The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] News, 26/02-05/03/03 (5)

News, 26/02-05/03/03 (5)


*  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


*  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


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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

"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

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

"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."

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

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'.,,3-598909,00.html

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

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

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

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

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."

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

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

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

"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."


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.


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.


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.

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

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

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.

*  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.


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

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
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]