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[casi] News, 19-26/03/03 (4)



News, 19-26/03/03 (4)

ARABIAN NIGHT

*  White House policy and a second awakening
*  What could Arab leaders have done to curb America's ambitions?
*  BBC presses Peres on Israeli weapons program
*  OPEC Statement On Commencement of Iraq War
*  2 killed as antiwar protests erupt across Arab world
*  Arabs Seethe as TV Brings Iraq Destruction Home
*  Christian community comes down strong against US-led attack on Iraq    
*  Ankara, Washington in danger of 'opening the gates of hell'
*  With eyes focused on Iraq, Sharon kills off Palestinian aspirations


ARABIAN NIGHT

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/20_03_03_e.htm

*  WHITE HOUSE POLICY AND A SECOND AWAKENING
by George E. Irani
Lebanon Daily Star, 20th March

A few years ago at a private meeting of academics and intelligence officers,
I asked the then US Undersecretary of State for Middle East Affairs what was
more important for the US in the Middle East: stability or democracy. The
answer was clear: stability and the protection of US national interests in
the region were paramount. Democracy, while promoted in other parts of the
world, especially after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, was not one
of Washington's priorities in the Middle East.

These reminiscences are revived by current pronouncements from Washington
about the need for "regime change" in the Middle East. Democratization and
regional political redesign are touted as key objectives - even virtues - of
the coming US war on Iraq.

In light of these pronouncements, I contend that the Arabs - especially the
educated and enlightened in their midst, and they are legion - ought to
undertake a second Arab "awakening," to cite the title of George Antonius'
seminal and highly influential book, The Arab Awakening. Antonius, an Arab
intellectual who lived in the early years of the 20th century, advocated
independence from colonial rule and democracy throughout the Arab world.

Contrary to popular belief, democracy is not an alien concept in Arab and
Islamic societies. In the Middle East, we have the example of Lebanon, which
until the civil war (1975-90), provided fertile soil for democracy, even if
corrupted by sectarian considerations and stressed beyond its limits by
regional and international political conflicts. Lebanon has a Parliament
whose members are elected, and they also elect the president of the
republic. Even today, in the framework of the Taif Accords (1989) that ended
the long war, Lebanon still enjoys a somewhat democratic system under Syrian
tutelage. In addition, Beirut is still the preferred base for Western
journalists and academics eager to learn more about the Arab "street." With
its Christian and Muslim communities living side-by-side, Lebanon is a good
model for those dreaming of "regime change" in Iraq and the Arab countries
in general. Finally, Lebanon is a glaring contradiction of the so-called
"clash of civilizations" thesis and its eager advocates. Eighteen different
ethnoconfessional sects co-exist and cooperate in daily life. The civil war
was not the product of cultural or religious disagreements but rather, the
result of local, regional, and international political competitions.

Another emerging example of democracy in the Middle East is that of an
important and oil wealthy non-Arab nation: Iran. In the early 1950s, at the
beginning of the US Cold War policy of containment, Iranians enjoyed free
elections and a democratically elected prime minister. Not too long after
Prime Minister Mossadeq's election, and because oil is a paramount interest
for the US and Great Britain, the CIA overthrew Mossadeq and installed Reza
Pahlavi as the Shah of Iran. For almost 30 years the Shah governed Iran as a
colony of the US. The US, in turn, considered the Shah as a linchpin of its
containment and security policies in the Gulf. The views and interests of
the Iranian people were beside the point.

After 1979, with the advent of the Islamic Republic of Iran under Khomeini,
Iran was to enjoy a taste of democracy. Following the death of the Supreme
Leader, Iranian youth, who comprise over two-thirds of the country's
population, voted a reformer, Mohammad Khatami, to head the country.
Iranians twice voted to keep Khatami in power despite the challenges he
faced from the conservatives entrenched in the intelligence and judiciary.
The jury is still out on Iran's future as a bona fide democracy, but it is
clear that Iranians have demonstrated to themselves and the world that Islam
and democracy can be compatible.

Another Middle Eastern democratic example is Turkey. A close ally of the US
and a key member of NATO, the Turkish Parliament recently voted to forbid
the use of Turkish bases as launching pads for US/UK attacks against Iraq.
This decision could be reversed in the near future, but the Turkish people's
anti-war will was expressed by its elected representatives despite
considerable American financial incentives and political pressures. The last
Turkish elections brought to power a political party that is influenced by
Islamic tendencies. What the Turkish leadership succeeded in doing is to
allay American (but mostly European) fears that Turkey will not become
another fundamentalist regime at the crossroads between Europe and Asia.
Nonetheless, the steps its military take toward Kurds in both Iraq and
Turkey will test Turkish democracy. Herein lies another contradiction in the
Bush administration's advocacy for "regime change" and the advent of a
democratic "tsunami" in the Middle East. You cannot call for democracy in
Iraq while undermining it in Kurdistan.

These are momentous times for Arab and Islamic societies, the Middle East,
and for those advocating the establishment of Jeffersonian-type democracies
in the Middle East.

The coming US war against the Iraqi regime and the subsequent American
occupation, which could last for at least a decade, are a call to arms (in
the figurative sense) for Arab intellectuals, human rights activists,
artists, women and civil society at large to initiate the second Arab
awakening. This can be done with the help of Arab and Muslim diaspora
communities and their many non-Arab and non-Muslim friends in Europe, the US
and Canada. If this opportunity is missed, we are in for more "blood, sweat,
and tears" to use the famous words of Winston Churchill.

George E. Irani is professor in the Masters in Conflict Analysis and
Management program at Royal Roads University. He can be reached at
george.irani@royalroads.ca. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/20_03_03_f.htm

*  WHAT COULD ARAB LEADERS HAVE DONE TO CURB AMERICA'S AMBITIONS?
Lebanon Daily Star, 20th March

With the onset of war on Iraq, Syrian Vice-President Abdulhalim Khaddam
warns that it heralds major trouble for all the Arab countries, and argues
they could have prevented it had they agreed to Syria's proposal for a ban
on the use of Arab bases and military facilities by America and British
invasion forces.

"No one will be spared the harmful effects of the coming war," the veteran
Syrian statesman says in an interview with the leading Saudi pan-Arab daily
Asharq al-Awsat, published alongside reports of the final countdown to the
start of war.

Khaddam blames feuding and divisions between Arab governments, plus the
"sense of fear" instilled in them by the "psychological war waged by America
against the Arabs," for their collective failure on the subject of Iraq.

"Whoever thinks this war will bring him security and stability is
miscalculating, and not taking a realistic and objective view of current
conditions and of future possibilities," he cautions. "When we called for a
serious and resolute stance to prevent war, it wasn't for the sake of
posturing." The Americans have declared their intention to "reshape" the
region after they seize control of Iraq, "and this means another Sykes-Picot
- erasing the Arabs' future for several decades to come."

But Khaddam dismisses the notion that Syria stands to be the war's "biggest
loser" other than Iraq itself.

"If we want to talk about the scale of the losses for each country in the
region, Syria will be the least harmed among the Arab states," he maintains.
"Why? Because of its political, economic and cultural make-up, Syria is a
united and cohesive country. Syrians may differ with the leadership over a
certain matter, but when it comes to an external threat all of Syria will
rally round its leadership. This is something that is difficult to find in
many Arab states. Thus the impact of the earthquake will be more destructive
in other Arab countries."

Khaddam stresses that the "negative fallout of the war on the Arab world,
from Mauritania to the Gulf," will not spare those Arab states "who claim to
be America's friends." The US considers Israel to be its sole strategic ally
in the region and does not deem any of the Arab states to be "friends," he
reasons. "If America cared about its Arab friends, being a democratic
superpower, it would have taken the demands of the Arab peoples into account
rather than embarrassing its friends, and helped them by avoiding conditions
that will be suffocating to all of them."

The Syrian vice-president reserves judgment on Turkey's prospective entry
into the war, commenting: "There is no doubt that the Turkish people are
overwhelmingly opposed to war and the Turkish government doesn't want to get
involved in war. But there are pressures, and Turkey is trying to find its
way out from them. Nevertheless, when the Americans tried to negotiate, the
Turks laid down conditions. In contrast, some Arab states agreed
unconditionally (to the deployment of US forces on their territory), without
demanding anything in return - although they will incur losses from this
massing of troops and from the coming war."

Quizzed about the Iraqi opposition, Khaddam says the Americans have now "set
aside" the opposition factions they were working with. "I don't know the
reason," he declares. He is "convinced" that the Iran-based Supreme Assembly
for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq will not cooperate with the US, and
"doubts" that Damascus-based Iraqi dissidents will either.

"As for the Kurds, and I mean the two parties, the PUK and the KDP,
according to our information they have not broken off their contacts with
Baghdad, but they are in a difficult position: they're caught between
American pressure on the one hand and their concern not to enter into a war
pitting Kurds against Arabs on the other. They are also fearful of Turkish
intervention and the effect that would have on them. We don't want to
prejudge (the various components of the Iraqi opposition). We have to await
forthcoming events."

Khaddam scoffs at the view that war on Iraq might result in the reactivation
of the Arab Israeli peace process. "Talking about the peace process now is
like talking about obtaining rain from the moon. Now, no one is talking
about peace and everyone is preoccupied with preventing war. We in Syria do
not want the humiliation that Ariel Sharon is proposing, especially as the
superpower capable of imposing a solution is standing totally by Israel's
side."

But Khaddam concludes his remarks on a hopeful note, forecasting that the
"painful" post war period in which "the impact on everyone will be bad" will
not last long, and will give rise to "a clear vision of a new and different
Arab future."

The pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi accuses Saudi Arabia of contributing to
the US war effort by producing vastly more oil than its OPEC quota allows in
order to ensure that the war doesn't lead to a dramatic oil price hike that
would undermine American public support for the invasion of Iraq.

The paper argues that oil prices would be shooting through the roof if the
kingdom had not been doing this, and chartering additional super tankers to
ship crude oil to top up the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"The Saudi government says it won't participate in the war on Iraq, and
won't send a single Saudi soldier onto Iraq soil. That's nice. But the
American government, which is commanding the war to destroy Iraq, doesn't
want the participation of Saudi forces. It doesn't need them. They'd only be
a burden on it, as they were during the Second (1991) Gulf War, when Saudi
warplanes were shot down by Iraqi air defenses on their first sorties. What
the US wants is Saudi oil, air bases and AWACS surveillance planes," the
paper says.

"Participating with oil is much more important than participating with
troops."

Although Riyadh disavows any use of the "oil weapon" to achieve political
goals, Al-Quds al-Arabi argues that by producing extra oil to keep down oil
prices while the US invades Iraq, the kingdom "is indeed using oil as a
strategic weapon, but to serve the interests of American aggression."

If the Gulf states had cut their oil production by 10 percent, prices would
have skyrocketed of $50 per barrel, and the Americans and Europeans would
have been jolted into "appreciating the scale of the disaster the US
administration is leading them into in its naked and immoral aggression
against Iraq," the paper writes.

"But the Gulf governments - chiefly Saudi Arabia - don't want to upset
Washington and would rather participate in the war on Iraq via the backdoor
in the belief that Arab citizens are stupid and don't know that
participating with oil is much more serious than participating with soldiers
who don't know how to use their weapons, and if they did use them would be
more likely to kill their allies by mistake."

The renowned Paris-based Syrian intellectual Burhan Ghalyoun anticipates a
"powerful public backlash against the Arab status quo" because of the
regimes' collective display of "impotence" with regard to both Iraq and
Palestine.

"Arab public opinion long ago gave up on the Arab League and abandoned any
illusions about its ability to act," he writes in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad.
"But this is the first time that the Arabs feel they have become like a
football, kicked about by the players after having lost control of their
fate and left it to the major powers to resolve the struggle over their
region, and in the process to share out influence in it."

But Ghalyoun says it was unrealistic to expect the Arab governments to mount
a meaningful collective drive to prevent war when they are following
distinct agendas and focusing on their narrow interests.

"While some are more inclined to resist the urge to defer to the needs of US
regional strategy and place themselves automatically at its service, others
think that their very existence depends on adhering to that strategy and
signing up to it," he writes.

"But no one should be deceived by appearances or by speeches directed at
public opinion," Ghalyoun cautions. "In those Arab states that appear less
inclined to submit to the will of the US, we must distinguish between the
behavior of some political and media circles, which inhabit their own
universe independently of the realities of actual power, and that of the de
facto ruling security and military agencies. Political talk to the contrary
does not prevent them from coordinating closely with the US administration,"
he says.

This explains the absence of any unified Arab strategy "on the eve of a war
that more than any other war will determine the fate of the entire region,
and also why the Arab world - like any small distant state - is awaiting the
outcome of the European-American confrontation over dividing its resources
and determining the fate of its peoples."

Ghalyoun adds that while the Americans and Europeans are ostensibly at odds
over Iraq, both tacitly agree that the "the bankruptcy of Arab elites, their
failure to manage and run the region, and the absence of convincing
alternatives to the ruling regimes, leaves the world with no other choice
than to accept what is soon set to become a standard and acceptable idea -
namely, the placing of Arab countries under some form or other of
international trusteeship, or even reverting to governing them via old
colonial methods."

Thus, when the idea of appointing an American Army general as military
governor of Iraq was floated, there were barely any European - or even Arab
- objections to be heard. This was seen as a mark of the seriousness of
Washington's commitment to post-war, "and no one noted the fact that this
was a throwback to 19th century colonial policies."

Bahraini commentator Saeed Shehabi observes that a variety of Arab states
are "secretly" cooperating with the US in its blatantly illegal war, despite
fearing that it could bring "disaster" not just to Iraq but the entire
region.

That fear is shared by most Iraqis, he writes in Al-Quds al-Arabi. Although
they yearn for a better life after three decades of tyranny and wars,
"political change imposed by external force under extremely controversial
pretexts does not appeal to many Iraqis, even though there are those among
them who maintain that changing the regime is a must, irrespective of the
price."

Shehabi writes that the Iraqi Kurdish parties support the war, and they are
striving seriously to maximize the political gains they can get out of it,
even if the establishment of a Kurdish state is unattainable in practice.
But the accommodation which America's Iraq supremo, Zalmay Khalilzad,
brokered between them and Turkey after tense talks in Ankara looks uneasy
and could break down.

Most Arab and Islamic states meanwhile feel obliged to go along with the
Americans' plans in Iraq, "if only covertly," Shehabi says. But while the
sight of Arab states "vying to earn Washington's favor" by doing its bidding
is not new, they have never exhibited quite as much "political hypocrisy" as
now: by manifesting fierce opposition to war, while doing nothing in
practice to prevent it and/or providing facilities to US invasion forces.

Rival regional governments have been trying to outdo each other in offering
the Americans bases and other military assistance, he says, "with Saudi
Arabia competing with Qatar in this respect, Qatar with Bahrain, Turkey with
the Kurds, and Israel with Jordan."

Shehabi expects that in the aftermath of the war, these and other Arab
players will try to curry Washington's favor by helping to put pressure on
the Palestinians to "lower the ceiling of their demands," and crack down on
resistance to Israeli occupation under the guise of "combating terrorism."

He remarks: "The only thing more peculiar than this contest to gain
Washington's approval is the conviction of those who are engaged in it that
they will reap profits from it exceeding those that the US is budgeting for.
Their dreams will be dashed once the last shot is fired in the war on Iraq.
That will be the time to awaken from a prolonged slumber, and see the
undoubtedly bitter reality for what it is."


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/19_03_03/art19.asp

*  BBC PRESSES PERES ON ISRAELI WEAPONS PROGRAM
Lebanon Daily Star, 20th March

BEIRUT: Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has denied any comparison
between Israel and Iraq concerning weapons inspections in a television
documentary aired nationwide on the UK's BBC 2 channel Monday night.

"How can you compare it?" Peres said in Correspondent - Israel's Secret
Weapon, claiming that accusations of a double standard in the treatment of
Iraq and Israel over inspections are unfounded.

"Iraq is a dictatorship. Saddam Hussein is a killer. He killed a hundred
thousand Kurds with gas bombs. How can you compare that at all? Just because
he calls himself a state, he's not a state, he's a mafia. He's not a leader,
he's a killer. You cannot say it about us."

Peres would not be drawn on the existence of an Israeli nuclear weapons
program saying, "I don't have to answer your questions, even. I don't see
any reason why."

The former premier also supported Israel's policy of "nuclear ambiguity"
whereby the nation neither confirms nor denies claims that it has nuclear,
chemical or biological weapons and positions itself outside international
treaties, which would make it subject to inspection.

"If somebody wants to kill you and you use a deception to save your life,
it's not immoral. If we wouldn't have enemies we wouldn't need deceptions.
We wouldn't need deterrents," he said.

The documentary had been scheduled to run at the peak Sunday night viewing
time of 7.15pm, but was dropped at the last minute and replaced by a
documentary on windmills, prompting over 1,000 complaints from angry
viewers.

The BBC's website said the show was put back to Monday at 11.30pm due to
extended coverage of the Azores summit between US President George W. Bush,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria
Aznar.

The documentary tells the story of Mordechai Vanunu, Israel's nuclear
whistle blower who, 16 years ago, was drugged, kidnapped and jailed for 18
years for treason and espionage after a secret trial in Israel because he
fled the country and distributed photographs of Israel's nuclear weapons
factory at Dimona in the Negev Desert.

On the program his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said that "Vanunu was treated
this way out of revenge, out of a way to deter others and because actually
he is the person who broke the taboo of the secrecy in the Israeli society,
that's why he was treated in such a harsh way."

In a recent closed hearing, Feldman claimed the Israeli prosecutor argued
that if Vanunu were released, the Americans would probably leave Iraq alone
and press for inspections of Israel's nuclear weapons.

According to the program, Vanunu's revelations led nuclear science experts
to estimate that Israel has in the region of between 100 to 200 nuclear
bombs that have not undergone an independent inspection.

Israel's Secret Weapon also claimed the Israeli Army used an unidentified
gas against Palestinians in Gaza in February 2001. A report in the Israeli
Haaretz daily Friday said Israel was considering launching a protest against
the film.

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British
Understanding, said via e-mail that there had been "a great deal of Israeli
pressure to have this program canceled."

"The pressure from the Israeli government has been intense not just about
this program but generally about the BBC's coverage of the Middle East," he
said.

The Israeli government has complained about the BBC's Correspondent series
in the past after it aired a film on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called The
Accused.

"This almost seems to redress the balance after the BBC aired an outrageous
program on the siege of Bethlehem seen almost totally through the eyes of
the Israeli soldiers," Doyle said.


http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/WO0303/S00319.htm

*  OPEC STATEMENT ON COMMENCEMENT OF IRAQ WAR
Scoop, 21st March

Press Release: OPEC, No 5/2003, Vienna, Austria, March 20, 2003

Immediately following the commencement of hostilities in Iraq, HE Abdullah
bin Hamad Al Attiyah, Minister of Energy & Industry of the State of Qatar
and President of the OPEC Conference, issued the following statement.

"We recall that, at the 124th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, it was decided
that Member Countries are to respond to any supply crisis."

"In light of the events unfolding in Iraq and the interruption of supplies
from an OPEC Founder Member, in my capacity as President of the Conference,
I have consulted with Their Excellencies, the Heads of Delegation to the
OPEC Conference, with whom I have discussed the implementation of the
above-mentioned Conference decision."

"As a result of those consultations, I am herewith reiterating OPEC's
resolve to make up for any supply shortfall resulting from developing
events."

"To this end, Member Countries have pledged to use, in the interim, their
available excess capacities to ensure continued supply."

"In taking such measures, OPEC is, once again, acting in conformity with an
objective set forth in its Statute since the establishment of the
Organization in 1960, namely to secure an efficient, economic and regular
supply of petroleum to consuming countries."

"While OPEC will continue to closely monitor and react to market
developments, it is hoped that the measures taken will contribute to market
stability and support world economic recovery."


http://www.jordantimes.com/Sat/news/news3.htm

*  2 KILLED AS ANTIWAR PROTESTS ERUPT ACROSS ARAB WORLD
Jordan Times, 22nd March
    
SANAA (AFP)  Chanting anti-American slogans, tens of thousands of people
took to the streets of cities across the Middle East after Friday prayers
for a second day of demonstrations against the US-led war on Iraq.

The biggest protests on this Muslim holy day were in the Yemeni capital
Sanaa, where at least two demonstrators were killed in clashes, and in the
Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

Equally fiery rallies in support of Iraq were held in Bahrain, Egypt,
Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria and in the West Bank.

Tens of thousands of angry demonstrators marched on the US embassy in Sanaa,
chanting slogans against the United States, Israel, and Arab leaders as US
and British forces continued their advance into Iraq.

"Leave office and open the door to jihad!" they shouted, calling for Arab
governments to let them fight a holy war alongside Iraqi forces. "Death to
America! Death to Israel!"

The Yemeni interior ministry said two demonstrators were killed in clashes
with police, and 23 people  including 14 policemen  hurt.

But police said earlier that three protesters and a policeman were killed,
adding that some protesters were armed.

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip almost 30,000 Palestinians took to the
streets many calling on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to bomb Tel Aviv.

In the Gaza Strip, 15,000 people protested in the refugee camps of Jabalya,
Rafah and Khan Younis while an imam in Gaza City called for the "opening of
the borders" for Arab volunteers to go and fight with the Iraqi army.

In the West Bank city of Nablus some 5,000 people marched through the
streets after the Israeli occupation army lifted the curfew for the day,
chanting slogans such as "America, the mother of terrorism."

In occupied Jerusalem Israeli occupation forces used tear gas and stun
grenades to disperse some 300 Palestinians shouting their willingness to die
defending Iraq.

Palestinians also rallied in the refugee camps of Ain Al Hilweh in southern
Lebanon, Yarmouk near Damascus and Wihdat in Amman.

In Ain Al Hilweh around 2,000 protesters burned British, Israeli and US
flags, while those of Germany and France, the leading Western opponents of
the war, flew between the Iraqi and Palestinian flags.

Thousands of demonstrators clashed with security forces in the southern
Jordanian town of Maan. Hundreds of people also took to the streets of Amman
and the northern city of Irbid, despite a government ban on unauthorised
street rallies.

Police in Cairo used force when demonstrations moved to the city centre
after kicking off after Friday prayers at the historic Al Azhar Mosque.

In central Cairo Qasr Al Nil avenue clashes broke out when demonstrators
hurled stones at anti-riot police, who responded with baton charges. Public
demonstrations are banned in Egypt, but tolerated at mosques and
universities.

Anti-war activists said some 80 people were arrested, while witnesses said
many of those detained were involved in the clashes and were hurt. Earlier
at Al Azhar Mosque, as many as 4,000 worshippers chanted "Down with
America," "Allah Akbar (God is great)," and "Victory to Iraq", while some
clambered onto the roof to hurl stones, shoes and rubbish at the security
forces. Police said 10 people were injured in the clashes.

In Beirut, police clashed with some 1,000 students using water cannons to
prevent them from marching on the US embassy. The demonstrators and police
hurled stones at each other, and several people were seen being treated by
members of the Red Cross for injuries.

Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, some of whom were wearing
gas masks.

"Death to America! Death to Bush!" shouted the students. Similar slogans
were heard at the Qatari and Kuwaiti embassies where 400 people gathered in
all to blast the two Arab states for hosting US forces in the Gulf.

Protests also took place in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps as well as
in the northern city of Tripoli.

In the Bahraini capital Manama a few hundred young demonstrators hurled
stones at police forces that were protecting the US embassy. Police
responded with tear gas, forcing the protesters to disperse briefly, before
regrouping to hurl more stones. The standoff took place despite an appeal
for calm by King Hamad on Thursday.

In the Sudanese capital Khartoum, thousands marched through the streets
after prayers and attempted to approach the US embassy. However, they were
prevented by a heavy presence of security forces as well as road closures.

"No American embassy in Sudan!" they shouted, while earlier several clerics
told the faithful to show support for Iraq.


http://www.arabnews.com/Article.asp?ID=24118

*  ARABS SEETHE AS TV BRINGS IRAQ DESTRUCTION HOME
Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 23rd March

CAIRO, 23 March 2003 (Reuters): Thousands of Arabs seething with anger about
a heavy US-led bombing of Baghdad protested for a third day yesterday, amid
concern the demonstrations could threaten stability in the volatile region.
With live footage of the fiery explosions and burning buildings in Iraq
beamed into most Arab homes, feelings are running high over what many
consider a sinister ploy to dominate the Arab world. "Did you see all those
bombs falling on TV? All the poor people? And for what? America wants to
subjugate the entire region for the sake of Israel. They want to bring the
Arabs to their knees," said 50-year-old Egyptian housewife Samia.

Some analysts say the widespread and sometimes violent anti-war protests,
from Arab states in the Gulf to Morocco on the Atlantic, have the potential
to undermine stability in a region described by one expert as a "cauldron of
discontent".

But most say the tough security services in Arab states should manage to
rein in the fury and ensure the protests do not threaten government control.
In Egypt, the region's most populous country with almost 70 million people,
thousands of students staged anti-war rallies at universities yesterday amid
tight police security. But unlike the past two days, there were no initial
reports of violence or clashes with police.

In Damascus and Khartoum, police pushed back anti-war protesters trying to
storm toward the US embassies. "Bush and Blair are war criminals," and "Stop
the war now!" chanted hundreds of demonstrators in the conservative Gulf
Arab sultanate of Oman, where protests are rare. "Bush is the new Hitler of
this century. He won't stop until he has control of all Arab lands," one
Omani student said.

Amr Moussa, the head of the 22-member Arab League, said "no Arab with any
remnant of conscience can tolerate" the bombing of Baghdad, once the proud
capital of the Islamic world. "The bombing and violence we're seeing on
satellite TV should stir the ire of every Arab who sees it," said the
secretary-general, who has warned a war against Iraq could "open the gates
of hell" in the Middle East. While many Arabs have little sympathy for Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein, they say they are furious about the suffering the war
is causing innocent Iraqis. "I cried and cried because when I saw the
bombardment, which is worse than anything you can imagine," said taxi driver
Fouad Al-Nashed in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, site of bloody protests on
Friday. Many Arabs also blame their governments for failing to prevent the
conflict, and accuse them of political impotence. "I feel sad and hurt
because there's nothing we can do. The Arabs are weak and America controls
the situation," said Saudi Walid Musharraf, a 29-year-old accountant. "Now
everyone here hates America, and even some Americans hate the American
government," he said.

In Gaza, where protesters have voiced greater support for Saddam himself,
around 10,000 Palestinians marched through the streets holding pictures of
the Iraqi president. "We are with you Saddam Hussein and the people of
Iraq," they chanted. "With our blood and soul we will redeem you, Saddam!"
Some analysts say the war could pose an unprecedented challenge for Arab
governments, who have been at pains to contain restive publics and convince
them they did all they could to avert the war. States including Egypt,
Jordan and Morocco have appealed for calm and moderation.

"There is the possibility of real destabilization if the war continues for a
long time and the war causes devastation and lots of civilian casualties,"
said Hassan Nafaa, head of the political science department at Cairo
University.


http://www.jordantimes.com/Sun/homenews/homenews3.htm

*  CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY COMES DOWN STRONG AGAINST US-LED ATTACK ON IRAQ
by Natasha Twal
Jordan Times, 23rd March
    
AMMAN  The Christian community in Jordan is uniting its voice to condemn
the globally controversial US-led war now under way on Iraq.

>From conducting special prayers for peace to issuing statements against the
war, Christians from different denominations all agree in their stand
against the war.

Latin Bishop of Amman Salim Sayegh said the ongoing war in Iraq is
"unjustified" and "unjust" adding that the Latin Vicariate of Amman has
issued a statement calling for peace and is collecting funds to assist Iraqi
refugees and third country nationals.

According to Sayegh, the stand of the Latin Vicariate, which includes all
Latin churches here, complies with that of Pope John Paul II.

Speaking on the Italian religious channel, "Telepace," the pontiff said
Saturday the war was threatening "the fate of humanity ... Violence and arms
can never resolve the problems of men," exclaimed the Pope.

Head of the Melkite Catholic Church Father Nabeel Haddad issued a statement
denouncing the war, calling on those involved to listen to their
"conscience" and respect human rights.

"We are saddened and frustrated by the military action against Iraq that
could not be stopped by the cries for justice," Haddad said in a statement
made available to The Jordan Times.

Haddad, whose church is conducting continual prayers for peace, particularly
during the Lent season, said: "We stand here as a single nation from
different origins  both Christian and Muslim  to stop these ugly actions."

A call for peace also came from the Young Women's Christian Association
(YWCA) that is arranging a `prayer day' on Monday, which will include
readings from the Holy Bible, the singing of hymns and children lighting
candles.

"We have sent invitations to all of our 125 associations around the world to
join us in prayers Monday and to light candles for peace," head of the YWCA,
Reem Najjar, explained to The Jordan Times.

The vigil is to be held at Saint Mary of Nazareth Church in Sweifieh and "is
open to both Muslims and Christians," said Najjar.

In addition to the condemnations of war in Iraq, Evangelical churches in
Amman are cooperating with the Red Crescent in providing aid to third
country nationals in the Ruweished camps.

Through the Jordanian Evangelical Committee for Relief and Development,
established during the first Gulf War, the churches are providing $8,000
worth of daily food assistance, according to the committee's spokesperson
Issam Hijazeen.

"A total of 30 young volunteers left for Ruweished Friday to help provide
food to displaced nationals crossing the border," Hijazeen said, adding that
the committee has set up its own kitchen towards that end.

Retired Christian teacher and mother of four, Suad Shatara, expressed her
condemnation of the US-led war.

"Of course I do not support this unjust war, where both young and old are
being massacred for no specific reason," said Shatara, adding that
Christians and Muslims here are "one nation that suffers the same pain from
this injustice."

Mother of two and active member of the Roman Orthodox Church in Sweifieh,
Sawsan Sahhar, strongly condemned the war as well.

"I am against the killing of innocents and against the disruption of a
sovereign country by outside forces," said Sahhar, saying any change in
Iraq, if it must occur, should happen from within.

Jordan is presently home to some 170,000 Christians, representing five per
cent of the country's five million citizens.


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/24_03_03_f.htm

*  ANKARA, WASHINGTON IN DANGER OF 'OPENING THE GATES OF HELL'
Lebanon Daily Star, 24th March

As the print media struggles to keep pace with developments on the ground in
Iraq, a contest in which they cannot hope to compete with the burgeoning
satellite TV industry, commentators in the Arab press look ahead.

If they agree on anything, it is that Iraq's fate is not the only thing
being determined by the bombs and missiles that have been pounding its
cities - producing "shocking and awesome" images of mass destruction in
Baghdad and slaughtered children in Basra - and the American military
juggernaut rolling toward its capital.

Joseph Samaha, editor in chief of the Lebanese daily As-Safir, writes of the
ambivalence felt by many who want to see the carnage halted as soon as
possible, but also fear the consequences of an instant American victory.

He writes that the war is not just about Iraq, or even the future of the
Middle East and the "war on terror," in the eyes of the American
neoconservative ideologues who did most to bring it about, "and who say out
loud what other key US administration figures think in silence."

These Cold War superhawks could barely contain themselves after the collapse
of the Socialist bloc, and began openly advocating that the US assume an
unashamedly imperial role.

"What they are doing in Iraq today is an attempt to determine the fate of
the world's states and peoples according to the visions they have been
preaching for a long time. Those who admonish them for having inflicted
certain damage in the process, on institutions like the UN and NATO, do them
an injustice. What happened at the UN Security Council was not an unintended
by-product of American insistence. It was more like a planned and desired
outcome. For the course the empire wants to pursue requires it to renounce
many international obligations and break any constraints with which 'lesser'
nations may try to shackle it," Samaha writes.

Far from voicing any regret at "the slap they dealt the Security Council,"
the hawks in Washington have been gloating at their success in rendering it
"irrelevant," he remarks. Washington didn't go to war unilaterally because
the Security Council let it down, but bypassed the UN in order to put itself
in a position to reshape international relations single handedly after the
war.

Samaha warns that this provides a foretaste of how far the administration of
George W. Bush is prepared to go in launching "pre-emptive" wars in keeping
with its new "defense" doctrine.

And the Bush administration faces opponents of the war with a dilemma. The
"obvious" position for opponents of the war to take now is to want the
bloodshed to end quickly and with as few losses as possible. But this is a
"trap" that the warmongers in the administration have cynically sprung for
them.

"For in current circumstances," Samaha continues, "there can be no quick end
to the war without a decisive American victory. And such a victory would
encourage action elsewhere, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, just as the
easy victory in Afghanistan encouraged them to turn on Iraq. 'Elsewhere'
could be Iran, North Korea, Syria or Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State Colin
Powell put it clearly: 'We will succeed, and new opportunities will arise
from that success.'"

"Every success for the US as we know it today is a blow to the world's
yearning to manage its relations rationally, multilaterally and in
conformity with agreed rules," Samaha remarks.

With military censorship and disinformation from both sides producing
conflicting accounts of the fighting, Arab analysts find it difficult to
ascertain the level of resistance the Iraqis are mounting to the invasion.

Uraib al-Rantawi writes in Jordan's Ad-Dustour that after the land offensive
began from Kuwait, the notion that the Iraqi Army would put up any kind of
fight at all in nearby Fao and Umm Qasr was ridiculed on Kuwait's state
television by General Wafik as-Samarai, Saddam's former military
intelligence chief, who is now evidently working for the Americans.

But days later, US forces were still encountering fierce resistance in Umm
Qasr, suggesting that "the dissident general's prediction was less of a
military assessment than wishful thinking," he suggests.

But Rantawi concedes that these and other inconsistencies between the US
version of events and what actually appears to be happening on the ground
are only "minor details in the bigger battle." Everyone knows perfectly well
that "the outcome of the battle for Umm Qasr, and the war as a whole, is a
foregone conclusion."

A number of Arab commentators suggest that if Iraqi resistance proves
substantial and the conflict drags on, the Bush administration will find
itself in increasing political trouble, even if it is militarily
unchalengeable.

Egyptian analyst Mohammed Assayed Saeed argues that if this happens and the
casualty toll mounts, there could be a backlash in the US proper - not just
from the general public in America but also the "traditional conservatives"
within the political establishment and administration.

He writes in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad that the latter's current truce with
the neo conservative hawks who conceived the war and sold it to Bush could
well break down after the invasion. The end of hostilities is liable to
confront Washington with a host of security and political problems in Iraq,
which will require skillful management.

While the scope and intricacy of these problems cannot be predicted, one
thing is plain, according to Saeed: "The optimistic forecasts offered by the
American far-right to promote the invasion are incorrect and reflect
ignorance of the complexities of the situation in Iraq. They could end in
disaster and drag the US administration into a quagmire which the American
public will inevitably hold it to account for."

In the Beirut daily An-Nahar, Ali Hamadeh suggests that the Americans may
try to avoid a bloody battle to take Baghdad.

He says that they have apparently been trying to spare civilian
infrastructure from bombing, and seeking to secure the surrender rather than
the annihilation of as much of the Iraqi military as possible. This reflects
the fact that this time they are not only intent on defeating Iraq, but also
occupying the country and "inheriting the regime along with the state's
resources as a whole."

Moreover, it is vital to America's "public relations battle" for its forces
to be seen to be trying to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. Worldwide
opposition to the invasion remains formidable, and could grow if the
conflict drags on or there is visible loss of life on a "dramatic" scale. In
its current situation, Washington cannot afford to become even more isolated
internationally, he reasons.

Accordingly, explains Hamadeh, although the Americans have spoken of plans
to subject Iraq to bombardment of unprecedented scale and intensity, we
could witness a revival of diplomatic activity once Baghdad is under siege -
particularly in the form of Arab and international "initiatives" aimed at
getting President Saddam Hussein to relinquish power.

"We shouldn't be surprised to see Arab and Russian envoys being sent to
negotiate with the Iraqi president about standing down, under conditions in
which he will have lost control of most of Iraq's territory, in parallel
with the formation of a 'provisional Iraqi government' whose components have
become well known," he says.

Hamadeh quotes an unidentified Arab diplomat as remarking that the best
possible outcome of developments would be "for Saddam Hussein to be toppled
and George Bush to be crippled."

The Syrian government-run daily Tishrin calls on the UN not to resign itself
to the war, which the US launched in defiance of its founding principles and
international law, but to try to halt the "savage round-the-clock
bombardment of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities."

The Damascus paper says that many countries tried hard to keep the Security
Council in control of the Iraq crisis, aware of the enormous dangers that
would be unleashed by the US subjecting Iraq to its direct occupation, and
using that to try to reorder the Middle East to suit the agenda of Israel's
ruling hard-liners.

"In the days preceding the start of its aggression, Washington was in a race
for time" Tishrin suggests. Its case for war had been discredited, its true
motives exposed, and international opposition to its conduct was
overwhelming, prompting it to decide not to wait but to take the issue of
Iraq out of the Security Council's hands.

"Now that what has happened has happened, developments affirm that what is
unfolding is not only a violation of international law but a global
precedent in the use of military force that is tantamount to a war crime.
The people of Iraq in their entirety have become the direct targets of
America's most horrific weapons of murder and destruction, from missiles
fired from the oceans to gigantic warplanes that rain 10-ton bombs on their
cities day and night," Tishreen says.

"The UN needs to act with the utmost seriousness to restore balance to this
politically and militarily lopsided world, and stop this war of aggression
on Iraq," it asserts.

Jordanian columnist Khaled Mahadeen agrees, writing in the Amman daily
Al-Rai that, "it's not too late for the UN to assume the moral role that
humanity needs from it in the shadow of the war of annihilation that is
being waged against the Iraqi people."

He concedes that any attempt by the Security Council to take a stand against
the war would be vetoed by the US, but suggests that this obstacle can be
overcome by "taking this crime to the General Assembly."

Mahadeen also thinks UN members should sack Secretary-General Kofi Annan for
"firing the first shot in this racist and terrorist war" by ordering UN arms
inspectors out of the country ahead of the American invasion. If he had kept
them in and spoken out more forcefully against the illegality of their
behavior, the US and Britain might conceivably have been deterred from
starting an invasion aimed at robbing the Iraqi people of their resources
and providing more protection to Israel's terror, he remarks.

In contrast, the editor of Saudi Arabia's pan-Arab mouthpiece Asharq
al-Awsat suggests that Washington could win over the support of many of the
war's Arab opponents if it manages it properly and acts to allay their fears
about regional destabilization.

Abderrahman al-Rashed warns that those fears are being borne out by Turkey's
military incursion into northern Iraq, which threatens to "open the door to
further regional interventions."

He says Ankara's move has "thrown a fresh stick of dynamite" into an already
explosive region.

"The Americans bear the full responsibility, legal and moral, for ensuring
that Iraq is shielded from partition and violation. And Iraq today, and in
the weeks and months to come, will resemble hunted prey whose cadaver is
tempting to vultures flying overhead," Rashed says.

The US opted not to go through the UN route but to embark single-handedly on
the task of "uprooting the decaying regime, or as it maintains, disarming it
of proscribed weapons and establishing an acceptable, just and reasonable
government." It is, therefore, responsible for "everything that happens to
the country" from now on.

"Voices, especially Arab voices, went hoarse trying to clarify to the
Americans that in opposing war they were by no means defending Saddam's
regime, the most hated in the region, and were not rejecting the idea of
uprooting it. Rather, they feared the war would turn into one of multiple
open fronts that the entire world would not be able to control," the Saudi
editor makes clear.

"The Americans are, inexplicably, confident that they hold all the strings
of the crisis and are capable of managing the battle," Rashed says. But can
they deter Turkey, which has an energy shortage and which the Iraqis believe
is coveting their northern oil fields? Can they prevent clashes between
Turkey and the Kurds, who it suspects of planning to establish a state that
would threaten its own territorial unity, and which it will resist with all
its strength? Are they sure that they can prevent Iranian intervention, or
the outbreak of internal wars in Iraq and the country's disintegration from
within? Rashed wonders.

"If the US is capable, with all its military and political might and
influence, to prevent all of this, then it will gain the support of a large
proportion of the people whose objections are confined to the prospect of
the war expanding. It will also ensure the silence of those who oppose it
over the principle of war, but understand the need to remove the regime," he
reasons.

"In order to win over these two groups, America must first deter Turkish
intervention, because Turkey is Iraq's most powerful neighbor, and if it
opens a front there, it will be opening the gates of hell to everyone,"
according to Rashed.


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/24_03_03_g.htm

*  WITH EYES FOCUSED ON IRAQ, SHARON KILLS OFF PALESTINIAN ASPIRATIONS
Lebanon Daily Star, 24th March

The saturation coverage of the war on Iraq continues in the Israeli press
and both Tel Aviv tabloids come out with special, enlarged editions. Yediot
Ahronot leads with an assessment that the "threat to Israel is not over,"
and Maariv, looking at the war as a whole, says there is "still a long way
to go."

In a Yediot Ahronot editorial, Sever Plotzker writes that "the Jews have
never been a bloodthirsty nation," and cites the Biblical injunction against
rejoicing at the defeat of one's enemy. "Saddam Hussein and his regime hate
Israel. If they could, they would not hesitate to bombard us, even with
chemical and biological weapons, without any qualms. But we are not them.
The difference is in our code of moral values," Plotzker asserts.

"A Jewish person watching the 'shock and awe' bombardment of Baghdad cannot
but feel pangs of conscience," he continues. "Though the targets are
Saddam's palaces and army camps and this is justifiable, thousands of
totally innocent Iraqis suffer too. Their lives become a flaming hell. True,
all war is cruel and tragic, but acknowledging this must not allow us to
become callous, or incapable of feeling empathy for the other."

Israelis are praying, Plotzker allows, "for a rapid victory of the
'coalition of the willing.' Our identification with the goals of the war -
despite the criticism and reservations - is deep and broad. One of the
things the Americans and British are fighting for in the sands of Iraq is
our liberty and security and ability to live here peacefully without the
perpetual threat to our physical existence."

Nevertheless, he admonishes: "We must not rub our hands in glee as we see
Baghdad in flames. We must not rejoice at the innocent blood spilled in
Basra. At these fateful times for the future of the Middle East, we must
retain the qualities that have always distinguished the Jews in their
2,000-year battle for survival: humility and compassion."

Maariv's foreign editor Arik Becher is not bothered by the "clapping and
cheering from the sidelines at the fall of our greatest enemy," but he warns
that soon, "when Saddam's day is done, America will be the undisputed
champion in a world that doesn't like undisputed champions. Such awesome
power invites challengers, as we saw in the abortive performance of France,
Russia and Germany in the UN Security Council."

Still, writes Becher, "for now, when the monster from Baghdad has not yet
been defeated, we can only hold thumbs up for our allies and hope they will
achieve a speedy victory. And we can only hope that America will not let its
power go to its head - because that's what usually happens with absolute
power."

In an analysis in Yediot Ahronot, Colonel Shimon Boyarsky, a former head of
the Iraqi desk in Israeli military intelligence, argues that at this point
in the campaign, Saddam "has no interest in launching missiles at Israel. He
is at the outset of a battle to survive in power and to foil America's plans
to oust him. It is therefore unlikely that he will use forbidden weaponry 
against either American forces or Israel. He knows this would constitute an
admission that he has these weapons, bestowing absolute legitimization on
the American war and leading opponents of the American effort, like France
and Germany, to join it."

However, Boyarsky warns, "if and when Saddam feels that his end is near, he
may consider using Al-Hussein missiles against Israel. The streak of
megalomania in his personality may take over then, and he may want to go
down in Arab history as someone who smote the Jews twice - a kind of second
Saladin."

"But even if he makes such a decision," Boyarsky reassures his readers, "we
can assume that the operational capability of his surface-to-surface
missiles to carry out such a mission is somewhere between very low and
zero."

In Maariv, Haifa University Iraq expert Amatzia Baram considers the
political and military effects if Saddam and other top Iraqi leaders were
indeed killed or wounded in a targeted American air strike.

"First," Baram asserts, "it means certain confusion and loss of political
direction for the army units, especially in the distant south and north, the
areas of command of Izzat Ibrahim and Ali Hassan al-Majid, but also in the
center. Without Saddam, the commanders there would be left with Saddam's son
Qusai and Internal Security General Abdelhamid Mahmoud. Those two would be
able to handle security and oversee the army, but they have no political
authority. Indeed, there is no one in Baghdad today with political
authority."

"Clearly, if Saddam were functioning," Baram maintains, "he would prevent
all those under his control from surrendering. But if he and his two
deputies have been badly hurt, there is bound to be a huge political vacuum.
That opens the way for a multiplicity of opinions, and a plethora of
decision makers. And that is a recipe for chaos. And if Qusai too has been
hurt, that would make things even worse."

Baram contends that, "this situation might bring some of the remaining
political leaders to open separate talks with the allies on surrender in
return for amnesty. On the military level, commanders of the Republican,
Special and Presidential Guards would be more ready to surrender than if
they knew Saddam was still around and could have them executed. If loyal
party members break, and Saddam's personal loyalists feel less
self-confident, the fighting would take on a different meaning. But for that
to happen the officer corps must be sure Saddam and his deputies are badly
wounded or dead. For now, they cannot be sure, although they must have their
doubts."

Also in Maariv, Alon Liel, an expert on Turkey and former Foreign Ministry
director general, looks at the Kurdish question and its potential regional
and global ramifications. "If there is no speedy resolution of the
American-Turkish confrontation, the war in the north will quickly turn into
a war for Kurdish independence," Liel writes. "The Americans will find it
difficult to oppose an independent Kurdistan - given the help they are
getting from Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani. Moreover, US
President George W. Bush's public commitment to Palestinian statehood will
make it tough for him to oppose Kurdish independence."

But in Liel's view, "the price of American readiness for a Kurdish state
would be steep: it would be fatal for the historical alliance between
Washington and Ankara, a heavy blow to the integrity of NATO, and a serious
complication of Israeli-Turkish relations."

"So how," he asks, "can this looming crisis be averted? The key is with
Ankara, not Washington. Turkey will have to withdraw its objections to an
independent Kurdish state, even if that seems impossible in Ankara right
now. The US will need Europe's help in this. Only full European Union (EU)
membership will make it possible for Turkey to agree to the establishment of
Kurdistan. But it is hard to see the Bush administration's clumsy diplomacy
resolving this soon."

Columnist and academic Guy Bichor sounds a warning in Yediot Ahronot that
the Israeli government may take advantage of the war on Iraq to create faits
accompli that would stymie moves toward an agreement with the Palestinians.

"With everyone busy with the Iraqi campaign, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is
launching a measure that could constitute a strategic obstruction to any
possible solution to the conflict with the Palestinians," he writes.
"Without any public debate, Sharon has announced the building of a 300
kilometer fence, cutting off the populated Palestinian areas on the West
Bank from the Jordan Valley."

Bichor predicts that "funds will probably be found for this eastern security
fence and will be built very rapidly, unlike the western one, along the
Green Line, for which Sharon claims there is no budget. It would have an
irreversible negative impact on attempts to find a solution to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as it would bite out almost half of the land
that is left for a future Palestinian state and wreck any plausible options
for a solution in the foreseeable future."

"The Palestinians would be caged in a long, narrow corridor, and clearly
this will only increase their frustration and anger, and prolong the chaotic
situation in the territories for years to come," he continues. "The eastern
fence would also cut the West Bank off from Jordan, preventing Palestinian
expansion eastwards, and such possible future developments as a
Jordanian-Palestinian federation. The only option left to them would be
expansion westwards, into Israel. Is this really what we want?"

"Even the western fence, on which there is broad consensus in Israel and
which would be a strategic asset," Bichor remarks, "is undergoing strange
and worrying alterations. Instead of creating a principally ethnic
separation along the Green Line, with minor diversions, it is being moved
further and further eastward, taking in more and more Palestinian villages
that will find themselves in Israeli territory."

"Not only is Palestinian anger at the loss of territory increasing, but some
say that over 100,000 Palestinians would be annexed to Israel and become
part of a large and angry minority," Bichor writes.




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