 1991 Gulf
War, said the KDP had arrested at least five people. "This threat was real,
genuine and credible. The information we had confirmed there was a serious
threat to this meeting by Iraqi intelligence, trying to use some local
people under various covers, including the head of the Turkmen Front
security, but he was arrested," said Hoshiyar Zebari of the KDP.

"This is purely a security issue, we are not blaming the whole Turkmen
Front. Even if he had been a member of the KDP we would have dealt with him
the same way," he told a joint news conference with the other Kurdish
faction, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

The KDP is preparing to host a meeting of Iraq's fractious opposition groups
to plan for a post-Saddam Iraq.

by Jimmy Burns
Financial Times, 21st February

The Bank of England moved yesterday to freeze the assets of an Islamic
fundamentalist group named by Colin Powell, US secretary of state, as a link
between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

Acting as agent for the Treasury, the Bank directed all banks to freeze any
funds that they held for, or on behalf of, Ansar al-Islam, and to report any
suspicious transactions linked to the group.

The Bank said the Treasury had "reasonable grounds" for suspecting that the
named organisation involved persons who could "facilitate or participate in
the commission of acts of terrorism".

Although the group has not been identified as being active in the UK or
being linked to any front organisations, according to Treasury officials,
the move was part of the US-led international efforts aimed at disrupting
the financing of terrorism.

"The move forms part of efforts to maintain pressure on international
terrorism and to stop it from moving its money around," an official said.

Ansar al-Islam, also known as the Soldiers of Islam and the Kurdistan
Taliban, operates in the Kurdish-controlled area of north-eastern Iraq,
outside of Saddam Hussein's command.

Mr Powell told the United Nations Security Council two weeks ago that
al-Qaeda had found a safe haven with Ansar al-Islam.

He said a link between the two organisations had been established with Mr
Hussein through a network under the control of Abu Mussab al- Zarkawi, a
36-year-old Jordanian al-Qaeda operative.

The interest in the group within the UK has developed amid western
intelligence claims that it has been involved in the development of
chemicals such as ricin.

Anti-terrorist police and other agencies in Europe are continuing their
investigation into the ricin trail that emerged when traces of the poison
and facilities for its production were discovered in north London on January

Publicity surrounding Ansar al-Islam first emerged just days before the
September 11 terror attacks when it delivered a manifesto condemning the
inhabitants of the mountain villages in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Mr Powell's assertions have been challenged by the International Crisis
Group, a Brussels based conflict resolution think-tank.

The ICG says the use of Ansar al-Islam in the US government's case for war
against Iraq "has catapulted the small extremist group to a significance
that does not appear warranted by the facts".

Reuters, 21st February

LONDON (Reuters) - An Iraqi Kurdish leader says there is an "overwhelming"
moral case for war against President Saddam Hussein to end decades of
genocide and repression of the Iraqi people.

Barham Salah, prime minister of half of northern Iraq's breakaway Kurdish
region, said anti war campaigners in the West were naive and Iraqis would be
jubilant if Saddam was overthrown.

"I cannot think of another situation where the moral case for regime
change...for overthrowing this tyranny could be more powerful, more
overwhelming," he told BBC radio on Friday from northern Iraq.

"I predict to you with absolute certainty that the streets of Baghdad will
be filled with jubilant people celebrating their freedom and welcoming the
international forces, the American and British forces, as liberators and as
heroes. The scenes in Baghdad will not be too different from the scenes
witnessed in Paris and Rome in 1944," he told Radio 4's Today programme.

Iraq's northern Kurdish region, citing long-standing oppression by
governments doubtful of its loyalty, broke away from Baghdad's control after
the 1991 Gulf war and is now run by two Kurdish parties, formerly rivals but
now partners.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, having failed to win public support for war on
the basis of Saddam's suspected weapons of mass destruction, has shifted the
focus to the moral case for ridding the Iraqi people of a brutal dictator.

But anti-war campaigners, fearing that thousands of civilians might be
killed in an attack on Iraq, organised protests which brought millions of
people onto the streets of world capitals last weekend.

Salah, who leads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) government, said the
true moral case for war was the need to topple a regime that he said had
killed up to two million people through repression and ethnic cleansing.

"Morality requires an end to ethnic cleansing," he said.

"I'm perplexed by some of the people, especially in western Europe, who
argue for no war...They are misreading the situation in Iraq, they are
naive," he said.

by C. J. Chivers
New York Times, 24th February

ALAKIN, Iraq, Feb. 18 ‹ One threat to stability in Iraq after any war to
remove Saddam Hussein takes the form of a dapper 45-year old man, educated
in the United States and fluent in English, who has a yen for cologne,
pressed shirts and silk ties.

His name is Najat al-Sourchi. He is planning what would be a deeply
destabilizing murder.

Mr. Sourchi wants to kill Massoud Barzani, an American ally and president of
the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which has played host to Central
Intelligence Agency teams in northern Iraq since last fall.

Many people here regard Mr. Barzani as a resistance hero, the embodiment of
a surname synonymous with the Kurdish autonomy struggle, which Mr. Sourchi
himself supports.

This high place in local lore matters not to Mr. Sourchi. He is a Kurd who
wants a Kurdish leader dead.

"I want Massoud's head," he said.

Much of northern Iraq is talking peace these days, of unifying opposition
groups pledged to defeat Mr. Hussein, and of reconciling tensions lingering
from the Kurdish civil war.

The former combatants in that fratricidal fight in the 1990's, the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, have achieved a
degree of peace, and are showing signs of cooperation as American forces
build in the region, preparing to unseat their common enemy in Baghdad. They
are to be hosts of an opposition conference set to begin in Erbil any day.

But beneath this sense of common purpose, tensions simmer from years of
plotting, counterplotting and bloodletting.

Mr. Sourchi is consumed by a blood feud, and has sworn to avenge the death
in 1996 of his uncle, Hussein Agha al-Sourchi, 65, for which he blames Mr.
Barzani. It is one of several feuds that exist beneath the businesslike
dialogue of changing Iraq, and is a worrisome indicator of the fragility of
peace in a land where even people with common goals are intent on settling
old scores.

"This is a place where ancient rivalries and practices do not die quickly,"
said Barham Salih, prime minister of the eastern Kurdish zone. "There are
lots of animosities that may come to the fore after Saddam is gone."

During the decades of dictatorial rule before Kurds broke free of Mr.
Hussein in an uprising after the Persian Gulf war in 1991, many Kurdish
tribes served the Baghdad government. They formed military units, known as
jash, which sometimes fought other Kurds, including the Bazarnis, who led
much of the Kurdish resistance to Baghdad. One of the jash tribes was the

In a gesture of reconciliation after the uprising in 1991, when Mr.
Hussein's army withdrew from northern Iraq, the Kurdish resistance granted
amnesty to most jash, including the Sourchis, who controlled a network of
villages along a strategic road through Iraq's northern mountains.

When the civil war between Kurds broke out in 1994, however, loyalties
shifted anew.

In 1996, the Barzanis accused the Sourchis of collaborating with the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. On June 16 of that year Barzani fighters
advanced on this village, hoping to capture Najat's brother, Zayed, who they
said was spying for the other side.

Nearly seven years later, details of the fight and the sacking of several
Sourchi homes that ensued are still in dispute. But no one disputes that
Hussein Agha al-Sourchi, the tribal elder, was fatally shot by Barzani
fighters. Thirteen Barzani fighters were also killed. Zayed al-Sourchi, whom
the Barzanis still say was a spy, escaped.

The Barzanis have expressed regret about the death of the Sourchi chief,
saying he was not the target of the raid. "I was sorry before and I am sorry
now that that happened," Mr. Barzani said.

Najat and Zayed say that regret is not enough and that Mr. Barzani must
publicly accept responsibility and apologize.

They also want to kill Nerchervan Barzani, Massoud Barzani's nephew and the
prime minister of the western Kurdish zone, who they say helped plan the

After the killing, many Sourchis remained in or near Kalakin, and some are
loyal to Mr. Barzani. Ali Hussein al-Sourchi, a lawyer, recently walked
among ruined houses and said what befell the tribal leaders was their own
fault, because they were jash working for the Iraqi government. "They hurt
the people of this area so much," he said.

Other Sourchis joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. They now live in
internal exile in Sulaimaniya, where they claim to have 706 gunmen on their
payroll, some of whom provide military support to Jalal Talabani, the head
of the Patriotic Union.

>From a heavily guarded house in Sulaimaniya, Najat al-Sourchi says it is the
Barzanis who are jash, noting that they invited Mr. Hussein's army to attack
Erbil in 1996 when the civil war against Mr. Talabani's fighters was going

"How could a man who says he is a Kurdish hero collaborate with Saddam
Hussein?" he said. "I ask this: Who is the real jash?"

The Sourchis' reassertion of the feud has baffled and angered many Kurdish
officials, who say it is badly timed. Kurds are trying to show unity now,
not fractures in their ranks.

"These people should be quiet," said Sami Abdul Rahman, one of Mr. Barzani's
closest confidants.

Mr. Barzani, as the leader of a principal political party and the de facto
commander of a local army tens of thousands strong, is indisputably
important to the future of Iraq.

He expressed exasperation at the Sourchis' call for his head, describing
Najat as "somebody who was brought up with the milk of treachery and

But he chose a calmer path, offering to let the exiled tribesmen return to
their village and suggesting he was too well guarded to be killed by Najat
al-Sourchi. "We have opened a new page," he said. "He knows very well he
cannot assassinate me, and I do not want to kill him."

Mr. Sourchi rejects talk of truce. "There is blood between us, and every
day, every minute of every day, I think of killing him," he said. "It is
like a dream in my mind."

Still, in quiet moments, sipping tea and talking softly, he sometimes
reflects about the sadness of it all. "I'm not saying this is good, but it
is the tradition of Kurdistan," he said. "I know it is not good."

by Patrick Cockburn in Arbil, northern Iraq
The Independent, 24th February

Kurdish leaders warned Turkish soldiers yesterday against crossing Iraq's
northern border as the first step in a plan to end the de facto independence
enjoyed by Iraqi Kurdistan for 10 years.

"Any intervention under any circumstances will lead to clashes," Hoshyar
Zebari, an influential Kurdish leader, said. "It will be bad for the
reputations of the US and the UK to see two of their allies ­ the Turks and
the Kurds ­ at each other's throats."

The Turkish parliament is poised to vote on an agreement that would allow
thousands of American troops to be deployed in Turkey to spearhead the
northern front against Saddam Hussein. But Turkey announced over the weekend
that it would launch its own invasion, with the Kurds rather than Saddam
Hussein as the target.

"Turkey is adamant that it wants a foothold inside Iraq," said a Kurdish
leader privy to recent talks with Turkey. "Once they are in it will be very
difficult to get them out." Washington, desperate for Turkish military
co-operation, has not opposed the operation.

The Turkish army would occupy a long tract of territory inside the border of
northern Kurdistan, setting a precedent for a further advance.

Mr Zebari said: "It would be a nightmare for us because the Turks could
easily cut our communications with the outside world. Our people are
terrified by the prospect."

A Turkish invasion, even if only partial, would cause turmoil in northern
Iraq, and Kurdish leaders claim it would be resisted by local forces.
Television pictures of Kurdish villagers in flight from the Turks, allied to
America and Britain, would take the sheen off efforts by President Bush and
Tony Blair to portray the war as a moral crusade.

Turkish generals and officials explained that the purpose of their advance
was to prevent Kurdish refugees entering Turkey as they did in 1991. Since
the justification for the incursion was humanitarian, not military, the
troops would be under Turkish, not US, command.

Kurdish leaders see Turkey's humanitarian intentions as a smokescreen. One,
who did not want to be named, said: "The Turks have four aims: they want to
prevent the establishment of a Kurdish entity with de facto independence;
ensure that the rebellion of the Turkish Kurds does not start again; protect
the Turkomans in Iraq; and make sure we do not take Kirkuk or Mosul." The
Kurds were shocked when Turkey first declared its intentions at a meeting in
Ankara this month.

The Kurds reject the idea that a mass exodus of Kurdish refugees is more
than an excuse. In 1991 the Kurds were frightened because the Iraqi army had
gassed them in Halabja three years before. Today there is a well-organised
Kurdish administration with an experienced army to defend them. The Iraqi
army is very unlikely to advance north against the Kurds when it is under
attack from America.

The Kurds have only limited leverage because Washington needs Turkey more
than it needs them. America does not want the Kurdish forces to become
involved in the war. It may, however, want them to help to persuade some of
the key Arab tribes of northern Iraq to withdraw their support for President

The Kurds are by far the strongest force in the Iraqi opposition. The
Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls western Kurdistan, and the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under Jalal Talabani, which rules eastern
Kurdistan, together have about 25,000 trained soldiers as well as militia
forces. They rule four million people in an area the size of Switzerland.

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

by Jarrett Murphy
CBS News, 24th February

Three weeks ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell said links between Baghdad
and the group Ansar al-Islam were evidence that Saddam Hussein supported

But it wasn't until last week that the U.S. government froze the assets of
the group. And the State Department still doesn't list Ansar as a formally
designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The delay in freezing Ansar's assets, and the lack of a formal terrorist
designation, could bolster the case of those who are skeptical of the U.S.
claim that Iraq is linked to terrorism.

Ansar al-Islam controls the area of northern Iraq where, according to
Powell, alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has established a
terrorist training center.

In his testimony to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, Powell contended
the center trained terrorists to use poison. He said the compound lay in
"northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq."

"But Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical
organization Ansar al Islam that controls this corner of Iraq," Powell said.
"In 2000, this agent offered al Qaeda safe haven in the region."

Ansar was not the only element of the U.S. claim that Saddam supports
terrorism. The bulk of Powell's case concerned al-Zarqawi, who allegedly
received treatment in a Baghdad hospital last year and established an al
Qaeda cell there. Powell also said Iraqi agents had provided training to al

But many of those opposed to possible military action against Iraq have said
the evidence of connections between Baghdad and al Qaeda was not convincing.
That impression could be strengthened by the late addition of Ansar to the
list of entities whose assets must be blocked, and by the fact that it is
not on the formal list of terrorist entities.

Even the State Department's normally unflappable spokesman, Richard Boucher,
seemed confused when announcing the blocking of Ansar's assets at his
regular briefing on Thursday.

"We've put them on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list already, right?"
he asked reporters.

That is not the case.

Asked Monday about the delay in freezing the assets, a State Department
staff member, who refused to be identified, said Ansar "was designated when
we had the information necessary to designate it."

The staff member said the process of listing organizations had its own

The State Department order issued last Thursday blocked U.S. institutions
from conducting any transactions involving Ansar's funds, and asked the
Security Council to issue similar orders for foreign institutions.

"This action imposes strong penalties on those who provide financial support
to terrorist organizations, blocking the assets of designated organizations
such as Ansar al-Islam and individuals linked to global terrorism," Boucher
said in a statement released after his briefing.

He added: "The Department has not designated this group as a Foreign
Terrorist Organization."

Boucher said the reason the U.S. was freezing Ansar's assets but not adding
it to the list of terrorist organizations was that the standard of evidence
is different for each action.

A group listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization must "engage in terrorist
activity" and "threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national
security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of
the United States," according to the State Department.

But to freeze a group's assets, the organization must merely "pose a
significant risk of committing" terrorist acts, or fund or support groups
that do, according to the executive order governing asset freezing.

Because of the stiff evidence test, the list of designated terrorist
organizations is an exclusive one: it only contains 36 groups, compared to
the thousands of people and organizations whose assets are frozen.

The State Department briefly discussed Ansar al-Islam in a December 2002
report on Iraq, estimating that the group had about 8,000 people ‹ including
about 600 fighters ‹ in its Iraqi enclave.

The report referred to the claim that the group was linked to the Iraqi
government, but noted that "Baghdad does not control Northern Iraq and some
U.S. officials, speaking on background, have said they cannot verify this

The December report claims the leader of the group, Mullah Krekar, trained
under the same Islamic scholar who tutored Osama bin Laden.

Krekar resides in Norway, but Norway has said it will deport him. The
country's immigration service warned Krekar in September that he might be
thrown out.

As of Feb. 20, Krekar was still not on the U.S. list of persons whose assets
must be blocked. The State Department would not say whether his listing was

Baghdad denies any link to terrorism.

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