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[casi] News, 19-26/03/03 (7)



News, 19-26/03/03 (7)

UNWILLING TURKS

*  Turkish leader rules out U.S. use of air bases
*  Transatlantic rivalry has put the Turks in a bind their allies
*  Turkey gives U.S. military airspace use
*  US "furious" with Turkey over stalled overflight permission: officials
*  Turkey, US deadlocked over overflights    
*  High tension as Turks mass on Iraq border

ENIGMATIC IRANIANS

*  The man behind the new Iran-US entente on Iraq
*  War sirens herald Iran's hour of revenge
*  Mujahedin-E Khalq explores options

UNWILLING SHIA

*  Shia group refuses to support US
*  Iraqi Shiite opposition will not fight alongside US against Baghdad:
leader


UNWILLING TURKS

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1827005

*  TURKISH LEADER RULES OUT U.S. USE OF AIR BASES
Houston Chronicle, 19th March

ANKARA, Turkey -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked parliament
Wednesday night to open Turkish airspace to the U.S. military. But he turned
down a Pentagon request to let American warplanes use Turkish air bases and
postponed any consideration of a U.S. ground deployment in Turkey
indefinitely.

Erdogan also asked parliament to authorize him to send Turkish troops into
northern Iraq, a move that the United States and its Iraqi Kurd allies have
warned could lead to clashes with their forces.

Under Erdogan's proposal, expected to go to a vote today, the United States
will not be able to use Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey in a war
against Iraq, making it more difficult and expensive for the U.S. military
to conduct its air campaign.

The Pentagon had counted on using Incirlik both to launch missions into Iraq
and as a key supply and refueling station.

For months, the United States had been asking Turkey, a NATO member and
longtime ally, for much more than overflight and air base rights.

But parliament on March 1 narrowly rejected a proposal from Erdogan to allow
up to 62,000 U.S. troops into the country to open a northern front against
Iraq, and the relatively new prime minister moved slowly on U.S. requests to
try again to win approval.

In the past few days, as it became clear the Bush administration was
preparing to go to war without Turkey's help and withdraw its offer of $6
billion in economic aid, Erodgan rushed to put together a new resolution
that would approve the U.S. deployment. But because U.S. officials refused
to revive the $6-billion aid package, Erdogan changed course during a late
night Cabinet meeting and decided to act only on the U.S. request for the
use of airspace, Turkish officials said.

U.S. officials said permission to use Turkish territory for a ground
deployment was no longer a priority, because it would take weeks for the
Army's 4th Infantry Division to unload its heavy equipment from ships
waiting offshore and move into position -- a delay the Bush administration
was not willing to accept.

Instead, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State
Colin Powell pressed Erdogan to grant the overflight rights as soon as
possible. The United States also asked Turkey for permission to use Incirlik
and other air bases, which it granted during the 1991 Gulf War.

Erdogan's decision to reject the U.S. use of the air bases further
complicates U.S. war plans that had already been changed because of Turkey's
refusal to allow the ground deployment. U.S. military officials have said a
war in Iraq without the ability to open a northern front from Turkey would
be riskier, longer and result in more casualties.

Another problem is the possible Turkish military movement into northern
Iraq. The United States had originally agreed to let Turkey set up a buffer
zone to help refugees and maintain its security.

However, the Bush administration changed its position after Turkey failed to
approve the U.S. deployment and is now urging Turkey to keep its troops out
of the region.

The Turks fear a repeat of the refugee crisis that followed the 1991 Persian
Gulf War, when up to 500,000 people flooded across the Turkish border and
had to sleep outside in near freezing weather for days.

They also worry that separatist Kurdish guerrillas will use Iraqi territory
to attack Turkey, and that the Iraqi Kurds will declare an independent
Kurdish state.


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/20_03_03_d.htm

*  TRANSATLANTIC RIVALRY HAS PUT THE TURKS IN A BIND THEIR ALLIES
by Mohammad Noureddine
Lebanon Daily Star, 20th March

Under normal circumstances, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's elevation to the post of
prime minister would have been seen as a significant political event in
Turkey. After all, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP) overcame all the barriers and obstacles put in his path since 1997.

But in recent days, Turkey has had more important concerns to contend with.
The country has become a stage for an international tug-of-war between
Europe (France and Germany) and the United States. Both sides have been
competing to win over Turkey.

The problem is that neither side has been trying to persuade Turkey by way
of offers and favors, but rather by means of coercion and pressures that
have touched upon issues Turkey considers sacrosanct.

Turkey has never been subjected to such intense pressures in all its
history. Its only consolation is that such intense pressure from different
directions proves how important the country's role is in the future of Iraq
and the Middle East. It sometimes seems that the keys to war and peace are
in Ankara's hands rather than in those of Washington and Baghdad!

Turkey is confused. It cannot seem to choose between Europe, the US and the
Muslim world. In fact, it has never been as confused, despite suffering from
an identity crisis since the modern republic was founded back in 1923.

It is certainly in Ankara's interests for the current state of peace to
continue; this would put Turkey in the same camp as France, Germany, Russia
and Turkish public opinion. On the other hand, Turkey cannot remain aloof if
war breaks out, since that would deprive it of a role in post-war
arrangements and marginalize it in the region. Turkey is therefore also part
of the pro-war US and British camp.

That is why Turkey is so confused. How can it take part in a war that is not
sanctioned by the UN? How can it go to war without coordinating with
Washington, risking clashes with US and Iraqi Kurdish forces in northern
Iraq? How can it coordinate with the US after the Turkish Parliament
rejected a bill calling for just that?

How can the new Erdogan government push the same bill through Parliament
when the circumstances that led to its rejection the first time are
unchanged (the Turks have still not received "adequate" American guarantees
about the future of Iraqi Kurdistan, Mosul, Kirkuk and the Turcomans)?

Many crucial and sensitive questions remain unanswered. In the midst of this
confusion and perhaps because of it, Turkey has taken center stage in the
current "game of nations."

Under the pretext that the Parliament agreed last month for the Americans to
upgrade military bases in the country, the US has been moving heavy
equipment from ships anchored in the Mediterranean off Iskenderun to towns
near the Iraqi border. Southeastern Turkey began to appear like it was under
foreign occupation, which prompted Speaker Bulent Arinc to protest.

To reinforce this fait accompli, US President George W. Bush sent Erdogan a
letter that was more of an ultimatum than anything else. Bush reminded the
Turkish premier of the dangers to US interests of Turkish non-cooperation.
He asked that Ankara "at least" allow the military to use Turkish airspace,
making the point that Turkey was the only NATO member not to have done that
as yet.

America's impatience to secure overflight rights was stressed by US
Ambassador to Turkey Robert Pearson, who said after meeting with Erdogan
that Bush wanted Turkish airspace opened "immediately," a word he repeated
four times.

American diplomatic pressure on Turkey has been unrelenting. US diplomats
including Pearson have been busy visiting and hosting Turkish MPs around the
clock.

Washington has also been pressuring Turkey economically. Moody's investment
services declared that if the Parliament failed to approve a second bill
authorizing the deployment of US forces, the promised $30 billion aid
package would evaporate and Turkey's credit rating would be downgraded.

On the other hand, Europe has been exerting pressure on Ankara to dissuade
it from taking part in the war. The Europeans know that Turkish
non-participation would at least cause Washington to postpone its plans, if
not call them off completely. The Europeans have thus been prodding Turkey
where it really hurts: on Cyprus, on accession to the EU and on the Kurdish
issue.

Cyprus was never a foreign policy issue for the Turks; it has always been an
integral part of Turkish national security. The proposals announced by UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan last November were mainly seen in Ankara,
especially by the National Security Council from the viewpoint of their
possible effects on the future of the Turkish Cypriots and on Turkish
national security. The Turkish military concluded that Annan's proposals
would undermine the future of the Turkish Cypriots in favor of their Greek
compatriots, and would remove Ankara's role (guaranteed by the 1959 treaty
of Zurich) as guardian of the Turkish Cypriot community.

The talks of March 11 thus failed, and Annan announced that they had arrived
at a dead end.

There was nothing really surprising about that. What made this occasion
particularly ominous was the statement by EU Commissioner for Expansion
Gunter Verheugen that if a settlement were not forthcoming by 2004, the
Turkish Army on Cyprus would be seen as an occupying force. Needless to say,
Ankara can then kiss EU membership goodbye.

To add to the pressure on Ankara, the European Court of Human Rights
announced in Strasbourg the very next day (March 12) that the Ankara State
Security Court, which convicted PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, "had not been an
independent and impartial tribunal."

Turkey interpreted this ruling as encouraging the Kurds to secede. In order
to deprive its own 12 million Turkish Kurds of the opportunity to gain from
the ruling, the Turkish Constitutional Court hurriedly took the steps
necessary to close down the (Kurdish) People's Democracy Party (HADEP) and
ban its leaders from political activity. Attorney General Sabih Kanadoglu
then initiated proceedings against HADEP's successor, DEMAP, in what was
seen as a direct response to European pressure.

Turkey thus finds itself in an extremely difficult position, between an
American rock and a European hard place. Following the arguments raging in
Turkey, one would be excused for believing that the Tower of Babel is not in
Iraq but in Turkey. It was not therefore strange that forming a new
government in which there were only two new ministers should have taken
three days, or indeed that Erdogan should have chosen March 23 as a date for
a confidence vote in Parliament in his new cabinet, nine whole days after
its formation.

It is a given that a new bill on US troop deployment (albeit only for using
Turkish airspace) could only be submitted to Parliament after a vote of
confidence, if at all.

All these delaying tactics were used to give the government, Parliament, and
the army more time to decide on the most appropriate way to extricate Turkey
from its dilemma.

The Turks realize that if they side with the US that would mean the end of
their dream to be part of Europe. If they side with the anti-war camp that
would spell disaster where Iraq, the Kurds and the Turkish economy are
concerned.

In short, Ankara is in a bind. Which way is it going to jump?

Mohammad Noureddine is a Beirut-based expert on Turkish affairs. He wrote
this commentary for The Daily Star


http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/mar/20/032008678.html

*  TURKEY GIVES U.S. MILITARY AIRSPACE USE
by Louis Meixler
Las Vegas Sun, 20th March

ANKARA, Turkey (AP): Turkey granted the U.S. military permission to use its
airspace Thursday, a measure that would make it easier for U.S. heavy
bombers based in Europe to strike Iraq and for U.S. transport and supply
aircraft to move troops and war material to the region.

But the step by parliament fell far short of Washington's original request
to send 62,000 soldiers to Turkey to open up a northern front against Iraq
that would divide the Iraqi army.

The 332-202 vote also allows Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq, a move
that U.S. officials have been trying to discourage, fearing that any
unilateral entry could lead to friendly-fire incidents or clashes with Iraqi
Kurds.

The resolution passed in parliament would allow U.S. warplanes or transport
aircraft to fly across Turkey. That would also make it easier for strike
aircraft on carriers in the Mediterranean to fly more directly into Iraq.

The measure, however, will not allow U.S. warplanes to use Turkish air bases
or refuel in Turkey. The United States, for example, will not be able to use
the 50 warplanes it has at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. Those
aircraft were used to patrol a no-fly zone over Iraq.

"May it be good for our country and our people," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan said after the vote. "The results are what we expected."

But when asked when airspace would be opened, Erdogan said: "We will inform
you about this later."

U.S. flights can only start after details of the overflights are worked out.

The vote follows intense U.S. pressure on Turkey to at least open its
airspace.

Polls show Turks overwhelmingly oppose a war, but political leaders feared
seriously harming relations with the United States if they did not allow
overflight rights.

"There is no reason to cancel all our relations with the United States, so
the minimum we could do is open the airspace," said Emin Sirin, a lawmaker
from the governing Justice and Development Party.

The United States for months had been pushing Turkey, NATO's only Muslim
member, to allow in 62,000 soldiers to open the northern front. But a
resolution that would have let in the troops failed by just four votes
earlier this month and Justice party members were apparently afraid that if
the motion were reintroduced, it could fail again.

Some 90 legislators from the party rebuffed party leaders and voted against
the troop motion, and Sirin said there was fear that a second vote could
lead to a split within the ruling party.

Just before Thursday's vote, Erdogan addressed his party, which has an
overwhelming majority in parliament, and urged them to vote in favor of the
airspace resolution.

"It is important that our party's unity is not disrupted," the Anatolia news
agency quoted Erdogan as telling legislators.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer spoke out Thursday against the U.S. strikes
against Iraq.

"I don't find the United States' unilateral behavior right before the U.N.
process is completed," Sezer said.

Sezer, whose position is largely ceremonial, has long said that any military
action should have U.N. approval. He does not, however, have the power to
veto the airspace resolution.

The United States had offered Turkey a package of US$15 billion in loans and
grants if it let in U.S. troops for a ground war. But the United States
withdrew the aid package as war drew closer and it became clear that even if
Turkey voted in favor, the U.S. army would not have time to bring in the
army units.


http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20030321/pl_afp/iraq_war_
us_turkey_fury_1

*  US "FURIOUS" WITH TURKEY OVER STALLED OVERFLIGHT PERMISSION: OFFICIALS
Yahoo, 21st March

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is "furious" with Turkey over continued
delays in opening Turkish airspace to US warplanes as the war against Iraq
prepares to enter a key phase, senior officials said.
    
The officials, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, accused the
Turkish government and its powerful military of "obstructionism" and said
Ankara was severely testing Washington's goodwill.

"Everyone is just furious at the Turks today," one official said.

"We are beyond frustration with Turkey for its obstructionism at what is a
critical point in the war," the official said. "We really need to get these
overflights to drop our guys into northern Iraq."

With the ground war in Iraq now underway and troops advancing toward Baghdad
from the south, Washington badly wants to open a northern front, the
logistics for which will require soldiers to be airlifted over Turkish
territory.

"The need (to open the airspace), from our point of view, is urgent. But
that doesn't seem to be the case for Turkish negotiators," an Ankara-based
diplomat said.

Although the Turkish parliament voted to allow overflight rights on
Thursday, just hours after the war got underway, actual permission has been
held up over Turkey's demand to send troops into northern Iraq, where it
fears local Kurds want to set up an independent state.

The United States, sensitive to Kurdish fears of such a presence, is
vehemently opposed to the Turks sending troops into Iraqi Kurdistan unless
it is coordinated with the US-led coalition and under its control.

"Basically, they don't want to give us the overflights unless we come out
publicly and say it's OK for their military to go in," a second official
said. "That is just not going to happen."

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington
would "oppose any military actions that are not under coalition control."

In response, Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said that developments in
northern Iraq were too important for Turkey to ignore.

"Any development in Iraq is important with respect to Turkey's security. Our
security needs to be guaranteed," he told the Anatolia news agency. "This is
our priority demand from the United States."

Coming on top of the Turkish parliament's March 1 refusal to allow 62,000 US
troops to be deployed on its territory, the hitches in the overflight rights
are threatening to cause deep damage to ties between the NATO allies, the
officials said.

"All this goodwill and years of help we have given them, pushing for them to
get into the European Union, and now this," the second official said with
exasperation. "This is just going down the tubes now."

Turkey has made clear it wants to pour troops into northern Iraq to control
local Kurds, who have been beyond Baghdad's control since the 1991 Gulf War
and who Ankara fears could declare independence once Saddam Hussein's regime
is ousted.

Turkey is afraid that such a state could reignite insurgency among its own
sizeable Kurdish community in the southeast, which is only just recovering
from a 15-year bloody rebellion for self-rule.

Iraqi Kurds have threatened to fight the Turkish Army.


http://www.jordantimes.com/Sat/news/news12.htm

*  TURKEY, US DEADLOCKED OVER OVERFLIGHTS
Jordan Times, 22nd March
    
ANKARA (R)  Turkey delayed opening its airspace to US military aircraft as
war raged in neighbouring Iraq on Friday, demanding greater freedom to
dispatch its own troops over the border, sources said.

Parliament held a long-awaited vote on Thursday, the day war broke out,
granting permission for US warplanes to cross Turkish territory for
operations in northern Iraq.

But missions Washington hoped could go-ahead immediately, easing pressure on
a main invasion force pressing up from the south, became bogged down in
all-night talks over terms.

"We've taken a break in talks with the US because there are snags both
concerning airspace use and movement of Turkish troops into north Iraq," a
Turkish foreign mnistry source said.

Washington opposes any unilateral dispatch of Turkish troops to northern
Iraq, fearing a "war within a war"  clashes between Turkish troops and
local Kurds and disruption of the US war campaign. Ankara sees the region as
of vital strategic importance and seeks freer action beyond the US-led
command.

"Turkey... through its parliament approved overflights the night before last
and we are having difficulty operationalising that," US Secretary of State
Colin Powell told reporters.

"I hope we can clear it up."

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's armed forces chief and other senior
officials were due to meet to discuss the overflights in Ankara later on
Friday.

Turkey would inform Washington of its position following the meeting,
sources at the prime ministry told Reuters.

Three weeks ago Turkish deputies rejected a motion allowing 62,000 US troops
to set up a front on Iraq from its borders.

Turkey thus forfeited a multibillion dollar US financial aid package to
guard a frail economy against the impact of war.

Thursday's vote appeared to have finally sealed some form of cooperation
with Washington, however limited, and raised hopes on markets for broader
military agreements and financial aid.

But news of the snags over airspace helped drive down the Istanbul stock
market by up to seven per cent as well as depressing the Turkish lira and
bond prices.

Diplomatic sources said Turkey was demanding detailed information of every
overflight, its timing and nature of the aircraft and its load. The United
States considered the degree of detail went beyond the demands of safety.

Other diplomats said Turkey wanted a joint memorandum of understanding
linking the overflights to broad Turkish freedom to operate in northern
Iraq.

Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said there was nothing automatic
about extension of air transit rights. "You have to prepare the political
and military foundation," he said.

Britain also seeks overflight rights under Thursday's parliamentary motion.
British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon said Turkey was being "positive and
helpful" in talks.

The delay appeared ultimately to rest on disagreements between the Turkish
and US sides about the terms under which Turkish troops would cross their
southern frontier into Iraq.

Turkish troops have been present in northern Iraq in smaller numbers since
the 1990s, operating against rebel Turkish Kurds who have retreated to
mountains there from southeastern Turkey. The troops have coexisted uneasily
with Iraqi Kurdish groups who have governed the area since the 1991 Gulf
War.

Eyewitnesses near the border said at least 50 Turkish military vehicles,
including at least two tanks, were waiting just on the Turkish side, ready
to enter Iraq.

Turkey fears Iraqi Kurds may use the chaos of war to proclaim a state that
could reignite separatism on Turkish soil.

"Turkey simply wants to have some control over events on its borders.
Wouldn't any country want that in circumstances like this?" a Turkish
official said.

Kurds, for their part, fear tens of thousands of Turkish troops, dispatched
with the declared mandate of marshalling refugees, could yet move to smother
the autonomy they enjoy.

"If Turkish soldiers try to enter Iraq, all the people will stand against
them, but if they come as part of an international alliance that is
something else," Akher Jamal, mayor of the northern Iraqi town of Zakho,
told Reuters. "If they come alone there will be a big war that will last for
a long time."


http://observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,920246,00.html

*  HIGH TENSION AS TURKS MASS ON IRAQ BORDER
by Helena Smith in Cizre, Turkey and Jason Burke in Sulaimania
The Observer' 23rd March

The potentially nightmarish scenario of a 'war within a war' loomed last
night as high tension gripped the length and breadth of the Turkish-Iraqi
border, where tens of thousands of troops have amassed, somewhat
frantically, in recent weeks.

Despite fierce denials by Turkey's General Staff that 1,000 soldiers had
already been dispatched to Northern Iraq to stem 'terrorist activity' there,
confusion prevailed as Ankara continued to insist it had every intention of
making the incendiary move to protect its national interests.

One Iraqi Kurdish commander in the autonomous zone was yesterday quoted as
saying he had ordered his men to fire 'instantaneously' upon sight of a
Turkish soldier crossing the 250-mile frontier.

There were unconfirmed reports that Iraqi Kurds had begun laying mines along
the border in anticipation of the incursion.

Western diplomats said US officials in Ankara and Washington were engaged in
'sensitive' talks to try and convince the Turks not to take any unilateral
action in northern Iraq. Clashes between armed Kurdish rebels and Turkish
forces would automatically disrupt the campaign to topple Saddam.

US officials last night said they had scrapped plans to move troops through
Turkey into northern Iraq and instead will send the 4th Infantry Division
from Texas to Kuwait to join a thrust into embattled Iraq from the south.

Abandonment of the use of Turkey to open a planned northern front in the war
follows its refusal to provide transit rights for as many as 62,000 American
troops.

But US troops will almost certainly have to be relocated to stand between
the Turk and Kurd forces and the US has repeatedly urged Turkey not to send
any troops unilaterally into northern Iraq.

Details of the military moves remained confused yesterday. Abdullah Gul, the
Turkish foreign minister, said late on Friday: 'Turkish troops will go in,'
although he refused to be drawn on when or how.

'A vacuum was formed in northern Iraq [after the 1991 Gulf war],' he said,
'and that vacuum became practically a camp for terrorist activity. This time
we do not want such a vacuum.'

Hours later military sources said a small force of commandos had crossed the
border. Other reports spoke of a 1,000 strong mechanised infantry unit. But
yesterday a military spokesman, denied any Turkish soldiers had crossed into
northern Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdish officials also denied the reports. 'I can confirm to you that
no [new] Turkish troops so far have entered or been deployed into our
areas,' Hoshyar Zebari, foreign affairs chief for the Kurdish democratic
party which co-rules the autonomous Kurdish areas established after the 1991
Gulf war, told a news conference in Arbil.

Turkey's fears of a bid for independence by Iraqi Kurds had made it
determined to act before the 12 million strong Turkish Kurd population in
the impoverished southeast were whipped up into a nationalist frenzy.

'They may have denied they have sent troops now but they are not denying
they will be sending them in the future,' said one diplomat in the Turkish
capital.

An evidently irritated Colin Powell said on Friday: 'We don't see any need
for any Turkish incursions into Northern Iraq.'

The Kurds say they fear the Turks as much, if not more, than Saddam.
Inhabitants of the north-eastern city of Dohuk have evacuated their homes,
as much in fear of the Turkish army as in fear of any Iraqi bombardment.

'Of course we will fight them if they invade,' said one senior Kurdish
military commander. 'We are a free people and they will be trying to occupy
us.'


ENIGMATIC IRANIANS

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/22_03_03_b.htm

*  THE MAN BEHIND THE NEW IRAN-US ENTENTE ON IRAQ
by Ali Nourizadeh
Lebanon Daily Star, 22nd March

On the eve of his recent trip to Tehran to attend an Iraqi Shiite
conference, Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmed Chalabi contacted the
Iranian Embassy in London.

Chalabi spoke with the embassy's adviser for relations with Iraqi opposition
groups, Hossein Niknan, who used to be Iran's charge d'affaires in Beirut.
The INC leader asked the Iranian diplomat to issue a multiple entry visa for
his public relations consultant whom he said would be traveling with him to
Iraqi Kurdistan through Iran and back again.

Under strict orders from Tehran to comply with all Chalabi's requests,
Niknan did not hesitate to accede to this one even though the PR man in
question was not Iraqi but American, Francis Brooke by name.

Brooke, who was traveling with Chalabi, is a well-known American Middle East
specialist and is rumored to be close to US National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice.

Chalabi was surprised to see Niknan take such an interest in Brooke's case;
the American was granted a special multiple entry visa similar to the one
issued to Chalabi himself.

When the pair arrived at Tehran's Mehrabad airport, the Iranian authorities
not only waived the newly introduced fingerprinting rule - introduced in
response to a US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decision to
fingerprint all Iranians entering the US - as far as Brooke was concerned,
Chalabi felt that his companion was being made even more welcome by
immigration officers and Iranian Foreign Ministry officials than he was.

Brooke was so warmly received wherever he went in Tehran that journalists
who met with Chalabi were intrigued. They noted that Iranian officials -
from the departments of security and foreign affairs, the Revolutionary
Guards and the presidency - were even more interested in Brooke than in the
INC leader himself.

A young Iranian journalist who asked a Foreign Ministry official just back
from a meeting between Brooke and a senior Iranian National Security
official whether Chalabi's PR consultant had indeed delivered a letter from
the US administration to the Iranian leadership said that the Foreign
Ministry man replied: "All I can say is that he (Brooke) is an important
person who knows many secrets. We believe he is in contact with Washington
decision-making circles. We therefore have to use the opportunity of his
being in Tehran to convey our point of view to the Bush administration
vis-a-vis the war on Iraq - especially since the US government has closed
off all other avenues open to us."

A few hours later, two reporters - Omid Memarian and Hossein Barmaki from
Yas-e-no (a reformist newspaper published by prominent reformist MP and
Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) politburo member Mohammad Reza
Naimipour) - met with Brooke in clear violation of instructions by the
Iranian authorities not to publicize his visit to Tehran and his meetings
with senior officials.

The contents of this interview revealed that Brooke's visit to Iran was not
simply that of a PR consultant Chalabi had hired to embellish his reputation
in the West. Brooke was on a mission; and the effects of his mission quickly
became apparent in Iranian policy vis-a-vis the United States in general and
the way Tehran began viewing the war on Iraq.

In his interview with Yas-e-no, Brooke said: "After the collapse of the
Soviet Union, the US no longer felt threatened with nuclear annihilation. It
became no longer necessary for America to maintain relations with corrupt
dictatorships just because of their hostility to communism.

"The Soviet foe has been replaced by a friendly Russia; China is not
perceived by Washington as a threat but as a potential strategic partner. In
fact, the gravest threat facing the West is that posed by Islamic
fundamentalism. Sept. 11 brought home to us the magnitude of this threat to
Western civilization.

"We understand that there are two factors that have encouraged the spread of
fundamentalism in the Middle East and the Muslim world: the Palestine
question and lack of democracy," Brooke continued.

"America's most important strategic goals at the moment are to help Arab and
Muslim peoples achieve democracy, and to find a just settlement for the
Palestine question through the establishment of an independent and
democratic Palestinian state.

"The overthrow of Saddam Hussein will be just the beginning of this process.
A glance at America's traditional allies in the region shows that they do
not enjoy the trust of their peoples. That is why we have decided to rethink
our alliances.

"There is a vast gulf between us and the Europeans. America is a country
built on revolutionary principles; one of these is helping oppressed peoples
and fighting colonialism. No country is more justified in talking about
democracy than the United States," Brooke said. "It is essential that the
peoples of the Middle East enjoy the fruits of democracy.

"Europe's experience is different to ours. European history is full of
political and religious conflicts. Look at Europe now; in America, we proved
that it is possible for people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds
to live together. There are no racial and religious barriers preventing
people in America from reaching the top in any field of human endeavor. In
Europe, by contrast, laws are still in effect that distinguish between
indigenous and immigrant populations. In America, once you are naturalized,
you will be exactly the same as anyone whose ancestors came there centuries
ago.

"We have an open society and a free press; we are not afraid to discuss our
weaknesses openly.

"We are currently in the process of trying to overthrow the Iraqi regime and
helping the Iraqi people establish democracy. This is part of our new
strategy in this region."

But what about Iran? he was asked.

Brooke said: "Iraq is the common denominator between Iran - which was
attacked by the Saddam Hussein regime - and the United States, which wants
to unseat the Iraqi leader. Iran has extended valuable help to the Iraqi
opposition, and enjoys excellent relations with many opposition leaders such
as (Kurdistan Democratic Party leader) Masoud Barzani and Ahmed Chalabi. We
cannot deny that Iran enjoys a semblance of democracy, but we hope that this
will be further developed into true democracy."

In private meetings, Brooke reassured Iranian officials that the Bush
administration is not thinking of attacking Iran or of changing its regime -
so long as Iran acts responsibly and cooperates with the United States in
effecting a smooth transition to democracy in the region.

On March 16, just two days after Iran officially rejected America's war on
Iraq, the Iranian National Security Council decided to adopt a position that
tallies with US strategy. It quietly decided to participate in American
efforts to effect "regime change" in Baghdad.

That was how the enigmatic Francis Brooke succeeded in laying the groundwork
for a new Iranian-American relationship in the post-Saddam era.

Ali Nourizadeh, one-time political editor of the Tehran daily Ettelaat, is
an Iranian researcher at the London-based Center for Arab-Iranian Studies
and the editor of its Arabic language newsletter, Al-Mujes an-Iran


http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c
=StoryFT&cid=1048313065244&p=1012571727102

*  WAR SIRENS HERALD IRAN'S HOUR OF REVENGE
by Khairallah Khairallah
Financial Times, 23rd March

It may be part of George W. Bush's axis of evil; some predict it will be
next on the list for US pre- emptive action; but Iran is the only one of
Iraq's neighbours that wholeheartedly supports regime change in Baghdad,
even if via a US-led invasion.

Getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his government is one of the few
objectives on which the various factions of the Tehran regime agree. Since
becoming convinced that the Bush administration is indeed determined to
effect forcible change in Iraq, Tehran has been egging on Washington, albeit
in private. Whenever the US has needed Tehran's help, the Iranians have been
more than happy to oblige.

Take last December's London conference of Iraqi opposition groups. That
gathering would not have been possible had Iran not encouraged its Shia
cats-paw, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), to
attend. Iran strong-armed Abdulaziz al-Hakim, the Sciri representative, to
adopt positions similar to those espoused by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US
government representative. In exchange for its efforts, Iran was rewarded
with a political statement from the conference that - for the first time in
modern Iraqi history - spoke of a "Shia majority" in Iraq. This meant the US
was no longer able to ignore the sectarian reality of Iraq. Iran, keen for
change in Iraq, realised early on that this could be achieved only with US
military involvement.

Iranian interference angered many liberal Shia who warned Washington that,
by supporting Sciri, they would be committing the same mistake they made
when they encouraged Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to back the Taliban not that
many years ago. They warned the Americans that Sciri would cause even more
damage to Iraq's relatively open, multicultural and multi ethnic society
than the Taliban managed to inflict on Afghanistan. America, they predicted,
would regret having backed Sciri, just as it now regrets helping the
Taliban.

Liberal Iraqi Sunnis, meanwhile, protested that the Iranians had succeeded
in hijacking the Iraqi opposition by entering into a secret alliance with
the Kurds and the Americans. One of the main reasons Tehran wants the
Hussein regime out of the way is because it has realised it is the biggest
obstacle standing in the way of Iran's attempts to increase its influence in
the region; especially in Iraq proper, which cannot conceivably retain its
old character after the US is done with it.

Any new regime in Iraq - whatever its character - will have to take the
country's Shia majority into consideration. Should the US fail to reshape
Iraq into a prototype for neighbouring countries, Iran (which would in this
case become one of the biggest operators in Iraq) would then succeed in
sowing more confusion and forcing Washington to involve itself even more in
Iraq. As a result, the Americans would increasingly need Iran.

Even the hardline conservative faction in Iran believes there are benefits
in the US war on Iraq. This faction calculates that by having the US army on
Iran's border, it would be able to justify its repressive domestic policies.
What better reason for maintaining a hardline stance than having the "Great
Satan" on your doorstep?

Overthrowing the Ba'athist regime in Iraq has been an Iranian objective
since the days of the Shah. Yet Iran's attempts to change the regime have
failed despite its support for various Iraqi opposition movements, including
the Kurds, for more than 30 years, the 1980-1988 war between the two
countries and more than 12 years of sanctions.

Tehran therefore came to the conclusion that the only way it could get rid
of its old enemy would be through a third party - in this case, the US.
Contrary to popular belief, the Iranians have learnt how to co-exist with
the Americans, as the experience of Afghanistan has demonstrated.

Whether Iraq manages to remain whole, or civil war breaks out, Iran has been
preparing itself for some time to play a role in both the US-led war and in
post-Hussein Iraq.

In fact, the only unanswered question is whether Iranian military
intervention will be direct or indirect. Will the Badr brigade, Sciri's
military arm, which includes large numbers of Iranian Revolutionary Guards,
cross over into Iraq in military or civilian garb?

In either case, it seems that the hour of revenge is at hand for the
Iranians. Tehran believes it is time to redraw the political map of the
Middle East, giving the Shias a bigger role everywhere, from Afghanistan to
the Gulf to south Lebanon.

The writer is a London-based Lebanese political analyst


NO URL

*  MUJAHEDIN-E KHALQ EXPLORES OPTIONS
RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 12, 21 March 2003

The analyst of Iranian politics Mahan Abedine published a thinkpiece in the
Middle East Intelligence Bulletin of February/March 2003 on recent
activities of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO) as it tries to explore its options
in the event of an American invasion of Iraq. In June 2002 the leader of the
MKO, Massoud Rajavi, held a secret meeting attended by some 6,000 people at
which he spoke of the inevitability of an American invasion. Rajavi said
that the MKO had three options: voluntarily withdrawing from Iraq,
preemptively attacking Iran, or assisting the Iraqi regime against invading
American forces.

It is clear that a mass exodus of MKO members from Iraq is not feasible,
according to Abedin. While some 200-300 MKO operatives have been exfiltrated
from Iraq via Jordan, and several high-ranking MKO officials, such as the
head of MKO army intelligence Mahnaz Bazazi, have already fled the country,
Abedin says that an MKO delegation recently toured European capitals
searching for a safe haven for Rajavi and his family. It is not likely that
any European country will offer political asylum to MKO leaders for fear of
offending Iran

Abedin said that "informed sources" will launch an attack into Iran either
just before or after the American invasion. This force of 4,000 soldiers, is
expected to be butchered when it tries to cross the border, but it is
claimed that this mass "martyrdom" would serve political objectives: in the
short term it would deflect attention from the flight of the MKO's senior
leaders, and in the long term it could be used by the organization's
propagandists to justify the MKO's establishing itself in Iraq in the 1980s.

Iraqi Kurdish media have reported that a large MKO force has been deployed
around Kirkuk. And Kurdish and Iranian newspapers have reported that MKO
units have been deployed in Ba'ath Party facilities in several key Iraqi
cities.

The MKO has also been implicated in Iraq's concealment of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD). Abedin cites evidence going back to 1991 on MKO efforts
to conceal Saddam's WMD. (David Nissman)


UNWILLING SHIA

http://www.dawn.com/2003/03/23/int5.htm

*  SHIA GROUP REFUSES TO SUPPORT US
Dawn, 23rd March

DOHA, March 22: Iraq's main Shia opposition faction, based in Iran, will not
take part in the "aggressive war" being waged by the United States and its
allies on Iraq, its leader said on Saturday.

"We believe that the method of dealing with (the Baghdad) regime should not
be through war. War is harmful," Mohammad Baqir Hakim of the Supreme
Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) told the Al Jazeera TV
news network. Therefore "we cannot ... be part of the US action since we do
not believe in this action", Mr Hakim said.

SAIRI's armed wing, the Al Badr Brigade, is believed to number between
10,000 and 15,000 fighters. Many are said to have crossed into Kurdish-held
northern Iraq in anticipation of the US-led invasion.

Mr Hakim told the Qatari television station that because the war defied
international public opinion as well as UN Security Council resolutions, "we
can consider it an aggressive war".

He also said that his group along with the rest of the Iraqi opposition
opposed any Turkish intervention in the north of Iraq, saying that this
would "make the situation of the Iraqi issue very serious".

Both SAIRI and one of the main Kurdish opposition groups said earlier on
Saturday that the Iraqi opposition would be allowed to rule the country
immediately after President Saddam is ousted from power.-AFP


http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20030322/wl_mideast_afp/i
raq_war_opposition_1

*  IRAQI SHIITE OPPOSITION WILL NOT FIGHT ALONGSIDE US AGAINST BAGHDAD:
LEADER
Yahoo, 22nd March

DOHA (AFP) - Iraq's main Shiite opposition faction, based in Iran, will not
take part in the "aggressive war" being waged by the United States and its
allies on Iraq, its leader said.

"We believe that the method of dealing with (the Baghdad) regime should not
be through war. War is harmful," Mohammad Baqir Hakim of the Supreme
Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) told al-Jazeera TV news
network.

Therefore "we cannot ... be part of the US action since we do not believe in
this action," Hakim said Saturday.

SAIRI's armed wing, the Al-Badr Brigade, is believed to number between
10,000 and 15,000 fighters. Many are said to have crossed into Kurdish-held
northern Iraq in anticipation of the US-led war aimed at toppling Saddam
Hussein.

Hakim told the Qatari television station that because the war defied
international public opinion as well as UN Security Council resolutions, "we
can consider it an aggressive war."

He also said that his group along with the rest of the Iraqi opposition
opposed any Turkish intervention in the north of Iraq, saying that this
would "make the situation of the Iraqi issue very serious."

Both SAIRI and one of the main Kurdish opposition groups said earlier
Saturday that the Iraqi opposition would be allowed to rule the country
immediately after Saddam is ousted from power.

They said the United States had had a change of heart and abandoned plans to
install a temporary US military administration.

SAIRI number two Abdelaziz Hakim told AFP on Saturday that "until now, the
al-Badr Brigade has not received orders from their superiors to get fully
involved (in the conflict) and we do not know when they will."

Shiite soldiers would, he hoped, play a part in ousting Saddam "in due
time", but it would neither be with, nor under the command, of US forces, he
said.

Western diplomatic sources in Tehran say that the United States, which sees
SAIRI as too close to the Iranian regime for its liking, has told the Shiite
opposition that its armed forces were not authorised to enter Iraq after the
start of war.

The SAIRI leader was named at a meeting in late February as part of a
six-member collective leadership which is set to decide on a post-Saddam
interim government.




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