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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 email@example.com. 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 Š 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. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk