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News, 26/02-05/03/03 (5) INSIDE IRAQ * Saddam repositioning troops, U.S. officials say * Bin Laden gives Iraq an unlikely unity * Hearing War Drums, Iraqis Still March to Their Own Beat * A 'third force' awaits US in Iraq * What are we fighting for? * Inside Saddam's military elite * Iraq's Christians fear being caught in the crossfire NO FLY ZONES * American Warplanes Bomb Two Iraqi Sites * U.S. Strikes Iraq Communications Sites * Western jets hit Iraqi targets anew: US * U.S. Says Iraqi Jets Entered No-Fly Zone * Iraq: U.S.-U.K. Raid Kills Six Civilians in Basra * Allies bomb key Iraqi targets INSIDE IRAQ http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1797777 * SADDAM REPOSITIONING TROOPS, U.S. OFFICIALS SAY Houston Chronicle, (from AP), 27th February WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence has detected Iraqi President Saddam Hussein moving some highly-trained army troops into new positions as time ticks down toward a possible U.S. invasion to disarm and overthrow him. In recent days, trucks have been seen picking up members of Saddam's northernmost Republican Guard division, from a base near the northern city of Mosul, and moving them toward his hometown of Tikrit, defense officials said today on condition of anonymity. They said Saddam frequently moves his assets, but that the latest repositioning could be significant because the troops are among his best, rather than because of the size of the force moving. American intelligence continues to track the troops to see whether they might continue on to the capital, Baghdad, 100 miles southeast of Tikrit. Travelers to the region today reported seeing dozens of tanks being transported by truck from Mosul to an area near Tikrit. Both tanks and anti-aircraft guns were dug in along a long string of deep trenches near Tikrit, with only their turrets protruding. CNN reported "more than 100 trucks" have been seen transporting the troops. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers was asked on NBC's "Today" show today whether Saddam was ordering elements of his military forces to Baghdad, possibly in preparation for urban warfare. "I have personally not seen reports that there are large military units being pulled back into Baghdad," he said. "I know there's been some movements of military units in the country, but not the Baghdad scenario you just mentioned." It is widely believed that American war plans call for the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, supported by elements of the 1st Infantry Division, to gather in Turkey to Iraq's north for a possible thrust south toward Tikrit and the capital of Baghdad. U.S. and Turkey have been struggling to come up with an agreement that would allow 60,000 American combat troops to base in Turkey. That country's ruling Justice and Development Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan today postponed to Saturday a vote on the troops. Word on the Republican Guard follows statements by a senior defense official Wednesday that Saddam's forces also have been concentrating a substantial number of forces around the Baghdad area. He told a Pentagon briefing on condition of anonymity that it was done "with the deliberate intention of creating an urban combat environment." This official said intelligence also has detected Saddam moving air defense forces, ground forces and communications equipment to areas near Mosques and other civilian sites in hopes of protecting them from attack. One official said today that in taking part of the guard out of the Mosul area, Saddam risks splitting his better forces. That could require him to replace those forces up north with regular army troops, which have lower morale and are not as professional. The Pentagon says some 225,000 U.S. forces have been deployed to the Persian Gulf region. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that U.S. forces have been seeking "through all sorts of means" to convey to the Iraqi military leadership that "their best hope is to divorce themselves from the regime and not be a part of the regime's use of chemical or biological weapons in case force is ordered in Iraq." They have used leaflets, radio broadcasts into Iraq, e-mail and phone calls, he said on NBC's "Today" show. The Republican Guard, better-trained and equipped than the regular army, has had four of its divisions surrounding Baghdad and the other two in northern Iraq to oppose Kurdish insurgents. Saddam's son Qusai supervises the Guard, once open only to young men from Tikrit. Saddam's regular army is 17 divisions of infantry, tanks and artillery, with perhaps 10,000 troops each. In the Gulf War, Saddam rode out the American-led attacks in undisclosed homes of average citizens in Baghdad for many nights -- shunning his own palaces, which were more visible targets, personal secretary Lt. Gen. Abed Hammeed Mahmoud later wrote. This time around, some have suggested Saddam would hide in Baghdad or Tikrit. Bunkers and surface-to-air missile batteries were seen on the plains outside Tikrit by visiting reporters last fall. http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EB28Ak03.html * BIN LADEN GIVES IRAQ AN UNLIKELY UNITY by Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times, 28th February KARACHI - A widespread perception in the West is that the Salafi (Wahhabi) branch of Sunni Islam is the breeding ground of anti-West sentiment, while Sufi Islam, which is neither a sect nor a branch but a school of thought dealing with spiritual values, is an acceptable counterpoint to Salafi extremism. However, this correspondent, after spending time in Iraq, has a different perspective: Osama bin Laden, the Salafi icon who theoretically should be branded an infidel by Sufis, is a living legend for the Sufis of Baghdad, and even further afield. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's pictures are everywhere in Iraq, in the mosques, shrines, squares and even as screen savers on computers at leading hotels. What impact these pictures have had - and still have - on the development of the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people is difficult to assess as the society is such a closed one. What can be judged, though, is the influence that September 11, the Afghan war and the global war on terrorism, especially against bin Laden, has had. Ask any Iraqi about bin Laden and invariably the eyes will light up, and the response will be along the lines of, "Bin Laden is a Muslim, a faithful and a warrior of Islam." This is the ground reality across Iraq, with the possible exception of the Shi'ites in the south of the country. Whether or not people like Saddam, they certainly don't like the United States, and all thanks to bin Laden. Officially, though, comment on bin Laden is strongly discouraged. Baghdad is the heart of Sufi Islam. The three main Sufi schools, Suharwardy, Qadri and Naqshandi, emerged from the city and spread to other parts of the world. Although Sufis do not like to be bracketed with any particular sect, these three schools belong to the Sunni sect. Other schools principally follow Sunni Islam. The Qadri school is the largest. According to Sheikh Bakar Samaray, who is the prayer leader at the mosque at the Sheikh Abdul Qadir shrine (Abdul Qadir was the founder of the Qadri school) 80 million disciples are affiliated to the Qadri school all over the world, of which 2 million are in Iraq. Traditionally, the Qadri school and the Salafis have been bitter rivals. The Salafis oppose shrines and tombs. They believe that after death, interaction of the body and soul with the world ends. The entire philosophy of the Sufis, especially those of the Qadri school, rotates around spirits and souls, which interact with the world through shrines and tombs. The Salafis believe in the struggle against infidels and tyrants, while the Sufis, especially the Qadris, believe in maximum tolerance against such people, and teach that only love can change hearts and souls, not swords. According to Salafi jurists, Sufis, especially Qadris, misinterpret and misrepresent the teachings of Islam with their personal ideals, while for the Qadris, the Salafis have lost the real essence of Islam with their extremist notions. Syed Ahmed Gillani, a descendent of Sheikh Abudl Qadir Gillani and custodian of his shrine, is a former Iraqi ambassador to Pakistan. While reluctant to discuss bin Laden, he says that although he cannot condone civilian killings, as a Muslim he is sympathetic with bin Laden. Riaz Al-Kilidar is the custodian of one of the most sacred Shi'ite sites of Imam Hadi and the tomb of Imam Hasan Askari, at Samara (about 40 kilometers north of Baghdad). He, too, believes that since September 11 there has been a revolution in thinking in the Islamic world, and that bin Laden is indeed a sincere Muslim and a warrior for the religion. Syed Sabah is a descendent of Imam Mosa Kazim and custodian of Kazim's shrine in Baghdad (he is also a member of parliament). He, too, says that bin Laden is a "warrior of Islam, we all give our well wishes for him and we always remember Osama in our prayers". With a flourish, Syed Sabah pulls out a sword from a sheath at his side. "This sword belonged to my grandfather, Syed Ibrahim Al-Hussaini. He fought against British forces, along with his disciples and students. Once the US attacks Iraq, we will leave this shrine and mosque and will fight alongside my disciples and students against the US troops." US Secretary of State Colin Powell has linked the Pakistani militant group Ansarul Islam with al-Qaeda, and says that Iraq has forged ties with them (Ansarul Islam) in northern Iraq. But Iraqi presidential advisor Lieutenant-general Ameral Saadi describes this as a blatant lie, citing many examples of how Ansarul has targeted Iraqi interests in Baghdad and other places and claimed responsibility. But times have changed and it is important to note that northern Iraq is the home of the Naqshandi school of Sufis. Local government official and spiritual leader Sheikh Mostafa bin Abdullah lives in Arbil, where Kurdish parties run a Western-protected enclave. Sheikh Mostafa commands great respect among all Kurds. Taliban leader Mullah Omar is also a devotee of Sheikh Mostafa. Maulana Khalid of the Naqshandi school resides in Baghdad, and he has good ties with Izzat Ibrahim, the deputy leader of Iraq, who is himself a Sufi of the Qadri and Rafahi schools. What is evident is that the various schools of Sufi Islam permeate the Iraq regime, and that they are no longer mutually incompatible with the Salafi bin Laden and the militant Ansarul Islam. Between them, they could band and put up stronger resistance than might otherwise have been expected should the US attempt to launch an attack from the north of Iraq on the oil rich region of Mosel. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/28/international/middleeast/28BAGH.html * HEARING WAR DRUMS, IRAQIS STILL MARCH TO THEIR OWN BEAT by Neil MacFarquhar New York Times, 28th February BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 ‹ A revival of the classic "Epic of Gilgamesh" is scheduled to open in about two weeks at the Rashid Theater in downtown Baghdad. The troupe, rehearsing every afternoon in a dusty, ill-lighted space upstairs at the government-run General Organization for Theater and Cinema, realizes that its ancient odyssey about life and death along the Euphrates may be overshadowed by an all-too vivid, modern version right outside at just about the same time. Advertisement "If the war happens, we will present the play, even if we only draw a small audience," said Kasim Al-Sumary, the director, optimistic that a few brave souls might wander abroad even in the face of an American attack. "If we only thought about war, we could not go on with the rehearsals." By and large, the sprawling city of Baghdad remains doggedly serene. Unhindered by fears, honking wedding parties weave through the broad, well-lighted streets late into the night. For a while crowds mobbed the main passport office, but few really possess the means to flee. The government distributed six months of basic food rations in advance ‹ so much that people groan about lacking storage space and fend off their neighborhood distributor when he offers more. President Saddam Hussein warned the population Wednesday night to start excavating trenches in their yards as bomb shelters. There was no sign today that anybody was responding with alacrity. Over all the drumbeat of war ‹ quieter in a country without ready access to satellite television ‹ elicits little more than a collective shrug. "Look at the streets. The marriages! The dancing!" exclaimed Mohammed Shukri Jameel, an accomplished Iraqi film director, at least until 1991, when moviemaking ground to a halt because sanctions and poverty interrupted the import of film and the chemicals needed to develop it. "No one is paying any notice to the fact that they may be facing one of the greatest wars in history. They just don't care." The recent groundswell of diplomatic maneuvering and worldwide demonstrations has given many Iraqis a sense that doomsday had been postponed. Still, digging wells to supplement the water supply has developed into a booming business. Dr. Akil Mohammed Jamil, a dentist, stood with a few onlookers in his middle-class neighborhood one recent afternoon, watching three men from the local soccer squad and their foreman dig a well by hand. "Hit oil yet?" joked one bystander. "Try to avoid the sewer," added another. Using a kind of rotating shovel, it takes them about six hours to dig a well roughly 30 feet deep, and they have been doing two a day for weeks. "I don't think the American people are coming to the region to play football; they are coming to kill people, to control people," said Dr. Jamil. He does not want to abandon his house this time, as he did in 1991, afraid that thieves might sack the place in the chaos that could envelop Baghdad. The water is considered too brackish and chemical for drinking, but people expect to use it for bathing and cleaning the house. Some are dubious even about that. "Those well diggers are giving me a headache," said Adel Abdel Amir, a 71-year-old retired judge. He pointed out that they claimed that the somewhat rusty hand pump with its chipped green paint was both new and Italian. He knows it is neither, and worse, the water is terribly salty. "It's up to God, there's nothing I can do about it." Where preparations lag, many resort to prayer. Hundreds of worshipers flock to dusk prayers in the white marble courtyard of the Imam Musa Al-Khadim shrine, the gold-domed burial place of two of the holiest men in the Shiite branch of Islam. The main attraction is a diminutive white-bearded man in a flowing black robe, Imam Hussein Sadr, whose black turban signals his descent from the family of the Prophet Muhammad. Considered the leading Shiite religious scholar in the country, he draws worshipers seeking his guidance about war. Owda Hassan Al-Hashimi, 50, traveled from Basra to ask about fighting foreign invaders. "I wanted to know what is the correct position on jihad if the enemy enters the country," he said. "The sayyid answered that we should undertake jihad against any power that enters Iraq." On the sidelines of the prayers, two men accosted a foreign visitor to ask his views about impending war. Upon learning he was American, one began to spout the party line. "We are not afraid of your White House," he said. "Are you kidding? We are very afraid," said his friend. "Tell the truth." The first man retorted with the most common analysis heard here: that American pressure for war is a thinly disguised land grab in the service of oil and Israel. "The real reason is to break Iraq as they broke Egypt," he said. "There are only two countries in the Middle East that are dangerous to Israel; they managed to sideline Egypt and now they are trying break the hands and legs of Iraq to protect Israel." It is difficult to gauge whether Iraqis will indeed fight. Most people here who are asked seem determined to stay behind closed doors at home. But Mr. Hussein has been appearing frequently on television, shown listening to military officers talking about their preparedness. The night before his admonishment about digging a household trench, Mr. Hussein met with police officers from around the country. "We will be fighting with one hand and organizing the traffic with the other," the commander of the traffic police reported. Mr. Hussein, ignoring the comment about fighting, said the traffic police should work at bettering themselves. "I think you should read more, guys," he said. Diplomats report that envoys who have met Mr. Hussein find him calm, self-assured, in apparently good health and seemingly fully conscious of the tremendous obstacles he faces. He appeared that way tonight on television, when the full interview that he gave to CBS News was broadcast here. Remarkably, it showed him answering questions including whether he would prefer death here over life in exile. Arab visitors find that Iraqis, even those close to the ruling circle, are more prone to offer criticism about events like the 1990 invasion of Kuwait than they were six months ago. But any question about support for changing the government draws a quick response that nobody wants to be an American colonial subject. "They said the same thing when they overthrew the king in 1958, that life would get better, and look what that brought us," said one Iraqi intellectual. "War is far worse than the benefits of any change, and besides, the United States always leaves things worse than they found them." The foreign diplomatic community is dwindling. Just four Western European embassies are functioning, those of France, Italy, Germany and Greece. Turkey closed its embassy this week as its Parliament discussed a bill that would open the way for the deployment of American troops on its soil. The Russian Embassy also sent dependents home. Iraqis, on the other hand, seem to be avoiding contingency plans. "We are still planning to finish the syllabus at the normal time at the end of June," said Abdul Sattar Jawad, the head of the English Literature Department at Baghdad University, teaching the Coleridge poem, Kubla Khan, to his students this week. "Classes were interrupted for 17 days in 1991, but we went ahead even though there were missiles roaring on the horizon." http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC01Ak04.html * A 'THIRD FORCE' AWAITS US IN IRAQ by Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times, 1st March KARACHI - As the United States squares off against Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein there is not much doubt as to whom the winners and losers will be. But if one looks a little closer at Iraq and beyond, there is evidence of a third element, an Islamic movement spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood, that could also be a winner. After Iraq's bloody nose in the 1991 Gulf War, the dynamics of the country's religious society underwent a change, out of which emerged growing support for the Brotherhood. The government is well aware of this, but desperate to cover it up. On the surface, today's Iraq is Saddam's fiefdom. He is everything: the army, the jury, the judge and the executioner. Hospitals, universities and even a mental hospital are named after him, and what he dictates constitutes the country's religion. To go against Saddam's writ is to invite detention and even death. In the post-Cold War environment and after the rap on the knuckles he received over his ill conceived invasion of Kuwait, Saddam realized that he needed an ideology to prop up his authority and his regime. He used Islam to do this. He had hundreds of mosques built all over the Iraq. He established a fully-fledged Islamic university, called, of course, Saddam University, where only Islamic theology is taught and where Sunni Islam is promoted, while the beliefs of the majority Shi'ites are ignored. Dancing clubs were closed, casinos were shut down, prostitution was strictly banned and bars became a part of history (liquor shops are still allowed, but drinking at public places is forbidden). In a parliament of 250 members, 12 Islamic scholars were inducted. With these steps Saddam strengthened his political empire, but he still felt that the country was vulnerable to external and undesirable Islamic ideas and influences. So he took steps to plug this potential gap. In particular, all literature of the Muslim Brotherhood was banned in Iraq. It remains so, even at Saddam University, even for reference purposes. The Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest Islamist group in the Arab world, founded as a religious and political organization in 1928 in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna in opposition to secular tendencies in Islamic nations and in search of a return to the original precepts of the Koran. It grew rapidly, establishing an educational, economic, military and political infrastructure in Egypt and then in other countries, such as Syria, Sudan and Arab nations, where it exists largely as a clandestine but militant group, marked by its rejection of Western influences. In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is an important opposition party. The Muslim Brotherhood has given rise to a number of more militant and violent organizations, such as Hamas, Jamaa al-Islamiya and Islamic Jihad. Despite the best efforts of Saddam's security apparatus, including monitoring all those who attend mosques, the Brotherhood has managed to plant seeds in the minds of many Iraqis. For example, although Dr Yusuf Al-Qardawi is no longer a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, he is recognized as a leading Islamic scholar in the Middle East. His books are included in the syllabus of Saddam University. Similarly, the seminal Koranic commentary written by Syed Qutub is also included as a reference book. According to a teacher at Saddam University, a student reading these books will gain an insight into the philosophies and ideas of the Brotherhood. At the same time, the books' footnotes give references to other important "firebrand" literature relating to the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, a demand has been generated, and these books are now smuggled into the country, mostly from Syria. Over the past few years some suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested, and simply disappeared from sight, along with their families. In the past six months, however, after crackdowns at Saddam University where suspected Brotherhood members were arrested and literature seized, the suspects were subsequently freed with warnings after a few weeks in detention. The reason for this, apparently, is the realization that the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq is now not limited to a few individuals. They exist in many underground groups from north to south, and authorities fear that any repressive action will generate a fierce reaction. Saddam faces problems in the north from the Kurds and in the south from Shi'ites. He does not want any problem with the Sunni population, which up until now has been stable and in his favor. Beyond Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood is also gaining strength. This correspondent was in Jordan, for example, when the Islamic Action Front declared a jihad in favor of Iraq and Palestine if the US attacks Iraq. In Jordan's capital, Amman and elsewhere in the country, despite the existence of a clearly pro-US monarchy, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front are registering volunteers at colleges and universities to go and fight against the US in Iraq and against Israel in Palestine. Any war against Iraq, then, is likely to further strengthen the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region in general, and within Iraq in particular, making them yet another complicating factor in the post-Saddam world. http://observer.co.uk/review/story/0,6903,905508,00.html * WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR? by Martin Bright The Observer, 2nd March 'O people of Baghdad, remember that for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants, who have endeavoured to set one Arab house against another in order that they may profit by your dissensions. This policy is abhorrent to Great Britain and the Allies for there can be neither peace nor prosperity, where there is enmity and misgovernment.' These words were spoken by General Stanley Maude in March 1917, when British forces finally entered Baghdad after a year-long battle against Turkish forces in Mesopotamia. He invited the nobles and elders of the region to join with Great Britain 'so that you may be united with your kinsmen in the north, east, south and west in realising the aspirations of your race'. The language is a little too overblown and biblical even for Tony Blair, but several generations later, as we prepare for another war of liberation in Mesopotamia, the sentiment of the rhetoric is strikingly similar. The subsequent history is salutary. By the time of the establishment of the British mandate in Iraq in 1920, Baghdad had electric light, a postal service and a street map. Under British control, a railway was built from Basrah to Kirkuk and a road from Baghdad to Damascus and Beirut. A sterling-based currency brought a degree of economic stability and Western companies began to dig for oil. But the British overstayed their welcome and as early as 1920 they had to put down a rebellion known as the Great Iraqi Revolution that united Sunni and Shia against the British and led to the death of 6,000 Iraqis and 500 British and Indian soldiers. Maude's speech is contained in Karen Dabrowska's Iraq: The Bradt Travel Guide (Bradt £13.95, pp280), an eccentric and completely engrossing book, even if most people who read it are unlikely to set foot in the country. Dabrowska herself is a fascinating character; a Polish-Kiwi Middle-East specialist who works as the London correspondent of the Yemen Times and Jana, the Libyan state news agency. Such is the demand for information about the country we are about to invade that Bradt's Iraq has become a word-of-mouth bestseller among armchair strategists and concerned peaceniks. The media corps about to be dispatched to the Gulf would be well-advised to pack a copy with their chemical weapons suit and gas mask to help them identify which Muslim holy site is about to be turned to dust (and whether it is Shia or Sunni). It is only when Dabrowska turns her attention to the Iraqi holy sites that you realise just how sensitive any lengthy occupation of the country is likely to be. Baghdad itself became the capital of the Islamic empire in the ninth century when the Abbasid dynasty shifted the centre of power from Damascus. It was seen as the perfect Muslim city, away from the polluting Christian influence of the Mediterranean. After the Saudi cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, Baghdad is arguably the most important city in Sunni Muslim history. Meanwhile, Najaf and Kerbala to the south of Baghdad are the joint centres of Shia power, the latter being the site of the battle where Hussein, the son of the Shia prophet Ali, was killed. The cities are annual sites of pilgrimage for thousands of Shia and became the focus of the uprising against Saddam in 1991. Bradt has already had to reprint its Iraq guide and stocks will be in the shops by the time the tanks go in. Other publishers have also been rushing out reprints or revised editions of their key books on Iraq and Saddam Hussein to cater for the increased public demand. Dilip Hiro's Iraq: A Report from the Inside (Granta £8.99, pp271) is one of the clearest accounts of recent developments in Iraq by a regular contributor to The Observer. Hiro is a staggeringly prolific writer who has been writing about Iraq and Islamic fundamentalism since long before they became the twin obsession of US foreign policy. He knows more than most about the threat posed by Saddam and provides two indispensable appendices; one lists frequent statements about Iraq such as 'Saddam gassed his own people' and 'Saddam is harbouring al-Qaeda', while the other lists 'infrequent' comments and questions. 'Is it possible to have 100 per cent disarmament?' for example. Said Aburish's excellent Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge (Bloomsbury £7.99, pp416), is, thankfully, still available. As a Palestinian journalist who used to work as an adviser to Saddam, he has a unique perspective on the workings of the regime. A History of Iraq by Charles Tripp (Cambridge University Press £12.50, pp324) is an authoritative academic account by the leading British scholar on the subject. His conclusions on the 1920 revolt against British rule are fascinating. 'For the Iraqis, it became part of the founding myth of Iraqi nationalism, however remote this idea may have been from the minds of most of the participants.' It is certainly not far from their minds now and has been written into every Iraqi child's account of their country's history as the defining moment of nationhood. In recent weeks, Downing Street has been on an offensive to remind the British public via the media of quite how evil the Iraqi dictator has been. If you really needed any reminding then there are biographies aplenty of the 'Butcher of Baghdad' or the 'Terror of Tikrit' if you prefer. Saddam Hussein: The Secret Life by Con Coughlin (Macmillan £20, pp350) is a suitably unflattering portrait from the Establishment perspective you might expect from the former foreign editor of the Sunday Telegraph. Coughlin reported on the Iran-Iraq war and the invasion of Iraq as a foreign correspondent and has a reputation for impeccable military and intelligence sources. Saddam's murderous rise from his involvement in the assassination attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim in 1959 to the massacre of 5,000 Kurds at Halabja in March 1988 is outlined in detail. Coughlin's book is full of bombast and outrage, but he is not so strong when it comes to analysis of the Saddam phenomenon, which amounts to little more than saying that it probably had something to do with the dictator's miserable upbringing. Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession (Verso £9, pp320) by Andrew and Patrick Cockburn is an altogether more sophisticated project, which concentrates on the crucial period from the end of the first Gulf War. Without being pro-war themselves, they present a terrifying portrait noir not only of Saddam, but more importantly of his repulsive sons, Uday and Qusay, who are likely to take on the mantle of their father should he survive. Its critique of sanctions policy and the failed CIA strategy of assassination is a profound challenge to the liberal consensus against intervention. But in his introduction, Patrick Cockburn, who remained in Baghdad during the Gulf War, reminds us of an equally knotty problem if the US invades Iraq and installs its own government. 'It will look like the founding of a new American empire based on physical force and will be deeply resented. It would exchange one set of problems - dealing with a fractious Iraqi opposition - with another: international anger at a US takeover of one of the most important of the oil states.' One can only hope that military planners will bear this in mind as they discuss the future of Iraq. They would also do well to remember the brave words of General Maude in 1917 when the British last tried to put an end to the era of 'strange tyrants'. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-598909,00.html * INSIDE SADDAM'S MILITARY ELITE by Anthony Loyd The Times, 4th March THE young man's eyes glitter with fervour as he explains his comrades' expectations in battle against American troops: "We want to fight and we expect to die. There is no other option. A special death unit, the Siriya, will be positioned behind us. They are there to kill anyone who tries to flee." It is the man's vernacular that gives his story credence. Sadak Ali Akram (an alias), claims to have served until 13 days ago as a sergeant in the Quiada Quat "Adnan", a 10,000-strong Republican Guard division based in Mosul, Iraq. Deserting this unit on February 18, a crime punishable by death, he sought sanctuary in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, arriving here in Sulaimaniyah two days later. Now under house arrest and speaking in the presence of an interpreter on contract to the Kurdish security services, there are gaps in his story, and issues he cannot or will not discuss ‹ not least because his wife and young child are still in hiding in Iraqi-held Kirkuk. Reflecting the delusions and twisted logic of his Baghdad leadership, Akram, 26, depicts a force that doubts the ability of the Americans ever to wage a war, yet is prepared to self destruct in order to inflict as many casualties on Western forces as possible. "For 13 years the US has threatened Iraq with an attack," he snorts. "Each time they hold back. Most of the US speeches are lies. We have our weapons and they know this and fear us. And what about Israel? If attacked, Saddam can hit them with missiles and kill so many." Time and time again during his three-hour interview with The Times, his language spins into an anti-American rant in which he extols the virtue of his abandoned Guard division: more the mark of an indoctrinated soldier than a Kurdish propaganda "plant". At once the backbone of Saddam Hussein's power and the most serious threat facing British and American troops inside Iraq, the detailed account of life in the Republican Guard painted by Akram is the first from within the unit in the present crisis. "If there is a war, then we expect the regular troops to run away immediately. They have no Siriya behind them, and are upset with their poor pay and bad equipment. But the Republican Guard lack for nothing. Each soldier has his full complement of ammunition, good gas masks and a chemical kit with four syringes inside. Our tanks are all operable. Only seven months ago we received more new armoured vehicles and stocks of spare parts." Akram was born in Kirkuk. A Kurd, technically his ethnicity should have precluded membership of the Baath regime's military elite. Yet he says that a clerical error erased his Kurdish prename and on April 7 last year he was enrolled into the Republican Guard under his three Arab names. For three months he received basic training at the Guard's headquarter division north of Baghdad. He was transferred to Mosul and became a logistics sergeant with the "Adnan" division, named after Adnan Khairallah Tulfah, Saddam's cousin and Defence Minister, who died in a helicopter crash in 1989. According to Akram, the fighting spirit of the Republican Guard is maintained through a mix of religious and political indoctrination, perks and fear. The average Guard soldier receives 11,000 dinars month ‹ 4,000 more than a conscript ‹ plus privileged accommodation and rations. "Most of the soldiers are Shia Arabs," he says. "They don't like Saddam but most don't hate him. They are happy to spend their lives in the Republican Guard with Saddam in power. If they die in battle with America they are told they will become martyrs. Our officers tell us that if America invades we will be their slaves. They will shame us with the rape of our women. We have many lectures on this. Sometimes one a month, sometimes several each week." Akram claimed that the Guard felt especially confident about dealing with the Americans as they had escaped the last Gulf War almost untouched by the coalition forces and had even preserved most of their armour intact. "This time again special bunkers in hidden places have been made for our troops and tanks to survive the air attacks and emerge to fight," he said. Questioned about chemical weapons, Akram said he had no specific knowledge. Later he returned to the subject and pointed out that Iraqi security services would already be hunting for his family. If he revealed more, the searches would itensify. "All I can say is that there are things that are mobile, not fixed. They are all the time moving." Of the Siriya death squads, he claimed that a 200-strong unit was attached to the "Adnan" division in Mosul, and a similar unit positioned behind the "Nabukhuznassir" division protecting the oilfields around Kirkuk. "We see the Siriya," he says slowly. "We don't mix with them but we know their responsibility, and what is expected of them and us." For all his apparent pride in his unit, Akram says that he felt under pressure over his Kurdish ethnicity. His privileges were restricted and his commander told him that his file had been sent to Baghdad for investigation. He feared arrest. Between February 10 and 13 though, he was chosen to share the feast marking the end of the Haj in the company of his division's commander, General Sayifadeen Al-Rawi. In common with most selected soldiers he took snapshots. "Afterwards my lieutenant, a hard-hearted man, told me that as a Kurd I was forbidden to take pictures of senior commanders. He said the offence would be added to my report. I became even more frightened." Five days later he fled. He found his family in Kirkuk and warned them to move to safe houses, then he crossed into Kurdish-controlled territory over the hills above Chamchamal. It is the one real sticking point of his story. Why did he not bring his parents, wife and child with him? "I did not know how I would be received. I had no house here and nowhere for my family to live," he says. "I was afraid for them to come here. I think they can stay safe there while I plan their escape." In Saddam's Iraq such a decision is indeed a gamble. Much later in the day, running the transcripts of Akram's story past a Kurd who served for two years with the Iraqi regular army, I am told: "Even the way this man speaks denotes he is Republican Guard. Though he has deserted his division he still cannot help but use their language. But to leave his family? It would be better that they died than the Iraqi secret police find them." http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1045511299114&p=1012571727085 * IRAQ'S CHRISTIANS FEAR BEING CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE by Roula Khalaf Financial Times, 4th March Pierre Whalon was the first western bishop to take up an invitation from the Iraqi Chaldean church to join prayers for peace in Baghdad. In a passionate appeal against the horrors of war in one of the city's modern churches, he told a calm and solemn group of worshippers that they should not feel alone. "War is never, never God's will," he said. But between prayers, mainly in Arabic, and the sermon delivered in English and French, he sent a broader message to a troubled country bracing itself for more confrontation - that preventing war alone would not be enough to create peace. "Peace is when we understand each other and when we can speak what's in our hearts among us," said Bishop Whalon, a French-American who is in charge of the convocation of American Episcopal churches in Europe. "It is when we ask why are you afraid of me and why am I afraid of you." His recent visit to Baghdad was part of the mobilisation of Christian leaders around the world against a war that many refuse to bless as "just" under Christian doctrine. It was also a reflection of concern for the fate of Iraq's Christian minority, a community that fears the worst from a military conflict. The Iraqi regime's persecution of Shia Muslims, Kurds and Marsh Arabs is cited by the US and UK as part of the moral case for war. But the country's Christian leaders worry that their tiny minority will be caught in the crossfire. They could face a religious backlash from die-hard regime supporters who might perceive them as accomplices of American invaders of the same faith. But they also risk a political backlash from those who have considered them allies of President Saddam Hussein. "The concern is that Christians will disappear," said Bishop Whalon. "The present regime gives them some tolerance, who knows what the next one will do." Part of his message, to Iraq's Muslim communities as well the Christians, was that the possible war should not be seen as an attack against Islam. "If there's a war here it's not Christians against Muslims," he said. "Americans are afraid of weapons of mass destruction." The alarm over Iraq's Christians - the most generous estimates put their numbers at 800,000 people in a country of more than 23m - has given added impetus to Pope John Paul's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. A Vatican envoy met Mr Hussein last month and delivered a letter from the Pope. It is said to have urged full compliance with the UN disarmament demands. Later this week a papal representative will meet President George W. Bush to hand over an appeal for a peaceful solution. The Pope has also declared tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and prayer for peace. Iraq's Christians say their roots go back to the first century when the apostle Thomas evangelised the land of Iraq, then known as Mesopotamia. A majority of them are Chaldeans, an old Catholic rite that originated in this region and is in union with Rome. The ruling Ba'ath party in Iraq was co-founded by a Christian and it took over in 1968 on a platform based on a radical pan-Arab nationalist and deeply secular ideology. As citizens, Christians have shared the same grievances with the government as other Iraqis. But, dominated by the Sunni Muslim minority, the regime has also looked for support among other minorities willing to show their loyalty, as most Christian leaders have done. Over the past two decades, however, life has become harsher for the Christians. After repeated wars and more than 12 years of UN sanctions many have gone into exile. According to Emmanuel Dely, an adviser to Patriarch Rafael Bedawid, the head of the Chaldean Church, up to 100,000 Christians - some say even more - have emigrated in recent years. "We strongly feel the loss when people leave because we are not that many," he said. Also troubling has been the rising wave of Islamist sentiment in the country. In an effort to prevent the emergence of a strong Islamist opposition, the regime itself, including the Ba'ath party, has adopted Islamic slogans, built grand mosques and introduced a ban on alcohol. Some attacks by radical Islamists against Christians have been reported, particularly in the northern city of Mosul. Bishop Dely said that some rules, such as the ban on alcohol, are unfortunate. He blamed aggression and discrimination against Christians in the administration on individual "fanatics". "We've always lived peacefully with Muslims here but there are always extremists, in every society. We tell the government if anyone bothers us and they deal with it," he said. As for the future, he added: "All that's left to do now is pray and put in the hearts of those in positions of power the will to sit down and work things out." NO FLY ZONES http://www.ccmep.org/usbombingwatch/2003.htm#2/26/03 * AMERICAN WARPLANES BOMB TWO IRAQI SITES Associated Press, 26th February WASHINGTON (AP)- U.S. warplanes bombed two military communications sites in southern Iraq Wednesday, the U.S. military said, marking the fourth American strike on Iraq in two days. American planes bombed the two communications sites, which help tie together Iraq's air defense network, at about 8:35 a.m. EST, according to a statement from the U.S. Central Command. The two sites were between Baghdad and Al Kut, which is about 90 miles southeast of the capital, and between Al Kut and An Nasiriyah, about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, Central Command said. On Tuesday, American planes bombed mobile surface-to-surface missile equipment and a mobile surface-to-air missile launcher in southern Iraq near Basra, which is about 35 miles from the border with Kuwait. U.S. planes also hit three mobile surface-to-surface missile launchers in northern Iraq. [.....] http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-us-iraq airstrike0227feb27,0,388737.story?coll=sns%2Dap%2Dworld%2Dheadlines * U.S. STRIKES IRAQ COMMUNICATIONS SITES Newsday (Associated Press), 27th February WASHINGTON -- In a third straight day of airstrikes on Iraq, American planes on Thursday fired upon military communications sites, U.S. officials said. U.S. planes hit three communications sites 15 miles west and 18 miles south of the northern city of Mosul, according to a statement from the U.S. task force that patrols the northern no fly zone. The strikes on fiber-optic, microwave and cable communications facilities -- in response to anti-aircraft artillery attacks on no-fly zone patrols -- came at about 2:20 p.m. EST, said the statement from Combined Task Force Operation Northern Watch. The communications sites help link Iraq's air defenses, the statement said. All the planes involved returned safely to their base at Incirlik, Turkey, the statement said. On Wednesday, American planes bombed two military communications sites in southern Iraq. A day earlier, U.S. planes struck mobile surface-to-surface missile equipment and a mobile surface-to-air missile launcher in southern Iraq near Basra, about 35 miles from the border with Kuwait. U.S. planes also hit three mobile surface-to-surface missile launchers in northern Iraq on Tuesday. The airstrikes come as U.S. and British troops are massing in Kuwait in preparation for a possible war to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Military officials say the surface-to surface missiles hit this week threaten those troops and ones the United States wants to send to Turkey, Iraq's northern neighbor. [.....] http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_200653,00130018.htm * WESTERN JETS HIT IRAQI TARGETS ANEW: US Hindustani Times, 1st March Reuters, Washington, March 1: Warplanes taking part in US-British air patrols attacked three mobile air-defence radar and a surface-to-air missile system in southern Iraq on Friday, the US military said. Continuing an almost daily string of such strikes, the allies fired precision-guided weapons after Iraqi forces moved the gear into the southern "no fly" zone, said the US Central Command, which would run any all-out US war against Iraq. In Baghdad, the Iraqi military said air raids on northern and southern Iraq by US-British planes injured three civilians and destroyed a radar station at Basra airport in the south on Friday. Baghdad routinely describes the targets of the air raids as civilian, while US and British military authorities say they attack only military targets and strive to avoid inflicting civilian casualties. "The enemy attacked our civilian and infrastructure facilities in Ninawa province, injuring three citizens and damaging three cars," an army spokesman was quoted by the Iraqi News Agency as saying. According to the US Central Command, the raids took place near An Nasiriyah, 170 miles (270 km) Southwest of Baghdad. They were in response to "Iraqi threats to coalition aircraft" policing the zone, the Tampa, Florida-based command said. The allies patrol "no fly" zones in the north and south. They have placed the zones off limits to Iraqi aircraft as a way of enforcing United Nations resolutions to protect Shiites and Kurds from attack by the Iraqi military. The air strikes were the latest in a quickening string of attacks in both zones that have been softening up Iraq ahead of a looming US-led invasion to disarm President Saddam Hussein. On Thursday, Western warplanes targeted three air defence targets in the northern no-fly zone and two in the southern no-fly zone in response to Iraqi threats, the US military said. The day before, they attacked two air defence cable communications sites in southern Iraq. And on Tuesday, the warplanes struck at five missile sites - including four surface-to surface batteries that target troops - in the northern and southern no-fly zones. The region around Baghdad between the no-fly zones is believed by the Pentagon to be one of the most heavily defended skies in the world. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/mar/01/030107446.html * U.S. SAYS IRAQI JETS ENTERED NO-FLY ZONE by MATT KELLEY Las Vegas Sun, 1st March WASHINGTON (AP): Iraqi fighter jets entered the southern no-fly zone twice last week, apparently trying to test U.S. responses or look for surveillance drones, military officials said Saturday. The flights Tuesday and Thursday, each by a lone Iraqi MiG-25, came amid sharply escalating conflict in both the northern and southern no-fly zones. U.S. warplanes attacked Iraqi weapons in the zones daily from Tuesday through Friday, and on Saturday dropped leaflets in the northern zone for the first time. The White House maintained its hard line against Saddam Hussein's government, deriding Iraq's destruction Saturday of four Al Samoud 2 missiles declared illegal by the United Nations. Merci Viana, a spokeswoman for President Bush, said the U.N. resolution that prompted weapons inspectors' return to Iraq demanded "complete, total and immediate disarmament." "It did not call for pieces of disarmament," she said. "The president has always predicted that Iraq would destroy its Al Samoud missiles as part of its game of deception." Bush suffered a blow Saturday in his efforts to rally international support for a possible war against Iraq. Turkey's parliament speaker nullified a narrow vote to allow U.S. troops to deploy in Turkey, Iraq's northern neighbor. Both Iraqi flights into the southern no-fly zone came when there were no U.S. warplanes in the air over southern Iraq, according to military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. The MiG-25s flew no more than 70 miles into the no-fly zone before looping around to return to an Iraqi air base north of the zone, the military officials said. The Iraqi flights did not come close to Iraq's borders with Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, the officials said. The officials portrayed the events as a deliberate Iraqi choice to fly when and where their jets would be in the least danger from U.S. and allied forces. The officials added that American fighters would have tried to shoot down the obsolete, Soviet-built fighter if they had the chance. One of Thursday's airstrikes in the southern zone - an attack on two air defense communications sites - was a direct response to the Thursday MiG flight, U.S. Central Command said. The multiple Iraqi penetrations of the no-fly zone were the first since December. An Iraqi MiG-25 shot down a pilotless Predator surveillance drone on Dec. 23. The latest flights also could have been new attempts to shoot down another Predator, officials said. Iraq does not recognize the no-fly zones, set up after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to protect opposition Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraq frequently fires on the U.S. and British planes patrolling the zones. Iraq has never shot down a piloted plane in a no-fly zone. The U.S. airstrikes targeted not only anti-aircraft missiles and air defense communications sites but also ground-to-ground missiles in both the south and the north. U.S. officials said those missiles were struck because they threatened U.S. and British forces massing in Kuwait and Turkey, a NATO ally. In southern Iraq Friday, U.S. warplanes bombed three mobile air-defense radars and an anti aircraft missile system, Central Command said. U.S. pilots struck the equipment after Iraq moved it into the southern no-fly zone near An Nasiriyah, about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, Central Command said. On Saturday, U.S. planes flying from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey took the psychological warfare propaganda campaign to the northern no-fly zone. The U.S. European Command, which oversees the northern patrols, said its flights dropped 240,000 leaflets on two locations about 10 miles northeast of Mosul. "Both locations have a history of Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery flying on coalition jets," a command statement said. The leaflets warned of immediate retaliation against hostile action toward U.S. and British planes. Bush, meanwhile, continued to broaden his rationale for war in the face of growing worldwide opposition, saying in Saturday's weekly radio address that the United States is committed to providing relief aid during any conflict in Iraq and to establishing a democratic rule for Iraqis after a war. http://www.ccmep.org/usbombingwatch/2003.htm#2/27/03 * Iraq: U.S.-U.K. Raid Kills Six Civilians in Basra Reuters, 3rd March BAGHDAD: Iraq said on Monday that U.S. and British warplanes killed six civilians and wounded another 15 in raids on Basra, but Washington said the jets struck military targets after coming under anti-aircraft fire. An Iraqi military spokesman said the planes patrolling a "no-fly" zone in the south of the country entered Iraqi airspace at 9:45 p.m. (1845 GMT) on Sunday and later targeted civilian sites in the province of Basra. In a statement on the state Iraqi News Agency, he said Iraqi anti-aircraft units fired at the planes which returned to bases in Kuwait. But the United States military said the planes attacked five air defense targets early on Monday in response to anti-aircraft fire from the ground. A British Defense Ministry spokeswoman said Britain would look into the Iraqi allegations. "This is one of the stronger allegations they have made so we are looking into it," she said. But she added: "The early indications are that these reports are probably not accurate." The strikes were the latest in an increasing number of western air attacks in no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq as the United States and Britain build up a force for possible invasion of Iraq. More than 220,000 troops are now in the region. The U.S. Central Command said aircraft used precision-guided weapons to strike four fiber optic communications centers near Al Kut about 95 miles southeast of Baghdad and a military command and control center near Basra about 245 miles southeast of Baghdad. U.S. Central Command said from its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the targets were attacked after Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery. "The specific targets were struck because they enhanced Iraq's integrated air defense network," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a spokesman for Central Command, told Reuters. [.....] http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,906417,00.html * ALLIES BOMB KEY IRAQI TARGETS by Nicholas Watt, Richard Norton-Taylor, and Suzanne Goldenberg in Baghdad The Guardian, 3rd March Britain and the United States have all but fired the first shots of the second Gulf war by dramatically extending the range of targets in the "no-fly zones" over Iraq to soften up the country for an allied ground invasion. As Baghdad threatened to stop destroying its Samoud 2 missiles if the US presses ahead with its invasion plans, allied pilots have attacked surface-to-surface missile systems and are understood to have hit multiple-launch rockets. Targets hit in recent days include the Ababil-100, a Soviet-designed surface-to-air missile system adapted to hit targets on the ground, and the Astros 2 ground rocket launcher with a range of up to 56 miles. These would be used to defend Iraq in the event of an invasion or to attack allied troops stationed in Kuwait. Britain and the US insist publicly that the rules for enforcing the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq have not changed - that pilots only open fire if they are targeted. But privately defence officials admit that there has been an aggressive upping of the ante in recent weeks to weaken Iraqi defences ahead of a ground invasion. Analysts confirm there has been an intensification of what is known as "the undeclared war". The allied action will prompt allegations that Britain and the US have unilaterally changed the rules of the no-fly zones. These zones were established after the last Gulf war to protect Shias in the south and Kurds in the north. John Warden, a retired US air force colonel who was an architect of the 1991 Gulf war air campaign, gave a taste of the change in tactics when he said: "We have added a new category of targets, and those were some of the Iraqi multiple rocket launchers and some of their relatively short range surface-to-surface missiles." Loren Thompson, a defence analyst with the US Lexington Institute, told Reuters: "The US military is taking advantage of the no-fly zones to prepare the battle space for war. There's been a sporadic war occurring in the air over Iraq for a dozen years now. This merely ratchets up the intensity." The intensification of the Anglo-American attacks is likely to be seized on by Iraq, which has long complained that Britain and the US have abused the no-fly zones. Believing that its hand has been strengthened by its decision to comply with UN demands to destroy its Samoud 2 missiles, Iraq said that it would call a halt to the destruction if the US presses ahead with its invasion plans. Speaking after the destruction of 10 missiles over the weekend, Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser, Lieutenant General Amer al-Saadi, said: "If it turns out at an early stage during this month that America is not going the legal way, then why should we continue?" The intensification of the attacks in the no-fly zones appears to show that Britain and the US are determined to follow the military route, despite the continuing debate at the United Nations. The bombing is likely to cause renewed tension with France and Germany, which have both argued that it is inappropriate to prepare for war until the UN has decided that military action is necessary. Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, told BBC's Breakfast with Frost: "It is for the inspectors to write a report saying 'We can't work any more'. Are we in such a situation? No. Do we need a second resolution? No. Are we going to oppose a second resolution? Yes, as are the Russians and many other countries." Figures released by the US central command show that British and US aircraft have stepped up their bombing over the past few weeks. This year alone they have attacked Iraqi targets more than 40 times. In the past week, they have attacked Iraqi targets three times. On Thursday they attacked a missile site and communications system near Basra. On Friday they bombed three mobile air defence early warning radars and a surface-to-air missile system near An Nasiriyah, approximately 170 miles southwest of Baghdad. On Saturday, British and US aircraft attacked military communication sites and a mobile radar in the same location. Last month British and US aircraft attacked the Ababil-100 missile site near Basra, where surface-to-air missiles adapted to hit ground targets were located, according to US central command. The US says that they bombed the targets in response to the Iraqis moving the missiles and air defence below the 33rd parallel marking the northern end of the southern no-fly zone. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk